I have been dreaming to visit Iceland since 2 years ago. Silly that I didn’t go when I was living in London. Now that I live in Sydney, Australia, which is so far away, I will realize my dream. The thing is, my travel partner just cancelled on me due to her financial issue. So I said fuck it, I’m just gonna go alone.
At first I was hesitating to go for long, afraid of being lonely and lost. Was thinking to go for only around 4 days. But finally I went for 6 days. And guess what..? I had the time of my life! And 6 days was simply not enough for Iceland. Going there again in the summer is on my life’s agenda.
Maybe this is only my opinion, but there’s no better place to be alone than Iceland
Update: This Iceland post has been tweeted by @Hostelbookers!!
— HostelBookers (@HostelBookers) December 16, 2011
Flights to Iceland
I bought the flight from Sydney to Copenhagen, stayed there for a night at a friend’s place, then the next day taking the flight with Iceland Air, Copenhagen – Reykjavik. Costed me about AUD $ 350 for my return ticket.
You might think that Iceland Express is a lot cheaper. The thing is the price they are listing, is not including the tax. So at the end, it’s all the same. Plus I read a lot of reviews about delays and cancelled flights. I’d say you’ll be better off with Iceland Air. Their staff are friendly, both my return flights were on time. Although drinks are free, meals were not.
Iceland Airport – Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik City
Once arrive, you will find a couple of bus companies that offer ride from and to the Airport and Reykjavik city. There are Flybus and Airport Express. Airport Express is usually cheaper than Flybus. Both companies can drop you off at your hotel / accommodation.
Cash / Money – Credit Card – ATM – in Iceland
For the whole 6 days in Iceland, NOT ONCE that I found a place that only accept cash. All shops, venues, etc, accept credit card. But should you need cash, there is an ATM machine at the arrival section at the airport.
There was this small hot dog booth in Reykjavik city that sells hot dog for around 3 dollars, and they even accept credit card. Another time, when I took the bus back to the airport, there was a lady who haven’t bought her ticket. But the staff on board the bus had the credit card machine. Amazing!
Accommodation – Hostel in Reykjavik
Since I was travelling alone, I’d be better off staying at a hostel and hopefully meet people there. I started my research by browsing hostelbookers.com, and search for the best hostel, in terms of review. And finally found this hostel: Reykjavik Downtown Hostel. Their reviews far exceeded other hostels. And with central location, I think it is the best choice.
Out of chance, my work colleague has stayed there too and she was very happy. Located just off the old harbour, and about 7 minute walk to the city centre, the location is very convenient.
I slept in a 10-bed dorm room for 6 days. The places is always clean, staff is friendly and really helpful, they also have a fully equipped kitchen. Surprisingly, it is very quiet considering the central location.
It was so easy to meet people there. Since arriving, I regularly get friendly offers to join other people in their trips. They usually rent cars and share the costs with others. Shame that I did not always accept their offers to go with their rented cars. Cause I mostly have booked my tours for the duration I was there.
During my stay there, in my room there were 3 Irish, 1 Canadian, 1 American, 1 German, 1 Dutch, 1 Welsh, 1 English, 1 Chinese (from Hong Kong). And the funny thing is, some people kept on coming and going. They stay for one day, then disappear the next (to stay elsewhere in the country), back for 2 days, then off again. Quite funny. But I made some good friends while I was there.
When I arrive, I really had no idea what I wanted to do there. So I asked the staff about the best tours, what to do, and they are really helpful. Basically, they will book the tours for us, we pay them, and the tour will pick us up and drop us back at the hostel. Really convenient. So I booked several tours instantly when I arrived.
Northern Lights – Aurora Borealis
I was very disappointed cause I didn’t see the northern lights. According to the people there, it has to be really cold, on a clear day, and totally dark to see the Aurora Borealis.
When I was there, it was just around 4-8 degrees Celcius due to a heat wave coming, and it was the full moon shining too strongly so it was not dark at all.
One of the main reason I went to Iceland in November was to see the northern lights. It was a total fail. I went with a tour to see the Aurora Borealis, and since there were no sightings, they offer second trip free of charge. And as predicted, there were no northern lights on our second trip neither.
Funny thing is, when there are couple of tour buses going in the middle of the night, usually this is to find and see the northern lights from a rural area. And more often than not, there will be couple of rented cars / jeep following these buses. There are common people with rented cars also trying to find the Aurora Borealis by following the buses. Cause these tours are accompanied by some guide / expert about these stuff.
Iceland has so many natural hot springs where you can swim in. Out of all their hot springs, the most famous one being not the natural one, the Blue Lagoon.
Blue Lagoon is actually located near the airport. Many travelers choose to visit this place on the way to the city when they first arrive in Iceland.
I think this is one of the highlights of my visit to Iceland, the place is really amazing, it looked somewhat surreal. You can just stay there for the whole day if you wish. There is a massage section (quite pricey though), sauna room, sort of a waterfall (stand underneath it, feels like a free massage), there was this free cream available that you can put on your face (first I thought it was silly), oh and there is a bar there in the springs (I recommend you try the blue drink “Blue Lagoon Cocktail” if I’m not mistaken the name).
They have a cafe and restaurant there too. When you are still swimming, they give you this bracelet, you can open your locker and buy stuff with this bracelet, and pay later.
Surely, Blue Lagoon is one of the must visit places before you die!
Icelandic Horse Riding
I always hear about the Icelandic horse and how they are different and pure in breed. No horses are allowed to enter the country. And if an Icelandic horse has left the country, it can never return. These are to keep the pureness of their breed.
The tour guide told us the story about how horses in the old days could not survive there, due to the weather and temperature. They tried mixing lots of breeds, and finally found this perfect match, between Norwegian and Siberian horses. Not sure if he was telling real facts or was just bullshitting.
I have ridden a horse just once before, so they put me on a rather calm horse, his name is Jonas. He is a smart one. When every other horses walk through the puddles, Jonas always walks around them without me needing to “steer” him.
I did my horse riding as a combination with the afternoon Golden Circle. The Golden Circle tour picked me up at the horse farm.
BTW the horse farm is called Laxnes. If you want to do horse riding, I recommend you go with them. Friendly and warm people.
Golden Circle is one of the most famous touristic route in Iceland. It covers around 300 km from Reykjavik to the middle of Iceland. This route stops at Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, and active geothermal geysers: Geysir and Strokkur.
Blue Ice – Glacier Hike and Ice Climbing
Since I was there, it will be a sin not to visit the Glaciers. I found this “Blue Ice” tour by Arctic Adventure, they offer glacier hike which includes ice climbing. I said why not.
I went with another guy from my hostel. They picked us up in the morning, and head to Sólheimajökull Glacier in the south of the country. They equipped us with ice cleats (the sharp metal which you wear outside your boot), and also the ice axe.
Along the way, we found an ice wall and start to gear up for ice climbing. Worry not, everything is safe. They have all the necessary tool and gear for a safe climb. But you can still avoid the climb should you wish, but I recommend you try.
Watch for sink holes in the glacier.
On the way back to Reykjavik, we stopped at Skógafoss Waterfall (there are many waterfalls in the country).
Reykjavik Art Museum
I have one day in Iceland without plans, one day before my departure. So I thought to just relax and enjoy the city. I went to Reykjavik Art Museum. Entrance was around 10 dollars.
The museum looks funny, it’s more similar to a prison than a museum. Especially the big empty space inside the block.
There is nothing special about this art museum (yeah, call me ignorant), they feature normal modern art stuff. But what struck me the most, was the paintings by kids. They had this art competition for both adults and kids, and what the kids made was just shocking.
What did you draw when you were 12? I drew mountains, rice fields, and whatnot. They drew something more meaningful and deeper than that. There was this painting that I remember about a child drinking juice. But instead of juice, it was history symbols that came out from the bottle. As if the child just consume it for granted and take it as it is. So deep for a child to be able to think about these stuff.
Tips for Travelling in Iceland
If you are travelling alone like me, don’t be afraid. You will have a great time. One of the reasons are the travelers you meet in Iceland are different. They are adventurous and explorer. Unlike the common tourists you find in Paris or London. While I was there, the solo travelers just naturally group up together. I regularly got offers to join other people for their travels.
- Stay at a hostel. You’ll meet people easier.
- Do not book all your tours before. I book mine, hence I missed some opportunities to travel with other people in rented cars.
- Ask your hostel / hotel staff of what to see, where to eat, what to do
- No need to bring too much cash. They accept plastic.
- No need to over-dressed. When you hike or walk, you naturally feel warmer. I get sweaty a lot there.
- Dress in layers. I wore a merino wool shirt as my first layer, a thin sweater for my second layer, and a wind-proof north face as my outer layer. It was sufficient.
- Don’t forget to wear long john, and water repellent outer pants.
- Wear water resistant shoes / boots.
- No long-distance / inter-city buses running in the winter.
- Alcohol are expensive. Buy them at the duty free shop at the airport.
I do hope you enjoy your trip to Iceland as much as I did. Now I seriously want to live there for a while if possible, maybe for a summer.
Update: I finally went to Iceland for the second time. Also did the trip alone. Read the post here.