If you’re going to Iceland for the first time, I suggest you start by reading the previous article which explains everything you need to know before your trip.
There are still many things to learn about this small country (330 000 inhabitants for 1.7 millions of tourists in 2016). This massive amount of tourist should incite each one of us to particularly care about the impact that we are having when traveling.
6 tips to travel easily
Iceland is not a huge country, yet you might be a bit lost once you get there. Many tourists are following some rules, but no one really knows where they come from. Of course, some of these rules were created to protect the land from tourists and to limit the consequences of their bad habits. We will go through some of the tips that come in handy when going to Iceland, as well as how to save money, avoid mass tourism and preserve nature.
1 – Hot Pot
This has to be one of the biggest cliché about Iceland, however I’m quite certain that most of you are not aware that there is actually a map with a list of (almost) all hot pots. On this map you will find most of the natural (and free) hot pots, but also swimming pools and more importantly gas station (this is really usefull when driving through Iceland; at some point you will need to plan where you want to refuel because you won’t cross much life). hotpoticeland.com
As you can see, you can download this map also on your android and apple device. If you plan on driving quite far to find a hot spring even from this map, I advise you to first check its current condition on internet. I personally have never had any problems, but I have some friends who were very surprised to find a dry hot pot, after driving 6 hours north. To avoid that kind of disappointment, search on internet with the name of the location, and you should be able to find a comment to help you (most of the time though, the hot spots will be fine, but I’m just saying!).
2 – Water
While on the topic of water : I’m highly recommend drinking water from an icelandic river! I know it sounds a bit weird, but you are in the country with one of the purest water in the world, so feel free to taste it. I am obviously not telling you to drink water from the movingless puddle in a muddy field. However, if you see a river, a waterfall, or some spots with water flowing from a glacier, then take it. It’s free, pure and as all Icelanders would tell you : don’t buy commercial water.
3 – Maryland Cookies
Ok, it may sound less important than the rest of the article, BUT regarding the average food price in Iceland, it is a good thing to know. Believe me you will spend a lot of money on food, and I’m only just talking about Bónus market. If you decide to go in a restaurant, or any take away you will often need to spend at least 2500 ISK, which is around 20 euros. So, it’s a real pleasure to discover that these (awesome) cookies are sold at the mere price of 269 ISK = 1,92 € = 2,17 US$.
4 – Touristic schedule
Depending on where you want to go in Iceland it is likely that you will visit some of the most touristic spots, such as the Golden circle, Jökulsárlón, etc… These are wonderful sights, but they can quickly transform into terrible experiences when you become surrounded by 3000 people trying to catch the no longer unique feeling on the fantastic spot. According to how long you plan to stay in Iceland and how motivated you are, one of the solution to avoid tourism is… to reverse day/night! If you’re going places during night time and sleeping during the day, you will actually be alone and you won’t miss any of the sights thanks to the long period of sun (the summer nights never get dark). It goes without saying that staying only 3 days in Iceland renders this whole experience quite difficult. In this case, you can simply try to adapt your schedule, and visit early in the morning and/or late in the evening.
5 – Iceland rain map
This map is not official, but it is more o less accurate all the time. There is a diagonal that goes through Iceland, which separate the cloudy rainy part from the sunny part. It is impressive to see how exact this schema can be sometimes. Of course it’s not always 100% true, there are times when it’s sunnier in the west part. However, when you talk with Icelanders or when you travel through the country, the difference becomes obvious!
6 – Wild Camp
It is often assumed that is not legal to wild camp in Iceland. However, this is probably just rooted in our desire to preserve nature. In reality, icelandic nature preservation law dictates where you are allowed to camp in Iceland if you find yourself away from registered campsites.
“In residential areas, you are allowed to pitch up to three camping tents in uncultivated land for one night only if there is no campsite in the area.”
If you wish to camp on cultivated land or near residential buildings, fenced off farmland, or such, you have to ask permission from a landowner or other beneficiary before you pitch up the camping tent. The same rule applies if you intend to stay longer than one night. You are not allowed to camp on farmland without permission.
So, if there is no sign, if you are not within a National Park, and if the land isn’t being used to grow things, you have the right to camp there for one night. That is pretty much all the law says. However, don’t camp unless you are able to leave the place as it was when you arrived. Clean up when you go and leave no traces of your passage. It is crucial to preserve the land instead of abusing and destroying it.
Safe while exploring
Watch out sheep while driving
One sure things, you have a lot to drive if you’re counting on exploring around. It is very important to know that sheep (especially from april), are present everywhere in the country. Because you won’t cross many cars if you go further that the main parts, you will be tempted to go faster on the empty road (as Icelanders are going super fast, however they used to and they know what they’re doing). Be aware that if you see a sheep at the side of the road, it’s very common that an other one follow. If you see a sheep, slow down, use the honk if needed and keep going, but take care, and never forget this is a natural land with their own rules.
As I said in a previous article : Hitch-hiking is not particularly hard in Iceland. Natives are often picking you up even if some are not understanding english (it’s quite rare though). However, as much you’re going away from the road number 1, more it’s getting complicated to cross cars. Contrariwise, people who will see you in the middle of nowhere might get pitty and you might have more chance to be picked up!
There is not a lot of insects and animals except Sheep, cows and horses in Iceland. But don’t forget there is a huge variety of birds! Especially in the west fjord and depending on the season, you might be able to see many rare and beautiful species. On the other hand, you will see a lot of the Sterna. Those ones are pretty aggressive to humans coming near their nests, and they will not hesitate to attack you! They are attacking the upper point they can see. So the best thing to do is to take a stick or so and point it straight above your head. It redirects their focus of attack.
Be safe, respect the nature, and enjoy your trip !
“Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light.”