Iceland tips

If you’re not going into the Highlands, but are planning on exploring off the Ring Road, do you all think a 4wd is still a good idea/necessary or is it pretty typically fine to just get a compact car? I’d really like to minimize costs, but not if that means a little VW compact getting stuck somewhere and delaying our trip dealing with roadside assistance.

It was really the area immediately surrounding the lake, dimmuborgir, and some of the sulfur vents. It was unpleasant and had us spending less time there than we otherwise would have, but still worth seeing.

As far as the car goes, you’re good anywhere on the ring road with a compact, there are just a few spots that we went that it was nice to have all wheel drive. It was just a few km out loose sandy gravel roads to get to a particular black sand beach that seemed to go on forever that i would not have taken a little vw on.

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I teach an interdisciplinary arts class every summer in Iceland.
I don’t recommend racing around trying to see a lot in two weeks.
Otherwise it’s easy to miss the subtle wonders of Iceland that lurk behind the awe-inspiring landscape.
During my class we’re only in Reykjavik, and then the Snaefellsess Peninsula. I could spend a year in either easily.
It’s a country one feels as much as one sees it.
It’s pretty impossible not to have an incredible experience there, regardless.


+1 for Snaefellsness. I spent about four-ish days there, as part of a week long holiday, and it was a grand place. Properly good, and in shoulder season, very, very quiet (compared to the golden triangle, which is really popular).

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Doing a quick stopover in August on my way to Ireland to visit family so I’m very interested in this thread. Bookmarked.

You definitely want 4WD for the ring road, doubly so if you plan on exploring. Keep your wits about you (we encountered a bridge out, and hit an invisible barbed wire fence at 50kph, it was fun unwrapping that from the axle.) I think we had a RAV4 and it was a little underpowered.

The southeast arc between Jökulsárlón and Mývatn is a lot quieter/less interesting than the rest of the country, if there was a way to do a “half ring” that’d be a better trip, but I don’t think you have much choice if you want to drive. If I were to do it again, I might book a boat tour to Jökulsárlón from Reykjavík, and then drive Reykjavík- Mývatn back and forth, spending time in the west fjords (which we also had to skip due to time, much to my regret) and the Snaefelsnes peninsula (which is awesome.) Lots of cool things to see and do near Mývatn. Jökulsárlón is very pretty but photos capture it pretty accurately.

The Golden Triangle trip (Geysir, Þingvellir, Gulfoss) is touristy but absolutely worth it. Scuba diving the rift in Þingvellir is #1 on my list for the next trip, timing didn’t work out.

Check the aurora forecast and be ready to drop what you’re doing on nights the conditions are favorable.

Buying food for most meals at Bonus is the way to go. Restaurants are few and far between outside the west coast, and even when you find them the hours may not line up with your needs. When you do sit down for a meal, go to a nice place, better to pay $50US for awesome seafood rather than $35US for a mediocre hamburger.

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A few quick thoughts, as I’m behind schedule planning for what will be our third trip to Iceland next month…

4wd is definitely worth it. We had a Volvo XC that saved us on our last trip. I don’t remember it being astronomically more expensive than a conventional vehicle, but I’d consider it regardless of the expense. Large fuel tank for those stretches w/o fill ups, plenty of room to sleep if you get stranded, etc.

Further we got from cities, our better meals were at bnbs and inns where we were staying. Most also had the usual Scandinavia breakfast buffet, so my wife would often make sandwiches for us to take on the road.

Iceland is my favorite place on the planet. If there’s one flaw, it’s this - it’s seemingly impossible to get a decent bottle of wine. Single malt (great scotch list at the place in Akureyri, down the hill from the Iceland air hotel, other side of the street, before you get to the center/shopping district) & hard cider can be found more or less everywhere, but getting a good Pinot or Syrah to go with all of that lamb rarely happens. If someone had the contacts, you could do a good business just importing cheap reds from Oregon and California.

Skogafoss is a must. First get the best fish and chips at the little stand at the bottom, then climb to the top. But don’t stop. Climb the fence, leave the tourists behind, and follow the rivers the feed the waterfall, far from the things of man.

And you have to have at least one hot dog. And an Applesin.


I will second the hotdogs

Going to Iceland for the first time in the summer. It’s been a longtime dream of mine. I’ve been fascinated with Iceland and Greenland, since I was a kid.

Good tips in this thread. Watching for further :slight_smile:

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I brought synths last summer. You all should too.


Iceland in the summer can be fun(it’s always fun regardless of time of year), but be sure to plan for all types of weather - especially if you’re seeing a wide part of the country.

Our last trip there was end of summer, beginning of fall. One morning I’m in shorts and a long sleeve t. That afternoon, the last day of summer, we’re trying to go up a glacier, the weather so fierce that the superjeep we’d rented for the day can barely make it, can’t see the crevasse in front of you, and the cave exhibit we’d planned to see closed for the first time in years. That evening it’s light sweaters on the lava beach.

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Any thoughts on paying extra for car insurance/gravel/ash protection stuff? I could swear someone recommended it, but not seeing it here (could’ve been a good friend who has been sharing wisdom in person) - but thought I’d throw that question to the Lines traveling peanut gallery.

All our accommodations are booked, just want to sort out the car now :slight_smile:


Between my regular insurance and the travel protection on my cc I never pickup extra coverage on rentals. See what coverage you already have available to you before paying for more.

We were covered by my partner’s normal insurance policy for everything except windows and severe water damage from crossing streams if i remember correctly.

You won’t NEED to cross any streams.

There’s a tour inside a dormant volcano that was fantastic. I forget what it’s called but it shouldn’t be hard to find and I think it’s a real experience.

I went with Blue Car Rental, I believe, who only offered one insurance package as part of their (very reasonable) price: everything. The only thing you won’t get cover for is ash on the south coast, because reasons - you’ll find out more online. Also, I believe that if you damage a tire, it’s up to you to fix the tire, regardless of whether there’s a spare or not. These are just a few Iceland-specific things, but mainly, it’s fine. I just got the lot because even a few yard off Route 1 you get into gravel central. Although yeah, you’re not going to be fording streams or similar.

Icelandair has the best record collection. Just got off a flight that included the complete Björk discography, at least one Sugarcubes record, 4 Ben Frost records, the last ATCQ lp, Ghostface Killa, DM’s Violator, Thelonious, Nina…

Connecting flight included the above, plus a Fela Kuti comp, some Miles, a 5th Ben Frost record, Iggy, and a stack of records by an Icelandic band called Ulfur. Dork that I am, I had to at least give Ulfur a spin after discovering one of their songs was tilted ‘Evoke Ewok’. Band is my sort of jam - think pastoral, late period mum with some of that hecker/frost aggression around the edges. Definitely a find.


Thanks to everyone for offering their wisdom. We leave on Wednesday for 10 days of fun. No matter what we do and don’t get into, I know it’ll be amazing. :slight_smile:


Enjoy!!! Whatever you end up doing, it will be beautiful.

I’m back. My biggest advice after going is to get OFF the Ring Road as much as possible. My favorite parts were early in the trip when we were in the Snæfellsnes and Westfjords, both well off the beaten path but still perfectly good roads (generally! :slight_smile: ).

It was quieter and felt generally more scenic than the areas of the south/southwest we made it to.