Meghan and I have been friends for a long time. 15 years long, since 7th grade. 🙂 She’s always been super supportive and caring. She’s the friend who always sends handwritten notes on cute stationary for important events. Especially in this day and age of technology I appreciate and love the extra effort.
Meghan’s boyfriend, Bob, is an awesome architect from Iowa and compliments Meghan so well. He’s smart, kind, and adventurous. He likes to go for long bike rides, has worked in China. They live in San Francisco and Dave and I have taken many road trips to visit them. Today for the Interview Series, they’re sharing their adventures in Iceland.
Bob and I love to travel and experience new cultures, so we knew a big trip was in our near future. We were initially thinking about a trip to South America, however after seeing dozens of people making the same trip, we wanted to try something different. Buying the flight was more of an impulse, and the rest of the planning came afterward.
I read an Iceland travel book to make sure we knew of places we couldn’t miss, but a lot of the trip was unplanned. Iceland is perfect for that because we had a rented car and you can camp anywhere, so we had a lot of freedom.
We wanted to experience the Summer Solstice, the sun never sets this time of year so eye masks were key!
Camping gear, backpacking gear, and a lot of dehydrated food (it is very expensive to eat in Iceland!)
We were there for 2 weeks.
It was the perfect amount of time – we drove the Ring Road (there is one paved road that circles the whole country) and could take our time in some places, and found that others could be explored quickly. Several days were spent in the Golden Circle, which is the area near the airport. If you don’t have time to circle the country, this is the area you will see the most in a short amount of time. We would still love to go back, but in the winter when the night never ends and we can experience Northern Lights.
Similar to what we experience in San Francisco – sunny days, cool at night. Mostly a light jacket would do, but there was one rainy day where we slept in the car.
In all my travels, I have never met kinder or more helpful people! They love to give advice to travelers, and when asked what to do if you get mugged, the response is “You don’t. No one gets mugged in Iceland.”
We loved meeting people when we would get to a town, but most of our travels were pretty isolated. Everyone speaks English very well, which is great because Icelandic is incredibly challenging even to pronounce, but was fun to try!
Camping, mostly. Iceland is really expensive so we only stayed at a B&B (adorable and friendly place!) the first night. Everyone camps in Iceland, if you get to a camping ground the showers are genuinely clean, but if you want to pitch a tent anywhere else that is permitted.
Camping allowed us to travel freely, especially with no sunset, we could drive when we wanted and sleep when we were tired. Some sites we thought could take two days but did not, and others were so astounding we stayed longer than planned. Camping is the way to go for the Ring Road!
The ground is not very farmable (the whole country seems to be on a volcano of sorts), so they eat a lot of sheep and everything else is imported (making it very expensive). Also, travels should be aware that you will likely see whale on menus, as whaling is a big part of the country’s history and culture. As a vegetarian, I feared the diet would be limiting, but when we did eat out there were a lot of options for me. Lots of delicious cheese!
We dined out a few times only, because it was very expensive, and packed dehydrated food for the rest (Outdoor Herbivore has a lot of veg options, but not nearly as tasty as Mountain House). It became a fun part of our day to set up at a waterfall or beautiful ice lagoon and make our meals conveniently. I especially recommend a camping coffee press, it was such a nice way to open the tent and start the day with beautiful Iceland as the view!
It was definitely a more expensive trip, hard to say in total (I had to buy all the backpacking and camping gear, but if you have done this before it won’t cost as much). Renting a car was the biggest price, no less then $1,000. You need a 4wheel drive to go off road which is most places (and you definitely want to off road!).
Camping and packing food.
Would love to go back, for sure! The topography changes constantly, and winter would be a whole different experience.
Renting the SUV and gas was very expensive, and we also made some impulse decisions, such as snorkeling between the continental plates, but otherwise we tried to budget best we could.
Oh yes, we couldn’t help ourselves! We bought a blanket made of sheep wool. The country is full of sheep everywhere!
When I asked the shop lady if the blanket was made humanely, she said “Americans ask such silly questions. Of course it was! We love our sheep!” and now Bob and I love our blanket.
How quickly the topography could change. One moment we are in a green, mountainous area, another it is an icy lagoon.
Also how much of Game of Thrones is filmed there!
Favorite part was Dettifoss Waterfall. The largest in Europe, we arrived at about 3am in a rain storm (still light out, though) and had to walk through a volcanic area that reminded me of a scene on Mars, following the waterfall rumbles. No one was there (the country is so isolated, it is amazing for moments such as this!) and when we got to the edge, there are no blockades. We stood on the slippery edge and felt the energy coming from the top of the fall – it was a wonderful out of body experience for both of us. It took a few minutes before I came back to my body and realized how dangerous we were being and so I stepped back.
I also loved all of the hot springs! Blue Lagoon is the most well known, but they are really all over. Just smell for sulfur and you know you are close.
Least favorite part was the expenses…but that is something to worry about after the adventure of a lifetime!
Nothing, I was thrilled with all of it! Maybe I would have packed more socks…
It can be isolating, so bring someone you enjoy traveling with that can rough it for a while. Unlike a lot of other travels, you can go a long time before coming across a tavern to chat with and meet people.
If you are going to Europe, you can do a layover in Iceland for up to 7 days.
Also, get a go-pro selfie stick, because there won’t be people around to take your photo and the sites are endless!
It was a great way to remember how different the world is. While I had seen waterfalls (at a much smaller scale), there are some sites you don’t have elsewhere, like snorkeling between tectonic plates, climbing a crater, or puffins!
We had so many out of worldly experiences, it also brought me and my partner closer together. If you can camp in a small tent for 2 weeks in another country with someone and still want to travel together afterward, you’re probably a decent match!
Dave and I have been wanting to get to Iceland for a little while now. Hopefully someday soon! It looks gorgeously breathtaking! Thanks so much for sharing your trip with us Meghan!