Iceland is increasingly becoming a hot spot for travelers, and with good reason: The nature and landscape are absolutely breathtaking, the people are welcoming and warm, the culture is interesting and unique, and the seafood, amongst other delicious Icelandic treats, is fresh and excellent.
My husband and I recently traveled to Iceland and we can’t recommend this adventure enough (we’re already plotting our inevitable return). Here are four tips for planning your trip.
1. Look into IcelandAir’s stopover program.
Iceland’s number one industry is tourism, and the country’s most popular airline, IcelandAir, has helped continually shuttle visitors into the capital of Reykjavik through the promotion of their stopover program. Travelers book tickets on the airline to the destination of their choice (Paris, Amsterdam, London, Barcelona, Milan) and, by using the stopover program, they can elect to enjoy a free layover in Iceland that can last up to seven days. This essentially allows tourists to visit two countries (Iceland + their ultimate destination) by purchasing one ticket.
My husband and I went on to Paris after visiting Iceland for three days, and we thought it was such a stellar deal to be able to spend time in two amazing places without the hassle of buying multiple airplane tickets. Of course, travelers can prefer to fly IcelandAir directly to Reykjavik and back, and with good fares like the ones the airline offers, they won’t be disappointed in the price.
2. Spend time researching your dining options.
Many travelers have complained about the lack of good food in Iceland, but my husband and I found a plethora of delicious restaurants during our trip, and since we’ve been home we’ve been craving many of the outstanding dishes we enjoyed while we were there (in particular, a langoustine + pork belly appetizer will live on into eternity for its greatness).
We traveled with another couple and they helped us do copious amounts of research prior to our trip to pinpoint some really great spots to eat. We got lists from friends who had been to Iceland before and we scoured travel websites. We were so happy that we came prepared with a food agenda because we loved every restaurant experience that we had researched in advance.
Here are some recommendations based on our travels:
Reykjavik Roasters – the best coffee! We stopped here a few times a day while we were in Reykjavik, warming up with cappuccinos and lattes with dollops of fresh, unsweetened whipped cream. Such a treat!
The Laundromat Café – good brunch & great coffee. I had a delicious quiche here and the rest of the crew ate some fabulous pancakes.
Sjavargrillio (aka Seafood Grill) – our absolute favorite restaurant of the trip. We would have eaten here 1,000 times if we could. This is where the aforementioned langoustine + pork belly was served, and I had a seafood pasta in a creamy tomato sauce that was out of this world. The wine list was wonderful, too.
Sandholt Bakery – the yummiest treats live here! They served a lemon tart that I would fly back to Iceland for.
Snaps Bistro – delicious French food & great cocktails with a great interior. We sat at the bar and enjoyed appetizers before moving to a table for dinner, and we loved the whole experience.
Kex Hostel – imagine if Anthropologie designed the interior of a hostel, and you’ve got the vision of the Kex. Here we ate delicious carrot soup with hunks of fresh bread and loads of butter, Parmesan crisps, burgers, and local beer. Just, yum.
3. Book your excursions in advance.
There are so many amazing adventures to take in Iceland – you can spend an afternoon at the Blue Lagoon (so, so highly recommend this!), tour the Golden Circle (it’s worth the splurge to book a private vehicle), stay up late to see the Northern Lights, rent a car to drive around Iceland in its entirety, visit waterfalls and geysers and ice beaches…the list goes on and on and on. But these excursions book up very quickly, and to get your pick of the litter, it’s best to plan far in advance, booking tickets and reservations online at least a month before your departure.
4. Pack your best winter clothes.
Surely you’ve realized this: Iceland is cold. No matter what the time of year is, chances are you’ll feel a bit chilled while you’re exploring this breathtaking country. However, it’s easy to ignore the cold and enjoy your adventures when you’ve packed properly. Do not underestimate the value of a great, warm jacket, and invest in your choice of mittens or gloves. The most important garment, in our experience? A cute earband (for me) or a good hat (for him). Keeping our ears/heads covered was a total game-changer.
Have you been to Iceland? What recommendations or planning tips would you share?
Images via Rachel Brown