Iceland. Based on the name, you’d think that you’d be stepping right into Winterfell. But despite the surprising lack of ice (at least during the summer months), don’t be fooled – the country is still very cold, with average July and August temperatures just in the 50s and 60s.
Which leads me to my first tip for taking on Iceland: pack accordingly! I unfortunately underestimated how cold it would be in August and packed lighter than I should have – the hottest it reached while I visited was just 58°F! If you’re a textbook “summer girl” like me, vacationing to a cold country can seem a bit daunting, but Iceland is by far the most beautiful country I’ve visited and was my favorite trip (after purchasing some Icelandic wool socks of course)!
Here is my guide to a picture-perfect summer vacation in Iceland:
Where to Stay
I stayed in Reykjavik, the country’s capital, the entire time at the Center Hotel Klöpp. This quaint hotel was located right in the center of the city and offered a free continental breakfast. Iceland has a bunch of cute bed and breakfasts as well for a bit cheaper, authentic experience.
If you are able to rent a car I would highly recommend taking a road trip around the perimeter of the country (it only takes around 7-10 days), so you can truly experience all the natural wonder the country has to offer. If you’re too young to rent a car like I was or don’t have enough time to spend driving the perimeter, don’t worry! There’s still plenty to do in Reykjavik and can’t-miss daytime excursions to make the most out of your trip.
Things to Do:
1. The Blue Lagoon
Ahhh the Blue Lagoon – arguably Iceland’s most famous attraction. Named as one of National Geographic’s 25 Wonders of the World, pictures definitely don’t do it justice. Soak in the only warm thing this country has to offer by basking in the beautiful views, enjoying a silica mud mask, and of course taking a photoshoot!
Some things to keep in mind when booking your visit to the Blue Lagoon:
The Blue Lagoon is 45 minutes from Reykjavik, so make sure you’re booking a ticket with roundtrip transportation! Also, since the Blue Lagoon is a geothermal pool with lots of silica in it, try to avoid putting your head under water as much as possible and use lots of leave-in conditioner after your visit. Don’t end up with crusty hair for 3 days like I did!
2. Waterfall Tours
I personally didn’t go on the Golden Circle Tour, but this tour is extremely popular among tourists and will take you to three of Iceland’s most popular sights: Gullfoss, Geysir, and the National Park Thingvellir. I chose to go on the South Coast Tour. This full-day tour will take you to two of the largest waterfalls in Iceland (Seljalandsfoss & Skógafoss), the Sólheimajökull Glacier, the Reynisfjara black sand beaches, and the city of Vik on the country’s southern tip.
The Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is one of the best-known waterfalls in Iceland. There is a path that leads you behind the waterfall but be sure to bring a raincoat because you will get soaked! If you’re lucky, on a sunny day you can see a rainbow form as well! Another well-known Icelandic waterfall is Skógafoss. You can take a staircase that leads to the top of the waterfall. All 527 steps (you've been warned) were definitely worth the breathtaking views from the top.
You’ll also get to see the Sólheimajökull Glacier as part of the tour. If you want to actually want to hike up the glacier that is part of a separate tour, but you can still take great pictures in front of the glacier with the basic South Coast tour.
Even though you won’t be able to get a tan, the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beaches are still an extremely impressive sight to see. Fun fact: this beach was used in a Game of Thrones scene as the beach at Eastwatch!
The final pit-stop on this tour is the city of Vik, where you can visit the famous church after hitting the beaches.
When you’re not out exploring excursions, there is plenty to do in Reykjavik as well. Visit the harbor for some fish and chips, take a trip to the National Museum of Iceland for some history on the country, visit the Phallological Museum if you’re feeling a bit frisky, or just walk around all around the streets to find unique street shops, architecture, and landmarks.
What to Eat
Iceland is an adventurous eater’s paradise. There are countless street food stops and amazing restaurants, but be warned that most of the food in Iceland is pricey.
1. For casual or comfort food: Svarta Kaffid has a to-die-for traditional Icelandic meat soup with bread bowls for when you need a warm up in that cold weather. I would also recommend walking the streets during the day to try an Icelandic hot dog!
2. Lamb: if you like lamb this is one of the few items that Iceland doesn’t have to import! The lamb anywhere will be exquisite, but check out KOL, for a roasted lamb sirloin with blueberry polenta and pistachio crumble.
3. Fermented (Rotten) Shark: For people up to try something interesting, give fermented shark a try at Café Loki. This food used to be made as a food that would last through harsh winters, and even though it doesn’t taste the best, you’ll be given a shot of schnapps to wash it down!
4. Icelandic Yogurt: Skyr is a thick and creamy dairy product that is similar to Greek yogurt that you can find in any Icelandic grocery store. Just try it, it’s amazing…trust me.
5. Puffin and Whale: Again for the adventurous eaters, but another traditional Icelandic meal that is worth trying. Although on the pricier side, visit Grillmarkadurinn for their whale & puffin mini burgers, their grilled whale steak, or their horse tenderloins to truly immerse yourself in the Icelandic culture.
Whatever you choose to eat, see, or do in Iceland, this country is a beautiful place to visit with a rich history and culture! What are some of your favorite things to do Iceland? Let us know in the comments below!
Blog written by our Featured Wrighter: Kelly Morrow