After driving for a day or 2, the roadmap we brought from home appeared not to be as useful as we hoped: there were too much icons/signs (waterfalls, campsites, ...) blocking the roads on our map. Since we are the kind of people that love to go on smaller, less traveled roads, this wasn't very handy of course.
So we went out hunting for a new, decent and detailed map. Most gasstations offer a range of maps, going from Iceland-entirely-on-one-map to detailed maps of the different regions. But these maps didn't offer much more than the one we had.
But then we found the "Kortabók road atlas", which was exactly what we were looking for ... Iceland devided on 60 pages/maps with a large overlap between pages, with townplans, even with maps where to find gasstations, campsites, golfsites or swimming pools ... Very handy and extensive index of placenames and citystreets in the back.
I have to mention that I have seen this map in only 1 gasstation ... we bought ours in the souvenir shop at Geisir, they also sold it at the viewpoint Hakið (the point overlooking Þingvellir).
These small guidebooks come in very handy when travelling in Iceland.
There are several editions on different parts of the country.
The guidebooks give general information about the area as well as tips on accomodation, activities, nature, tours, towns, transportation, ...
We found them to be very handy and full of useful information.
You can find them in tourist offices (of course) as well as in hotels and other places that offer a range of free brochures.
This is a very detailed road guide with over 3.000 interesting places mentioned.
We bought this book at home, but I've seen it widely sold in Iceland.
The book is arranged according to the numbering system used by the Public Roads Administration, dividing Iceland in 8 regions (nr. 2 - 9), with the Ringroad being nr. 1.
One part of the book "follows" the ringroad, travelling from Reykjavik to the west and north, all the way round back to Reykjavik. The sights along that itinerary are explained, sometimes with detailed road-maps.
Another section covers the roads in regions 2 to 9.
The third part covers the mountain roads (F-roads).
There are so many places mentioned that you won't find anywhere else. Sometimes even old and abandoned farms are indicated.
It also contains seperate sections consisting of general information on specific topics: Icelandic food, geothermal springs, lava caves, the 'hidden worlds', ...
This guidebook proved to come in very handy because of the added mentioning of lots and lots of stuff you don't find anywhere else.
But I have to mention that the info isn't nearly as detailed as in other books. So if you want detailed information about Iceland's top-sights, you need to do extra research elsewhere.
But still ... won't be going back to Iceland without this guidebook.
There is a lot of advertising in the book. This may seem strange at first, but we've come across some very handy addresses this way, so it turns out to be quite handy.
To be completely honest ... there is one thing I found really annoying!
The detailed road-maps in the book aren't always in the "correct geographical direction" ... meaning that the north isn't always pointing to the top of the page. Consequence is that if you're looking for something, you have to "re-orientate" and turn the book in order to get this north aligned with the north in your road atlas. But after a few days you get used to it.
But this is only a minor downside to this book.
If you don't want to invest money in buying roadmaps or guidebook, you can easliy get around with the free maps and brochures you can find almost everywhere.
Some of this stuff cmes in quite handy, f.i. these small guidebooks.
Of course the information isn't as detailed as in other guidebooks, but often the information is useful though limited.
In April it was cold! Thermals were a definite as were waterproof outer clothing. Makes absolutely no mistake - the weather is unbelievably changeable and layers are the way forward. My children had balaclavas and needed them. There were days and blizzards when I wrapped a scarf around my face to protect it from blizzard and stinging hail whipped by strong winds.
It is really worth investing in good quality walking socks. There would be nothing more miserable than having cold feet. They were invaluable!
for gloves and hats, especially with children, they take up so little room, it is definitely a good idea to have several pairs.
Photo Equipment: My camera (Canon) stopped working. I tried SO hard to look after it but I think there was one occasion when the extreme cold to indoor warmth was too much for it to bear. I think the internal electronics got condensation on them. Perhaps have a plastic bag that you can place your camera in before going from one temperature extreme to the other... a plastic bag will certainly be cheaper than the bill I will get for camera repairs!
NB There are only camera repairs in Reykjavik and Akuyeri.
Make sure you have a huge memory stick and a back up battery. They are not going to be easy to come across. I found one shop that sold cameras, in Hofn, but the pries were, as are most things in Iceland, HIGH!
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Sleeping bags - some accommodation has no bed linen or much cheaper prices for taking it on a sleeping bag basis. Sleeping bags are also a VERY good thing to have in the car in case of break down, getting stuck in the snow, accident, coming off the road,,, also for sitting out at night to wait for the northern lights.
Also, as a family there was definitely one accommodation where we had booked a family room anad on arrival were given a room with one bed - that night the kids slept in their sleeping bags!!!
Miscellaneous: Thermus flask and all in one coffee satchets. Was invaluable to get back to the car, frozen and sometimes drenched and have a hot drink waitiing. If I did this trip again I would also take a mini kettle because only 50% of the accommodations we stayed in had the facilities to boil water!
Oh on that note I should add that the "all in one" coffee sachets were, whilst not the best cups of coffee I have ever drunk, absolutely invaluable!
Towels in a bag. Sounds mad, I know but they roll up to nothing in their little bags and are great for taking into the swimming pools etc... or if the accommodation is short on towels!
Miscellaneous: Iceland is exceptionally expensive when it comes to food and drink. I purchased a nice bottle of rum in duty free as I left the UK and then in Iceland I only had to purchase some coke. I was then set up for a couple of enjoyable drinks in my hotel room when it was the end of a long (and cold!) day!
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: I add here a link to gas-containers we use in Iceland for camping gas-cookers/primus. You can buy these containers at the gas-stations all around the country. I add the link to our biggest camping-gear store www.ellingsen.is where I buy my gas-containers.
Jumpers are recommended as a precaution.
Also, a lightweight waterproof can come in handy, as the weather is so changeable.
Miscellaneous: August is the summer, but weather there can change suddenly.
Definitely need to have pullovers/sweaters/jumpers as a precaution. Light waterproofs would also be worthwhile.
Luggage and bags:
- Sleeping bag: it might save you money if you bring your own bag, so that you won't have to pay for bed linen and/or eventually a cheaper room/bed rate.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: - Rain jacket
- Warm, breathable clothes that you can layer on: if you feel too warm you take off one layer, if you feel too cold you put on one layer
- Sturdy shoes: if you're doing some hiking or tours like the Golden Circle
- Comfortable shoes: for city walking.
Photo Equipment: - Big memory card or extra film
- Charger or extra batteries
Both are expensive there.
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: - Swimsuit: for bathing if you visit the Blue Lagoon (it will save you some money if you don't need to rent one of theirs) or any of the many pools.
Miscellaneous: - A good guide: I found Lonely Planet's to be the best travel guide, and you don't have to buy it if you can borrow it from your local library (like I did). Otherwise save the VT tips that can help you out and print them :)
- A road map: if you're planning on driving on roads around Road 1.
If going to Iceland in the winter like we did you will definatley need lots of layers and a warm preferably waterproof coat.
A wooly hat & scarf - they have lots of really warm ones at the airport shop as you arrive in Iceland if you forget yours like I did!
Waterproof hiking shoes with good grip - if its snowing and icey these will become invaluable, it gets very slippery.
Thermals - they kept me so much warmer in the minus 12 centigrade temperatures then I would have been
Personally I wouldn't bother with an umbrella - although Iceland seems to get quite a bit of rain its also very windy and it'll only end up inside out anyway.
Photo Equipment: Batteries for your camera! - they are very expensive in Iceland, (as is film)
Miscellaneous: We also took lots of fruity nutty bars or ceral bars with us for during the day so we were only paying for an evening meal, (breakfast included) to keep expenses down and it worked really well.
Luggage and bags:
We spent 66 hours in Iceland with only our hand-luggage full of booze because of a baggage handlers strike in Copenhagen. We had heard that alcohol is expensive in Iceland and while that is true, it's also true that clothes are expensive. The temperature ranged between 8-15 degrees celcius and a warm, wind-proof jacket would have been nice. My tip - put a change of clothes in with the booze!
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Goggles for snow sports/activities. (see my entry on Snæfellsjökul Snowmobile Ride for more info)
A swimsuit for the Blue Lagoon. You can hire a towel and a small set of shampoo etc. is provided with the cost of entry. (see my entry on the Blue Lagoon for more info)
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Sunscreen - We got sunburned in Iceland!
Photo Equipment: Spare memory cards - there's so much to photograph.
Variety is the key to a nice trip to Iceland. My advice is to pack for all weather and you won't be caught off guard. Make sure to pack rain gear and a swim suit. A jacket is also advisable due to often cold nights.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Pack your own over the counter medicines and items, they are not easy to find in Iceland and if you are lucky enough to find them they are VERY expensive.
Photo Equipment: Cameras and batteries ! This place is a photographers dream !!!!!
Toiletries and Medical Supplies:
I've just returned from Iceland - my husband and I went there for our honeymoon. While it is a truly beautiful country and the people are extremely friendly and helpful, YOU WILL BE *SOL* IF YOU COME DOWN WITH A COLD. Unfortunately, I picked up a particularly nasty sinus/cold combo on the plane over, and it was with me the entire time we were in Icleand. There is no Nyquil. There is no Sudafed. There is no Tylenol Cold & Sinus, Drixolral, Actifed, Dristan, Dayquil, Robitussin, or even asprin. Whatever you usually take for a cold, they do not have it. Nor do they have any European equivalent of it.
Photo Equipment: I went to 3 pharmacies, and none of them had anything. All they had was some nasal spray which seemed to make things worse rather than better. My husband and I thought maybe cold medicine type-stuff was prescription only, so we paid to see a doctor. The doctor said all they have is antibiotics - they don't have "cold medicine" like in the States/Canada and other parts of Europe. And they will not just hand out antibiotics either - not that I wanted them, because it was viral, not bacterial. N.B. - everything is extremely expensive in Iceland, so believe me, you don't want to pay to see a doctor unless you absolutely have to.
Miscellaneous: Anyway - I was mucus gal on my honeymoon. Mucus gal with a searing sinus headache. And watery, swollen-shut eyes. I had to blow my nose about every three minutes due to the nostril flow, and this resulted in my nose & lower face area becoming extremely chapped. Then my skin cracked and started bleeding. By the time I got back to JFK today I looked like a radiation victim. The look the customs officer gave me was priceless. I think he was having second thoughts about re-admitting me to to country.
So - if you are going to Iceland (and you should, because it is an amazing place), PLEASE do yourself a favor and pack some cold medicine & cough syrup. You probably won't need it, but if you do you will be miserable when you can't get any.
Warm stuff - jackets, gloves, good shoes.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Some of the good things to see are out in the middle of nowhere, so pack yourself a little first aid kit. We learned that lesson when my husband fell off some rocks and got a big gash in his leg... (hospital was 5 hours away).
Luggage and bags:
Pack light and small as many rural hotels do not have elevators
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Good rain gear - jacket and pants
Pair of shorts and short sleeve shirt in case of heatwave
Day hikers with really good soles that can handle slippery surfaces - GoreTex lining a plus
Strong hiking boots if you plan on back packing - GoreTex lining a plus
Extra socks as they tend not to dry over night and stretched-out and/or damp socks can lead to blisters
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Hard to find stuff outside the cities so take it with you if you might need it
Basics are available at most petrol statitons
Bug spray is useful in some areas
Photo Equipment: As much as you can carry or something flexible - there is a picture around every corner
If possible, practice taking pictures under overcast conditions as these are prevalent in Iceland, and it can be hard to capture the gorgeous colors
Bring some type of waterproof protection for your camera equipment
Miscellaneous: hiking pole might be useful for some as trails in less developed areas are loose rock
bring clothes that are synthetics that can be washed out and will actually dry overnight. It is pretty damp and cold at night so many fabrics will not dry quickly
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