Afterthoughts: Tips for exploring Reykjavik, Iceland, and beyond

This story first appeared in Herewith magazine. Words and photos by Ali Hartwig.

We pulled over on the side of the road and I got out of the car. I walked down a steep rolling hill to take a photo of the most vibrant sunset I have ever seen. Orange and purple hues filled up the entire sky. When I was done taking photos, I turned back around, and found that they already drove away presumably to go find their own sunset adventure.

tips for exploring iceland

Photo: Ali Hartwig/Herewith

As I watched them drive away, realizing that they weren't coming back, I realized this was the first time I was by myself on this beautiful little island. Soaking in the scenery, I took a step back and thought about where my mud covered feet were actually standing.

tips for exploring iceland

Photo: Ali Hartwig

Surrounding me were endless mountains with the most pristine and untouched snow covering each peak, aqua blue glacier water that tasted better than you could ever imagine, and miles upon miles of untouched, raw land.

WHERE WE STAYED

tips for exploring Iceland

Photo: Ali Hartwig

128 Bjordhsk
Akureyri, Northeast
Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykavik City Hostel
3560 Suðurá
Mosfellsdalur, Capital Region
Reykjavik, Iceland

Fitjar Guesthouse
Fitjar, 116
Mosfellsbær, Iceland

GETTING AROUND

tips for exploring iceland

Photo: Ali Hartwig

We much appreciated our Land Rover Defender for the awesome rides that we had. It completed it’s task of taking us across all the paths and all over the crazy roads. There were seven of us, so it was most definitely worth the money. We rented through Geysir Car Rental

THINGS TO DO & PLACES TO GO

tips for exploring iceland

Photo: Ali Hartwig

First rule: You need to get out of the car every 10 miles. Trust me, just pull over and you will run into so many different landscapes, trails, waterfalls, that are not marked. Those turned out to be my favorite places.

tips for exploring iceland

Photo: Ali Hartwig

Stop in Reykavik for a day ( or two!) I stayed at the coolest hostel ( see above) for cheap! So many interesting people. I then ate the best Indian food I have ever had at a place called Hraðlestin. But unfortunately had the worst sushi there, which was surprising.

Avoid the Blue Lagoon; it is really expensive and there will always be a million people there, any time of the year. Try to find your own! You can literally see for miles where the natural hot springs are just by looking out for the steam that is rising from the ground. That’s how we found all of the ones we went to.

tips for exploring iceland

Photo: Ali Hartwig

Make your way down south and hit Vik, the black sands beach. Definitely worth the bitter cold.

tips for exploring iceland

Photo: Ali Hartwig

Set a day and give yourself a mission to see how many waterfalls you can get to. There are so many, and you will never be able to see them all, but you can try!

TIPS AND TRICKS

tips for exploring iceland

Photo: Ali Hartwig

You are in a country where there are very little gas stations. Make sure you always fill up, or know your next closest stop.

Maps are your lifesaver. I’m talking about real, paper maps. Your phones will not work, and you don’t need them out anyway!

tips for exploring iceland

Photo: Ali Hartwig

Make sure you have enough food. Grocery stores (or anything, really) will always be the farthest from you. We were saved multiple times by the grocery store run we went on right after we landed and before we even got to our Airbnb. Find your essentials for the trip, and you will be set. ( It is also much cheaper than going out or finding anything at any of the tourists spots.)

tips for exploring Iceland

Photo: Ali Hartwig

Find those Icelandic horses. We were on the side of the road for two hours, just playing around and taking photos. Also, try to avoid getting electrocuted by the fence. It hurts.

tips for exploring iceland

Photo: Ali Hartwig

Layers are key to surviving and enjoying your time. Bring so many layers. starting with long underwear, then leggings, wool socks, jeans, insulated tanks, long sleeve, fleece, sweater, and then finally your jacket. Don’t forget some gloves, hat, and a scarf.

The locals are incredibly nice, try to befriend some when you are in town, they can take you to the coolest places that you would never find on your own.

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