Planning a road trip through the beautiful Icelandic countryside? Make sure you’re prepared with these 7 must-haves, first.
Road tripping through Iceland, or any foreign country, is the best way to experience a new place. It gives you absolute freedom to get off the well-trod path for unusual adventures you can’t find on a big tour bus.
Spot ponies playing in the distance? Park, take a picture, enjoy the scene, drive along.
360-degree views of mountains taking your breath away? Pull over and get a true 360-degree panorama, without the wiper blades or dirty windows in your way.
With an Iceland road trip, there’s only so much planning you can do ahead of time. While I planned and planned in the months leading up to my recent trip, it’s those unplanned, spontaneous stop offs and unexpected sights that remain seared in my memory to this day.
While you can’t prearrange spontaneity, you can pack and plan strategically for an unforgettable, seamless and safe journey. Here are my 7 must-haves — based on recent experience — for your road trip through Iceland.
Perhaps the most important tool for an Iceland road trip, Road.is tells you conditions of all the roads — both large and small — across the country. Given Iceland’s ever-so-unpredictable weather, this is a must-have. It’s also live streamed on TVs at most of Iceland’s gas stations and tourist centers, so you can catch it over coffee.
Whether driving by yourself or with a partner, you’re undoubtedly going to want photos to remember your trip. And at least some of those photos should include your face(s), if for no other reason than to show your family you’re still alive.
In the remote parts of Iceland, you won’t find someone to snap a quick photo for you, but you can bring along a selfie alternative: the Gorillapod. This portable, lightweight tripod can easily hook onto trees, cars and more, letting you get the perfect shot then quickly pack up to head out on your way.
On our recent road trip, we drove at least four hours per day through north, east and south Iceland. Don’t get me wrong the scenery is absolutely perfect and mesmerizing, but there’s something about a little jam session that really brings it to life.
I used Spotify’s “available offline” feature and made a playlist of relaxed, adventure-y music ahead of time (think “Into the Wild” soundtrack), but obviously with Spotify, the options are endless and the genre entirely up to you!
4. Traditional map
Even if you’re planning to use a GPS device, make sure you have a well-marked, paper map as backup. We planned on using a GPS … but it didn’t work. The entire time. So we relied on three different paper maps from travel books and the airport stores to get us through the trip.
Oh, and side note — I was navigator, and (believe it or not) we made it out alive!
Fortunately, Iceland does have a good number of gas stations along Ring Road, but try to stock up on snacks in the bigger cities like Reykjavik or Akureyri before heading out. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck eating nonstop gas station food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Which we did. A lot.
6. Tire gauge
Before we left, my boyfriend decided to grab his tire gauge just in case something came up along our journey. Obviously I can’t claim this as my tip, because I thought the device was some sort of long tweezer, but nonetheless it came in handy because the tire sensors on our rental car didn’t work and we used the tire gauge regularly. (Although, let’s be honest, tweezers aren’t a bad idea, either.)
After a long day traveling, what’s better than a comfortable, quiet place to rest your head? We stayed mostly in Reykjavik, with a trip up north to Akureyri. Our favorite inexpensive accommodations along the way included:
- Rey Apartments in Reykjavik, included a kitchen, nice seating area and great bed.
- Hotel Klettur, also in Reykjavik, offers free breakfast and free parking, which is great for us roadtrippers.
- Airbnb in Akureyri was a great option, and you’d be surprised by how many places are available. Here’s where we stayed, a one bedroom with washer and dryer that I would highly recommend.
No matter how many books you read, videos you watch or people you talk to, you’re still going to find yourself in unexpected situations on your Iceland road trip. Sometimes those situations will be magical, involving a remote waterfall you have entirely to yourself.
In other cases, they may be problematic, but that’s OK. As long as you plan ahead safety-wise (gas, shelter, food, road conditions), you’ll have the tools you need to get through it seamlessly. And hey, with that fancy new Gorillapod, why not capture a candid “oops” moments, too?