Exploring Iceland Solo
I’ve lived in NYC full-time for about five months, although it feels like a lot longer. Life is busy here and they’re not kidding when they say this city never sleeps. I could be doing something at all times of the day. I go to my office in the morning and leave when it’s dark which doesn’t really give me any time to spend outdoors in the daylight.
I have been wanting to go to Iceland for years. I studied abroad in Europe twice and for some reason never made it. I wanted Andrew to come with me of course or even my parents. I talked with some friends and extended the invitation, but I get it…not many people can drop what they’re doing and fly to Iceland for a long weekend. That’s just how I roll…
Why & How I Decided to Go
I was sitting on my couch on a Friday night surfing Skyscanner.net as I always do in my free time and found this ridiculously cheap flight from JFK to Iceland. It was one of those moments where I was like “Do I do it? It’s cheap! I could spend this amount at the grocery store or on J.Crew in one sitting! Who will I go with?! Will something come up that’s unavoidable?!” And then it hit me. I was like: “What’s wrong with you, Sydney?! Have you lost your sense of adventure?! You’ve solo traveled around the globe before!” So, in a matter of ten minutes I booked the ticket, found an AirBnB (more info to come later) and found a rental car.
I booked this trip because I wanted to go to Iceland. I reminded myself that I didn’t need anyone else to fulfill my dreams and see places that I wanted to see. If not now, then when?!
Finding an Affordable Flight
I’ve written about Skyscanner.net in just about every travel post. I go on incognito mode every time I look for flights so they can’t track your destinations and jack up the prices. Then I put the dates that I’m looking to travel (I had some flexibility on weekends during October). If you’re just looking to get away anywhere, select the “Everywhere” destination option, so the website will tell you the cheapest places to go during those dates. I have visited the most unexpectedly cool places because I selected “Everywhere.” This is how I travel on a budget. You have to have an open mind.
Where I stayed
I had a little help from my friend Alexis who visited Iceland while we were abroad in Ireland together, but I honestly knew very little about the country. I was just winging it. Now that I’ve been there and understand the geography of the country better, I would have stayed further East in the country instead of Reykjavik because I was there for the nature, rather than the city.
Regardless, I found a straight forward AirBnB that did it’s purpose: a place to sleep. I only ever sleep there so I didn’t need a place with all the bells & whistles. The only negative part was that I wanted to stay closer to Vík one of the two nights I spent there, but now I know for next time! Here’s the place I stayed.
If you’ve never used AirBnB before, it’s a life saver! It gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a culture and community more, rather than staying in a hotel that is generic wherever you go. Plus, it saves you a ton of money!
Sign up for AirBnb using this link and save $40 on your first trip! I pretty much exclusively use AirBnB during my travels and have had amazing experiences!
What I Did
I read on someone else’s blog that the best thing to do right after you land in Iceland is go straight to The Blue Lagoon. This was a long time dream of mine, especially since the point of this trip was to reconnect with nature. It’s only about a 15 minute drive from the airport and is an absolute dream. I truly mean that. You pull up to this hot spring basically in the middle of no where. I had the first reservation there so it was still dark out and the steam from the group rises up into the air. I made sure to bring flip flops, a bathing suit, and any items I needed to shower with. (You don’t need to bring a towel! They provide one for free!) You get a wrist band which gives you access to the Lagoon, locks your locker, and gets your drinks while you’re in the Lagoon.
The facilities are spectacular. I wasn’t expecting this level of cleanliness or “luxury.” The ticket is a bit pricey to get in but they definitely make it worth your money. Once you change in the nice locker rooms, you walk out with your towel & flip flops to the exit and hang up your items before quickly moving into the Lagoon! It was 30 degrees outside so I went in as soon as I could! You walk down this ramp into pure blue water. I honestly felt like I was dreaming. The sun was rising and the sky had this red hue to it which contrasted beautifully with the water- fire & ice. I had to pinch myself as I soaked in the perfectly hot water. I finally made it! I was exhausted from just 4 hours of interrupted sleep on the plane, but it was the best feeling in the world to finally be there!
The basic ticket (which is what I got) includes one drink in the Lagoon (there’s a bar in the water!) and one face mask! You can stay in the Lagoon for as long as you’d like which is the best part! I think I stayed around 2.5 hours. I felt a certain amount of pressure to get going because I only had 2 days on the ground and I knew I had a lot of exploring to do!
The best part of being in the first time slot is you practically have The Blue Lagoon to yourself! Once the hours passed, more and more people came. There was even a school group from England! I was glad to have the quiet time as the sun rose. It was a great time to reflect on everything.
After you finish in The Blue Lagoon (I could’ve stayed there the entire weekend), you can shower (there’s products in the showers to use). Another important part is that the water in the Lagoon basically stiffens up your hair and makes it really gross. I recommend just tying your hair up and not getting it wet. It’ll make your life easier later. They have blow dryers and vanities to get ready in too. It was much appreciated and I left feeling super rejuvenated!
Once I left The Blue Lagoon I drove East on Highway 1 towards Vík with the intention of seeing the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck & Skógafoss Waterfall. The drive was the most beautiful 2 hours I’d had in a while. You’re entirely surrounded by nature. There’s maybe a gas station every 30 minutes, but you definitely will not see a McDonalds or any other stores. I really appreciate that Iceland preserved its natural beauty. They kept the big stores for Reykjavik and left the other parts of the country to its natural state.
Along the way I stopped on the side of the two lane highway any time I saw something I liked or wanted to take pictures of. The roadway was basically empty most of the weekend. It felt like it was just me and the open road.
I stumbled upon Skógafoss and there was the most perfect & complete rainbow right over it. I had to pinch myself & it really felt like someone was watching over me that day.
Just a bit further down the road was the pull off for the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck. What I didn’t realize at the time was it was a ~2 mile walk down to the coastline in order to see it. Despite it being very cold & windy, I was determined to see it! I traveled all that way and really wanted to see it in person. The story behind the crash is that in the 1970s the US Navy was doing its routine flight over Iceland and something malfunctioned in the plane which caused it to crash on the shore. Remarkably no one died in the crash but the plane’s skeleton remains on the black sand. It’s kind of eery but truly amazing to see in person. Just make sure you give yourself enough time to get down there before the sun sets!
Another favorite location was Gulfoss Waterfall which was definitely the largest and most remarkable waterfall I saw during my trip.
Along the highways, there were always packs of Icelandic ponies! I wanted to take one home so badly! If you bring some carrots, they’re more likely to come to the fence.
Reykjavik city is very quaint and not nearly as massive as some other European cities. There’s tons of cute shops and restaurants. It’s definitely on the pricer end because everything has to be imported to the country. Baejarins Beztu is a famous hotdog stand in the city. It’s known for celebs like Bill Clinton & Kim Kardashian who stopped there for a bite. It definitely wasn’t the best hotdog, but I’m glad I stopped there.
How to Get Around
I knew that I’d have to book a car when I visited Iceland so after some thorough research, I reserved with Blue Car Rentals. They were amazing to work with & everything went so smoothly! I got the smallest car and I still felt like I had too much space! I recommend getting the mid-level insurance because it’s better to be safe than sorry. Plus, this was my first time driving in a different country!
If you’re looking to book a car in Iceland, there’s a lot of options, but I definitely recommend Blue Car Rentals!
Last Few Tips & Tricks
I didn’t exchange any money in Iceland. Every place took credit cards (even the hot dog stand!)
Make sure you have at least a quarter of a tank of gas at all times. Sometimes there’s open roads that go for several miles without a gas station. Don’t risk it! It’s not worth being stuck out there with the chance that someone might not drive by!
Your credit card should have a pin number if you want to fill up at gas stations. You can call your credit card company and have them set one up.
Bundle up! I am glad I went in October because it didn’t get colder than 30 degrees. I don’t think I could’ve done any colder! Plus, there wasn’t any snow so I could enjoy the landscape.
If you’re hesitant about Iceland because you don’t know much about it, definitely give it a chance. I know I’ll be returning because there’s so much left to explore! I hope you visit places you want to see regardless if there’s someone to go with or not. I’m always here to give you a pep talk or help plan trips!