The aurora borealis are seen over a road in Budir, Iceland. (Shutterstock.com/Anna Om)
With its majestic lava fields overshadowed by snow-covered mountains, Iceland is a traveler’s paradise with new and thrilling adventures around every corner. Nevertheless, this beautiful rugged country of the aurora borealis, or Norðurljós in Icelandic, should not be taken lightly as that may cost you your life.
Iceland is a country of extreme beauties - volcanic eruptions, sand storms, gravel roads and ash clouds. One can never be too careful. Also, keep in mind local etiquette and behave accordingly while there.
Before arriving in Iceland
While planning a road trip in a country like Iceland, arrangements need to be made before physically arriving there.
Iceland is a bit expensive and you will need to save money and arrange your budget before you go. That way you can travel without any worries.
Make plans for off-season
The main tourist season of Iceland is summer, from June to August, hence Iceland gets very busy during this time of year.
You can plan your trip in the off-season months of December to January or September when Iceland flourishes with autumn colors, northern lights and the first snowfall on the mountains.
Plan your journey beforehand
It is always advisable to plan your journey beforehand. You can plan your itinerary for a five-day trip or a seven- to 12-day trip depending on your plans.
Iceland is a country of extreme conditions and this is the very reason why even the best travel planners or drivers can go wrong here. It is always better to be safe and send your travel itinerary to SafeTravels.is, just in case.
Book accommodations earlier
If you plan to travel to Iceland in summer, you need to book your accommodations far in advance.
You can book online through the portals available on the internet, find self-catering cabins and save up on restaurant costs.
Pack essentials and buy traveler’s insurance
To have traveler’s insurance is always wise. You never know what will happen on a road trip.
Also, you will need to pack essential gear for traveling in the country; nothing fancy, just some woolens and waterproof clothes.
While in Iceland, do:
Be prepared for one-lane bridges
It is true that Iceland is becoming a major tourist destination, but at the same time the concept of a traffic jam is alien to local. And why not? It is a sparsely populated country after all.
The major roadway is the Ring Road or Route 1, and most of the bridges along this road are only one lane. Keep calm and do not panic when you see such a bridge.
It is best to approach these bridges slowly and keep a look out for the occasional sheep.
Bring multiple layers of woolens
Icelandic weather is very unpredictable and can change at any moment. You need to be prepared for that, as forecasts are valid for roughly 15 to 20 minutes.
If you are traveling by car, you can easily accommodate multiple layers, including a few necessities like rain jacket, windbreaker, scarf, long-sleeved woolen sweater and thick socks. In case you want to go hiking, diving or snorkeling, take thermals with you.
Pick an appropriate car
You can travel to Iceland in an economy car, but you would not be able to explore the country in one.
On the F-Roads in the highlands, only 4x4 vehicles are allowed, otherwise you would struggle on the mountain roads without a powerful engine. So choose a car wisely for exploring Iceland.
At the same time, expensive car rental insurance is necessary. This will definitely cost you some money, and this is fairly so because you will need car insurance against the ever-changing Icelandic weather.
While in Iceland, don’t:
Drive like a madman
Iceland is too good to be true for a road trip, but don’t go overboard and drive like a madman on the Icelandic highways. Things can become ugly the moment you take your eyes off the road.
Also, keep in mind not to park anywhere on the road to take photos from a dangerous vantage point. Even though it's all about adventure, an eye must be kept out for mortal danger on these unpredictable roads.
Forget to stock up on gasoline cards
Just like hotels, gas stations are few and far between. So it is always advisable to stock up on gas cards whenever you get the chance. The golden rule in Iceland is: “whenever you see a gas station - stop and fill up”; even if your tank is far from empty.
Underestimate the weather
As repeatedly pointed out, Icelandic weather is very unpredictable. Therefore, underestimating it is the biggest mistake you could make. Keep a constant track of the weather. You can use the Vedur website to do that.
Storms are fairly common in the country and driving in one should always be avoided. Strong Icelandic storms have been known to blow cars off the roads, or volcanic rocks might get blown onto your windshield.
Most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy yourself. That is the whole point of all these guidelines, anyways. (kes)
Suchna believes in taking the road less traveled and stumbling upon hidden gems along the way. For over a decade, she has mapped their way across various continents, sniffed out unusual routes, discovered new flavors and stayed at quirky hostels. TheVillaEscape is her expression of soul travel.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.