Iceland is a beautiful country, but it’s known for its unpredictable weather and landscapes, and when you arrive you’ll see that it really is like nowhere you’ve ever been before. Because of that, you might be met with a few warnings when you do your trip research. But don’t let it put you off!
We returned home without anything going wrong and a heart full of happy memories, but on reflection we did make a few mistakes which will definitely leave us better prepared for our return to Iceland one day.
So if you’re planning a trip to Iceland, read on to see what not to do and what to keep in mind when you visit the land of ice and fire.
Read more: my top 25 travel fails
Not booking enough time there
We booked a late outbound flight on the Saturday and a late inbound flight on a Tuesday, giving us only three days there. That is nowhere near enough time to see much of Iceland!
We ended up changing our outbound flight to 6am instead of 3pm, giving us pretty much an entire extra day. Though this did cost us an extra £170, which made an already expensive trip even pricier.
In hindsight, I would have even booked a fifth day to make sure we had plenty of time to explore. Four nights and five full days would be ideal for a first visit.
Not saving enough spending money
We only took £150 with us for four days because we didn’t save enough money. We’re cheap travellers anyway, but we had to be extra cheap on this trip to the point where we only had two hot meals in four days (both of which were from service stations).
It would have been nice to save a bit more and enjoy a few meals in some of the popular restaurants in and around Reykjavik. That said, we didn’t leave much time for eating so lived off supermarket food on the road!
Exploring at night (completely unprepared)
We wanted to fit as much into our trip as possible, so one day we decided to drive two hours south to the famous Sólheimasandur plane wreck. When we arrived it was 7pm, so just getting dark. There were very few people around at this point.
The walk is 4km each way and takes about 45-minutes, but what we didn’t realise is that finding the path again in the pitch black is impossible. The path is only defined by small posts which are reflective to light, which of course there was absolutely none of.
Our only focus were three tiny lights in the distance, which disappeared after a while, so we ended up walking in the wrong direction for almost half an hour, resulting in a little panic attack from my side.
Thankfully we found our way back to the path with Google Maps and began the 45-minute walk back, though this was scary in itself because even with two iPhone torches guiding the way, you couldn’t see a thing beyond a couple of metres.
This expedition could have been really dangerous if there had been a turn in the weather, so keep that in mind if you decide to go.
Having really high expectations of seeing the Northern Lights
We naively expected the Northern Lights to just appear above us and to get a great shot on our cameras. Wrong. Finding them is one thing, but you really need to know how to use a camera on manual to capture the moment.
I was feeling really disheartened on day three as I realised I was probably going to board the flight home with seeing the aurora still firmly on my bucket list.
Luckily, a combination of guidance from my dad who has shot the aurora many times, a lot of research, playing around with our camera settings and plain old luck paid off as the most amazing lights danced above us on our final night – and we got the photos to prove it.
Unfortunately though, this isn’t the case for everyone. I know a fair few people who have been an not seen them. But this is always a great excuse to go back…
Getting too comfortable exploring alone
Many Iceland travellers choose to explore with a tour guide, which is a great way to see Iceland, but a lot of people (like us) choose to explore alone. I highly recommend it, but it does mean you could be putting yourself in danger without realising.
For example, on our drive around the Golden Circle we spotted a frozen lake. The ice was clearly very thick so we decided to walk on it, but then we heard an almighty crack which scared the living daylights out of us. It’s safe to say that at this point, everyone on the ice retreated back to the car park.
I know ice does crack with temperature changes, but its not worth putting yourself in danger with nobody around to help you, all for an Instagram photo.
Underestimating the weather & ocean
During day one of our four-day trip to Iceland, we experienced sun, showers, snow and hail. And on day two, we were hit by crazy strong winds.
Because of the weather (and it being winter), the ice waves were also really aggressive. Darryl got soaked by a wave on our trip to Jökulsárlón and spent the rest of the day with cold, wet feet. Somebody else on our trip also had the same thing happen, but got significantly wetter.
Ironically we visited a week after that story about the grandmother who floated out to sea on a block of ice went viral. We were actually at this exact spot, and could easily see how its possible!
So yeah, prepare for all weather and don’t get too close to the water’s edge.
Completely exhausting ourselves
There is far too much to see in Iceland in four days, but of course we tried to do everything we possibly could. This meant getting up between 5am and 8am, driving all day, barely eating proper meals, and going to bed around 2am.
Doing this four days in a row was extremely tiring, especially when you throw two flights into the mix.
We don’t necessarily regret our itinerary, but definitely would have benefited from a day to recover at home after our trip. The only other option would have been to cut down our schedule, which isn’t something we wanted to do.
So there are our Iceland fails! Thankfully none of our mistakes were real issues, just things to keep in mind for your own trip to this beautiful, but unpredictable country.
Have you had any fails in Iceland? What’s your biggest travel mistake?