As Lisa and I flew back to DC , we kept rehashing things we would have done differently… or what we wished we would have known. Soooo–for those who are already ready to book your weekend getaway to catch some northern lights, let us spare you some googling!
- http://claruscare.com/eclinic-healthcare-becomes-clarus//news/2013/11/5/electronic-and-internet-health-tools-may-decrease-in-person-physician-visits Rent A Car: There were a lot of mixed reviews going into the trip, and while we did have some “rough” driving weather one day.. Rent one. You won’t regret it. While it’s definitely possible to stay in Reykjavik and do day trips with tour companies your entire trip, renting a car allows you the flexibility to stop, take a pic, see some waterfalls, eat another gas station hot dog, or more often than not–get lost. Make sure your driver is comfortable driving on icy road conditions, one-laned bridges, and doesn’t mind the fact that it could very well be dark. Also, get a car with 4WD, snow tires, and insurance (honestly a no-brainer in my opinion). I tend to search around on skyscanner and carrentals.com, then go to the actual company website and see if I can get a cheaper deal directly. Also coupled with that, http://zamhomes.com/portfolio-items/girard-homes-for-sale/ get some GPS (or become really good at reading maps). I naively assumed my TomTom Europe would work, but Iceland isn’t included. That left my trusty co-pilot trying to figure out why US google maps translates all the Icelandic Streets into phonetic versions and left us wondering if we were ever going to find Þjóðvegur. To be honest, by the 3rd day you get the hand of the roads. The main ‘highway’- The Golden Circle is pretty hard to miss, but there might be some detours you want to take!
- Track the weather, but relax: Several blogs mentioned how unpredictable the weather would be, but I don’t think it really sank in. We used the national road weather website to look up our weather each day…. but it honestly changed in as little as 5 miles from each other. One stretch of road would be snow covered, freezing, and snow actively falling, and no less than 10 miles up the road it was green and raining. A lot of the roads we were on weren’t actively plowed till later in the day (there’s a lot of ground to cover!), so give yourself some extra time to get from place to place. End note: don’t freak out if the roads are bad… they could be great just around the corner!
- Pack Layers(no need for North Pole Gear): Most people hear Iceland and assume it’s going to be a frozen tundra. I made sure we all geared up for the trip (with layers, hiking boots, and lots of outdoor gear), but to be honest… it was comparable to a Boston winter–probably warmer than a Chicago one! Most of the waterfalls/geysers/things to see, are right off the road…. so while you might want to pack extra layers for waiting out the northern lights– its not as cold as you think it is. You can get by with a good winter jacket, wool socks and a great pair of gloves/mittens.
- No Daylight, No Problem: Yes, the sunlight hours were few…..but there was more than enough daylight to get to places, see things, and more often that not your pictures will be even more beautiful because it was seemingly either sunrise or sunset all the time. We rented Airbnbs for our entire stay, and often grabbed groceries to cook our dinner and it was a lot of fun to just nestle in, feast and wait for the northern lights!!
- Pack a swimsuit! I’ll probably write up a whole post with lagoon locations (we found some gems!), but for all those that were worried the winter trip means little activities..don’t. Don’t forget your swimsuit for your daily soak…. add in some wine/beer/northernlights and some babes and its easily top 5 list of best feelings in the world. There are just as many tour options in the winter (snorkeling/scuba diving in continental divide, ice caves, food tours, greenhouse tours, geyers, etc).