One of the best way to see the Icelandic countryside is to hit the road for a few days. Rent a car straight from the airport and embark on a roadtrip! It’s really the only way to see a country that has only 8 people per square mile. Iceland’s Ring Road will take you across through and around snow-capped mountains, bubbling lava pits and misty glacier fingers. But what to take on the journey? Here’s my packing list for an Icelandic roadtrip:
1. Map and GPS navigator. Though you can’t really get lost around Iceland, it sometimes pays to have a map. They are useful if you need to judge the distance until the next town or gas station. Stay on the roads listed on your map–you can incur a hefty fine if you drive off-road. Only attempt a highland road (marked on the map) if you’re driving a 4-wheeler–these roads are notorious for their rugged terrain, and there’s a high chance you may get stuck with a 2-wheeler.
2. Food. Good food can be scarce in Iceland in all except the main towns, so if you want a snack for the road, be sure to pick up a quickie like food bars, dried meat, and chips before you head out. You can also pick these up at any number of gas stations on the road. Dried fish or fruit make great nibbles in the car.
3. Camera, tripod and binoculars. Iceland’s landscape is gorgeous wherever you look–so be sure to have your camera ready. A DSLR is best to catch the subtle, natural sights, such as the Northern Lights (and we’ve just entered the season!). Tripods and binoculars are handy when viewing waterfalls or birds.
4. Windproof and fleece jackets. Definitely pack your windbreaker–the wind is often fierce in Iceland, especially on the west coast, and rain or snow is not uncommon! Make sure it’s also a jacket that can get dirty–often your adventures will take you horseback riding or spelunking, so be sure you can watch off the grease and the grime.
5. Hiking boots and socks. The only option for the rugged terrain of Iceland. If you do any sort of off-road hiking to Dettifoss or through the multicolored hills of Landmannalaugar, great shoes are a must. The best shoes are those with good support and are also waterproof.
6. Warm clothes. Iceland is cold year-round, and though there are sunny days here and there, the weather is notoriously unpredictable. Pack your warm gear: thermal leggings, cargo pants, sweaters, balaclava, wool cap–layers layers layers! Icelandic wool is a great investment and can be purchased in Reykjavik.
7. Swimsuit and towel. Icelanders are obsessed with swimming! Families gather here to sit in the hot pots and share the latest gossip. Wild hot pots exist all over the country. If you forget to bring your swimsuit, you can rent a spare at the pool’s front desk–but if you’re out on the road, it’s good to have your own handy!