In September 2018, Ryan and I took a trip to Iceland, and it was an ADVENTURE! It was our first big international trip (we’ve been to Mexico a few times, but always stayed in resorts, and kept it easy)! This tr bnip was all about exploring, being out on our own, and just soaking in all the beautiful nature. It was my favorite vacation to date. I’m going to share our one week trip itinerary, our experiences, photos along with a few tips we learned while planning and along the way! 🙂 Enjoy!
We flew from Newark, NJ to Reykjavik and got there early in the morning. As we got off the plane, there was the most vibrant beautiful sunrise. I’d say Iceland was pretty happy to see us. 😉
First things first, we picked up a mobile hot spot to rent for the week. This was SO helpful, so we didn’t have to worry about international phone data much, we just connected to Wifi while out exploring, so we could use our phones for GPS, music, etc. with no issue!! It was amazing, and pretty inexpensive! This article is awesome and will tell you everything you need to know about how & where to rent a hot spot, the different options, etc. SUPER helpful!!
Renting a car was really important to us for how we wanted to experience the trip. We wanted to be able to drive around, explore, not be on a tour bus schedule, etc. Because we were traveling to Iceland in early September when it was still relatively warm out, the roads were easy to drive on, and no ice to worry about!
The rental car situation was a little tricky to figure out. There were a couple of car rental booths in the airport itself, but we rented from a different company. To get to the rental car place we rented from, we had to get on a shuttle bus outside the airport, and the drove around, making several stops at all the different car rental locations. We eventually figured it out but spent more time than we’d have liked to walking through crazy strong winds with our luggage trying to find the right rental place haha.
After doing research we realized we should definitely get the wind/gravel insurance added on because it is apparently very common to get minor damages to your car due to the high winds and gravely roads. The only thing the gravel insurance didn’t cover was windshields for the company we rented from. It started to rain as we got into our car, and because of the rain drops on the windshield we didn’t notice a pretty big crack in the windshield that we missed upon initial inspection of damages. We had already left the parking lot but luckily hadn’t gone far, so we rushed back and told the rental car attendant we had missed that crack initially. They gave us a little bit of a hard time, but they made the note on our paper work and let it slide. If we hadn’t noticed that it’s likely we could’ve gotten charged, so definitely do your due diligence inspecting your car (as goes with any rental car situation)!
We stayed in an Airbnb outside the city of Reykjavik, and it was perfect! We were close to downtown area, but also in a pretty central spot from the highway, and the destinations we traveled to! We loved it! We drove to our Airbnb and took a little nap before heading into downtown Reykjavik to explore!
We drove into the city, and found some easy parking on a side street! It was super easy to get around, which is something I always am conscious of.
I’m a big fan of self-guided tours, so I found a good online self-guided tour of Reykjavik that we used as a partial guide for our walk around the city. We didn’t see everything from that list, but it’s a fun laid back way to learn a little bit about the city as you explore on your own! One of the few key things we started with was the Hallsgrimskirkja Church! (Pictured below) How cool is that architecture inside and out! You can purchase a ticket to go up to the top of the church for a view of the city, but we opted out of that one (Ryan’s not a fan of heights).
We grabbed a quick lunch & coffee on the go, made friends with a cat in a park, and just enjoyed the architecture, landmarks, and walking around exploring such a cute little city!
That was about it for day 1 adventures! We hit the grocery store on the way home and stocked up on lots of snacks & easy to make meals, and called it a night!
We did a LOT of driving and road tripping around in Iceland. We found grocery store hours are not as flexible and long as they are in New Jersey so if you’re out driving late or on a weekend it can be harder to find a store to stop at along the way. Save yourself from some hangry car rides by making sure you stock up!
Iceland was always a place on my bucket list so when we booked the trip, I knew I wanted to get professional photos taken of Ryan and I while we were in Iceland. Through some instagram research and a lot of luck I had stumbled on Anna Kardos! She’s an incredible photographer (and now our wedding photographer!) based in Virginia! I saw that she had shared on her instagram that she’d be traveling in Iceland at the same time as us, so we coordinated and we were able to hire her for a couples session while we were there! Our photos are amazing and I have a bunch hanging in our bedroom! 🙂 Thank you, Anna!!!
To prep for our session, before we left NJ I got my hair blown out the day we left for Iceland and tried to keep it nice until the following day for our shoot. It was a little rough around the edges, but did the trick! I had also purchased this travel steamer to be able to steam our clothes the night before the shoot in case the got wrinkled during travel. Great idea, right? Almost.
I forgot that the electrical outlets are different in Iceland than they are in the US. And of course I didn’t discover this until late that night when we got back to our airbnb and I was ready to start prepping our outfits for the shoot. We had to leave at 6am to get to the shoot location in time, and the stores that sold an adapter like what we needed didn’t open until 11am. Oops. So what did we do with our wrinkly outfits? We turned the shower on the hottest setting (which is pretty dang hot since they heat their water geothermally), and steamed them the best we could using shower steam. It wasn’t ideal but hey, we made it work!
We were able to get adapters the following day after the shoot, but I wish we were better prepared and ordered our outlet adapters like these ones, ahead of time! I’d highly recommend getting these before your trip! 🙂
We chose two locations for our shoot in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula area! This was the farthest north we traveled, so made sure to plan out ahead of time the spots we wanted to see in that area after our shoot!
First shoot location: Kirkjufellsfoss! This area was so beautiful with a pretty waterfall and mountain-y landscape, and fields of tall grass! We LOVED it! Below are some photos by Anna Kardos from our session location # 1!
Not gonna lie, it took Ryan a little convincing, but doing this session took off an pressure I felt to bust out my tripod and professional camera at every single location. SO. WORTH. IT.
After this first location we headed over to Arnarstapi for the second location! We had a coffee at the little cafe there, and then changed into our second outfits and got started. It began to rain a little bit for this second part of our session, but we had so much fun it didn’t even phase us. I love all of these photos so much. Photos below by Anna Kardos from location #2 of our shoot!
After our shoot, we changed into hiking gear, and got ready to do a little more exploring.
The whole trip we basically kept a duffel bag with a lot of clothing layers and options in the car with us. We found the weather changed A LOT. One location we may have needed rain coats or ponchos, another where it’s more windy would feel colder so we’d put our winter coats on, or we may have gotten soaked by a waterfall, so bringing extra clothes & shoes was super helpful.
After spending some time walking around exploring the different views of Arnarstapi, we got back in the car and before heading to the next stop on the list we filled up the gas tank.
Also an important note we found out: to be able to operate the gas pumps that don’t have a convenience store attached to it, you will need a card with a PIN (like a debit card)! This article has some great tips about Iceland gas stations! Definitely read up before going!
I’ve got a really funny story share about what happened next. It wasn’t funny at the time, but looking back now it’s hilarious.
I really wanted to make sure we saw a glacier while in Iceland. We weren’t too far so next up we made our way towards Snaefellsjokull. Because it was humid and a little on the warm side, what we didn’t factor in was the fog. We drove up this crazy dirt road with a windy, and honestly probably pretty dangerous path (we did not have an SUV lol). As we got closer to the glacier and higher in altitude the fog just got thicker. I was being stubborn hoping we’d still be able to see some glacier action. But long story short we drove all that way and when we got to a viewing area, it was literally a white wall of fog, and we didn’t see a THING. (I did get my glacier fill later in the trip, but this was bummer in the moment. However I can’t help but crack up about it now.)
After this anticlimactic stop, we headed back towards home (it was roughly a 3 hour drive). And this is where we learned our lesson about running out of snacks, too. LOL
I hope you enjoyed Day 1 & Day 2 of our week-long Iceland trip! Continue this weekend virtual vacation with me, and check out Day 3 & 4 of our Iceland adventure here! 🙂