Solo Travel in Iceland
After a week of Solo Travel in Iceland, I can tell you, it would have been more worth the trip if my timing was better. The country itself is beautiful. From the dark volcanic rocks against the crystal blue sea, the crashing waterfalls of the Golden Circle, to the quaint and colorful houses sprinkled throughout the country. It’s a relatively new and untouched place with only around 350,000 residents throughout. The buildings appear to be new, the technology is modern, wi-fi is common throughout, most of the cars are still in good condition, and the landscapes are fairly untouched. Come to find out that until around the 1940’s much of Iceland just wasn’t inhabited and cities and towns weren’t really a thing. The inhabitants of Iceland lived in homes but were quite spread out, making the now city of Reykjavik very modern as it was recently built.
Why Iceland is a Great Solo Travel Destination?
So, why Iceland you may ask? It boasts a cold and wet climate that was not that long ago home to the one volcano that shut down flights for days throughout Europe. Well, I’d have to say, it’s because nature is able to be seen in the most pristine conditions. So many areas are still untouched by humans, and the ability to see icebergs, puffins, whales, volcanos, and the most wonderous northern lights makes Iceland a perfect place for solo travel.
Do I Need a Visa?
Nope, you sure don’t. As long as you have enough pages in your passport and are visiting less than 90 days, your passport is good nuf’ (from the perspective of a US passport holder). For other countries, please check your local consulate’s website.
The national language of Iceland is Icelandic, but English is spoken everywhere, so you will have a pretty easy time getting around.
What Should You Bring to Iceland?
You will need to bring a type “C” or “F” type of adapter for your power needs, or you can purchase a universal adapter to make life easier when traveling the world.
The currency of Iceland is the Icelandic Krona. You really won’t need cash here at all as credit cards are taken pretty much everywhere. ATMs are located all around if you do need it but using your cards will make it easier to track all those expenses and earn points while you do.
Transportation for Solo Travel in Iceland
Getting to the center of Reykjavik you could choose to take a private transfer or a cab, but I found that the super simple way to get there was with a company called FlyBus. I booked my transfer online before I got there, but it’s also easy enough to do at the airport. The big orange bus is right outside the front door and runs about every half an hour. We did have to wait about 20 minutes before we left, but it took it right to the center of town to the central bus station. From there, they transfer you into minibusses that will take you to your hotel. All in all, it took approximately 45-minutes to get to my hotel.
Solo Travel Advice
Rental cars are an option but are ridiculously expensive. One of my fellow travelers mentioned that it was well over $2,000 for a month to rent a car and she ended up with two flat tires as she traveled from the north to the south. Roadside assistance may be something almost non-existent, but thankfully the locals are friendly. She mentioned that her rental was missing a jack or she would have changed it herself, so if you do rent a car for your solo travel in Iceland, make sure you fully check that out before taking the car. Another bit of advice from a friend of mine was to ensure you take out the sand and ash insurance. The winds blow like crazy and the ash and/or sand can certainly do some damage if you end up in a few of the more remote areas.
Things To Do in Reykjavik
While you are in Reykjavik, one of the most frequently seen rides around town is the scooter. They are electric and there are a ton of them! Hopp Bike was seen the most frequently with Zolo right behind it. You have an initial fee of 70 cents and then it’s about 22 cents a minute thereafter. Personally, I haven’t tried it myself as I have that fear of breaking my neck and I’ve only seen one person bite it pretty well while I was there, but for those that are used to this mode of transportation, why not?
Best Time to Solo Travel in Iceland
I can tell you that Iceland is amazing, but my one issue with the country was the weather. My timing was totally off when I visited. I chose the last week in September to stop in, but if I could have adjusted my dates, the last few weeks in August or anytime in the summer would have been better for solo travel in Iceland. August offers the best time to view the Puffins. A cool little bird that only makes it into the mainland to get freaky and have their babies. In September they leave the land and head back out to the water as most of their lives are spent out on the ocean. The weather fought me at every step as the cloud cover prohibited the viewing of the northern lights, canceling my tour 5 nights in a row. I then booked a tour to the Southern Coast and was met with the issue of bad weather and high winds. My tour was canceled that day as well as most of the flights.
Visiting Diamond Beach is still on my to-do list for a future solo trip as well as staying in a Bubble House which is located off the beaten path up north providing some of the best views of the lights. On the next trip, I will also take a tour of Vik, a small fishing village in the south.
While the weather was complete crap most of the time I was there, I was fortunate enough to make it up to the Golden Circle in the Northern part of Iceland. I was able to find the most beautiful and powerful waterfalls, hike into the inside of a dormant volcanic crater, and stop off at the Blue Lagoon. Many of the other ladies in my hostel recommended Sky Lagoon over Blue Lagoon, mainly due to its aesthetics and how it sits next to the sea for the most spectacular views.
Where to Stay in Reykjavik
If you’re going to stay here in Rekyivak, I do highly recommend staying in the city center. I stayed on the outskirts to save a few extra pennies but was about a 45-minute walk to the center. The outskirts didn’t have much to offer other than a room. The bus system was easy to use, and wherever you end up, you should definitely grab a City Pass. It includes the use of the buses, entrance into several exhibitions and discounts on others. The city itself, you can get by seeing in a day or two maximum and the remainder of your time should be used to take your tours around the country. No matter what type of facility you choose to stay in, be prepared for the price tag as it is not cheap. One week in a hostel with 3 other ladies in the room and a bathroom was about $40 a night or $250 per week stay. When I travel, I try to keep my costs to $250 per week for a place to myself. Here, that was not possible.
The hostel was a good option as it led me to meet other travelers from all over the world and it served its purpose. The one I stayed at wasn’t the cleanest nor the most ideal, but hey, it did the trick. The experience of meeting the ladies that I did, and having the ability to share ideas, recommendations, and good conversations, was worth the conditions. I’ve stayed at several hostels on my solo trip time and haven’t had a horrible experience yet. While I do like my privacy, it’s kind of nice to have others right there to talk with and learn from as well. If I were to do it over, I’d recommend staying downtown at Refurinn Reyjaviak Guesthouse.
If you’d like more of a hotel stay that is closer to the center, but far enough away, the Hilton was a prominent point on the map and is located next to a beautiful walking, running, and biking trail.
Once you finish the first few nights in Rekyivak, then grab your butt and move over to Vik for a few days to experience a different part of the country. Hotel Vik I Mydral is beautifully decorated in a gorgeous environment at a reasonable price.
You should also make sure to make your way up north and if you have the funds, try out a Bubble Hotel. This clear bubble will give you a clear view of the night sky (hopefully cloud-free) so you have the best chance of seeing the lights. These bubbles run about $500+ a night, but if you’re headed there for the views, why the heck not?
Eating out in Iceland: Money-saving tips
Food costs here and well, pretty much everything else here, are extremely high! A one-person bowl of pasta and a beer at an average Italian restaurant added up to around $45 for lunch. Don’t get me wrong, it was GOOD, but I’d rather save my funds for other items. One of the local specialties, the hot dog, runs about $6 per dog. They do taste slightly different than what we have at home, but they are quite good, and they offer the smells and tastes of a wonderful day at the ballpark. Their hot dog stands are located all over the place, and you can get your dog covered with a variety of toppings. Oh and one more thing, the chocolate, oh my goodness—worth it! Iceland does chocolate almost as well as the Swiss! ;-)
So, as far as restaurants I can recommend from personal experience, Grazie for Italian, Blackbox pizza, and the Thai Kitchen. All provide excellent food and different vibes. Blackbox pizza was definitely my favorite. The pizza was excellent, but the vibe was cooler. It was certainly different and offered US chill Hip Hop to listen to in a land far far away. As far as local foods go, I’ve been slow to try as I’m not a big fish, lamb, or horse person (yep, I said the horse, it’s on the menu), but I heard great things about their fish and chips. Also, if you are looking for more of a fine dining experience, they do have 1 Michelin Star restaurant to check out the Dill restaurant.
Mama’s Reykjavik was also very cool and offered a variety of Indian/Vegan cuisine options and a really funky cool vibe, as well as Babalu Café. The crepes were calling my name, and it’s one of those hidden gems that everyone talks about.
Things to Do While Solo Travel in Iceland
When you travel Solo to Iceland you may wonder what you should do. Well, I found there are a number of must-do’s and a ton of relatively inexpensive tours that will take you all over Iceland A full-day tour can run around $100-$150, which isn’t bad for a full 11-14 hours of entertainment. You can cover either the north or the south on a full-day ticket which will include your transportation, the sites, and of course your guide.
If the likelihood of the lights is low, the tour providers will cancel well in advance and reschedule for another day. With this tour, you get to solo travel to the location inside a very nice boat with a full bar and get out when the boat arrives at the best viewing location.
(Photo credit: Kris E.)
Take a half a day or full-day solo trip to spend at the blue lagoon and dip your body into the geothermal mineral waters. They provide the goo for 3 septate facials as you wander through the lagoon, and they offer walk-up bar service. Make sure you schedule early, and you can also get a massage included in your trip. You will leave the Blue Lagoon feeling like a limp rag of relaxation.
Same thing with the Sky Lagoon. It’s located right next to the sea and provides amazing views.
City Sightseeing: If you’d like to get a feel for the city itself, take a Hop-On/Hop-Off Tour
Hike up thru the lava fields and if you’re really lucky find the red glowing and flowing kind.
Book a night at a Bubble House (transportation included)
If you’d like to try something else even a little more off of the beaten path (yes, it can be done), make your way over to the Faroe Islands for a few days for yet another level of natural beauty.
No matter where you decide to Solo Travel in Iceland or the Faroe Islands, you’ll find something every nature lover can enjoy! But certainly, wherever you decide to go and do, always make sure to Travel Till You Drop! Also, make sure to also stop by the Travel Till You Drop Shop to get all your travel-related goodies!