7 protips to know before you visit iceland

7 min read

Are you gearing up to have an epic Icelandic adventure? There are some things you should know before going. From gas station hot dogs to going to the right hot springs, these are some protips you should know before exploring Iceland.

Eat the N1 gas station hot dogs

This is a sentence you would never hear me saying in America. In Iceland, it’s almost a tradition to feast on the gas station hot dogs, since they’re one of the cheapest forms of food you can buy. For about 500 ISK ($5 USD), you can snack on a plain dog, and for another 200 ISK you can get bacon wrapped around it. There are also a plethora of sauces that are not what I thought they were. What I thought was ketchup ended up tasting kind of like beans, but it somehow worked anyway. Here’s N1’s website, where they have helpfully pinned every N1 gas station in the country. There’s an old Icelandic saying, “When in Iceland, make sure to get yourself some gas station hot dogs.”

These little beauties kept me full for only $5 USD

Buy Einstök Beer for the road

If you’re a beer person like I am, you definitely have some preferences on what brews you sip. With me, I normally stick within the Pale Ale range, while dipping my toes into IPAs if I’m feeling hoppy. We tried a bunch of the local brews during our adventure, and Einstök was by far my favorite. It’s an awesome brand that has everything from crisp pale ales to hearty stouts (called a Wee Stout, which is my new favorite name). All of the beers are made with Icelandic water, which is some of the freshest water in the world. My personal favorite is the White Ale and it makes for a perfect end-of-the-day beverage after a long day’s hike. They even have them in the United States! I clean out Total Wine any time I see a new shipment of Einstök brews. Give ’em a try, you won’t regret it.

Check out my Einstök beer I used for scale with my backpack

Blue Springs is the most popular, but arguably not the best hot spring

You’ve most likely seen photos of Blue Springs all over social media. It’s by far the largest hot spring and also the most commercialized. It comes off as more of a resort (think Disney World) and is FULL of tourists. The other springs were much more low-key and less crowded. The two springs we stopped at and enjoyed the most were:

Secret Lagoon

Entry Price: 3000 ISK ($30 USD) + 850 ISK ($8.50 USD) Towel Rental

Secret Lagoon hot spring was so nice, we visited twice. We found it on our first night in Iceland and immediately said, “Hell yes,” to floating in the hot springs. The pool itself is relatively small, but it wasn’t busy so we never felt crowded. According to their website, Secret Lagoon is the location of the oldest swimming pool in Iceland. How’s that for some history?

Secret Lagoon hot springs is a perfect spot to soak your chilled bones

Myvatn Nature Baths

Entry Price: 4500 ISK ($45 USD) + 700 ISK ($7 USD) Towel Rental

Myvatn is a swanky spring located in the northern part of Iceland. We found the springs a few hours east of Akureyri and saw it as our steamy oasis in the frozen north. We were ecstatic to take a dip and actually get our toes functioning properly again. Myvatn has several massive lagoons that offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains. You can also use some of the geothermic steam rooms and eat at the Kvika restaurant. It’s a great way to feel rejuvenated and pampered halfway through your trip around the Icelandic ring road.

You almost couldn’t find a better view than this

Get food at a grocery store instead of eating out

I would put this entire paragraph in bright red and bold text if it meant you would pay attention to it. Eating food from a grocery store is the easiest way to save a crap-ton of money while traveling around Iceland. Most meals at restaurants start at $40 USD and only get more expensive from there. An easy way to get around this? Buy food from either a Costco (yes, they have Costcos in Iceland. It surprised me too) or a local Bonus supermarket. Both stores will give you much better prices on food, snacks, and supplies. Eating cheaply was the main reason why the entire two-week trip to Iceland only cost $1,400. If you have the means to cook your own food, buy yourself some groceries. Your wallet will thank you.

Buying groceries means fresh French eggs and bacon for breakfast. Thanks, Tim.

Use the Aurora App to find the Northern Lights

I’ve mentioned the Aurora app in my other Iceland posts; it uses geolocation along cloud cover and sun activity data to give you the percentage chance of seeing the Northern Lights in your location. Don’t be discouraged if it gives you a low percentage, because the first time we saw the Lights we had something like an 11% chance of seeing them. So, keep your app open and your eyes to the sky.

The Aurora app helped us find the Northern Lights

Talk to the locals

This might seem like common sense, but it can be easy to get wrapped up in your own thoughts and adventures. We actually found a locals-only hot spring by talking to a local Icelandic gentleman who worked at a fish & chips spot. When we asked if there were any campgrounds in the area, he replied, “Well, how would you like to go to a locals-only hot spring instead?” He gave us the coordinates, since it didn’t have an actual name, and off we went. After 3 miles down a dirt road, we found what looked like a swimming pool nestled in the crook of a mountain. The water was hot enough to where, after exiting the spring, you could stand naked in the ~20 degree weather and feel fine. We never would have found such a cool little spot if we didn’t ask that one kind man a simple question. Talk to everyone!

We wouldn’t have found these springs without talking to the local Fish n’ Chips guy

Use road.is to track road conditions

The most important part about traversing Iceland is to make sure you won’t be caught by surprise from a shift in weather. This is where Road.is comes in. This incredibly useful website saved our asses more than once. Road.is shows everything from closed roads to important updates about the weather. It also provides emergency phone numbers and webcams of the roads as well.

The roads won’t always look this clear. Icy driving is dangerous, use the website.

I hope you find these tips useful on your trip!

Iceland is an incredibly beautiful country. Whether you’re staying in Reykjavík or taking a camper van around the ring road, these tips should help you on your journey. Do you have any Icelandic pro tips you’d like to share? Comment below and let me know!

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