So, you want want to Elope in Iceland but don't know what to do next?? I got you. (Pt. III)
Hello again, daydreamer! Welcome back to the third edition of my series to get you to your elopement in Iceland as flawlessly as possible!
Alright, so we already discussed in Pt.I of this blog series that you had been day-dreaming of having a real, whimsical, life altering adventure for your elopement in Iceland because doing the traditional walk down the aisle just isn't your style. You didn't know where to start, so I got it going for you. I showed you how to get to Iceland on a budget and a few airline options to use. I showed you how to get to Reykjavík once landing at the Keflavík airport, whether it was via a FlyBus or renting a car.
I hope that gave you a good enough foundation to get your wheels turning and inspired to start planning your trip before you dove into Pt.II of this blog series where I helped you out on some options on where to stay for your lodging with some opinions thrown in there. You also learned a bit of the weather and climate in Iceland which will help you in packing and deciding what outfits to bring.
So, now that we have all of that figured out, you have started your search for plane tickets, there are some more details to hash out. Like, what currency is used there? What are the differences between the times of year to come here (and when your best bet to see the Aurora is), the overall cost of being here, and what to do once here.
The currency used is called the Icelandic Krona, which is labeled as 'ISK' next to the price amount. The exchange rate is $1 USD is equal to about 99.9 ISK, however this fluctuates as the market fluctuates. So, if your coffee and breakfast comes to 1,300 ISK, it is roughly $13 USD. It is pretty easy to eyeball the conversion once you get over the shock of hearing your breakfast comes to 'one thousand thirteen'. A main concern I hear often is about spending money once you are here. You actually do not need to exchange any money in order to buy things. Practically every place, even in the smaller towns, take cards. If your card has a chip you should be good to go. PRO TIP: don't forget to inform your card carrier you will be traveling, so the card doesn't get shut off and put you in a sticky situation. It is really common for gas stations, once you leave the bigger cities, to be just pumps in the ground with no store attached, so your only option is to pay with a card. Each carrier has their own cost for transactions fees, which are really minimal. However, if you did want some cash, it is good to have a little on you just in case. I will go to an ATM / Bank and grab a little bit. I do this because the parking meters around Reykjavik sometimes have issues reading cards and throwing some coins in it is MUCH easier and will not result in a ticket if I can't get the parking meter to read my card. Additionally, my first time in Iceland I actually got into a pretty scary situation with my card not being read at any gas stations and I was SECONDS away from running out of gas. I had to walk until I found a bank that had an ATM, which thankfully read my card, so I could pull out cash to pay for gas at the gas station convenient store. However, if I had cash on me to begin with, I would not have almost died from a heart attack.
The most common thing I get asked would probably be 'What time of year is best to visit Iceland?'. In my experience, I actually can't give a definitive answer. I feel like every season offers different things and you can't go wrong with whatever one you decide to elope in Iceland in. Personally, my favorite time to visit is in the fall and winter. I just love how it's chilly and a bit snow covered most likely. Though it makes hiking and driving to certain places maybe a bit more difficult, I think it's just so beautiful. Also, it is far less busy with tourists. There are only 300,000 Icelanders who live there and the country sees over 3 million tourists. So, do the math. That's a lot of tourists. The high times are in summer, June-August, when the sun doesn't set for over 24hrs in the middle of that. However, because of that, you can't see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). In order to see them, it must be dark and the solar wind conditions plus the cloud coverage must be aligned. In the winter months the sun is up only a few hours a day giving the night time the right darkness to see them. However in the summer time, you do have the chance to hike all day long and be around the gorgeous flowers and summer time blooms. The weather will always be a bit wild, no matter the season, so do plan on bringing some rain gear with your shorts and hiking boots. For the spring, fall, and winter months be prepared for snow, rain, wind, and sun. It will be a bit colder, but theres something about being in a frozen, beautiful, untouched, isolated landscape that feels so calming. They also make for INSANELY BEAUTIFUL and unique elopement in Iceland wedding photos. You CAN still go on hikes and be outdoors, just prepare yourself properly with the right gear. And keep in mind, certain roads will be shut down due to poor weather so you can check http://www.road.is to see what ones are open and what ones are closed before heading out.
The second most common questions I get would be: "What to do once in Iceland?", and "How expensive is it compared to America?" Let's talk about the expenses first, and I will give you a good little list to start you off with what to do once there. So, money. Krona. Will this elopement break the bank? I am not going to lie, getting to Iceland is most definitely the least expensive part of the journey. Although, knowing this before heading over and understanding things you will want to do, will help you budget for your trip and not be in any sticker shock when you buy a side of fries at a fast food chain and pay $8USD. As discussed before, hotels are expensive ($200-$500+/ night), Airbnb's are getting more expensive though still less than hotels ($120-$200+/night for a whole apartment), and you can even rent camper vans if you wanted to travel and sleep in a different legal area every night ($170+/ night). For me, the most expensive part would be the food and alcoholic bevies. The food is delicious though, especially in the Reykjavik area. There are so many amazing restaurants and cafes to eat in. Most proper meals will run you about $20USD at least, but I have found that I also enjoy eating smaller meals that can only cost about $12USD. Coffees are about $4USD a pop, but many places have free refills which is awesome. I also make sure I am renting a spot that offers use of a kitchen, so I can go grocery shopping to cut down on spending $60+ a day on meals. The grocery stores are pretty comparable to ours and I don't notice much of a difference than stores in NYC. Now, the alcohol is something that is expensive everywhere. In Iceland you can only get alcohol from restaurants that serve it or form a government run alcohol store that is only open a few hours a day. It is a bit cheaper from one of those, but still rather high and also hard to catch them when they are open. (Seriously, I was saying in a small town my last visit and the store was only open for 3hrs a day and some days not at all.) Beers can run $10+ a glass for a simple lager and even higher for a more craft beverage. Cocktails will also be $12+ a drink, so drink responsibly. So in summary, overall the cost of things in Iceland is much more expensive than the US so be prepared for that. I would say I spend most of my money I bring on food and drinks there. This can be avoided, as I stated in the previous blog (and here, too!) by cooking yourself and picking up booze at the booze stores. However, don't be in total shock when you fill up the gas tank and it costs $70USD or you get a meal and it costs you $22USD before a drink is added. #worthit.
Ok, so the question that everyone wants to know, "What do I do once in Iceland? What should I see?" Well, for starters, it depends where at on the island you are staying. If you are in Reykjavik you will be on the West side and can easily access quite a bit of spots that are 'must sees' which I will list below. If you are staying in Reykjavik and I am shooting your adventurous elopement, I will take you to these places as well as take you to some spots that aren't on this tourist 'must go' list.
But, here are some of the places that you really must see:
- The Golden Circle. You can see all of this by a tour group excursion or drive it yourself. The tour groups give you a bit of fun Icelandic knowledge that you can't get on your own, but driving on your own you can move and explore at your own pace.
- Drive up the West Fjords to the Snæfellsnes. Again for this one, you can book a tour or you can drive it yourself. I must say, it is a very long day so I do enjoy doing this one on my own instead of a tour group because I just don't like being around a lot of people for that long. However, the tour will give you some nice stops for food and again a lot of knowledge of Icelandic culture and the land.
- WATERFALLS. WATERFALLS ARE EVERYWHERE. Some of the most popular ones that are a day trip from Reykjavik are: Skógafoss. This is a waterfall along the South of Iceland that is probably one of the most popular ones, besides Gullfoss that is along the Golden Circle. This waterfall is a beauty but it is getting super popular, to the point the environment is being ruined. Like any part of the country, please be very mindful of your environmental impact you have. Many popular waterfalls are asking a parking fee now to help pay for the environmental upkeep, so please throw a few Krona their way in order to keep the country as gorgeous as it is. Seljalandsfoss, Goðafoss, and Háifoss are also stunners. Additionally, you can just drive wherever your heart takes you and you will pass probably 10000000000* waterfalls. (* not an accurate number.)
- Black sand beaches. These are one of my favorite parts about this country. The dark, black sand with the cold sea coming up to kiss it is just a metaphor for my soul. There are many of these along the coasts of Iceland, basically everywhere. Along the South of Iceland there are two spots to hit that are popular, the southern most town of Vík and Reynisfjara which is in Vík. If you take a trip to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula up the West coast like mentioned above, there are a few gorgeous ones as well. Djúpalónssandur, Hellnar (you must eat at the little cafe and have the fresh lobster bisque while sitting above the waves!), and Arnarstapi are some of my favorites. If you are traveling the ring road and make it to East Iceland, Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is a must. I actually cried the first time I saw it. Sorry not sorry, it's breathtaking.
- Drive the Ring Road. It will take you around the entire island. I suggest doing this in at LEAST 2 days time. There are hotels and bed and breakfasts located all along the road that you can stay for the night. But really, it is worth the drive.
- Geothermal swimming areas. Mother Nature's little gift to all of us. You must visit one and experience the water and all the glory it offers you. Personally, I have never been to the Blue Lagoon as I try to stay away from heavily condensed tourist areas. Also, I am really not into having to pre-book a ticket on when I can go and it is costs $60-$500USD. (Yes, $500.) If you are looking for a spa instead of a geothermal pool, I highly suggest Fontana in Laugarvatn. (But go early before any tour buses get there, and you can read about my experience there and the geothermal earth baking here!) Some other great pools to hit are Mývatn Nature Baths, Secret Lagoon near Flúðir, and Seljavallalaug. You'll notice after swimming in these, and even just taking showers in Iceland, your skin starts to clear and you feel like a million Krona. Word to the wise: a lot of the nature baths, including the water out of the tap, smells like sulphur. Embrace it. Love it.
- Reykjavík. This is probably a big ole' duh. But really, spend some time there. And not just on the main shopping strip of Laugavegur or Bankastræti, though those are great and have some amazing restaurants and shops. But explore the art, the music, the nightlife, the bars, the ports, the really great food, the coffee shops, etc etc. I love that city with all of my heart and if you do some digging and exploring, allowing yourself to just walk around and see what you can find, you will find some gems that speak to you.
Ok lovebirds, I feel like I have given you enough information to light your fires and get your dream elopement started. I want to sign off with a few important words. This place is magical. It is breathtaking. It is like being on another planet. It is serene. It is one-of-a-kind, like your love is. Please, please, please, be mindful when visiting. Tell your friends. This country is feeling an impact of tourist life and the impact you have on it is impressionable and can change it forever. Not only that, but it is a real place with real dangers from Mother Nature, and no one can mess with Mother Nature, she will always win. So remember, please be mindful of your impact and adventure safe. There are real dangers that can kill you, like letting the ocean grab your feet. There are laws, there are do's and don'ts that I will obviously guide you through. Don't poop in the lava fields (YES THIS HAPPENS A LOT). Take this pledge that Iceland has just sent out to help make people aware of their relationship to Mother Nature.
If you have any specific questions on planning your elopement in Iceland and are interested in having me document your love and adventurous ways while guiding you through the most epic landscape as the background of your beautiful Iceland elopement wedding photos, please reach out and say hi right here! I have specific Iceland elopement packages that include yours truly as your guide.
Talk to you soon, daydreamer! I can't wait to see you in Iceland!