When you mention Iceland, I believe that the first thing that most people will think of is Aurora. But do you guys know that there is another side of nature in Iceland that is as beautiful as the aurora which is Iceland during the summer.
Summer in Iceland is very much different from hunting for the aurora in winter. Even though it is summer, the weather is nice and cool in the afternoon. It stays bright during the day and during the night. The fields are green and filled with flowers like the purple lupin blooms that can be seen throughout the country.
There are volcanoes and glaciers including many small and large waterfalls. Other than the fact that experiencing the cuteness of puffins, tourists will also get to spend time in The Highlands; a memorable place to visit.
Every thing I mentioned above is the colorful aspect of traveling in Iceland during summer. Since visiting Iceland can be very pricey, we have to control our budget and plan ahead carefully in order to not over spend. This review mostly shares my experience and tips for planning before traveling.
For those who have questions or would like more information, we are happy to answer them(if we can). Or you can share your thoughts here https://www.facebook.com/jirobkk
During 4-17 July 2018, we drove around Iceland anti-clockwise: from Reykjavik to the Highlands, Vik to Hofn (stopping at the Jokulsarlon glacier) and up north to Lake Myvatn (to take a photo of a weird rock at Hvitserker and see the birds at Latrabjarg cliffs). Then, we took a ferry to Snaefellsnes Peninsula on the west and back at Reykjavik, which is the starting point. We stayed one night per city, but if the city was especially interesting we would spend 2 night there.
📸 Interesting attractions where we took photos 📸
Golden Circle : Reykjavik City, Church of Hallgrímur, Gullfoss, Geysir
The Highlands : Landmannalaugar
South Iceland : Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Skogafoss Waterfall, Dyrhólaey, Reynisfara Beach, Reynisfjall, Vik Church, South Coast & Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, Stokksnes
East Iceland : Myvatn, Dettifoss Waterfall, Godafoss Waterfall, Aldeyjarfoss Waterfall,
North Iceland : Akureyri City, Hvitserkur
Westfjords : Latrabjarg Cliffs (Puffins)
Snaefellsnes Peninsula : Budakirkja, Arnarstapi, Gatklettur, Lóndrangar Cliffs, Gerouberg, Basalt CliffsKirkjufell Mountain, Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall
✈ Choosing an airline ✈
There aren't any direct flights from Bangkok to Iceland available. That means every airline will have to stop at Helsinki or Oslo first.
We chose to travel with Finnairs (Bangkok - Helsinki; 10 hour flight), then took another flight from Helsinki to Keflavik (3.5 hours). Our baggage is check-through to the final destination. We had 50 minutes to change flights at Helsinki airport. The ticket price was around 32,000 baht and you should book tickets 8 months or more in advance. The reason why we chose Finnairs is because both flights that we had to take were theirs. The bags are check-through to the destination and the first flight was a direct flight from Bangkok to Oslo (BKK-OSL)
Other interesting airlines:
First flight: BKK - OSL(HEL, Moscow) : Finnairs, Emirates, Norwegian Air, SAS, TG, Aeroflot
Second flight: OSL-KEF : Finnairs, Iceland air, Norwegian Air
🇮🇸 Getting a visa 🇮🇸
Since there is no Iceland embassy in Thailand, you have to apply for a visa through the Danish embassy by submitting documents to VFS Global company which will check your documents and send them to the Danish embassy. You can ask for a visa 90 days before your trip and it takes around 15 days for them to consider it.
🏭 Accommodation 🏭
Most accommodation in Iceland are apartments; if you go outside the city, farm barns are transformed into accommodation for tourists. Since summer in Iceland is the high season, you should book your stay in advance through Booking.com (free cancellation is the best choice). If you travel as a large group, you should book an apartment as they offer a kitchen and other convenient things.
🍜 Dining in Iceland 🍜
Living expenses in Iceland is very high. One meal costs around 1,500-2,000 baht so you should buy food in supermarkets such as Bonus or Kronan. The price there is cheaper but it is still expensive for Thais. If you really want to save money, another choice is to bring as much instant food you need from Thailand along with you like instant noodles, packaged foods, canned foods or dried pork. You can use the kitchen provided in apartments to cook them.
🚗 Renting a car 🚗
To rent a car, you have to rent it through internet before your travel. You should choose to pick up and return the car at the airport because there are many companies to choose from and most of them are available for contact 24/7. Since we have to drive around the country where the road is very rough, we chose an AWD car like Honda CRV (what we actually rented was the Hyundai Sonata 4WD). However, if you are driving long distance, 2WD car is cheaper. Also, don't forget to check if there is enough space in the trunk for your luggage.
If you decide to rent a car, you should buy insurance as well. Most car insurance in Iceland do not cover tires, front mirror, side mirrors or car doors(Iceland is very winder so you should be careful when opening doors). You don't have to choose a car with GPS as it is more expensive. Instead, you can use Google Maps if you have internet.
In Iceland, the driving wheel is on the left. You also need an International Driving Permit, a driving permit (for cars) and your credit card to rent a car here.
🚗 Driving in Iceland 🚗
1 The main road is called the Ring road. You can go around the whole island using this road. It's not very wide (2 lanes running opposite). The speed limit is not over 50 km/hr in city area, 30 km/hr in community areas and not over 90 km/hr outside cities.
2 Cars have to drive on the right and the driving wheel is on the left(opposite of Thailand).
3 There are gas stations all over the country which are self-service stations (open 24 hours) where you have to pay and fill up the gas yourself. Diesel and Gasohol is available. The stations which you will see most often are N1 and Olis (but N1 is more frequent).
⛽ There are 2 ways to pay for your gas ⛽
1 Using N1 Card - it's a cash card used with N1 stations. You can find them in the gas station's shop. It costs 10,000 baht and it contains 10,000 baht of cash. To use it, just put it in the machine, choose the pump for your gas and pull the card out while filling the gas up completely. When you are finished, put the card back in again to pay and print out a receipt.
2 Using a credit card with PIN - put it in the machine. It's the easiest and most convenient way. However, before traveling you have to go to the back to open a credit card with PIN to use abroad first.
☎ Choosing a SIM card for your phone ☎
The most famous mobile network companies in Iceland are Siminn, Vodafone and Nova. You should buy a pre-paid SIM at the airport or departments store before traveling or buy SIM2FLY from AIS in Thailand since SIM2FLY can now be used in Iceland. It costs 890 baht including 4GB internet for 15 days.
📸 Preparing your camera and equipment 📸
This choice depends on your personal choice on which camera/equipment to use: DSLR, Compact cameras or Iphones (some people take amazing photos and videos using their phones). Most importantly, don't forget to take your battery and memory card just in case. Especially for Sony cameras because the battery runs out very fast. You should also take some waterproof equipment as there are many waterfalls to take photos of in Iceland.
Other equipment to take with you: equipment such as tripods, remote control, shutter cable, filter, lens etc. To take photos of puffins, 70-200 lens is enough because they are very close by.
👕 Clothing 👕
Summer in Iceland is during June - mid September. The weather is not as hot as in Thailand (around 8-22 degrees). The weather changes constantly during the day. It gets cloudy, rains and then it clears up again. If it's a windy day, it can be very cold so you should prepare some winter clothes as well like long johns, wind breakers, gloves and scarfs (better yet if they are waterproof as you will visit waterfalls). For shoes, they should be waterproof and go up to your ankles to prevent spraining them.
For those who visit the Highlands, don't forget to take extra winter clothing.
😍For those who are visiting The Highlands 😍
Since the Highlands is 600 meters above sea level, the temperature in summer is around 5-12 degrees so the weather is very cold for us Thais. You should prepare clothes like you would if you were visiting during snow. The accommodation is offered in the form of camping huts with only bedding available. Tourists have to bring their own sleeping bags, towels and other things.
You can only visit the Highlands three times a year (around June - August which is the high season so there are many tourists). Because of this, some accommodations have to be booked a year in advance!
Due to this, we decided to buy a tour package into the Highlands (3 days 2 nights). We bought it from Landmannalaugar which is a touring company in Reykjavik and it costs 28,000 baht per person. This price includes the accommodation, transport (Super Truck) and a guide (who is also the driver).
😍 Other interesting facts about Iceland 😍
1 The currency in Iceland is the Icelandic Krona (ISK) or krone in short. 1 krone equals 0.3 baht (100 krones equals 30 baht). If you don't to exchange most of your money to krone, you can use euro money in most shops but they will return your change in krone. So using your credit card is the most convenient way to pay in Iceland.
2 The VAT in Iceland is 24% except for books and food which is 11%. For souvenirs, if you spend more than 6000 ISK you can ask for tax refund at the airport but you need the receipt. In no more than 3 months, the money will be refunded back into your credit card.
3 People in Iceland are very proud of their water as the water there is considered as the purest water on earth. It flows through the glacier and filtered by cooled down lava. So you can drink tap water in Iceland without any worries.
4 Thailand is 7 hours ahead of Iceland.