after 1 (34 of 43).a76ef047d8d24c03823acdf41c4ee7c8.jpg

Welcome to my blog! 

“Staying rooted to your culture/tradition and being proud of where you come from is the first step for knowing and discovering yourself.” –Yours Truly.

When Indians travel to Iceland: A Quick Iceland Travel Guide!

When Indians travel to Iceland: A Quick Iceland Travel Guide!

I should rename this blog “A Survival Guide for Vegetarians in Iceland” :p

Yes that’s right -when Indians travel, we pack more food than clothes! Okay…I may be exaggerating a little, but this was the fact for our trip to Iceland. Iceland as many know, is not a food heaven for vegetarians. The struggle of being a vegetarian in Iceland was real! Hence, the amount of food in the video!

Vegetarian food was widely available in Iceland at places like Subway and local stores, however it was never satisfying and was expensive. A foot-long veggie sub at Subway was around $14.00 USD!

What a start to this blog… I promise it gets better! Further, in this blog, I share details of our 7-day itinerary. 

Before you visit Iceland:

  1. Download offline Google maps – this is super helpful when you are on the Icelandic f-roads (more about f-roads below)! I would even recommend buying a local SIM card for your peace of mind.

  2. Plan your trip in advance - book car rentals, hotels/Airbnbs, Blue Lagoon, whale watching or any other excursions you wish to do.

  3. Lastly, travel with a group! I say this because on a landscape that is shaped by extreme forces of nature, its always safer to travel in groups. Driving through the raw landscape can sometimes feel long and isolated..which is why I recommend travelling with a few friends! My husband and I travelled with our friends Kushal and Himali. By the way, Himali is the mastermind behind our 7-day itinerary below!

Click on Day 6 below and guess what location we are at!

Click on Day 6 below and guess what location we are at!

Things I wish I had done before visiting Iceland:

  • Connect with a local beforehand or during our trip and travel to unique spots with them. Locals prefer travelling after midnight to avoid tourists and of course get best of the Northern Lights!

  • We went in October, which is considered a transition season from summer to winter and is the best time to visit Iceland. It was freezing in the Northern parts of Iceland, so we took our warmest winter jackets. I wish I had taken a few colourful jackets to avoid blending in with the dullish background and to avoid photos in the same jacket! Our only limitation was luggage. Although we paid extra for the luggage, instead of colourful jackets, we stuffed it with food ;)

Photo by  SLR Infinity

Photo by SLR Infinity

Length of our trip:

October 21, 2018 to October 29, 2018

Flight details:

Cost of direct & return flight from Toronto International Airport to Keflavik International Airport – CAD $945/couple. Plus CAD $125 for one extra luggage.

How we traveled and navigated:

We rented a car for the entire trip! The cost of renting a car for the entire trip was 53,014 ISK = CAD$ 650.

Drone shot by  SLR Infinity

Drone shot by SLR Infinity

Tip: gas in Iceland was about $3.30 CAD/L. So, budget for this before planning your trip. Another tip: if you go during or close to the winter months like we did, I highly recommend renting a Subaru, all-wheel drive. We booked our car through “Guide to Iceland” (https://guidetoiceland.is/)  and our car supplier was Lagoon Car Rentals (info@lagooncarrental.is). Be sure to use the official “Guide to Iceland” website, as there are many pages that will link you to other websites.

Most car rentals in Iceland come with Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) equivalent to the amount stipulated by Icelandic law. Car rental companies will insist that you take additional coverage like gravel insurance, tire insurance, sandstorm protection etc. We didn’t take extra coverage because we booked using our Costco MasterCard which has a decent coverage except coverage for “flying chips on the windshield”. Windshield damage was our main worry on the very last day because we got a tiny dent on our windshield, which was not covered by the insurance, but luckily (very luckily), Lagoon Car Rental didn’t notice it.  

Driving to North Iceland was a memorable drive because we survived a snowstorm while driving on the f-roads. Story time- more about f-roads!

As per our itinerary, on Day #4 we had to drive from Selfoss (near Reykjavik) to Akureyri (mid-North) which was an eight-hour drive! We didn’t check the weather before heading out because we weren’t expecting to get hit by a snowstorm BUT we did.

We were driving on the f-roads to get to Akureyri because that was the route our pre-downloaded Google Maps was showing. F-roads are smaller, dirt connections (I would not call them “roads”) that connect parts of Iceland. These roads are not always safe to drive on and are closed most of the winter season!

It started snowing heavily mid-way and driving visibility was close to zero. It was too late to stop and look for a place to stay overnight because we were in the middle of NOWHERE. Literally in the middle of nowhere with no phone network. We would feel happy to see a car pass by every 2-3 hours. Our only option was to sleep in the car overnight but for that, we did not have enough fuel to keep us warm all night plus our phones had zero network. Hence, we decided to continue driving as we took turns behind the wheel through the deserted landscapes. Luckily, as we got closer to the Akureyri we spotted street lights in the distance, a few houses, and a few more cars passed us, which gave us the assurance that Google Maps wasn’t fooling us.

By the time we got to Akureyri at 4AM, we were EXHAUSTED. The highlight of our trip was without-doubt this 8-hour drive! Nonetheless, this experience taught me a few lessons:

  1. Always fuel up before traveling long distances.

  2. Check the weather before heading anywhere far, especially in a land of extreme isolation and extreme forces of nature!

  3. Don’t cheap out on buying a SIM card, which would have helped us navigate better (i.e. on regular roads instead of f-roads that our pre-downloaded Google Map asked us to take).

  4. Sometimes, it is fun to step out of your comfort zone and experience “almost” life-taking experiences because…yolo :p

Where we stayed:

Before I go into our stay details…tip: Airbnb in Iceland is expensive if you wait till very last minute! Book your stay well in advance!

  • Airbnb location #1:

Location: Kópavogsbraut 95, Kópavogur, Iceland

Total cost (including service and cleaning fees): CAD $ 164.34/night

Unfortunately, this apartment is no longer listed on Airbnb. But here is a similar apartment in the same area:

 Link to Airbnb:  https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/29556539?adults=4&toddlers=0&guests=1

  • Airbnb location #2 Anna’s House:

Location: Skeiða- og Gnúpverjahreppur, Iceland

Total cost (NOT including service and cleaning fees): CAD $183.87/night

Link to Airbnb:  https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/26062931?guests=1&adults=1

  • Airbnb location #3:

Location: Akureyri, Iceland

Total cost (NOT including service and cleaning fees): CAD $197/night

Unfortunately, this apartment is no longer listed on Airbnb. But here is a similar apartment in the same area:

(1) https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/21601395?location=Akureyri%2C%20Iceland&adults=4&toddlers=0&guests=1

(2) https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/22275561?location=Akureyri%2C%20Iceland&adults=4&toddlers=0&guests=1

  • Airbnb location #4:

Location: Sandgerdi, Iceland

Total cost (NOT including service and cleaning fees): CAD $250/night

Link to Airbnb: : https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/18941418?adults=4&guests=1

What we ate:

As I mentioned earlier in this blog, we packed a lot of food (ready-to-eat meals, instant noodles etc) and bought milk, bread, butter and fruits from local grocery stores. However, we tried an Italian restaurant called “Sudur” in Vik, which our cousin recommended. It was definitely worth a try for vegetarians.

When in Iceland, you MUST try the following (tips from Divya @hennabydivya)

  1. SKYR yogurt – amazing Icelandic yogurt!

  2. Brennivin alcohol

  3. Water (fresh glacier water!)

  4. Lindu Ris Buff – chewy candy bits covered in milk chocolate with crispy corn puffs!

Our 7-day itinerary:

Click on each day below to view our itinerary on Google Maps (it will open a new page with our tracked Google Map). Feel free to share what you liked/disliked and would add/remove from the itinerary below.

Highlights: Bessastaðir President's house, Hallgrimskirkja Church and Perlan 360 degree view of Reykjavik. Check out https://perlan.is/ for bookings. Also, I would have really tried the ice caves in Iceland if we had time!

Highlights: þórufoss waterfall, Thingvellir National Park, Efstidalur II (ice-cream café), Bruarfoss Waterfall, Strokkur Geyser, Gullfoss Falls, Faxi Waterfall, Kerid Crater, Northern Lights (it is at this location that we were fortunate to see faint but beautiful Northern Lights!)

We have Friðheimar on the itinerary but we didn’t have time to go there. Friðheimar is a greenhouse and a restaurant that serves using ingredients grown in the greenhouse. Here is their website: https://fridheimar.is/

Highlights: Seljalandsfoss (waterfall), Skógafoss, Solheimasandur Plane Wreck, Black Sand Beach (Vik), Dyrhólaey (lighthouse with a large volcanic arch rock in the sea), Reynisdrangar Cliffs (beautiful columnar joints for my fellow geologists. Also, this is where one of the episodes of Game of Thrones was shot).

Day 4 was the LONGEST day/drive in our itinerary (from near Reykjavik to North Iceland). Highlights: Skaftafell / Vatnajökull National Park, Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, Diamond Beach (where I got proposed AGAIN and where I said yes AGAIN!)

Highlights: we had whale watching booked for Day 5 but it was cancelled due to strong winds. So we ended up doing a quick photoshoot and shopped locally in Akureyri!

Whale watching booking details: http://ambassador.is/

Highlights: Goðafoss Waterfall, Mývatn, Namaskardh (this place feels like you have landed on Mars with the warm earth and lava fields under your feet and smell of sulfur), Krafla (this is crater lake which was mostly covered in snow when we went, but you pass by the Krafla Geothermal Plant which is definitely worth seeing!).

There are many hot springs (free hot springs) on route if you feel adventurous and would like to test them!

Highlights: Glaumbær (cute little guesthouses in massive, open fields). This can be a drive-through stop because you will see countless daw-dropping sights like these on your drive across Iceland. Here I am wearing a Navrati outfit because we went to Iceland right after Navrati and for those that know me, Navrati lasts for months after it ends for me :p

Another highlight of day 7 was the Blue Lagoon Spa (we relaxed at Blue Lagoon until we were hungry!). Be sure to book your tickets in advance.Blue Lagoon Spa details:  https://www.bluelagoon.com

Iceland’s landscape has been shaped by isolation and extreme forces of nature, which is why Iceland is also called “The Land of Fire and Ice”!! Iceland is definitely my FAVOURITE of all my travels thus far! I love it so much that I even applied for a job there :p By the time my next blog is posted, I might have permanently moved to Iceland!

Before I bid goodbye, here is a short clip of our trip to Iceland that my husband (i.e. SLR Infinity) compiled.

1 kurti, 3 looks

1 kurti, 3 looks

Elephants?

Elephants?