One Thousand Ways to Experience Iceland

When I first got my country assignments for Let’s Go research this summer, I felt fairly hesitant about Iceland: traveling the Ring Road requires a lot of driving, and until then, I’d driven maybe 100 miles in my entire life. Sources can confirm that I was a little bit nervous. But this was a chance to really do Iceland—not just fly to Reykjavik and take an expensive bus to Blue Lagoon—and a chance, or rather a mission, to find out how to do it right. 

I did end up driving the Ring Road (it’s actually not that much driving per day if you take enough time to do it), and, as many peers predicted, I had the time of my life. Since finishing the trip, and scrambling to write up everything I saw and did before my next deadline, I’ve been questioning more and more whether I actually did Iceland “right.” 

Beautiful Icelandic ocean scene with yellow flowers
Marissa Saenger | Lets Go

Talking with travelers along the way and doing more research on each part of the country only worsened my sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) for all the ways I could have been doing Iceland—seeing more, planning less, spending more time in some parts and less time in others, for example—and making my structured budget-travel-guide-researcher-writer approach feel like barely an introduction compared to the exhaustive guide I hoped to produce.

Now, settling in for a night’s sleep on a stranger’s couch in Sweden and suffering serious nature withdrawals, I can’t help but wonder what Iceland would be like if I’d done it another way. The more time you spend in Iceland, the more ways you realize you could spend your time in Iceland: some pack bicycle panniers full of camping gear and cycle the Ring Road for an entire summer, enjoying every bit of scenery and struggle along the way. Others spend weeks trekking up the rugged interior, hiking difficult trails and sleeping in remote mountain huts. 

Some travelers ride tour buses from one hot spring to the next, barely touching the trails or peaks, and getting just as much out of their trip as those journeying the trails. You could book every possible boat tour: whale-watching, puffin-watching, seal-watching, fishing, or even a trip to Greenland. Snorkeling, scuba diving, super-jeep, kayak, motorboat, ferry, or motorcycle, you could explore every feature of the country in a different way at every turn. 

Beautiful Icelandic horses
Marissa Saenger | Lets Go

You could eat in small-town restaurants and taste every version of Icelandic seafood, or you could pack two weeks’ worth of Soylent and barely spend a cent. You could visit endless museum exhibitions, from viking history to modern art, from glacier to volcano, and from penis to punk. You could sip beer from renowned microbreweries all over the country, or caffeinate at cozy coffee shops with each their own personality. Walk the valleys and coastal cliffs, or scramble high to snowy peaks, camp in tents in the wilderness or sleep in homey guesthouses with horses just out your window. Hike through glorious endless daylight with 1am summer sunsets, or ski and bathe in hot springs beneath the winter’s northern lights. 

No matter how you end up doing Iceland, you’ll probably end up spending way more money than you planned, and you’ll make incredible lifelong memories of unparalleled adventure.The possibilities are endless, and few places offer so much. Maybe I have to come back again for the bicycling and trekking versions that gave me the most obscene FOMO, but for now, this Let’s Go Ring Road adventure has been an absolute dream.

4 Comments

  1. don

    Fantastic introduction! But we want to hear more about the rest of your travels! 🙂

  2. Gretchen Saenger

    Who would have thought that Iceland had so much to offer! Experiencing first hand must be a wonderful joy.

  3. Gretchen Saenger

    Thank you Marissa, for encouraging all of us to experience what appears to be a wonderful place to explore.

  4. Katherine Saenger

    OMG! Now I really can’t wait to go!!

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