The Google Doc Behind Travelade: What to do in Iceland

Since the volcanic eruption in Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland in 2010, my friends in the US have been asking me about recommendations for things to do and see in Iceland. Here's the original Google Doc I started which eventually turned into Travelade!

Since the volcanic eruption in Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland in 2010, my friends and colleagues in the US and all over the world have been asking me more and more frequently for recommendations about what to do and see in Iceland.

To make this more effective, I created a Google Doc which I started sharing with friends - usually adding a personal touch to every recommendation I would send out on top of these general recommendations. 

Soon, I started realizing that the process of creating and sharing personalized recommendations hadn't yet been built into an awesome product and the problem wasn't isolated to recommendations for Iceland. This eventually led me to start Travelade with my co-founder Thor.

I figured it was time to share this old Google Doc with the world (slightly modified with some updated restaurant recs and more). 

-- General Recommendations / Travel Guide for a First Time Visit to Iceland --

Must do’s (aka what most people do, some becoming a bit touristy but generally worth seeing on a first visit):

Sightseeing/Museums in Reykjavik:

Some great restaurant options:

  • Dill, if any restaurant in Iceland deserves a Michelin star, this is it. A local culinary journey par excellent
  • Kol, a small trendy restaurant with the best cocktails in Reykjavik and excellent food
  • Kolabrautin (in Harpa). Great views and food there is excellent too
  • Rok, a new hip restaurant focusing on small plates to share
  • Grill Market, local organic produce, great for the Icelandic lamb
  • Fish Market, great seafood restaurant with asian fusion influence 
  • 3 Frakkar, traditional Icelandic food of high quality, ideal for trying whale, puffins and some "exocit" Icelandic food
  • Snaps, trendy icelandic/french bistro
  • The Public House, an Icelandic Gastrobup with some good brews and excellent food
  • Messinn, a new casual fish resturant with fresh local fish mostly served pan-style with potatos and fresh salad. Basic but super tasty
  • Sea Baron, tiny local fisherman's restaurant (becoming full of tourists these days) which as they self-claim serves the worlds best lobster soup
  • The “most popular” restaurant in Reykjavik, a 70 year old hot dog stand

(Update: I rolled these restaurant recommendations with a few updated into this list of top restaurants in Reykjavik)

Good resources to read further:

  • Grapevine, online magazine in English with articles about Iceland and calendar of current events
  • VisitReykjavik, the official tourist board website
  • IHeartReykjavik, a great local travel blog

Bars (Heavily biased towards craft beer breweries since that's my thing :)

Suggestion for a 5+ day trip around the countryside:

Friends visiting Iceland recently, near Skaftafell in Vatnajokull National Park
(Group of a few good outdoor adventure friends from the US visiting Iceland, taken in Vatnajokull National Park)

Here's an itinerary idea I pulled together recently:

If you have five days for driving around Iceland, my recommendation would be to drive eastwards (ring-road #1 counterclockwise) and spend most of the time driving to the Myvatn area (or Akureyri, a little further) - then just drive straight from there back to Reykjavik in one leg. This route has a ton of great things to do, depending on interest, weather, time and other factors. 

Day 1: The "golden circle". Something almost everyone does who visits, great waterfall and geysers. Often people add Thingvellir (a more historical place where the two continental plates, Europe and America, divide Iceland in two parts). There's a cool restarant called "at the seashore" (http://nyr.fjorubordid.is/?page_id=340) in a tiny village which would be a great end of the day - if you find a place to stay not too far.

Day 2: Drive the south coast. Lot of nice places to stop for hiking and waterfalls (e.g. Skogarfoss and Seljalandsfoss). If you want to do an amazing hike, I would highly recommend a hike called "Fimmvorduhals" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fimmv%C3%B6r%C3%B0uh%C3%A1ls and http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=30723). It's an incredible hike which crosses between two glaciers and you will pass the recent lava from Eyjafjallajokull eruption which is still warm if you dig your hand into it. It would require a full day - so there would be some tradeoffs since you'd have to pass other areas faster. You should also only go if the weather forecast is decent and that's often not clear until the day before or morning at the hike (not as much fun if it's very cloudy). The tricky thing, is that you have to pre-arrange some logistics since you end at a different place than you start. Two good friends of mine are running this place http://volcanohuts.com/ very close to the end point (hour extra hike or so), so I'm sure they'd be able to host you and help out with the logistics getting back to you car if needed. Let me know and I'll connect you. If you skip the hike, I'd recommend driving to Skaftafell, where I'm sure there are some good options for accommodation.

Day 3: Drive to Skaftafell. Great place to stop for half a day (or more). Beautiful surroundings and lot's of options for hiking, glacial tours, snowmobiling etc. depending on your preference. From there it's a about an hour drive to Jökulsárlón (Glacier lagoon) which is a must stop. It's also possible to take a small boat tour there.

Day 4: Drive to Egilsstaðir. A small town on the way famous for Lobster/Langoustine is Höfn. Also a good site to check out interesting places would be http://www.vatnajokulsthjodgardur.is/english/ . You will drive through some small villages and beautiful mountains (note the small detour from highway 1 - takes a little longer, but cool if you want to see some small towns).

Day 5: Spend the day in/around the Myvatn area. There are some hot springs there, small mud-geysers, and geothermal spas. Great area. From there I'd drive straight to Reykjavik or if you have time it's very nice to stop at Akureyri (where I was born :) on the way.

This is more or less the route I'd do, but there are ton of other places to visit and stop on the way! I'd recommend you do some research by yourself on places in or around this route. Also, there's a really cool book that few people know about called "Thermal pools in Iceland' (http://shopicelandic.com/en/store/thermal-pools-in-iceland - although much cheaper to buy in local bookstores in Reykjavik) that I really like. You can surely find a bunch of semi-hidden natural thermal pools with that book.

You can then check out http://en.south.is/, http://en.east.is/, and http://www.northiceland.is/ to figure out cheap local accommodation e.g. "farm holiday" can often be fun...

Enjoy Iceland and don't hesitiate to shoot me a note if you have any questions!

(email: andri [at] travelade [dot] com)