Royce Fonseca is an avid outdoors woman, professional photographer, and Team ROAD iD Ambassador. In November 2022, she embarked on a solo adventure to Iceland. Read on for Royce's highlights and and top tips for planning your own trip to the Land of Fire and Ice.
I’ve seen so much footage and even dreamt about Iceland and kept telling myself I needed to go, but I was a bit nervous traveling abroad solo. One day on a whim I bought a ticket and planned my entire 6-day trip. I did a lot of research and felt I could do it alone…and I did!
The highlights of my adventure
Ice Climbing, Glacier Hiking, and Ice Cave Exploration
I began my trip with the ultimate adventure…ice climbing, glacier hiking and ice cave exploration.
I had booked a private guide in advance which is the only way to go. We began our journey before sunrise and hiked up to the ice caves where the ice is so blue it’s unbelievable.
Inside the ice are large bubbles and tiny cracks caught in time. From there, we hiked up the glacier and challenged my mind with ice climbing. I can honestly say, I have a huge new respect for climbers, it’s not easy.
The Northern Lights
Ok, let’s talk about the Northern Lights! I woke up at 5AM to get ready for my travel and looked at the sky and couldn’t believe what I saw. The Aurora was dancing beautifully over the entire night sky, it was the most magical thing I’ve ever seen. I was able to capture it on a timelapse and some stunning images. From that night on, I would get up around 3AM just go look at the sky and it never disappointed. I didn’t get a show like the first one, but the bands of green light flowing above was mesmerizing.
I traveled each day between towns, checking out the waterfalls, they’re everywhere and some are massive. I learned very quickly that you need to get there before sunrise and before the tour buses start to arrive. There’s so many of them to see, you really can’t go wrong with any of them.
The Blue Lagoon
I wanted to treat myself on my last day there after a week of hiking and sleeping in my rig, so I booked a visit to the Blue Lagoon early in the morning. I enjoyed my last sunrise here and it was such a relaxing and tranquil way to end my adventure. They offered free drinks, various mud masks, all while your soaking in this beautiful bright blue steamy water. This is a must-do while in Iceland.
Planning for Iceland: My top Tips
Below are the main locations I had mapped out and planned to see, everything else along the way was a bonus. Your timing will really depend on the season you travel, and winter travel is risky with the weather. There is so much to see in Iceland, 6 days wasn’t enough for me, however, I did see these:
- Glacier Lagoon
- Diamond Beach
- The town of VIK
- Skógafoss Waterfall
- Brúarfoss Waterfall
- Kirkjufell Mountain (Witches Hat)
- Blue Lagoon
You can create a route that works best for you, for me this was ideal since I had to the be on the south end on day one (which is a 5.5-hour drive from the airport). I suggest mapping it out in advance and remember, the weather can be a game changer for your plans.
Travel, Lodging, and Food
For my adventure I rented a 4x4 SUV from KUKUCAMPERS.
It was fully equipped with a bed, cook stove, sink, cooking items, fridge, and most importantly a heater than ran at night. Renting a vehicle can be a bit stressful, but KUKU makes it super easy online and in person upon pickup. They also have sleeping bags and other items you can rent; I got the WIFI adapter and the inverter to charge my camera batteries while I drove and both of those worked so great.
If you rent a campervan or an equipped vehicle like I did, you can just camp at various open campgrounds. During the offseason (winter) a lot of them are closed, but there are enough open. Your vehicle rental company will give you a list of those, but you can also research online. One thing to remember, “wild camping” is not allowed, you cannot camp on the side of the road only in a designated location.
If you don’t want to sleep in a campsite, there are several hostels all over the island with signs stating “room for rent” that you can stop in. There are also, lots and lots of lodges.
Stop by the grocery store and stock up, it’s the best way and most cost-effective choice. One of the most expensive things in Iceland is food, I kept it super simple and made my own food. I had also brought snacks and tea from the US with me. There are some great places to eat though, some hole-in-wall style locations that have great local food you should try.
Final Tips (the most important)
Planning a trip abroad can be a bit stressful, especially going solo. For Iceland though, I must tell you it’s been the easiest trip to plan in my life. Iceland is known for being a safe environment, so I felt very secure in going alone. Several of my friends have been there, so I asked them a lot of questions and read all safety warnings on the Embassy site.
My top 10 tips for planning are:
- Be mindful of timing. The drive time between some of the most popular places can be hours from each other, so plan accordingly.
- The weather can change drastically so keep an eye on the weather apps and don’t get caught in a bad storm. The car rental places will warn you of this, it’s good to take their advice.
- Daylight is limited in the winter, leaving you less time to adventure by day. Something to keep in mind.
- Bring windproof and waterproof outwear and wool base layers, you’ll stay nice and cozy!
- There are a lot of tour buses everywhere, arrive to the destinations you want to see most very early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
- Book a private guide instead of a tour.
- Get coins at the exchange to use in the showers at the campgrounds. There are also some restrooms that require coins.
- Read blogs for tips, I found them so helpful when planning my trip. There is also a Facebook group you can join for travelers.
- Be safe. I wore my ROAD iD the entire time on this trip as I always do. I took several safety precautions but you never know when someone might happen – get yourself a ROAD iD just in case someone needs to get ahold of your family for you.
- Have FUN and explore the island.
Enjoy yourself out there, Iceland is everything it has been said to be. Get that ticket and plan your trip!
Follow Royce on Instagram: @casunshine0508
View her work at roycefonseca.com