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SELF DRIVE TOURS: THE BEST WAY TO TRAVEL ICELAND

Mary Kujawski
self drive tours iceland

I remember the first time I saw the phrase.

I was in the midst of planning my trip to Iceland and kept coming across travel agencies that were offering this thing called a self drive tour.

I don’t get it, I thought to myself.

A self-drive tour?

What does that even mean?

I was supposed to pay for a tour that I still had to make happen?

I was still going to be the one driving?

The “self-“part was making me all kinds of nervous and confused.

What would I be paying for, exactly?

But I was also finding myself overwhelmed and frustrated with my own planning, and knew I needed help.

In search of that, I found Nordic Green Travel, learned more about what a self-drive tour could offer me, booked one, and never looked back.

Let me tell you:

Best decision ever.

self drive road trips in iceland
Our trusty rental that took us up, down, and ALL around Iceland!

Perhaps you are finding yourself in the same boat.

You are excited to visit Iceland but are sending out an S.O.S., because yikes.

This travel planning and research is a lot of work and one gigantic headache!

Look and think no further, for a self-drive tour is just what you need!

But what do I get with a self-drive tour, you may be asking?

And why is this the answer to my travel-planning woes?

So much to cover, so let’s dig in!

FIRST AND FOREMOST: YOU CAN LEAVE THE LOGISTICS TO THE PROS

self drive tours iceland
Leaving the planning to the pros means less stress and more time for dreaming of the magnificent waterfalls you’re going to be seeing soon!

Dear traveler, I tell you what:

You just sit down in that comfy lazy boy and put your feet up!

Can I get you some hot tea?

Perhaps a warm blanket and the book from your nightstand?

You can just sit back and relax, because if you book a self drive tour, you don’t need to lift a finger!

If you’re like me, you’ve started planning a trip to Iceland, and you are, for lack of a better word, freaking out.

After all, Iceland is a vast country chock full of things to see, and in your planning, you are coming across places like…

Stykkishólmur!

Eyjafjallajökull!

Fjaðrárgljúfur!

Kirkjubæjarklaustur!

It’s enough to make your head spin and render you tongue-tied!

But with a self-drive tour, you can surrender to the folks who know Iceland like the back of their hand! Who were born and raised in Iceland and are passionate and proud to share their special country with you.

They will deal with the driving times and distances, the best way for you to get from A to B, the suggested time for you to get on the road each day, and determine all the stops for you to see along your route.

As for you?

Well, what’s on your Netflix watch list?

You’ve got all the time in the world now without the stress of planning your Iceland vacation weighing on your mind!

Stranger Things it is!

Queue it up!

THEY’LL STEER YOU IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION… LITERALLY AND FIGURATIVELY!

road trips around iceland
I’m so happy to find myself here at Svörtuloft lighthouse, a spot I specifically asked our agent to include in our itinerary.

When I first started planning my trip to Iceland, I used google maps to plot all the points of interest and places I wanted to see.

The result?

A mess of starred dots staring back at me on a computer screen and a rising panic in my chest!

How on Earth was I going to make sense of this and turn it into something logistically efficient?

Ooooo, boy.

I was stressed.

Once we employed the help of Nordic Green Travel and booked our self drive tour, guess what?

Someone else’s problem!

I joke, but the overall message is true.

This is where the benefits to using a self drive tour shine.

All the routes are configured for you.

The most practical and efficient order to accomplishing your travel goals and points of interest, all laid out.

Maps and GPS coordinates?

All provided.

Want to stop at that gorgeous orange lighthouse you saw in your research?

Boom.

Your agent just added it to your itinerary.

You just need to get behind the wheel.

Turn the key on that ignition and go.

A TRIED AND TRUE ITINERARY AT YOUR FINGERTIPS

Self drive tour iceland
Well hello there, Friðheimar! Fancy meeting you here!

Before I found Nordic Green Travel, I had come up with an “idea” of an itinerary in my head. It was loose and it was messy, but it was taking on a vague shape.

(I confess: at best, it was a blob.)

Once I contacted NGT, they were able to take a look at my tentative plans and tell me that it correlated quite nicely with their Iconic Highlights of the South and West self drive tour.

The difference?

Their tour was one that had already been thoroughly researched and vetted.

The kinks, that so many of us experience when we research and eventually go on our own trips, had already been worked out.

I still wanted to finagle with their provided tour a bit, however, and asked about switching up the order of some things and adding in stops that weren’t included.

Would this be possible, I wanted to know?

I think you know the answer!

But of course it was possible!

It was the best of all worlds really…having an itinerary that was already sorted out, and then coming to our agent with additional ideas we had and having him work them in and adjust accordingly.

I knew I wanted to go to the “tomato restaurant” during our travels, for example, and that this needed to happen!

I wasn’t leaving the island without it under my belt!

Kapiche?!

Not only did our agent find where we could work this into our itinerary, but he made the reservation for us!

Personal and attentive service…with a big ‘ole checkmark next to the tomato restaurant on my list for the win!

HIDDEN GEMS AND LOCAL FAVORITES

ring road road trip iceland
How gorgeous is this?! Like out of a dream! I know for certain we would not have found this spot on our own!

One of the best things we got out of our self drive tour was that our itinerary was written and configured at the hand of a knowledgeable, passionate local who knows his Iceland stuff.

This means that scattered throughout our itinerary, amongst the well-known and iconic Iceland highlights (Kirkjufell! Skógafoss!), were a handful of places to check out that only a born and raised Icelander could direct us to.

The result?

We came across treasures in our travels that we would have otherwise completely overlooked.

Special spots off the beaten path only a local would know of.

I shudder to think of the magic we would have missed had we left the planning to ourselves!

It’s a reminder to get off the internet, put down the guide books, and let a native show you the way.

It gave our whole trip a human touch that would have otherwise been glaringly amiss.

We knew, as we explored the Land of Fire and Ice, that we were seeing Iceland through an Icelander’s eyes!

And you know what that is?

Priceless.

SOMEONE TO TIE TOGETHER ALL THE LOOSE ENDS FOR YOU(AND THERE ARE MANY)

self drive tour ring road iceland
Happy glacier hikers on the excursion added to our tour per our request. ‘Twas no problemo!

When you book a self drive tour, you’re not just getting a bunch of maps and your route to take.

(Although this is in and of itself worth every last krona!)

Nope.

You’re getting all the details of your trip organized on your behalf.

When we visited Iceland, we were in a different hotel along our route every single night.

That’s seven(!) different hotels I would have had to find, research, and book on my own.

I’m sorry, but ain’t nobody got time for that!

We also enjoyed six different excursions during our trip, including glacier hiking, snorkeling the Silfra, and a visit to the Blue Lagoon.

That would have been six different tours to (again) research, and book.

With a self drive tour, your agent will book your hotels along your route and make any reservations or bookings for the tours you would like to take.

Simply let them know what sort of accommodation preferences you have (such as your specific pricepoint and desired amenities) as well as which activities you want to do, and voilà!

Done and done.

It saves you your time, and frankly, your sanity!

CONTINUAL GUIDANCE AND ADVICE FROM A TRUSTED SOURCE

road trips in iceland
Hot off the airplane and onto a cold Icelandic jetway. Now what?!

I absolutely love to travel, but it can be scary and daunting to arrive off an airplane and be in a completely new and different place.

Depending on where you are traveling to, you might be faced with concerns about language differences, culture shock, personal safety, and more.

This is where having a local to whom I could ask questions and from whom I could seek advice was so invaluable.

I had just assumed that when I purchased a self-drive tour, that I would be handed a helpful document and sent on my way.

Thank you for your business.

Best wishes, safe travels, and goodbye.

(It would be a really fabulous and irreplaceable document, but still.)

Boy was I wrong!

Our agent at Nordic Green Travel was available every step of the way, before we even boarded the airplane, to answer any and all questions I had.

And this is me we’re talking about, so the questions, shall we say, overfloweth:

What restaurants did he recommend in Reykjavík?

Which excursions were the best?

What kind of adapter did I need?

What was the protocol for entering geothermal pools on a hike?

How much could we expect to pay for gas and food?

And what to pack, exactly, for a day out exploring the countryside?

All of my questions were answered in a timely and thorough manner, putting my worries officially to rest, once and for all. Making what we got out of our self drive tour far and beyond just a document.

Did I mention that booking this tour truly saved my sanity?

A LIFELINE ON YOUR TRAVELS

custom made tours iceland
Hopefully you won’t require any literal rescuing! But your local agents are there in a pinch should anything else come up while you’re in Iceland!

Going to Iceland, I was nervous! I mean, this is a wild, unpredictable landscape we’re talking about, and we were going to be traversing all these unknown roads on our own.

Nobody holding our hand!

And I’ve got a vivid imagination, so all sorts of scenarios went through my head. None of them good, and all of them involving an early demise.

I mean, this is the land of volcanic eruptions, glacial crevasses, and boiling geothermal pots!

Need I say more?!

It was therefore a major load off my mind to know that if we needed any kind of assistance while we were in Iceland, NGT was available to us.

We only had to employ their help during our travels a couple times. Once, we encountered a road sign whose meaning we were uncertain of.

Should we proceed or turn around, we wanted to know.

A quick call to them and we got the information (and reassurance) that we needed.

Now, whether or not they will post your bail should you wind up behind bars in Icelandic prison due to your vacation tomfoolery, well…

I’m pretty sure you’re on your own!

Proceed wisely!

Even incredible travel agents have their limits!

FREEEEEEEEDOM!!!

iceland ring road tours
Please. You don’t drive past waterfalls like this and not make time for them!

If you’re like me, your palms sweat a little when you see those huge coach tour buses while you’re on vacation.

You know the ones.

A small army of tourists file out, one by one, only to be herded like cats by their tour guide.

They congregate and follow wherever the guide goes, like bees to a hive, until their allotted time at a destination is up and they file back onto the bus.

Rinse and repeat.

I’m sorry, I know that many people prefer to travel this way, and different strokes for different folks.

First and foremost: travel! In whatever way suits you!

But as for me?

I’m gonna nope right out of there.

I have learned that as a traveler?

I value my independence and I value my freedom.

Freedom is the best, and I can’t underscore this point enough.

The fantastic thing about self drive tours is that you are on nobody’s watch but your own.

And while you will receive a well laid out itinerary and suggested time frames with your self drive tour, it’s ultimately up to you.

Take the Bjarnarfoss waterfall above. We were driving along when we spotted this incredible sight, and we knew.

We had to pull over and hike that beast!

So pull over and hike that beast was exactly what we did!

Was it on the itinerary?

It sure wasn’t!

But were we stuck on a coach bus with dozens of our closest strangers?

Thankfully, heck no.

This is the kind of freedom you’ll get with a self-drive tour.

Gentle guidance, and then the autonomy to say peace out and do whatever your little heart desires!

Like hike a beast of a waterfall!

IT’S OFFICIAL: SELF DRIVE TOURS CAN’T BE BEAT!

iceland self drive road trips
Your beauty knows no bounds, Iceland.

If you book a self drive tour, you have but one job.

Show up.

It’s true!

You know what you can do, between now and when you go on your trip, if you have booked a self-drive tour?

CHILL.

Then?

Chill some MORE.

Now, if you want to worry about packing for Iceland and have to get a few things for your trip, sure.

That’s on you.

These are travel agents after all, not personal shoppers and assistants.

But as far as your actual trip goes?

Every little thing has been taken care of, my friend!

So get on that airplane, enjoy a tasty cocktail and some in-flight entertainment, and prepare thyself for a most amazing time in Iceland.

You can hit the ground running when you arrive with your trusty self-drive tour itinerary in hand and the beautiful, open Icelandic road beckoning you.

Your only other job, then?

Go have the time of your life.

Ready to book a self drive tour? Nordic Green Travel offers a variety of tours depending upon your specific travel parameters. You can peruse your options here. And please, if you go on a self drive tour, drive safely.

About the author

Mary Kujawski