Back from a solo trip to Iceland, Travel+Leisure India & South Asia’s contributor pens down her experiences, suggestions, and travel tips and tricks to the land of fire and ice. Text and photographs by Sandhya Majji
Travelling solo is one of the most freeing experiences, especially if you’re a female traveller. It takes courage and confidence to venture out on the road alone. And to do that in a challenging yet surreal place like Iceland is not just satisfying, but also instilled a sense of freedom and self-confidence in me.
Iceland is breathtakingly beautiful. To me, it felt like one of the world’s best solo travel destinations with high health and safety standards. I met friendly locals who spoke English, stumbled upon unique photo opportunities, and enjoyed plenty of activities amid nature. The country left me speechless as I drove my camper van all around the ring road. Iceland is home to some of the most spectacular waterfalls, untouched magnanimous mountain landscapes, active volcanoes, glaciers, ice caves, steaming geysers, black sand beaches, and a ton of adventurous activities. If mythical creatures like elves, fairies, and dragons were to exist on Earth, they would most likely reside here — that’s how beautiful it is.
Although travel is picking up pace and restoring to its former glory, a majority of the world continues to remain oblivious to the beauty of Iceland. If you’re ready to take a trip here, let my experience double as your guide!
Guide to Iceland
Hotels in Iceland can be expensive for solo travellers. Hence, most people prefer to share an Airbnb with groups or opt for hostels. I found the latter to be a safe, pocket-friendly option where I found like-minded travellers. If you prefer to drive around and camp amid the beautiful landscapes of the Ring Road, hiring a campervan or car is a good option, too.
If you’ve got less than a week to spare, stay in a hostel in Reykjavik and take day trips. Guided tours have a set itinerary. Iceland offers various tour companies and options to choose from. This is also the safest option for solo travellers as you will be part of a guided tour with pick up and drop from your hotel. These are pocket-friendly opportunities to meet fellow travellers and socialise.
Iceland has limited public transport to cover touristy places. While the populated cities are connected via public buses, they are not helpful to reach some of the more remote destinations. Take small hikes to reach these scenic spots.
In my opinion, hiring a car or a camper van is a great idea if you are a confident driver and up for an adventure, as Iceland is an extremely picturesque place for a road trip. This will give you the freedom and flexibility to cover places of your choice. It allows you to explore at your own pace.
Iceland is a pro-camping country, which means the country has enough campsites to park, rest, and refresh. The spectacular views add to the allure. My favorite campsite was Skógafoss waterfall. It was surreal waking up to the mountains and gushing water. However, if you’re travelling solo, remember to pre-book the campsite and reach before 7:00 pm to find a good parking spot. Avoid driving post dark as the Ring Road largely lacks civilisation. Its mountainous roads can be risky to drive due to rock falls and landslides.
Iceland has some unique activities like glacier hikes, whale watching, volcano hike, and glacier kayaking which are operated by tour agencies. Unlike other countries, it’s not advisable to venture out on a solo hike especially at volcanos as the terrain is very challenging and the weather unpredictable.
Iceland is the most peaceful country in the world. It is rated highest on the Peace Index with no standing army, navy, air force; even policemen do not carry guns! With a very low crime rate, no scams and gender equality make this country one of the safest places for solo female travellers. The 112 app, developed by the Emergency Services of Iceland, is handy if you are lost or in an emergency. With a push of a button, you can send your location for rescue.