New Destinations: Copenhagen & Iceland

I'm about a month out from my 30th-birthday-present-to-myself trip to see the northern lights; you might remember me blabbering on about how it's #1 on my bucket list. I've been doing my best to learn the Danish and Icelandic pronunciations of various words and confusing city and site names and I'm still doing a spot of shopping here and there, trying to pick out warm (but still cute) clothes that will help me weather (pun intended) the potential feels-like-below-freezing temperatures we might face on our Ring Road road trip.
I thought I would share my planning strategy for this trip (especially since it involves navigating the Ring Road in six days) because it's been an interesting process.

Let me start by saying that in 99% of the forums I've read, there's always someone who says, "You really can't properly do the Ring Road in less than 10 days. Ideally you'd have two weeks or more." I just find it so silly to say that because I think you could say that about most destinations; of course it would always be a welcome luxury to have more time. That being said, I did take that comment with a grain of salt and concluded that I would have to prioritize where we would stop.

The Ring Road is an 830 mile loop around the perimeter of Iceland; it's also known as Route 1. Technically, you could do the entire drive in under a day, but obviously, you're going to want to stop here and there. I decided to try and break the drive up into 150ish mile chunks and split the drive into 6 days. I also decided to do the drive counterclockwise since the southern portion seemed to have more stopping points and I wanted to start the trip off being a bit busier and end on a more chilled out vibe.
I marked so many spots on my travel map, based on different people's recommendations and stuff I found on Pinterest but I'm going to have to go through and mark my primary choices, my secondary choices, and the spots that don't interest me much. I've already booked all of our hotel rooms - one night in each city - so the main objective will be to get from one city to the next in the day. Ranking the sites means that when we're on the road, we have a priority schedule but we also have a Plan B in case any wrenches get thrown at Plan A. The itinerary is still a work in progress but it's getting there. Yes, yes, I know; I'm a freak.
I've booked in a rental with Lagoon Car Rental (based in Reykjavik) because I read really positive reviews and only heard great things. We hit a little snag early on but they more than made up for it with their customer service so I'm really excited to rent with them, come November. Because of the risk of snow and because I want to be able to maybe hit up some F-roads (the gravelly, nature-y ones), we're renting a 4x4 SUV. The car I drive daily is a standard shift so I rented a standard, which is the cheaper option anyway. I always knew learning to drive stick would come in handy and save me money some day.

By the way, I was cracking up at the automated response after I sent them a query through the website and I had to screenshot and share it. Like I said, so far, I really love their customer service but I will do a full update once we've actually rented from them.
So, as far as Copenhagen is concerned, we'll have a little over 24 hours there so I'm just making a list of the iconic spots to visit. I attempted to snag reservations at Noma, but since our only chance for dinner is on a Saturday night, it was a longshot and obviously, I didn't get it. No big deal though, because Copenhagen is known for some really delicious food and we snagged a reservation elsewhere and I made some additional reservations for lunch and I have a plan in mind for breakfast.
The main objective for Copenhagen is to try and rent bikes - because the bike hire there is supposed to be amazing and really innovative and it's a city that has more bicycles than humans - and to just wander and get lost. I was reading about the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) which roughly translates to "coziness" and apparently when the weather gets cooler, most locals head straight home after work and get cozy at home. So, I expect the streets to be kind of empty, which I think will be kind of cool, and maybe we'll do our best to practice hygge in our hotel room the one evening we're there.

I'm also trying to figure out if it's worthwhile to go to Tivoli Gardens and I'm thinking maybe we'll go after dinner and enjoy it with the lights on. I think if we go on Saturday, we'll manage to see it decorated for Halloween, which I think will be loads of fun.

In preparation for the cold weather, I've bought a few bits and bobs from Uniqlo's heattech range, which has great reviews; I found a thread on Reddit praising it so I have high hopes. And I'm sure I'll be using it with equal pleasure in Denmark and in Iceland. Honestly though, I'm not that nervous because I've read that the average temps are on the order of 40F, which isn't that scary, even if the windchill makes it feel like 30F. I've also read that if you can endure a Mid Atlantic winter (which I have every year of my life) then you can survive Iceland (and Denmark).
I plan on packing fewer clothing items since they'll be thicker and take up more space in my luggage and I still plan on traveling with carry on bags only. I'm set on packing a few tanks, two long sleeved t-shirts, two flannels, two sweaters, two sweater dresses, a few pairs of leggings, and then doing a mix and match game while I'm away. Honestly, in the end it won't even really matter because I'm sure that 90% of the time, I'll be bundled in my coat and scarf and it won't even matter what I've gone on underneath.
I'm so excited and I can't wait to go!



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