A grown up backpacking trip to Iceland

·6-min read
 (Weroad)
(Weroad)

In my early 20s I did lots of solo travel. I did big trips to India, Japan, Europe with a backpack and no real plan. I was happy to stay in huge, 12-bed dorms in very questionable hostels, take the cheapest (which often meant the slowest) forms of transport, meet whoever I met and truly go with the flow each day.

Now that those heady days are over and I’m a weary 30-year-old, the idea of going on such an unstructured trip alone appeals to me less. I still love to travel and see the world (though maybe no longer from the discomfort of a hostel) but if I were to spend the time and money to go on a solo-trip again I’d like to maximise the experience and see everything there was to see. This, however, requires a fair degree of planning - an activity I do not enjoy.

That’s where WeRoad comes in. The travel company, founded in Italy, and launched in the UK a few months ago, is specifically aimed at millennials who want an adventure but have neither the time or will to organise one. They run trips to cool destinations such as Mexico, Peru, Iceland (basically anywhere you can think of) in small groups of like-minded solo-travellers aged between 25-35 or 35-45. It’s essentially a way to recreate the ‘gap year’ vibe with minimal effort.

Also, as many millennials will be able to relate to, it can be hard to organise a holiday with your friends at this age. Late 20s to mid-30s can be a time when your pals’ lives start to diverge - some may be getting married and having babies, some may be occupied by very busy careers and others might just have too many summer plans already. By grouping strangers together, WeRoad says people make lifelong friends and many relationships have even resulted from the trips.

It works like this: you pick one of over 100 destinations around the world, book your flight, pack your bag and WeRoad does the rest. It sounds like a good idea to me so I select a five-day trip to Iceland, a country I’ve always been curious to visit, and left for the capital city, Reykjavik.

 (Weroad)
(Weroad)

There, in a group of eight, we meet our travel coordinator, 30-year-old Michele from Italy. His role is to plan the itinerary and lead us on our adventure - but because he’s the same age as us it feels he’s more a part of the group than occupying any kind of tour-guide role.

After a sleep (bring an eye-mask in summer, guys - it does not get dark), we’re up early to begin our road trip through the dramatically rugged Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The volcanic landscape is captivating in its other-worldliness, the rocky land puckered and moody while grand mountains loom in the distance.

We stop off to watch some ridiculously adorable seals frolic in the sea before visiting a cold, still and spooky but beautiful cave, formed into its permanent shape by flowing lava. The tour is led by an Icelandic man who was either incredibly earnest or had a sense of humour so dry it was almost undetectable. When we jokingly ask him to name his price for an overnight stay in the creepy cave, he informs us that he was very sorry but it was not possible to sleep in the cave.

Next we go to Kirkjufell, a distinctly shaped mountain that looks a bit like a wizard’s hat and is, supposedly, the most photographed mountain in the whole of Iceland. It certainly is pretty but I’m more excited about the next stop - we’re visiting one of the country’s key producers of fermented shark, a delicacy in Iceland.

There we meet the self-titled ‘Shark King’ (who we later discover is somewhat of an Instagram star) who talks us through the process and offers us a taste. I’m very non-squeamish when it comes to food but even a tiny cube of the white, unpleasantly chewy meat was enough to satisfy my curiosity for life. At first it doesn’t taste of much but the aftertaste is so pungent (like horseradish mixed with off egg) that I find myself mainlining the tiny cubes of rye bread provided to accompany it.

Iceland’s stunning scenery continues the next day with even bigger and better spectacles - like the country is constantly trying to out-do itself. There’s Gullfoss, known as the queen of waterfalls in Iceland - so enormous and awe-inspiring as to make everyone get all philosophical for a minute. After that, we head to the geysers which, though you know they’re going to erupt, still make us squeal when they do. But the highlight is really a fantastically serene thermal lake we hike to that evening. Armed with swimsuits, beers and snacks we arrive at Reykjadalur and chat the night away from the exquisite comfort of the natural hot tub.

For our final day in Iceland we head back to Reykjavik for a boat tour to see puffins (smaller and faster but just as cute as you think) and to sample a “world famous” hot dog - tasty enough that I get two and become concerned I might not be buoyant enough for our next activity: Iceland’s most popular attraction, a dip in the Blue Lagoon. With its pearlescent and steamy light blue waters the huge geothermal spa is the perfect way to relax at the end of a holiday in Iceland. You can bob about in the hot water, have a drink, do a facemask or go in the various steam rooms and saunas. The place is bliss and not to be missed.

 (Weroad)
(Weroad)

We round off our trip with a night out at the hilarious Pablo’s Disco Bar - think sticky floor, neon signs and reggaeton - where to get people to leave at the end of the night they simply opened the curtains to reveal the 1am ‘daylight’.

By the end of our time in Iceland the whole group feels connected. There have been countless funny moments, so many interesting conversations and much bonding over our complete and unwavering consensus that fermented shark is not good.

As WeRoad’s target market I found the concept and execution absolutely brilliant and if, like me, you are a plan-averse, adventure-loving busy millennial then I think you will too.

For more information visit weroad.travel

5 other solo travel providers

Exodus Travels

Grouping trips into handy categories such as European Wilderness, Coastal Collection and even Vegetarian Collection, it’s easy to find the perfect adventure for you. exodustravels.com

Intrepid Travel

If you love the idea of travelling in a group but don’t love the idea of sharing a room, Intrepid travel gives you the option of a private room. intrepidtravel.com/uk/about/solo-travel

Just You

This operator provides trips to destinations all around the world from Asia to Antarctica and has offers on last minute solo tours. justyou.co.uk

G Adventures

From wellness trips to hiking holidays and tours by train, there’s something to suit everyone. gadventures.com

Flash Pack

Offering boutique group adventures for solo travellers in their 30s and 40s, Flash Pack says that 98 per cent of their customers travel solo and 80 per cent stay friends after the trip. flashpack.com

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