Iceland should be on everybody’s Bucket list. It is such a fascinating country; very accessible and the whole island can be driven in as little as 5 days. Although I recommend 8 days or more to enjoy it to the fullest. Iceland has a very low crime rate, is easy to drive around, everybody speaks English, and most importantly has incredible scenery. So, why cant it be your next vacation destination? Here’s how we spent 7 days in Iceland.
We flew Wow air (Iceland’s new lost cost airlines) from Boston to Reykjavik. For what we paid, it was a pretty good flight. The plane was clean, leg room was bigger than most of the other low cost American airlines. The only major drawback is that they don’t serve anything on board for free, not even water. So be prepared for that. You also have to pay extra for each piece of luggage, which is not unusual with these low cost airlines. To get their 99$ one way fare, make sure you book about 6-8 months ahead. Book your ticket here.
We were extra excited about this trip because we were going to drive around and sleep in a Camper (RV). After we purchased a sim card (Simiinn) from one of the stores at the airport, our rental company “Camper Iceland” picked us up. After picking up our Camper, we went to the nearby BONUS (Iceland’s supermarket chain) store to stock up on groceries and were soon on our way to explore this amazing country.
Iceland’s ring road, also know as Highway 1, makes a complete circle around the Island. Since we were not tied to hotels for specific days, we were free to decide which direction to start with. I had left this decision to the last moment because I wanted to check the weather and chase sunny skies (Vedur is very reliable for Icelandic weather). But unfortunately, it was raining across the whole country. The other factor to consider per the very helpful Camper rental employee was the wind. They had previous incidents of RVs flipping over due to high winds. Even though it was raining, the wind was less severe towards the east compared to the west, so we chose to go Anti-Clockwise.
Day 1: Driving the Golden Circle
The Golden Circle includes Thingviller National Park, Geysir, Gulfoss and Kerid Crater. We also went a little off the main road and visited Bruarfoss, a bluish looking incredible waterfall. Check out my more detailed post specifically on this day: “Driving the Golden Circle”
Day 2: Selfoss to Vik
I was looking forward to this drive because the most picturesque waterfalls are between these two towns. From Selfoss, we drove about an hour to this amazing waterfall: Seljalandsfoss. We could see it straight in front of us from about 5 miles away, so it is unmissable if driving on Highway 1. Whats different about this waterfall is that there is a cave behind it which you can walk to and all the way through/around the falls.
Just about a kilometer walk away to the left is another amazing waterfall, Gljufrabui. This is a hidden waterfall and you have to hike in the river, in between a slit in the mountain to get to. We were hesitant to get in the slit at first. But then thought this is a ‘Once in a lifetime opportunity’, and decided to get in. Make sure you have good waterproof boots and a raincoat because you will get wet like we did. We were completely soaked by the falls, but did not regret it. It was amazing in there and we enjoyed the droplets falling on us cutting through the lights from the opening.
Our next stop was at another picture perfect waterfall- Skogafoss. This waterfall feels like its right out of a fairy tale, situated perfectly between two green mountains and very powerful with a black sand beach around the bottom. We walked up one of the mountains and enjoyed great views from the top.
A short 15 minute drive from Skogafoss brought us to Sólheimajökull, where we hiked to the foot of a glacier. The hike is about 10-15 minutes and is along a nice, almost flat trail.
Next, was the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck site. There is a parking lot right off of Highway 1, to the right if you’re eastbound, from where you can start this hike. The total hike to the beach and the crash site is about 4 km and it took us about an hour one way to get there. This is a US Navy plane that crash landed back in the 1970s (luckily everyone on board survived). It has been sitting there since then.
We had quite an adventure hiking this trail. When we were about 2km in, it started to rain and got very windy. We decided to proceed anyways since we were half way through. The rain was constantly hitting us on one side and we couldn’t even hear each other. We felt like we were walking on some other planet. By the time we got back to the RV, we were completely drenched by the rain and extremely tired. While my husband disagrees, I still think it was worth it. 🙂
Vik was only 20 mins from here and that’s where we decided to call it a day. The campsite in Vik had a washer and dryer. So we were able to dry our clothes and shoes.
Day 3: Vik to Djúpivogur
From what we experienced with the rain and wind the previous day, I didn’t even want to get out of the RV. But luckily the sun was out. We were so excited and couldn’t wait to get out and explore. We drove back a little to the west in order to visit Dyrholaey. In Dyrholaey, immediately after the entrance gate, the road splits 2 ways. One to the light house and the other to the cliff with views of Reynisfjara Beach. Both were amazing.
Next we stopped at Fjadrargljufur Canyon. We took a short hike down to the river and the canyon.
About 15 mins from there is Systrafall and Kirkjugolf.
The drive was now alongside the biggest glacier in Iceland; Vatnajökull. This glacier has protrusions extending at many sites, called the ‘Tongue of the Glacier’ which can be seen from Highway 1. We got real close to one of the tongues near Skaftafell National Park.
Next stop was at Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon. This is like a smaller version of Jokulsarkalom.
From here Jokulsarkalom is about 15 minutes away. In Jokulsarkalom, we did an amphibian boat tour where we were taken closer to the icebergs and the glacier. It was a breathtaking experience.
Since the next day had high gale force wind warnings, we wanted to get and see as much as possible. It was a sunny day, and its sunlight 24/7 during the summer in Iceland, so we decided to keep exploring. We made a quick pit stop at Hofn, filled up on gas and groceries and headed out to the next attraction: Stockness.
Right before entering a tunnel, there is an unmarked road which took us to this amazing site. This is a private property and we had to pay 8$ per person to enter. But it was well worth it. Amazing views of the Vestrahorn mountains, shallow lagoon and the beach.
From here we drove non-stop to Djúpivogur. This is a nice coastal drive that passes through many small fjords with great scenery. We spent the night at one of the camping sites in Djúpivogur.
We woke up to heavy rain and wind on our fourth morning in Iceland not knowing that gale force winds were such a big deal in Iceland. We were rocking back and forth in the RV due to the sheer force of the wind and rain and had no idea what we could do on such a day. Our original plan was to explore the east fjords. The rain was really putting a damper on our day. After getting disappointed, constantly checking the weather (vedur) and putting our thoughts together we decided to drop the idea of going to the east fjords and continue moving along Highway 1 to a dryer part of the the Country.
Day 4- Djupivogur to Akureyri
Our drive from Djupivogur to Egilsstaðir was very stressful. Our chances of flipping over were extremely high since the speed of the vehicle adds exponentially to the force of the wind. We continued on regardless. After stopping in Egilsstadir for food and gas, we headed towards Dettifoss: Europe’s most powerful waterfall. Dettifoss is about 30 minutes from Highway 1.
Our next stop was at Hverir at the Myvatn area. This site is such a treat to the eyes. Full of geothernal activiies, its vibrant, brown background makes it even more special.
A few mins away from here is a blue lake. This is a non-swimmable lake but its bright blue color makes it very attractive for pictures.
Dimmuborgir was our next stop. It’s an interesting area with different shapes and sizes of lava tubes that have formed over thousands of years.
Skutustadagigar is another must see in Myvatn. It’s a nice park on Lake Myvatn where you can walk around some pseudo craters. There are two different trails that loop around the pseudo craters. We did the shorter one(SK1) which was about 20 mins round trip. If you have more than an hour to explore, you can do the longer one(SK2)
Driving about 30 mins from the Myvatn area brought us to this amazing waterfall: Godafoss. Even though we had already seen so many waterfalls in Iceland, we were really excited to see this one. There is something different and unique about each waterfall in Iceland. From the parking lot, we walked down closer to Godafoss.
From Godafoss, Akureyri is a scenic on hour drive. One the way, we enjoyed an amazing sunset from one of the lookouts near Akueyri.
Day 5: Akureyi to Snaefellsnes peninsula:
Since we were getting late for our whale watching tour, we couldn’t explore Akureyi much. Just saw it from the windows of our car. It was a nice charming town with great views of the fjords and the surrounding mountains. I am sure there is a lot more to explore in the city, but we just did not have the time.
We had booked a whale watching tour with Arctic Sea Tours about an hour away from Akureyi in Dalvik. We had a great time. At first the crew were having a difficult time spotting any whales, but later we saw many humpback whales. At the end of the tour they allowed us to fish in the ocean. This tour lasted about 3-4 hours and was such a cool experience.
From here we drove 5 hours nonstop to one of the camping sites on the Snaefellsnes peninsula.
Day 6: Snaefellsnes peninsula
We were so glad we made the long drive the previous day since it was a bright, warm day in the Snaefellsnes peninsula and for the first time on our trip we could let go of our big heavy jackets. Our first stop was at Kirkjufell waterfall – the most photographed in Iceland. No wonder this was the site that first put the thought of visiting Iceland in my mind.
Our next stop was at this tall waterfall that we happened to see on our way to Arnarstapi. We cooked and ate lunch here while enjoying the great view of the waterfall and the surroundings.
Arnarstapi is a great coastal town with awesome views of the ocean. We did a coastal walk from Arnarstapi to Hellnar, which is about 1.5km one way. Great views of many rock formations, bird colonies and cliffs.
We spent our whole day exploring this peninsula, driving around Snaefellsnes glacier and stopping along the way. It easily has a day’s worth of stuff to see and do.
Day 7: Snaefellsnes peninsula to Keflavik
It was our last full day in Iceland. We did the 2 and a half hour drive to Reykjavik, taking the tollway which is about $11-$15 per vehicle. In Reykjavik, we visited the main attractions.
In the evening, we did the most popular attraction in Iceland: The Blue Lagoon. We hadn’t booked our spot in advance, so the only available time was at 9 pm and was $61 per person. Make sure you book way ahead of time to ensure availability and also to get a cheaper ticket since the slots fill up and get more expensive. What an amazing way to end our Icelandic adventure- soaking in the mineral rich water of the Blue Lagoon.
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Things you need to know before visiting Iceland:
- Make sure you have a credit card with a pin number. Most gas stations are self service and require a credit card that supports Chip and Pin.
- Siminn has very good cell coverage and internet speeds that work almost at every corner of Iceland. They have relatively inexpensive Data packages that can be very useful throughout Iceland.
- Driving is very easy in Iceland and is the best way to see the country. Rental car companies are about 3 mins from the airport and provide shuttle to and from the airport. Most rental cars are manual transmission. If you prefer automatic like us, make sure to reserve it in advance since quantities may be limited.
- Gas stations are your go to for food. N1 Nesti gas stations have a fast food restaurant inside them and there is one in just about every town.
- Weather can be very unpredictable in Iceland, so carry clothes for all seasons and dress in layers. Long sleeved raincoats/jackets are a must have. Umbrellas are no good and likely more of a hassle since it gets very windy. Even though we were there in June, it was very cold and it rained almost everyday.
- The average gas price is about $8 per gallon, so make sure to factor that into your budget while calculating your expenses.
- The ring road that goes around the island is a nice paved/sealed road. But if you want to explore a little more you, will need a 4×4 car. Most popular attractions are on the ring road.
- Make sure you have good water proof hiking shoes. I like my Columbia Redmond waterproof hiking shoes.
- Everyone speaks English.
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