Iceland is a mysterious and beautiful country. With it’s wide open volcanic landscapes, black sand beaches, waterfalls, glaciers and geysers, you are constantly in awe of how diverse the country is. Our plan was to have the full Iceland experience, which to us meant driving around the whole country on Route 1, also known as the Ring Road. There were 5 of us in our group, enough to fill one hatchback and pack the car to the brim with luggage. Here is the break down of our itinerary.
Day 1 – 4: Reykjavík
We spent the first 5 days getting acquainted with the city and it’s culture. During this time we didn’t have a car and really didn’t need one. We were still waiting for one member of our group who would arrive in a few days so our road trip portion could not start until then.
Reykjavík is a great city to experience on foot with tons of museums and city life to keep you entertained. Be sure to check out the church, Hallgrímskirkja and go up to the top where the view is the best in the whole city.
Day 5 : The Golden Circle
Starting and finishing in Reykjavík, we were very excited to explore the Golden Circle, one of the most trafficked tourist drives in Iceland. We picked up the rental car in the morning (plus our 5th companion) and started out early to avoid the tour buses. It makes for a looong day, but every stop is more wonderful than the next. We started at Thingvellir, worked our way to Geysir, finished at Gullfoss, and then hit the crater Kerið on the way back.
Day 6: Diving and Sea Kayaking
If you are a diver, one of the meccas of diving is right outside of Reykjavík. Thingvellir has the unique trait that you can dive between the North American and Eurasian Tetonic Plates, touching both of them at the same time. It is a cold water dive which besides the interesting looking seaweed and clear turquoise water, there isn’t too much to look at. So that is why everyone in our group besides Paul, chose to sit this one out and enjoy some sea kayaking instead. This was also our last day staying in Reykjavik.
Day 7: Reykjavík to Hellnar
Finally on the road! We started out going west and stopped at the Geirabakari Bakery for lunch. The bakery was a filming location for the Secret Life of Walter Mitty and served delicious sandwiches and baked goods. The rest of the day we spent on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula which has many beaches and interesting stops to explore. We chose to do a guided tour of the Vatnshellir Cave which are offered daily.
Day 8: The Baldur Ferry and Látrabjarg Cliffs
It was really important for us to make it to the Westfjords. This is not part of the Ring Road (Route 1). We took the ferry Baldur across the Bay to save some time and for the experience. It was a bit out of the way but the Látrabjarg Cliffs promised to have up close views of puffins. It was also the location of the Brjartangar Lighthouse and the western most point of Europe. We hit the Dyjandi Waterfall on the way before arriving in Þingeyri where our accommodations were.
Day 9: Ísafjörður and the Arctic Fox Center
I would of liked to have spent more time in Ísafjörður, but we had a lot of ground to cover to get to our next accommodation. We decided to stop at the Arctic Fox Center and take the tour. The center acts as a museum and research facility, however we were most delighted by the baby arctic fox they had on the premise named Freddy.
Day 10: Akureyri
Akureyri was probably my favorite city in Iceland. We walked around enjoying the botanical gardens, the church and colorful buildings. It was nice to spend most of the day in one spot and not getting in and out of a car.
Day 11: The Northeast
Northeast Iceland has a lot to offer. We made seven stops all together this day including Goðafoss, Lake Myvatn, Hverjall Crater, Hverir Mud Pots, and Dettifoss (Europe’s most powerful waterfall), before checking into the hostel in the quiet town of Seyðisfjörður.
Day 12: Seyðisfjörður
There wasn’t a lot planned between Seyðisfjörður and our next accommodation so we were able to have a much needed rest day. We enjoyed a short hike in this small sleepy town, checked out an interesting piece of acoustic installation art, and finished off our day with a late night glacier hike, because….you know, it never gets dark so why not.
Day 13: Jökulsárlón Lagoon!
Jökulsárlón, also known as Glacier Lake, was our most anticipated stop of the whole trip. The icebergs break off of a glacier, wash out through the lake and wind up on a beautiful black sand beach or being carried out into the ocean. We took a boat ride out to the glacier and then walked out to the beach where we were able to get up close to the giant turquoise blocks of ice. Later we hiked around Skaftafell National Park and ended our day at Brunnavellir, where rented a room for the night in a working farmhouse.
Day 14: Vík
I was excited to find this “off the beaten path” canyon known as Fjaðrárgljúfur. It looked like something out of a movie. Although the weather was bad, as it can be in Iceland, it was still a neat side trip. This day we also stopped at the Vík Wool Factory, which sells many different Icelandic sweaters and souvenirs and wandered around on some beaches in Vík.
Day 15: More waterfalls and the Blue Lagoon
Our last full day in Iceland. . . booooo. We had decided from the beginning that we would end our trip relaxing in the Blue Lagoon. Not before we didn’t see more waterfalls including the one to the left which you can walk behind. Of course you will get wet by doing this. We stayed in a hotel near the Blue Lagoon and the airport.
Day 16: Bye Iceland
We all flew out this day, sad to be leaving such a wonderful country. But also a little happy we didn’t have to cram into that tight car one more day.
Check out my Iceland highlights video!
For some other references on Iceland try these sites:
*We took this trip July 1st-17th, 2014.