November 15, 2016 / Viagens
Iceland | A land like no other
Iceland is the most unique and exciting place on the planet that I know. It is a place like no other. This article is designed to help maximize your trip to this incredible place.
This itinerary provides you a 7 day road trip plan. We saw and read a lot of blogs and websites to prepare our trip, but we end following almost exactly the trip and blog of Alex Cornell. That’s why this blog post is almost identical to Alex Cornell. Not to copy, but because we followed his trip and tips.
All photos presented in this post is from my own.
This was our plan. We can have it here.
Trust me, you do not go to Iceland to see Reykjavik (despite being a really nice city) or to sit on a tourbus.
You go to Iceland to have an unique experience of life and see our planet like a raw thing.
You will see incredible and unforgettable landscapes. You will see waterfalls like you never imagined. As the name implies, Iceland, will see ice and fire. We will see glaciers, geothermal energy, natural SPA, Northern lights. The beauty of Iceland is unique and I assure you that it will remain in your memory forever.
The Ring Road
If you go to Iceland, you must do the Ring Road. It is designed perfectly for a road trip. Many people that goes to Iceland stays in the south (that have beautiful things), but you should get the enough time to do the all Ring Road. In the north, you have the most incredible landscapes and for use, the north was very special, because we saw the Northern lights. Believe me, it was magical!
We drove the Ring Road counter-clockwise. But there a lot of people that does the opposite.
When To Go
Remember that Iceland is almost on the Arctic Pole, so in the winter you will have a big part of the day dark and in the summer we will have sun like forever. We went in the end of August, so we had good weather (only 1 day with rain) and not to crowdy. Iceland is turning in a very popular destination for photographers and adventures, so in this time of the year you will have more people and traffic, but it is ok.
The temperature was cold, but ok. Average of 10ºC.
What To Bring
You do not want to rely on GPS in Iceland. A hard copy map is recommended. We also had with us our military GPS used on our Geocaching times. This is crucial, especially if you go to drive on a F Road.
Clothes and Gear
Clothes are a very personal decision, but at least bring a good pair of boots because you have to hike in Iceland and a good coat to those times that the wind is really cold.
All you need in Iceland is your credit card. Every gas station, restaurant, shop, and accepts cards. Even the most isolated spots sometimes prefer cards. It’s possible to spend your entire trip in Iceland without handling money.
Where To Stay
There are plenty of accommodation options in Iceland around the entire Ring Road, but you need to book ahead, especially if you go on the crowed season (May and June).
We stayed always at a Hotel or a B&B. Yes, it is a lot more expensive, but you have also other commodities. We can consider also camping or camping in a RV (we saw a lot of people doing this way) for a unique experience… Whatever be your choice, you will not regret.
Driving in Iceland
To get around Iceland, you need to get a car. If you are short on money, a regular car is ok, but if you want to have a more Icelandic experience, you need to get a 4WD. You will have more space, comfort and you will be able to explore some scenarios that it is only possible to visit with a 4WD (F roads). But please be careful. With rain, some gravel streets are dangerous and you need to have special care.
Whatever rental company you choose, please don’t forget to add the gravel insurance. You may think that is unnecessary, but once you start driving in Iceland you will see why am I saying this.
We rented our car in Lagoon Car Rental. To be honest, I don’t think that I have enough words to thank them. All guys in the company were simply amazing. They picked us up at 2am at the airport. Right… 2 Am. In 5 minutes we were at the central office. They gave us coffee, tea and milk.
The cars are like new and recent. We rented a 4WD and Lagoon Car Rental gave us a Kia Sportage. Great car. We drove all around Iceland, including some F Road and we had 0 problems.
If you go to Iceland, don’t search rental companies. Our top choice is definitely, Lagoon Car Rental!
Food in Iceland
The food in Iceland is amazing. Truly, very good. So why do you often hear people lament how bad it is and that it’s “all about hot dogs”. This is true if you restrict your food sourcing to gas stations. If you branch out and try local restaurants, cafes and hotel eateries, then it’s very good. Gas stations are cheaper. We choose to lunch something while driving and having a relaxed dinner.
Day 1: Keflavík→Vestmannaeyjar
Like I said before, we arrived at KEF at 2 am. I get a little nap and started driving. We were so anxious. You will eventually end up in Vik for the night, but we prefer to know Vestmannaeyjar Islands. We’ve taken the ferry and had our first night there. The drive from KEF is only about 3 hours, but there are some terrific stops along the way. It’s a great route to get acclimated to Iceland and the pace of things.
Stay the night: Hotel Vestmannaeyjar
Dinner: 900 Grillhús
The drive along the southern coast is one of my absolute favorites. Some of Iceland’s most iconic sights are just off the Ring Road. There is also great opportunity for serious adventures.
- Kerid Crater Lake – Take a walk around the crater and admire the contrast between the red rocks and the bright blue water, caused by minerals from the soil.
- Seljalandsfoss – A stunning 60 metres high waterfall. And the best part is, you can go behind it. Definitely worth a visit for the magnificent scenery.
- Seljavallalaug – This charming swimming pool is one of the oldest in Iceland! Soak yourself into warm termal water and enjoy.
- Skógafoss – Come to see one of the biggest waterfalls in the country! A legend says that it hides a treasure. On sunny days, a rainbow can be seen.
- Solheimasandur Plane Wreck – A plane crashed on Sólheimasandur beach on Sunday, Nov 24, 1973 and its remains can be still found here today. It became very popular with photographers, like us.
- Dyrhólaey – This small peninsula with cliffs is a protected area. It’s home to many sea birds, including puffins, gulls and fulmars. Wonderful views.
- Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach – This unique beach with black sand is a must if you want to take truly unusual photographs, alongside the lava columns rising out of the sea. According to the folklore legend, these are two trolls who attempted to drag a ship to land but were turned to stone.
Day 2: Vestmannaeyjar →Hofn
The drive up to Hofn is about the same length as Day 1. This leaves you plenty of time to explore and go on at least one longer adventure. This part of Iceland is still relatively tourist-heavy, as you’re still near Reykjavik.
Stay the Night: Old Airline Guesthouse. We had a great night here. Very calm and very comfy.
Dinner: Z Bistro
There is a ton to do on the way to Hofn.
- Fjaðrárgljúfur – Formed at the end of the last Ice Age, this canyon is definitely worth the trip. Admire the views as you hide along the river.
- Black Waterfall – Popular attraction in Skaftafell National Park.
- Skaftafell – A breathtaking nature reserve somewhat reminiscent of alpine landscape. The climate is relatively mild which render the park well accessible. The vast range of hiking trails make this area an ideal destination for those who like outdoor activities. Also, Skaftafell is a popular destination during winter time not only due to lesser crowds, but also for its beautiful icy appearence.
- Glacier Lagoon – Perhaps one of the world’s greatest natural jewels. The lagoon is a must see while here and definitely worth the trip.
Day 3 & 4: Hofn→ Lake Mývatn
On this day we drove a lot until Lake Mývatn. It was about six hours driving. But we stayed 2 nights at Lake Mývatn. And it was a great decision, because we had 2 nights of Northern Lights.
Stay the night: Vogafjós Guesthouse – Awesome guesthouse set in a unique natural environment.
Dinner: Gamli Bistro
The route along the southeastern coast, through the East Fjords, is probably one of the most underrated parts of Iceland, but it is beautiful. The Lake Mývatn region is one of the most interesting and unusual parts of Iceland.
- Dettifoss – Set in Vatnajökull National Park, it is said to be the most powerfull waterfall in Europe. It’s 45 metres high and 100 metres wide.
- Víti Crater – The word “víti” means “hell” in Icelandic. Despite the name, this calm place with amazingly clear blue water does not resemble hell at all. See yourself.
- Krafla Caldera – One of the best known craters in Iceland is worth visiting for its beautiful opaque lake.
- Námafjall – In this geothermal area, you can admire colorful sulfur crystals and try to hike a short trail.
- Myvatn Nature Baths – This soothing bath will help you relax and improve your health, thanks to the minerals in the water. A great experience.
- Hverfjall – Hverfjall, also known as Hverfell. Explore this volcano, one of the most symmetrical craters in the world.
- Lake Mývatn – A popular tourist destination. The natural beauty is something to behold and the waterbirds population is abundant.
Day 5: Mývatn→ Laugarbakki
On this day, you are basically crushing it all the way from North Iceland, to the edge of the West Fjords. It’s one of the longer drives you’ll have. You’ll also pass through Akureyri, which is Iceland’s second largest urban center. Worth a stop for food and supplies.
Stay the Night: Hotel Laugarbakki. Fully renewed. Great restaurant and hot tubes.
Dinner: Hotel Laugarbakki
There are only a few listed sights on this route. But prepper yourself for gorgeous open roads and unexpected scenery.
- Aldeyjarfoss – A beautiful waterfall with impressive surroundings.
- Goðafoss Waterfall – Also called the Waterfall of the Gods, this waterfall is truly impressive. The water of the river falls from a height of 12 meters over a width of 30 meters. Marvel as its shades of blue even during some dreary weather which is rather common in Iceland.
Day 6 & 7: Laugarbakki → Reykjavik
You’re almost home! This next drive takes you to Reykjavik, which is very close to the Golden Circle attractions. But before you got to Snaefellsnes Peninsula. It was a quick detour, but it worth it.
Stay the Night: Airbnb – Laugardalur. Great house near city center with a lot of space and very modern.
We stayed 2 nights in Reykjavik. We had time to visit the Golden Circle attractions, to visit Reykjavik city centre. It is a small city to visit by foot, with a vibrant and modern feel with a lot of street art and culture.
- Bridge between the Continents – A bridge between Euroasian and North American tectonic plates.
- Kirkjufellsfoss – Waterfall. Definitely worth the detour.
- Blue Lagoon – A geothermal spa, located in a lava field.
- Church of Hallgrímur – This architectural gem will take your breath away. The design of the building is really something unique and a must see.
- Thingvellir National Park – A UNESCO World Heritage site. The park may be famous for being the first place where the Icelandic parliament assembled, but it’s splendor and sport activities that attract its visitors.
- Öxarárfoss – The stream of the Öxará river falling to the Almannagjá gorge is one of the main attractions of Thingvellir National Park.
- Geysir – The one that named them all. Usually, it erupts daily, but even if you don’t manage to see the water, it is definitely worth a visit.
The last thing a lot of people do in Iceland is visit the Blue Lagoon (about 45min from Reykjavik, near the airport). If you’ve never been, go check it out. But personally, I didn’t loved it. We went there just before going to the airport and it was ok to relax. I much prefer the Mývatn Baths.
One more big thanks to Lagoon Car Rental for all the support. You were amazing, guys.
I hope that this post would be helpful. If you need more details, please feel free to contact me.
Hugo, João e Cátia (minha querida esposa), obrigado por terem feito parte desta aventura única e memorável nas nossas vidas.