Iceland had long been on my list of countries to visit and I finally managed to travel there in June. I have heard stories of the breathtaking landscapes in Iceland, and even though I went with high expectations, I was still wow-ed by the beauty that she presented every day.
This was one of the most challenging trips to plan for. Firstly, everything was more expensive compared to our trips to other countries in Europe, so we had to try to keep expenses as low as possible. I came very close to calling off the trip after realising how much we would have to spend on car rental and accommodation, but I am so glad that I decided to go ahead in the end. Secondly, planning the itinerary was no easy feat as there are so many attractions in Iceland and we had to make sure that we could complete the journey along the ring road in 8 days.
After many nights of planning, writing down numerous lists, researching on Google and plotting on Google Maps, I managed to come up with an 8-day itinerary that I am very happy with. Our Google Docs itinerary is 17-pages long, so you can imagine how intensive the preparation was (or I might just be an excessive planner).
Hopefully, this post will be helpful to those who are in the process of planning a trip to Iceland, and inspire others to make this beautiful country their next travel destination. This will be a photo and word-heavy post because there is simply too much information to go through. I compiled a list of tips at the end of the post and you can scroll down immediately if you are pressed for time. So grab a snack, sit back, relax, and let me bring you on this virtual journey!
We travelled by Easyjet and flew from London Luton to Reykjavik. The tickets were bought 2 months before the travel date.
Cost: ~ £100 per person for return tickets.
I highly recommend booking your accommodation as soon as possible, especially if you are travelling there in summer. Ideally, you would want to spend the night at places which fit your itinerary and are cheap if you are on a budget. As we were busy with exams, I only managed to plan our accommodation a month before our travel date. By then, we were left with limited choices. It still worked out well for us in the end, but you may be able to get cheaper and better options if you plan ahead. We stayed in a mixture of places on Airbnb and guesthouses booked through Booking.com.
Cost: ~ £400 per person for 8 nights.
I decided to go with Blue Car Rentals because the company had good reviews online and I wanted the rental to be as fuss-free as possible, without having to worry about hidden costs. The rental price included Collision Damage Waiver, Super Collision Damage Waiver, Gravel Protection and Theft Protection, which is most of the insurance coverage that you would need. You will have to carefully read the terms and conditions for other rental companies as most of them do not include these protections in the rental price. I chose not to pay extra for the optional Sand and Ash Protection. The pick up and drop off process was easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Cost: 79,600 ISK (~ £585.55) for a Toyota Yaris for 8 days, including extra charges for one additional driver.
We relied on Google Maps and mobile data on our phones, and it worked out great. We survived and did not drive off into the ocean!
I would recommend exchanging most of your money for Icelandic Krona in Iceland, because the rates there are often better. You can check the websites for Icelandic banks beforehand to compare the rates. We exchanged our British Pounds at the bank in the first town that we arrived in. (Note: This suggestion applies for commonly accepted currencies such as British Pounds and Euros. I am not sure if the same applies to other currencies.)
This is an itinerary for 8 full days in Iceland. I really liked this itinerary because I felt that it gave us a relatively complete experience of the country. We managed to cover almost all of the sights that we wanted to visit. We travelled a total of 2651km on this trip, which meant driving an average of around 330km a day. Our schedule was relatively packed, with most of our days beginning at 9 or 10am, and ending at 10pm or later. But it didn’t feel too tiring, because every single day was exciting and interesting. There was always something different to see and experience.
After arriving at the Keflavik Airport in the morning, we picked up our car and headed to our first stop – a supermarket closest to the airport. A road trip is simply not complete without food.
We were greeted by fields of purple flowers lining both sides of the road. These purple flowers reappeared frequently throughout the rest of our trip.
Skogafoss was the first waterfall that we visited. We sat at a picnic table, made sandwiches using the ingredients that we just bought from the supermarket, and ate our lunch with a view of the majestic waterfall.
We were knackered from our early flight, so we decided to drive to our accommodation for the day. The accommodation was so peaceful and lovely, with a cheeky sheep dog, Bala, and Icelandic horses on site.
We wound down with a soak in the hot tub outdoors and soon got a taste of the unpredictable Icelandic weather. It suddenly started raining and it was actually really cold even though it was summer. We scrambled indoors, freezing in our bikinis and wet towels, and vowed to be smarter the next time.
- Icelandic horses
The first stop of the day was Seljalandsfoss. This waterfall was unique because we could pass through behind the waterfall and see the water falling like a heavy curtain in front of us.
Next, we headed to the famous Solheimasandur Plane Wreck. The scene was like something straight out of an action movie. In order to get to the plane wreck, you will have to walk for around 40 minutes from the car park.
We’ve seen many photos of the Black Sand Beach and the beautiful basalt columns in Iceland. It was extremely windy when we were there!
We made a quick stop at the cute Vik i Myrdal Church.
Fjaðrárgljúfur is a canyon with a steep drop of around 100 metres.
Jökulsárlón is a huge blue lake filled with icebergs.
- Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
- Black Sand Beach
- Vik i Myrdal Church
We were so excited for Day 3 because we booked to join a glacier hike at the Vatnajökull Glacier, which is the biggest ice cap in Iceland and the third largest glacier in Europe! The tour was run by Glacier Guides and we booked it online in advance. We also rented hiking boots and waterproof trousers from the company. Our tour departed from the Skaftafell National Park.
Our guide was very friendly and helpful, explained to us the glacier formations and different terrains, and skillfully led us through the white wonderland. I found it very intriguing that the ice appeared blue in colour. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves throughout the 5.5 hour hike and it was definitely one of the highlights of our trip.
The black basalt columns at the Svartifoss made this a waterfall one-of-a-kind.
We dropped by Jökulsárlón again on our way back because we were hoping to catch the sunset there, but unfortunately, the clouds were not on our side.
We decided to splurge for dinner that day and ate at Pakkhús Restaurant in Höfn. They are famous for their langoustines, which were definitely very fresh!
- Glacier hike
- Vatnajökull Glacier
- Skaftafell National Park
- Pakkhús Restaurant
We started off bright and early with a long drive to the Dettifoss, which is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. The waterfall was a sight to behold. Even at some distance away, you could hear its thundering roar and get drenched from the clouds of water spray.
We also visited the Dettifoss’ little sister – Selfoss.
It soon began to rain, so we decided to head to our accommodation and cook ourselves a hearty dinner. What followed was a mad dash to the supermarket, and thankfully we managed to grab whatever we needed just as it was about to close. Before heading to the supermarket, we checked with our host to confirm that there was oil in the kitchen, but after getting back to the guesthouse, we realised that there was no oil in sight, much to our horror. We had to be as resourceful as we could, and after scavenging around the kitchen, we discovered some butter left in the refrigerator and proceeded to use that. We also just marinated the chicken with whatever seasonings we could find and hoped that the food would not taste too bad. In the end, our dinner actually turned out to be quite delicious! I love being in the kitchen, and I was so happy to be able to cook again. The other guests at the guesthouse were also very friendly and it was really nice to just hang out in the common area and chat with them.
Before heading out, we treated ourselves to a breakfast buffet at the guesthouse.
We spent the day visiting the attractions located around the Myvatn area.
Namafjall, also known as Hverir – We felt like we were transported to Mars. The bubbling mud pools, hot steam emitted from the fumaroles and yellow soil made the place look like something from another planet.
Grjótagjá Cave – This was a Game of Thrones filming location! This was where Jon Snow and Ygritte had their secret tryst.
Dimmuborgir – Also a Game of Thrones filming location.
Hverfjall – The hike to the top of the crater was actually quite challenging because the path was steep and rocky. But I have never seen anything like it before so it was definitely worth the effort!
Myvatn Nature Baths – We opted to visit this lagoon instead of the more popular Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik. The admission fee for the Myvatn Nature Baths is cheaper and it is less crowded than the more touristy Blue Lagoon. The water was a lot cooler than we expected because the temperature was between 35 – 40 degrees Celcius. It is a nice place to relax and wind down while enjoying the picturesque view after a long day.
The Dettifoss is known as the Beast, while the Goðafoss is called the Beauty.
As we had to cover so many attractions on this day, we had to drive past midnight to get to our next accommodation. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we got to watch the fiery sunset as we drove along the winding mountain roads. Afterall, Iceland is known as the land of the midnight sun. It was an unforgettable experience. When we finally arrived at our cosy cabin by the coast, the sky had tamed to a pretty pink and purple shade. What a beautiful ending to an exciting day.
- Grjótagjá Cave
- Myvatn Nature Baths
The wind was very strong that day and we could feel our car literally being pushed sideways by the wind as we were driving. Our driving skills were really tested that day because we had to drive a fair distance on gravel roads in bad weather conditions.
But everything is worth it when you are greeted with a sight like this at the Kirkjufell, right?
Arnastapi – We had the bizarre experience of having salt deposited on our car’s windscreen here.
We were forced to cut our itinerary short for the day because there was a red weather warning, so we wanted to be on the safe side and head to our accommodation before the weather changed for the worse. The weather in Iceland changes drastically so you will have to be flexible and be ready to adapt your plans.
We finally headed back to Reykjavik! We spent the day wandering around the city. I think it was a good choice to visit Reykjavik at the end of our trip. The city centre is relatively small, so there was not much to see in comparison with a bigger city like London. However, as we had spent 6 days in nature and the wilderness, we appreciated the change in scenery and being back in civilisation a little bit more.
Our first stop was the famous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur Icelandic hot dogs! We also tried the hot dogs from Pylsuhusid Hot Dog House. The buns from Hot Dog House were slightly better, but I thought that the hot dog from Bæjarins had better flavour and taste.
We love ice cream and could not resist stopping by Valdis for a sweet treat. They have a lot of flavours available, and the Skyr ice cream was especially delicious!
We had dinner at Sægreifinn, which is famous for their lobster soup and grilled seafood.
- Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hotdogs
- Harpa Concert Hall and Concert Centre
Brauð & Co. – This place ranks as one of my favourite bakeries of all time. The cinnamon buns were to die for. They had a croissant base, so they were golden, buttery and flakey. The cinnamon sugar was fragrant and perfectly caramelised.
Geysir (Strokkur) – The Golden Circle, which consists of the Geysir, Gulfoss and Thingvellir National Park, is a popular tourist route, so it would be a good idea to get cracking on your itinerary for the day before the tour buses arrive. An alternative during summer would be to go in the late afternoon instead. Since the sun sets so late, you will still have plenty of daylight to complete the route!
Gulfoss – If you are lucky, you may catch a rainbow appearing over the waterfall!
For lunch, I would highly recommend that you take a short detour to the Friðheimar Farm, where tomatoes and cucumbers are planted in greenhouses. The bottomless tomato soup was so flavourful – definitely not the dull and watery nonsense. The soup is served with freshly home baked bread and if you know me, you would know that freshly baked bread is my kryptonite. The food tasted very fresh – the tables even had a basil plant each which you can cut and add to your soup.
Efstidalur II – We are definitely the type of people who would make a detour to a farm just for freshly made ice cream.
We arrived at the Thingvellir National Park late in the afternoon and it was relatively quiet by then.
- Brauð & Co.
- Friðheimar farm
- Efstidalur II farm
- Thingvellir National Park
We could not possible leave Iceland before having one last cinnamon bun from Brauð & Co. We went to the bakery at 6am, just as they were removing the freshly baked buns from their moulds, bought our last cinnamon buns, and headed to the airport to catch our flight back to London.
And that concludes our Iceland trip!
- Book your accommodation as soon as possible (definitely more than a month ahead).
- Share the driving between at least two people. Driving long distances can get tiring and you will likely have to drive on gravel roads, which requires even more conventration. You definitely do not want to fall asleep while on the wheel!
- Make sure that you have enough petrol left in your car’s tank. We always ensured that our car had at least half a tank of petrol because we would sometimes have to drive for hours before reaching the next petrol station.
- Get mobile data. We relied completely on Google maps on our phones for navigation and it worked out great.
- Exchange Icelandic Krona at the banks in Iceland for better rates. We got ours from Landsbankinn.
- Download the Vedur app which gives the most accurate weather forecast in Iceland. The weather there can change drastically within a short period of time, so it is always best to keep yourself well-informed.
- Keep your car stocked with food and water. As mentioned earlier, you may have to spend hours on the road before reaching the next petrol station or supermarket.
- Bring many layers of clothing. Even though it was summer, we wore our ski jackets most of the time because it was windy and cold. A waterproof jacket is excellent for rainy days. Don’t forget your scarf and gloves! Do not underestimate summer in Iceland. At times, my fingers were so frozen that I did not even have enough strength to turn the key in the car ignition.
- Wear comfortable shoes. You will have to walk quite some distance, hike up craters and walk on rocky roads, so you would want to keep your feet as comfortable as possible.
- Bring sunglasses. Iceland is one of the rare places where you would wear your sunglasses and winter jacket at the same time. Sunglasses are handy to protect your eyes from the sprays from the waterfalls and any stray sand during a sandstorm.
- Bring your bathing suit for the nature baths.
- Supermarkets are your best friends. The ones that we frequented were Bonus, Kronan and Netto. Since eating at restaurants in Iceland is very expensive, we made most of our meals from ingredients that we bought from the supermarkets. Our standard stock up would consist of Skyr yogurt for breakfast, fruits for snacking, and bread, ham and salad leaves for lunch.
- Tap water in Iceland is safe for drinking and actually tastes delicious.
- Be flexible. There is a common saying in Iceland – If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes. Iceland is unpredictable, so it is important to keep an open mind and just go with the flow.
- Book a Glacier Hike in advance. We have never experienced anything like it before and it was definitely the highlight of our trip. The glaciers are rapidly decreasing in size due to global warming and will disappear in the coming years, so visit them while you can!
- Curate a kickass roadtrip playlist. A roadtrip is not complete without awesome music. My favourite game (which I am unfortunately horrible at) during roadtrips is the one where you compete to say the song title as fast as possible once the music to the song starts playing.
Iceland was one of the best trips of my life. The different landscapes never failed to take our breaths away and every place was as beautiful as a painting. Hopefully, I will have the opportunity to visit the country in winter the next time!
Until my next post, stay hungry and keep exploring!