In this post, I will try to accomplish the impossible task of writing a complete guide to traveling around Iceland. I will separate this guide into several sections that you can consult sequentially or independently:
- The itinerary (starting here-under): A day-by-day summary of the ambitious itinerary my girlfriend and I followed, as well as detailed reports of all worthy attractions.
- The budget: A detailed section on how we managed to spend only about 1,000$ US each (including flights!) for the entire trip, while not sacrificing much.
- The logistics: A section on how to plan and prepare for a road trip in Iceland. For example, all you need to know about renting a car and driving in Iceland, how to pack, and several other tricks that would make your trip much easier.
- Reviews: Detailed reviews of our car rental company (Sixt), our airline (Wowair), our glacier climb tour (Glacier Guides), as well as accommodations and restaurants we deem worthy of a review.
So without further ado, let’s get started!
1. The itinerary: A little disclaimer here. My girlfriend and I completed the 2,000 km loop around Iceland in only 4 days. However, we do not necessarily recommend that you do the same; completing it in such a short time requires a sacrifice, may it be on the number of attractions visited and/or on sleep time (we chose to sacrifice the latter). 6 or 7 days would be a more optimal amount of time to spend touring the country.
Day 1 part I: Iceland 101
- Arrival at 5 AM at Keflavik International Airport. By 6 AM, we were out of Sixt’s car rental offices and ready to begin our adventures aboard our lovely Opel Corsa.
- Þingvellir National Park: The first stop along the now-famous Golden circle route was this beautiful national park, where the first Icelandic parliament (Þingvellir) was established more than 1,000 years ago. Here as well you can literally stand between North America and Europe, as the Mid-Atlantic ridge (where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet) passes through there.
- Geysir / Strokkur: The famous Geysir that named all other geysirs. However, it is Strokkur that steals the show here, erupting every 5 minutes or so. Definitely worth a quick stop.
- Gullfoss (Golden falls): The first out of many beautiful waterfalls we would see over the next couple of days. We also stopped here for some delicious Icelandic lamb soup to energize us for the second half of our busy first day.
- Quick stop in Skálholt, a historic Icelandic town. This town did not have much worthy of a visit except this really cool house!
- Kerið crater lake: The last stop on the Golden circle route, Kerið is an absolutely stunning volcanic crater lake. I strongly recommend you go all the way down to appreciate its beauty even more!
Day 1 part II: The guesthouse I booked for the first night was near the end of the Golden circle route, since we were initially planning to go to the Blue Lagoon on day 1 (that plus the Golden circle would have been ample for the first day). So when we decided to postpone our Blue Lagoon visit until the last day, we altered our itinerary to include these attractions, even if that meant we had to come back on our tracks to get to our guesthouse.
- Black Sand Beach in Vik, Iceland: An absolute must-stop. You’ll be swept away by the uniqueness of the basalt sand, sea, and basalt rocks. On a good day, you’ll also have the opportunity to see some puffins!
- Dirholaey (literally means ‘Door hole’): Right next to Vik is Dirholaey peninsula. Interesting to note that this was formerly an island, but is now attached to the mainland. The main attraction here is the massive arch that gave the promontory its name, as well as the lighthouse.
- Solheimasandur Plane Crash Site: If you want to overwhelm your social media profiles with ‘likes’, this is a must. To reach the site, you’ll have to walk a little less than 4 km in what seems to be an endless desert, but the experience is very unique and worth it.
- Skógafoss waterfall: Another spectacular waterfall right by the main road. You can view it from up close at the bottom, and climb the 400+ steps to see it from above. Make sure to bring your rain jacket and cell phone protectors, this waterfall sprays a lot!
- Seljalandsfoss waterfall: This was our fifth and final waterfall on the agenda for the day. However, don’t think for one second that we had enough of them! Each waterfall seems to have something unique to offer; in Seljalandsfoss’ case, we were able to appreciate its elegance from behind it!
So needless to say that at this point we were totally spent – it was time to get some sleep, since we knew day 2 was going to be even more intense!
If you have some extra time, you could also consider visiting the Iceland erupts museum between Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. It opened a year after the now-famous Eyjafjallajökull (try pronouncing THAT 3 times!) erupted and paralyzed all of Europe for nearly a week in 2010.
First day stats:
- 470 total kilometers driven;
- 34,350 steps walked (a little less than 25 km);
- Countless memories!
For day 2 of our trip (that started at 3:30 AM and included a glacier hike and iceberg lagoons!), click here!