After seeing some of the beauty of this icy island and hearing some of the stories of the adventures that could await, I hope you have put Iceland on your wanna-go list. If you have, I’d love to share the itinerary that we followed as a jumpstart to your own travel plans.
Best photospots along the drive:
It all starts with the essentials: arrival of your flight, picking up the rental car and doing some groceries for the road. We rented a 4×4 from GreenMotion Car Rental, which we were very happy with! They picked us up from the airport with a shuttle, and the overall customer service was great. They talked us in to having an extra insurance against sandstorms, which you can probably skip if the weather looks clear, but we decided that it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Don’t forget to get cash out of the ATM on the airport, 10.000 ISK should be enough if you already paid for your accommodation and you can pay for gas with your card. If not, buy some prepaid gas cards, even if you’re not sure your foreign bank card will work. There’s a manned N1 gas station in Keflavik close to Dominos that sells them.
If you arrive earlier in the day than we did, here are some spots you can stop on your way from the airport to Vík:
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
- Glufrafoss Waterfall
- Skogafoss Waterfall
- The crashed plain
If time allows, plan to arrive in time to see the sunset at the Reynisfjara, the absolutely gorgeous black beach.
Depending on how much time you had yesterday, you can either choose to explore the cute town of Vík or watch the sunrise at the Reynisfjara beach. After that, the 4.5h drive to the Höfn begins.
Stops along the way:
- Make sure you stop at Fjaðrárgljúfur, it is absolutely worth it, no matter what season it is.
Directions: take the exit to road 206 towards Lakagígar. You’ll see a waterfall at your right side. There is a small intersection that leads to the canyon by turning left, it’s a little more than a mile away from the ring road.
- Turn into the 998 road for more waterfall options (we chose to hike at the cliffs mentioned above instead of visiting these waterfalls)
- Foss a Sidu waterfall
- Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon (this exit is really easy to miss, so put it in your GPS or download it offline on your Google Maps before you go.
- Diamond Beach and the Glacier Bay next to it.
We made sure we were at the Diamond beach just before sunset, so we drove the last 1.5h to our house in Höfn in the dark. This way we had more time for exploring while it was still light, and we would drive back that same way in the light tomorrow morning anyways.
You can also choose to stay at a hostel closer to the Glacier Bay and skip Höfn altogether. It’s a very cute city with a gorgeous, unique view on the mountains and coastline all around, but this would be the thing I’d recommend to miss out on if you are short on time.
We did groceries in Höfn (Nero is the only one in town and closes at 7pm) and cooked dinner in our lovely hostel.
And of course, there are the natural hot tubs to visit at night to watch the Northern Lights or just to relax after a long day of exploring. They close at 11pm and you can read more about them and their specific location here.
We watched the sunrise while walking along the beautiful bay and haven of Höfn. We decided to visit a cute “Viking town” and Vestrahorn, a mountain at the coast, about 20 minutes further east, the beach and the national park around it that morning. It was beautiful, but I would actually recommend to skip it and head back after sunrise and breakfast in Höfn, so you can have time to explore the Skaftafell national park on your way back.
This day you can stop at any of the beautiful places you haven’t seen yet in the last two days and be spontaneous! Don’t forget about the recommendations listed at Day One, since most of those are in between Vík and Hella.
We stayed in Hella, and had one of our best AirBnb experiences there.
This is the day we visited both the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. This was a last-minute change of plans, so it’s not reflected in our road trip map above. We drove from Hella to the Strokkur Geysir, and from the geyser to the famous Gulfoss Waterfall. From there, we drove to the Blue Lagoon through Reykjavik. If you want to skip the Blue Lagoon, you can also spend your afternoon in the capital city instead of soaking in the milky, mineral waters. Either way, make sure to take the route via Reykjavik, because the drive through the snowy mountains was actually one of the highlights of our trip!
We made sure we had an Airbnb close to the airport, since Marlien had to be there at 5am the next morning. We had a great time at this home, only a 9 minute drive from Keflavik Airport! We ate at a cute burger place that was surprisingly American, but also packed with locals and dove into our beds early.
Some Iceland Travel Tips:
- Do groceries. Although I’ve never experienced higher prices for eating out than in Iceland, our recommendation to do your own groceries isn’t just about money. When you’re road tripping, you want to be able to be flexible. Iceland is mostly outstretched wilderness, so don’t expect to find a Starbucks or Subway every 30 minutes. We loved having a bag of nutritious snacks in the backseat, so we didn’t have to waste time finding restaurants or eating at crappy fast-food places. All of our recommended hostels have a kitchen, so you can prepare your own dinner there as well.
- Get gas whenever you can. The thing I said about Starbucks and Subway? Yes, same goes for gas stations. Fill up the tank whenever you can, and check if your card works before you enter into the more remote areas of Iceland. If not, you can buy a prepaid gas card at a manned station close to the airport or in Reykjavik.
- Book early. With tourism booming in Iceland, the chance of getting reasonably priced last minute accommodation or car rental is very slim. Book as soon as you have booked your flights, since you can almost always cancel if your itinerary changes.
- Be a tourist that a local loves by checking the weather forecasts, picking up after yourself and not stopping your car next to the road. More about that in a special post next week.
- Download the free emergency app and leave your itinerary at this website. It’s normal to not come across a living soul for hours in Iceland, which is great for that wilderness-vibe, but not so great if you’re in trouble. These volunteers know how unpredictable their country can be and want visitors to be safe.
Again, I don’t get anything for these recommendations, I just love inspiring people to go on their own adventures! Use this as a jumpstart for your own travel plans if you like, it really is worth to custom-create your trip instead of go with a tour!
Stay tuned for more stories and photographs and leave a comment if you have any recommendations you’d like to add!