Soooooo, hi. Well, it’s sure been awhile. I was supposed to post this 10 day itinerary roundup following the other segments of my Iceland road-trip, but as usual, life and being horribly inconsistent got in the way. Heads up, it’s going to be a quick breakdown of the trip so if you would like more detailed information click the affiliated post link or head to my main page for all the posts! So without further adieu (and excuses), let’s begin:
We arrived in Iceland in the early afternoon.
We rented our four wheel drive Rav4 through Blue Car Rental. (Tip: look up a promo code online and use it to get the WiFi)
We hit up Bonus for some groceries to take along on our journey! But since we wanted real food we decided to try our hand at Icelandic Street Food in Reykjavik where we had the endless house mash potatoes with cod, shellfish soup, and lamb soup. (Tip: being your own utensils as they’re pretty wasteful with their plastic ones!)
The Þingvellir National Park in the Golden Circle
Walk the tectonic division walk from Game of Thrones at Almannagia Gorge and see your first waterfall at Öxarárfoss.
Before heading out of the area make sure you stop by Þingvallavatn Lake. (Tip: go for sunset- it’s absolutely magical)
Our first AirBNB was called the Austurey Cabins right by lake Apavatn. Let’s just say between the perfect private cottage, open land, and star-filled sky…we could not have chosen a better place for our first night.
Since you’re already in the Golden Circle head towards Geysir and enjoy the bubbling and erupting gas. Learn from our mistake and avoid eating at the restaurant- it’s over expensive and not worth it.
Our next destination was the massive and powerful Gullfoss. We took our time and walked around while getting the different birds eye views. (Tip: research Sigriður Tómasdóttir before you get there- the background story of Iceland’s first environmentalist will just add to the magnitude of the waterfall.)
Next was Kerið Crater ($3) Read all about the magical sign that was presented to us at the crater here. This experience only made us want to continue listening to Norse Mythology throughout our road trip.
We failed at finding Mosfellsbaer for a discounted Icelandic sweater. Although there are plenty of lovely family owned locations, those bad boys are priceyyyy and I couldn’t cough up $100+ for a sweater I’d only wear occasionally. (Tip: According to Google, try Red Cross, the Handknitting Association, or the markets in the city. I hope you have better luck that I did!)
Because we had a lot of leeway with our itinerary we decided to head north-west and stay at a camping ground in Olafsvik… but a blizzard had other plans for us. Instead, we decided not to risk our lives and turned into the Kast Guesthouse at a whopping $152 USD dollars for the night. (Tip: listen to the locals when they say the roads will get ugly And have backup money saved just in case your original plans fall through.)
With our lives still intact and after a restful sleep we finally arrived at Kirkufell. It really does look like the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter. We then just drove slowly through the harbor town of Grundarfjörður and enjoyed a lunch and coffee at Laki.
Learning our lesson: So we made a huge mistake at this point that I truly hope you will learn from us not to do. Don’t step on the the beautiful moss. It still pains me to think that I hurt that wonderful ground just because I wanted to frolic and was uneducated. On that note, drive around and stop as often as you want and can- the views are unimaginable and well worth taking it slow.
At this point we did exactly that on the long drive back onto the Ring Road towards Akureyri North of the wall.
Day Four *One of my favorite days ever*
If I can recommend one blog post to read from my site then it would be Iceland: The Eagle (North). Days four and five were truly some of the best, most significant days of my life.
And it all started at Aldeyjarfoss. If you’re already on your way to Godafoss, keep going. I owe this stop entirely to Kevin. It was massive and demanding in its solitude. We were the only people there for a long time as we sat and watched while snow sprinkled down upon us.
Alright now that you’re on the way backs out, head to Godafoss next. Head down the stairs and witness it up close and personal. Just be careful, the rocks are so slippery and falling on your butt will hurt and leave you with a huge bruise (from experience.)
By this point we desperately wanted to escape the cold and wet we had been experiencing for hours so we jotted into the Godafoss Cafe for another expensive, not-quite-worth-it meal. The latte was nice though.
GOT fans, you can see where two beloved (and now married) characters get hot and steamy at the Grodja Cave. It’s a simple place, worth the pit stop to stretch your legs.
And finally, it’s time for one of Iceland’s best not secrets: thermal baths and hot springs. Even now just writing about it I can still feel the warmth and serenity that was Myvatn Nature Baths. ($90.95 p/p) Close your eyes and slip into a meditative state- just make sure not to fall asleep. (Tip: if you aren’t fully comfortable with showering nude in front of others…trust me, I know. Just let your free self go, no one is watching.)
Day Five *Another favorite day*
Whale watching! Whale watching! Whale watching! Even though it’s checked off my bucket list now thanks to this experience with Elding in Akureyri, I eagerly await to go again. (Tip: Don’t forget your gloves! We ran out the door so fast that I stupidly forgot mine and had to buy a pair at the front desk. Extremely pricey!) After a lunch that Kevin absolutely hated (probably why I can’t remember the name), we walked around the pleasant town of Akureyri and visited a few of the highlights.
With the Northern Lights in mind, we decided to head back towards Godafoss to try and get some darkness and solitude. This is one of my favorite stories so I’ll retell it here again:
“Two nights ago Kevin and I drove out of Akureyri to go Aurora hunting. As soon as we parked the car and I was about to go pee a bush he screamed, “right there!” And in fact, the Aurora Borealis was showing off! We then proceeded to witness the most incredible, majestic, magical performance my eyes have ever gazed upon. They danced right above us and I twirled around with them below unimaginably ecstatic. I photographed them and yelled at, “I just photographed the NORTHERN LIGHTS like a happy little child at Disney world… I can’t think of a better person to share this life changing moment with. This place…is undoubtedly life changing. ” I posted this on Instagram and feel as if it still resonates how I want. I could try and explain further the…pure bliss I felt as the dancing lady swayed above us and the deep enthralling excitement we felt as we jumped around beneath her, but I will never be able to fully explain it. Ever. Just know, it was truly the most beautiful moment of my life.”
We saw them a little also above Godafoss but by this point the cloud cover had come in too thick. (Tip: Photograph Godafoss at night- it’s quite the sight.)
We started our journey to Eskifjorður in East Iceland with our first stop being the lava formation sight of Dimmuborgir. Here we learned all about the Yule Lads that silently live in the area and if you call upon them, they show themselves. Guess we didn’t call upon them loud enough. Shucks.
The strongest epitome of rainbows and waterfalls occurred at Detifoss for us. Some of the trails that let you get close were closed off because of the intense winds. Still, I’ll take any opportunity to see another waterfall in my lifetime.
Speaking of endless waterfalls, as we continued our drive to East Iceland the sun was beginning to set. The air was crisp, the sky golden, and roads completely empty. These moments were moments that we did not know we were going to have when visiting Iceland. There’s no way to prepare for the brilliant escape that is you, your life partner, and another amazing waterfall.
We arrived late in the town ofEskifjorður, found one of the only restaurants in town, Bàg Chà (fantastic Thai food for yes, an expense), and then spontaneously decided to go Northern Lights hunting once again.
And boy, did she show.
Morning of day seven we packed up our car once again and continued the rest of the journey on the Ring Road. Along the journey we took an afternoon stroll on one of Iceland’s black sand beach (there are so many!)
And then I greatly suggest finding Vestrahorn ($14.55). We did explore the movie set which actually never turned out to be an actual movie afterall. It’s fun to imagine that maybe villages did look that way before. And if you go through to the other end then you will have the open land all to yourself. The peak time for visiting and witnessing the mirror reflections were long gone so we decided to come back the following morning, but not before witnessing Icelandic horses galloping towards us with the golden sun just at its most gleaming.
We had the best meal of our entire road trip at Kaffi Hornid Dining and then parked our car at Hofn Camping Site ($34.10) for the night. Tip: you must try the salmon pizza- it was life changing!)
But saying as how we wanted a shower and still had some time in the day we hit up the local Swimming pool ($16.37) for a hot dip, a trip to the sauna, and a shower. (Once again, a completely nude shower in the locker rooms.) I would prefer to do it this way instead of showering in the camping site’s showers- cleaner and you don’t have to make a mad dash all the way to your car in the freezing cold.
Then we got nice and cozy in our very cold car and slept until early morning.
Day eight was jam packed and as we were getting to the end of our Ring Road journey, popular locations started getting a lot more crowded.
Firstly before leaving Hofn we went on the search for an Icelandic sweater. Instead, we found these incredible candles from Handradinn that now sit on our bookcase at home.
Next before visiting Jökulsárlón, make a stop at Breiðárlón Glacier Lagoon. I definitely recommend this stop as it’s a lot less crowded (we were the only ones!) and an interesting place to explore. Listen to the warning signs though- they’re everywhere and warn about the possibility of quicksand.
My biggest tip for Jökulsárlón is to either go WAY early or to just continue walking past the crowds and eventually you will hit spots were you can enjoy the glacier formations in peace. I was definitely tempted to do the kayaking excursion that takes you up close to the glaciers but in the end I’m glad that we didn’t and just roamed around at our own pace.
Our last stop of the day brought us to the town of Vik where we watched the sky turn pink as we explored another black sand beach. (Tip: watch out for the swells, they can sneak up on you out of nowhere so don’t get too close.)
We had dinner at this place that also sold souvenirs while we tried to decide on where to stay the night. Hotels and airBNBs were way too expensive so we decided to just rough it a little and sleep in the car at the Campsite Vik. (Tip: if you have room in your suitcase and plan on sleeping in your car, bring blankets and flannel PJs. Boy does it get freezing in there!)
By this point we were so close to heartbreak as our trip was nearing its end! Still, we had so much left to do.
We started off taking the stairs up for a bird’s eye view of the famous Skogafoss. Next, an extremely up close, personal, and drenched perspective as we got as close as possible to the roaring waterfall. If I can recommend one thing enough it is this: make sure you bring waterproof clothing for days you’re waterfall exploring! Kevin wore jeans and they were soaked through. (Tip: if you’re sleeping in your vehicle, camp there so you’re one of the firsts and wake up to a waterfall.) (Tip #2: if you have more time, try your hand at a day hike to Fimmvörðuháls through Iceland’s incredible scenery.)
We actually ate lunch at restaurant right next to Skogafoss. I conveniently used their restroom to also change into my swimsuit for our next stop: Seljavallalaug Pool. Tucked in between Icelandic mountains, the sights are phenomenal. The upkeep up the place…well, you should read my blog post about it here.
Carrying on with the wet theme we had our last waterfall to visit. Ugh, cue the heartbreak at even the thought of it. Seljalandsfoss was exactly how I pictured it: strong, picturesque, and crowded. Still, we breathed in the air around and parted sadly as we completed our ring road on the journey back to Reykjavik.
We had full intention of just showering quickly and exploring the town for the evening, but we hit a couple of travel problems with our Airbnb. So instead we went to bed early as we had an exciting early start the next morning!
The beloved Blue Lagoon. If I close my eyes now I can still picture sitting away from the noise next to Kevin as little pellets of rain fell upon our faces. Perfect little “pat pat pat”s on a gray day in steamy thermal plant water runoff.
After a few hours there we hurried our way through town for one of our favorite things to do in a city: Free walking tour with City Walk. What a perfect way to learn more about Icelandic history, politics, and culture. Shoutout to our tour guide, Thomas, who Kevin and I still talk highly about.
As we had date night at the Harpa that evening, we spent the next couple hours souvenir shopping in town. We tried not to go over the top but I did walk out with a coffee mug that I still use, a T-shirt I still constantly wear, and Kevin for me a gorgeous vintage blazer with yellow lining and sleeves. Drool.
And, slow clap, our last event: How To Become Icelandic In 60 Minutes at the Harpa ($84.82). The perfect ending to a perfect, perfect, Perfect, life changing experience. After the show we took a slow walk towards Hallgrimskirkja so we could see it once before taking off the next day. Then we had a slow walk back to the airBNB. Heartbreak.
Day Eleven was pretty sad. Putting gas, dropping the car off, turning in our refund slips, and then waiting for our flight back to Houston. How did this incredible trip finish so fast?!
For 10 full days this is what I spent:
This is a breakdown on what on:
- Restaurants and snacks: $337.77
- Gas: $146.26
- Souvenirs: $170.77
- Excursions: $206.69
- Groceries : $70.5
- Misc (gloves, restrooms, camp sites, random): $68.26
- Unexpected guesthouse: $152.01
This is all not including what I previously paid for the AirBNBs over time as I booked them and the car rental that Kevin paid or his side of the expenses.
So, yeah, pretty pricey. But I would do it all again in a motherfucking second if I could. No doubt about that. I recommend preparing ahead of time and saving a shit ton before arriving in Iceland. So many beautiful things are free: a million waterfalls, some hot springs, walking tours, the Northern Lights, etc. Others cost just a few bucks such as Kerio Crater and Vestrahorn. And then others such as the Blue Lagoon, Whale Watching, Myvatn Nature Baths, and shows at the Harpa were a lot pricier.
Iceland is one of those places that as soon as you’re at the airport you’re already planning your return flight back into Rekyavik. So don’t worry if you don’t fit it all into one trip. We did a lot, even more than I thought possible, but we took our time, got lost along the way (seriously), had unexpected blizzards that nearly killed us, and made time to sit and breathe it all in.
For the next time we do visit (next year) I already have my list of a few more things to see and do: Fontana Spa, the Secret Lagoon Hot Spring, snorkeling the Silfra, Snaefellsjokull National Park, and a glacier tour.
Endless opportunities in a endlessly enchanting place. It has been a pleasure to revisit these memories. Iceland will forever have a piece of our hearts and souls.
Until next time, friends!