Iceland, 21st Nov – 25th Nov 2018
Five-day travel itinerary
As you’ve probably seen on my Instagram, I’ve done a wonderful trip across south and west Iceland. At the beginning we thought that, five days didn’t seem enough to visit Iceland from Boston, but my husband and I went for it and we found friends crazy enough to use Thanksgiving´s long weekend to travel with us to Iceland.
I’m super excited to write this blog. Perhaps because it’s been a long time since I posted on my blog. But more than that, I think I’m excited to write this because I feel like I had actual experiences. Iceland surprised me in ways I didn’t think it would, I found places that surpassed the thousands of photos I’ve seen, and for the first time in a long time I felt spectacularly present. As much as I love to create and take photos, my favorite kinds of trips are the ones where I come back bursting with stories to tell and things to say. This trip had the most beautiful balance of both and I am so grateful.
I’m going to break this entry down into a few parts to make it easier to navigate since I’m assuming most of you are going to Iceland or interested in going and want itinerary ideas. My husband and I planned the trip pretty well, therefore we got to see everything we wanted to visit. Also thanks to the dream team we managed to sleep at pretty nice hotels and airbnbs, eat in good restaurants and have a great time.
Language: Everyone speaks English really well.
Money: Extremely credit card friendly. From accommodations to food to gas stations, the only thing we couldn’t pay for with a card was the small tip for our glassier guide.
Wifi: Get the wifi box if your car company offers it. We had service across all of Iceland even in super remote areas. Great for maps (or use Google’s download offline maps feature). Almost all restaurants, and gas stations (Nesti/N1) have open wifi networks and tables -great for a few hour stop to eat, charge computers, work etc.
Food: Holy expensive. Expect to pay around $25 each for lunch and at least $45 for dinners. The saving grace are cheap and ubiquitous hot dogs or fish and ships from gas stations or stands around Iceland. If you have access to a refrigerator/ability to cook, going to a supermarket will also save you a ton. Alternatively, you can do what we did and bring food in with you. We bought a lot of snacks, almonds, walnuts, cereal bars which were really useful.
Water: Iceland is extremely proactive about recycling, composting, and being environmentally responsible. So pretty please bring a big reusable water bottle instead of buying water. The water in plastic is literally just tap water because their water is so good.
Driving: Left hand drive and same as the United States. Things are probably farther than you think. Unless you only stick to the south coast (Reykjavik east to Vik) where everything is relatively close, expect to drive a few hours a day. Also, the speed limit is max 90 km/hr. Driving off-road is prohibited and taken VERY seriously.
Day 1 – Snæfellsnes Peninsula and Short Reykjavik visit
We arrived to Reykjavik at 6:05 am, we walked a 100m ahead and hopped on the free shuttle bus and went to pick up the rental car at Orange Car Rental (the bus departs every 15 min). We opted for a car because of two reasons: first, we wanted to see as much of the country as possible. Second, because it makes it easier to stop in cool spots and to stay longer, if not keep going. Iceland is a perfect road trip setup since the main things to see are on the circular road around the coast of the island.
Reykjavik heading west – After picking up the car, we headed to the airbnb, dropped off our luggage, of course we didn’t sleep. Instead we chose to go west to Snæfellsnes Peninsula which is one of the most beautiful and easily accessed regions in the country and it’s 2 h drive from Reykjavik.
List of highlights in Snæfellsnes Peninsula: Bjarnarfoss waterfall If you want to see Bjarnarfoss waterfall up close, there is a road leading up to the farm. The waterfall is on private property so you should get permission from the farmer. you don’t want to disturb him constantly though. We didn’t go up, we just stopped on the road to see it from far. I think it is lovely to admire Bjarnarfoss at a distance.
The next stop was Búðir Church, an important site in terms of the history of trade and industry in Iceland. It is also the most notable building in this area. It was built in 1848 and reconstructed in 1987. This stunning black church forms the perfect centerpiece for all the Icelandic nature surrounding, it is a very popular object for minimalistic photography as there is nothing around it but mountains.
We did a quick stop to see Vatnshellir cave, we didn’t really have time to go inside the cave. Since the sunrise in Iceland is at 10 am and the sun sets at 4pm, we wanted to do our best to go back to Reykjavik to visit the city in the daylight. You should go if you have time and if you want to have a unique experience.
On the road, you can see as many insights as you want. The landscapes in Iceland are incredible. On the way back to Reykjavik we made quick stops to shoot some photos. Luckily we made it to Reykjavik before sunset, so we could visit the city. We started by visiting Hallgrímskirkja church, I recommend you to go to the top of this 74.5m expressionist building, the church offers a viewing platform boasting 360° views over the entire city. This is probably the best view you will get of the city. The church is open daily, except on Sundays when there are services for mass. To enter to the top you have to pay 900 ISK. After that we kept exploring the city by foot, to truly feel the Icelandic vibes. Reykjavik’s colorful houses, and then we stopped by Harpa Concert which is an impressive glass building situated by the old harbour of Reykjavík. It’s worth visiting this iconic building for its architecture alone, as you’ll be able to admire it both from the outside and inside and get some great pictures.
View From The Top Of The Church
Harpa Concert Hall
As we were extremely tired, sleepy and hungry, right after visiting Harpa Concert Hall we went directly to a Seafood restaurant called Messinn, food was very delicious, I recommend you to order the giant prawns and the Salmon. Afterwards we walked back to sleep.
Day 2 – From Reykjavik to Vik (Waterfalls, Glacier, Black Sand Beach)
The second day we woke up early around 6am and we started our adventurous day. On our way to Vik we made 3 official stops and many quick stops since it’s impossible to resist the landscapes in Iceland. On the way we saw many Icelandic horses and sheep, it was interesting because these two were the only animals I saw in Iceland, but they were so cute. We made a quick stop to pet the horses and take photos of them and with them. They were so lovely.
Stop 1 was Seljalandsfoss & Gljufrabui which are free: Seljalandsfoss is a waterfall in Iceland. Seljalandsfoss is located in the South Region in Iceland right by Route 1 and the road that leads to Þórsmörk Road 249. The waterfall drops 60 m and is part of the Seljalands River that has its origin in the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull.
Stop 2 Eyjafjallajokull Viewpoint (free): between the two famous waterfalls, try to stop at the viewpoint for Eyjafjallajokull. Sitting at the bottom of the volcano.
Stop 3 – Skógafoss (free): one of Iceland’s biggest and most beautiful waterfalls with an astounding width of 25 meters (82 feet) and a drop of 60 meters (197 feet).
Stop 4 – Sólheimajökull (free): a glacier in southern Iceland, between the volcanoes Katla and Eijafjallajökkull. Part of the larger Mýrdalsjökull glacier, Sólheimajökull is a prominent and popular tourist location owing to its size and relative ease of access. Warning: don’t attempt to climb onto the glacier unguided.
Solheimasandur plane wreckage (free): (didn’t do this one but looks cool for photos), A few minutes past Skogafoss is access to Solheimasandur beach and the wreckage of a US Navy plane which crashed on the beach in 1973. You can’t drive down to the beach – You’ll have to walk and it will probably take you at least 1 hour to go there and another hour to come back.
Stop 4 – Dyrholaey: one of Iceland’s most recognisable nature formations is this rocky plateau and huge stone sea arch which raises dramatically from the surrounding plain. Rich in bird life, including puffins.
Stop 5 – Reynisfjara (Black Sand Beach): Reynisdrangar are basalt sea stacks situated under the mountain Reynisfjall near the village Vík í Mýrdal, southern Iceland which is framed by a black sand beach that was ranked in 1991 as one of the ten most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world. Warning: The waves at Reynisfjara are especially strong and unpredictable, and fatal accidents have occurred at this beach, so people are advised to take extra care when visiting the area.
We experienced magical moments, we had a fantastic sunrise and we finished the day with a stunning sunset. After the long journey of discovering, walking and jumping from one place to another we needed to eat so badly. We had a reservation at a typical Icelandic restaurant called Sudur Vik. Food looked good: I ordered the icelandic cheese pizza. You might want to try it.
View From The Restaurant
After that all of us headed to the hotel, we stayed at Icelandair Hotel Vik, we were exhausted so the first thing we did after checking in at the hotel was to go to bed and take a long nap. We even missed dinner time, because in Vik restaurants close at 10pm. So I just ate an apple and played cards with my friends. Later, a bunch of us wanted to go out and try to chase the northern lights, but because of the bright moon and the giant clouds that night we couldn’t see anything. We went back to bed again.
Day 3 – Blue Cave, Jokulsarlon and Diamond Beach
We started the day in the Icelandair Hotel in VIK, we had breakfast, they offered great breakfast, enough to survive the morning. We left the hotel at 7:00am. During this day we made stops as usual, but the most important stops were:
Stop 1 – Skaftafell Glacier (Blue-cave) (1h 45min by car) from Vik. We booked the tour with Glacier Guides two weeks before going to Iceland. The activity started at 9:30am. We made it there 10 min before, so we had enough time to get ready. The meeting point was at the Glacier Guides booking house in Skaftafell, located next to the Vatnajokull/Skaftafell Visitor Center.
The tour agency provided us with full glacier gear, this includes hiking shoes, spikes, helmet, ice axe and harness. I highly recommend you to bring with you warm outdoor clothing, waterproof jacket & pants, sturdy hiking boots, headgear and gloves. (in case you don’t want to rent them and spend money). The tour Included a guided glacier hiking & ice cave tour with a certified Glacier Guide.
Once the group was ready, we walked around 40 min to get to the glacier. Then once there, we put our spikes on and we hiked the first part to get to the top to start the glacier hike and then pooom: an insanely incredible view, I was extremely impressed by the beauty of that place and so grateful to be there, the guide told us that we are probably the last generation to see this glacier since it has already started melting. So I felt even more grateful for that.
The color, the shape and the formation of that glacier was spectacular. We spent approximately 4 hours, one hour and a half on ice, then we spend about 30 minutes in the ice cave. I highly recommend you to do this hike, it is one of the moments and views you won’t forget.
After that wonderful hike we walked back for another 40min to get back to the agency to pick up our stuff and leave for the next destination.
On the way to Jokulsarlon which was our next stop, while driving we saw a huge, incredibly impressive glacier, we immediately stopped the car and went out to take photos and just to enjoy it’s beauty with our eyes, in addition to that beautiful view we had a stunning pink sunset. We realised that the sun started to set then we jumped in the cars and we continued our ride to Jokulsarlon.
Stop 2 – Jokulsarlon: Once there it didn’t seem like there was something impressive we were like ‘ok there is nothing here, but then we hiked a mountain and we were like whaaaaaat!!!!! I was like I’m I dreaming or this is real? The glacier lagoon was huge and so pretty, it had a mix of blue and pink and black colors that made it look magnificent. Another thing I realized in every lagoon we went is the reflection in the water it’s just so perfect. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my life. This glacial lagoon will leave you speechless.
Stop 3 – Diamond Beach: We actually thought that Jökulsárlón was the diamond beach, but then we drove again and 10 min away from Jokulsarlon, we accidentally saw a bunch of cars parked, we were wondering what was special about this spot. We parked our car, and jumped into the beach and that was the Diamond beach, again another exciting and unique stop. Once we reached the seashore, we found ice-chunks which have been polished by the sea and have stranded on the black beach. They looked like ice-diamonds! That is why this beach is called the Diamond Beach. We had a marvelous sunset that completed the beauty of that moment.
After some hours of appreciation and gratefulness, we stopped at a station nearby that had many stands selling food. I had the lobster roll which was yummy, the rest of us had fish and chips and they said it was good. Later we drove again back to the hotel. Same as last time we had a long nap and again we missed the dinner, but this time I had almonds instead of the apple haha! After the nap we tried again to go to see the Aurora, we drove an hour far from the hotel, but the moon was still full and we couldn’t see it again. We went back to the hotel and got some sleep.
Day 4 – Golden Circle (from Vik to Reykjavik)
We woke up at 6am, had a heavy breakfast at the hotel, checked out and left Vik at 8:30am. This day was our last adventurous day. We did the Golden Circle. This morning was very special because we had the full moon until 11am, it was such a magical moment we had the sun on one side and the full moon on the other side. I specially couldn’t believe my eyes.
We started the adventure first by exploring Kerid Crater which is 15.5km north of Selfoss on rte 35. We paid 400 Kr. Open 24h). Kerid Crater formed about 6,500 years ago and lies at the northern end of a row of craters known as Tjarnarhólar. It is oval, about 270 m long, 170 m wide and 55 m deep: the depth of the water at the bottom varies between 7 and 14 m. We walked around it, took some photos and then we headed to the stops below.
Stop 2 – Gullfoss waterfall to Selfoss Iceland’s most famous waterfall. A double cascade, drops 32m, kicking up tiered walls of spray before thundering away down a narrow ravine.
It was so beautiful, it even had rainbow that made it look even special. We took many photos then we headed back to the car to get to the next spot.
PS: make sure you wear a waterproof jacket.
Stop 3 – Geysir Hot water spout. It is a must see. Geysir, sometimes known as The Great Geysir, is a geyser in southwestern Iceland. The Great Geysir has been active for perhaps 800 years. What I saw blew my mind, the water gushed up to 80m into the air. It’s such a very interesting and impressive spot. In order to see the gushed water you’ll have to stand and wait for it.
After visiting the Geysir, we stopped to have lunch at Fridheimar farm. Yes, it’s a tomato farm, but it’s beautiful, interesting, and has delicious food. You also get to see/pet the beautiful Icelandic horses while you’re there. Not only this but it’s an awesome place to warm up and eat soup. Food is delicious and it’s interesting to see how the tomatoes are grown. Definitely hit up this spot if you get the chance!
Stop 4 – Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park, the park is open 9am to 18:30pm. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. it’s Iceland’s most important historical site and a place of vivid beauty. The park is situated on a tectonic plate boundary where North America and europe are split. As a result the plain is scarred by dramatic fissures, ponds and rivers. It was such a wonderful and weird feeling to walk between the two plates. The waterfall was amazing. It is also the spot where they filmed one of Game Of Thrones scenes. Such a wonderful place to end our adventure.
After admiring the beauty of Thingvellir, we hopped in our car and drove to Reykjavik. We arrived to the airbnb we booked. We showered, changed and went out for dinner.
Since it was our last dinner in Iceland, we booked in a very nice restaurant called Fish Market to celebrate our successful trip. The restaurant served us great food. The place had a fantastic atmosphere and very friendly staff but on the same time very professional in every way. My favourite restaurant in Iceland so far.
After enjoying our delicious dinner we went back to the house to continue celebrating our trip. Unsurprisingly, the celebration ended late, we went to sleep very late and we had to wake up early. I’m glad everyone managed to wake up early the next day haha!
Day 5 – Blue Lagoon
Our last day in Iceland. We ended our trip with the Blue Lagoon. I mean what a wonderful way to end our adventure. We bought the tickets before traveling to Iceland, which I think was a great idea. This spot started my love affair with hot springs. Just 18 minutes from the international airport is the very famous geothermal Blue Lagoon. It’s gorgeous, enormous, so damn pretty and equally as crowded. Although I tend to avoid “tourist” stops, we did this right before we got on the plane. We did face masks, had a fresh drink, and just stayed and enjoyed the sunrise. If you do get your hair wet (not recommended!) make sure to use a really good clarifying shampoo and moisturizing conditioner afterwards.
Ps: you are allowed to enter starting from 10:00am
And after some hours of livin la belle vie, we hopped on the plane and flew back to Boston.
Iceland is one of the trips that I will never forget. I left with many wonderful memories and images that can´t get off my eyes. I was amazed by the beauty of this country, and by the mother nature. I really enjoyed the road trips and the marvelous landscapes, we were so lucky to have good weather, every day we had superb sunrises and sunsets.
I’m already missing the late sunrises haha! I can’t wait to go back and discover the other part of Iceland.
I hope you find this post helpful. Please if you have a question, write it down in the comment field and I’ll answer it.