The land of fire and ice. For as long as I could remember, Iceland has always been one of the top destinations on my travel bucket list. To have finally been able to explore this ruggedly beautiful country and cross it off my list, it certainly feels like an achievement of sorts.
In this post, I will share with you my 14 day itinerary along with some photography locations, and hopefully some useful tips for exploring Iceland. I’ll also try to include as many spots as possible.
Car & Accommodation
My friends and I arrived in Iceland on the morning of September 30th. Upon landing, we headed straight to pick up our rental car which we pre-booked from Blue Car Rental. We got a Toyota Land Cruiser because it had the biggest boot space for all our stuff.
For our stay in Iceland, we scoured through Airbnb and booking.com for the most affordable options. Being the start of autumn, it was peak travel season and we were fortunate to have settled our accommodations early.
As for food, we cooked most of our meals as eating out can be a little pricey (averaging SGD$30 per meal per person). Despite what a lot of people say, shopping for groceries is not that expensive.
So on to the itinerary!
When it comes to road tripping in Iceland, there are two routes that are extremely popular amongst travellers there. The Golden Circle and the Ring Road. While the Golden Circle is a 300km loop to attractions closer to Reykjavík, it can be done within a day. The Ring Road on the other hand, takes you around the country and is over 1,300km long. Most websites would recommend that you spend up to two weeks if you’re doing the Ring Road.
And as you can guess from the title, my friends and I spent 14 days on the Ring Road and the Snæfellsnes Peninsular, exploring and experiencing what Iceland has to offer, and I must say, 14 days was not enough!
We drove in an anti-clockwise direction, starting from Keflavík, where we picked up the car, and ending in Reykjavík.
Our first destination for day 1 was Reynisfjara Beach. Probably the most famous black sand beach in all of Iceland, Reynisfjara is a beautiful spot with enormous basalt columns to one side of the beach, and crashing waves coming in from the Atlantic on the other.
We were hoping to catch the sunset here but the clouds were just too thick (a recurring theme for this trip).
Day 2 was all about chasing waterfalls and getting soaked.
We started the day at the most popular waterfall in Iceland, Skógafoss, followed Gljúfrabúi, before ending at Seljalandsfoss. As Skógafoss and Seljanlandsfoss are both extremely popular with lots of information easily found online, I will not talk about them.
Instead, I’ll focus on Gljúfrabúi, a hidden gem of a waterfall. Hidden behind a cliff, Gljúfrabúi is one of those places you’ll want to keep all to yourself. To reach the waterfall, you’ll have to cross a stream through a narrow gap. Once inside, you will find one of Iceland’s best kept secrets. Here, you will definitely get wet!
We started day 3 early. Waking up at 5am, we headed to Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck for sunrise. The plane is about a 30 minute walk from the carpark but was made even more difficult from the unrelenting winds coming in from the ocean.
When we finally reached it, there were a handful of people there but everyone was nice enough to take turns to get their photos in. The crowd started coming in only when we left at about 9am.
After all that walking and having to wake up early, we went to Seljavallalaug Thermal Pool for a soak. One of the most popular thermal pools in Iceland, we had the place all to ourselves while there (I guess no one was crazy enough to strip down to their bathers when the weather was a crisp 6°C).
We ended the day at Dyrhólaey lighthouse. Sitting on top of a cliff, there are two roads leading to the lighthouse. The first is a paved road that leads to a carpark where you’ll then have to walk to the lighthouse. The other road leads straight to the lighthouse. However, this road is unpaved and only 4x4 vehicles are allowed on. It is also extremely narrow and steep, with a straight drop to one side.
Day 4 saw us leaving the south of Iceland to head to the southeastern region.
Along the way, we stopped by Fjaðrágljúfúr for a short hike. On the way in to the canyon, it started snowing which made the trail extremely muddy and slippery. However, the views were definitely worth it.
We also stopped by Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon although we didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked there as it was raining heavily. We also missed out on Diamond Beach, just across the road from Jökulsárlón, due to the weather.
After having to wake up early for the first few days, it was nice to get a little more sleep on day 5. We took it easy, exploring the town of Höfn and stocking up on supplies before driving to the Stokksnes Peninsular (20 minute drive from the town).
Probably one of my favourite spots in Iceland, you will find some of the most photogenic views in the country here including the Vestrahorn, a 454m tall mountain.
We left Höfn for Egilsstaðir on day 6. It was a long drive but we made a couple of stops along the way to stretch our legs and to take in the views.
From Egilsstaðir, we headed to Gufufoss (yes, another waterfall). To get to the waterfall from the town, we had to drive up a plateau and while the view was incredible, we had to be very careful as the roads were icy and windy.
On day 7, we went hiking at Stuðlagil Canyon. Almost entirely unknown to tourists, getting to the canyon was a tricky piece of business as Google Maps does not show the exact location. It also didn’t help that there’s no cell service available when you’re near it, making it nearly impossible to find. You’ll need to be extra observant here in order to spot the carpark.
Once you’ve made it to the carpark, the trail down to the canyon is a short but narrow and slippery one.
We left Egilsstaðir on day 8, making our way to the town of Akureyri, over 200km away. Along the way, we were due to visit Detifoss and Krafla Víti Crater, two places I was really excited to see but alas, the roads leading to those spots were snowed in and impassable. We had to make a change of plans and stopped by Hverir Geothermal Area and Grjótagjá Cave instead.
Day 9 started bright and early for us as we drove to Goðafoss for sunrise. An impressive and powerful waterfall, you wouldn’t need to trek in as the carpark is right by the waterfall. However, the path can be icy and slippery before the sun rises.
After a couple of hours at the waterfall, we made our way to Grundarkirkja. Known to be one of Iceland’s most beautiful and distinct churches, its architecture, and spire in particular, resembles a Russian one.
We spent the rest of the day resting, hoping to catch the Northern Lights at night (Kp Index was at its highest that night). We drove up Eyjafjörður, past the town of Dalvík, in search of a good spot. We did find one eventually but alas, a cloud coverage of 100% meant that we could barely see the lights.
We spent pretty much the whole of day 10 on the road. Leaving Akureyri for Olafsvík in the Snæfellsnes Peninsular, the journey was over 400km. On the way we stopped by Hvítserkur in the northwest of Iceland. A 15m high basalt stack, Hvítserkur is a popular spot with tourists.
We arrived at Olafsvík at night, and after checking in to our accommodation, headed for Kirkjufell in hopes of catching the Northern Lights. Like the previous night, the forecast was a 100% cloud coverage. However, we managed to catch a little break as the clouds parted for a couple of minutes, allowing the lights to be seen.
Waking up early on day 11, we returned to Kirkjufell for a different view of the mountain. We didn’t spend as much time here as I would have liked as it was flooded with other tourists, making it very difficult to get a nice shot in. Instead, we headed to Svörtuloft lighthouse in Snæfelljökull National Park.
We ended the day catching the Northern Lights just outside the town of Hellissandur. You can read more about how we found the spot here.
We left the Snæfellsnes Peninsular for the city of Reykjavík on day 12, stopping at Arnastapi and the famous Búðakirkja along the way.
In Reykjavik, we headed to Sægreifinn for a bowl of the “worlds greatest lobster soup”. I don’t know how true that tag is but it was a hearty bowl of soup, enough to keep you warm on a cold Icelandic night. Situated at the harbour, Sægreifinn is a small and cosy restaurant with limited seats.
After dinner, we took a little walk to the impressive Hallgrímskirkja. As it was drizzling, there weren’t many people around and I managed to get get a couple of shots of the church.
Day 13 & 14 was spent mostly exploring the city. We did however drive out of Reykjavík to Reykjadalur valley for one last soak in a hot spring. Situated within the valley is a hot spring river which takes about an hour to trek to, making the time spent in the river ever so rewarding. A word of advice, if you’re planning on going into the water, head to the top of the river where the water is a lot warmer. My friends and I had to run the length of the river half naked after finding out about this as we were at the other end. Do note there are no proper changing facilities here.
When it was time to finally leave Iceland, we were exhausted from all the non-stop adventuring and hiking. However, I don’t think I’m done with Iceland. It’s the sort of place that I could return to again and again and still be in awe of its beauty. I will definitely want to visit Iceland again though, perhaps in a different season, and this time to explore the Westfjords.
I have included a couple of websites that I found to be helpful on this trip below. I hope you’ll find these to be as useful to you as they were to me when planning.
For tracking the Northern Lights, I highly recommend the Aurora app which is free to download on the Apple App Store (not too sure about Android). It’s easy to use and very accurate.