What to Do in Iceland
I've always been curious about Iceland thanks to Bjork, Sigur Ros, and Emiliana Torrini. Iceland has become a popular destination after its financial crisis, volcano eruptions, and their soccer team beating England last year. Oh, and social media, like all those Blue Lagoon photos (it really is spectacular!).
Han and I decided to book a flight through WOW, which is a budget Icelandic airline, for an eight day journey around the country. It's relatively cheap to fly there. Even last minute flights are $400 round trip or cheaper. However, your flight may be a steal but don't expect deals once you get there. Gas was about $7.50 a gallon. A basic burger is about $20. It's more if you want seafood. I guess it makes up for all their (free) gorgeous sightseeing spots. Iceland is essentially one big, giant waterfall and your entire trip is all about chasing after them. That, and northern lights.
We thought about renting camper vans but with four people, we decided to just split the costs of Airbnb and hotels. I enjoy my hot showers at night. Before I dive into what we did during our 8 days of driving the ring road, here are some tips along with my google map of all the spectacular sights!
- Rental Car — Everything I've read suggests renting a 4WD, especially if you're driving the ring road. Make sure to opt-in for car insurance directly through the rental company so it won't be a hassle if there are any damages.
- Gas — You can begin fueling at some of the stations (Olis) before even paying, then pay inside afterwards. Also, the gas pump is a green handle. Be prepared to pay almost $100 for a full tank on a 4WD.
- Speed Limit — Pay attention to speed limits and camera signs (they look like this). Speed limit around the ring road is around 90kmh, which is about 55mph. I know, so slow.
- Food / Alcohol — Stock up on snacks or bring them from home for those long drives. Alcohol is only sold in liquor stores, like at Vinbudin. The beer at 7-11 and other convenient stores are light beers with very little alcohol.
- Credit Card — I suggest getting a credit card with zero foreign transaction fees because that's what you'll be using everywhere. We didn't used cash at all.
- Phone — I was impressed with their phone signal coverage. I've had better service in these remote areas than in parts of my home. Check with your mobile company prior to traveling to see if you get free roaming. I have T-Mobile and got free texts and data while I was there. It was awesome.
- Weather — We went at the end of October / beginning of November. The climate changes drastically. It was around 40°F during the day but with the wind, rain, and occasional snow, it was chilly! Prepare to pack warm clothes, especially rain boots!
- Water — Don't buy any water. Just refill your bottle with tap water. Icelandic tap is some of the finest, purest and straight from the source.
Day 1 • Reykjavik
We flew into Keflavik airport at 5am. We got our rental car and drove straight to the Blue Lagoon. We don't mess around! They open at 8am so we napped in their parking lot. Seriously, why don't we have something like this? A huge outdoor hot pool with a bar in the middle. Make sure to book in advance.
After soaking at the lagoon for four hours, we left for Reykjavik. The homes there are like Lego meets Crayola, which can be seen at the top of Hallgrímskirkja church. We were told to try lobster soup at Saegreifinn. It was perfect for the cold weather. Their grilled shrimp and fish were my favorites though. Afterwards, we checked into our Airbnb in town and crashed for the night.
Day 2 • Golden Circle & Vik
We left Reykjavik for the golden circle which is the perfect thing to do for people on a short stay in Iceland. We skipped Þingvellir because it was near our last leg of the trip. From there, we made our way down to Vik.
It's a small trek to Seljavallalaug pool but so worth it. It's quite the opposite of the Blue Lagoon. It's free and private. The pool was really cold and the changing rooms were kinda gross because no one's there to maintain it. But that mountain, though. Too much beauty! After the pool, we dried off and drove to Skogafoss and we barely made it to the famous Sólheimasandur plane crash site before it was pitch black. It's about an hour and a half round trip to walk there. We sang lots of songs from our favorite ladies from the 90's. Ha. Then we spent the night in Vik at Guesthouse Carina.
Day 3 • Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon & Hofn
Day 4 • Detifoss & Akureyri
We decided to power our way through to Detifoss and Akureyri from Hofn. It was a long drive (almost six hours) but a beautiful one. We witnessed Iceland's drastic and diverse landscapes. You can feel like you're driving through the sweeping hills from The Sound of Music to suddenly feeling like you're on the moon. There were some bleak moments. On our way, we stopped to check out another waterfall. Detifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. It was both fantastic and frightening feeling to be so close to it.
Day 5 • Akureyri
Akureyri is the second largest city in Iceland after Reykjavik. We booked a four bedroom home for two nights through Airbnb. It's so fun to stay in a local's home. I especially adore this kitchen! We backtracked a bit and went to Myvatn Nature Baths which is similar to Blue Lagoon but on a smaller scale. I still think I prefer Blue.
Near Myvatn pool is Grjótagjá cave where Jon Snow made love to Ygritte from Game of Thrones. We just had to because, GOT4LIFE!
We also got a guide to hunt down some northern lights and we found them!
Day 6 • Grundarfjörður
Another day, another foss. That foss life ain't bad at all. We stayed in Grundarfjörður for a night and had the best meal of our entire trip at Bjargarsteinn.
Day 7 & 8 • Ion Adventure Hotel
This was the last leg of our Iceland trip. After all the driving, we decided to splurge at the Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel foe two nights. With luxury in its name, I was a little underwhelmed. The rooms were small and basic. The pool was pretty though, and their roasted potatoes were delicious!
We did venture out to Thingvellir National Park to snorkel in a ridge between the North American and the Eurasian Tectonic Plates. I was nervous about doing it because I don't really know how to swim but their wet suit made you float like a balloon so it was easy.
And that pretty much wraps it up! Iceland is a beautiful country. So much amazingness packed into such a small island (the size of Kentucky). I would definitely go back just to soak in the Blue Lagoon again and too see the other waterfalls we missed and ice caves. More fleeting moments from the trip to come!