Hello friends! We have just gotten back from an amazing trip to Iceland and we are so excited to tell you all about it. Originally we had talked about doing the trip in November for my 40th birthday but given the weather in Iceland during that time, we were not sure if we could have done the Northern part so we decided to do it in late September/Early October and we feel it was a good decision. This allowed us to drive the entire ring without having to worry about roads being impassable or any other problems due to weather.
Joining us on this trip was Sam’s son Ethan and our friend Cara.
Upon arrival @ Keflavik Airport, the first stop was to get the rental car. We recommend booking a car ahead of time and booking something with 4 wheel/AWD. We originally booked a Toyota Rav4 but instead ended up walking away with a Honda CRV which worked out wonderfully. The car was manual and thankfully Sam knows how to drive it, otherwise if you want automatic it will cost more money. We rented with Ice Rental Cars and once we got the car, we filled up with gas and first hit the grocery store to stock up for our adventure!
We had decided that because food in Iceland is so expensive, we could save money going to grocery stores and cooking @ our accommodations rather than eating out every night. After having completed totals for the entire trip, we ended up only spending about $400 on food for 9 days total (7 on the ring & 2 in Reykjavik). The grocery stores in Iceland can be pricy (most things are), but luckily they were pretty well stocked and we found plenty of enjoyable things to eat. Breakfasts we ate granola bars and coffee/tea (which we heated up water from the guesthouses we stayed at), lunches consisted of sandwiches or Skyr and for dinner we cooked pasta most nights.
Day 1: Golden Circle
Day 1 Driving Route
After filling the car with gas and goodies, we were ready to hit the road! Each day we will show you a map of our routes, so you can see our progress as we moved around the country.
The first stop of the day was Arbaer Turf Houses. These houses were the traditional homes of Iceland from the original settlement of the country in 870 up until about the mid 20th century. The last inhabitants of these houses moved out in 1966 and there are not many left in Iceland due to high amount of work needed to maintain them. The ones remaining are either at museums like these so they can be preserved and shared with the public or still exist out in the open but cannot be visited by the general public. We enjoyed our time at the turf houses and it was an interesting glimpse into history and to see how the people lived.
After our morning at the turf houses, we headed to our second destination, Thingvellir National Park for the Silfra Snorkel Tour. This park was quite beautiful and big, with many hiking trails, and a cafe as well as a gift shop at the top of a hill. For those doing the Silfra snorkel, there is a designated meeting point to meet up with the tour companies. We did ours through Adventure Vikings. Only Sam and Cara decided to partake on the snorkel but it proved to be enjoyable. Silfra is the point where the North American and Eurasian tectonic place come together and you can snorkel in between it. There weren’t any fish to see, but the water was so clear and beautiful, albeit cold. Snorkelers are provided with dry suits, as the water temps in Silfra are about 2 degrees Celsius (roughly 35 degrees Fahrenheit). Despite the cold temps, they had an amazing time!
The next stop of the day was Geysir/Strokkur. This is a geothermal area where the geyser Stokkur erupts every 10 minutes or so. The Geysir has stopped erupting in recent years, so the Strokkur is the main event here now. When the water sprouts from Strokkur, it can get as high as 30 meters (roughly 98 feet). What an awesome sight to see!
After the Geysir/Strokkur, we reached our final destination, Gulfoss, before heading to our accommodation for the night. The word ‘foss’ means waterfall in Icelandic so anything ending in ‘foss’ you know what you are seeing. This was a very large and beautiful waterfall, the first of many in Iceland, and resembled that of Niagara Falls. It produced sort of a pizza shape when looking at it head-on, as you can see in the picture and despite the weather being very cold that day, we enjoyed the beauty and vastness of it.
When our time at Gulfoss was complete, it was time to head to our guesthouse for the night. We chose most of our places on Airbnb, rather than getting a typical hotel, as this allowed us access to kitchens to cook.
Guest House Hateigi – Pykkvibaer
This was an adorable guesthouse in the Hella / Pykkvibaer area. It was one bedroom with 4 beds, 1 kitchen just for us and bathroom/shower in the hall to share with other guests.
Day 2: Waterfalls/Hiking
Day 2 Driving Route
Upon waking up & having breakfast at our guesthouse, we were then ready to begin our 2nd day in Iceland!
The first stop of the day was Seljalandafoss. This, having ended in ‘foss’, was another waterfall. The amazing thing about waterfalls in Iceland, is not only are they are all so beautiful, they are also so unique. No two waterfalls were the same and each one astounded us with its beauty. The awesome thing about this waterfall is that you can go behind it, so we were able to get all kinds of photos from various viewpoints.
After our time at the waterfall, we headed to Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool. This is a pool alongside a mountain that requires a short hike to get to. For the most part it is pretty private and the scenery around the area is incredible. The pool is not so warm but it was warm enough to refresh us. The temperature was probably around 26-27 degrees Celsius (about 80 degrees Fahrenheit). There are changing rooms as well. For the most part we had the pool to ourselves, but toward the end of our stay there were a few other people coming to the pool. A ways past the pool is a secret hot spring that we were lucky enough to find! It’s small, as you can see in the 2nd picture, but the water was so nice and hot, however getting there is not an easy feat – you must either try & rock climb or wade through the cold water below until you get to it. Snowpants, hiking boots and all, we waded through the water but the amazingness of this little hot spring made it all worth it!
After the pool & hot spring, we headed to our second waterfall of the day, Skogafoss. This was so beautiful and it also produced a rainbow around it. At the Skogafoss site was a place where you could hike, called Fimmvorduhals. The hike starts after climbing up a lot of stairs and goes for 25km (about 15 miles) total if you do the whole thing. It starts at Skogafoss and ends in Thorsmork. We just hiked a very small portion but saw some other smaller, but beautiful waterfalls along the way. The whole hike takes around 12-14 hours and is ranked as challenging.
From there, we headed to the Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck. We were going to do this the next day but we ended up having more time this day than planned for (due to not hiking as much as we had planned – we planned to do about 5 hours of hiking, we ended up doing only about 2) so we were able to fit it in. While awesome, keep in mind, for planning purposes, the wreck is in the middle of a beach and takes 1 hour to walk to it and 1 hour to walk back.
The plane is a 1973 US Navy plane that ran out of fuel and crashed on the Solheimasandur beach on Iceland’s south coast. Fortunately everyone onboard the aircraft survived the crash.
This night was the one & only night we decided to camp on the trip. It was a good money saver, as the cost per person was $13.50 USD and the nice feature was that they didn’t require reservations and there was a common area that was warm, with electricity to charge all devices. The only thing here is that unless you bring your own cooking accessories (pots, pans etc), you can’t cook. We ended up just going to the restaurant at the hotel across the street from the camp. While expensive, it was yummy and it was one of the 2 nights we ate dinner at a restaurant on the trip.
Because we did camp (and the next night’s accommodation required use of sleeping bags), we had to pack 2 tents and 4 sleeping bags in addition to our regular luggage on the trip.
Day 3: Beaches and Lagoons
Day 3 Driving Route
After packing up our tents and sleeping bags, we headed to Reynisfjara Beach. This is a black sand beach near Vik which has actually been voted by National Geographic as one of Top 10 non-tropical beaches in the world. It has enormous basalt stacks sitting off the shoreline, which according to Icelandic folklore, were once trolls trying to pull ships from the ocean to the shore. However, the trolls were dim and went out too late in the night. When dawn broke on the horizon, the trolls turned into solid stone. Whether you believe the stories or not, this is definitely a site not to be missed! One thing to be careful of is to not get too close to the water – there are violent waves called ‘Sneaker Waves’ that can appear when least expected and take unsuspecting visitors out to sea. It is recommended to keep a safe distance of at least 30 meters (about 98 feet) away.
Diamond Beach is another black sand beach, similar to Reynisfjara but here, chunks of ice from the glacier lagoon float around the waters, giving a ‘diamond-like’ appearance.
Finally, on to our last stop of the day, Glacier Lagoon! It was so awesome to see the icebergs floating around the lagoon. The bottoms of many of the icebergs were blue in color, indicating that they had just flipped over. The water had a beautiful blue hue as well. There were 2 boat rides being offered here. The lagoon is otherwise free, but we chose to do the ‘Amphibian’ boat ride, which was a 40 minute ride around the lagoon to get a closer look @ these floating gems. The cost for the boat ride was about $46 per person USD.
After an amazing, but cold & windy day, we arrived at our accommodation, Kirkjubaer 2. This was a cottage on a campsite but we had our own kitchen in the cottage and there was heat! The beds were bunkbed style and only provided sheets and pillows, so we had to use our sleeping bags here also. Additionally this was a backtrack on our journey, b/c we couldn’t find anything near where we wanted to stay (within budget) so in the morning we had an additional hour & a half drive. That’s why you can see on the map, the red pin is sort of in the center of the route.
Kirkjubæjarklaustur, Iceland cottage – Kirkjuaber 2
Day 4: Glacier Hike
Day 4 Driving Route
This day was the day I think most of us were looking forward to the most, the Glacier Hike! As previously mentioned, we had to drive about an hour & a half to get here from our accommodation but the hike started @ 10:30 so it was plenty of time & we didn’t have to get up too early. We did the hike through Troll Expeditions. At the meeting spot, they fitted us with crampons and helmets and then sent us approximately 10 minutes down the road to meet @ the spot where we would start the hike. The hike lasted approximately 5 hours, wasn’t overall too strenuous but the scenery was so beautiful and the feeling of actually trekking on a glacier was so surreal. The sad thing about this glacier is the fastness in which it is melting. It is predicted that in 125 years there will no longer be any glaciers. Our tour guide’s name was Adam and the experience was so incredible. We definitely recommend booking with Troll Expeditions to do your glacier hike. (The hole in the 4th picture is where one of the gloves Sam borrowed from my dad fell down. My dad’s glove will forever leave its mark on Iceland’s glacier).
After having said goodbye to our beloved glacier, we headed to the next stop on our journey, Hofn. While not much to do here overall, it was a picturesque waterside town & a great spot to get something to eat, fill up on gas, stock up on grocery or simply just take some photos.
As night fell, we arrived at Stokksness/Viking Village. While admittedly, it’s not actually authentic and instead created as a movie set in 2010, it was still cool to see and have free reign to go inside the wooden houses and explore. It does cost money to visit here, just pay at the cafe 800 ISK (approx $6 USD) and you’re on your way.
After Viking Village, we arrived at Djúpavogskörin Natural Geothermal Pool & it was already dark. Because of this, it was a bit of a challenge to find at first. It turns out there is an obvious trail that is just 50 meters from the parking lot. We could not get a picture of the spring due to how dark it was. The following is an image of the Geothermal Pool was taken by a photographer by the name of Anastasiia Shavshyna. The photo was obtained from getty images. The water here was hot and so relaxing and even with how late & dark it was, there were still others using the hot spring as well. Apparently it was very popular nighttime idea. Bring a headlamp or flashlight, the area is not well lit.Embed from Getty Images
Fossardalur Guesthouse – Djupivogur
Day 5: East Fjords Area
Day 5 Driving Route
Day 5 had us on a drive through the East Fjords to Seydsifjordur. This town was an add-on to the trip that we had heard about from another traveler. Apparently this town is featured in the movie ‘The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty’ in a scene where he skateboards down the rainbow path. The eastern Fjords area, in our opinion, was one of the most beautiful areas of Iceland of all the places we saw.
The ride to Seydsifjordur diverted us off the main ‘Ring’ road up mountainous terrain. The landscape was snowy and windy but it was a cool experience and very different from the Eastern Fjords we previously saw.
After the time in Seydsifjordur, we started back on the main road toward Dettifoss. The road we were supposed to turn off of was closed due to icy conditions, so we decided to head to Selfoss, thinking we’d have to skip Dettifoss altogether. Turns out, you can access Dettifoss and Selfoss from the same location so we did get to see Dettifoss after all! The first photo below shows Dettifoss, the second one shows Selfoss.
To check the status of any roads for road closures, this website will give you updates in real time: roads.is
The next destination for the day was Krafla Crater. Upon arrival here, we realized it would entail a drive up an icy hill. After deciding it was best to not chance it with the car, we parked on the side of the road and walked up, as we had seen others doing so as well. This was Northern Iceland, which was a lot different than its Southern counterpart. The walk up to the crater took approximately 1 hour and was slippery at some points, but we really wanted to see it so we walked up slowly to avoid any injuries. After we got up to the top, it was also super windy. We managed to get a few pictures and then started back down to head back to the car.
After a windy & cold day waterfalling and cratering around, we warmed up with the Myvatn Nature Baths. Similar to the Blue Lagoon, which we visited later in the trip, this was a large warm pool with a swim-up bar and a great place to end the night.
image obtained here: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Myvatn_Nature_Baths_by_Bruce_McAdam.jpg
We stayed in a cottage at the Camping Vogar campsite. It was a bunkbed style accommodation with a shared kitchen and bathroom. The campsite also had a pizza place called Daddi’s Pizza where we indulged, after our time @ the baths. It was pretty decent for not being New York pizza and admittedly probably one of the better things we ate on the trip.
Day 6: Northern Iceland Area
Day 6 Driving Route
The morning of day 6, our first stop was Grjótagjá Cave. This is a hot spring inside a cave but unfortunately visitors cannot bathe in it … unless, of course, you’re John Snow, as he is shown bathing in it with Ygritte in ‘Game Of Thrones.’
Next we visited Namafjall Lava Field. This was a field of boiling mud pots and gave off the smell of sulfur. There was also a little hike where you could go up a mountain but it was super cold this day so we didn’t spend a lot of time here but it was cool to see & feel the heat from the pots and they gave off a nice blue color. The soil in the area has little to no vegetation due to the acidity.
After Namjafall was Hverfjall Volcano Crater. We walked up the ashy soil to the top to view the crater below. It was an awesome contrast of the black lava mixed in with the white snow.
The last lava field for the day was Dimmuborgir Lava Field. All lava fields had very distinct & different feels to them. We enjoyed Dimmuborgir the most because there were interesting spots to take pictures here as well as legends about Yule Lads who come and visit children there around Christmastime. Unlike the earlier lava fields, Dimmuborgir was dried lava rocks, whereas Hverfjall was ashier lava, more like sand and Namjafall was more of a muddier, more active lava field. Dimmuborgir also had a lot of various hiking trails and paths.
Alas, after visiting the lava fields, it was time for a change of scenery. We arrived at Godafoss Waterfall as the next stop on our journey. I wasn’t lying when I said there was no shortage of beautiful waterfalls in Iceland! This one is certainly no exception.
The last stop of the day was the city of Akureyi. There was not a whole lot to do here, but it was a welcomed change of pace to sit at a cafe, get some hot soup, tea & coffee & just rest our legs. We also did some souvenir shopping here and Sam ended up getting a hot dog, which is a popular snack & street food across all of Iceland. Akureryi is also a gateway to get a ferry to the Island of Grimsey. It’s pretty much like Reykjavik but on a much smaller scale. We spent about 2 hours here and then moved onto to the drive to our accommodation.
Svarfholl Old style farmhouse – Burdardular
Day 7: West Fjords Area
Day 7 Driving Route
The 7th day has finally arrived! This is the day we would complete our drive around entire ring of Iceland. It was an awesome feeling to know we have succeeded! What a beautiful country!
The first stop of the day was Kirkjufell Mountain/Waterfall.
Then we went on to Glanni Waterfall.
Then to Grabok crater. As you can see this crater is much different than the Krafla Crater we saw days before. As that one was filled with hot water, this one was made just of lava and ash. It also has many beautiful colors and you can see well into the surrounding countryside.
Deildartunguhver Thermal Spring was the next stop of the day. This is not a spring you can bathe in but just some bubbling under the ground. Here we found a food truck that served some delicious meat stew which we ordered to share and got the added perk of being allowed to eat our lunch inside a greenhouse. It was pretty cool and the soup was amazing. Not too much to see here, but there is also Krauna hot pool & spa down the road, which we did not go to, but assumed is similar to the Blue Lagoon or Myvatn Nature Bath.
Finally we were at our last stop of the Ring Road journey and our last waterfalls in Iceland. Hraunfossar/Bernafossar were both very beautiful blue colored waterfalls that was a great way to end our last moments on the ring.
The nighttime accommodation had us at Hverfisgata 54 apartment. This was such a cute apartment right in the center of downtown, off the main drag of Laugavegur. This place was great b/c it was also the first place we didn’t have to share a bathroom & kitchen with others so it was nice to have it all to ourselves. The place had a pullout couch for 2 people and then 2 twin beds (made into 1 bed when we got there but was able to be pulled apart into 2 separate beds) and a TV. It was nice to stay in Reykjavik for a few days and have a change of pace from the rush of staying in a different place every night.
Not only was this the best place we stayed on the trip, we were able to get a small glimpse of the Northern lights there in Reykjavik as well. While cool to see, it isn’t necessarily the way how you see it in pictures, what we saw was more faint and less vibrant but still it was definitely great to see them and a very memorable moment of the trip.
Hverfisgata 54 Apartment – Booking.com
Day 8 – Reykjavik Full Day
This was our first full day in Reykjavik. We decided to get tickets to visit the Blue Lagoon. This was an awesome & huge hot pool about 45 minutes away in Grindavik. We got the basic comfort package that entitles you to entry to the pool, a towel, one free drink from the swim-up bar and some face mask cream. It was a fun way to spend a couple of hours and is one of the most famous/well-known things to do in Iceland.
Day 9 – Reykjavik Full Day
This day we had to get up for our COVID test to go back to the US. It was super easy & quick to book the testing. As far as we know, they don’t take walk-ins but we were able to book the appointment the afternoon of the day before and get appointments for when they first opened. The test can be booked on covidtest.is and the locations is on Kleppsmyrarvegur 8. They do the rapid test and the PCR, which is perfect for the US, as they will accept a rapid result. The check-in & testing took less than 15 minutes and we had results to our emails around a half hour later. (Tip: you do not need the printed result. All airport personnel were able to accept the results right from our phone, that also had a bar code on it. Again, we can only speak for the US. If you are not from the US, your country may have a different set of requirements).
After the COVID test, we got breakfast at a local bakery and then spent a couple hours @ the Perlan Planetarium. When we got back toward our apartment, we walked around the area since we hadn’t done that yet and got to try some of the various foods of Iceland including hotdogs, Viking Stew, Hakarl (fermented shark), Hardifiskur (dried fish), Smoked Lamb, Au Gratin Cod & Ice Cream, as well as did some shopping for souvenirs. The place we got ice cream at was called Valdi’s and they had a large selection of flavors with some very unique ones that we had never seen before … salted licorice or turkish pepper, anyone?
At night we went to the ice bar, Magic Ice for a bit. This was a neat way to spend some time and we had never been to an ice bar so we wanted to see what it was all about. At check-in, you get tickets for 2 complimentary drinks as well as robes and gloves to keep warm. It was a fun time!
Then we cooked dinner, packed up our bags and went to bed early b/c we had to catch our flight home the next day.
Day 10 – Home & Bye Bye Iceland
We got up & headed to the airport @ 6:30am to return the car and check in for our flight.
We had such an amazing time in iceland! The beauty was so surreal and there were a lot of varying landscapes from beautiful fjords to snow-cap mountains, to volcanos, glaciers and everything in between. We feel doing the ring gives you an amazing exposure to all that Iceland has to offer, rather than just basing yourself out of Reykjavik and doing tours from there. Additionally we do recommend going up to the Northern part as well and do feel that if we had gone with our original plan of going in November and just doing the South, we’d had had a major case of FOMO.
Have you been to Iceland? Did we cover everything? If you have gone, please let us know your thoughts and if you have any suggestions to recommend to other readers.
Thanks for following our travels!