If you rate Iceland on its size, it’s small. On the other hand, if you are basing its size on points of interest, scenery to stare at and smiling people, it is freakin’ humongous!
We spent eight days and nights in Iceland during July. Our travels took us around the country via the ever-popular Ring Route. While we did stray a bit, we spent most of our time near Route 1. While there were stretches of our drive around the Ring Route that we felt a bit rushed, we also had times of (gasp!) not much to do other than sit and relax. Funny how vacations can do that to ya!
While this post is not an in-depth article on our entire trip (you will have to check back for those), this overview will help you see how we budgeted our time and scheduled activities in different areas of Iceland. It is my hope that this post helps YOU plan your epic adventure in Iceland: The Land of Fire and Ice.
Day One: Our trip to Iceland began with a 7 p.m. flight to JFK International Airport in New York on a Tuesday evening. It continued with a three-hour layover and then an overnight flight from JFK in to Keflavik International Airport. We touched down at 9:30 a.m.on Wednesday and hit the ground running. We rented a car and drove towards our hotel in Hella. Michael insisted on a quick nap at our awesome B&B before finding Selandjafoss and Skógafoss. We hiked around both waterfalls before eating a mediocre dinner at Eldsto Art Cafe. We crashed early that night so we could enjoy the next day.
Day Two: Glacier Walking with Icelandic Mountain Guides was a highlight of Day Two, and of the trip.The three-hour tour included hiking, walking on ice and lots of learning and looking. We drove into Vik for lunch after the tour and walked on the beaches and seaside cliffs before heading back to Hella for dinner. Dinner in the city of Hella was exciting as we ate an entrée which included a filet of horse at Hellubio. This was a first for us and we hope it is not our last.
Day Three: Day Three was a long driving day and packed full of incredible places to see. We left Hella early, retraced our route to Vik and then continued north to Höfn. We never left the Ring Route and still saw lava fields covered in moss, giant glaciers and icebergs floating out to sea. We hiked in Skaftafell National Park (free activity!) before indulging in a lobster dinner at Humarhofnin in Höfn. We finally crashed at our glitzed up hostel close to midnight. The accommodations were nothing special but it was clean and had thick curtains that blocked out the midnight sun.
Day Four: Day Four included a drive north and west along the Ring Route to Mývatn. Once again, the raw, unspoiled beauty of Iceland’s countryside stole the show. We saw more lava fields, snow-capped mountains, Dettifoss (the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe), bubbling sulfur pools and soaked in water the color of blue highlighter; all in one day. I can’t forget to mention that we ate dinner next to cows at Cowshed Cafe. We were once again thankful for the long hours of sunlight of Iceland’s summer, as we did not reach Hlid B&B until almost midnight again this day!
Day Five: We ate breakfast at Hlid B&B and hit the road. Our first stop of the day was Húsavík, a fishing and whaling village only about 40 miles from the Arctic Circle. I did not realize we were that close until reading a plaque in the city. I wish I had known this before going to Iceland because I might have made arrangements to visit the small island of Grimsey. I have this odd goal of touching each line of latitude. Can’t believe I missed it; don’t know what I thinking! After shopping in a few cute shops, driving through the town and taking in the some of the sites, we drove back to the Ring Route and continued to Akureyri, the northern capitol of Iceland. We ate lunch in Akureyri, walked the streets for a bit and then continued further west to Hotel Mikligardur in Sauðárkrókur. We ate our only bad meal of Iceland at Kaffi Krókur. It’s unfortunate too because Mike tried Puffin.
Day Six: We began our drive to make our way back to the Ring Route early. Are you noticing a trend yet? Our days were long while in Iceland, but with almost 20 hours of daylight, we never felt rushed to make it to our destination! Day Six’s drive included the entire western coast (minus the Western Fjords) all the way to the coastal town of Hellissandur on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The drive was, once again, gorgeous. But, if I’m honest – it was more of the same gorgeous. The same stunning views of mountains, lakes, green meadows, waterfalls and lots of sheep. All beautiful, but all the same as the first five days. We walked the quiet streets of the town, (finally) ate Skyr, Icelandic ice cream and stayed in a really great hotel this night.
Day Seven: We drove back to Reykjavík on Day Seven. However, it took us all day to get there because we made a few stops along the way. We relaxed in the Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Pools and drove the Golden Circle Route. This route included Godafoss, Thingvellir and Geysir. Unlike Day Five and Day Six, I felt like Day Seven’s drive offered new scenery and was a day full of sights unlike anything we have ever seen. We stayed at Hilton Reykjavík Nordica using points and enjoyed a fantastic dinner out in Reykjavík at Reykjavík Fish Restaurant.
Day Eight: We started our last full day in Iceland with a work out at Crossfit Reykjavík. (They have a phenomenal facility and educated coaches by the way.) We then strolled the city, drank cappuccino at a side-walk café and then drove out of the city to explore the Reyjkanes Peninsula. Our drive was amazing as we found our cute B&B for that night in Keflavik, walked around (but did not pay to enter) the Blue Lagoon and – my absolute favorite – walked along the continental divide. We drove back to Reykjavík for another scrumptious seafood dinner at Kopar.
Our departing flight left at 9:00 am the next morning. Neither of us wanted to leave. While we enjoy coming home to the comforts of America, a piece of us was definitely left in Iceland. It is a small island nation that is huge on nice people, geological phenomenons and stunningly beautiful landscapes. We will return, I’m sure of it!
In case you’re curious, here is our route: