Iceland: Two-Week Itinerary

Day 1

Arrive at Keflavik International Airport. From here you can take a Gray Line bus to Reykjavik (buy bus tickets ahead of time for about $22/ person on this website. The bus ride is about 45 minutes and there’s free WiFi). Once in Reykjavik, make your way to Sixt Rental Car; we rented with them and had a great experience. There are car rentals available at the airport, but the more affordable option is renting in Reykjavik.

Before you take off fill up on gas. Note that many gas stations around the country are unmanned and you can only pay with a chip and pin card. At the N1 gas stations you can buy prepaid gas cards, so if you don’t have a chip and pin card get a few gas cards before you start.

 

Another helpful tool to have is a WiFi hotspot (rent ahead of time). Pick up and drop off is very convenient; you can chose to pick up the hotspot at a local N1 gas station and return it by mail, but there are other options available.

 

After all of this is done head out to drive around the Golden Circle. Here are the spots you will hit on Day 1:

  • Þingvellir National Park (or Thingvelling for better google searches in English): Þingvellir is beautiful and it will take about two hours to walk all of the main trail. The park is in a rift valley where you find the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Do you remember your geology class from college? *Note: It's just a couple of dollars but you have to pay for parking and bathrooms (you can use credit cards for both).

  • Geysir: This is a quick and fun stop. Take a short walk to the Great Geysir and wait for it to erupt. We had to wait about 6 minutes in between eruptions. Everyone huddles around the geyser and waits with their cameras ready, so of course, you should too.

  • Gullfoss waterfall: The pictures of this place DO NOT do it justice. The waterfall is massive, beautiful, jaw dropping, cool and all the other good adjectives in the world. Spend about 30 minutes at this stop, taking in the view and taking pictures.

After Gullfoss go to your lodging in Reykjavik. Check in and go grab a quick bite to eat. If you are in the area go to Reykjavik Chips and have fries for dinner, because that is always a good idea. Then it is time for bed.

Day 2

 

Get up early and head to Gunuhver (ghost geyser), which is about thirty minutes south of the airport. Honestly, we liked this area better than Geysir in the Golden Circle. First, there was barely anyone there. Second, the area is much bigger and you can hang here for a few hours walking around and taking in the scenery. There is a lighthouse at the top of a hill, which you should hike, and the view is fantastic. Spend about two hours here before heading out.

 

Next, drive about 20 minutes to the very famous Blue Lagoon! Buy tickets ahead of time. The Blue Lagoon is pricey and crowded, but fun, clean and worth it. Make sure to wear the white mud face masks…because Iceland.  

 

After the Blue Lagoon, drive 35km east and stop at Seltún geothermal area. This must be what Mars looks and smells like. It is a quick but fun stop. Right next to Seltún is Lake Kleifarvatn; make another quick stop here to take in the amazing view.

 

Get on the Ring Road and head east. An hour and forty-five minutes later, and right before sunset (depending on the time of year and hours of daylight), reach your final stop for the day: Seljalandsfoss waterfall. What an amazing stop! The most unique part about this waterfall is that you can walk behind it. Fifteen minutes away check into your stop for the night: North Star Cottage. This is the perfect place to stay; a cozy little cottage by the mountains. You will likely have dinner at an N1 gas station since there is not much else around.

 

Day 3

Head out early in the morning to catch the sunrise at Skogafoss waterfall. From there, drive two hours to Skaftafell National Park to do a glacier hike with Glacier Guides. If you schedule this hike in the first half of the day you will have to skip a couple sites around Vik to arrive on time. The hike was one of our favorite things we did during the trip and we would definitely recommend it. The views were spectacular and the hike was fun and memorable. If you opt not to do the glacier hike you can visit the DC-3 plane crash site at Solheimassandur beach (we went back to it on Day 9, see below for details).

Five hours later, the hike is complete! Tired, head to the Glacier Lagoon. Spend some time here taking in the sites. Drive to Höfn and stop for dinner at Hafnarbudin and have their famous langoustine sandwiches. YUM. Stop for the night at Höfn Hostel. If you’re here at the right time of year you may have a chance to see the northern lights. If you hear people yelling about Aurora, you get out of bed and go look. It does not matter what time it is. You will thank us later.

Day 4

Get on the road by 9am. Along the way, stop to pet the Icelandic horses and stop at Hvalnes beach (a black sand beach). Keep driving to Vallanes, drive through the jaw-dropping valley, and make a quick stop at Fossardalur waterfall. THEN… you will make it Iceland’s largest forest, Hallormsstaður National Forest. Guys, saying this is the largest forest does not mean much in a country that is otherwise treeless Honestly, there was not much to see here so make it a short hike if you must then search for your lodging. Stay the night at Stormur Cottages. This place is great; cozy and cute, and it may provide another chance for looking at the northern lights!

 

Day 5

 

Wake up bright and early to see a stunning sunrise. Get back in the car and drive two hours to Dettifoss and Selfoss waterfalls, both within a short hike from each other. We still don’t know which waterfall was which, but they were both magnificent. Spend about an hour and a half here.

 

Vesturdalur valley is the next stop. Vesturdalur is only about 20 km away from Dettifoss BUT due to a gravel road, be prepared for a slow journey.  The valley is nice so explore a bit before heading to Hljodhaklettar caves, right next to the valley. These caves are really fun and weird and definitely worth checking out if you are in the area. On your way out, drive through Asbyrgi Canyon.

 

The last stop before driving to Akureyri are the Myvatan Baths. These baths are much less touristy than the Blue Lagoon and less pricey. Time it at sundown and the view is great. You can also catch the northern lights from there on a good night. Next, book it to Akureyri and stop at the very local Ak-Inn for hotdogs and ice cream. Spend the night at Lonsa Guesthouse. As time allows, a few other things to see in the Akureyri area are Námafjall waterfall, Grjótagjá cave, and Dimmuborgir lava fields.

Day 6

 

This is a long driving day! Leave Akureyri and make the first stop at Grabrok Crater. This is a short, 30-minute stop. Hike up to the crater and walk around it. Back on the road, make a quick food stop in Borgarnes (at an N1, of course) and head into the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Make sure you stop at the Gerduberg cliffs, which look very cool and are huge! Next, and one of our favorite things we did this day was hike Helgafell Hill. The instructions are to hike up the hill without looking backwards and in complete silence. Once at the top, find the ruins, look east, and make three wishes. You are free to talk after you make your wishes. Only two out of the four in our group were able to follow the rules. Stay for the night at an Airbnb close to Ólafsvik. Dinner is at Hraun in Ólafsvik; their lamb soup is DELICIOUS. 

 

Day 7

 

The last day around the island (sort of!)… Head to Snaefellsjokull National Park (as referenced in the 1864 Jules Verne novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth) and right before the entrance stop and hike into Raudfeldsgja gorge. The gorge is definitely worth a stop. Once inside the park go on a tour of Vatnshellir cave and then drive around the park. After the adventure is complete, drive back to Reykjavik and stay at an Airbnb downtown. Have dinner at the famous hotdog stand Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. Can you tell hot dogs are popular here?

Day 8

Drive back to the Golden Circle to check out Kerid Crater and just a warning: there are no bathrooms there! Then book a cabin for the next two nights and chill there; time to recuperate from the fast-paced sight seeing!  

Day 9

Drink your morning cup of coffee and then head to the DC-3 plane crash site at Solheimassandur beach. It is not a short walk from the parking lot to the beach so bring food and water with you. It ends up being a 4km hike one way, so about 45 minutes. The plane site is great and if you are lucky you will get to see it without anyone there. Then drive to Dyrholaey Arch (beautiful) and hike down to Reynisfjara black sand cliffs. You can also drive to Reynifsjara if you do not want to hike.

 

Day 10

 

Back to Reykjavik! Spend the last four days exploring the city. Today, check into your Airbnb and run to make it to the Free Walking Tour. The tour is informative and you will see the Parliament building, Harpa, some cool statues, the oldest neighborhood and oldest high school in Reykjavik, the pond, city hall, and some other things we are probably forgetting. Next, go to the Settlement Exhibition 871+/-2 and learn about Iceland’s history. If you like museums, do it. If you don’t like museums, definitely skip this. Have dinner at Vinyl Café (vegan); if you are into that sort of food you will love it. At night, and if it’s in season, go hunting for the northern lights again.

 

Day 11

If you need a break from any inclement weather stay indoors and do some window-shopping at Kringlan Mall and Smaralind Mall. They are both about the same in size and in what shops they have. FYI…shopping is expensive in Iceland. Then drive to Harpa, walk around inside and meet your guide for the Reykjavik Food Walk. The tour is fun and you will eat tons of different and delicious things! They like to keep the restaurants and foods a surprise so we will not ruin it for you! After you’re stuffed, walk around and explore downtown Reykjavik.

Day 12

 

Today sleep in and mosie on to brunch at Laundromat Café (yes, you can do your laundry here). Window shop on Laugavegur street and try to find the perfect Icelandic wool sweater. They are not cheap but are worth the investment if you can use a warm, woolly sweater back home. If you need a good souvenir, go buy Icelandic chocolate bars at Bonus to bring back home for friends and family (and keep some for yourself). Then go up to the top of the beautiful Hallgrimskirja church, which is home to the largest organ in the world. The organ is actually inside the church, not the building structure, despite its appearance. Next, go on a barhop and check out Kaldi Bar, Skuli Bar, Sæta Svinid, and Micro Bar; all really great. End the night with a wonderful dinner at Dill (make reservations way ahead of time).

 

Day 13

 

Be flexible with your days here to go whale watching. Bad weather and ocean conditions are unpredictable. If today is your day, go ahead and purchase tickets with Special Tours. Get in the boat, gear up in your weatherproof onesie they provide, and off you go! Three hours later, hopefully after seeing some dolphins and whales, the tour is over. You get to try again the next day for free if you don’t see any whales on your first try. You could plan this for one of the previous days in Reykjavik for this reason. After that fun experience is over, have lunch at THE BEST Nepalese restaurant: Nepalese Kitchen. Dinner is at Íslenski Barinn where they have an amazing lamb soup. End the night with ice cream at Isbud Vesturbæjar (have the milk ice cream, not creamy if you want to eat all of it and not be full after three bites). The next day pack up and head to the airport.