If you are looking for an outdoor adventure, full of unique activities, amazing views and everyday amazement, then look no further! Iceland is THE place!
Having wanted to go to Iceland for a while, I have waited for the time that I could do it properly! I managed to persuade my boyfriend (Brendan) on the basis that I plan it, and he drives it! After all, Iceland cannot be explored properly without a car! We had 8 days (including travelling) and wanted to see as much as we could! Here is an overview of our incredible trip:
Day 1 | Reykjavik – Vik
We started our trip on the road out of Reykjavik (we’ll come back to that later) and headed to Thingvellir National Park where we had booked a joint diving / snorkelling trip in Silfra. This was an incredible introduction to Iceland, swimming in freezing cold water between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. I’m not going to go into this in too much detail on this blog as you can read my full review of this awesome experience here.
From Thingvellir National Park we drove about an hour north to the mighty Gullfoss Waterfall! Big, powerful, fast and impressive! I will admit, I have quite a soft spot for waterfalls! I just think they are the most beautiful of all natural wonders! Here we stopped for lunch, and an example of how expensive Iceland is – two bowls of soup (refillable), and two soft drinks came to £30! £30!! Carrying on the journey, we stopped at Kerio volcanic crater. A big pit that has slowly filled with water, and is surrounded by volcanic rock.
Our final stop for the day was at another waterfall – Seljalandsfoss. Oh. My. God. We timed this one perfectly! There was really nice late afternoon sunlight which created numerous rainbows across the waterfall! So so pretty! There is also a little pathway at this waterfall which leads you behind the waterfall, so you can stand behind the gushing water, getting quite wet in the process! At this point I think we were actually in a rainbow, as everywhere we looked was colours. Bright, bright colours! Amazing!
From there we continued on to our accommodation for the night – Mid Hvoll Cottages, just outside of Vik. We stayed in a cute little wooden cabin that had the best views! If you stood in the middle of the living room, you could see the black beaches to the right, the rock arch of Vik straight ahead, and snow capped mountains to the left! This place was self catering, so we tucked into a good old bowl of Coco Pops for dinner!
Day 2 | Vik – Hofn
Getting up early we retraced our steps slightly and went to see Skogafoss waterfall. Beautiful! Here there are steps so you can climb up, and then look down at the water crashing over the top of the cliff. We then headed straight over to the base of Solheimajökul where we geared up ready for our glacier ice hike. Again, I won’t go into too much detail, but you can read my full blog on this experience here. The glacier sits on top of an active volcano which tends to go off every 90 years – it last erupted 99 years ago….eek! According to the guide, the area had already been evacuated once that Winter, but today was not its day. We were safe to climb!
Our next stop was a quick lunch in Vik, before heading on to Hofn. We could have spent more time here walking on the black beaches, but the weather wasn’t great, and we were keen to get some miles under our belt! The drive took around 4 hours, and just outside of Hofn we stopped at Jökarlsarlon glacier lagoon. This place was absolutely mind blowing!! It was literally a lake filled with ice bergs! All different shapes and sizes; white and blue.
In the evening we went into town for a dinner of langoustine bisque, and langoustine pizza – you guessed it! Hofn is famous for its langoustine! We then retired to our warm room at Seljavellir Guesthouse. A lovely, modern room with a huge wet room bathroom!
Day 3 | Hofn – Lake Myvatn
Today was by far my most favourite day of our trip! We started with a soak in the Hoffell thermal baths. Four plastic tubs filled with naturally warm water, with a beautiful view of the snowy mountains! I don’t think these baths are very well known, which was great for us as we were the only ones there! I understand completely why the locals enjoy a soak in the morning, as I felt completely rejuvenated and ready for the day ahead after our baths! Onwards and upwards to Lake Myvatn!
Turning off the main road onto a mountain grit road we quickly realised that we probably should have been in a 4WD, not a little Hyundai! It was a snowy, rugged road that had only recently been opened by a snow plough (about 15mins before we arrived). I will admit, that I was quite nervous driving up through the mountain, but as soon as we were back on one level it was like a dream, or driving through Narnia! White everywhere! All you could see was white, white, white!
Just outside of Lake Myvatn we saw plumes of steam, and made a pit stop at Heveller – an area of geothermal activity. There were lots of chimney type stacks releasing steam from deep underground, that stank to high heaven! It was like the smelliest, eggy stink bomb I have ever come across! The surrounding multi coloured earth made the whole area look toxic. What I would imagine walking on Mars would be like. Very sci-fi!
We purposefully arrived to Lake Myvatn earlier in the day as there is a lot to do in this area, and I am so glad we did! Dropping our bags we put our walking boots on, and set about hiking Hverfjall. It is the largest dormant tephra cone of its kind on the planet, and the cone has a diameter of 1km. It was probably our biggest ‘hike’ of the trip and it was incredibly fulfilling! After a steep climb we were rewarded with beautiful views of the lake and surrounding area. It felt so desolate as we were the only ones up there, but it was also super windy and snowing. Incredible doesn’t even come close to describing how amazingly beautiful nature can be! All in all, the hike took about an hour.
From there we went to the Myvatn nature baths. This was our first experience of properly man made, developed baths, and I have to say, they were very pretty! We bought our ticket, along with a pre paid alcoholic beverage (there were staff walking around the baths that you could flag down and order your drink). Even though the water was warm, because it was so windy and snowy, our heads took a bit of a bashing, so it felt colder than it probably should have done. Another down side is that because the area of Lake Myvatn is so close to geothermal activity, the water naturally smells of eggy sulphur, so every now and then we got an unpleasant whiff!
After our soak we headed back to our accommodation at Vogafjos Farmhouse. Here we again stayed in a cute wooden cabin (with lovely underfloor heating), but what really set this place apart from every where else that we stayed was that the main building was an active, fully functioning farm. They also had an onsite restaurant with all homemade produce (including local Schnappes). We had a delicious meal of lamb shank with rhubarb jam and potatoes. It really was yummy!! The next morning we got up early to see the cows being milked (at 07:30), and had another delicious breakfast of homemade breads, cakes and jams (included in room cost). After breakfast we were allowed into the cowshed to see the little calves!
Day 4 | Lake Myvatn – Blönduós
After our awesome breakfast we set off driving around the frozen Lake Myvatn to Godafoss Waterfall. It had snowed a lot overnight, so the waterfall looked absolutely beautiful! We then started our drive around the northern part of Iceland, making pit stops at Akureyri (the 2nd largest town in Iceland after Reykjavik) and Sigulfjördur (the most northern point of our trip). I’m afraid I don’t have much to write about these towns as we didn’t spend a lot of time in them exploring. However if we were on a longer road trip you could probably stay the night in each place and go on a whale watching boat trip, or get the ferry to Hrisey Island, or Grimsey (arctic circle).
Leaving Sigulfjördur is where the drive got really interesting! After driving through 3 x 5km tunnels through the mountains we came out and hit a snow storm. A complete white out! I’m not going to lie, I was absolutely shitting myself! The car kept slipping, and even my fearless boyfriend contemplated turning back! The main problem was that we didn’t know how long the bad weather was going to go on for, and we couldn’t see any other car tracks in the road. It was a proper sweaty palm situation! After about 10 / 15mins we came out of the blizzard into glorious sunshine and normal roads. Another 20mins and we were back in a blizzard. This snow / no snow journey carried on until we reached Hofsos.
We had planned to stop at Hofsos thermal baths, however they close between 13:00 – 17:00, and you guessed it, we arrived at 12:55! So onwards to Blönduós. This isn’t the most happening of towns, infact, there is nothing to do in the area! We ate at the one and only restaurant in town, eating a boring meal of burgers, and then checked into our accommodation – Brimsloo Atelier Guesthouse. A boutique style guesthouse with a gorgeous, big window overlooking the sea! We sat at their dining table all evening watching the sun set over the ocean – beautiful!
The following morning we woke up and had another incredible breakfast! Home-made pancakes, gravalax, smoked ham and brioche! Soo good!!
Day 5 | Blönduós – 5 Million Star Hotel
Today we hit the road south, starting our journey back towards Reykjavik. Even though the temperature outside was -6 degrees, the roads were much nicer to drive on! Our first stop was at a pair of waterfalls – Barnafossar and Hraunfossar – created by melting nearby glaciers. The water was absolutely ferocious! There was a bridge that allowed you to walk across the cascading water, but you definitely would not want to fall in! The water moved so fast it created a real angry white / turquoise colour.
We then drove to Geysir (which was on our day 1 route but we didn’t have time to stop). It was extremely cold, so we didn’t stay for long, but we saw the water blow out of the ground twice which was really cool (if a little smelly). To warm up we went for a bath at Fludir – the oldest baths in Iceland, built in 1908. They had water streaming in the sides from natural pools that were about 100 degrees, so the pool was really lovely and warm! I really enjoyed these baths! From there we stopped at a local restaurant called Mika for dinner where again, langoustines dominated the menu. It was an amazing meal!
We splashed out on our accommodation for this night, and booked to stay at the 5 million star hotel, or bubble tents as they may otherwise be known. This was an incredible experience, and highlight of the trip! Yes, it was expensive, but where else can you sleep in a clear igloo, under an electric blanket watching the sunset over Iceland?! Unfortunately it was cloudy and snowing when we stayed here, so our dream of seeing the northern lights was literally only in our dreams! Even still, it was an absolutely incredible evening, and one I won’t forget in a hurry! We stayed in April, so it got fully dark around 22:30, and the sun came up the following morning around 06:00. There was a building close by which housed 2 x shower rooms, a kitchenette and dining table, so there were no problems in terms of having to slum it in this sense!
Day 6 | 5 Million Star Hotel – Reykjavik
Surprisingly we had a brilliant sleep in the bubble tent, and left mid morning headed for Reykjavik. Wondering around Icelands capital we took in the sights of Hallgrimskirkja church from the ground, and the took the lift to the top of the church tower! From the top there were great views over the whole city, and nearby harbour. I don’t think you would find a view as high as this anywhere else in the country! We then walked around the harbour and checked out the whale museum. Here they had life size models of many whales, and considering I’m not really a museum person, it was actually very interesting!
The look and feel of Reykjavik is quite surprising as the buildings from the ground can look quite soviet style in some areas, yet when you look from a birds eye view you see that many of the roofs are painted bright, cheerful colours!
We stopped and had a late lunch in town, and headed out in the evening for a few drinks. We went to a really cool, apothecary themed bar called Apotek – I would highly recommend for a fancy drink or dinner in Reykjavik! They are primarily a restaurant, but also have a lounge bar where you can get cocktails and bar snacks (the roast potatoes were awesome)!
This evening had the highest chance of seeing the northern lights (3 out of 9 rating) of our whole stay, but unfortunately again, it was not to be! You can track the northern light daily ratings here, but I wouldn’t come to rely on them, mother nature will have the final say!
Day 7 | Blue Lagoon
The last stop on our Iceland road trip was the famous Blue Lagoon. Situated about a 40min drive from the airport it is the most known tourist stop for people on layovers in Iceland, or those that are just enjoying a weekend in Reykjavik. Tickets are expensive (and need to be booked in advance) however, you can completely get your monies worth if you choose to. Once you’re in, there is no time limit – you can stay as long as you like. Included in the standard ticket price is silica mud masks and access to the in-water bar, steam room and sauna. On entry you are given a wrist band which acts as your credit card when you’re in the lagoon. If you want a drink, swipe the wrist band and pay when you leave. If you fancy lunch at their onsite restaurant ‘Lava‘, again, swipe the wrist band. We ate here, and it was really really good. There are also photographers inside Blue Lagoon, so you can literally leave all of your possessions in your locker.
As touristy as this place is, it is a must do on your Iceland itinerary! We stopped here on our way back to the airport, meaning we were completely refreshed and rejuvenated ready for a flight home. Lovely.
- Book as soon as you can, as far in advance as possible. When we were still in the stages of debating whether and when to go, I booked a few guesthouses on booking.com – with the trusty knowledge that the offer free cancellation. This meant that I was able to book most of our accommodation 8 months in advance, before even flights were available. On the day Easyjet released their flights, I set my alarm, got up and booked! I know this is quite geeky, but boy it pays off! We got our flights for £150 return (each) including a checked bags. Quite reasonable I thought!
- Iceland is expensive! Prepare for this! Yes, you can try to make it as cheap as possible, but even that will be expensive compared to most places. We booked as many places to stay that included breakfast as possible, and tucked in! From the supermarket we bought day time snacks, and then had dinner, or a late lunch out. You could of course always cook your own dinner in the evenings too. Iceland doesn’t have a distinct, ‘must try’ cuisine, so you’re not really missing out if you cook for yourself, but it might be nice to eat out somewhere now and then. The only good thing about everywhere being expensive is that there is no discrimination against ‘tourist places’ or cafes at tourist sites. They will cost the same as a back street cafe.
- If you are hiring a car and driving around the island, check the roads. Iceland have this great website where you can check the conditions of roads before you travel. They also have live cameras, so you can literally see the state of the roads. I would recommend following the advice of this website it you don’t want to get stuck in the snow, or set off planning to drive on a road that is actually closed. A link to the website is here.
- Dress for the weather. Even when we went to a ‘nice’ bar in Reykjavik on Saturday night people weren’t dressed up in heels and a dress. It was snowing outside, so everyone was wearing big warm coats, and sturdy shoes.
- Don’t go to Iceland expecting to see the Northern Lights – treat them as a bonus!
- Everyone we came across spoke perfect English. It is also true that they are some of the happiest people in the world!
Iceland is such an incredibly beautiful country! There is so much to do, and so much to see you could easily spend a month exploring. At the end of our 8 day trip I feel like we have accomplished everything that we could (weather permitting). No, we didn’t see the northern lights, put it also didn’t impact on our trip in anyway. Yes, we could’ve spent more time exploring certain areas, but we only had a limited amount of time, and it would’ve put pressure on other areas. If you can’t get round the whole island, Reykjavik and the Blue Lagoon can easily be done in two full days, meaning it really is a great option for a long layover, or weekend away.