Road Tripping Iceland in 7 Days

As one of the current hotspots for travelers, Iceland had my curiosity piqued and it was on my travel list.  But to be honest, it was not at the top.  As someone who already lives in 4 -5 months (minimum) of winter, I usually want to go to sunshine and warmth for vacation, not in search of more cold.  However, one of my girl travel sidekicks, Audrey, had it high on her list and when we both started itching again with the travel bug and airline tickets were crazy cheap for both of us, the deal was sealed!

Preparing for our Iceland trip was an adventure in and of itself.   So I wrote an accompanying piece about our lessons learned and tips & tricks to help you with planning a fabulous Icelandic adventure if you want to jump ahead!  

Our Iceland Adventure

Beautiful, otherworldly, spectacular, rugged, jaw-dropping…just a few descriptors that come to mind when trying to describe Iceland.  Despite rainy weather, missing the island’s east side and the Highlands due to an unexpected bridge outage (what is an adventure without a few unplanned mishaps), and losing some missing car parts (oops!) our seven days there exceeded all our expectations.  (You can read a bit more about our mishaps here in the next blog post about planning your Icelandic adventure)  

I can’t wait to share with you what we discovered!  

Northern Iceland

Kirkjufell Mountain

Located on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula next to the village of Grundarfjordur, Kirkjufell Mountain is said to be the most photographed mountain in Iceland.   The view of the mountain is stunning from the road, but I recommend taking the very short walk up to Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall where the view is spectacular.  As a photography hotspot, definitely expect to encounter tons of cameras and tripods, especially at sunset with the backdrop of the sunset and when the northern lights are on display in the winter.  But this should not keep you from visiting if you are in this area of Iceland.

Kirkfujell Mountain Iceland

Godafoss Waterfalls

Over 98 feet wide Godafoss Falls translates to “Waterfall of the Gods”.  According to local legend, when Christianity became the official religion of Iceland in the year 999 – 1000 a pagan priest threw his statues of the Norse gods into the waterfall after converting to Christianity.  We stayed nearby one night and the falls were so gorgeous we visited twice! 

Iceland Godafoss Falls 

Husavik Village

One of the best places in Iceland to whale watch the small village of Husavik was founded in 870 A.D.  According to the Icelandic Sagas, Gardar Svavarsson was the second Scandinavian to reach Iceland and founded the village after his ship was stranded by a storm and he was forced to spend a winter here.  When he departed, he left behind some of his party who settled the village.  But he was so inspired by Iceland that he did return.

Husavik Village

Since neither of us had seen whales up close and personal in the wild, we decided to take a whale watching tour.  While spotting a whale is not guaranteed, we had 7 sightings of Orca whales!  This expedition had us both giddy with excitement and can definitely recommend if you are on the fence about taking one.

Audrey Whale Watching
In addition to seeing whales who wouldn’t want the chance to strut around in this awesome outfit for 3 whole hours!!

We used Gentle Giants for our whale tour and I have to say they were amazing!  I am sure the other tour companies are also great, but we really enjoyed our tour and the staff was so friendly and let us pepper them with questions!  We learned a lot during our voyage about whales and their habits.  For instance,  did you know what the underside of the tail of an Orca is unique to the whale like a human fingerprint?  These unique markings are used to identify whales and track them all over the world.

Orca

Photo credit of Audrey Ann Photography.  Follow Audrey on Instagram

Lake Myvatn (& Surrounding Area)

This massive volcanic lake that was created approximately 2300 years ago when a volcano erupted.  It is a huge nature habitat with some many different experiences that it would be possible to spend several days here alone exploring.  We did spend the majority of a day exploring but reluctantly had to leave to keep with our itinerary. Recommend stopping by the visitor center in Reykjahlid where they are awesome at helping you figure out what to go see based on your interests.   

Lake Myvtan

Photo credit of Audrey Ann Photography.  Follow Audrey on Instagram

Star Power: Apparently many scenes from Game of Thrones are filmed in the Myvatn Lake area so they may look familiar to some.  However, I am apparently one of only 7 people on the planet who has never seen an episode so it was all new to me!

Grjotagja Cave (Lake Myvatn)

The lava cave has an underground that for many years served as a bathing pool but was closed in the 80’s due to the temperature of the water rising above 50 degrees Celsius (122+ degrees Fahrenheit).  However, it seems that as of recently it may possible to bathe it again depending on the temperature which would be awesome!  So that might be worth checking out if you are visiting the cave.

afterlight    

Not to be missed is the view from the top of the caves which has a large fissure dividing the ground and an amazing panoramic view of the mountains and you can even see steam rising off of the geothermal pools in the distance.

Grjotagja Cave Top

Namafjall Geothermal Area (Lake Myvatn)

Also known as Hverir this area has a spectacular array of colors created by sulfur crystals and boiling mud pots.  It feels like you are stepping out of your car and into the planet Mars.  You can walk around in this area and there is even a small hiking trail.  Friendly warning: There is a very strong sulfur smell but it’s totally worth it and besides you start to get used to it after a few minutes.  

Namafjall Geothermal Area

Dimmuborgir (Lake Myvatn)

Called the Dark Fortress of Myvatn, Dimmuborgir is a massive lava rock formation field that was created 2300 years ago when molten lava for the volcanic explosion flowed over a pond.  The formations were created when the water that was trapped beneath the lava turned into steam that escaped through vents in the lava.  You can wander through the formations by following the paths that have been created.

Dimmuborgir at Lake Myvatn.jpeg

Hofdi Peninsula and Kálfastrandavogar Lava Pillars (Lake Myvatn)

One of the few places we visited that was full of gorgeous vegetation and trees, the Hofdi Peninsula has beautiful walking trails that provide spectacular panoramic views of the lake.  The peninsula also provides the perfect way to see the free-standing Kálfastrandavogar lava pillars.  These free-standing pillars were created the same way as the Dimmuborgir formations.   

Hofdi Peninsula & Kalfastrandavogar Lave Pillars

Photo credit of Audrey Ann Photography.  Follow Audrey on Instagram

Icelandic Highlands: A total of 40,000 sq km the Icelandic Highlands is one of the largest uninhabited areas of Europe and has some of the most amazing beauty in Iceland (such as Landmannalaugar and Hekla Volcano).  Due to the unfortunate Ring Road closure while we were there we lost our day to visit Landmannalaugar but we did drive through a small slice of it between Husavik and Hofn.  The rugged, uninhabited beauty is just…wow and at the top of my list for my return trip (yup, that is definitely going to happen).    

Iceland Highlands

Southern Iceland

Golden Circle

One of the more popular tourist areas in Iceland you can expect to share space with a lot of people (in contrast to the hours you can spend on the road with few signs of other people).  However, it is popular for a reason and so we spent a day exploring it and the surrounding area.  Despite the numerous selfie sticks (I have an abnormal hatred of selfie sticks), it was worth it.

Gullfoss Waterfalls (Golden Circle)

A 2-tiered phenomenal waterfall and is one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world (more powerful than Niagra Falls!).  And to add to the mystical beauty of the waterfalls rainbows are created by the mist and sunlight. In fact, Iceland is full of rainbows so if you are looking for a pot of gold this is a good country to search.

Gullfoss Waterfalls

Geysir Geothermal Area (Golden Circle)

Several well-known geysirs are in this area, including Great Geysir.  Since it has been dormant since 1926 the chances of seeing it erupt are pretty slim.  But not to worry because it’s neighbor, Strokkur Geysir, erupts approximately every 10 minutes and has a trajectory of 66 to 132 feet so it’s pretty impressive to watch!

Strokkur Geysir

Kerid Crater Lake (Golden Circle Area)

Formed around 6,500 years ago this crater is almost perfectly oval and its beauty comes not just from the gorgeous blue of the lake at the bottom, but also from the rocks of red and orange along with the colorful vegetation that grows within the crater.  Kerid is on the way to the Golden Circle so definitely worth swinging by on your way.

Kerid Crater Lake Iceland

Photo credit of Audrey Ann Photography.  Follow Audrey on Instagram

Note: There is a nominal fee of just 500 ISK (around $5 USD and $6 CAD), but don’t let this deter you!

Fridheimar Tomato Farm:

Ok, so not a site but definitely worth a visit, because one has to eat after all, right? Fridheimar is a tomato and cucumber farm that grows their produce in these amazing and gorgeous greenhouses that are kept warm by the geothermically heated water.  So pop in and have possibly the best tomato soup and Bloody Mary’s in the world (seriously, in the world).

Fridheimar Tomato Farm

Pjofafoss Waterfall

Our most off the beaten path site that we visited.  We were not sure the Nissan Micra would survive (Audrey had to convince me a few times not to turn around).  However, put this under the “Totally worth it even if we could have driven off a cliff” checklist.  We arrived at this waterfall just as the sun was setting and we were the only people there. This is why I love the path less traveled; it is when you find the most spectacular treasures.

Pjofafoss Waterfall

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Located right off of Ring Road it is one of the highest waterfalls in Iceland at 60 meters (197 feet).  One of the really unique things about this waterfall is that you can walk behind it into a small cave with the water tumbling down in front of you.  Super cool, but make sure you wear a rain jacket and hat because you will get wet (but completely worth it).

Note: You do have to pay a nominal fee to park and see the falls.  Pay at an automated machine with a credit card.  Don’t just park alongside the road to avoid paying because they are pretty aggressive about giving tickets (and they should be).

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Secret Lagoon Hot Springs 

Located in the small village of Fludir and dating back to 1891 the Secret Lagoon is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland.  While it is far less crowded than Blue Lagoon, it is not quite a secret anymore and you are likely to be sharing the pool with other people.  We were there at night, but it does have a feeling of being in nature and you can sip on a wine or beer while relaxing in the cozy waters enjoying the night sky.   

Secret Lagoon.jpeg

Drangshlid

Right off the side of Ring Road, a series of houses and barn embedded into the bottom of a mountain that has a lot of elf folklore surrounding it.  Elves or no elves these old houses are charming.

Drangshlid

Reynisfjara Black Beach

One of the most famous of Iceland’s black-sand beaches due to several unique formations.  The first of those is the basalt columns.  This unique column wall was formed as a result of the cooling and cracking of thick basaltic lava flow at the surface.  

Reynisfjara Black Beach - Kerri

Photo credit of Audrey Ann Photography.  Follow Audrey on Instagram

The second is the Reynisdrangar lava formations off of the shoreline.  According to legend, these are actually two trolls that were trying to pull a ship out of the ocean but were caught by daylight, turning into stone.  

Reynisdrangar Lava Formations

And finally, the basalt column cave which you can slip into for a unique view of the basalt columns.     

Kirkjufjara Black Sand Beach

Black sand beaches are a result of the lava flow from volcanoes but may not actually be sand!  They can also be small black pebbles and these pebbles are quite beautiful. Kirkjufjara has several lookout points with very different views and both are quite stunning.

Kirkjufjara Black Sand Beach

Blue Lagoon

We were on the fence about visiting Blue Lagoon due to many reviews that thought it was overrated, expensive, and too touristy.  However, in the end, we decided to go to the Blue Lagoon because it would be the equivalent of not going to the Eiffel Tower when in Paris.  So we literally hit it up on our way to the airport and we were both so glad that we did!  We purchased the base level tickets, each bought one drink, and we were able to keep the cost reasonable.  But it was an amazing experience and while there were lots of people there, we didn’t find it to be overcrowded as they control the number of people allowed to enter.  Plus our skin was super fabulous after the silica mud mask that is included with the ticket (and we both splurged for the algae mask for an extra $4). However, the state of our hair with all that silica in it after flying back home and letting it air dry was a completely different matter.  I should have taken a selfie cause it was a pretty…ummm…unique look!  

Blue Lagoon Iceland

Photo credit of Audrey Ann Photography.  Follow Audrey on Instagram

Iceland Bonus

One of the most famous things about Iceland is its horses.  While they are smaller than the typical horse we are used to don’t you dare call them ponies.  Once you see them you will know why…they are gorgeous and majestic, and regal.  More importantly, they are friendly, love people, love being pet, and are everywhere on the island!  So make sure you stop (and stop often) to give some attention and love to these beauties.

Icelandic Horse

Until Next Time Iceland

And there you have it!  That is our journey through Iceland.  It’s like stepping off the plane into a whole other planet.  And it should have been higher on my bucket list.  I will definitely be back because there is so much left to explore due to our short trip, rainy weather, and missed the eastern side of the island. But it’s ok…because now I have lots of reasons to return!   

All the places we visited and our route are shown on this map, but if you have specific questions feel free to ask!

Iceland 2017 Map
Kerri & Audrey Iceland 2017 Itinerary, Route, and Places Visited

Iceland or Bust

So I am starting my must-see list for next time and I will keep adding to it as I discover more!  I am sharing with you in case they are places you want to check out as options for your trip.  If you have any “you just can’t miss this” places send them my way to add to my “Iceland or Bust” return list!

Western Iceland

  • Western Fjords
  • Lóndrangar Cliffs

Eastern Iceland

  • Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
  • Northern lights
  • Vatnajokull National Park
  • Klifbrekkufossar Waterfall
  • Bustarfell Red Houses

Southern Iceland

  • Thingvellir National Park
  • Fjallabak Nature Reserve: Landmannalaugar and Laugahraun Lava Fields
  • Myrdalsjokull Glacier Park
  • Take a Glacier & Ice Climbing Hike
  • Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Next Post: Preparing for a Trip to Iceland

If you are anxious to start planning your trip to Iceland and want some insider “been there done that” advice compiled from our trip visit the blog post Planning Your Iceland Trip.

bon voyage

One thought on “Road Tripping Iceland in 7 Days

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s