April's Dream Destination - Iceland Ring Road
Iceland is one of the most unique places to visit. While I have visited for a short time, it wasn't enough. There are only a few places in the world that I would re-visit, and Iceland is one of them. Unfortunately we went in November, when there was a lot of overcast. Over the past few years it has become a hot place to travel because of the unique scenery and I completely understand why.
One of the things Spencer and I talked about was going back to Iceland during the summer so we can do a road trip around the Ring Road. The Ring Road, or Þjóðvegur 1, or Route 1, encircles the entire island of Iceland. We drove it down to Vik and it took all of our strength not to keep going. It is 828 miles long and the longest road in Iceland. Most of the road is two lanes, but you will encounter some one lane roads and bridges. While you could make this drive any time of the year, it is Iceland, and winter is unpredictable. However, if you want to know what there is to do in Iceland, check out The Wandering Queen. From my research, the south of the island has more people and is more crowded. So this itinerary takes you counter clockwise from Reykjavik around the island, up to the northwest and ends in Reykjavik.
Click on the photo to access the map
This itinerary is about two weeks long. While you could technically drive the entire road in 24 hours, you would obviously not have a lot of time in places. I've seen a lot of one week itineraries for the Ring Road. Check out Finding the Universefor their itinerary which I love!
Days 1 and 2 - Reykjavik
When you arrive in Keflavik airport, it's about 40 minutes into the city of Reykjavik. Picking up your car at the airport would be the most convenient way to get there. I always recommend checking your insurance for the rental car. Roads are tricky and you can never predict a flat tire, so be sure you're covered. Enjoy your first day exploring the city. Check out Hallgrimskirkja and go up the tower for some amazing views of the city. We went in November so our trip was grey, misty, and rainy. Walking around the city will bring you some interesting experiences and the BEST hot dogs in the world. (center photo below)
During your first full day in the city, check out the Blue Lagoon. While you will encounter other hot springs throughout Iceland, this is the most famous one. You'll need to pre-book a time on their website. It's very popular, do not expect to just show up and get in. There are spa treatments, a restaurant, and a swim up bar to enjoy. Depending on how long you stay in the Lagoon, explore Reykjavik a bit more tonight.
The next day it's time to hit the road. First stop is to finish the Golden Circle. (The Blue Lagoon is part of it, so you already started it. ) If you have a limited amount of time in Iceland, then the Circle is how you should spend your time, it includes history, geothermal activity, and beautiful nature.
Day 3 Thingviller & Hveragerði
Thingviller is not only a historical place to visit (it's where Iceland's Parliament met from the 10th to 18th centuries), a UNESCO World Heritage site, it's also a really unique geological site. It's where the North American and European tectonic plates meet and form some amazing canyons. And for all you Game of Thrones fans, you may recognize it as a filming location.
At this point, it's time to head south on the road trip! Head to Hveragerdi for an overnight rest. The town is located about 45 km from Reykjavik and has some awesome geothermal activity. It has it's own geothermal park with hot springs and a natural clay foot path to walk around. Spend the night exploring the hiking trails on Hamar Mountain.
Day 4 Waterfalls & Vik
There are SO many places to hike and waterfalls to see in Iceland, so I'm going to keep it short and depeding on how long you have/how much you enjoy hiking, you can decide on which ones to see.
Today you'd be heading really south to Vik. Seljalandsfoss is a waterfall that is about 100 meters off of the ring road, but I would suggest hiking to it, since you can actually walk behind it (see above- yes that was our weather the entire time in Iceland). From here, keep going to the famous Skogafoss waterfall. This is a huge waterfall that has stairs you can walk to the top of.
Continue on Route 1 until you see a random parking lot of the left hand side, and people walking to the beach. Or so it seems. They are walking about a 2 miles (one way) down a path with NOTHING, and I mean nothing, on it to see the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck. Impressively, all passengers on board survived this crash, and the plane is there slowly decaying by nature. If you're going at night/early evening, make sure to have a flashlight.
Spend the night in Vik, a town of about 300 and meet some really friendly locals!
Day 5 Trek to Hofn
There's a lot to see on the road to Hofn. Some planning may be necessary to determine how you want to spend your time. You can explore Fjadrargljufur, a gorgeous canyon that you can walk around on foot. Skaftafell is a national park housed right next to a glacier. You can go on a short hike to Svartifoss (also known as Black Waterfall) because it's surrounded by dark basalt columns. Speaking of glaciers, the Jokulsarlon lagoon is where big pieces of the glacier break off and float until going out to sea. On the other side of Route from Jokulsarlon is Diamond Beach. It got its name from the ice dotting the black sandy beach. Sometimes you can even see seals in the water.
Photo from The Wandering Queen
Day 6 An Icelandic Forest
A short drive from Hofn is the Vestrahorn Mountain, which is quite possibly the most photographed location in East Iceland. It's home to the Alftafjordur (Swan-fjord) where flocks of swans gather around the mountain. You'll also see a few other spiky mountains - Eystrahorn and Brunnhorn - it'll be a tough decision as to which is the most picture-esque. Don't worry though, driving more north will get you back into waterfall territory soon enough. The next stop is Hallormsstadhaskogur which is the largest forest in Iceland. Who knew Iceland had a forest?! Also, once you've made it here, you've made it halfway around the country. If you're ready to get out of the car and stretch your legs, you get the chance to at Hengifoss. A 2-hour hike is required to reach this stunning waterfall. It is surrounded by rocks that are basaltic strata, layered with red clay, making this waterfall distinctive. There are places to camp near the lake, or drive to Egilsstadir to spend the night.
Days 7 and 8: Northern Iceland
There are so many places to see in this area, so I'm combining all of them into two nights, but depending on you, you may want to extend your time in this area. You can spend the night in Husavik or Akureyri or both. Husavik is on the northern coast and is typically considered the best place to go whale watching (that would take about 3-4 hours). Akureyri is settled in a beautiful fjord so enjoy the views!
On your way to these two towns, you'll see a lot right along the Ring Road. The Myvatn Nature Baths are the North's response to the Blue Lagoon - you can bathe in this natural lagoon. If swimming isn't your thing, you can check out the Grjotgja Cave. This cave was featured in Game of Thrones (you know, that epic scene of Jon Snow & Ygritte getting intimate). You can't bathe in this hot spring, but still would be awesome to see in person! It also doesn't actually have a waterfall in it. If you've gotten your fill of hot springs, you can head a little further away from Route 1 to Hverfjall which is a volcanic crater very popular for hiking.
At this point on the Ring Road, you're nearing Lake Myvatn, a lake that is filled with vegetation, birdlife, and stunning rock formations and surroundings. Right next to the lake is Dimmuborgir, which is home to more dramatic rock formations and is commonly referred to as Gateway to Hell (even though the translation is Dark Cities).
In between Lake Myvatn and Akureyri is the beautiful Godafoss Waterfall, whose name is derived from when the statues of Norse gods were thrown into the waterfall when Iceland became a Christian nation. It's a short drive from the Ring Road.
Days 9 through 12: Westfjords
The Westfjords are the most remote location in Iceland and a bit of a drive off of the Ring Road, but if you're doing a full island tour, it can't be missed! There are so many fjords, the Dynjandi waterfall, the red beach of Raudasandur, many natural hot springs, and rural villages to visit the locals and get a truly Icelandic experience! Take time in this region to take in the majestic beauty. Icelandic people are incredibly friendly and very proud of their country (as they should be). Maybe you'll be lucky and get a local tour guide.
Days 13 through 15: Snaefellsness
I know, I promised you a ring road itinerary, but when in Iceland! You're nearing the end of the road trip, so honestly, why stop now? On your way down the Ring Road, there is a 35 minute detour to Hraunfossar. These are the lava waterfalls that trickle down directly from underneath a lava field! Then it's time to explore Snaefellsness! This peninsula is basically a miniature Iceland. It has a glacier that is also a volcano (snaefellsjokull), lava fields, waterfalls, mountains to hike, caves to explore and even coastlines with black AND white sands. In the summer you'll be able to see beautiful flowers throughout the peninsula. If you stay the night in Borgarnes, a small town nearby, you're only a stone throw away from Reykjavik!
More Information About Iceland
My short five day stay in Iceland was not enough to really embrace this unique country. I've been inspired by my time there, but also by these bloggers who have also traveled there. Michelle of The Wandering Queen is an adventurous hiking blogger! I love her blog and get inspired everytime I visit it! Guide to Iceland is one of the most user-friendly websites I've used for planning a trip! They have everything you want to know about Iceland on it!
Have you ever been to Iceland and enjoyed its natural beauty? Comment below!
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