I hate driving, cold weather and don’t appreciate nature as much as I should. Yet, I still ventured to Iceland in September with two of my girlfriends. By the end of the trip, I learned to appreciate nature more. My peaks of the trip were the natural spas – that’s nature right?!
I have to be honest, my friend Sera made this itinerary. I then googled the heck out of it to learn more and put a picture to each location because at that point, it was a foreign language to me – literally. I also looked up the directions and played with the order of stops to reduce travel time. What follows is the most comprehensive, easy to follow four day road trip. It’s epic.
Here was the order of stops: AIRPORT -> HELLA->HOFN->VIK->REYKJAVIK
- Reykjavik -> Hella (4 hrs driving)
- Hella -> Vik -> Hofn (5.5 hrs driving)
- Hofn -> Vik (3.5 hrs driving)
- Vik->Reykjavik (2 hrs driving)
We began our trip straight from the airport. No stopping in Reykjavik. I’ll admit, it was exhausting to have an early flight and then immediately begin a road trip. But looking back, I wouldn’t have changed it.
Thingvellir National Park: I’d say this was fairly anti-climatic compared to everything we saw. But it broke up the drive. Parking will cost you $7 and you could go for a walk/hike.
Kerid Crater: My friend recommended this and it was a great stop. The water was the most beautiful color I’ve seen and there were lots of photo opportunities. You’d probably only spend about 20 minutes here. It’s $4 per person to “hike” up to the crater and down.
Geysir: It’s a famous hot spring in the geothermal area. You could see tons of water explode out of the earth – and it’s all natural. It’s actually pretty remarkable if you think about it. A few warnings: don’t touch the water because apparently it’s super hot and the sulfur makes it smell like rotten eggs. As an aside, there’s a cafe there with a really great mocha. You’re going to need it if you start your trip straight from the airport after pulling an all nighter (yup, I did that).
Gulfoss Waterfall: It was way to cold by the time we got to this waterfall. And for some reason, it was cold by all of the waterfalls. It was massive but I literally looked at it, snapped a photo, and ran back to the car. Looks like you can walk around it.
We ended the day at Laugarvatn Fontana Spa. A great recommendation from my friend, and perhaps the peak of my trip. What a great way to end a long day! It seemed much more upscale than the Budapest baths, very pristine. The view was gorgeous. It was so relaxing and it’s seriously miracle water. They also have a buffet where you can grab dinner. You must try their volcano bread – it’s baked in the earth and scrumptious! (Did I just use that word?)
After the spa, we drove about an hour and a half to Hella.
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall: You can climb the stairs and view the waterfall from a different angle. I also believe it’s possible to walk behind the waterfall. We didn’t do this because we didn’t want to get wet, although I’m not certain we would have gotten wet. But I swear I saw people drenched there and blame it on that.
Skogafoss Waterfall: Definitely not the largest waterfall, but by far my favorite out of the many I saw this trip. It’s so picturesque and we were lucky enough to catch it while there was a rainbow! Apparently that happens often which is a result of the spray from the waterfall.
Sólheimasandur Airplane Wreck: We saw cars, pulled over, and thought we were walking towards a black sand beach. There was a sign upon entering that it would be a 3-4 hour hike to get to the plane. We laughed at it like “no way” and had every intention of just going to the beach that looked close enough. Well it was a never ending path along black “gravel”. We haphazardly ended up at the plane. I wouldn’t recommend you walk out of your way to go, as it’s not that impressive and there’s not even a good story behind it. However, I think we did the round trip walk in about 2 hours, and we weren’t hustling (that’s for sure). Iceland is filled with natural miracles and perhaps the miracle here is the mirage. Warning: objects appear closer than they are. If you want to though, you can endure the walk for the “gram” because it was some of the most impressive photos I got on my trip.
Vik’s Black Sand Beach & Dyrhólaey: It was stunning but we didn’t see puffins 🙁
We then stopped in Vik for dinner at Sudur Vik. It was extremely cute and we were all happy with our meals. It was a bit pricy for what we got. I got a salad and glass of wine and it was about $50.
After all of the stops, we drove about 3 hours to Hofn. We saved the stops along the route for tomorrow.
Snowmobiling: We used the company Iceland Advice to snow mobile on Vatnajokull, Europe’s largest glacier. It includes a ride up a rigorous mountain which you wouldn’t be able to drive on your own and then one hour of snowmobiling. There was another company that operated there, but their tours were bigger and on more of a paved path. We were more free. Our instructor was a member of search and rescue, so I felt safe with him. We did go quite slow. We happened to go on a super overcast and gloomy day so it just seemed like a white abyss. But if you go on a clear day, the views are supposed to be spectacular.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: This photo doesn’t do it justice. The color of the broken glaciers and lagoon are out of this world. It’s hard to believe that this is all natural. This is a MUST on your Iceland to do list.
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon: So I really didn’t want to go here. I was exhausted and just wanted to head back to the hotel to get my free wi-fi. As I told you earlier, I looked up pictures before so as we were driving in, I thought this rinky dink thing on the side was the canyon. But we kept driving up. To be honest, it looked like we were heading the wrong way, but we kept going and then we found it. You walk up a few stairs and see the most surreal thing ever. Like really, this photo isn’t even edited.
Skaftafell National Park: You can hike here and the views are kind of nice. But at this point in the trip, I was tired, cranky, and lazy. Plus I had gotten some pretty terrible news from back home and din’t feel like going for a hike. So I hunkered up in their cafeteria while my friends walked. Best – move – ever. Wi-Fi, warmth, and wine. PS. my friends said I missed nothing.
Stay near Vik in Edinborg, a super small town but it has more affordable hotels.
Blue Lagoon: I think this is on everyone’s Iceland bucket list, and for good reason. This is insanely incredible. Where else can you immerse yourself in the bluest waters that’s filled with minerals and feel good power as you look out on rock formations unlike anything you’ve seen. The water is hot, and it just feels amazing in the cold air as you see the steam rise. You do have to reserve this in advance as they only let in a limited amount of people. It’ll cost you about $90, but you can stay as long as you’d like. It includes a locker to store your belongings too and there’s free wi-fi there. I was concerned about a few things before going –
- Was it a good idea to go before flying home? Yes, best move. I was sore from all the walking previously and this helped to relieve it. I still had plenty of time to enjoy it and then head to the airport which was about 20 minutes away.
- Was it going to destroy my hair? No. They provide conditioner to put in your hair to protect it. The minerals in it can be drying but I didn’t experience any of that. I debated not showering before heading to the airport, but I did and my hair is A-OK.
- Was it going to live up to the hype? Yes. It’s like Wicked on Broadway. You go in with the highest of expectations, and they’re surpassed.
After this, you can check out Reykjavik. I headed straight to the airport but my friends checked it out and said I missed nothing.
A Few Tips:
- Gas is fairly pricy, be prepared for that.
- While I didn’t drive, road signs were different. You may want to study up on those beforehand. There was NO traffic anywhere, so you’re good with that.
- The food options are slim. I’d suggest sticking to finding hotels with breakfast and having one meal out a day.
- Bring boots.
- Wear layers.
- Don’t bother doing your hair, it’s too windy.
- Don’t plan on partying, there’s no place to party on the road trip (that I found, although Reykjavik is supposed to have some night life)