EUROPE

ICELAND

Our super-packed, mid-September 8 day itinerary for Ring Road!

Days 1 & 8: Reykjavík

You could easily spend several days here! The Perlan museum and ice caves shouldn’t be missed, especially if you aren’t planning a trip to the more popular ice caves outside of the city. I also wandered around the sculptures by the Harpa Concert Hall and visited the Skolavorduholt Cathedral (go up to the top for some great city views!). The downtown area is all very walkable and there are a ton of bars, restaurants, and shopping all over. I stayed at this Airbnb the first night- it was supposed to be Megan and I, with Adam arriving the following day, but her flight out of CLT was postponed 1 day because a baggage person got knocked out and broke their arm by a plane wing. Crazy. The hotel we stayed at on day 8 was centrally located (near Reykjavík Junior College) but is no longer listed. Everything in Iceland is expensive, so we were on a mission to find a good Happy Hour for our last night. We ended up finding Kíkí Queer Bar- with great atmosphere, great music, and great drink prices, LGBTQ+ friendly!


Day 2: Kerid Crater, Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

On my way out of Reykjavík, I picked up Adam and Megan at KEF airport and we got on the road immediately. Note: the “Golden Circle” is very popular with tour groups/guides and people who have their own car but have a very limited time in Iceland. So, these places will be a little busier than others that are further along on this itinerary. After the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, we back-tracked a little bit towards Hvolsvöllur and stayed at this Airbnb on an active farm!


Kerid (or Kerið) Crater– This is one of the recommended stops along the Golden Circle. The red rocks and blue water are beautiful, and you can walk along the top of the crater for amazing views.
Price: 400ISK
More info here

Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River– We chose not to bring our swimsuits on our hike (I don’t know why, but I regret it!) but we walked most of the trail to see some of the bubbling baths and areas where you can soak! This was a last minute add-on hike, so we were a little more rushed here than I would have liked.
Price: free!
More info here

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall– Located just off the highway, this spectacular waterfall requires very little effort (it gets slippery on the path walking behind the falls). It is not part of the Golden Circle, but it is still very popular because it’s fairly close to Reykjavík.
Price: 800ISK
More info here


Day 3: Skógafoss Waterfall, Dyrhólaey & Reynisfjara Viewpoints, Reynisfjara Beach & Hálsanefshellir Cave, Vatnajökull National Park: Svartifoss Waterfall + Skaftafell Glacier, Hof, Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon & Diamond Beach

These are still pretty popular attractions along the southern coast/highway, but it was far less busy than the previous day. This was also probably the busiest day that we had but it was totally worth it. After visiting these places, we drove to Borgarhöfn and stayed at Vagnsstaðir Guesthouse. There is also a hostel in a different building on the same grounds, and you can’t go wrong with either option.

Vagnsstaðir Guesthouse and Hostel

Skógafoss Waterfall– This was a quick but breathtaking stop (literally… there are over 500 stairs to the top!). You drive to the base of the falls, and can walk around there before ascending the stairs to the top. Be sure to look around up there- we saw several goats on the side of the cliff!
Price: free!
More info here

Dyrhólaey Viewpoint & Reynisfjara Viewpoint– We planned Dyrhólaey Viewpoint as a quick stop to see the Elephant Rock formation. We then drove to Reynisfjara Viewpoint for another quick, but great view of the black sand beach and basalt rock formations below!
Price: free!

Reynisfjara Beach & Hálsanefshellir Cave– Besides the viewpoints, this was the first black sand beach we saw along the coast. The cave walls are made of basalt columns, and are pretty incredible! Definitely worth the stop.
Price: free!

Vatnajökull National Park: Svartifoss Waterfall + Skaftafell Glacier– We had to stop here for the easy hike to the beautiful basalt column waterfall! Everything is clearly marked, and all of the trails in the park begin at the Visitor Center. The Svartifoss trail is 5.5km round trip, and the Skaftafell trail is 3.7km round trip- both are easy.
Price: 750ISK per car
More info here

Skaftafell Glacier

Hof– This was a quick pit stop because Megan liked how unique the church was!

Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon & Diamond Beach– This was high on my priority list, because we were able to go on a boat ride and get quite close to the 1000 year old icebergs! You can also walk along the shore, which is still very impressive. For the tours, you can choose either the Zodiac (small dingy) or the Amphibian (a land and water boat/vehicle hybrid). We chose the Amphibian- you see the same things, and it’s much cheaper. There is a second tour company on site, though they just have the Zodiac tours and are a bit more expensive. No advance tickets required.
Price: free to park and walk around!
Amphibian 35 min tour: Adults 13+ 5,900ISK, Children ages 6-12 2,900ISK, Children 5 & under are free
Zodiac 1 hour tour: Adults 13+ 10,500ISK, Children ages 10-12 5,500ISK, no children under 10 allowed
Across the highway is the Diamond Beach (Breidamerkursandur). It’s a must see and you can get up close to (or climb on top of) the crystal clear chunks of glacial ice.
Price: free!
More info on both the Lagoon and the Diamond Beach here

Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon

Day 4: Djúpivogur, Fauskasandur, Múlafoss Waterfall and Fossa River

This was a less “full” day, but we had a longer drive. We did the hike to Múlafoss which ended up taking a lot longer than expected, and we went swimming there in the freezing cold water! We drove to Egilsstaðir and stayed at the unique Vinland Camping Pods.

Vinland Camping Pods in Egilsstaðir

Djúpivogur– Again, a quick pit stop to refuel and grab a coffee. But it was a cute little quiet town!

Djúpivogur

Fauskasandur– There was a pull off area on the side of the highway, so we hopped out and explored the beach for a little while.
Price: free!

Múlafoss Waterfall and Fossa River– We drove up a dirt road that stopped at a house… and the lady was kind enough to point us in the direction of a “parking lot” just down a smaller, rockier road. From there we walked on a dirt road until we saw a waterfall and what we were determined to use as a swimming area!
Price: free!

Adam cliff jumping at Múlafoss/the Fossa River

Day 5: Hverir, Hverfjall, Grjótagjá, Dimmuborgir (Lava Fields), Mývatn Nature Baths, Goðafoss

This day we drove from Egilsstaðir to Akureyrei and stayed at Gista apartments! It was centrally located, so we could easily walk to dinner and explore the town.

Hverir– This is a geothermic spot with fumaroles and bubbling mud pools! It’s cool to see, but we didn’t need to spend too much time there.
Price: free!

Hverfjall– We hiked around the rim of this volcanic crater, and had some beautiful views of the lake (Mývatn). Thankfully it wasn’t too windy when we went, but take that into consideration!
Price: free, except there is a 200ISK fee for the bathroom
More info here

Grjótagjá– Featured in Game of Thrones, this geothermal spring is located a few steps down into a crevice! It was once used for bathing, but you are not allowed to enter it anymore. Similar to Hverir, this is a very quick stop.
Price: free!
More info here

Dimmuborgir– These lava fields are quite impressive, and there are several (both paved and unpaved) paths to explore. You can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours here, and you can even hike all the way to Hverfjall crater!
Price: free, except there is a 200ISK fee for the bathroom
More info here

Mývatn Nature Baths– The three of us knew that we wanted to do the Blue Lagoon while in Iceland, but we didn’t like the idea of how busy it was going to be. So, after some research along our planned route, we found the Mývatn Nature Baths! I highly recommend stopping here if you can- it was a really great experience and much less busy than the Blue Lagoon.
Price: (for 2022) Adults 5,900ISK, Children ages 13-15 2,900ISK
Prices for rentals: Towel 850 ISK, Swimsuit 850ISK, Bathrobe 1,800ISK
More info here

Goðafoss– Yet another spectacular waterfall! This particular one is much larger and wider than most of the others, and is located just outside of Akureyrei.
Price: free!
More info here


Day 6: Whale Watching in Hauganes, Bjórböðin Beer Spa

This was by far the shortest drive for the days we spent in Iceland- just 30 minutes from Akureyrei to our next Airbnb in Árskógssandur! This stay was a little unique for us (it is a private room/shared space with the owner) but we chose it because of it’s proximity to The Beer Spa (Bjórböðin)!

Whale Watching in Hauganes– I highly recommend this excursion! We had a fantastic experience; we saw several whales and even got to go fishing (they cleaned the fish for us, and we got to take some home with us too). On their site, they now offer 100% whale watching 2-3 hour tour, as well as a whale watching/fishing combo 2.5-3 hour tour.
Price: Adults 16+ 10,500ISK, Children ages 7-15 4,900ISK, Children under 7 are free
More info here

Whale watching tour

Bjórböðin Beer Spa– We might have planned most of this trip around our visit to this beer spa…! It was great to relax in a tub of hops, brewer’s yeast, water and young beer, while having a tap next to you in a tranquil setting. When we were finished, we enjoyed the hot tubs on the outdoor patio overlooking the fjord and Hrísey island. There’s also a restaurant on site, and there is no minimum age for entry (only for drinks).
Prices:
Beer Spa: Adults 13+ Singles Bath 11,900ISK, Adults 13+ Couples Bath 19,900ISK, Children 12 & under can go with a parent/guardian for free. Note: The outdoor hot tubs are included in these prices!
Outdoor Hot Tubs Only: Adults 17+ 2,000ISK, Children ages 12-16 1,000ISK, Children under 12 are free.

More info here

Our couples beer bath

Day 7: Hraunfossar & Barnafoss Waterfalls, Deildartunguhver Hot Spring

The drive was a little longer today and we were relaxed from our Beer Spa visit, so we just stopped at a couple of places on our way to Borgarnes and our overnight stay at Egils Guesthouse

Hraunfossar & Barnafoss Waterfalls– Located just outside of Borgarnes, these falls are smaller than most others in Iceland, but they flow up from crevices in the lava fields (rather than being part of a river) and have a dark folklore history so we wanted to check it out.
More info on Hraunfossar here
More info on Barnafoss here

Deildartunguhver Hot Spring– This wasn’t anything spectacular to see (it looks like a power plant), but it is pretty impressive that this one geothermal hot spring provides at least some of the hot water for everyone within a 64km radius!
More info here

Note: Krauma is a geothermal spa located near Deildartunguhver if you want to make a day out of your visit in the area!
More info and pricing on their website

Things I wish we had done/if we had more time

  1. Snorkel the Silfra Fissure- This snorkeling excursion is in crystal clear, blue water in the fissure between two tectonic plates (so you’re snorkeling between continents!) There are a handful of restrictions, but I think it would be 100% worth it!
    The restrictions: You must be able to swim- You must be over 16- You must be in good physical health- You must be at least 145 centimetres and 45 kilograms- If you are over sixty, you will need a medical waiver- If you are over forty-five with a history of heavy alcohol use and pipe smoking, you will also need a waiver.
    More info here

    2. Gullfoss Waterfalls– Composed of two falls, Gullfoss looks incredible! It’s located on the Golden Circle, so it would be easy to access from Reykjavík.

2 comments

  1. This is fantastic, thanks for sharing all these details! This will come in super handy as we decide on our Iceland itinerary. What a great trip!

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