Hello there and welcome to my Iceland blog! This will loosely lay out my 7 day trip to Iceland for those curious. I have no affiliations or ad’s associated with this blog so if you appreciate this post please be sure to also follow along on Instagram (www.instagram.com/doclyssfitness) or head over to YouTube to watch the Iceland video that will be coming and subscribe to my channel! And for full transparency, my friend who planned most of our trip heavily was influenced by this blog post (https://fullsuitcase.com/iceland-ring-road-itinerary/)
My friend Vanessa and I traveled to Iceland in late spring/early “summer” during the 3rd week of May. We spent 8 days driving around the ring road and exploring the “full” country. We say “full” loosely knowing there were likely so many magical tiny owns and costal fjords we missed and this is not an all-exclusive list. We did the full ring road in ~5 days, with an extra 1 in the Snæfellsnes peninsula and 2 days in Reykjavik including the day we traveled back. Please take note that in retrospect this was a very AGGRESSIVE traveling itinerary and I would have rather spread this out over 6-7 days vs 5 (we’re gonna blame Vanessa for that one though!). I would recommend doing this without the extra “recovery” day in the end and putting that in the beginning or going slower in the middle.
We flew out of DC to Keflavik international airport. If you are flying into Iceland this is going to be the airport that you will fly into and it is slightly outside of the city of Reykjavik. If you are planning on starting your trip there you will need to taxi or bus to your location.
We rented a camper van through GO Campers (https://www.gocampers.is/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwhLKUBhDiARIsAMaTLnEdQzw2ug1pS80jT51uSx8HFHww–8vLdZFQhCGgiQxNSohze1wSTkaAiYmEALw_wcB) however there are MANY other camper van services in the area so I would search around for the best deal! We booked everything super late and likely did not get the best prices due to these things. If you are trying to travel on a budget a camper van split between 3-4 people would also likely significantly reduce the price! We opted for the built-out SUV which was a bit more expensive since we had such driving heavy days and didn’t need as much extra space beyond sleeping. This is where we slept on days 1-5. We were easily able to find camp sights along the way and they were ~$20-30 USD/night. Camping was easy to find by simply typing in “camp sights” into Google or Apple Maps. Please be aware that in some areas there are long stretches of road without any places to sleep and you cant park anywhere. Plan ahead where you will sleep each night! For the last 2 nights of the trip we decided to get an Airbnb last minute in the city to recover from the trip and enjoy Reykjavik!
All the camp sights ended up having either a small kitchen, bathrooms, and/or showers. Looking back we did not need our camp stove, chairs, or table we got with our rental. We were going go going too much and when we did camp ate pre-made camping meals which we found to be the easiest to heat up with some hot water inside the camp kitchens. Only 1 campsite ONLY had bathrooms and running water. The longest we went without a shower was 2 days.
Find our itinerary below.
We flew overnight from the US into Keflavik airport. We landed at 6 am and decided to use the full day for activities. This was not my choice, but rather my friends planned most of the trip for me as I finished my Ph.D. I had some pretty bad jet lag the first 1.5 days and rolled into the trip with 36 hours of no sleep HURT. I originally wanted to spend 1 night in the city to sleep before going hard the rest of the week but Vanessa want to push on and push hard so we did. If I would change anything about this trip other than not going into it a little pre-fatigued from finishing my Ph.D. up it was this. I would have rather taken that first day a bit slower vs feeling so fatigued into the rest of the trip.
After landing we waited for our camper company to pick us up and rode with them to get the van. Our company shuttled us to and from the airport. I would opt for this if possible!
From here we immediately drove to Thingvellir National Park (~40 min away) to go Snorkeling in the Silfra fissure (https://adventures.is/iceland/day-tours/snorkeling-and-diving/into-the-blue/). I was extremely hesitant about this but it ended up being incredible! I was not cold in the dry suit and the water was out of this world clear. I highly recommend it! The guides through this company were awesome and made it extra incredible!
From here these were the stops we made in the golden circle.
- Bruarfoss Waterfall (3.9 mi hike) about 40 min from the park
- This was incredibly beautiful and there were actually 3 waterfalls along the way. The water was CRYSTAL blue. It was ~7 pm when we did this and the trail was almost entirely empty.
- Geysir Hot Springs
- Gullfoss falls
- Camp in Hella
- Seljalandfoss waterfalls
- This is the waterfall you can hike behind and is easily accessible from the road and one of the most popular destinations in Iceland! There was a little gift and coffee shop outside as well. We got coffee and enjoyed it outside the falls before moving on to our next hike.
- Skogafoss waterfall hike
- This is part of the FIMMVÖRDUHÁLS TREK – a 15-mile hike that requires a ride back to your car. We did ~3 miles out and back on this trail and it was spotted with TON’s of waterfalls along the way. I believe we saw ~20+. I highly recommend this.
- Black Sand beach in VIK
- There was an amazing little cafe next to the beach I got a burger and hot chocolate at and it was REALLY good if you need food mid-day! The beach is easy to park and walk out into.
- Fjaorargljufur Canyon
- This was one of my favorite location of the entire trip. We did it late (~6/7 pm) when barely anyone was on the trail and it was really really beautiful!
- Drive along the south coast to camp outside Skaftafell national park. This view is EPIC and we are able to camp right at the base of the park!
- Shatafell Nature reserve to see Svartifoss (the black waterfall) for 1.5 hours and hike up to the top of the ridge to see out to the surrounding mountains and Skaftafell glacier of Skaftafell national park. This was part of an 11-mile loop (S3 trail). However, we only went 3 miles out and back due to our itinerary.
- Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon & Diamond Beach
- This was one of my favorites of the entire trip. We saw seals as well which made my entire day. I got fish and chips and the small stand there for lunch and it was very good! You MUST stop here or go out to this point if you are only doing the golden circle + south coast areas! If you were to only do part of what we did I would say the first day through this stop would be my recommendation.
- Drive along the south coast to Borgarfjarðarhöfn a small East Iceland coastal town. This is where we camped because you can see puffins here without having to boat to an island. It is a little over an hour off the ring road outside of Egilsstaðir. Otherwise stopping in Egilsstaðir for lunch or to sleep would be a great option as it is a nice but small little East Iceland town. We rolled into this campground VERY late (~1 am) and were hesitant about the effort to drive out there but when we woke up the next morning were so pleasantly surprised with how cute and beautiful the area was. There is a small camp sight here for those looking to get off the ring road to see puffins!
- Go see puffins along the coast of Borgarfjarðarhöfn. You MUST make sure you drive the full 3 miles (5k) to the edge of the cliffs or you will miss these small birds! The best time to see them is early morning (~7-9 am) or evening (~6-8 pm). From what I understand this is one of the few places you can see puffins without having to ferry or boat to an island.
- Eat lunch in Egilsstaðir
- Stuðlagil Canyon
- For this you will want to take a left turn so that you are on the LEFT side of the river when walking into the canyon. We ended up in the main parking lot on the RIGHT side which had a nice overview but you were unable to walk down to the edge of the canyon behind the basalt columns. Still very cool either way!
- Dettifoss and selfoss
- Dettifoss was UNREAL how huge it was. It is the most powerful waterfall in Europe and you can feel the spray/mist of the fall all the way up at the stand to look over it from far away. Selfoss is a small walk past this as well upstream!
- Drive to Husavik to camp.
- This was another surprise in a town we loved. The first camp sight there had all its facilities closed so we went up the road to a camp sight called 66 degrees north that was BEAUTIFUL. IT was located on a grassy flat that ended at the edge of the Icelandic sea / Arctic Ocean.
- We went whale watching in Husavik and it was incredible! I was worried about being seasick but got lucky it was a calm day and we got to see two humpback whales. We booked through north sailing (https://www.northsailing.is/tour/husavik-original-whale-watching/). They even gave us a cinnamon roll and hot chocolate after! I highly recommend it.
- Another beautiful waterfall you can walk nearly right up to!
- Drive to Snæfellsnes peninsula. We originally stopped to camp right outside the peninsula but the camp sight was cold and in a middle-of-nowhere town with few amenities. So we opted to keep driving to a camp site RIGHT outside Kirkjufell Mountain in Grundarfjörður
Day 6: Snæfellsnes peninsula.
- Kirkjufell Mountain and waterfall. At this point in the trip, I was a few meals behind, tired, and a little travel fatigue. I didn’t realize we were going to hike this FAMOUS mountain (top 10 most beautiful monitions in the world actually!) which had a winding steep cliffside climb up to the top. Vanessa went all the way but I stopped right below the final popped climb to the top of the cliff. This was NOT a moderate hike. While you may not need the climbing gear suggested on the sign at the front I would be cautious if you are not a sure-footed hiker and/or comfortable with some scrambling or loose rope climbs up. I was very hungry and having some sinus issues during the trip so had a little bit of vertigo when I was walking and I’m a pretty confident hiker. Vanessa seemed to be fine, however, I would still be aware this was not a “moderate” hike like it is listed in some other places! You can hike to the base however without needing to scramble or climb up any rocks.
- Arnarstapi Cliffs
- Beautiful coastal walk along the cliffs and the most BLUE ocean I have ever seen!
- Saxholar Crater
- This was incredible anti-climatic.
- Drive back to Reykjavik
- Breakfast in Reykjavik
- The blue lagoon
- Lunch in Reykjavik + walk around downtown
- Laundry + Pack + Rest!
- Breakfast in Reykjavik
- Return our rental car
- Fly home!
The full map of stops: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?mid=1m9M78E9_hkUC7QXzfZeLeziVdDQdlQQ&usp=sharing