A perfect Road Trip in Iceland
One day I stumbled upon beautiful landscape pictures of northern lights which lead me to research a bit about Iceland, that day I promised myself that I will go to this Mars and Moon like country, soon. An year later God gave me this opportunity and I went to Iceland on a road trip with my partner. A road trip to Iceland is once-in-a-lifetime kind of a trip that you would love to talk about and share your stories with your friends, family, children to grandchildren.
Before the Apollo mission to the Moon, before those seismic small steps and giant leaps, Neil Armstrong and 30 other astronauts underwent field training in Iceland…..
NASA, in fact, plans on sending men to Mars and the Moon in 2030, and has chosen Iceland as the best spot to begin preparations …..
Why Road Trip in Iceland
Being an independent traveler, I found driving around the country a perfect way to explore its breathtaking and photogenic locations. A road trip in Iceland means driving by waterfalls, blue icebergs, incredible landscapes, active volcanoes and of course the northern lights. Besides, driving gives me more flexibility to stop anywhere anytime for as long as I want. If you also love independent traveling with the freedom to take as many stops as you want then this blog is for you.
Before planning your trip, consider reading when is the best time to travel to Iceland.
Why 10 days Itinerary for Iceland Road Trip
In 10 days Iceland road trip, you will cover Iceland’s popular tourist attractions in most convenient way. There is so much to see and do in this country that you won’t be able to cover everything in one visit. You will definitely need more than a month to cover all famous spots. But if you are short on time like us, then please don’t blink your eyes else you will miss something on the way, LOL.
Tip: Plan your itinerary based on your own interest and number of days you have.
This trip can be done clockwise and anti-clockwise based on your preference you can drive either ways as both are equal. The only question is what you want to see first, the golden circle or the famous black beaches.
About Ring Road
Ring road is the national highway which connects all the major cities and towns, also known as Route 1. Technically the ring road is spread over 820 miles on Route 1 which you can drive in almost 18-22 hours. I know what you must be thinking, hey why 10 days then? Because you will be stopping in every 5 minutes and I literally mean 5 minutes as there’s so much to see and capture in your camera.
Ring Road trip can take minimum 5 days to N number of days as there are infinite places which are still undiscovered and can take forever to explore.
How to plan your trip
I booked my flight tickets through Kiwi and the campervan through Kuku campers to get the best deal with complete insurance cover. Staying in the camper van provides complete flexibility to stop for as long as you want without worrying about the check in time of your accommodation everyday. However, in my opinion having campervan is an advantage in terms of maximizing your time in exploring and clicking as many pictures as possible, you don’t have to worry about checkin and checkout timings, plus you will save loads of money as accommodation is expensive in Iceland.
Our cute little movable space had gas stove, utensils, cleaning equipment, sleeping bags and a nice comfy bed for sleeping and battery powered heating system to survive and stay alive in Iceland’s cold weather.
Tip: Book only one night at each accommodation considering the last spot’s location from your itinerary to avoid driving extra miles.
DAY 1 ARRIVING IN REYKJAVIK, THE CAPITAL CITY
Our flight landed in Iceland at Keflavik international Airport around afternoon. From the airport, I took FlyBus to Hotel Nordurey, Hafnarfjordur. I was staying at Vibrant Hostel and it was 5 minutes’ walk from the bus stop. Coincidently, the campervan rental company was also in the neighborhood so I collected my campervan the same afternoon and the whole process took an hour. My new little home (campervan) was loaded with fuel and grocery (I will write about where to shop for grocery in a later post) and was ready to hit the road. I visited few major sightseeing spots of Reykjavik and I was overwhelmed with warm vibes of the city. Before heading back to my hostel to sleep, I hopped in a bar to enjoy my first evening in Iceland.
Tip: Please remember to always check your rental vehicle for any kind of damage before taking the keys.
Now depending on your arrival time, you can plan your first day. If you have arrived in morning, you can directly head towards Blue Lagoon , the most amazing and famous thermal pool. The Blue Lagoon is having shuttle from Keflavik Airport which starts around 7.30 am and they also provide storage so you can keep your luggage safely before jumping into the pool. But, if you have arrived in the evening, you can plan your visit to Blue Lagoon while going back to the airport at the end of your road trip. Since I wanted to experience the natural thermal baths first as suggested by many travellers, I opted to visit blue lagoon towards the end.
Iceland is blessed with hundreds of natural hot springs, I personally prefer Myvatn Nature bath over Blue lagoon as I feel it is highly crowded and overrated but it’s totally up to you.
- Blue Lagoon
- Harpa Concert Hall
- Perlan wonders of Iceland
- The Sun Voyager
- National Museum
- Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach
DAY 2 GOLDEN CIRCLE TRIP (300 KM)
Golden Circle covers around 300 kilometers in a circular route making it a loop from Reykjavik into southern uplands having cultural attraction, geothermal activity and waterfalls. This is the most hyped tourist route in Southern Iceland which comprises three most popular natural attractions in Iceland: the Þingvellir National Park(it’s Th not P), Gullfoss Waterfall and Geysir Geothermal Area.
A trip to Golden Circle is a quick way to experience Iceland’s diversity and best for short time travelers.
This was the first day of our Iceland road trip outside the city and I was stopping after every 5-10 mins literally. As every view was new, mesmerizing and out of the world. I drove to few off-road tracks too as I couldn’t resist myself to explore those lands further. We covered most of the places planned for the day and decided to camp in one of the camping grounds in Þingvellir National Park. After dinner, I enjoyed the hot pool and talked with other tourists about catching northern lights.
- Þingvellir National Park
- Fontana Geothermal Spa
- Secret Lagoon
- Kerið Crater Lake
- Where to eat : Geysir Center
- Camping Ground : Camping Ground or Fludir Campground
- Guesthouse: Guesthouse Fludir – Grund
- Hostel: Efra-Sel hostel
- Hotel: Garður Stay Inn by the Secret Lagoon
Day 3 Þingvellir to Snæfellsnes Peninsula (250 km)
To avoid the crowded sites at the beginning of my journey and save the black beaches of Iceland for last, I decided to drive the Ring Road in clockwise direction. We headed towards the west exploring the most incredible region in Iceland known as Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Snæfellsnes Peninsula is called “Little Iceland” for having extraordinary range of landscapes and some jaw dropping sceneries.
We did a 3 hour hike to the Glymur Waterfall, it was my longest official hike and I loved hiking in the nature. The best part was crossing a river by holding a wire and walking on a log. Another stop was at a viewpoint of some breathtaking cliffs which had unique shapes of a Heart and one fallen castle. We crossed few small fishing villages, a lighthouse, and then the national park which is full of lava rocks from the last eruption of the volcano ages ago. We parked and cooked our lunch near one of the beaches there which has remains of sunken Ships. The Black Church was one of the cool buildings we have seen in Iceland. We camped in a camping ground in Grundarfjordur near the Kirkjufell mountain.
- Glymur waterfall
- Londrangar cliffs
- Vatnshellir Cave
- Malarrif Lighthouse
- Saxhóll crater
- Snaelfellsjökull National Park
- Ytri Tunga seal Beach
- Búðakirkja Black Church
- Where to eat : Samkomuhusid Arnarstapa Restaurant
- Camping Ground : Grundarfjörður Campground
- Guesthouse: Við Hafið Guesthouse
- Hostel: The Freezer Hostel & Culture Center
- Hotel: North Star Hotel Snæfellsnes
Day 4 arnarstapi to vatnsnes (280 km)
It took me 1.5 days to explore this beautiful region completely because there’s so much to do and see in Snæfellsnes Peninsula. OMG I so wanted some more extra days to spend here but nevertheless I visited all the main attractions before moving towards the North of Iceland. But you can skip some of those places if you are short of time. Don’t forget to take a picture with some wild local horses which you will come across in large groups passing by this area.
I love horses and Icelandic horses reminded me of my dream to have my own horse as a pet and travel around the world riding it. I know I know that doesn’t sound so practical right and that’s why I don’t have one. Apart from horses, my favorite part about this area was watching sunset and sunrise with this mesmerizing mountain and stunning waterfall at Kirkjufellsfoss.
- Grundarfjörður (town)
- Hvammstangi (town)
- Seal Centre
- Skardsviti Lighthouse
- Where to eat : Kaffi Emil in Grundarfjörður town
- Camping Ground : Hvammstangi Campground
- Guesthouse: Gauksmyri Lodge
- Hostel: Ósar Hostel
- Hotel: Hótel Hvítserkur
Day 5 vatnsnes to Akureyri (300 kms)
If you wish to see more in Vatnsnes Peninsula, then there is Kolugljúfur Canyon with number of waterfalls and it’s a short drive from Borgarvirki. I also found a small yet very cute fishing town called Siglufjörður famous for winter sports like skiing, skating, snowmobiling and slaloming.
Akureyri is the Northern capital of Iceland having cultural and historic sites with different museums and galleries, plus you can also try ‘Rotten shark’ here (an Icelandic traditional food). There are many tours available from Akureyri like whale watching, food tours, horse riding tours and my favorite Bárðarbunga Volcano tour (Helicopter ride over erupting volcano).
Good News for Beer Lovers!
Detour of Bruggsmiðjan Kaldi Brewery is famous for beer tasting and beer spa where you can soak yourself in warm beer bath while sipping the beer from the tap.
- Kolugljúfur Canyon
- Blönduós (town)
- Grettislaug pool
- Hofsós pool
- Bruggsmiðjan Kaldi Brewery
- Where to eat : Hard Work Cafe in Sauðárkrókur and Bryggjan Restaurant in Akureyri
- Camping Ground : Camping Hamrar
- Guesthouse: Apótek guesthouse
- Hostel: Akureyri Backpackers
- Hotel: Hotel Kea by Keahotels
Day 6 Akureyri to Myvatn ( 265 kms)
There is so much to explore in Northern Iceland, thank God I had enough days to visit every place which I wanted to. I am not a person who believes in rushing while traveling and I intend to stay at least one night in each region.
Myvatn region has an abundance of sulphur, no wonder you will find that rotten egg smell from everywhere. However this area has been filmed in many series and movies including Game Of Thrones for its magnificent landscapes and unbelievable locations. We visited the famous Grjótagjá Cave where Jon Snow and the Wildling girl “Did it” for the first time, that was cool. But remember not to touch any water which is not supervised as you may get burnt.
Goðafoss is going to be the first major waterfall in this area so be ready with your waterproof set of clothing. Also don’t forget to protect your phones and cameras as the water might damage it and you don’t want that to happen right especially on this trip.
Hverir Geothermal Area is known to be the closest to mars on earth and this particular region describes the reason why Iceland is called the land of Ice and Fire.
Tip: Myvatnnatural bath is cheaper than the famous Blue Lagoon and less crowded.
- Lake Myvatn
- Pseudo-craters of Skútustaðagígar
- Lava field of Dimmuborgir
- Hverfjall Crater
- Grjótagjá Cave
- Myvatn Nature Baths
- Geothermal area of Hverir – Hverarönd and Námafjall
- Lofthellir Lava Cave
- Where to eat : Kaffi Borgir
- Camping Ground : Hlíð Ferðaþjónusta
- Guesthouse: Vogafjós Farm Resort
- Hostel: Hlid Bed and Breakfast
- Hotel: Hótel Laxá
Day 7 Myvatn to Egilsstað (190-390 km)
It was a bright clear day and I was going to explore the plenty of sites in and around Myvatn area while heading towards the east of Iceland. If you have already seen everything the day before then you might take a detour of Húsavik town to make most of your day which is approximately 4 hours in total. Since the distance from Myvatn to Egilsstadir town is not much allowing you to stop a few times along the route, enjoy the scenery and let the photographer inside you to take over the journey.
This can also be a chance for you to enjoy some amazing food with your partner (whom you are traveling with) as there are many different restaurants in this town (Húsavik) .
Late afternoon it started raining heavily but we kept driving as we have to follow the plan. When we reached a hilly region it was extremely foggy and impossible to drive, we were driving with full focus and silence for almost an hour, we could only hear the rain splashing all over the vehicle and the wind was pushing us angrily. We totally freaked out while driving in this zero visibility, a slight mistake in judgement would have thrown us in the depth of the valley. Thankfully we were able to reach our camping ground safely around 8PM in the night.
- Húsavik (town) – whale watching tours available
- Húsavik Whale Museum
- Möðrudalur (town)
- Where to eat : Salka Restaurant in Husavik and Salt Cafe & Bistro in Egilsstadir
- Camping Ground : Camp Egilsstadir and Egilsstadastofa Visitor Center
- Guesthouse: Laufás Guesthouse
- Hostel: Tehúsið Hostel
- Hotel: Icelandair Hotel Herad
Day 8: Egilsstaðir to Höfn (320)
East Iceland can be characterized by its dramatic coastline, small fishing villages, outstanding mountains, charming waterfalls and narrow fjords which are still undiscovered by many travellers. The day was planned to find some of the hidden gems in Iceland, starting from Egilsstadir which is the largest town in the east region all the way till Hofn, a town well known for lobsters. I found a beautiful blue church called Seyðisfjörðarkirkja in the heart of Seyðisfjörður which is the most recognisable landmark among locals for its distinctive color and architect. I understand it’s difficult to spell and pronounce these names but guess what ‘Welcome to Iceland’ where they don’t only have unique landscapes but also alphabets/letters.
- Seyðisfjörður (town)
- Fáskrúðsfjörður (town)
- Hafnarnes lighthouse
- Steinasafn Petru
- Djúpivogur (town)
- Where to eat : Pakkhus Restaurant
- Camping Ground : Haukafell Campground
- Guesthouse: Hafnarnes
- Hostel: Höfn Hostel
- Hotel: Hotel Höfn
Day 9: Höfn to Vík (297 km)
As we were touching the south coast of Iceland on this route, the rain started falling heavily and all I wanted was a break and a cup of ‘Karak Chai‘ (Indian tea that i love to have when it rains). Therefore, I desperately started looking for a place to grab some hot drink and enjoy that moment. I stopped at a nearby cafe and OMG what I saw on the menu was Chai. Yes I found a cafe serving Chai that too in Iceland and this incident made me believe that I am extraordinarily lucky.( I know it could be a coincident but I like to think what makes me happy..Hehehe)
Tip : Keeping a day or two extra is a good idea considering the unpredictable mood swings of its extreme weather with sudden storms, heavy rainfall and severe wind.
There are many waterfalls and few hiking trails to spot the major attractions in Skaftafell National Park which is a great way to do cardio while capturing some amazing pictures. Fjadrárgljúfur Canyon is now a relatively little-known destination among the tourists as Justin Bieber’s Video song “I’ll show you” was filmed here in 2015.
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
- Skaftafell National Park
- Kirkjubæjarklaustur (town)
- Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon
- Eldhraun Lava Field
- Diamond Beach
- Where to eat : Cafe Munkar in Kirkjubæjarklaustur town and Restaurant Sudur Vik
- Camping Ground : Vik Camping
- Guesthouse: Guesthouse Galleri Vik
- Hostel: Vík HI Hostel
- Hotel: Hotel Katla by Keahotels
Day 10 Vik to Reykjavik (250 kms)
Coming closer to the end of my Iceland road trip with the last bend to the capital city of Reykjavik, we caught the most interesting view of lava rocks covered in moss adding some unique layers to the surface of the earth making it so artistic and unearthly texture. It was so unusual to find something like that but unfortunately we forgot to bring the camera or phone from the car so couldn’t click any picture of that .
Next stop is Seljalandsfoss and one more spot at 10 minutes walk from there is Gljufabui. Gljufrabui is hidden inside the canyon and to meet this shy baby, you really need to be dressed up properly (with hiking shoes and waterproofs) as it’s very cold and slippery inside the canyon.
Tip: You can actually walk behind Seljalandsfoss and hit your instagram by some outstanding
- Reynisfjara & black sand beach
- Dyrhólaey Arch
- Solheimasandur plane wreck
- Skógar Folk Museum
- Gljúfabúi Waterfall
- Hveragerði (town)
- Thrihnukagigur volcano
The only sad part about traveling is when you have to say goodbye and leave the country. That is why I intentionally skipped Blue Lagoon in the beginning. I was going to indulge myself into Iceland’s incredible beauty one last time to take it all with me before heading to the airport.
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