Iceland is a must see country with vast landscapes, stunning scenery, incredible natural wonders and friendly locals (including many sheep and horses).
Read on to find out the itinerary I followed for my recent Iceland trips including sites to visit, including sites off the beaten track as well as useful tips.
Our flight departed London at 6am, therefore we reached Reykjavik just after 9am. Despite the early start – we found this was a great flight time for us as we had the entire first day free to start exploring. Once we passed through security and collected our hire car we were onto our way to visit the Golden Circle sites (in order):
Almannagjá (located within the Þingvellir National Park)
You can see the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates! There are also boardwalks and a little waterfall to explore too.
Geyser and a pathway within a geothermal area! Super cool to see the geyser erupting and bubbling areas around it. There is a strong smell of sulphur around the area, which you can smell driving up to the area but you will soon get used to it.
Fact – soap powder used to be poured into the geyser to make the eruptions more dramatic, however this led to a period of inactivity, and has since been banned.
Incredible waterfall, one of the widest ones we visited, the force of the water movement was incredible. There are two view points – one higher up and the other closer to the waterfall itself.
Pretty cool restaurant and conservatory growing tomatoes (something you would not expect in such a cool climate). The restaurant looked busy and food looked great, but we did not eat there.
Kerið Crater Lake
The crater was formed around 6,500 years ago and the water depth varies between 7 – 14m, depending on groundwater levels.
There is a path around the top, and steps down to the bottom, the colours of the crater and water are spectacular. A small entrance fee per person is required. There are a few other craters neighbouring this one which are covered by vegetation. My highlight of the first day!
We also stopped buy a supermarket to buy food and snacks for the trip, including bread and sandwich fillers for lunches whilst on the road.
For our first night we stayed just outside Selfoss and close to Hella.
We really enjoyed staying in Vik, the town itself has a few attractions all within walking distance to eachother including:
- Black Sand Beach – the famous black sands which are located right by the town
- Church – a lovely Church that is walking distance from the town and overlooks it. There is an even better vantage point if you follow the track further up
- The Soup Company – we had dinner here twice whilst in Vik. The provide a choice of hearty soups, and all soups come with a second serving if you have space for more
- Skool Beans – a former school bus turned into a cute café which serves the most delicious coffees and hot chocolates. Look out for the resident cat!
Further afield from Vik there is:
Seljalandsfoss & Gljufrabui Waterfalls
Whilst Seljalandsfoss is probably the most famous out the waterfalls located in that area, check out Gljufrabui! Gljufrabui is located within a little canyon, which makes it special to visit. This was my favourite waterfall we visited whilst in Iceland
Seljalandsfoss is pretty cool as you can walk right behind it, be prepared to get wet!
Tip – park at the Gljufrabui car park and walk south to the other waterfalls, to avoid paying the fee for the Seljalandsfoss car park.
Continuing our waterfall tour, we stopped at Skogafoss, and we were greeted by a lovely rainbow, which is very common sight at this waterfall. You can walk right up to the waterfall.
There are also steps up to a viewing platform which is well worth the climb up.
- Kvernufoss is located to the east of the much more well known Skogafoss. We visited it later on during our trip, however both can be visited straight after each other
- The trail up from the steps to the Skogafoss continues for much longer to less busy waterfalls
- Mia’s Country Van provides fish and chips, which could be a great food spot!
The first glacier we visited during our trip which is a popular place for glacier walks. You can walk right up to the glacier lagoon – the scenery was simply breath-taking.
A great stop to walk along the black sand beach that Vik is famous for. There are also basalt rock formations which make for spectacular visit and a location of Game of Thrones. Keep on eye out for puffins!
Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck
This location has been saved on my Google Maps for years, and lived up to my expectations as an aviation fan. It is a wreckage of a crashed aircraft, in which all crew survived and is accessible from the car park in a 45 minute walk. The contrast of the wreckage on the black sand mixed with being in the middle of nowhere makes for a memorable experience.
Between Vik and Hofn there are many breath-taking sites that are well worth a visit. Here they are in order of location from Vik through to Hofn:
Green Lava Walk
Located just off the main highway, there is a walking route where you can appreciate the moss covered lava fields!
An incredibly impressive canyon that is around 2 million years old! It is a 10 – 15 minute walk up to a look out view point for amazing panoramic views! It was incredibly impressive to see the canyon, water colour and waterfall!
Located just off the main road, a trail to see the hexagonal columns up close. We were the only ones there during our stop off and it is hidden out of site from the main road which makes it even more so impressive.
A great quick stop on the large sand plain and it provides a spectacular view of the surrounding glaciers. The remains of the formers bridge can be found here, which was damaged in 1996 during a volcanic eruption which resulted in flooding and icebergs hitting the bridge.
Vatnajökull National Park
An impressive National Park with many walking trails. We chose to hike up to the impressive Svartifoss, which is a waterfall with hexagonal basalt columns surrounding either side of the water fall. The views during the hike up were amazing with other waterfalls and glaciers visible.
Hidden behind a car park leads to an impressive glacier! A super peaceful location with giant icebergs that creates a magical spot to explore a glacier with few tourists.
Often overlooked, due to its bigger and more popular neighbouring glacier lagoon, Fjallsarlon provides an equally amazing glacier lagoon. We visited just before sunset and when the boat tours had finished up for the day leading to a relatively empty spot to visit.
Walk along the lake to see the pieces of ice on the beach as well as the peace of the lagoon – super impressive.
Jökulsárlón Glacier and Diamond Beach
We took our time exploring the glacier lagoon and diamond beach.
Diamond beach contains ice chunks of varies sizes which are crystal clear, just like diamonds. We then walked down to the glacier lagoon where there are many icebergs of varying size and colour. It was a magical experience.
Look out for the seals swimming in the lagoon!
Reykjavik & Surrounding Area
The city itself is very walkable and it was great to see how popular electric scooters and electric bikes were. Here are out places to see within the city:
- Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur – if you like hotdogs – this is the place to visit. Tried my first ever hotdog at this hotdog stands, and had a total of 3 hotdogs during our 2 nights in Reykjavik. We chose to get all the toppings, and they are served by friendly staff
- Harpa Concert Hall – a really cool building with great views out to the snow capped mountains overlooking the city
- City Hall – a large topographic map of the country. Highway 1 and residential areas are also marked on it. The building itself is pretty cool, and is located next to a lake
- Grotta Island lighthouse – lighthouse located to the far west of the city. We chose to drive to it and park in the car park, however it is easily accessible by bicycle or even e-scooters! Great (but windy) view point include the mountains and volcanoes to the north and south of the city
A short drive outside Reykjavik, there is a whole host of further sites to visit:
We left this to the end of our trip, and glad we did – it was such a relaxing experience after all the hiking and exploring that we did. I could have spent hours relaxing there. Be sure to look around, as there is a sauna and steam room available as well as quieter areas hidden behind bridges.
Tips – Make sure to book in advance, as tickets often do sell out, and there is a shuttle bus provided to the airport with storage lockers for luggage provided in case you want to visit just before flying out.
With the basic ticket, they will provide you towels and shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, so you really just need to bring yourself and your swim wear. You also get a face mask and drink from the bar too!
Whilst the volcano stopped erupting just a few days before we visited it was great to see the lava and steam still coming out from the crater and lava.
Tips – Check out the webcams before you visit to see the latest conditions. Be prepared for wind – it was super windy when we visited. Check out the latest route maps, we walked along Path C which provided great views of the crater and lava flows.
Brúin milli heimsálfa
A bridge located between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates! Super cool to see, and is free to visit unlike Almannagja.
- Bring layers to wear….The wind is something I have never felt before, it will soon become your friend
- Hiking boots I would say are also essential, especially on slippery areas near waterfalls
- As of 2021, Iceland was ranked the worlds safest country!
- Take snacks and water with you for hikes and drives
- Check out if your guesthouse offers complimentary breakfast – as breakfast food kept using going! A few guesthouses we stayed in had waffle makers for breakie, which was a great treat!
- We hired a car and drove around Southern Iceland during our visit, which allowed greater flexibility compared to booking excursions.
- You do not need to take any cash out – cards and contactless payment is available everywhere
- There was great phone signal every where we went too, and relied on Google Maps on our phones for directions – we were not let down, it was all up to date.
- One of the most common questions I go was – how expensive was your trip? Whilst Iceland is known as an expensive country, I found that prices were similar to London prices, so we were used to paying similar prices. Tips to save money during your visit include:
- Pack snacks and food from your home destination, or pop into a supermarket during your visit. Bonus, Kronan and Netto are popular supermarkets in Iceland This could help save costs instead of dining in restaurants
- Take a reusable bottle so you do not have to but water from shops. The tap water in Iceland is drinkable and water fountains can be found in some tourist areas
- Look for guesthouses to stay in rather than hotels. We stayed in Guesthouses for our entire trip, and were not disappointed. We were greeted by friendly staff and clean, cosy facilities. Book your accommodation in advance, as cheaper options sell out quickly and could limit your options. Some guesthouses provide kitchens for you to cook in.
I had high expectations for my visit to Iceland – as I have held a long want to visit, studied Geography at university and it was the first time abroad for over 18 months. Iceland did not meet my expectations, it surpassed them! It was great to appreciate the peace and natural beauty of Iceland, and I would highly recommend you to visit. Iceland is the 50th country I have visited, and will have lasting memories for me.
Let me know if you have any questions in the comment box below!