As Iceland’s tourism continues to boom, I have had many people asking me “where to go, what to see and what to do in Iceland”. In my opinion, one week isn’t quite enough time and one should definitely NOT just stick to the south (even though that’s the most heavily touristed area because of its proximity to Reykjavik and its easily accessible, well maintained roads). If you only have a week, then by all means, still go! And if you have MORE than 10 days, that’s even better! Maybe you’ll have time to explore the Western Fjords and venture in the center of the island. However, with this 10 day itinerary, you’ll see and experience SO MUCH that your mind will explode, your soul will be ablaze and your heart will be full with overwhelming emotions of bliss, wonder, awe, gratitude (okay, you get the point) and you’ll be sure to have the adventure of a lifetime.
Fly from (Point A) to Keflavik International Airport. Stay in Reykjavik.
Tip: We flew with WOW airlines because they are CHEAP! They’re also expanding and beginning to fly out of more airports, like Pittsburgh (where I’m from. YAY!). If you’re from, say Cleveland, and WOW airlines or Icelandic Air doesn’t fly from there, then search other nearby airports because you may find WAY cheaper flights from a neighboring airport. In this case, it’s totally worth it to travel a little further by bus or car to save some money. For instance: when we searched for flights, flights from Pittsburgh to Keflavik were $900 roundtrip. We said, “F’ that!”. And continued to search. Eventually, we searched flights from Baltimore to Keflavik and found tickets for less than $500 roundtrip. We then booked cheap AF Greyhound bus tickets to Baltimore (less than $50 a person) and ended up saving a total of $700 by doing so. I’m telling you guys, where there’s a will, there’s a way! Nowadays, with WOW airlines expanding, you can easily find roundtrip tickets from the East Coast USA to Keflavik for $300 roundtrip.
(You should know: Just because flights to Iceland are cheap, the country itself, is not. Lodging, gas, food and excursions are quite pricy (as it is an island country). But, I will share some ways to save some money nonetheless!)
Moving on, after you land at KEF, go rent your car.
Tip: We found the best car rental deals at SIXT. Also, make sure to get FULL coverage because you will need it in Iceland’s powerful wind gusts and sand storms etc. AND be sure to get a car with 4WD because that is also crucial for driving the mountainous, unpaved roads that lead you around the country.
Drive the short drive from KEF to Reykjavik (Iceland’s capital) and spend your first day and night exploring Iceland’s largest city. Grab some food (I recommend trying some Salmon pizza – sounds so strange, but is strangely delicious!). Visit the Penis Museum (yes, you heard that right!). Okay, it’s proper name is “The Iceland Phallological Museum” and within its walls are over two hundred and fifteen penises and penile parts belonging to almost all of the land and sea mammals belonging to Iceland (including a whale penis and a human!). So weird. So great. However, not to be skipped over, is Reykjavik’s “Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran Church”. It’s architecture is incredible and the views from the top are breathtaking. It’s totally worth the 900 ISK ($8.50 USD) to go to the top. However, if you don’t feel like spending the money, the views from the outside and inside (bottom level) are still worth the visit (and are FREE).
Suggestion: Stay at the Galaxy Pod Hostel. Not only is it one of the cheapest lodging options in Reykjavik, but it’s also SO DANG NEAT. You sleep in futuristic, space-ship looking PODS! The facilities are crazy clean and the people we met staying there were extremely friendly. Not only that, but it’s relatively close to the city center and you can walk to it if you choose. It’s located near several pubs and restaurants. And, did I mention, YOU SLEEP IN A GALAXY POD?!
(Photo: my husband and I being all couple-y in front of Hallsgrimkirkja Lutheran Church)
(Photo: view of Reykjavik from the top of Hallsgrimskirkja)
Drive the Golden Circle, exploring Thingvellir National Park & Silfra, Geysir Hot Spring Area, Gullfoss, and Kerid Volcanic Crater Lake.
Wake up early (for this will be a full day!). Drive to Thingvellir National Park and Silfra. Once here, you have many options to explore. You can hike between two tectonic plates (American & European) with rocky cliffs and fissures, greenery aplenty, a beautiful lake and mountains in the distance. This place inspires fairytales (probably why my now-husband decided to propose to me here! ❤ *high five*). You can also take a scuba diving/ snorkel excursion in Silfra. It’s freezing cold water, expensive, and you have to be certified to scuba dive. However, Silfra is indeed worth it if you have the time and bank. (Note: If you decide to do this excursion, it’ll eat up most of your day and you’ll have to rearrange this itinerary some). Also, at Silfra, be sure to toss a coin into the water off of the bridge (near the parking lot). Legend has it that before you toss the coin, you are to ask a “yes or no” question. Then, toss the coin and try to follow it to the bottom with your eyes. If you see where the coin lands, the answer to your question is a “yes”. If you lose sight of the coin, the answer is “no”. Pretty fun legend in my book!
(Photo taken in Thingvellir National Park, where Doug and I got engaged between two tectonic plates)
Continue on the Golden Circle to your next stop, Geysir Hot Spring Area. Here, you will find boiling mud pits and exploding geysers all over, including Strokkur which erupts every few minutes and explodes up to 100 ft. into the air. You’re able to walk all around the area and get up close and personal to these hot springs. So close that you’ll feel Strokkur erupting and get sprayed (it wasn’t as hot as I expected but then again, I did have a ton of layers on). There’s also lovely lupine fields surrounding the area which make for beautiful photo ops. After exploring the geothermal field, we stopped into the Geysir Center for a quick bite to eat and some hot beverages before continuing along our route.
(Photo: Lupine fields at Geysir Hot Spring Area)
Next stop along the circle, Gullfoss – a spectacular two-tiered waterfall. This waterfall is not to be missed! It’s HUGE! However, since it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland, it is also overcrowded. Which, if you’re like me, is a bad thing. I like some quality time with nature without being shoulder to shoulder with other people and without masses blocking my video shots and scenic photos.
(Photo: Gullfoss – two tiered waterfall)
After Gullfoss, continue along the Golden Circle to your final stop – Kerid Crater. This is a volcanic crater lake and, unlike Gullfoss, much less crowded. We practically had the place to ourselves and hiked up and down and all around it.
(Photo: Doug and I at Kerid Crater)
Finally, once finished with the Golden Circle, end your day in the town of Selfoss where you can stay for the night. We chose to go the Air BnB route and were so glad that we did! Not only is it the cheaper option, but the hosts we met were phenomenal. They taught us so much about their homeland and had fascinating stories. We stayed with the lovely host, Bjarney and her husband. We had a wonderful room, a clean and nice shared bathroom, and access to their hot tub! Even more, Bjarney and her husband gave us a map of Iceland and circled places that we should visit along our route that many tourists don’t hear about. They also gave us advice and warned us to be careful of sheep when we’re driving. Sheep are the cause of many vehicular accidents AND, if you hit (hurt/kill) a sheep, you are responsible for paying the owner (so don’t do that!). We paid a total cost of $120 for our night there – and yes, that was one of the cheapest options at the time. (Like I said, Iceland is not a cheap country).
Note: The entire drive is less than 3 hours long for Day 2 (not counting stops). So it’s very doable within a day and gives you plenty of exploring time. Unless you opt to scuba in Silfra, in which case you’d need 2 days for the Golden Circle.
Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, Solheimasandur Plane Wreck and the black sand beaches of Vik.
Note: the route we take from here on out, more or less, is Route 1 or “Ring Road”.
Fun fact: “foss” means waterfall.
Leaving Selfoss in the morning, we began our day by stopping at Seljalandsfoss – a stop recommended by Bjarney and her husband the night before. Since it was on our way, and sounded super cool, we decided to give it a go! Of course, we’re glad we stopped because – unlike the other waterfalls – you can WALK BEHIND this gem!
(Photo: Me standing behind Seljalandsfoss)
After Seljalandsfoss, we headed to Skogafoss – a waterfall that I had been DYING to see even before the planning phases of this trip commenced. She did NOT disappoint. Again, the word fairytale comes to mind when describing this magical waterfall. All around her is the GREENEST of greens and if you climb to the top, the views are just as spectacular – you can see miles and miles of gorgeous Icelandic landscape …you can even see the ocean! I remember sitting on the ledge, over halfway up the waterfall, and just looking out into the green yonder thinking “how is this my life?!”. Definitely a moment of deep appreciation.
(All 3 photos taken at Skogafoss)
Even though I didn’t want to leave, we hopped into the car and continued along the route to the Solheimasandur Plane crash. THIS was quite an adventure. I had read that you cannot drive to the actual crash site (which is correct) so I knew to look for the parking lot alongside the road using the coordinates that I had found online (63.4912391, -19.3632810). We found the parking lot area, no problem. Then, we found the trail that leads to the crash site – no problem. What we didn’t know (and there’s no signage anywhere in sight) was that this little adventure is a 4 KM (each way), boring as all hell, seemingly endless trek. Like, I LOVE hiking. But, this was just painful. You walk and walk and walk and seem to go nowhere since all that is around you is endless beach. And, the further we walked, the more we began to question if the plane was even there – we couldn’t see it in the distance AT ALL. In fact, you can’t see it until the end. HOWEVER, we completed the trek because I’m stubborn and wanted to see this haunting sight. And it is, indeed, haunting. Both my husband and I were glad we persevered through the boringness, because the reward was worth it (it most of the time is). The plane crash landed on the beach in 1973 and still remains. The plane just sits amidst the desolate black sand beach. There’s nothingness every which way surrounding it. I think this is what makes it look otherworldly. And fascinating.
(Photo: Me in front of the Solheimasandur Plane Crash)
(Photo: My husband (Doug) having fun on Soloeimasandur’s remote beach)
Finally, after our trek back, we jump in the car and ride to the town of Vik, where we grab some lunch at Strondin Bistro and Bar (by the way – Icelanders LOVE ham & cheese and I am pretty sure I ate my lifetime fill of ham & cheese on this trip). After getting food in our bellies, we head to the beaches of Vik (called Reynisfjara). The wind here is NO joke, but either is the stunning scenery. Reminded me a bit of the Iron Islands in Game of Thrones. The coolest part, beside the crazy awesome basalt columns, was the legend behind the rock formations out in the sea. Apparently, locals believe that trolls who were swimming in the sea couldn’t make it out in time to hide from the sun and were petrified. Hence, creating the stone formations you see out in the waters. Icelanders really believe in troll folklore, and I love it! There are also caves in the coastline along these beaches (nice place to hide from the strong winds!).
(Photo: Me on the black sand beach in Vik, with the petrified Troll formations in the background)
(Photo: Me way up on the Basalt columns on the black sand beaches in Vik)
Lastly, after our fun in Vik, we drive to our resting place for the night. We stayed in an awesome cabin at Horgsland Cottages near the town of Kirkjubaejarklaustur, right off of route 1. Since this was a last minute booking, we only paid about $80 for the entire cabin. We had a nice porch with beautiful mountains behind us and the property even had a hot tub for guests to use (free of charge).
Note: The drive for day 3 (not including the stops) takes less than 2 and a half hours.
Fjadrargljufur Canyon, Skaftafell National Park and a glacier hike on Svinafellsjokull.
First thing in the morning on day 4, we back track a tiny bit (a 15 minute drive) to explore Fjadrarglijufur Canyon. It was a little dreary out that morning, but it didn’t stop us from enjoying the heck out of this mesmerizing place. There are multiple trails you can hike on that lead all around the rim of the canyon and even some that lead to the bottom (not entirely sure we were allowed to go down to the bottom because we did have to hop a fence or two, but..we did it and it was great!). There weren’t many tourists here (which is rare in the south east of Iceland) and we didn’t see Fjadrarglijufur Canyon mentioned in any of the brochures. I stumbled upon it in a photo on Instagram and thank goodness I did because it is easily in my top favorite places in the southeast region.
(Photos of my husband and I exploring Fjadrarglijufur Canyon)
After spending the morning at Fjadrarglijufur, we head further east on Route 1 to Skaftafell National Park. After wondering around the park a bit, we finally make a last minute decision to take a glacier hike on Svinafellsjokull with Icelandic Mountain Guides (their sales lodge is right next to the National Park Visitor Center). For our 3-4 hour hike on this incredible glacier, equipped with an ice axe and crampons, we paid roughly 16000 ISK ($150 USD ) per person. We had a phenomenal guide who told stories of the multiple film crews who worked on this glacier (since he knew we were in the film industry). This glacier is home to the wildlings north of the wall in Game of Thrones. It’s also been a filming location for huge Hollywood Blockbusters such as Interstellar. It was so intriguing to look down the depths of the crevices, and also a tad unnerving, considering you couldn’t see the bottom. We were certainly cautious of where we walked. Then again, the element of danger made it more exciting (duh!) 🙂 Svinafellsjokull is a glacier tongue coming from the the massive ice cap Vatnajokull – it’s so massive that it is Europe’s largest glacier. I 1000% recommend taking on this adventure!
(Both photos taken on Svinafellsjokull during our glacier hike – pretending we’re wildlings!)
After all the hiking at Fjadrarglijufur Canyon and Svinafellsjokull Glacier, my husband and I were drained and needed to find a place to grab some dinner and catch up on some sleep. The closest town with last minute vacancies was Hofn. We ended up staying in our only hotel this night – called “Hotel Hofn” (I mean…their name creativity is top notch). This place is, on most occasions, $150 dollars a night for a room. However, since we did the whole last minute booking thing, we lucked out on a Priceline deal and found a room for less than $110 USD. The hotel is VERY nice and has a wonderful restaurant inside. Furthermore, you have killer glacier and sea views from your window. There’s a hostel nearby as well (Hofn Hostel), however it costs $76 USD a night for a shared room and we figured we’d pay the extra $25 for privacy in the hotel that night. I know, I know…such a splurge!
Note: the drive from Fjadrarglijufur Canyon and Hofn takes 2 hours and 45 minutes. Also, words of wisdom: Be careful driving across the bridges! They are one lane and you must yield to other drivers crossing – it’s like a stop sign: first there, first to cross.
Fun fact: Look out for troll homes on this drive (throughout southeast Iceland along route 1). We SWORE we saw little homes in the scenery that, as we drove closer, would disappear or “transform” into rocks. Perhaps the Icelandic troll legends were getting to us? Or, perhaps there’s some truth to these legends after all! It was crazy nonetheless.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and our beautiful, mountainous drive to Eastern Iceland (leaving the South).
Yes, yes – we had to back track again this morning. This time, it was an hour back track. But, that’s what you get with booking lodging last minute – it saves money but can be somewhat of an inconvenience at times. However, it was worth it to us because this was our only planned destination for Day 5 before we embarked on our longest drive yet – to Eastern Iceland. With that being said, our destination for the day: Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. The lagoon had unbelievably blue water dotted with icebergs from Vatnajokull. Not only that, but chunks of the ice would flow through a short waterway to the Ocean, some landing on the surrounding black sand beach. The contrast of the ice on the black sand is a remarkable sight! The highlight of my time spent at the glacier lagoon was watching seals playing in the waterway, dodging ice chunks as they broke apart. It was my first experience seeing seals PLAY in the wild. I couldn’t get enough! Finally, it was time for our “amphibian boat tour” of the lagoon – with Glacier Lagoon tours (booth is near the visitor center). The tour starts on land and then enters the water (hence, amphibian). It zigs and zags around the icebergs in the lagoon, giving you a better feel for how big some of these icebergs really are up close. I also got to lick 1000 year old ice – so, um, yeah…that’s one for the books! After the tour (lasts less than an hour) we ate at the Glacier Lagoon Cafe onsite before our departure to the East.
(Photos: Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and me, sitting on an ice chunk along the black sand beach)
After Glacier Lagoon, Doug and I continue to head east along the coast before heading into mountain territory. We were told that Eastern Iceland is where you’ll find the reindeer, so we were on the lookout the entire time. We ended up spotting a small herd surrounding some homes. However, we felt weird trespassing to get photos so we just admired them from the distance along the road. The more the road led into the mountains, the more we appreciated our automatic 4WD SUV. These roads are INSANE! They’re dirt/gravel, there’s no shortage of potholes and giant rocks, AND there’s endless winds and bends. Oh! and did I mention the sheep?! Oh yeah, there’s literally endless, suicidal sheep that love to run alongside and even in front of your vehicle – no wonder this drive takes 4 hours (minimum). With that aside, the drive is spectacular. We had to stop at various points to take photos (I’m sure you’ll see our sheep friends in a few). We finally arrived to our Air BnB at “sunset” (okay, it never really got dark – but the sun was dipping below the horizon for the whole hour that it does). This place was a gorgeous farm full of horses and dogs roaming the property. Our host was very kind, though she barely spoke any English so it was difficult to fully communicate – hand gestures and smiles went a long way! However, we were so tired from the day, we headed up to our room and immediately passed out. Our host was Anna Kristin and the place is called “Eidagisting 1”. We were able to find the place with no problems, so our language barrier really wasn’t an issue AND we only paid $78 USD for the night (cheaper than the last few!). Eastern Iceland felt warmer and sunnier – we were SO happy to have spent our time in the south, but were also glad to be leaving the ‘tourist zone’.
Note: I suggest booking your Air BnB’s in Eastern (and Northeastern) Iceland in advance because lodging is few and far between – thus, what little there is, books up fast!
(Photos: Drive through the mountains to Eastern Iceland)
Husavik and whale watching
TODAY IS THE DAY! While reading about Iceland before embarking on my journey, I read multiple times about how great the whale watching is up in Northern Iceland (specifically in Husavik). I read that many people go whale watching in Reykjavik (because, again, tourists), but it’s not near as good there! Well, I can’t speak for the Reykjavik tours, but our whale watching tour with North Sailing in Husavik was THE BOMB! (cost 10,500 ISK, about $98 USD per person). I’m so glad I researched them! I mean, first off, the town itself is idyllic and, if heaven was a town, I am sure it is Husavik – quaint and brightly painted buildings, rolling green mountains dusted with snow, the crisp clean arctic air, the sparkling ocean waters, the harbor, the sunshine, the people – it was perfection.
We boarded our wooden ship, put on our arctic coveralls (bundled to the max) and set sail on the edge of the arctic – all smiles! Pure bliss is all that I felt – it was one of those moments and feelings I knew I’d remember all my life. After sailing out to sea for about an hour, we finally saw her – a beautiful, gentle giant breaching! She was magnificent! I screamed with excitement, my mouth agape in utter awe. Then there were two…no, three! no four! holy crap! We saw six humpback whales, all putting on the show of a lifetime. Not only did we see humpbacks, but we saw several minke whales, harbor porpoises and puffin! After the ship stayed in place for over a half hour as we all watched this spectacle, I began to feel…oh shit! seasick? I got hot, really hot! I immediately unzipped my coverall and ran to the back of the ship (captain’s orders for the ill-stricken). The second I reached the stern, I threw my torso over the railing and upchucked – A LOT. I was disappointed to be missing even a minute of the show and started to get irritated – why me? why am I so seasick? Then, suddenly, one of the humpback whales swam right up to where I was leaning, blowing water through her blowhole and looking up at me with such curiosity. I took it as her way of saying “I’m sorry you’re sick, but I hope this helps cheer you up some!” (I mean, thats the most reasonable assumption, right?). And it did cheer me up – so much! I felt so connected to this giant creature and I, for the first time in my life, finished yakking with the biggest SMILE on my face (that’s right – smiling and puking simultaneously). After vomiting for 25 minutes, I finally made my way back to my husband and enjoyed the rest of our excursion. Seasick included, it was one of the best days of my life!
(Photos: Husavik and whale watching with North Sailing on the edge of the Arctic)
After our whale watching excursion, we grabbed food at Hvalbakur Grill & Cafe. Doug (my husband) said he had the best ham and cheese croissant EVER here. Also, we sat outside on the patio while we ate and had THE prettiest view of the harbor. Not only that, but it was sunny and warm (for Iceland). I only needed long sleeves, no winter coat!
By the time we finished our meal, it was time to check in to our Air BnB for the night. We stayed with our host, Salbjorg, in the countryside at her place called “Ardalur” (near the hotel Skulagarour). It’s a 35 minute drive from Husavik and MAN! was it a brilliant drive! So gorgeous! AND her Air BnB was on a giant plot of farmland, surrounded by endless fields and streams – mountains in the distance. We watched the best “sunset” over her land that night.
Fun fact: We traveled during June / midnight sun season – the sun would dip below the horizon but it never really got dark. Rather, it would stay the golden hour glow for multiple hours before the sun would rise back up over the horizon. It was incredible.
Fun fact 2: Our host still used VHS and had the most random collection of American movies.
Dettifoss, Myvatn and Grjotagja lava cave, Godafoss and Akureyri
We woke up (early as usual) and had breakfast with our host and two other guests (from California!). We began to notice a pattern with Icelandic breakfasts: they love veggies in the morning. We had bread (not toast) with fresh butter and cheese, cucumbers and tomatoes, and a slice of ham (deli style). It was odd, but the freshness was delightful! Salbjorg told us many interesting facts about their lifestyle – including her child’s schooling and how busses would come clear out to their farm (even in the winter) to pick their child up! Like, 10 feet of snow is no big deal to drive in?! She was super sweet. Her eyes lit up when we told her we were heading to Dettifoss and told us we would LOVE it. That made me even more anxious to hit the road.
We arrived at Dettifoss, still morning, with an easy 40 minute drive. To our surprise, we were the only two people there! We literally had the entire waterfall to ourselves! It was a dream come true. Not only is Dettifoss 144 feet tall, it is reputed as the most powerful waterfall in Europe (and I wouldn’t doubt it). As we walked along the canyon, taking photos and relaxing next to the waterfall – we enjoyed the sounds of nature, and nature alone. Seemed as if nature was enjoying herself as well – for a double rainbow soon appeared across the canyon! Ethereal.
(Photos: me and the double rainbow at Dettifoss)
After spending hours of quality time with Dettifoss, Doug and I made our way to our next stop: Myvatn.
An hour and a half later, we arrive to Myvatn Lake and HOLY MOLY, are the flies BAD! So bad, that we’re barely able to enjoy ourselves. We don’t stay long..rather, choose to go explore the nearby Grjotagja lava cave (still in the Myvatn area). To our relief, the bugs do not follow us into the cave. The cave is crazy cool with a dark blue thermal spring inside (too hot to swim in). This cave is where the Game of Thrones Jon Snow and Ygritte love scene was filmed (needless to say, I’m a GoT fan!). The cave and it’s surroundings are all lava rock, full of cracks and crevices – I enjoyed jumping over the crevices on top of the cave (outside) – it was a little game I entertained myself with. It wasn’t long until my sweat attracted the flies again and we departed – onward to Godafoss.
(Photo: me admiring the thermal spring in Grjotagja lava cave)
Once at Godafoss (after another 40 minute drive along route 1) I instantly understand why it’s dubbed “waterfall of the gods”. It is truly divine. Dare I say, it may have even been my favorite waterfall in Iceland. I really can’t even put to words the reasons why – it just IS. A sensation (one I’ve only gotten at places such as Yosemite National Park), washed over my soul and made me FEEL such strong emotions – connectedness – as if all was right in the world – true peace. Again, it can’t fully be put into words. All I can say, is that this is a magical place that makes you feel magic. Very spiritual. If I haven’t given you reason enough, GODAFOSS is why you should travel to Northern Iceland!
(Photos: me living and loving life to the fullest at Godafoss)
After this enlightening experience, we made our way to the city of Akureyri (second largest urban area in Iceland) where we booked the most awesome Air BnB yet (right outside of the city). Not only was our accommodations for the night in a renovated van with a deck, but it was right alongside the coast towards the tip of the fjord. We witnessed another crazy beautiful “sunset” that night as well! Blessed, indeed! Our host’s name was Eyglo and her B&B is called “Arnarnes Paradise”. It cost us $81 and was SO FREAKIN’ WORTH IT! There were bathrooms in the main hall, near the diner (steps away from our camper van).
Note: In Iceland, it is customary to remove your shoes at the entrance of homes and even some restaurants. Which in this place (at the diner), was expected – with a sign reading “remove shoes before entering”. I had no idea it was a custom in Iceland until my travels here – but, I didn’t mind one bit, I hate wearing shoes!
Our host fed us breakfast the next morning (typical Icelandic style) and gave us some homegrown hot tea (which, not being a tea drinker, I thoroughly enjoyed). I can’t recommend this place enough!
(Photos: the foggy morning after staying in our Air BnB camper van – near Akureyri)
Drive to Southwest Iceland, Exploring Raudfeldar Canyon and our private hot-tub at Guesthouse Hof.
After breakfast, Doug and I hit the road – heading southwest towards the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. This being our heaviest travel day (5 hours), we didn’t put much in the itinerary other than to get to Snaefellsnes and book a place to stay. The drive, like all the drives, is still jam-packed with incredibly beautiful scenery the entire way. We finally arrive to our lodging at Guesthouse Hof. We found a good deal on Priceline (last minute win!) for $69 – which is mind-blowing (in a good way) considering we had a huge kitchen and private deck with our own private hot tub. *Double High Five!*
After checking in, we NEEDED food. We were starving. However, forewarning, there is next to NO businesses (especially food) near Guesthouse Hof. We had a bitch of a time finding a meal and were growing very, very irritated. After driving back and forth for HOURS, we finally found a place (thanks to the help of a local at a gas station) – it’s a nearby restaurant called “Langaholt” which is also part of another guest house (the reason we drove past it several times without stopping). At Langaholt, we had the BEST meal in Iceland. Their menu is “what nature provides”! Which is so awesome and literally “farm to table” style. They provided us with a land or sea option. Doug chose land (which was lamb) and I chose sea (the catch of the day). Our meal came with deliciously spiced potatoes, sautéed veggies and soup. It was as if we were being rewarded for our struggle to find food in the first place. However, we did pay the price of such deliciousness. It was the most expensive meal we had in Iceland. But again, totally worth it! If you have the money, eat there!
With a full belly, and not quite time to go in for the night, we decide to explore the nearby canyon I saw signs for down the road from our guesthouse – towards Arnarstapi. Lucky for us that I saw the road sign because, apparently, this canyon is an Icelandic hidden gem – called Raudfeldar Canyon (it’s also called Raudfeldsgja Gorge – use this when typing into Google Maps). Another name for this place: Troll Grave Canyon. Legend has it that an angry troll killed one of his two nephews by pushing him into this canyon, all because his nephew pushed his “curvaceous” daughter into the water and she ended up drifting to Greenland on an iceberg. The angry troll was so pissed that, after killing his nephew, he climbed down into the canyon himself and never came out. SOOOO, one troll died there and one troll still lives there – this sounded like a grand opportunity for some adventuring to me! Exploring this canyon was no easy task either. I had to climb over (more like around) waterfalls by clinging to the slippery sides of the canyon, jump from tiny rock to tinier rock, straddle drop-offs, climb the canyon walls where soft rocks crumbled and fell if pulled too hard, dodge birds flying at my face ….but hey! these sorts of things are what I live for! 😉 I found this cave to be very mysterious and my curiosity was ignited – if ever on Snaefellsness, do not pass up this hidden treasure!
(Photo: me inside Raudfeldar Canyon, aka. Troll Grave Canyon)
After our adventure in “Troll Grave Canyon” we headed back to our lodging and, of course, enjoyed our private hot tub (for hours!). We had a few drinks and just talked and laughed about all our awesome experiences in Iceland thus far. All the while being surround by the ocean, volcanos, glaciers and mountains…under the presence of the midnight sun. We got so caught up in the moment, that we didn’t even realize that it was 2:00 in the morning (I mean, it looked like 8:00pm), and we were being pretty loud. It was time to call it a night!
(photo: taken in our private hot tub at Guesthouse Hof)
Snaefellsjokull National Park: Saxoll Crater, Songhellir Cave and Snaefellsjokull Glacier AND Kirkjufell
We begin the day with driving up to Snaefellsjokull glacier via a F road (meaning a 4×4 vehicle is necessary) and believe me, if you do not have a a 4WD vehicle then you should definitely not attempt this road. We did have a 4WD vehicle, and this route was still immensely difficult for us – I was convinced we were ruining our rental car thanks to this road. Regardless, this route has amazing stops and fantastic views so it is, without a doubt, worth the drive (and we didn’t ruin our rental). Along the route we hiked around the mountainous countryside and Songhellir Cave before reaching Snaefellsjokul Glacier.
(Photo: me hiking the countryside of Snaefellsjokull National Park)
(Photo: inside Songhellir Cave in Snaefellsjokull National Park)
(Photo: Snaefellsjokull Glacier)
After wondering about this National Park and driving this crazy F road, we continued onto Kirkjufell (about an hour drive) on the western side of Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Kirkujell is the iconic hat shaped mountain that one can easily find photographs of when researching “Iceland” online. She did not disappoint (well, minus the crowds of people…we were getting use to having sites all to ourselves!) However, these crowds seemed to be more local folk enjoying the nice weather – their children were even swimming in the creek (it was 60 degrees Fahrenheit at best). This mountain, combined with Kirkjufellsfoss (the waterfall) equals the most outstanding photo ops! My favorite photo I took in Iceland is of this place (see below). Furthermore, you can see Kirkjufell starring in the latest season of Game of Thrones (Season 7, Episode 6), when Jon Snow and his team go beyond the wall to capture a wight (Only difference is that this episode was clearly filmed during Iceland’s winter..I was here in her glorious summer and saw the glowing greenery).
(Photo: foreground is Kirkjufellsfoss and background is Kirkjufell – my favorite photo I took in Iceland!)
For our last night in Iceland, Doug and I stayed at Arnarstapi Guesthouse (in, you guessed it, Arnarstapi). This place costs $102 for the night (and was a last minute booking that we didn’t really catch a good deal on). It’s a cute and clean place, but probably my least favorite of all the places we stayed. With that being said, it’s location is great – it’s right along the coast where you can see Hellnar Arch and Gatklettur Arch Rock. And the town of Arnarstapi is a charming little fishing town.
Gatklettur Arch Rock and the spectacular coastline between Hellnar and Arnarstapi, then, lastly, our departure.
We see Hellnar Arch and Gatklettur Arch Rock and spend our morning hiking along the coastline between Arnarstapi and Hellnar until the afternoon. I even walked along the top of the Arch Rock (pretty sure it’s a safety hazard and not advised) BUT, it was thrilling and made for a killer view and photo!
(Photos: the Arch Rocks in Arnarstapi)
Now is the sad, sad time – time to make our drive to Keflavik airport where we depart Iceland in the late evening. *Sad face* On our last day (as you can tell by the photos above), we had very gloomy weather – I think Iceland was just as sad as we were that we had to leave!
ANYWAYS, there you have it folks! A 10-day Iceland Road-trip Itinerary – one that encompasses so much of what Iceland has to offer (crazy how much more there still is!). Iceland is gorgeous and adventure filled – she’s clean and pristine and one of kind! Truly, the land of fire and ice. We fell in love with this country and look forward to our return one day (where, this time, we travel across the country rather than around). I hope you enjoyed the suggestions, ideas and tips I included in this blog as well – if you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to help! Without further ado, I’ll leave you with this quote that I find to be an unbelievable, nail-on-the-head truth:
“The problem with driving around Iceland is that you’re basically confronted by a new soul-enriching, breath-taking, life-affirming natural sight every five goddam minutes. It’s totally exhausting” – Stephen Markley.