Iceland is visually captivating like nowhere else on Earth! From majestic lava fields mingled with snow-capped mountains, to black sand beaches glittering with icebergs, to glorious waterfalls with rainbows peeking out, to green fjords rising tall from the mist – Iceland has it all!
We spent 20 days in Iceland this summer and absolutely loved it. While you can choose to spend less or more time, either way you will absolutely love Iceland! Here is the itinerary we followed and some tips we learned for our experience.
Day 1: Soak your worries away at Blue Lagoon
We rented our car, picked up some groceries and headed to Blue Lagoon. It was a cold, foggy day and the warm waters at Blue Lagoon seemed so inviting. We spent around 4+ hours here and loved it.
Highlights: Blue Lagoon
- Make sure to book your trip to Blue Lagoon in advance as they get sold out pretty fast.
- Also make sure to carve out additional time at Blue Lagoon. You will love it and end up spending a lot more time than you originally planned for.
Sleep: Near Geysir area
Day 2 & 3 & 4: Fun begins at the Golden Circle!
The Golden Circle is probably the most visited part of Iceland. And why not! It is astoundingly beautiful! We saw varied landscape starting with volcanic craters, thunderous waterfalls and beautiful beautiful rainbows!
- Kerið Crater
- Gullfoss Waterfall
- Skógafoss Waterfall
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
- The weather in Iceland is unpredictable, it pours or becomes cloudy literally anytime. Make sure to take that into consideration and keep your itinerary a little flexible and open. You don’t want to miss out some beautiful sights just because your itinerary was packed. The first 2 times we went to Skogafoss, it was dull and rainy. However the third time, we got rewarded with a beautiful rainbow.
- Don’t miss the hike up the Skogafoss waterfalls. The famous Laugavegur trail ends here. You can walk the other direction (Skogar to Porsmork) for a few (or more miles). The scenery is wonderful – amazing canyon of endless green walls and fantastic waterfalls along the way.
Sleep: Near Hella area
Day 5 & 6 & 7: Glaciers galore!
This part of the trip was straight out of our dreams! So unusual, so unique, so pretty! Hiking on the Vatnajokull glacier was one of a kind experience.
Jokulsarlon was taking exquisite to another level. How many times you get to see chunks of ice break from the glacier and float away to the ocean or glitter on the beach? I never wanted to leave this place!
- Vatnajokull National Park
- Jokulsarlon Glacial lagoon
- Hiking the Sólheimajökull/Vatnajokull Glacier
- Reynisfjara Beach
- Once again, the weather in Iceland is unpredictable, plan for it. One of the days there was a big storm warning and all the glacier hikes were cancelled. We changed our plans a little bit. Plan some leeway and you will be thankful 🙂
- Also make sure to pack hiking shoes and waterproof pants for the glacier hike, else you will need to rent it from them. They are pretty strict about that.
Sleep: Near Hof/Hofn area
Day 8: Eastern Fjords
The next day we drove to Egilsstadir via the Eastern Fjords. Our drive was dotted with narrow cliffs, ragged peaks, and hairpin bends. The weather that day was very foggy, but on the flip side everything seemed so misty and magical. We stopped by to see Hengifoss, Iceland’s 3rd largest waterfall on the way. Stunning!
- Make sure to drive on the gravel road F939.
- There is a hidden waterfall – Fossardalur (blue waterfall) not commonly listed in the guidebooks. Stop there for some amazing scenery.
- Visit Borgarfjordur eystri if there is time. Beautiful fjords with many puffins.
- Eastern Fjords
Day 9 & 10 & 11: Volcanic craters, lava caves and whale watching
The next three days we stationed ourselves in Akureyri and drove around a little. The landscape here changed dramatically – from ‘hellish’ viti crater in in the Krafla Volcanic area (Viti in Iceland means hell) to soothing blue of Lake Mývatn.
We also relaxed in Grjótagjá – a lava cave with a natural hot spring inside. Apparently game of thrones was shot here.
We also enjoyed sitting by Detifoss – the largest waterfall in Iceland and exploring the beautiful city of Akureyri. Husavik is known as the whale capital in the world and there are lots of whale watching opportunities, however we gave that a miss and took a day to unwind and explore Akureyri.
- Viti Crater & mud pots in the Krafla Volcanic area
- Dimmuborgir lava field
- Mývatn nature baths
- Grjótagjá cave
- Whale watching
Tip: Don’t forget to visit Mývatn baths. It’s a cheaper and less crowded option than Blue Lagoon. We’d say do both 🙂
Day 12: Western fjords
Today was a long drive, but the route was filled with lovely fjords and stunning views (seriously Iceland is stunning!) After we reached Hvammstangi, we did a 3 miles loop hike behind our hotel to a plateau with fabulous views overlooking the majestic fjords.
- Arnarfjörður fjord
- natural hot spring named Gvendarlaug
- Hvítserkur rock
Tip: Don’t miss the magnificent Hvítserkur rock,standing tall in the ocean. This odd shaped rock looks like a rhino from one side and an elephant from the other. Truly unique!
Day 13: Puffins, Puffins and more puffins!
Today we saw more of the rugged western fjords and visited bjargtangar: europe’s most western point! Bjargtangar is part of the Látrabjarg cliff where thousands of puffins along with guillemots, razorbills and gannets nest in the summer. The cliff is positioned over the turbulent Rauðasandur Beach. Látrabjarg cliff was really something else to see! So many birds nesting together squealing, squabbling and feeding their young ones!
We also saw Dynjandi waterfall. The waterfall, as usual, is extremely interesting, looked somewhat like a southern Indian temple.
- Látrabjarg Bird Cliff
- Dynjandi waterfalls
- Rauðasandur Beach
Tip: On a clear day, the locals say that you can possibly see Greenland from here! We did not see it, but you might be lucky 😉
Day 14 & 15 & 16: Snæfellsnes Peninsula
The next thing on our itinerary was to explore the rugged Snæfellsnes peninsula that divides the west coast of Iceland. One of the main attractions is the Snæfellsjökull National Park – a scenic park with lots of hikes to explore. We stayed at Hellenar and hiked from Arnarstapi to Hellnar, which go through the lava field right next to the ocean.
Some of the spectacular sights we saw in the national park were Gatklettur Arch Rock – which is a rock with a big arch. Lóndrangar cliffs – jaw dropping cliffs with rugged raw coastline and Djúpalónssandur beach – a unique beach made of smooth black pebbles.
Probably, the best known place on Snæfellsnes is Snæfellsjökull glacier, which is a dormant strato-volcano. Journey to the center of the earth was shot here.
From there we drove to Borganes via Kirkjufell mountain. Kirkjufell is Iceland’s most photographed mountain and was the highlight of our drive around the Snaefellsnes area.
- Snæfellsjökull National Park
- Snæfellsjökull glacier
Tips: Snæfellsnes Peninsula is known to be an extremely windy area. Be careful. Our car shook violently at times. When the signs say that the car doors can get ripped off with high winds, take them seriously.
Day 17 & 18: Blue falls and glacier water diving
Our next stop was Pingvellir national park. On our way, we crossed Borganes, a beautiful fishing town. We also stopped to see a few lovely waterfalls on our way.
The first waterfalls we saw was Hraunfossar or “lava falls” – a unique and picturesque waterfalls that come from underneath the edge of a lava field and spill into the glacial river Hvítá.
The second waterfalls was Glymur – Icelands highest waterfalls. This was an adventurous hike with us going the wrong way to begin with and then getting separated from 2 of our group members. But the hike was fun and the waterfalls breathtakingly beautiful. We never got tired of seeing the waterfalls during our trip at all. Every one of them were unique in it’s own rights.
Our plan the next day was to dive the Silfra fissure at Pingvellir national park. I was both excited and a little nervous about diving in the cold glacier waters. Imagine diving in glacial waters! However my fears proved unfounded, since we were in a drysuit and stayed dry and toasty warm. We dived with a company called Artic adventures, who I cannot recommend enough. They were knowledgeable and made our diving trip all the more fun!
- If you don’t want to dive, snorkel at Silfra. It’s absolutely worth it. Also people dive or snorkel in a drysuit so it’s not as cold as you would initially imagine.
- If you intend to hike the Gymur waterfalls, make sure you have proper boots on. Some of the hiking sections involve holding a cable and climbing up/down.
- Barnafossar & Hraunfossar
- Pingvellir national park
Sleep: Pingvellir national park area
Day 19 & 20: Enjoy Reykjavik
The last 2 days were low key and fun after a whirlwind road trip. We explored Reykjavik – checked out Hallgrímskirkja church, which is Reykjavík’s main landmark. We ate and shopped a lot and went out on mini excursions like dyrholaey – the arch in the rock.
One last note: Pack a good jacket (or a couple) – you will be living in it in Iceland. Also pack swim suits, gloves and beanie. You will defintely need them (Never thought I’d say ‘pack swim suits, gloves and beanie’ in the same sentence) And pack hiking shoes –preferably weatherproof. Even of you don’t think you will hike, pack them. You will end up using them.
Enjoy your trip! And if you need more convincing to visit Iceland check out our last post. You will be convinced 😉