The beauty of Iceland lies in nature's untouched masterpieces. Although many travelers like to venture along the south coast then head back to the capital, Reykjavik, I highly recommend traveling all around the entire island using the Ring Road, Iceland's main highway. Although planning, to a certain extent, needs to be done, some of my favorite moments included pulling over at random spots along the Ring Road and exploring cliffs and beaches were didn't even know existed. Spontaneity served us well. Below are a few of my favorite, and highly recommended spots, in Iceland. Scroll all the way down to find an example itinerary, tips, and more.
One of Iceland's most famed waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss is best known for the path in which travelers can walk (and get kind of soaked) behind the large wall of water. Easily accessed off the Ring Road, Iceland's main highway. The water flows from the melting glacier-capped Eyjafjallajokull volcano cascading over a cave-like rock formation. The view from behind is beyond breathtaking. The paths can get kind of slippery, so they close off the path to walk behind in the winter sometimes, but we kind of just ignored those since we figured March was getting to be warm anyways. Why live bound to rules right?! Just kidding, please be safe!
Coordinates: 63.6156° N, 19.9886° W
In the same way rocks form from layers and layers of dirt pressed into each other, the glowing blue roof of this ice cave was formed by layers and layers of snow pressed tightly together. You can see streaks of black volcanic ash dancing around the edges, creating beautiful patterns when the sun shines through. We booked this tour through Glacier Guides because we definitely didn't have a super jeep crazy enough to plow through all the hills and snow. The ice caves also get dangerous during the warmer months, so definitely a winter activity to not skip out on!
Ah the infamous glacier lagoon. It's like God's little masterpiece on a lake. Floating glaciers left and right, each streaked and patterned uniquely and individually. Some chunks of ice wash up onto the shore too, so you can be all interactive and pick up/sit on/lick (yeah we actually did that) the glacier pieces.
Coordinates: 64.0784° N, 16.2306° W
So there's a bunch of tours that offer to take you to see the aurora borealis, but honestly we just used this online aurora tracker (looking on the tracker, you need both high activity of the aurora, but also low to no cloud coverage) and ventured out to a dark abandoned spot by the highway and got so lucky. When people say the northern lights are "dancing", they LITERALLY mean that they are dancing. We were lucky enough to not only catch it so bright and so green, but it moved and changed shape constantly across the sky. It moved from area to area and was probably my absolute favorite thing to see. Out of nine nights we only caught it so bold and bright this one fateful night. The northern lights are only visible during the winter months since the summer months' nighttimes are just perpetual long sunsets. Definitely something to check off on a life's bucket list.
Lake Myvatn nature baths
Wanting to enjoy the silica hot spring waters without the crazy crowds? The Myvatn Nature Baths is definitely cheaper than Blue Lagoon and they even offer a student discount if you have your student ID with you! Beware because it turns some jewelry black, so remove that before getting into the water. You not only get to gaze out into beautiful mountain views, but once you get accustomed to the warmth of the hot spring water, there is a smaller super heated hot tub like thing near the edge of the stairs to get you even warmer! There's even a sauna on the side! Just FYI, to preserve the cleanliness of these natural springs, it is expected of you to shower butt-naked (like not even one piece of swim suit) with soap before getting into the water. Be respectful of their customs!
Jardbadsholar 660 Myvatn, Iceland
Being one of the 25 wonders of the world, the Blue Lagoon is a must visit. Complete with a swim up bar, a sauna, and complimentary silica mud masks, Blue Lagoon is an all in all luxury experience. No need to worry about showering naked here, they have private stalls, loaded with soap and conditioner, and even heated stone floors in the changing room. The Blue Lagoon is only 20 minutes away from KEF airport, so I recommend going either on your first day (great way to relax and get over the jet lag), or on your last day on the way to your flight (which is what we did)!
Nordurljosavegur 9, 240 Grindavík, Iceland
The hike along these mountains were gorgeous and snow-filled in March. You can see the green peaking out next to these hot spring rivers where the snow had already begun melting! The water is an unbelievable color. There are also steam vents all over, making the hike even more dynamic!
Known as one of the "secret" pools hidden in the crevices of the mountains, I can imagine how relaxing it must be to bathe in the quiet with an expansive view of the mountains and the river running next to it. We didn't dip in though because the pool was a little bit on the cooler side of lukewarm. We weren't feeling quite so brave. Definitely something to consider when visiting during the summer though!
Coordinates: 63°33′58.4″N 19°36′27.3″W
Above is the itinerary for my trip in March. We drove around in a counterclockwise ring, on Iceland's Ring Road (famous main highway that loops around the whole country) and it was extremely convenient to get around. We spread this over 9 days, so if you plan to do this make sure to allot enough time for yourself to have a good balance between traveling and exploring! Since KEF airport is only a 39 minute drive away, we started and ended in Reykjavik, Iceland's capital. From the KEF airport, it is only a 39 minute drive to Reykjavik. My biggest regret would be not making it out to see the West Fjords! Unfortunately, the roads were a bit dangerous due to weather conditions, so didn't make it out there. So when you go on your trip I highly recommending trying to fit it in between Skagaströnd and Hveragerði on this map. We utilized www.road.is to keep tabs on the weather conditions and how it affects the roads. Roads do get closed off so it's good to regularly check! It seems a little intimidating, and like a lot of driving, but honestly we only spent around 2-3 hours per day driving from destination to destination. A total of 17 hours and 48 minutes of driving in 9 days!
Tip #1: Invest in a rental car! A 4 wheel drive (and maybe even a jeep or something if you feel like off-roading) is worth the investment. We grew a bit attached to our car by the end of the trip. We rented from Blue Car Rental and we were able to pick up and drop off our car right at the airport. It's the best way to have the most flexible and convenient mode of transportation. Although police are sparse on the roads, if they catch you speeding, they will 100% catch you. We unfortunately learned this the hard way, so abide by their posted speed limits!
Tip #2: Shop for groceries at Bonus Supermarket! Sure, the store's goofy little pig logo made me chuckle to myself, but all in all, you'll come to realize that eating out in Iceland is crazy expensive. Rather than opting only for gas station hot dogs (famous in Iceland because it's affordable, convenient, delicious, and comes with optional fried onion pieces and a wide array of sauces including remoulade, chili ketchup, mustard, and more okay okay I'm getting off topic...), the foods at these grocery markets are decently priced and much more nutritious than hot dogs and ramen. Netto is another market that is commonly found in the area, but Bonus is probably the most decently priced (and our group's unanimous preferred choice)!
Tip #3: Dress in layers! A common Icelandic saying goes like this: "if you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes!" It's honestly kind of true. The weather can go from snowing to sunny to raining all in one day. Bring a waterproof layer, bring warm layers, waterproof hiking shoes, and be prepared for any weather condition! As long as you are prepared for any weather possibility, no sort of weather can ruin you day (;
Tip #4: We rented a wifi dongle and it was only $10 / day. We basically had wifi everywhere we traveled, even up on the hikes! We only had to charge the dongle up and it would be good for 4 hours. We mostly kept it in the car for Google Maps so that wasn't a problem at all! Split between five of us was only $2 / person a day! Not only was it cheap, but it proved to be extremely useful for using Google Maps but we used it often while searching for nearby gas stations and grocery stories too.
Tip #5: Be spontaneous! As I mentioned before, Iceland's untouched nature is beautiful all around, and some of the most breathtaking spots we saw were not marked as tourist locations. All it took was for us to wander away from our car pulled aside at a random spot in the road to find hidden gems. All of Iceland is to be appreciated, and all of it is unarguably breathtaking.
Here was our day to day breakdown (please click in the blog post link if you would like more details about what to do each day at each location):
Day One: KEF Airport -> Reykjavik
39 minute drive
Day 1 Blog
Day Two: Reykjavik -> Vik
2 hr 19 minute drive
Day 2 Blog
Day Three: Vik -> Höfn
3 hr 17 minute drive
Day 3 Blog
Day Four: Höfn -> Gíslastaðir
2 hr 31 minute drive
Day 4 Blog
Day Five: Gíslastaðir -> Akureyuri
3 hr 28 minute drive
Day 5 Blog
Day Six: Akureyuri -> Skagaströnd
1 hr 57 minute drive
Day 6 Blog
Day Seven:Skagaströnd -> Hveragerði
(highly recommended if you have time / if weather is good to slip in the West Fjords for a day in between here)
3 hr 41 minute drive
Day 7 Blog
Day Eight: Hveragerði -> Reykjavik
34 minute drive
Day 8 Blog
Day Nine: Reykjavik -> KEF Airport
39 minute drive
Day 9 Blog