So, you want to travel Iceland in a week? If like us you took advantage of the Icelandair stopover deal, you’ll want to cram as much into your 7 (or less) days as possible to take advantage of this stunning country. We spent 7 beautiful days driving Iceland’s infamous ring road, here is our story.
Keflavik > Reykjavik > Gulfoss > Skógafoss > Vik > Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon > Dettifoss > Myvatn Lake > Akureyi > Snaefellsness Peninsula > Reykjavik > Keflavik
Before embarking on a 7 day driving trip around Iceland, there were a few things we would have liked to have known…
- Iceland is pretty massive, don’t be disillusioned by it’s size on the map. To drive the ring road non-stop would take 16+ hours of driving and a good 1,500km. Work out in advance how much distance you’re going to cover each day.
- Iceland is also mighty vast, there is a whole lot of road between the main sights.
- It’s an incredibly beautiful place and you’ll want to stop more often than you have time for!
- Skyr yoghurt is the incredible, gorge yourself while you don’t have to pay the import tax!
Camping Around Iceland
We flew into Keflavik Airport via Icelandair (the nicest airline I’ve ever flown!) and took a shuttle bus to Rekyavik were we had booked our camper van from Go Campers, she was an understated little van with all the basics, mattress, sleeping bags, pots, pans and all the camping equipment we would need. NOTE: Take out the maximum insurance policy that’s available, the roads are bumpy with loose stones so you’ll likely get some gravel damage and the few extra bucks for the insurance beats paying a lot in damages. We also purchased a campsite pass, now I’m not totally convinced this worked out value for money or not, but it made our lives that little bit easier. We knew exactly where we could stay each night and didn’t have to prebook anything.
Before setting off we had roughly worked out our route but things changed a bit when we realised the scale of the country! This really threw us, we roughly knew how big Iceland was but hadn’t taken into account how slow the roads would be, be prepared for 2 way roads without any overtaking lanes and if I remember correctly the limit is 90kph on the main roads out of town. This is not fast!
Driving is a tricky one, if like us and you’re not used to driving on the right we found it best to get out of the city asap and practise on the quiet country roads. To be honest, it didn’t take too long to grasp! If you drive on the right, it’s a walk in the park, the roads are quiet and drivers friendly! Also be prepared for about 12 roundabouts (turning circles) when leaving Rekyavik, the can be interesting when getting used to driving on the other side of the road.
Food, best to accept that food is expensive! We shopped a lot at Kronan and if you’re planning on campsite cooking it won’t break the bank. Iceland was the start of our world trip, so we ate out maybe more than we ought to have! The few times that we did eat out we tended to stick to seafood as we knew how fresh and delicious it would be.
Our day 1 was spent arriving, picking up the camper, doing a food shop and finding the campsite; so I’ll write up from our first full day in Iceland.
Day 1 The Golden Circle
Like most people we started off our trip close to Reykjavik. With our GoCamper we hit the Golden Circle. For a 1 day road trip, The Golden Circle is a fantastic place to start an adventure! The main highlights include visiting Thingvellir National Park, where the Earth’s tectonic plates are being ripped apart meaning this is a very active area where you can find the very impressive Gullfoss Waterfall; exploding Geysir Hot Springs; thermal Fludir Baths. At the end of the day we found it best finding somewhere close to Route 1, the main ring road so we could get going in the morning.
Day 2 Waterfalls and Plane Crashes
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall was the first sight of the day; an impressive waterfall that rises 200 feet high, you can get right below it or hike to the top and view from above. We climbed the steps to the top, and if you’re sneaky, there are outcrops of land off the path that make for excellent photo opportunities. Skogafoss Waterfall was up next, just a short drive down the road, about the same size as Seljalandsfoss but more powerful, you can easily get up behind the waterfall, but bring a waterproof!
I’d read about the Sólheimasandur Plane Crash online prior to visiting so was very excited by the time we got to trek out to it. On Sólheimasandur beach is one of Iceland’s most iconic photo opportunities, the abandoned place wreckage from a 1973 US Navy DC-3. Michael loves a good photo opportunity so I knew we couldn’t miss this one! And my goodness it didn’t disappoint.
If you know what you’re looking for, from the road it’s fairly apparent where to park. Be prepared for a windy, long, straight walk to the wreckage being battered from all sides from the ocean wind, but it was so worth it! I used this nice chap’s guide as a reference on how to get there http://expertvagabond.com/airplane-crash-wreckage-iceland/
Day 3 Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon was the most impressive, beautiful and peaceful spot in Iceland; it was a proper take your breath away moment. I realise that with ‘Iceland’ you expect ice, but an iceberg lagoon of this grandeur, we were not! The crystal blue waters that were so perfectly still and the clear icebergs that looked more like ice sculptures were phenomenal.
The glacier behind the lake is slowly melting, dropping these impressive icebergs into the lagoon below. You can get right up to the ones that have collected on the shore or it was awesome to watch them reach the opening to the ocean where they drift out to sea.
That night we drove over to a campsite on the East Coast, the weather that evening was torrential, in our little van, on those sketchy roads, it was a long long drive! But we did get to go through the Faskrudsfjardargong tunnel which made for a welcome break from the rain smashing against the windows!
Day 4 Waterfalls and Thermal Lakes
Dettifoss Waterfall – after an extremely long, bumpy and muddy drive we wondered if we would ever see our rental deposit again… BOOM, we turn a corner and were faced with the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Totally insane, I love the lack of Health and Safety here, you can walk to the waterfall edge, or jump in if you desire. It felt more than a little sketchy standing at the edge – I’m actually amazed that not more people fall in!
Later on that afternoon we drove towards Myvatn Lake- first we visited the Námafjall Hverir geothermal area, a really out of this world place that looked like the set of a space movie, grey mud pits bubbling and stacks of boulders chimneys of steam. VERY strange and surreal area. Then onto the Myvatn Nature Baths – expect more communal showers, Iceland loves its communal showering… It was such a lovely and relaxing afternoon floating about in the real natural warmth and gazing over the landscape below. It’s amazing what the mind can make you believe, for the longest time, I was convinced I was cold in these thermal baths! They were roasting and here I was, shivering, it took me having to get out and walk back in for my brain to realise I was warm, not frozen.
Day 5 Whale Watching
We took a Whale Watching tour from Akureyi hoping to see some Humpback Whales, incredibly we saw four, all terribly close, many of them feeding and diving down. One had had his fill already and was just floating on the surface, this was amazing as you could see the sheer size of the whale in so much detail; they’re big and so beautiful.
Our whale trip was followed by a bit of sea angling as we slowly made our way back to shore. Michael had no luck catching anything but little old beginner me, who didn’t want to do any fishing, caught more than anyone else on the boat; thankfully all went back into the sea to swim another day.
Day 6. Snaefellsnes Peninsula
A heavy driving day as we ventured around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. The peninsula was beautiful we spent a lot of time by the coast looking at lava cliffs and birds whilst happily snapping lots of pictures; and the weather wasn’t too bad either. For the best part of our trip, the weather wasn’t on our side and the rain jackets were out more often than we were hoping!
Day 7 Reykjavik
We spent our last morning of Iceland at Reykjavik Roasters, I would quite happily and confidently say, the best coffee on the island! Michael is still raving about it! Everyone should go there! We met up with a friend who I’d gone to Art School with and hadn’t seen in far too long, she now lives there and we got all the insider island gossip!
Sadly it was time to drop the camper off and head to the airport. Pleasantly we had no issues with the drop off – although they would have had no idea whether we’d damaged the car or not as we returned it absolutely filthy, caked in mud and a different colour!
Duration: 7 nights
Highlight: Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, this place was such an incredible sight to see, the colours and sheer beauty of the lake really take your breath away. A definite not to be missed!
Lowlight: Not being totally aware of the extent of driving we had to do! We had some pretty long driving days and not enough audio books!
Thank you Iceland, all 1,500km of you have been beautiful.