Blue Lagoon

Iceland

7-Day Iceland Ring Road Itinerary

January 04, 2020

Top Things To Do In Iceland

Photo by Ready Set Jet Set

I never thought I would cross Iceland off my bucket list but I did this year! Haley from Ready Set Jet Set spotted $200 mistake fare round-trip flights from Austin to Iceland so we booked tickets for February.

SEE ALSO: Day Trip From Rome To Amalfi Coast

 

Iceland Ring Road

The goal was to drive the entire Iceland Ring Road in a campervan to see and experience all of Iceland. Oh, and the campervan is manual, not automatic. I took a manual driving class at Driveway Austin Motorsports Track & Racing School – while I learned how to drive a manual car, it wasn’t a campervan.

I feel SO accomplished and proud to say, we drove around the entire country in a manual campervan through the snow blizzards and survived to tell the tale. It was certainly the trip of a lifetime with several near-death experiences that makes you question and appreciate life.

This trip was definitely out of my comfort zone and not my typical cup of tea. Most of my trips are pampered and filled with restaurant tastings. We only ate out a couple of times in Iceland, none of which are worth sharing, because we were strapped on daylight and trying to drive the entire Ring Road. So I am only going to share the essentials I recommend packing and the food items I recommend buying for Iceland.


Visiting Iceland FAQ’s

When’s the best time of year to visit?

This depends on what you want to see. We went in February because we got lucky and spotted $200 error flights from Austin to Iceland but this is probably the worst time to go because it’s the height of winter and the weather is so bad. The best times to go for early winter are September and October and then during the summer for midnight sun and warmer temperatures are July and August.

 

When can you see the Northern Lights in Iceland?

March, September, and October are typically the best time to visit Iceland to see the Northern Lights.

 

Is Iceland safe?

There’s no crime but it is a dangerous country to visit because of the snow-covered roads, waterfalls, and just because of extreme nature in general. So be safe. I did have several near-death situations on this trip – scroll down. 

 

When’s the best time for whale watching?

Summer months of June, July, and August.

 

What about puffins?

Puffins can be seen in Iceland from early April until September each year. Iceland is home for more than 60% the world’s entire population of puffins with 8 to 10 million puffins inhabiting the island.

 

What’s is the Ring Road in Iceland? How are the road conditions?

The Ring Road (also known as Route 1) is the national main road in Iceland that runs around the entire island (about 832 miles). Beware that there are no guard rails on 80% of the roads so when it was snowing, the road conditions were pretty scary.

 

What is the Golden Circle in Iceland?

The Golden Circle consists of three equally stunning locations in southwest Iceland: Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and the Gullfoss waterfall.

 

Road trips essentials to pack

  • Snow/winter jacket
  • Raincoat
  • Windbreaker jacket
  • Thermals
  • Fleece leggings
  • Waterproof pants (I put these over my leggings)
  • Snow boots
  • Hiking boots
  • Scarves
  • Beanie
  • Handwarmers/body warmers
  • Swimming suit
  • Towel (I brought a microfiber towel to save on packing space)
  • Heated blanket (optional, but I’m so glad I brought mine! It was pretty cold in the hostels)

 

Food to pack/buy in Iceland

Food in Iceland is expensive. A lunch entree can easily cost $30 and groceries like fruit, veggies, and poultry are 2x – 3x of US price because it’s flown in. A pint of blueberries at the grocery store in Iceland was $10! We only ate out a couple of times on this trip so we cooked a majority of our meals.

The cheapest grocery store in Iceland is Bonus so stock up when you see one!

  • Coffee (ground if you have a French press or instant)*
  • Creamer for coffee
  • Peanut butter*
  • Toast
  • Instant noodles (before you say WHAT. Yep, I ate a ton of instant noodles on this trip and I’m not proud of it but it was the fastest meal on the road and hot)*
  • Instant mac & cheese*
  • Crackers*
  • Chocolate* (chocolate helped me get through those long drives)
  • Chips*
  • Cheese (we made grilled cheeses one of the nights in the Airbnb)

* I would buy these in the US and pack in your luggage so you don’t have to buy them in Iceland.

 

Lamb penis

Icelandic foods to try

Can you guess what that is above?

  • Lamb penis – yep, something you can find in the grocery store.
  • Fermented shark – an Icelandic guy stopped in the store and told me I had to try fermented shark to honor their ancestors. I did and it almost killed me.
  • Licorice
  • Betzu hot dogs – popular hot dog stands in Iceland
  • Icelandic yoghurt
  • Whale – this is obviously controversial so it’s up to you.

7-day Iceland Ring Road itinerary 

Here’s our 7-day Iceland Ring Road trip itinerary and how we drove the entire Iceland Ring Road!

 

Happy Campers Iceland

Photo by Ready Set Jet Set

DAY 1 ICELAND RING ROAD: FLEW INTO REYKJAVIK

We departed from Austin with a short layover in JFK and landed in Keflavik International in Reykjavik, Iceland. Happy Campers picked us up from the airport to go to their office to pick up our camper van.

 

HAPPY CAMPERS

Our campervan rental was from Happy Campers – we rented the Happy 3 that seats 5 people and sleeps 5 people. The Happy Campers campervan was so easy to drive (remember it’s manual!) and we felt safe sleeping in the campervan even at night. I was so impressed with the heating system! There were heaters in the front that turn on when the campervan is on but also a separate heater in the back so we were warm even when sleeping in the campervan. The chairs easily fold down to make a bed and there’s a top bunk (I slept there). Happy Campers provides pillows and comforters.

  • Heating system
  • 24/7 emergency service
  • Fuel efficient and equipped with a solar panel on the roof of the van
  • Unlimited WiFi access for up to 5 devices
  • GPS tracking system so in case you get lost and need assistance

Cost: € 217/day – € 310/day (c/o)

Stapabraut 21, 260 Keflavík, Iceland

Tip: majority of rental car at car rental are manual so be prepared for that.

 

Blue Lagoon

Photo by Ready Set Jet Set

BLUE LAGOON

We decided to drive Iceland’s ring road in a counterclockwise direction so off to our first stop in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon! The Blue Lagoon is a short 30-minute drive from Reykjavik and you know you’re when you see the smoke in the air and the blue waters as your driving in. All the photos and videos of the Blue Lagoon on the web and on Instagram are real and not overhyped. We opted for the cheapest ticket for $69 that includes the entrance to Blue Lagoon, free silica mud mask, use of towel, and a free drink.

The temperatures outside were 30°F so it was freezing we came out of the bathroom in our swimsuits but once you get into the 99–102°F water, it feels so good. Ahhhhh. We were there for about 3 hours soaking in the geothermal pools and slathering ourselves with silica mud masks. I would have stayed all day in the geothermal area but we were on a tight schedule to drive to Skogafoss before nightfall.

Cost: Starts at $69 US.

What to bring: Swimming suit, towel, hair clips or rubber band to tie up your hair, and conditioner.

Website: bluelagoon.com

 

HOTEL SKOGAFOSS

We stayed overnight at Hotel Skogafoss, which was a short drive from Skógafoss waterfall and right next to Eyjafjalla Glacier. Nearby sightseeing spot is the Selfoss waterfall too.


 

Skógafoss waterfall

DAY 2 ICELAND RING ROAD: SKÓGARFOSS

SKÓGAFOSS WATERFALL

Skógafoss, situated on the Skógá River, is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland with a drop of 60 meters and a width of 25 meters. It was pouring rain when we got to Skógafoss but we still climbed up the 370 steps and the view was stunning!

What to bring: hiking boots and raincoat

 

THINGS TO DO AROUND VIK

There’s not a ton of stores in Vic but we did stop by the Icewear store to buy more wool socks.

  • Dyrhólaey – (also known as Cape Portland) is the Arch with the Hole (“the hill island with the door hole”)
  • Fjaðrárgljúfur – magnificent canyon in southeast Iceland. The Fjaðrá river flows through it. The canyon has steep walls and winding water. It is up to 100 m deep and about 2 kilometers long. Located near the Ring Road, not far from the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur.
  • Seljalandsfoss – one of the best-known waterfalls in Iceland located right by Route 1.
  • Eyjafjallajökull – one of the smaller ice caps of Iceland that last erupted in April 2010.

 

Iceland Black Beach

REYNISFJARA BLACK BEACH

Reynisfjara is the world-famous black-sand beach found on the South Coast of Iceland located next to the small fishing village of Vik. Wear a raincoat because you can get pretty wet from the waves and take pictures of the rocky sea stacks. We ate dinner at the Black Beach restaurant and it wasn’t too bad.

Iceland near-death experience #1: I was standing at the end of the waves to take a boomerang on Instagram and briefly turned my back. Next thing I knew, a wave came and knocked me off my feet and into the water. The coldness of the water and the surreal experience as the water pulls back into the ocean stuns you. I quickly got back up and grabbed my iPhone.

What to bring: rainboots and raincoat

Vikurbraut, Vik 870, Iceland

 

MÖðRUVALLAVEGUR

Camped overnight in the Happy Camper camper van in Möðruvallavegur campsites.


Glacier Lagoon

DAY 3 ICELAND RING ROAD: JOKULSÁRLON GLACIER LAGOON

We were in for the ultimate Iceland adventure when we pulled up Jokulsárlon Glacier Lagoon. As we got out of the camper van and crossed the parking lot, a snow blizzard started and it was so frightening. Winds felt 50 – 60 mph and with the snow, it was painful and scary.

 

Iceland Ice Caves

Photo by Ready Set Jet Set

CRYSTAL ICE CAVE TOUR

Arctic Adventure picked us up from Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and took us off-roading to the Crystal Cave. To be honest, the Crystal Cave was a let down because the cave was so small from melting in the last couple of months. There are many other ice caves in Iceland so I highly recommend doing your research and contacting the tour company beforehand.

Cost: 19.990 ISK or $200 US per person

What to bring: Snow jacket and pants, hiking boots, headwear and gloves.

Website: adventures.is/iceland/day-tours/ice-caves/crystal-ice-cave/

 

Jokulsárlon Glacier Lagoon

Photo by Ready Set Jet Set

JOKULSÁRLON GLACIER LAGOON

Snow blizzards are common in this area so I highly recommend sitting in the car and waiting for them to pass before climbing the mountains to see the glacier lagoon. Hike to the end this breathtaking view.

Cost: free, no admission fee

 

Diamond Beach

Photo by Ready Set Jet Set

DIAMOND BEACH

Diamond Beach is right across the street from the Jokulsárlon glacier lagoon so don’t leave without visiting!

Iceland near-death experience #2: See my shocked facial expression in the photo above? Icebergs wash up on the beach at Diamond Beach and I wanted a photo on top of an iceberg. While I was sitting on the iceberg, a wave came and split the iceberg in half pulling it back into the ocean. Luckily someone was nearby and pulled me off the iceberg. Be really careful while taking photos in Iceland!

Cost: free, no admission fee

 

Other things to do in the East Iceland area

  • Vatnajokull – largest and most voluminous ice cap in Iceland that covers 8% of the country
  • Svartifoss waterfall – unique waterfall in Skaftafell in Vatnajökull National Park with dark lava columns
  • Seydisfjordur – we pasted through this small colorful town nestled between Mt. Bjólfur and Strandartindur
  • Egilsstaðir – another small town we pashed through that’s on the banks of the Lagarfljót river
  • Skaftafell National Park – natural reserve that is part of the Vatnajokull National Park that has hiking, cycling trails, and glacier hiking 
  • Höfn – this is an Icelandic fishing town that has a beautiful view of the shore

 

HOTEL FRAMTID

Camped overnight at Djupivogur (Hotel Framtid). The camping fee was $100. The cheese pizza from the restaurant inside the hotel Framtid is actually really good and only $10 US!


 

Akureyri

DAY 4 ICELAND RING ROAD: AKUREYRI

By day 4, we were more than halfway around Iceland to Akureyri! Akureyri, located in northern Iceland, is Iceland’s second-largest urban area.

Iceland near-death experience #3: Driving through snow blizzards on Iceland’s tiny single-land roads without guard rails was terrifying. We saw several cars that went off the road and people were trying to dig them out. WHY DOES ICELAND NOT HAVE GUARD RAILS?

 

Iceland airbnb

OVERNIGHT IN AIRBNB

We found this Airbnb on Refinery 29’s 79 Airbnbs That Will Blow Your Mind (Not Your Budget) list. It is located conveniently across from Akureyri and because it’s on a hill, it has a great view of the city. Loved the loft bed and heated floors.

Cost: $161 per night


Akureyri Iceland

DAY 5 ICELAND RING ROAD: AKUREYRI IN NORTH ICELAND

The weather was gorgeous when we were in Akureyri and we spent the day taking pictures in the town.

 

BRYNJA ice cream shop in Akureyri, Iceland

BRYNJA

If you want to try authentic Icelandic ice cream, go to Brynja in Akureyri. It’s made with milk, and not cream so it’s airier and lighter.

Aðalstræti, Akureyri, Iceland

 

MYVATN NATURE BATHS

At night, we drove the one-hour drive to the Myvatn pools but sadly, the 50 mph winds were too much for us to enjoy the hot springs so we had turned back.

Cost: 4200 ISK – 4700 ISK / $42 US

Website: myvatnnaturebaths.is

 

THINGS TO DO NEARBY

  • Húsavík – a town in Norðurþing municipality on the shores of Skjálfandi bay. The most famous landmark of the town is the wooden church Húsavíkurkirkja that was built in 1907.
  • Dimmuborgir – you can see the ominous lava field formations near Mývatn Lake (Lake Myvatn) that were formed some 2,300 years ago
  • Hverir – another geothermal pool noted for its bubbling pools of mud & steaming fumaroles emitting sulfuric gas

 

Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall in Iceland

DAY 6 ICELAND RING ROAD: KIRKJUFELLSFOSS

KIRKJUFELLSFOSS WATERFALL

Located on the Snaefellsnes peninsula, the Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall is a popular photo spot in Iceland.

Iceland near-death experience #4: The steps up to Kirkjufellsfoss were completely iced over so it was so scary to climb up and down the steps. I highly recommend getting crampons on your hiking boots or snow boots.

 

OVERNIGHT IN AIRBNB

We picked this Airbnb for two reasons: (1) it was right next to Kirkjufellsfoss, so we were hoping to get a photo of the Northern Lights above Kirkjufellsfoss and (2) the hot tub. There was a major snow storm that night but we soaked in the hot tub anyway!

Cost: $179 per night

Grundarfjörður, West Iceland


DAY 7 ICELAND RING ROAD: REYKJAVÍK

We only spent one hour in Reykjavík so I could get hot dogs from the Beztu hot dog stand before returning the camper van in Keflavík.

 

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur

Photo by Ready Set Jet Set

BAEJARINS BEZTU PYLSUR

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, which translates from Icelandic into English as “the best hotdog in town,” was highly recommended so we made a stop in Reykjavík. The hot dogs were nice and warm so I scarfed them down in the cold Iceland weather. I would have preferred less mustard sauce but the crispy onions were so good.

Tryggvagata 1, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland

 

HÓTEL KEILIR

Hótel Keilir is just minutes from the Keflavík International Airport.

Hafnargata 37, 230 Keflavík, Iceland, hotelkeilir.is

 

Other Things To Do Near Reykjavík

I wish had an extra day to fully explore Reykjavík

  • Thingvellir National Park – historic site and national park with dramatic rocky scenery, lakes & ridges plus a national historical shrine.
  • Hallgrimskirkja – Lutheran parish church that’s the largest church in Iceland.
  • Snæfellsnes – a little bit out of the way but this area is known for its dramatic landscapes with the Snæfellsjökull Volcano and Djúpalónssandur Beach
  • Hvitserkur – this 15 m high basalt column stack along the eastern shore of the Vatnsnes peninsula looks like a dragon who is drinking.
  • Dettifoss – waterfall in Vatnajökull National Park in Northeast Iceland, and is reputed to be the second most powerful waterfall
  • Godafoss – waterfall in northern Iceland that is located along the country’s main ring road at the junction with the Sprengisandur highland road

 

DAY 8: DEPART KEFLAVÍK

KEFLAVIK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

We were so exhausted by the end of the trip that we missed our alarms and almost missed our flight!


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WRITTEN BY:

Jane Ko is the Austin blogger behind A Taste of Koko, Austin's top food and travel blog featuring the hottest restaurants and weekend getaways. Jane has been a speaker at South by Southwest (SXSW), Texas Conference for Women, BlogHer, and more on entrepreneurship and social media. She lives in Austin Texas with her dog and cat.

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