Velkomin á Íslandi! Following my introduction of Iceland to you, I will now present my personal Travel Guide to this cold but beautiful country. Iceland is known for being a camping destination and I wanted to experience the country as it is meant to be experienced. Before this trip, I had never camped before so naturally, I was a bit scared of what it would be like but nonetheless, EXCITED!
Duration: 7 Days
As mentioned in my post last week ‘Why Iceland Should Be on Your Bucketlist‘, Iceland is the size of Portugal, so a roadtrip around the country could, theoretically, be done in one week. However, because of the many attractions and stunning scenery wherever you drive, you will want to stop up every 10 min. to take pictures, videos, or simply enjoy the view. Therefore, in order to do the full Ring Road, I would recommend 12-14 days. I only had 7 days, which allowed me to do half of the Ring Road, so this Travel Guide is based on my one week’s experience.
Where to Stay at?
Normally, finding the right hotels whether it is regarding location, price, or the standard of the hotel itself, can be time consuming and difficult to do. This time I could avoid all of that hassle because we just needed a camping van! There are a lot of local rental companies that offer camping vans in various sizes.
We did some research and decided to go with Happy Campers Iceland because they offered us free pick up/drop off at the Airport and their vans looked very well designed. Here, I am not talking about your typical big RV with a kitchen, bath, and bed. Most of these local rental companies buy normal vans and transform them into camping vans giving them a foldable bed/couch and a sink – what more do you need, right? :’D
Surprisingly, it was really cozy in the Van and after picking it up, we set sail straight away and started exploring by driving east towards the first attraction on our list.
Where and What to Eat?
If you’re looking for a vacation where you get to sit in an upscale restaurant and sip Chardonnay to your grilled Salmon, then Iceland is not the right destination. Even if you don’t do camping style, you will have a hard time finding nice restaurants if you’re not in one of the “bigger” cities. We experienced Iceland in a van, so our best meals came from a supermarket close to Reykjavik, where we stocked up with instant noodles, pasta, veggies, and other quick to eat food.
What to do?
Starting from Reykjavik, you can either drive along the northern coastline OR you can do what we did and go along the southern coast. We saw a great deal of attractions in the south and felt like there was still so much to see but here is a list of the spots that stopped at during out half Ring Road trip. They are listed in the order of their location that you will reach when taking the southern part of the Golden Circle.
Around 50 minutes from Reykjavik by car, you will find this scenic lake in a volcanic crater that is more than 3000 years old. This crater is easily found and you can walk all the way down to the lake by foot or enjoy the view from top. Its beauty really presents itself when the sun is shining, giving the water an amazing blue/green color.
From Kerið, you can drive further into the inland, you will find the massive Gullfoss. If you think that you have seen a big waterfall already, then wait until this one is 10 meters away from your eyes. A tip would be to bring a rain coat because you WILL get wet as you approach the waterfall.
Located right on the Route 1, this 60 meter tall waterfall attracts tourists with its cave behind the falls.
Yes, another “Foss” (waterfall) and this time it is the more modest Skógafoss. Although nothing magnificient compared to other Icelandic waterfalls, this one is worth a quick visit because of its low attractiveness to tourists. You will therefore be able to sit down in front of it and grab a bite of food while enjoying the sound of tremendous amount of water hitting the bottom. All of it without the disturbance of hundreds of people taking pictures.
Enough with waterfalls for now. This next spot on the way is a giant glacier and it was at the foot of the glacier that I really saw how tiny we are in this massive landscape. You can do a tour with mountain guides but unfortunately we weren’t able to do that because it was off season and the weather was not cold enough to ensure that ice was not melting.
6. Reynisfjara Beach
Futher down south close to the city of Vik, you will find this unusual black sand beach with basalt stacks and fantastic panorama. Be aware that it can be very windy, so make sure to wear warm clothes. Other than that, this spectacular beach is a must-see on Iceland.
This one is my personal favorite and a definite must-see spot on Iceland. Fjaðrárgljúfur is a canyon, which is 2 kilometers long up to 100 meters deep. Its origin dates all the way back to the Ice Age, two million years ago. Having seen the landscapes of what USA, Australia, and New Zealand have to offer, I am normally not so easily impressed anymore, but this green canyon simply took my breath away. Regardless of whether you see it from the bottom or from the top, I assure you that you will love it!
8. Diamond Beach
It seemed like the further east we drove, the colder it got. This last spot on our road trip consisted of an icy beach with giant junks of ice flowing in the water or simply on the sand. It was a unique sight but again, bring along warm jackets cause those ice diamonds obviously do not thrive in warm weather.
9. Blue Lagoon
We finished our road trip and drove back to Reykjavik but not without stopping by Fjaðrárgljúfur again to enjoy the beautiful view once more – yes, that’s how much I loved it! We stayed in Reykjavik for 2 days and of course couldn’t miss out on the infamous Blue Lagoon. It was the perfect ending to the road trip to be able to dive into geothermal water and apply mud to my poor skin that has endured extreme cold weather for a week. If you want to visit the Blue Lagoon then make sure to book it online as as early as possible it is a very popular tourist spot. I’m not kidding when I tell you that more filled busses arrive there during a day than you can count!
Needless to say, if you fancy amazing landscape and stunning scenery then Iceland will be the perfect destination for you. I don’t know when it would fit into my schedule again, but I would definitely like to visit the country again and see the other half of the Ring Road.