EUROPE REVIEW TRAVEL

The Ultimate Road Trip Itinerary around Iceland + Golden Circle

As part of our four-day visit to Iceland we hired a car from Geysir at Keflavik airport. We opted with this option, as opposed to getting buses and doing tours, as we wanted more freedom. We wanted to stop when we wanted to stop, go off piste, find some lesser known places, do the Blue Lagoon at our own pace, and mostly just to have a more chilled trip. This was the best decision we made on this trip and I would recommend anyone coming to Iceland to rent a car for their visit.

We rented our car from Geysir, and we loved the process and would highly recommend going with these guys. We arrived at Keflavik airport at 2pm, jumped on a shuttle bus which took us 200m down the road, where we then checked in and picked up our keys. The pick up was easy and simple; we added an extra driver so we could take turns and opted for their Insurance Bundle to protect us against the always changing weather and wind. We were given our Toyota Yaris which was great, with more than enough room, and was super easy to drive.

Use the Google Map I created for our trip here

Road Trip Itinerary around Iceland

South Iceland Road Trip – Reykjavik to Vik

Distance: 345 km

Time: 12 hours with stops

Road Trip Itinerary around Iceland

Visit Urriðafoss

Whether your coming from our hotel or Reykjavik, you will begin your journey, coming across a lesser known waterfall close to our hotel called Urriðafoss. As our hotel was super close we arrived around 9am and there was no one else around. It was stunning to watch the water fall from the river down to the south. We wandered here for a while, despite it being super windy and about 5 degrees that morning at 9am. The sheer power of this waterfall was felt some 1km away when we could still feel the water droplets landing on our faces. A must-visit place to add to your road trip adventure.

Road Trip Itinerary around Iceland

Visit Seljalandsfoss

Next up is Seljalandsfoss, the second most famous waterfall after Skogafoss. A unique waterfall in the river Seljalandsá, about 30 km west from Skógar which is 60 meters high with a footpath behind it at the bottom of the cliff. It is the only known waterfall of its kind, where it is possible to walk behind it, but be aware the path may be shut due to ice. Even in April when the weather was warming up, the footpath was closed. The waterfall is very picturesque and offers an opportunity for some amazing photos. Plus it’s right by the road so no detours taking you on a wild goose chase…

 

Visit Skógafoss

After you’ve finished at Seljalandsfoss, not far along the road is Skógafoss. You must have been living under a rock for the last decade if you didn’t know about Skógafoss waterfall. The pictures are everywhere! Situated on the Skógá River in the south of Iceland at the cliffs of the former coastline, Skógafoss is my all time favourite waterfall from the trip, simply because you could really see it’s poweras it fell from the 60 metre drop. Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland, with a drop of 60 meters and a width of 25 meters, and you can walk right up to, but be prepared to be drenched, like we did. And if you can try head there early in the day so you miss the buses arriving! We got there about 40 mins before everyone else arrived so managed to get some incredible photos! It is just overwhelming standing next to it – take your time to watch this immense natural wonder.

Road Trip Itinerary around Iceland

Visit Solheimajokull Glacier

Then after an hour you’ll pass by Solheimajokull Glacier on your left. Now, I am biased here because we didn’t do a tour at Solheimajokull Glacier, but I’ve heard they’re great, despite being expensive. Instead we stopped off on our road trip of the south of the island and parked up. We chucked on our hiking boots and went for a 15-minute walk up to the edge of the glacier, where you can see it in all its glory falling from the mountains, as it falls in to the glacial lagoon. Don’t attempt to climb onto the glacier unguided as it is very dangerous.

Sólheimajökull is a glacier in southern Iceland, between the volcanoes Katla and Eijafjallajökkull. Solheimajokull glacier is an approximately 11-km-long outlet glacier, which advances from Myrdalsjokull glacier, down a one to two km wide valley. The glacier falls from a height of about 1,300 m down to 100 m and, because of the location and shape of the glacier, it is sensitive to climate change. If the climate continues to warm, there is a possibility that the glaciers will have virtually disappeared in 100 to 200 years.

READ MORE: All my posts from Iceland

Road Trip Itinerary around Iceland

Visit Sólheimasandur Plane Crash

Then literally across the road you’ve got Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck. I’m sure you’ve seen photos before… every Instagrammer and their family has visited this wreck on the south coast. It’s a twisted wreckage from an old airplane crash on Sólheimasandur black sand beach. If you don’t know where to look, it can be a difficult place to discover on your own, as it can’t be seen from the road and is actually around 45-60 minutes walk from the car park on the right hand side of the road.

On Saturday Nov 24, 1973, a United States Navy Douglas Super DC-3 airplane was forced to land on Sólheimasandur’s black sand beach in the south of Iceland after experiencing some severe icing. Luckily all crew members survived the crash, but the airplane’s fuselage was abandoned. The wings & tail are missing, it’s full of holes, and the crumbling fuselage is covered with wind-blown black sand. Now it’s become a photography dream location! Even Bieber filmed part of his latest music video skateboarding on top of the plane. I have mixed opinions on whether this stop is worth it as its a super long walk, and it nearly killed me, but it is cool. So you decide, if you want a lengthy walk, do it. If you’d rather do something else, give it a miss!

Visit Hveragerði Hot Springs

Then as your journey back begins, stay on the road for a few hours, and then take a break here for something to eat and drink. We actually stayed here so we didn’t go too far away from the hotel as we had our own hot springs in the hotel grounds, but we did go for a wander up to the top of the hills near Frost & Fire. The Hveragerdi hot spring river trail is one of the most visited hiking trails in Iceland. The trail leads from the town of Hveragerdi to a geothermal river where you can bathe in warm water while admiring the astonishing Icelandic landscape. The name of the valley, Reykjadalur, means Steam Valley and is filled with hot springs and mud pools, and there is even a hot river in which one can bathe! One to add to the list…

Road Trip Itinerary around Iceland

 

 

 

Road Trip Itinerary around Iceland

Eastern Iceland Road Trip – Vik To Hofn

Distance: 271 km

Time: 3 h 23 min driving only

Road Trip Itinerary around Iceland

Visit the puffins at Dyrhólaey

Then around the corner of the bay you’ve got Dyrhólaey, a small peninsula on the south coast of Iceland. The whole place is stunning with massive cliffs, volcanic arch, lighthouse and views of the coastline. You can see puffins in the summer in Dyrhólaey so head here if you’re after a glimpse of one of Iceland’s most famous animals. The best experience is to leave your car in the parking lot at the bottom of the hill and go for a walk. You can also see Black Sand Beach from here and the basalt columns.

Visit Black Sand Beach (Reynisfjara)

Next up, ranked one of the 10 most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world in 1991, Black Sand Beach is beautiful. The lava beach of Reynisfjara is stunning and possibly one of the coolest beaches in the world with its black sand, insane basalt columns, lava formations, towering cliffs, gaping rock faces and caves galore. Reynisfjara is found around 180 km from Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, and is a popular stop-off for those taking a sightseeing tour along South Coast. It was super busy when we arrived at around 2pm as the buses were there too, so pick a spot and grab a view of this amazing sight.

Road Trip Itinerary around Iceland

Skaftafell National Park

Skaftafell National Park is massive with tons of hikes and beautiful landscapes, but since you only have 5 days Iceland, it is best to hit the highlights. We suggest a trip to the visitor center followed by a short 2-mile round trip hike to a nearby glacier. The hike consists of walking down a pebble path until you reach the glacier.

 

Svínafellsjökull Glacier

Svínafellsjökull in an outlet glacier of Vatnajökull, the largest ice cap in Europe. It is one of the country’s most popular places for glacier hiking due to its incredible formations and excellent views. Svínafellsjökull is part of the Skaftafell Nature Reserve, a place of popularity amongst hikers, photographers, and those with a passion for raw natural beauty. This reserve was even a National Park in its own right, before the creation of the enormous Vatnajökull National Park which absorbed it. The reserve is easy to reach throughout the year if travelling from the capital of Iceland, Reykjavík, as it is located just off the Ring Road which encircles the country. Travelling on this route east for four hours, you will come to a left turn onto Route 998, which will take you to the car park and visitors’ centre.

Road Trip Itinerary around Iceland

 

Hofn

You will end day 3 of your 5 day Iceland road trip itinerary by spending the night in the town of Hofn. If you can’t find any accommodations in Hofn, feel free to search the entire area from Skaftafell National Park.

 

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Jökulsárlón is Iceland’s most famous glacier lagoon. Conveniently located in the southeast by Route 1, about halfway between the Skaftafell Nature Reserve and Höfn, it is a popular stop for those travelling along the South Coast or around the Ring Road of the country.  As a glacier lagoon, Jökulsárlón is a lake that is filled with the meltwater from an outlet glacier. In this case, it is Breiðamerkurjökull, a tongue of Europe’s largest ice cap, Vatnajökull. It stands out, however, due to the fact that it also fills with icebergs breaking from the glacier, some of which tower several stories high. These icebergs, other than their scale, are notable for their colouration. Although they are, as expected, largely white, most are also dyed electric blue in part, with black streaks of ash from eruptions centuries past.

 

Road Trip Itinerary around Iceland

The Golden Circle – Return from Reykjavik

Distance: 200 km

Time: 4 h 30 minutes including stops

Visit Kerið Crater

Kerið is a volcanic crater lake in Grímsnes, South Iceland, and makes for a fantastic, if not alternative stop along Iceland’s world-famous Golden Circle sightseeing route. Kerið is normally visited as an extra, alongside the major stops, Thingvellir National Park, Haukadalur Geothermal Valley and Gullfoss waterfall. Kerið is a striking volcanic crater lake filled with milky blue-green water amid stark black and deep red slopes. Once believed to be an explosion crater formed 3,000 years ago, geologists now believe it to be a collapsed magma chamber at the end of a volcanic eruption that occurred more than 6,000 years ago. Kerid is 55 meters (180 ft.) deep including the still water on the bottom. There is a path lining the rim for visitors to walk around and view the red and black slopes contrasting with the striking aquamarine water contributing to the otherworldly landscape. We visited here early morning around 9am and it was super quiet, only us and another couple here walking.

Road Trip Itinerary around Iceland

Visit Gullfoss

Gullfoss, another famous waterfall, is located in the canyon of Hvítá river in southwest Iceland. Gullfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland with millions visiting this expansive waterfall each year. The wide Hvítá river rushes southward, and about a kilometre above the falls it turns sharply to the right and flows down into a wide curved three-step “staircase” and then abruptly plunges in two stages (11 metres or 36 feet, and 21 metres or 69 feet) into a crevice 32 metres (105 ft) deep. Together with Þingvellir and the geysers of Haukadalur, Gullfoss forms part of the Golden Circle, a popular day excursion for tourists in Iceland.

Visit the Geysir Hot Spring Area

Don’t be fooled by the Instagram photos, the great Geysir is not the only geyser in the Geysir hot spring area. The most active geyser in the area is called Strokkur as it sprouts hot water as high as 30 meters into the air every few minutes or so, but the area as a whole is pretty cool, with small spring rivers running down the valley, smaller pools with bubbling brooks and an array of natural phenomena for you to see. I would try and miss the crowds by visiting early morning or late afternoon as it gets busy.

Road Trip Itinerary around Iceland

Visit Laugarvatn Fontana

An alternative version to The Blue Lagoon, if your not bothered or you’ve done it before, is Laugarvatn Fontana. Here you can soak in the warm geothermal pools and get energized in the natural steam rooms, with the hot spring bubbling right below you. Laugarvatn Fontana is located only one hour drive from Reykjavik, in the middle of the Golden Circle, on the black beach of beautiful Laugarvatn Lake. They’ve also got a Geothermal Bakery where you can taste delicious rye bread that grandmothers of the area have been baking in the hot springs of Laugarvatn for decades.

 

Visit Þingvellir National Park

Thingvellir is a favourite stop among travellers along the Golden Circle route. It has been a National Park in Iceland since 1930 and was named a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2004. When Viking settlers arrived in the 10th century it was the site they chose as the meeting place of Althing, the world’s oldest parliament. Þingvellir is a site of historical, cultural, and geological significance, and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland. The park lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the boundary between the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasian. To its south lies Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland. This is where tours for ‘Diving in Silfra’ take place. Diving is permitted in two submerged rifts in the National Park, Silfra and Davíðsgjá. Silfra is one of the best spots for diving in Iceland and many people find the rift unique on an international scale.

Road Trip Itinerary around Iceland

Road Trip Itinerary around Iceland

 

Tips for car hire in Iceland in winter

  1. Check and then check again that you have the right insurance cover that you need
  2. Take a GPS navigation system or a phone which is good enough to guide you through Iceland
  3. Take a Marco Polo Travel Guide as a back up map just incase…
  4. Wind damage is not covered a lot of the time so be careful or add it on
  5. Check weather conditions in Iceland as they can change in seconds, so if you are not a confident driver then you may need to rethink hiring a car
  6. Going ‘off road’ or onto gravel is not covered a lot of the time either but there are car parks that are all gravel. Check you are covered in car parks or get better cover…
  7. The underneath and chassis are not covered by insurance if you damage the car
  8. You must always have your lights on!
  9. If you hit an animal and damage the car this is not covered either
  10. With our hire company, we got a card that gave us a discount at some stations

 

 

We loved driving around Iceland and I would recommend it to anyone! Read my top 15 places to visit in Iceland here.

If you’re planning your own trip to Iceland, feel free to ask me any questions by tweeting me @sophiessuitcse or use the Google Map I created for our trip here

  • Week/End - The Good Living Blog
    May 6, 2018 at 10:01 am

    […] wanna go to Iceland so […]

    • Sophie
      May 18, 2018 at 9:06 am

      Do it do it!!