This 9 days road-trip itinerary on the south part of this beautiful country should help you to get there.
My first tip into planning this trip is to decide what you cannot/don´t want to miss. After that, check the map of the country and elaborate this wonderful road-trip.
DRIVING IN ICELAND
Iceland’s highways are very quiet and you will not have a hard time driving there, but if you choose to go to the north of the country, you may need a 4×4. It will be more complicated to drive there, so it is important to decide what you want to do and see before going.
* This website shows you the conditions of the highways, always look before you hit the road:
In Iceland there is a main highway, number 1, also known as the “ring road”, which runs around the whole country. Driving the full circle takes little less than 19 hours and it is possible to see the entire island in 7 days; although, in my opinion, you would be in a rush, so I do not recommend this.
So, Greg and I wanted to take advantage of the country to the maximum, but not exceed our budget, so we chose to visit only the south of Iceland. We did not need to rent a 4×4 and that considerably reduced the cost of the trip.
TOURS x ROADTRIP
Why a road-trip instead of doing the endless tours offered by agencies? Because we wanted freedom, we wanted to be able to stop anywhere for as long as wanted and, in the end, it would cost us less. We had 7 days what gave us more flexibility, but if you only have a weekend or 4 days, tours may be more comprehensive. There are hundreds of them that you can book online or in the capital, Reykjavík.
Even when on a road-trip, it is necessary to have a guide for certain activities. We booked a single tour, Ice Cave, just because we could not do it alone. All other activities, including hunting for northern lights (which we end up not seeing due to bad weather), are easy to do on your own.
* This is the website which travel agencies and tourists check to know the weather conditions for seeing aurora borealis: http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/
In case you are going during the winter, it is necessary to have a proper set of appropriate clothing, like us. We bought snowboarding jackets, leggings to wear underneath the pants, waterproof trousers and boots for walking on ice, all in Decathlon store. Quality clothes at affordable price.
Well, having said all this, let´s start with the itinerary of this road-trip:
Day 1. Arrival – Keflavik
We arrived at Keflavik International Airport around 3 pm, picked up the car with Avis Car Rental (booked online via Budget Car Rental) and headed to our Hostel in Keflavik town, 10 minutes from the airport. Having had gone straight to the southern end of the country instead, would save us a day, so that is what we recommend. Around 7 we went to the Northern Lights Centre in Reykjavik to learn about aurora borealis and how to take good pictures. On the way back we had “dinner” at N1 gas station. They have wonderful hot dogs, with sausage wrapped in bacon, potato salad and crispy onion, be sure to try it.
Northern Lights Center
Keflavik – Start Hostel 1 night
Day 2. Skaftafell National Park and Glacial Lagoon
We woke up very early and headed towards our next hotel in Kalfafell. It is impossible to drive in Iceland and not want to stop every 5 minutes for sightseeing. We tried our best to follow our plan because of the weather – during November the days are already shorter and the sun rises around 9 and sets around 5:30 pm. Our hotel was in the middle of nowhere, which was kind of amazing. As it was too early to check in we drove towards the Skaftafell National Park and had lunch at the restaurant in front of the Skaftafell hotel. We then did a 15 minute trail behind the hotel to get to the foot of the glacier. On the way back to our hotel, we stop inside the park to see one of Iceland’s famous waterfalls, Svartifoss. The walk takes about 40 minutes one way and entrance is free.
Kalfafell – Fosshotel Nupar
Day 3. Tour to the Ice Cave
As I said before, the ice cave was the only tour we booked, as it requires a guide. We did it with Guide to Iceland (https://guidetoiceland.is/). Our meeting point was in the glacial lagoon Jokulsárlón and even if you choose not to do the tour, do not miss a visit, the lagoon has blue icebergs that can be seen from up close – magnificent. There are also boat tours available, taking you even closer.
The guide takes us onto the glacier in a type of 4×4 truck and the fun begins. When you reach the cave, you need to wear protective gear: helmet and ice spikes for boots. The guide will explain why the ice is so blue and how these caves come to existence – it is well worth it!
Jokulsárlón glacier lagoon
Kalfafell Area – Fosshotel Nupar
Day 4. South Coast of Iceland
In the morning, we drove to Kirkjugólfið (the Church Floor), a monument that naturally resembles a church`s floor; to the east of the city of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. We then headed to the Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon located west of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, the canyon was one of my favourite sights in Iceland.
In the Eldhraun area, we find the most extensive lava field to ever flow on earth – a very unusual area, where pictures fail to resemble the true nature of the place. We also visited the spectacular black beach in Vik, a very charming little town.
During a road-trip in Iceland you need to be focused on your timings and destination, otherwise you will share our sad experience, overstay somewhere and end up being late somewhere else. We needed to rush our visit to Skógafoss, another impressive waterfall. From there we had to race to Seljalandsfoss, where you can take a stroll behind the waterfall if conditions permit. We couldn’t appreciate this last one in all its glory, as it was already dark. Be strict on executing your plan or you will share our fate.
We went on to Hella, where we would spend the night.
Hella – Café Arhus Hella
Day 5. Golden Circle – Golden circle
We woke up early and had breakfast at a gas station on the way to the Kerið volcanic crater, our first stop on the Golden Circle; you have to pay to see the crater up close – it’s worth the price. We continue driving to see the famous Geysir an active geyser, which ejects boiling water 15 to 20 feet high in few minutes’ intervals. To see the water splashing is sensational and this attraction is free, but you can make a contribution to help keep the place.
The third stop was the huge Gullfoss waterfall, one of the most impressive waterfalls in Iceland, we could not get really close because one of the paths was closed, but the place is breath taking.
We continue to the Þingvellir National Park, UNESCO World Heritage site where two continental plates meet creating a fascinating rift valley.
You have to pay to park there; the walk to see the tectonic plates and the waterfall is well laid out.
We went to our last accommodation in Reykjavík
Geyser geothermal area
Þingvellir National Park
Business Center (0)
Day 6. The Blue Lagoon
We booked tickets to the Blue Lagoon online, through their website (www.bluelagoon.com). We opted for the standard package and at the time we paid for towels and bathrobes. Having your own towel and bathrobe will save you 15 Euros each. Inside the complex there is a restaurant and a bar, but we did not use any. Shampoo and conditioner are provided inside the shower cabins and you will have your own locker to store your belongings. We went to the blue lagoon at 3 in the afternoon because we wanted to see it during the day and night. It is quite magical and the water is really warm (some spots more than others). You are entitled to a mascara of mud and you can enjoy sauna and steam room. It’s pretty glamorous place.
The blue Lake
Reykjavík – Airbnb
Day 7. Reykjavik
We started Reykjavik with the famous church, which looks a bit like a spaceship. Its design was inspired by the aforementioned Svartifoss waterfall. We walk through the city streets looking for Reykjavik’s impressive graffiti, visited the Harpa concert hall and the main square by the lake. We ate the famous hot-dogs (the N1 gas stations’ are better!). We ended the evening at Lebowski bar.
Day 8. Departure from Keflavik
This was our amazing south Iceland road-trip, I hope you had enjoyed it and if you need any other tip which is not here, please send us an e-mail in firstname.lastname@example.org
We will provide all the cost for this trip on the next post, come back!