When people think about a paradise they mostly think about white sand beaches, palms and warm weather. Iceland is the total opposite!
The beaches are black, you can barely find a tree and it´s freezing cold; but it couldn´t be more beautiful. Iceland is the land of geysirs and glaciers, natural hotsprings, tons of vulcanos and waterfalls and there really isn´t a calmer place on earth. The beauty of the nature fills you with so much love and respect for our earth. It´s a magical place to be. It might remind you of living in a fairy tale and you can even find little elf houses all over the country. It´s one of those rare places you have to visit yourself – have to see with your own eyes – because no picture will ever be able to catch the real beauty of the place.
Today I´ll share with you my roadtrip route, the best places to go and my favorite lagoons.
If you´re planning to visit Iceland yourself you should have in mind that the experiences you´ll make are depending a lot on the season. In summertime the country will be a total different one than in winter – obviously. For example if you´re really into hiking and national parks summertime will suit you better than a snowy Iceland. So depending on your own wishes and what you want so see, you can choose the season. You should know, that Iceland is becoming more and more touristic. If you´re more a spontaneous traveler you might find Iceland a little bit tricky as you always have to plan ahead. Everything is booked out quickly so if you´re planning on doing a roadtrip you better book your accommodations before flying to Iceland. Otherwise you might need to camp or sleep in your car, which isn´t such a good idea especially in winter time. The most touristic seasons are summer and winter time, but even in early november, when I´ve been in Iceland, it is necessary to preplan the route of the roadtrip.
No matter when you´re going to Iceland I tell you something: It´s going to be freezing cold! The island is so close to the sea, that you´ll feel a fresh breeze everywhere and even when the temperature tells you it´s around 5 degrees it will feel like minus 5. So better pack lots of warm clothes. Layers will be your best friends. Trust me they call it Iceland for a reason.
the northern lights
Iceland is a magical country for me and I have to admit that I was really sad when we left the country after a week without finding the northern lights. Sometimes you get lucky easily, sometimes it takes a while. What I can recommend is that you download a northern light app. It will tell where you can find the aurora and at which time you could get lucky.
the roadtrip route
When you´re planning your roadtrip route you should have the season in mind. While you might be able to roam the whole island in one week in summertime, it gets way earlier dark in wintertime. So we decided to not rush and spend our week only on the south island, to be able to enjoy it fully.
DAY ONE: Airport Keflavik – Rejkjavik
We arrived at afternoon in Keflavik at the international airport and the first thing we did was picking up our rental car. It took us 45 minutes to drive to Rejkjavik, which is the capital of Iceland and the city where most of the icelanders live. Even though it´s the biggest city of the country is has the flair of a tiny town – which I absolutely loved. Everywhere are sweet little cafés, art galleries and the style and architecture of the buildings made me love walking around the city. You can find lots of streetart as well and it´s a safe place to walk alone even at nighttime.
All the tips in this post are based on my own opinion and own experience. I didn´t got payed for any of them nor did I got a discount or free sample. So I´ll only write them down to give you some recommendations and to help you with your planning.
place to sleep
- Glad´s Guesthouse is pretty central to the city. We stayed there for two nights and it has a nice atmosphere with clean rooms and a great breakfast.
places to eat:
- Bergsson mathús
Has a delicious breakfast and is pretty close to the world´s oldest parliament the althing
- Baejarins Beztu Pylsur & the hot dog house
Baejarins Beztu Pylsur is supposed to have the best hotdog in Europe, but even though it´s famous I have to admit it wasn´t my favorite one. So as hotdogs are pretty common in Iceland I´ll tried some other ones and I recommend the hot dog house. It´s a tiny spot next to my favorite bar so the best thing you can do is to grab a hotdog on your way home. ´Cause they taste way better after a beer or two.
- Hlemmur mathöll is an old bus station turned into a food hall. You can find different restaurants in it, mostly gourmet food. They have great beer and excellent cocktails aswell
- Fish & Co is a streetfood recommendation. You can find the little waggon in front of the skuli craft bar. They have the best cot with fresh vegetables. For icelandic prices it´s pretty cheap for the good quality you get. It takes up to 15 mins until the food is ready, but it was totally worth it. The cook was really nice and funny as well and can give you lots of insider tips. So def a good place to get a little snack.
- The Cafe Babalu is a great spot for a hot chocolate, a piece of cake or a nice chat with the owner.
places to drink:
- the microbar is a great spot for beer lovers. They have a beer tasting, where you can choose ten different types of beer and get a little glass of all of them.
- skuli craft bar is another great spot to do a beer tasting. I loved the atmosphere of the bar and the beer tasting includes 8 different beer types.
funfact: I loved the beer tastings so much that I tried 28 different icelandic beers while we were there
DAY TWO: Rejkjavik – Golden Circle
On our second day in Iceland we did a daytrip to the golden circle. The route got it´s glamorous name mainly for marketing reasons, as you can find lots of sightseeing spots on the golden circle route.
- thingvellir national park
- Gulfoss is a glacial waterfall and was my absolute highlight of the hole iceland trip. I´ve never seen such a big and powerful waterfall before and it looked even more magical because of all the frozen parts. Absolutely loved it!
- The Geysir was just a few minutes driving away and impressive how close located those two opposites are. The erupting geothermal and the hot spring field is a nice place for a longer walk.
- Kerid Crater Vulcano is another great spot for a walk. If you walk all the way down to the bottom of the vulcano there is even a bank where you can sit on, to enjoy the nice view.
- The secret lagoon is probably the lagoon I would recommend the most in Iceland. It´s not as big and touristic as the blue lagoon but I loved the more intimate spot. It´s one of those lagoons where locals go and it´s way cheaper than the famous blue lagoon. I recommend booking your tickets online in advance. We´ve spend there a few hours and felt so relaxed and happy afterwards. Definitely a place I would visit again and again.
place to eat:
- Fjorubordid is a restaurant about 40 mins away from Rejkjavik and located in a little village next so the sea. We visited it after relaxing in the secret lagoon and where totally amazed by the delicious food. You will get the best lobster soup ever! This is a total must-go for foodlovers and gourmet fans.
DAY THREE: Rejkjavik – Grundarfjördur
I´m a huge whales fan and one of my biggest wishes is to see a wild orca in nature. We heard that there is a little bay up north, where an orca family likes to come to catch some fishes. So on the third day we drove up north. I wasn´t expecting to stop for another hour when my boyfriend chose to leave the main road and drove in the middle of nowhere. After a few minutes of driving the road ended and he parked the car. Pretty skeptical I followed him on his walk and right the moment where I wanted to ask him to turn around and go back to the car we found one of the best hidden lagoons in Iceland: Landbrotalaug.
- Landbrotalaug hidden lagoon in the middle of nowhere
- Snæfellsnes Peninsula the place where you might be lucky to spot some whales
- Kirkjufellsfoss is probably one of the most photographed spots in iceland and you might know it from the series Game of Thrones.
We stayed the night in Grundarfjördur, which is a tiny place so there are not many options to eat or sleep.
place to sleep
- Arnarstapi Hotel which was a really nice spot with cozy beds, a big window on one wall so you can try to find some northern lights and fresh baked bread for breakfast. So delicious!
places to eat
- The arnastapi hotel has a restaurant with pretty good looking food and a great bar for some beers
- Fish & Chips are on the other side of the road of the hotel, so it´s a pretty quick walk but a nice place to eat. After being on the road the hole day I craved for some salty food and loved the fresh made fish.
DAY FOUR: Grundarfjördur – Vik
Before we started the 4h drive to Vik, we packed some snacks to be prepared for the road, cause in Iceland you never know when you will find the next supermarket. In summertime you can do some hikes on the way (like Fimmvörðuháls) or stop in Rejkjavik again, but we went straight to the south of the island. In this part of the island you should be careful on the roads as there are lots of little rocks. Some of them damaged our windshield, which is the reason why I would ALWAYS recommend an extra windshield insurance in Iceland, without the insurance a little hole could turn out more expensive than the hole trip. So better don´t risk it.
places to eat
- Smidjan brugghus is the place to go in Vik when you´re up to a great burger and some craft beer. It´s another good place to do a beer tasting if you´re into it.
- The soup company has some good options. I recommend the lava soup which comes in a loaf of bread and looks pretty cool.
- Halldorfskaffi was the restaurant we tried on our first night. You get pizza, pasta and some sandwiches. It was okay, but not the best food of the island.
- Drangar restaurant is where you should go if you fancy some gourmet meal. It´s quite expensive, but you´ll get a great atmosphere and delicate food.
place to sleep
- Kria Hotel is a nice designed modern place to stay. I loved the atmosphere and the food was really delicious – they even had waffles for breakfast. We stayed here for two nights.
DAY FIVE: Vik – Diamond Beach
On the next day we did a daytrip to europes largest glacier. The Vatnajökull covers 13% of Iceland and is really impressive to see. On the road we met a backpacker who walked in the rainy weather, so we offered him a ride to the next town. That´s one of my favorite parts of traveling: meeting new people, listening to their stories and feeling connected with the strangers by the travel love you share.
- Jökulsarlon glacier was one of my travel highlights and I could have walked around the area for hours.
- diamond beach is close to the Jökulsarlon and definitely the coolest thing for a photolover. The contrast of the black beach and the white icebergs is surreal, almost magic and something you won´t forget.
- Dyrhólaey lighthouse in Vik is pretty beautiful. It´s a total different scenery with lots of green. You can do a picknick with a great view on the ocean or just walk by the beach.
- Seljavallalauf, is another great swimming pool we sadly missed out on. But the pictures I saw looked so idyllic that I will definitely go there on my next Iceland trip.
DAY SIX: Vik – Kevlavik
After staying in Vik for another night we packed our backpacks early on the next morning and watched the sunrise at the black sand beach. We were kind of surprised how many people had the same idea and found out that it´s actually a common spot for sunrise photographers. On our way back to Rejkjavik we stopped for some waterfalls again.
- Reynisfjara is a beautiful black sand beach with enormous basalt stacks.
- Skogafoss is an impressive waterfall. The coolest thing is that you can walk behind the waterfall and get really close. The hole area is worth a visit, you´ll find some hidden waterfalls in rock formations which will blow your mind and we even got lucky with a nice rainbow.
- The blue lagoon is the most famous lagoon in Iceland and we decided to end our trip with a visit. It´s definitely a cool photo spot, but pretty expensive and overloaded with tourists. So you won´t find an icelander there. I enjoyed the other lagoons way more, but the blue lagoon is so huge that it´s kind of impressive. And the milky blue water looks like in a fairytale.
We ended our day with a dinner in Rejkjavik, as we enjoyed the city flair so much. Afterwards we drove to Keflavik which was 45 mins away.
DAY SEVEN: Keflavik – Keflavik Airport
As our flight back home was pretty early we decided to stay the last night in Keflavik so we didn´t have to wake up so early in the morning. It was a good idea, but I actually can´t recommend the place in Keflavik, where we stayed over night. It was the only hotel I didn´t felt comfortable in.
I hope my tips are helping you plan your own Iceland journey. Iceland is one of my all time favorites so if you´ve visited it and have some new tips for me what I should visit the next time please let me know in the comments below. I really want to go back as soon as possible!