Recently I got hitched in UK with a British dude whom I adore dearly and since then made him mine forever (“till death do us part” - evil laughter)! Mini-moon decision was tough but we both made our choice fairly quickly. Being one of the most desirable holiday destination today and is often listed on one’s bucket list, both of us have always wanted to visit Iceland. We flew out to Reykjavík the day after our wedding and took Icelandair for the first time (quite pleasant and clean). The flight journey took approximately 2.5 hours from London Heathrow to Reykjavík. One piece of advice when booking your trip to Iceland (free and easy travellers), make sure you research enough to know where you want to go, how you want to do it and where to stay.
Before anything else, book your tickets ahead to secure cheaper flights and try to book during the period when northern lights are visible (September and October). Next, make sure you book your accommodation according to where you plan to visit as driving long distance can be pretty tiring. We booked all our accommodation via booking.com and is hassle free (took advantage of the free cancellation option). Last but not least, car rental is the best option to travel around Iceland. If you are renting from Avis & Budget, be prepared to be in the queue for at least an hr or so before getting to the counter to collect your car. In Iceland, they drive on the right side of the road (driver on the left-hand side) and so if you are used to driving on the left side, make sure you get some practice in the carpark before hitting the road.
The other most important thing is to get a prepaid VISA card (as shown below) from the money changer (near Avis) at the airport before you drive off. Decide how much money (króna) you want to put into this card as you can only do it once, no top up is allowed and believe me, this card makes traveling around the country so much easier. You can use this card to pay for petrol, car park, food & meals and admissions to some of the local sites. To check how much balance you have, just log onto their website, it’s that easy! Now, of course, do ensure you cater for some cash as well, as not all small eateries would use a card machine.
Here’s our 5 days and 4 nights itinerary to share:
On Day 1 - We headed straight to Blue Lagoon after collecting our car as it only took us 25 minutes driving from Keflavík International Airport to there. I strongly advise you to book your tickets in advance (online) as there were a massive crowd walking towards the entrance (tourists who came in big buses and those who drove) when we arrived. Please be punctual and if you are coming straight from the airport, I suggest you book a time slot three hours after your arrival time as collecting your luggage and car takes at least two hours.
Once you are at the counter, a bracelet with an embedded chip will be placed on your wrist and this bracelet entitles you to lock and unlock the bathroom locker, pay for additional drinks, food and premium masks while you enjoy your dip in the hot spring. No need to hassle for cash or card payments, brilliant idea actually! We bought the comfort package that comes with 1 free drink of your choice, Silica mud mask and use of towel.
Some people loved it, others felt too overrated but in my opinion the experience you get out from this place is just priceless. Never in the world, will you find another hot spring with the same kind of infrastructure and surrounding. The magnificent view of the hot spring (including the temperature) and the air flow from the atmosphere was just divine. Do not miss out on this!
On Day 2 – First, we set off to Thingvellir National Park. It took us no longer than an hour to reach the park (driving from the city). Now Thingvellir (Þingvellir) is a national park, located east of Reykjavík. It's known for the Alþing (Althing), the site of Iceland's parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries. On the site you can see the Þingvellir Church and the ruins of old stone shelters. One thing to note is that this park actually sits in a rift valley which is caused by the separation of two tectonic plates. Take road no. 1 heading north out of Reykjavík. After driving through the town Mosfellsbær take the first exit to the right at roundabout onto road no. 36 to Thingvellir.
To get to Geysir Hot Spring Area from Thingvellir National Park, that’s about 50 mins drive. It is well known for its boiling mud pits, exploding geysers and the lively Strokkur which spouts water 30 metres (100 ft) into the air every few minutes and boy were we excited to see this happening in action.
10 to 15 minutes away from Geysir hot spring is where Gullfoss is located. Do not miss this place out from your itinerary as this is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. This waterfall is located in the canyon of Hvítá river in southwest Iceland. My jaw literally dropped when I first met eyes with the size of the waterfall. The water flow generated from the waterfall was so strong along with the winds that droplets of water constantly splatted on my face.
Along the way about 35 minutes or so, there is this place known as Secret Lagoon Hot Spring. It is located in a small village called Fludir and is within the Golden Circle area. They were obviously quite well known to the locals as well as tourists but the difference between this place and blue Lagoon was that owners kept it very natural and unique which gave me a true Icelandic experience dipping inside the hot spring. I would recommend you to go one to two hours before sunset as it is really relaxing and beautiful to watch the colors of the skies while enjoying the dip in the hot spring. Nothing quite like it. We ended the day with a lovely fish and chips just outside the car park area before heading back to our Airbnb place.
On Day 3 – Started the day by driving for about two hours or so (south) before reaching our 1st tourist destination of the day, Seljalandsfoss. From a distance before reaching the destination (5-8 minutes), the waterfall becomes visible and the scenery was just breath taking. Seljalandsfoss is located in the south of Iceland right by Route 1 and it is on the road that leads to Þórsmörk Road 249. You’ll find the access to the waterfall is from the farm of Seljaland along the Ring Road, Iceland’s main highway. This waterfall is magical in a way of how it is structured. People could actually walk around it (from the back) and take pictures (but not easy with the water splatting everywhere).
A few walks away (15 minutes to the other side of the mountain), there are two other waterfalls and one of them is actually hidden inside the mountain (just follow the crowd). I was literally standing in a cave sort of place with a waterfall embedded into the surrounding, the experience was wild and wet of course. We decided to have our lunch there while enjoying the nature, basking as much heat as you can from the sun and most of all, experience tranquillity, something most city dweller don’t get much these days.
30 minutes of driving further down south, we got to place called Skógafoss and it is situated on the Skógá River in the south of Iceland at the cliffs of the former coastline. Yes another waterfall. Like any other waterfalls in Iceland, they are majestic in size, however, this one comes with rainbows and that is because of its geographical location where sunlight hits the water on the “right” spot. If you have heard of the folk tale where a pot of gold can be found at the end of the rainbow, yes, I was standing next to the end of the rainbow but unfortunately, no pot of gold.
We also hiked up the mountain (next to the waterfall) where we were able to see afar and the view was just MADNESS!
Saving the best for last was Reynisfjara where one can find the world famous black sand beach on the South Coast of Iceland, just beside the small fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal (50 minutes drive from Skógafoss). With its enormous basalt stacks, roaring Atlantic waves and stunning panoramas, Reynisfjara is widely considered to be the most beautiful example of Iceland's black sand beaches. They often say, a picture tells a thousand words and it’s so true (just look at the pictures)! The best time to visit this beach is one hour before sunset. Watching the sun disappearing into the dark to me, was the most romantic moment to spend with your love ones.
After spending a wonderful time watching sunset, we checked into Icelandair Hotel Vik to spend the night. It was about 11 minutes way from the beach and this place has the best view facing the beach. We were lucky to be assigned to a room with fantastic view. The hotel design was not only chic but modern. Loved the fireplace and decorations as well but with that comes the price tag (pricey).
On Day 4, we were both sad to leave Vik, the small town with so much to offer. Before we drove off, we walked around town, took a view iconic pictures and left with a heavy heart but we told ourselves, we will defintely be back! Over breakfast, my hubby decided to do a detour and hover to two other “must visit” places on our way back to Reykjavík.
After driving for an hour or so from Vik, we reached a place known for Iceland’s famous plane crash on the Sólheimasandur black beach. We walked 7km/4miles in 2 hrs just to catch a glimpse of a 1973 crashed US Navy Plane at the shore of Black Sea. Wind was super strong, road was difficult to walk, the conditions was just hard but the experience was priceless. Don’t worry, everyone on that plane survived! We decided we need a break after the long walk as we felt exhausted before driving off again and this time straight to a volcanic crater (yikes).
I drove for another 3 hours before reaching our next destination, Kerið. A volcanic crater lake in Grímsnes. For those who have never seen a volcano up close and personal range, this will be the best chance to do so. Kerið is approximately three thousand years old, making it roughly half the age of most volcanic calderas found in Iceland. This is the major reason as to why Kerið’s slopes are red in colour, rather than a volcanic black, the iron deposits are, geologically speaking, fresh. This vivid redness is part of the appeal of visiting this crater. The crimson rocks contrast dramatically with their surroundings, particularly the intense azure colour of the waters within the crater lake and the verdant bursts of vegetation. Kerið is approximately 55 metres (180 feet) deep, 170 metres (558 feet) wide and 270 meters (886 feet) in circumference. It is possible to take a path right to the crater’s edge, to fully encircle it and to descend down to the pristine waters of the crater lake.
From here, we decided it was time to drive straight back to Reykjavík city before it gets too dark. Driving at night in Iceland can be super dangerous, especially with the lack of street lamps in countryside and under tough weather conditions. Luckily for us (thanks to my driving skills), we reached the town an hour before sun set. We started the city tour right after we checked into hotel to give us more time to enjoy the scenery.
We visited the Sun Voyager statue which is one of the most popular iconic place in Reykjavik as it resembles a viking longboat. It was erected in 1990 by artist Jón Gunnar Árnason who intended it to embody a sense of hope, discovery and adventure. The other most iconic place of all would have to be Hallgrímskirkja church and at night, it gave us a different look altogether. We had dinner near the church and for the first time we tried the fragmented shark, good lord!
On Day 5 – We drove into town after we checked out to continue our sightseeing journey. Flight was in the late afternoon, we had a few hours to kill before heading to the airport. Here are the places you definitely should drop by to visit The Old Harbour, The Parliament Building, The City Hall, The Prime Minister's House, Landakotskirkja Church and Perlan ("The Pearl"). But if you don’t have much time, then I strongly suggest you to visit the Perlan starting with the ice cave that has been constructed inside the building, the first of its kind worldwide. The 360°Reykjavík Observation deck gives you spectacular view of the city and the museum is the largest and most ambitious exhibition project in Iceland.
Don’t forget to drop by Fish and Chips Vagninn in the Old harbor. If you want to take a break and have a seat I highly recommend Icelandic Fish and Chips. It is located just across the street from the Old Harbor in the Volcano House building. Must try!
Here are some of the key items to buy and pack for your trip.
Layers of clothing (thermal wear, fleece, long sleeves shirts, jumper, coat,thick socks)
A good pair of hiking shoes
Pair of gloves.
A good windproof and waterproof jacket.
A pair of sunglasses (during summer/autumn)
My key observations:
Driving north is hilly, as you tend to drive up and down the mountains.
Driving south – land is flat and wide.
No drones allowed in most of the countryside we have visited (e.g. major waterfalls especially near farms and houses).
Lastly, I leave you with a video from Icelandair where we were compensated with their version of Northern lights.
P.S. with love: If you want more information on certain places or use any of my travel photos, please reach out to me via comment or email.