Iceland: Itinerary & Tips

Nick and I travelled Iceland in June 2017 for 8 days. We planned little before, partially as a result of our personalities and partially as a result of limited or too detailed descriptions. In spite of that, we had a fantastic trip and I would recommend anyone to go visit. To help others, you can find our itinerary, pictures/videos and a few tips below.

Nick and I rented a car and camping gear, allowing us to do a self-driving tour and camp. All cities we camped in had campsites and there are many more throughout Iceland.


Itinerary

Day 1 : Reykjavik

Day 2: Reykjavik

Day 3: Vik

  • Geysirs
  • Gullfoss Waterfall: 0n sunny days a rainbow frequently forms
  • Seljalandsfoss: has a waterfall you can walk behind. Make sure to keep walking to the third waterfall of the set. You climb into a cave and see a unique waterfall that drops into the cave
  • Skógafoss: has a steps to climb up to the top
  • Dyrhólaey: there is a lighthouse at the top. It closed at 7pm so we did not get to go up, I would recommend going earlier as the view looks amazing from the lighthouse
  • Dinner @ Berg
  • Pictures & Video

Day 4: Höfn

  • Eldhraun Lava Fields
  • Two Glacial lagoons
     — Fjallsárlón: smaller glacial lagoon of the two stops, but you can climb up further adjacent to the glacier, this is useful if you aren’t doing the boat tour at Jökulsárlón so you can still get close to the glacier
     — Jökulsárlón: Right off the highway. If you are going counter clockwise around the island (towards Höfn) there is a second spot to look at the lagoon ~5 minutes down the road. Both stops are worth it.
  • Dinner @ Cafe Nielsen (Lobster pizza)
  • Pictures & Video

Day 5: Egilsstaðir

  • Sveinsstekksfoss + Hike: A quick stop off the highway. If you keep driving past there are some farm fields and a path you can hike/drive along. We enjoyed the hike because we went off the driving trail, up a few plateaus, driving further would have also been interesting
  • The drive from Sveinsstekksfoss waterfall to Egilsstaðir was through the Fjord which had low clouds, steep terrain and tight, tight roads; be prepared
  • Seydisfjordur: A small city that you could camp at. We drove further towards the point and stopped; there are lots of birds out that way
  • On the drive back from Seydisfjordur to Egilsstaðir we stopped on the fjord, found a lake and flew the drone around it, see video
  • Dinner @ Salt
  • Pictures & Video

Day 6: Akureyri

  • Dettifoss: the most powerful waterfall in Europe. It is a 30-minutes on a gravel trail to get there but worth it
  • Hverir Hverarönd: a solfatare/fumarole field. The colours of the ground looks like you are on Mars
  • Myvatn
     — Public Baths: expensive (55 CAD pp) but worth it
     — Lake: there were small islands that had rolling hills
  • Góðafoss: looks like a small Niagara Falls
  • Dinner in Akureyri @ Fish and Chips, fresh fish and well priced
  • Pictures & Video

Day 7 : Rafting @ Viking Rafting

If you like rafting, this is a unique experience

  • 2.5 hours on the water
  • Class 4+ River (East Glacial River)
  • Water is@ 4 deg. C
  • Drysuits worked like a charm, might even have been a bit hot in two sweaters
  • On river activities included hot chocolate + waffle stop and cliff jumping
  • The lodge has a bar + pool table, very homey
  • Video

Day 8: Flew Home


Tips

Note, these tips are meant to highlight things I did not expect/think of before and are not a reflection on the overall experience at any given vendor. Overall, I love Iceland and would recommend it to anyone.

General

  • Bring a European adapter
  • Bring power bar to plug in multiple items, also reduces the need for multiple adapters for each device
  • If you are camping, the hostel in Reykjavik is a great spot to get a power outlet if the main area for the campground is full
  • There is an app called Appy Hour to find cheap drinks in Reykjavik
  • A drone is an amazing addition. The pictures are fantastic and gives you a unique perspective of the surroundings while you are there
  • Many natural sites are non-drone locations. While this can be frustrating/disappointing, it is also understandable why they are in place. Bringing an extra camera ensure the documentation of the awesome sights are not limited by the no-drone zones

Weather

  • Weather is very unpredictable and constantly changing (4 seasons in 1 hour)
  • There will be rain at some point during the trip. Expect rain to come in spurts and not last long but can rain hard when it does. Quite grey as a result of the constant, on-and-off rain.
  • Good rain gear is a must.
  • Temperature wise, pack for fall/early winter in Toronto.
  • If there is a site you absolutely want to see, give yourself extra time/day as the weather is so unpredictable and the fog/low clouds can block certain views.

Getting Around

  • Road exits are not marked far in advanced so know where you want to go before you get there, aka which exit numbers. Exits increment numerically (not based on distance, as in Ontario), so knowing your exit does not mean you know the distance to it, but you know if it is the next one or not
  • Many places are open until 10pm or 11pm in the rural areas and much later in Reykjavik so don’t worry about time. Note, Vinbudin (booze) is not open late.
  • Be flexible so you can stop when you see a great view presents itself. There are tons of outlooks/marked stops on the side of the road
  • The “Big Map” indicates cities and naturally occurring sites, it is very helpful to decide major sites you want to see and determine length of your day.
  • Inspired by Iceland has a thorough list of all campgrounds to help find where you want to stay, villages aren’t necessary, but we did them as it offers food.
  • If sheep are blocking the road/look like they are going to jump in front of you, using the horn is a great way to get them to move/help make sure they don’t start crossing right in front of you
  • Most gas stations are pay-at-pump but don’t accept Canadian credit card PINs so you have to buy a gas card then use that to fill up
  • You can drink the water at the tap, so bring a bottle and fill it up vs buying bottles
  • Driving tours are not necessary if you rent a car. Based on the tours Nick and I ran into, you can reach these places without a tour. This requires more planning (advanced or on the fly) and navigation, but saves $$. Did not do helicopter, whale or water-based tours so cannot comment on those.

Activities & Food

  • Public baths are a great way to warm up/relax. In Reykjavik it is ~13 CAD pp and in Myvatn it is ~55 CAD pp. The scenery and view is better in Myvatn, coupled with the remoteness, the price is justifiable, just don’t eat there if you are taking your food on the road!
  • Grocery shopping saves a lot of money on food. We picked up breakfasts and lunches at the grocery store and ate on the road. This saved time, money and allowed us to be flexible with where we went as finding food was not an issue. The cool weather means a cooler is not necessary for most types of food, you can get a couple days out of fruits/veggies, packaged meats, etc. by storing them in the vehicle.
  • Eating out is expensive. We ate out for every dinner as a nice way to end the day, leverage the money we save and experience the different food/culture of Iceland. Not 100% necessary, especially if you are looking to cut costs as it gets expensive fast, but it allowed me to try fresh, local food, which, for me, was worth it. If you go out, local beer is cheap, but expect ~12 CAD per drink minimum with others quickly rising. Not drinking at the meal can allow you to eat out without spending too much.

Flying

WOW Air is fantastic and is 100% worth the price. Notes:

  • All food/beverages are charged for so bring water/food with you (credit card only)
  • No in-flight entertainment so bring something to amuse yourself and/or neck pillow to sleep
  • Carry-on and checked luggage is charged, it is worth checking the size 
    restrictions before
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