Iceland, also known as the ice and fire land, is one of the countries with the most contrasted landscapes all at once. This north island appeared by the collision of the Eurasian and North-American tectonic plates. In just a few hours’ drive, you can run into volcano craters, lakes, glaciers, fjords, impressive waterfalls, lava fields, black sand beaches… The written itinerary is entirely described below.
You can also check out this youtube video!
On your first day in Iceland, there’s a huge chance you’ll land at Keflavik International Airport. It is a 45 minutes drive from Reykjavik. We only had our rental car from the next morning so we asked for a lift and a car stopped very quickly. Iceland is the paradise for hitchhikers, this is a part of their culture and it’s the best way to fit in with locals. It’s also one the safest places to do it.
Once arrived in Reykjavik, everything is at a walkable distance. Our first stop was the impressive Hallgrimskirkja Church. No map needed here, you can see it from everywhere in the city. There are plenty of vibrant streets starting from there. Our favorite one: Frakkastígur Street. Colourful and typical Icelandic houses, street art, cute shops… It goes down to a lake with snowy mountains, where you’ll see the famous statue of the Sun Voyager. The same path is leading to the beautiful building of the Opera, called the Harpa.
Booking: Bus Hostel.
We had the car from 9am but only left at 11am because of some issues with the rental car company, CC Car rental. We booked it online a few weeks before, but didn’t understand that we had to pay a deposit with our debit cards if we didn’t have a credit card. It makes a huge difference for them so read your contract carefully!
Reykjavik is the capital of the country but it is very close to the nature: it only took us 40 minutes to join Þingvellir, the first stop of the famous Golden Circle sightseeing route. Driving in this national park is very representative of Iceland, with one single road in the middle of a breathtaking nature. It even is the place where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates collide.
Next stop: Strokkur Geysir. This is a field, full of small geysers and hot springs, with smoke coming out of the grass all around you. There is one big geyser, Strokkur, exploding every 5 to 10 minutes. This is truly impressive!
The third place we visited is the one that impressed me the most: Gulfoss Waterfalls. Aka the Niagara Falls of Iceland. It’s so powerful that your eyes can’t even follow. You can’t stay here too long because of the humidity and the cold: it’s covered of snow, unless you’re visiting during the summer or spring.
As we still had an hour before the sunset, we drove to the Kerið Crater. That’s a lake in a volcanic crater, surrounded by red volcanic rock. The pictures speak for themselves.
Airbnb: Spirit Farm. A lost farm between the mountains. A very warm place with huge windows, plants, guitar, cosy sofa, art and people sharing their life stories. You can even go cuddle the Icelandic horses in the field.
10am : we hit the road again. It leads us to the parking of the famous Wrecked DC-3 Plane on Sólheimasandur. You have to walk 4 kilometers to reach it, and 4 other kilometers for the way back. You won’t any access to your car or even toilets for the 2 following hours so don’t forget to carry water with you, as well as sunglasses and warm clothes if it’s windy. It’s very worth the effort. The atmosphere of a crashed plane in the middle of a deserted black sand beach is insane!
After another hour on the road, we arrived at the most gorgeous canyon, called Fjaðrárgljúfur. It extends on approximately 2 kilometers and is crossed by the Fjaðrá River. There are three amazing viewpoints on the path. In a few words: dreamy, amazing, idyllic… I was speechless.
Booking: Klausturhof Guesthouse.
Our hostel was in the middle in the nature, with a waterfall flowing behind it. As the sun was rising on the Systrafoss Mountain, we went for a morning hike to the top of the waterfall. We reached it in 20 minutes and had an amazing view on all the area. A lake was turning into the waterfall who was rolling down the mountain. Awesome place but very windy. Be careful on the way back because it’s really steep and there’s no barrier.
Our program for the rest of the day was to go to Diamond Beach and Jökulsárlón. There’s also a great hike to the Skaftafell Waterfall if you have some hours left. But I can’t really review any of it because we had a huge issue with the car and had to cancel our plans. Do not mistake diesel and gaz guys… There’s not a lot of garages in Iceland (not a lot of people either) so it’ll be super extra expensive and you’ll spend the whole day waiting for them…
Airbnb: Hrútafell Hrutafell Guesthouse, at the not so famous Eyjafjallajökull Volcano.
We started this brand new day by a stunning sunrise at Reynisfjara Beach. This black sand beach is out of the world. At the beginning, there is an impressive wall of rocks. The more you walk, the more you’re impressed. Two rock pillars stand in the middle of the powerful waves. The atmosphere in this place is surreal and we even saw two weddings shootings.
This beach touches another: Dyroleay. The peninsula is characterized by the presence of a volcanic arch in the sea. There’s also a stunning viewpoint at the top of it.
Then, we headed off to Skógafoss, which is a powerful waterfall that you can see from different points of views (the bottom and the top).
There’s so much to see in this area that the day was already quite full, but we still managed to make a stop at Drangshlíð. It is basically a rock standing in the middle of nowhere and sheltering some “elves houses”, made of rocks and grass. This place looks like a fairy tale.
A little less than 10 minutes after, we were starting our hike in the mountains to the Seljavallalaug swimming pool. It’s one of the oldest pools of Iceland, hidden in the middle of the mountains with snow-capped peaks. One of the sides of the pool even is the mountain itself, how crazy. I can’t find a word strong enough to describe this place. Truly the highlight of the trip. The water was around 30 degrees I think, which is really great. The actual challenge is when you switch your clothes for your swimming suit by 0°.
Our last stop of the day was the second most known waterfall of Iceland: Seljalandsfoss. We didn’t stay too long as we had to go back to the capital on the same day.
Airbnb: Vibrant Iceland Hostel, Hafnarfjordur. It truly was the best hostel with the best atmosphere. Everyone eating together, drinking beers, advising each other. Travel decoration everywhere.
We kept an awesome place to check out for the last day in order to keep the excitement going: the Blue Lagoon. I’m pretty sure you already know this place, but in case you don’t, it’s a geothermal spa with the bluest water you’ll ever see. It’s very hot and you can see the smoke coming out of it. We stayed there all morning, enjoyed the views, as well as the drink and mask “offered” with the expensive entrance ticket. Tips : If it’s a windy day, you won’t regret taking your beanie with you. And if you want to take pictures, you can bring your phone and put it back in your locker after.
We went to the airport right after for our plane back to France.
Iceland was a living dream and the nature is so insane that a week is barely enough to do all the south coast. There are so many things to do in every part of the country, so we’ll be back for sure. If you’re interested, I’ll also post an article about the budget you’ll need & money saving tips!