We are not full-time travellers nor freelancers, so our yearly holidays limit the time we can spend travelling. Though we do short trips quite often, we only have one or two longer trips each year. It makes us appreciate them even more, but also makes us want to plan every detail perfect. The result: we usually have detailed itineraries for our longer trips and we invest a lot of time in finding the best sights and experiences.
We think it really helps us making the best out of our travels. We know there a lot of spontaneous and happy travellers out there. It just doesn’t work for us. We don’t have weeks to spend in a destination (yearly holiday limit… again). We need to know the most efficient ways to get around in advance. We can’t stay longer just because we found out there are other places nearby that would worth a visit. We need to know and plan that beforehand. That’s why we like our itineraries.
However writing itineraries feels weird sometimes. Is anyone actually interested in it? Could it be useful for others, too? Since some of our itineraries are among the most popular posts on this blog, we guess the answer is yes. Besides, we often find itineraries written by other bloggers useful when crafting ours. So after all this rambling, here comes one of our most beloved itineraries ever: our 18 days in Iceland.
We’ve been dreaming about visiting Iceland for a while. We wanted to visit all of its regions. We wanted to walk on a glacier. We wanted to explore the Highlands. And we wanted to visit it in the summer first. Of course, there are a bunch of things we haven’t seen or done (as always), but we covered a lot in that wonderful 18 days. Here’s what.
Day 1: arrival
We arrived to Keflavík International Airport late in the afternoon. We rented a car from our first day to the last, so we were picked up by a guy from the rental office who took us to our car. If we could do it again, we’d do it exactly the same. We enjoyed driving in this fabulous country and it’s the most flexible way for getting around.
Day 2: Snæfellsnes Peninsula
We started with a short hike to Glymur waterfall in the Reykjavík area. The next stop was Barnafossar and Hraunfossar, two lovely waterfalls that can be seen from an easily accessible viewing platform. We started our day early (we usually do and it means like 7 am or 8 am at the latest 😀 ), so by noon we were on our way towards Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
We spent the rest of the day driving through the peninsula and stopping for scenic views and short walks, then stayed at lovely Grundarfjordur Hostel in Grundarfjordur. Read more about the sights of Snæfellsnes Peninsula in this post!
Day 3-4: Westfjords
As long as our previous day was (and it was long because we visited in the summer), we didn’t have time for Kirkjufell, so we started our next day there. It’s right by the small town of Grundarfjordur and it’s just a short walk from the parking lot. It was spectacular even on a gloomy day.
After Kirkjufell we headed to the Westfjords. It was a long scenic drive and one of the most beautiful ones we’ve ever had. Sorry, we just can’t help using superlatives about Iceland all the time. It’s simply the truth in this case, really. 😀
Check out our route and our favorite stops along the Westfjords in this post!
Day 5: from the Westfjords to Northern Iceland
We started the day in Ísafjörður and drove along the last section of the fjords towards Hólmavík. Then we headed southwards along the coast and soon reached the Ring Road where we continued our journey towards Northern Iceland.
We had a longer stop at Kolugljúfur canyon. It’s only a short detour from the Ring Road and it offers lovely short hikes both at the top and the bottom of the canyon along with views of Kolufossar falls. We spent the night in Blönduós.
Day 6: Góðafoss & Aldeyjarfoss & Mývatn area, Northern Iceland
Góðafoss is one of the most famous sights in Northern Iceland. It’s right by the Ring Road, but it’s worth spending a couple of hours visiting all the viewpoint on both side of the waterfall.
Aldeyjarfoss is a much lesser known beauty. It’s also harder to access. We drove southwards from Góðafoss on a narrow dirt country road, and the last section of the route was on F26 that leads further into the Highlands (it’s a 4WD road). But Aldeyjarfoss was well worth the 45 minutes drive and the short hike from the parking lot:
Other than Góðafoss and Aldeyjarfoss, we spent most of the day in the Mývatn area: exploring Hverir geothermal area, Leihrnjukur lava fields and the fabulous, deep blue carter lake of the North, Víti Crater of Krafla. Each of them gave us a different perspective of active volcanism and they are quite good examples of the varied natural beauties of Iceland. You can find more details about the hikes in this post!
Day 7: Dettifoss & Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon, Northern Iceland
While Góðafoss is nicknamed “the Beauty”, Dettifoss is “the Beast”. It’s the most powerful waterfall in Europe and it was our first and very impressive stop in the morning. After those long drives, this day was all about hiking. First, a short walk from Dettifoss to Selfoss as a warm-up, then a day hike in breathtaking Jökulsárgljúfur canyon. More info about the hike is already available in this post!
We drove to Egilsstaðir in the evening and spent the night there.
Day 8: The Basalt Column Canyon, Eastern Iceland
Another full day hike! The Basalt Column Canyon (Stuðlagil Canyon) is probably the most amazing hidden gem we’ve found in Iceland – and it was not easy to find. We’ve already written a post about it – here!
Day 9: Hengifoss & the Eastern fjords, Eastern Iceland
The following day was about driving through Eastern Iceland. We started with a detour to Mjóifjörður. However strange it sounds, the lush green flora and the countless waterfalls of Mjóifjörður reminded us of Kauai. The crazy wind and the fog brought us back to Iceland though. 😛 It was definitely one of our favorite sights in Eastern Iceland!
Then we drove along the narrow, long lake at Egilsstaðir to the trailhead of Hengifoss. It took about an hour to hike up to 118 meters high Hengifoss, and we passed Litlanesfoss, another waterfall decorated with basalt formations on the way.
After this hike, we got back to the Ring Road that runs along the ocean coast in Eastern Iceland and – surprise, surprise – along the Eastern fjords. We often stopped for ocean views, black sand beaches and waterfalls. Even the long Icelandic summer day was coming to an end when we checked-in to our accommodation in Rauðaberg.
Day 10-16: Southern Iceland
We arrived to famous Southern Iceland. We’ve already written this part of our itinerary – read it here! It can easily be a full itinerary of an Iceland trip on its own, especially if you only visit for 5-7 days.
Day 17: Reykjadalur Valley & Reykjavík
We wanted to spend a full day sightseeing in Reykjavík, I swear. Still we ended up spending half of that day hiking in Reykjadalur (the Smoke Valley) and we couldn’t even regret it. 😛 It’s the closest geothermal area to Reykjavík featuring hot springs, mudpots and steaming vents. But the best thing there is the hot river. You can have a bath in this small river and you can even choose the temperature of the water for yourself. The upper you walk the hotter the water becomes.
So Reykjavík. It’s one of the most unique capitals in Europe simply because of its size (very small) and location (Iceland, Iceland, Iceland!). Though we spent only half a day exploring it, we liked everything we’ve seen there. But we knew that if we would need to cut our time, we’d cut the time spent in Reykjavík and visit the hundredth waterfall instead. This is how it happened and we don’t regret it. Given the choice, we usually end up choosing nature instead of sightseeing in a city or town. So just do what makes you happy.
Day 18: Blue Lagoon
Our last day. Since the Blue Lagoon is only 20 minutes drive from Keflavík Airport, it’s quite a straightforward choice to visit it right after your arrival or before your departure. We knew our itching feet too well not to expect we’d enjoy sitting in a hot pool right after we arrived. But soaking in the Blue Lagoon was the most perfect goodbye after 17 eventful days in Iceland.
Would you visit Iceland? What regions and activities tempt you the most?