I love to plan trips. It is one of the funnest things to do. When we made the decision to check out Iceland as part of our trip in 2016, it felt daunting. I did not know what to do, or how to plan in a country so much different than my previous experiences.
To start our trip planning, I decided to use a travel company to take away some of the work. We booked a seven day Ring Road trip with Nordic Visitor. What made this easy was that they booked our hotels and our rental car, gave us our map, but I controlled the schedule . This scenario was perfect for us.
If you are looking to do a Ring Road trip in Iceland, here is our detailed schedule of what we did.
Our Seven Days in Iceland
Day One: We booked our airfare on Iceland Air. We got a phenomenal deal to fly on this airline, and were able to do a seven day “layover” in Iceland for our Scotland trip. In order to book with this airline, we had to book out of Boston. We decided to fly a day ahead to Boston, and stay in a hotel. This worked well for us.
Iceland Air was very roomy for a budget airline. We brought airport salads with us on the plane to eat. The one draw back with Iceland Air is that you have to pay for any food you want, and the prices are quite high! The flight time from Boston to Iceland was right at five hours. I enjoyed watching videos on Iceland. It increased my enthusiasm for what we were about to experience.
Immigration was an easy process. Once off the plane and in line, it took 5-10 minutes to get through immigration. The worst part was waiting for our luggage!
Our driver was waiting for us once we had our luggage, and drove the roughly 45 minute drive to our hotel. We went to Iceland during their 24 hours of sunlight season, which was very interesting experience. During our drive, it looked like dusk outside, which apparently is the darkest it gets in June.
We arrived at our hotel (Hotel Foss Lind) around 1am, so very exhausted and ready for a shower!
Day Two: The alarm felt quite early at 715am after not falling asleep until 230am a few hours before. This hotel included a nice buffet breakfast. I had eggs, sausage, beans, orange juice, and coffee, or Kaffi as they call it there.
We were picked up at 845am to go to the rental car place to pick up our rental car. This was also a very smooth process, and before we knew it, we were on our way to explore!
Our first stop was the local grocery store to stock up on some snacks for our week long road trip. We then headed out of the city and unto Thingvellir National Park. Walking through this park was incredible. The park sits on a rift valley caused by the separation of two tetonic plates. The effects of this rift valley was incredible to see, and walk through. We spent a little over an hour here.
We stopped for lunch at Laugarvatn, and had a burger and fries. We thoroughly confused our waiter on why we wanted a burger with no bun.
Our next stop was the Geysir. We saw the geysir activate a few times. We were soon realizing that we needed to keep moving to the other stops we wanted to see that day if we wanted to make it to our hotel at a decent hour!
Gullfoss was our next stop, and what a powerful, magnificent waterfall this was! This was full of tourists since this is close enough to Reykjavik for day tours. Between the busyness of the day and needing to get to our next stop, we only stayed a few minutes, and did not trek closer to the water fall.
Our drive to the next water fall was an hour and a half long. Seljalandsfoss was our next waterfall, and one I was very excited about experiencing. We took the time to hike around this waterfall, and it was worth every minute. I am klutzy by nature, and was so impressed that I made the hike behind the waterfall without falling! This was a very favorite experience of mine.
Before we checked into our hotel, we stopped at Skogafoss on the way. Waterfalls are magnificent anyway, but the variety and how they are different are amazing.
Our hotel for this evening was Hotel Volcano in the city of Vic. This was considered a high end b&b, and we had lovely views out our window of sheep. We loved the views. We went to dinner, then explored the black sand beaches that Vic is famous for, and took some pictures around town.
We were exhausted from minimal sleep and a full day of adventures, and were ready for a night of sleep!
Day Three: We were up and eating breakfast at 730am. The breakfast here had significantly less protein than I anticipated. I ate several slices of salami and red bell pepper, and the egg whites from a couple eggs. I drank my share of coffee, which was a lovely pick me up for the day.
We headed out for Kirkjubeajarklaustur, but ended up finding so many fun things to stop at on the way. Iceland is a country of natural, untouched wonder. We found several random waterfalls and volcanic craters to stop at along the way before making it to our destination. We stopped at the visitor city in town, as well as small hike to a water fall before moving on to our next stop.
We went up the road to stop at dverghamrar, otherwise known as dwarf hills. According to legend, dwarfs lived in these hills.
Skaftafell was our next stop. The drive created so much awe. As we got closer to the stop, the mountains became closer and bigger, and it felt as if we might drive into them. The snow caps and waterfalls flowing from the mountains was amazing to see. We did not have nearly enough time at Skaftafell National Park. If we had more time, I would have loved to have done a hike. We purchased some souvenirs, before getting on the road.
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon was next on the agenda, and the stop we were most excited for on this day. We had thought we would find somewhere to eat along the way for lunch, but nothing was found. I felt so giddy and excited inside when we saw glaciers. It was incredible. The majority were so blue!
We had planned to do the boat ride into the lagoon, but had to wait an hour for our ride. We hiked around the area for different views of the glaciers, and spent sometime to warm up in the car while waiting for our ride. It was drizzly and 40 degrees outside, so we were a bit chilly!
The boat ride was worth the wait. We got to get up close and personal with the glaciers, as well as see and touch 1000 year old ice. The boats were packed very tight, which was unfortunate as it made it hard to consistently get good views, but this was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity that I am happy to have.
We were lucky that just up the road was a cute little restaurant in Halli where we were able to have a warm bowl of traditional Icelandic meat soup. We were hungry and cold, and this was delicious.
Our hotel was fifty minutes up the road, so we headed that way. Our hotel for this evening was Hotel Hofn, which was definitely a ritzier hotel.
This was the first real city we had entered in awhile, so we made sure to fill up with gas and some more snacks for our driving.
We searched for dinner, and ended up eating at the Hafnarbudin where we had burgers and fries. Burgers and fries were a staple for us as they were a “cheaper” meal for Iceland prices, and kept us full.
After dinner, we walked around the Hofn Harbor before heading back to our hotel for a night of sleep. The days were full and exciting, but we were sure exhausted at the end of the day!
Day Four: The alarm woke us at 645am, and we got ready for the day. Breakfast consisted of eggs, bacon, red bell pepper slices, salami, and this delicious dill sauce, plus orange juice and coffee to drink. We were checked out and on the road by 745am.
The focus of the journey on this day was venturing through eastern fjords. Each day of venturing through Iceland brought a different sort of environment and scenery. It was interesting watching the dark water turn into crystal blue water as we entered the fjord area. This was our first day to experience full sunlight. Through the fjords, we walked out to a few different light houses.
We got to check out an Icelandic World War II museum, run by an older couple who spoke no English. It was a small museum, but interesting and worthy of a stop if you are a history buff like we are!
Then the crazy adventure of our day happened. We checked into our hotel, Icelandair Hotel Herad, at 330pm, and then ventured 30 minutes up the road to see Hengifoss, a must see water fall according to my research. It was suppose to be easy to get to from the road, so we expected it to be a fairly easy hike. Wow, were we wrong!
Upon parking, we could immediately tell it would involve a very steep, uphill hike. As soon as we reached the first hill, thinking the water fall should be right there, then another steep hill would appear. It ended up being an almost 5 mile round trip hike, with over half pure up hill. We were sweaty, thirsty, exhausted, and so hungry after that hike! If you want my opinion, this is not worth the time!
We ended up eating burgers and fries at a “gas station” (N1) that night. If you are trying to do Iceland on a “budget” (this is an irony, but still!), plan to eat hot dogs or burger and fry combos. On huge hiking days, we would be crazy hungry, and the most budget friendly and gluten free/dairy free friendly meals were to hit the convenient shop for a family combo. This was two burger patties plus veggies and four orders of fries for $40. Yes, you read that right. $40! However, we devoured all of it out of pure hunger and saved money, as it would easily be $100 in a restaurant.
Day Five: After the day we had the day before, I was completely wiped! I slept hard all night until my alarm went off at 645am. This was the funnest breakfast of our trip. I got to try Skyr with my breakfast, and it was delicious! They also had local fish oil in both liquid and capsules that they encouraged everyone to take along with their breakfast.
Our first stop on this day was in Modrydalur, which was suppose to be a mini hobbit town. It ended up being a disappointment, so we were quickly on the road to visit Detifoss.
If you are in the area of Detifoss and want to have a fear and awe of our lives, then please visit Detifoss. We knew Detifoss required a small hike, so we parked and got out of our car. You could hear the roaring power of the water fall from the car park.
To set the stage for the day, it was 40 degrees and drizzly. It was cold!
We began our walk towards the water fall, and could feel the ground vibrating under our feet. It was not very far into the walk, and the magnificence of the waterfall appeared. This was probably the most God fearing waterfall of the whole trip. It was intense.
Nearby to Detifoss was a smaller waterfall, Salifoss. We walked down to see that beautiful waterfall before we headed out to our next destination.
Krafla was our next stop. This is an active geothermal area in northern Iceland. In this area, we stopped at Viti, which has a beautiful green lake inside.
Our driving this day was relatively short, and we decided to check into our hotel and eat lunch. Our hotel for that night was Hotel Reynihlid, and was located next to a really cute cafe. We had lunch and coffee at the cafe after checking in to our hotel, before afternoon adventures.
Down the road was Dimmuborgir. This site was full of natural landscapes that were created from a lava lake approximately 2300 years ago. The natural creations designed from earthquakes and lava were neat to see.
We drove by Hverfjall next, an enormous tephra crater from an eruption 2500 years ago. It was massive and interesting to see, but we did not have a desire to hike it and wanted to have a relaxing afternoon, so we headed to our last planned activity.
I had been looking forward to experiencing the Myvatn Nature Baths for months. Most people hear about the Blue Lagoon, but this is a man made, touristy spot near the airport. Myvatn was more isolated and natural, and it is worth experiencing.
Remember it was roughly 40 degrees outside, and this lovely thermal bath is completely outside. We checked in, went to the locker rooms where you are expected to shower and change and lock your belongings. I met my husband out the lounge, and darted to the bath outside.
The milky blue water was so warm and inviting. We moved around the bath, and found some areas that were super warm and areas a little cooler. The views were magnificent, and the bit of sprinkling that occurred the entire time we were in only made it more magical.
In various spots, there were some stone seats where you could rest. On the stone walls and seats, a lot of them seemed to have silica on them, which made our skin feel silky smooth and soft.
After two hours, we decided we probably should get out and not totally dehydrate, but we sure did not want to get out! It was not nearly as cold as we thought it would be to get out, but we got inside and dried off and dressed. We took a nice hot shower once we got back to the hotel.
After showering, we walked to the cafe again for dinner. The cafe was so unique and comfy. We had some coffee and Icelandic lamb meat soup for dinner, which was delicious and helped warm us up.
This area of Iceland felt the most desolate, and although late June and tourist season, we felt mostly alone experiencing this area in Iceland, which we really liked.
Day Six: Sleep was rough this night. The hotel did not have room darkening blinds, so 24 hours of sunlight and not a decent way to block made it hard to sleep, plus the room was so hot!
Breakfast was delicious! They had eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, bell pepper, orange juice, and coffee. They even had gluten free cookies to eat with our coffee. It was very filling!
We left the hotel ahead of schedule, so we decided to add a waterfall to the schedule that we did not originally think we would get to see, Godafoss. Godafoss was easy to access, and had a couple neat gift shops nearby. This waterfall was beautiful, and because the sun was shining, the pictures we captured were amazing. The history of Godafoss is that Iceland became a Christian nation after a man decided to throw his pagan gods into the falls.
Our exciting event for this day was whale watching at 10am! We headed to Husavik, which was a lovely seaside village where our tour was to be. Whale watching is a bucket list option, but we got so sea sick! The Norwegian Sea was very rocky that day, and I was not prepared! However, this is definitely a bucket list item. We had a lucky day, and saw at least five hump back whales and five minke whales over and over again.
We had to eat after finishing our tour, so we went to N1 for burgers and fries. It was delicious, and made us feel so much better!
We got back on the road and headed to the famous Christmas house that was located outside of Akurey. If you like Christmas even a little, this is a worthy stop. The area looks like a gingerbread house. In one building upstairs is a huge advent calendar to walk through, and then you can walk into the main building. The building was warm and smelled like Christmas, with two levels of Christmas decor to see and buy. We learned a lot about their Christmas traditions, particularly the interesting one about Christmas elves! We purchased a couple souvenirs before heading to our hotel.
Our hotel for this night was Hotel Varmahlid. This was definitely a very remote area, and dinner that night was burgers and fries at the N1, which was fine for us!
After dinner, we drove down the road to see Vidrmyri Church. This church was made from timber and turf in 1834. We took a few pictures, and then headed back to our hotel for the night.
Day Seven: This was our last full day, which brought us back to Reykjavik. Breakfast offered at the hotel that morning was light, so we tried to eat our fill of hard boiled eggs, salami, and red bell pepper.
There was not a lot to see on this last segment of our trip. Our first stop was Glannifoss, which we felt was a hidden jewel waterfall. After parking in the lot, it was a ten minute walk to the waterfall. It was a nice walk and view.
We stopped for a quick lunch in Borgarnes, before continuing our drive to Reykjavik. We arrived about 130pm in the city, which gave us the opportunity to adventure within the city. We did some shopping, where I purchased a super expensive Icelandic wool blanket (isn’t this a must when visiting Iceland?!).
We also got to see the famous church, Hallgrimskirkja, as well as the statue of Lief Erikkson. We took some pictures before heading to our hotel.
We stayed at the Fosshotel Lind again, which was a nice hotel. After checking in, we drove to drop of our rental car, and were shuttled back at 430pm. We walked to an “American” barbecue restaurant for dinner, which was funny to see what they think American food is. I enjoyed a chicken salad for dinner.
To end the night, my husband also had to hunt down an elf stone. Elves are a huge part of the history and culture of Iceland, so if you are into history and culture, you probably need to hunt down an elf stone too.
My thoughts: I wish I could properly give words to our experience in Iceland. Iceland was a very spontaneous decision for us, and it did not disappoint. All countries have history, beauty, and natural wonders, but Iceland feels generally still untouched so it left me speechless to describe its beauty.
The Ring Road is the big road around Iceland, one of the closest roads to considering a “major ” highway around the country. However, expect to be stopped from crossing sheep! Our favorite stop was when a baby decided to breastfeed in the middle of the road! The midwife in me needed pictures!
I can see why some people would want more time than a week to do the Ring Road trip because there were so many other things we could have done and seen, but we had to keep to our schedule.
I think my only regret is that I wish we had done a day trip to Greenland from Reykjavik. It never crossed my mind until we were there, and I wish I had considered that when trip planning.
Airfare to Iceland can often be found cheap, but please do expect everything else to be quite expensive, especially the food. You most likely will be very active, which for us meant more hungry. I highly recommend hitting up the N1 for meals to save money when hungry. It is crazy to think it is $40 for four burgers and fries that are fast food quality, but that is “cheap” there. Definitely take that in consideration.
Credit card usage is widely used and popular there, however you will want to have some Icelandic Kronas on hand. It is difficult to exchange money before the trip, but I was lucky to have a connection with someone who had recently went to Iceland, and had a small amount of Kronas that I purchased from her. We needed cash to use the bathroom a few times, as well as the first restaurant we ate at, our credit card would not approve our charge because they thought it was fraudulent, and we did not have internet to approve the charge! So the small amount of cash came in so handy, so I highly recommend exchanging around $100 to simply have.
If you have looked at Iceland, take the plunge and experience it! It is worth the trip!