Around Iceland in 10 Days
We just got back from Iceland about a couple weeks ago and I'm still dreaming about it. Our 10 day road trip of the entire island was purely magical. We flew into Keflavik, got our rental car and began our road trip. Here's a quick look at how we spend 10 days in Iceland.
Day 1 - Flying, Keflavik and Rekjavik, chasing Northern Lights
After checking into our hotel, we decided to explore Reykjavik on foot. We saw the infamous Sun Voyager, the Harpa, and the Hallgrimskirkja church. Next, we walked along the narrow pedestrian only streets in the heart of city.
Later that eventing, we decided to chase the Northern LIghts. The Aurora forecast showed that the Northern lights were active that night so we drove to the darkest part of Reykjavik, the Grotta Island lighthouse and walked up to the lighthouse. Unfortunately, it was overcast and when the clouds cleared, they revealed a bright full moon. These were unideal conditions for seeing the Northern lights. Then at about midnight, we drove out to Pingveller National park, where it was even darker. But, it was overcast as well.
Day 2 - Waterfalls and hot springs
Destination Arnarstapi (Northwest Iceland)
We ate breakfast then set out for our day. We made a few stops along the way to see some waterfalls, Icelandic horses, Icelandic sheep, and hot springs before arriving at our hotel in Arnarstapi.
Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls
Our next stop were these beautiful waterfalls surrounded by fall foliage. I'll let the photos do the talking.
Deildartunguhver Hot Springs
We took a dip into the natural pools at the Deildartunguhver Hot Springs. It was an amazing experience. From the pools, we could actually see steam coming from the naturally boiling water.
Day 3 - Caves, craters, and waterfalls
Destination Blonduos (North Iceland)
This was one of the longest drives we did during our trip. I had scheduled a group cave tour in advance, so we ate a quick breakfast and made it to Vatnshellir cave, just in time for the tour.
The tour guide gave everyone a helmet and a flashlight. We went down a long spiral staircase to enter the underground cave. There were three "rooms" in the cave. To enter the next room, we went down another set of stairs. The cave revealed lava rock formations. It was a really cool experience. At one point, the tour guide had everyone turn off their flashlights and stay quiet. There was something so relaxing about being in the pitch black cave listening to the sounds of the cave, mainly water dripping down the cave ceiling.
On our way to the next destination, we stopped by a mountain and hiked up to see a crater. This was my first time seeing a crater. We could see green moss mixed with dark brown and red rocks, it was a unique sight.
Kirkjufell and Snaefellsjokull
We grabbed a quick lunch at a cafe in a nearby town and headed to see the most photographed mountain in Iceland, Kirkjufell and its' neighboring waterfalls in Snaefellsjokull. It was extremely windy at the time but, we still spent about 20 minutes taking in the beauty of the landscape. We even saw a couple taking their wedding photos here.
Day 4 - Godafoss, Akureyri
Destination Husavik (North Iceland)
On our way to Akureyri, we stopped to check out Godafoss, a monumental waterfall. In English, it's literally called "The Waterfall of the Gods". The story behind is that, when Iceland adopted Christianity, the ruler who made the decision for the country to become Christian, threw away the idols of his pagan gods into this waterfall. And so it became Godafoss - the Waterfall of the Gods.
Next, we went to Akureyri, which is the second largest city in Iceland. It's even referred to as the Capital of the North Iceland. It was such a pretty and charming town. We saw yellow and orange leaves on trees and even had ice-cream here after lunch.
We continued driving and arrived in Husavik, the whale watching capital of Iceland. We went down to the marina and reserved our whale watching tickets for the next morning. For dinner, we went to a cozy little cottage-like restaurant and had some delicious fish. Since we were tired from a long day of driving, we decided to relax at a new Geothermal pool. It had three hot pools to swim around. What a relaxing experience.
Day 5 - Whale watching, lava formations, and Dettifoss
Destination Egilsstadir (East Iceland)
Whale Watching and Exploring the Whale Museum
We had an early breakfast at our hotel and then set out for our whale watching tour. We were running pretty late that morning and actually made it aboard the boat just when it was about to leave. It was a 3 hr tour. We boated about 40 minutes off Husavik and saw 3-5 different humpback whales. It was so beautiful seeing these majestic mammals peaking out to take a breath before diving back down. After this tour, we went to the Husavik whale museum which contained 13 real whale skeletons. The blue whale skeleton took our breath away. It was gigantic! We also learned about the history of whaling in Iceland.
Dimmuborgir Lava Formations
This was an activity packed day. After visiting the whale museum, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and got back on the road, Our first stop was at the Dimmuborgir Lava Formations. This site contained quite a few trails to choose from to see lava formations. Luckily, we pretty much had the place to ourself. We saw a tour bus parking as we were leaving. Talk about perfect timing.
Myvatn Baths and Namastard Pass
Next, we stopped by the Myvatn baths, which are natural hot springs, kind of like the Blue lagoon but smaller with a stronger smell of sulfur. We would have taken a dip but, we were running out of time and still had so much to see. Driving a few minutes past the Myvatn baths, we found the hot spots in Namastard Pass. You could see water boiling and bubbling up from the ground. There was also steam rising in many areas. It smelled like rotten eggs but, it was such an impressive natural phenomenon to witness.
Detifoss and Selfoss
On our way to the last attraction of the day, it started to get cold, and there was ice on the road. Now, we didn't have chains, but, we drove very, very carefully and made it to Detifoss, a giant, incredible waterfall. Apparently, it has been featured in a post-apocalyptic Hollywood film. We hiked for about 10 minutes to get close to Dettifoss. It was so powerful and marvelous. It was such a magical experience because at times, it was just the two of us in front of this great power of nature. I could have stared at it all day, but we wanted to get back to the car before it got too dark and we couldn't see the icy road.
We made it safely to our hotel in Egisstadir, East Iceland. Our dinner at the hotel restaurant was some of the best food we had in Iceland.
Day 6 - Beautiful scenery and the Northern Lights
Destination Hofn (South Iceland)
This was one of our longer drives during our road trip, but what a scenic drive it was. We made quite a few stops to get out of the car and explore the incredible nature scapes. Our stops consisted of a black sand beach, a grassy land right next to the ocean with graves, the most magical waterfall I've ever seen, and the charming windy town of Hofn. We grabbed a late lunch here - pumpkin lasagna, hot tomato soup, and a cinnamon roll.
After walking around town a little and getting blown away by the fresh wind, we continued to our destination for the night, in the vicinity of Hofn.
Seeing the Northern Lights
We stayed at a cute little studio on a ranch. This was where we were blessed by the sight of the Northern lights. The way they danced from one side of the mountain to the other, and then back was purely magical. Although this was the only time during our trip that we saw the Aurora Borealis, we were content. I hope to see these majestic lights again someday.
Day 7 - Glacier lagoon , Diamond beach, hike to a glacier tongue, and Vatnajokull National Park
Destination Vik (South Iceland)
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach
On our drive to our next hotel in Vik, we visited some incredible attractions. First, we stopped at Jökulsárlón, the Glacier lagoon which featured floating icebergs that had just broken off of a glacier. We walked down to Diamond Beach from there and saw large chunks of ice just sitting on a black sand beach. It was a completely surreal beach experience.
Hike to a Glacier Tongue
As we continued our drive, we saw a small parking lot that had a trail that led you to a glacier. We took this opportunity and walked up to the glacier tongue. I don't think it had a specific name. We were originally planning to do a glacier hike in Vatnajokull National park, but took this hike instead. We were the only two people hiking this trail and it felt very special.
Vatnajokull National Park and Svartifoss
When we finally got to Vatnajokull National Park, we checked out the visitor's center to learn about the history of the park and decided to hike to Svartifoss, a visually stunning waterfall in the park. Autumn was in its peak at the park and was covered in yellow, orange, and brown plants and trees. We don't get to experience Fall like this in our hometown. We got back in the car around sunset and set off to our destination of the night, Vik.
Day 8 - Beaches, waterfalls, snorkeling
We woke up the next morning to a lovely view of sharp green moss covered mountain. After checking out of our hotel, we filled up on gas and checked out the closest beach. It was a large and wide one with black sand. If you've been following my Instagram story, I had originally thought this to be the infamous beach from Game of Thrones. However, after a quick look at the map, I realized that Reynisfjara beach as 2o minutes away. So, off we went.
What a spectacular beach! There were a lot more people here than the last beach we went to, so I knew this was the right place. The sand was black, the waves were gigantic, there were beautiful stone columns, and even a shallow cave.
Snorkelling at the Silfra Fissure
We had a long drive ahead of us for a snorkelling tour between the North American and Eurasian continental plates in Pingvelleur National park, close to Reykjavik. The area we snorkeled in contained water straight from glacier melt and it was 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Because we were wearing a thermal layer underneath, a thermal suit in the middle, and a dry suit on top, they only parts of our body that were cold and eventually numb, were our hands and faces.
The visibility was super! We could see really deep into beautiful blue waters. We were even allowed to drink the water if we needed to. I tried some and it tasted like cold fresh water.
We retraced our trail to see some geysirs. Luckily, we made it before it got dark. There was a little geysir and a big geysir. Now these went off approximately 2-6 minutes. They were amazing to watch and we stayed there until it got dark. Before visiting Geysir, we stopped by a farm that makes fresh ice-cream from its' cows' milk. We even got to pet a friendly calf.
We didn't check into our hotel until around 10 that night. It was a Friday night and we still needed to eat dinner. Most fancy restaurants around our hotel had closed and only bars were open. That's when we ran into to friendly Icelandic friends who were just having a night out. They seemed to like us a lot. We talked for almost an hour before they led us to a local kebab place where many people go after drinks. We both got wraps and ate them on our walk back to our hotel. What a fun night!
Day 9 - Rekjavik - The Blue Lagoon, Costco
The next morning, we went out for breakfast at a really cute and welcoming cafe, In addition to our order, they welcomed us to have the snacks in the dining room, cookies, macaroons, carrot cake and more. We ordered lamb soup in a bread bowl and got free refills. The soup was very delicious.
Next, we explored downtown Reykjavik some more and checked out some souvenir stores. Lastly, we went to a bar to get a quick snack and drink. We talked to the bartender for a while and he told us about a drink called the "Shark Tale." It went something like this. You may or may not know that Iceland has experienced quite a few famines in its' history. Because of this, the Icelanders started hunting and eating sharks. Now, we know that sharks are big and it takes a while to consume one. Being left out so long, the shark would ferment but the people would have to eat it to avoid starvation. Consuming fermented shark killed people until Brennivin, an icelandic alchol was discovered. People saw that when they followed their fermented shark meal by a shot or more of Brennivin, they didn't die. They woke up hungover, but alive.
The Blue Lagoon
After many days of driving and sightseeing, we were looking forward to the Blue Lagoon. We had reservation for two around 4pm. I had booked it in advance of our trip. When we got there, we were given keys to lockers and towels. After getting changes, we dipped right in. It was such a relaxing experience. There were quite a few people there but, the lagoon is huge and we found spaces for just the two of us. We got a complimentary drink at the water side snack bar, and complimentary silica masks. There is a lot of Silica present in the lagoon. In fact, it is what gives the Blue Lagoon its' cool blue color. We spent at least 3 hours here and felt so relaxed. As we were leaving, we noticed that there were significantly more people in the water then when we'd been in there. 4pm had been a good time to get to the Blue Lagoon.
We were curious to see if we could find yummy bulk souvenirs at Costco. We didn't find what we were looking for, but we did try their BBQ chicken pizza slices, mango smoothie, and hotdog. We came back to Costco the next day on the way to the airport to fill up on gas.
Day 10 - Cat cafe, shopping and driving to the airport
We couldn't believe our trip was already over. How had 10 days gone by so fast? After checking out of our hotel, we had breakfast at the cat cafe we'd walked by the day before. There were about 5 cats there and the food was delicious. The cats were so cute, playful, and furry. Two of them came up to us and gave us company while we ate. One of them looked a lot like our cat, Bella.
We had about an hour to shop for souvenirs for our family and friends. For the most part, we bought chocolates, lava salt, licorice salt, and some magnets. We left from Reykjavik about an hour later than we wanted. However, we got to the airport with just enough time to check in and get to our boarding gate.
This was such a memorable trip. Thank you for treating us to well Iceland! If you have any questions about Iceland, leave me a comment below and I'll get back to you.