Covering the whole of Iceland in a week is easy to accomplish if you have a plan in place. It’s actually possible to drive the entire ring road (which goes all the way around Iceland), in 1 day! But why would you do that when there’s so much to stop! and! see!
I highly recommend renting a vehicle so that you are able to go where you want, when you want. Transit in Iceland is limited especially once you leave the southwest & renting a car will end up being the more affordable option if you are wanting to cover a lot of ground. I recommend using an Icelandic car rental company (such as Lagoon Car Rentals), as their prices are more reasonable than international companies. They will pick you up from the airport and bring you to their office to pick up your vehicle. In order to rent a vehicle in Iceland you must have at least your g2 drivers license & be 20 years of age (that's it!!). It is important that you are a confident driver, because weather conditions are unpredictable in Iceland and one minute you will be driving under clear, sunny skies and twenty minutes later you’ll be driving through a snow storm, unable to see 3 feet ahead. Always, always, always, be safe and responsible when driving.
On to the adventure:
Day 1 – Spend your morning in Reykjavik, wandering the streets and taking in the colours of all of the buildings and landscapes that surround you. Check out local shops and flea markets as you pass by to get a taste of Icelandic treats and culture.
Head South in the afternoon for a visit to the Blue Lagoon. It is best to book this excursion ahead of time in order to ensure your time-slot and space. Spend the next hour or so soaking in one of Iceland’s main attractions, while enjoying a complimentary drink and face mask.
After relaxing in the Blue Lagoon, it’s time for some sightseeing to begin. Drive on up to Iceland’s famous Geysir and watch in awe as this natural phenomenon occurs. Beware that visiting the Great Geysir does not smell good… at all, but it is definitely worth it.
Depending on how tired you are from your flight & jet lag, you may want to head towards your accommodation for the night. Check in and get your stuff settled inside before walking into the town to explore local foods. I recommend staying in Selfoss for the night.
Day 2 – Today, we conquer the waterfalls. The waterfalls of Iceland are unlike anything you will ever experience. Take the time to fully soak them in and appreciate their beauty. We’ll begin by heading to Seljalandsfoss. As you drive towards it, you’ll feel your heart flutter in disbelief that something this big and this beautiful exists. Seljalandsfoss is extra special because you can follow a path that leads behind the waterfall. Make sure you dress in warm and waterproof layers today as you will most likely get soaked.
After spending time at Seljalandsfoss, make sure you walk north up the path. There is a hidden treasure at the end that you don’t want to miss out on, but unfortunately most people do! Gljúfrafoss waterfall and pool are located at the north end of this path, but most people visiting Iceland are unaware of it’s location. Step along rocks peeking out through the stream and enter into the canyon waterfall. This experience is like no other.
Once you’re done here, head east to Skógafoss waterfall. Skógafoss is massive. Climb up the equally massive set of steps next to it to reach the top and enjoy an incredible view. Take the trail to enjoy a mountain top hike and feel like you are on top of the world.
You’re close to Vik now, so you may want to head into town to stay the night or to find somewhere to eat. If you want to leave discovering Vik until tomorrow, stay at Welcome Edinborg, just 10 minutes back west from Skogafoss waterfall. This guesthouse is beautiful. A quaint, white house filled with other travellers. Nothing will beat this feeling of looking out the windows and being surrounded by beautiful mountains.
Tip: In order to save money on your trip, go grocery shopping! In the mornings before you head out on your adventure for the day, head into a grocery store or market and find healthy and affordable snacks and meals that will keep you energized throughout the day. Stopping to eat out for every meal is impractical on an Icelandic road trip, as there will be times when you don’t pass by a restaurant for a few hours. It will also greatly reduce your overall spending for your trip!
Day 3 – There is so much to cover for today. Whether you stayed in Vik overnight or at the Welcome Edinborg, you are close to one of Iceland’s most interesting sites. The Solheimasandur Plane Wreck. In 1973, a DC-3 plane crashed here and has remained on the beach for people to explore. The plane ran out of fuel and crashed onto the beach, but fortunately everyone aboard the plane survived the crash. Make sure you are dressed for the weather as you will be outside and far from the car as you walk for approximately one hour (one way) to the plane wreck.
Next, head to Reynisfjara, the black sand beach. The black sand beach was one of my favourite places in Iceland. The sand is created from the ice cold water meeting the boiling lava from a volcano. Be careful while you are here, as the waves are unpredictable and you do not want to get caught in them. You will be able to take in the beautiful rock formations just off the shore, known as Reynisdrangar. The Icelandic folklore belief is that these rock formations were once trolls trying to pull in ships from the ocean. They were caught in the sun one morning, which turned them to stone.
Continue northeast towards Vatnajökull National Park. Here you can choose from the multiple hiking paths to different destinations including an array of waterfalls, glaciers and lagoons.
After a day full of sightseeing and hiking, you may want to stay somewhere close by. Höfn isn’t too far away and driving there at night prevents you from having to make the journey the next morning. Höfn is a sweet little town with all the necessities you will need for the night and the next morning. Grab some groceries and fill your tank up with gas before heading off the next day.
Day 4 – Today we tackle the east of Iceland. Driving through some of the most gorgeous landscapes. Today is all about spontaneity. There will be so many opportunities for you to pull over on the side of the road and take in the view or to walk down a trail to hidden away waterfalls. You’ll be driving up mountains and through snowy roads so make sure you are focused and full of energy. Today will be full of sights you will never want to forget.
Spend the night in Egilsstaðir – one of Iceland’s sweetest towns. I recommend staying in Tehusid Hostel – a modern and friendly hostel that has amazing views around it. Speak with the owners and they will give you information about the town. Just behind the hostel is a little cliff that you can hike up and on top of it sits tables where you can have a few drinks while looking out over the town. For dinner I recommend checking out Skálinn Diner, an old fashioned diner with amazing food and service.
Day 5 – Today we travel from Egilsstaðir to Akureyri – Iceland’s capital of the north. There is plenty to check out along the way. Today you can visit Mars on Earth. Mývatn region is one of Iceland’s most well kept secrets.
Hverir is a landscape within Mývatn, of boiling mud pits, fumaroles and red sand. You can also visit lake Mývatn, with beautiful blue waters.
While you’re in Mývatn, be sure to check out the Krafla lava fields. Views like this can only exist in Iceland.
Keep heading west towards Akureyri and you’ll come across the Mývatn Nature Baths. Similar to the Blue Lagoon, but less expensive & it will feel great after almost a full week of road tripping.
After soaking in the lagoon and relaxing in the sauna, continue your journey & you’ll end up at Goðafoss waterfall (trust me, you can’t miss it). This waterfall looks like a mini Niagara Falls, and you can walk all around the top of it.
Tonight, I recommend staying at Akureyri Backpackers. They are a restaurant, bar, café and hostel all in one.
Day 6 – Once again, today is full of driving and spontaneity. Spend the morning exploring the town of Akureyri, as it has a lot of personality.
On the trek back to Reykjavik, there are plenty of landscapes and views to pull over for. You’ll also pass a lot of wild horses (and maybe some sheep) and you’ll definitely want to pull over to give them a visit.
When you end up in Reykjavik, there are so many places to stay and so many places to eat! Try to have a new and exciting Icelandic meal on your last night. If you’re feeling confident and spontaneous, head into one of Reykjavik’s many tattoo parlours to bring home a permanent memory from your trip!
Day 7 – You’re in Reykjavik and if you have time to go out and wander the stores and streets, I recommend doing that. If not, bring your car back into the rental office and they’ll give you a lift to the airport where you can relax and grab some food before your flight back home. A week goes by so quickly when you’re doing so much every day & you may feel sad to be heading back home, but you’ve just covered a full country (and you’re probably really tired)! Plus, you can always come back :)
Check back soon to see how this trip shaped my thesis year & for a list of everything you’ll need for a week in Iceland.