Sorry that I’ve been MIA the past couple of weeks. I was fighting some sickness before Iceland and then I left for my adventure. Luckily, I got better just in time and wasn’t sick for my travels. Iceland is a magical place and I can’t wait to tell you about it!
Not only do I want to tell you about the adventure that my hubby and I experienced, but I also want to tell you about the planning that went into this trip and how we explored half the country in such a short period of time.
We were booked to visit Iceland for three nights and four days, but we were lucky enough to spend an extra day at the end and got a fourth night for free! Thank you, Wow Air. Don’t be fooled by this… we really didn’t have the best experience with Wow. However, they managed to redeem themselves and I will tell you about that in my next post.
I knew that we only had a few days to explore the land of fire and ice and I wanted to make sure we saw as much of it as possible. We turned to social media and the internet to determine which sites we wanted to see, then we busted out Google Maps and started plotting the points. Before we knew it, half the country was starred with our desired destinations.
Using the points on the map, we started to build a path for each day. We looked at the distance between each point, what time we needed to start each day to make it to all the stops, how much time could we afford to spend at each one, and what time the sun rose and set this time of the year. On paper, you might think we were crazy… I definitely thought we were being ambitious. But, guess what? With the use of our trusty car rental and some dedication to our plan, we made it to every stop (accept for one) and then some!
Here is the itinerary that we set out for ourselves and some notes about our journey. The times are a rough estimate and account for minor delays and quick photo stops. If you’re interested in taking a quick trip to Iceland, I recommend Every. Single. Place. I should mention that due to delay’s getting into Iceland, we couldn’t follow day 1 as planned but we certainly tried our best. We also didn’t stick to the time limits we set out for ourselves and that didn’t seem to make a difference.
Due to a mechanical issue with our plane leaving Toronto, we didn’t arrive in Iceland until 10am. Thanks to this delay, we had to push our visit to the Blue Lagoon out until the fourth day. By the time we grabbed our car rental, we were on the road to Brimketill around 11:30am. The weather on this day was the worst of our visit – hurricane force winds and rain made for an epic adventure and called for a cancelled Northern Lights Tour. We were able to make it to all stops except for Londrangar. The night sky was turning dark quickly and with the conditions, we just didn’t think it was the best idea to visit the Londrangar cliff.
Before moving on to day 2, I want to fill you in on the rental car situation. We used Rentalcars.com to find a cheap rental from Sixt. Without thinking, we paid the non-refundable deposit and then did some research about the company… bad idea. Sixt has some pretty scary reviews online about their location in Iceland, so I prepared for the worst. To my surprise, what we experienced was the complete opposite. The employees were friendly, they did their best to accommodate our needs, they upgraded us to a premium SUV at no extra cost and there was no issue when we returned the car. A complete relief! Moral of the story, do your research first, folks. It will save you a lot of stress.
We spent a lot more time at Geysir then we anticipated. This place is super cool! I could literally watch the geyser gush all day. To be clear, the only active geyser in the area is Strokkur, which blasts piping hot water 100ft in the air every 5-15mins. We also pulled off the side of the road to pet the horses and put the drone up a little bit. On our way back to Reykjavik, we got stuck in heavy fog which called for super slow driving. With all this, we didn’t get back to Reykjavik until around 7:30pm. When we got back, we went out for a nice dinner at Bryggjan Brugghus and headed to Mikkeller & Friends for some beer. If you read my post about LA, you know that we don’t travel without experiencing the local craft beer scene. We had also rescheduled the Northern Lights Tour for the evening, but again, it was cancelled due to poor weather conditions.
Originally, we had rescheduled the Northern Lights Tour again for the next night, but after researching the conditions, we realized we would be better off requesting a refund. Reykjavik Excursions will give you a refund as long as you request it within 24 hours of your tour, so we were in luck! Turns out, the tour was cancelled again anyways… it really wasn’t meant to be for us on this trip. To anybody specifically going to Iceland to see the Northern Lights, don’t get your hopes up!! This may be harsh, but it’s true. You will leave sad and disappointed if you experience the same weather as us. Instead, appreciate all that Iceland has to offer and I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Day 3 was by far our most ambitious day, the day of the waterfalls, and probably my favourite day of the trip. Can you believe that we actually stuck to our start time and woke up at 3am to get on the road by 4am? It was hard to not think about the fact that it was only 10pm back in Toronto. We drove 5 hours through the night to reach the Glacier Lagoon (Jokulsarlon) by sun rise and it was totally worth it. We spent at least double the time at the Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach, so right from the start we were behind in our day. I also loved Reynisfjara. The waves were massive and there are a ton of cool photo opportunities. Be warned, however, that the waves here are no joke, the undertow and riptides are powerful and can easily send you out to sea in the freezing cold waters. Not trying to scare you… but be safe and stay away from the waters edge! We also pulled off the road many times to take pictures and put up the drone. It is such a beautiful drive! The landscape of Iceland is truly unreal. The whole place becomes a sensory overload, everything is picturesque and you can’t help but marvel at the beauty of it all. With that being said, as tempting as it may be to look at everything while you’re driving… DON’T. There are ample pull off spots for picture taking, so be safe and smart, and please don’t stop in the middle of the highway. We saw this many times and people are flying down these roads.
The Blue Lagoon was relaxing and much needed after this trip. I recommend experiencing it once, but I honestly won’t be going back during my next visit to Iceland. It’s far too expensive for what you get and there are many more natural hot springs scattered across the country. No matter where you go, you can be sure there is one near by. The itinerary also says that we were supposed to go home, but we were fortunate enough to stay back another night and enjoy the town of Keflavik. I called Reykjavik Excursions to see if we could maybe catch the Northern Lights, but tours weren’t running at all.
It was nice to get an extra day in Iceland. Keflavik is a cute, quiet little town on the ocean that we may have never visited if it wasn’t for our free extra night. This was a special trip for us and we would go back again in a heartbeat.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The main roads are well maintained but would be tricky to drive on in slippery weather conditions. Stay up-to-date with road conditions using this helpful site
- Get the windshield insurance, it covers chips and cracks (both of which are easy to come by with all of the sand and gravel in everyone’s tires)
- In order to visit the Highlands in the Summertime, you will need to drive on F-Roads and a 4×4 is mandatory for this. F-Roads are not maintained and often require you to drive through streams and rivers
- Be prepared for all weather conditions, the climate can change very quickly especially if you are moving across the country. Pack waterproof boots and a rain coat if you want to stay dry!
- Gas stations are plentiful but many are unmanned and require a prepaid gas card or credit card (our Visa and MasterCard did not work)
- The people of Iceland are very nice and welcoming
- Everything is expensive!! Don’t think about the conversion… just don’t do it
- Most local treats are made with black licorice
- Be respectful of the land, don’t litter and do not walk on the natural moss (it takes years to grow back)