7 Day Itinerary
Weather (In July)
We were in Iceland for the first seven days of July. The weather seems to depend on where you are and where you’re driving. It was sunny and cool when we visited falls and glaciers in the southeast area, and rainy and cold when we saw puffins in the northeast. We experienced strong gusty winds for most of our drive going north from Vik along the east coast that we had to grip the steering wheel so tight for fear of being flown off road.
Always check the weather the day before and immediately before your trip to check advisories and warnings where you are going. Also, ask the locals. Never underestimate the weather in Iceland! Check these websites for more accurate information.
Icelandic Meteorological Office
Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration
Dress appropriately and drive carefully. For what we wore during our trip, check out our link here.
When we drove around Iceland, we found it to be easy since we’re used to right hand driving. Route 1 is the main road that goes around the country connecting the majority of the towns making many of the tourist attractions accessible. It is paved most of the time, and has two lanes unless you see this sign below.
It means that the upcoming road is a one lane and the right of way belongs to the first approaching vehicle!
There are also some unpaved roads with steep gradients and sharp curves, such as the mountain road Oxi, which we encountered on day 3. Although we made it safely through this area, we feel it would have been more comfortable if we had a four wheel drive. There are also roads in the east side that have few sign posts regarding blind curves and summits. Always check the weather and road conditions the day before to keep yourself safe – http://www.road.is/
Food & Dining
In Iceland, dining options get more limited the farther you get from Reykjavik. To save time and money, buy groceries before starting any long drives or leaving Reykjavik. There are lots of stores in the capital and a few grocery stores like Bonus and Netto around the country. You also don’t need to buy bottled water in Iceland – tap water is perfectly fine as they have one of the cleanest waters on the planet!
Detailed 7 Day Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrival, (Kingsman And) The Golden Circle
Upon arrival, we checked out what time sunset in Iceland was, and it was still due at midnight, so we knew we had lots of time to do our itinerary. Here are the places we visited on our first day.
Places we saw today:
From the airport, the nearest stop was Thingvellir National Park. We were fascinated with this UNESCO cultural heritage site for a few reasons.
First of all, according to Wikipedia, the same force that gave birth to Iceland as a nation is likely the same force that split the supercontinent Pangea apart. The remnants are found here in Thingvellir.
In addition, it is also home to the oldest ongoing parliament in the world. A lot of historical events with great significance occurred here. For example, “it was here that the nation abandoned Asatru, the Old Norse pagan belief system, in lieu of Christianity in 1000 AD; in 1944 AD, it is where Icelanders declared their independence from Denmark and confirmed their first President, etc.”
Most importantly, this is the only place in the world where two tectonic plates – the Eurasian and North American – meet each other above ground. In fact, the rock edges of these plates are visible in Thingvellir, and you can actually walk in between them!
Our next destination was the Oxararfoss Waterfalls. It was a short 8-minute drive from Thingvellir. We parked nearby and paid 500ISK. We followed the hiking trail signs to the waterfall, which was very well marked!
We then drove to the Kerid Crater, a caldera in Iceland’s Western Volcanic Zone. It is 1500 years old and is composed of red (rather than the usual black) volcanic rock. We had to pay 400 ISK (~$3) to enter.
According to Wikipedia, “Kerið was a cone volcano which erupted and emptied its magma reserve. Once the magma was depleted, the weight of the cone collapsed into the empty magma chamber. The current pool of water at the bottom of the crater is at the same level as the water table and is not caused by rainfall.”
The trail to Gulfoss
There is also an excellent diving spot in Thingvellir, Silfra, ranked as one of the best in the world, where you can see magma bubbling out where the tectonic plates meet. We only found out about it later. You can find more information on the regulations and rules about diving here
After a long and tiring drive, we started to drive to our hotel. The drive from the Gullfoss waterfalls to our accommodation was beautiful! We were bathed in golden sunset light as we passed the green fields to our right. It was the perfect moment to end our first day in Iceland.
We stayed in Loa’s Nest for the night. Her place is surrounded by beautiful pastures with horses everywhere. The beds were comfortable and the host made us amazing waffles in the morning!
Day 2 – Waterfalls Day(South)
We woke up from our apartment in Hella to a pleasant blue sky. We packed our bags quickly and drove to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, where you can walk behind it.
Going to Seljalandsfoss, you can park here. The parking fee costs 750 ISK.
Walking towards Seljalandsfoss
Going inside the canyon to see Gljufrabui falls. You are definitely going to get wet here as well. We had so much fun doing this!
Skogafoss reminded us of the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall in terms of size! After all these waterfalls, we were hungry and went to the nearby Bistro Restaurant. Their mushroom soup and pasta were terrific!
When we went here, numerous warning signs showed the dangers of the beach.
Despite all these warnings, many people were very close to the shore. We didn’t go farther than the basalt columns and just admired the black beach from a distance.
We didn’t see any of the infamous sneaker waves, but the regular waves were already large enough to be wary of. While walking back up to shore, we noticed that we kept sinking in the dry sand whenever we stepped there. We then realized that standing up from the sand like this would be very hard, especially if it was wet.
Afterward, we headed to the Black Beach Cafe located next to the Reynisfjara Beach parking lot (and a safe distance from the waves!) We loved their fish and chips for early dinner.
After a long day, we headed home to Bru’s guesthouse to spend the night. We ended up staying here and backtracking since we couldn’t find lodging in Vik at the time we were making our reservations. Make sure you book early for your accommodation in Vik as lodgings are limited and they fill out early in the peak months!
Day 3 – Moss and Glaciers Day (Southeast/East)
This is the day of glaciers, moss, and a long day (12 hours total) of scenic driving along the east coast of Iceland going North. We’ve shared what time we arrived at each destination to give you an idea of how busy the day is. If we were to change one thing in our itinerary, it would be to add one night here & stay around the glacier area so we can hike to Skogafoss & do more activities in and around the glaciers.
The drive up after the glaciers, especially after Jokulsarlon going to the north, is very windy, and we do not suggest doing this in winter. Restaurants, gas stations and grocery stores are also very limited once you leave Vik.
Places we saw today:
9am: We left Loa’s nest and headed to Kr for the essentials – breakfast, groceries, and gas
The grocery store has a good selection of food. We got supplies for the road – breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can also have your food heated in the microwaves provided for here. They also have healthy options in a smoothie bar, a bakery and a cafe.
We also filled up our tank in the gas station nearby. Once we had everything we needed, we started to drive to Katla Geopark.
12:00: We arrived at a vast area of fields of moss and rocks. Here, the Skafta fires of 1783 to 1784 produced an estimated 14km^3 of basalt lava. Consequences were felt everywhere, especially in France, where the ash-caused famine allegedly contributed to the French Revolution.
Eldhraun’s solidified lava fields are covered with fragile moss, which took 100 years to grow.
Walking through Eldhraun. Moss likes growing on acidic surfaces. Since all the rocks in the surroundings were igneous and acidic, it gave a reason for the tremendous amount of moss.This was also where Apollo 11 practiced their moonwalk due to the similarity with the moon’s surface.
2:35PM: We arrived at Skaftafell, the nearest arm of Vatnajokull, Iceland’s largest glacier. This was also where Apollo 11 practiced their moonwalk due to the similarity with the moon’s surface.
We saw lots of people here, some of whom were spending the night in their RVs, while others were hiking to Svartifoss. We wished that we spent one more night in the area so that we could have hiked Svartifoss and explored the other trails.
There is a map in the parking lot which helps navigate Skaftafell. Pass by the Visitors’ Center to get more information and maps regarding what you want to do.
To see Skaftafell better, you have to hike for 5 miles with an ascent of 1280 feet to Svartifoss, which is a destination in itself. From there, it is possible to see the glacier and its lagoon.
Walking towards Fjallsarlon
When we arrived, it was relatively calm but minutes later, the wind started to blow so strongly. This is how unpredictable the weather is on this side of Iceland!
4:30PM: We arrived at Jokulsarlon glacier. There were more free floating and bigger chunks of ice on this side.
Look at those huge chunks of ice!
5:30PM: We left Jokulsarlon, and began the long drive to Lagarfell for which we will be spending the night. From Jökulsárlón, you have another option for a stop at Hofn. The town has a grocery store and some restaurants. Hofn will be the last you see until you arrive at Lagarfell.
The drive up north stays mostly on Route 1, Iceland’s main highway. The day we drove, there were strong, gusty winds that persisted throughout the whole drive along the coast. Our small car felt like it was going to be thrown off! The winds felt similar to a hurricane category number 3, and there was also no place to seek shelter. It was the mountains to the left or the ocean or cliffs to the right.
After what felt like an eternity, the GPS started to lead us inland. We felt relaxed and relieved, but we didn’t know it would be a short lived feeling. We were soon in Oxi – a mountain pass.
This road takes an 80km detour around the mountain, making it the shortest route from Hvolsvollur to Lagarfell. Little did we know that it would be filled with steep gradients, sharp curves and unpaved roads for about 20km of desolation. Since we only had a tiny and old 2WD car, we were anxious that it would not be able to handle the road.
Thankfully, we made it through safely.
When you get to Route 95, it will be a straight shot to Lagarfell Studios, our accommodation.
10:00PM: We arrived at our hotel in Lagarfell Studios and had never felt so happy to have a place to rest without worrying about winds, steep roads, or terrifying weather. We loved our cozy place and the comfortable beds.
I was so happy we stocked up on our food supplies. Since we arrived late, all the restaurants were closed and we hadn’t had dinner yet. It was such a long and adventurous day that we fell asleep so fast after eating, excited to see the puffins the next day!
Day 4 – Puffins, Hot Springs, and MORE Waterfalls! (North)
We woke up to a rainy and windy day but were so excited! We were going to see puffins up close at an estuary. This was the reason why we drove all the way North! We could have seen them when we were in Norway or the Faroe Islands, but we decided to check them out here in Iceland instead since the logistics were more straightforward.
Places We Saw Today:
The noises of these cute things make a sound like chainsaws! They make this noise many times while at their nesting grounds. However, when they’re flying, they are completely silent, enabling them to catch their prey swiftly and stealthily!
Make sure you go all the way to the top of the stairs to also see the nesting grounds of other birds in the area.This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip in Iceland.
After that fun experience, we drove to Dettifoss, Iceland’s 6th tallest waterfall. We drove to the west side, choosing it over the East side since we were short on time. Parking on the west side is free. If you have the time, visit both and compare them. Each side is unique but both beautiful. If you’ve seen both, let us know which one is your favorite and why.
To get to Dettifoss requires some walking on an unpaved but well marked trail.
Nearby Hverir, is the cave of Grjotagja, featured in the famous series Game of Thrones. There is a free parking lot directly in front of the cave. The entrance is very narrow and there’s not enough space inside so during peak times, there can be a line going in.
If you have time before hitting the bed, visit the nearby Myvatn hot springs. This is an excellent alternative to the Blue Lagoon since you have smaller crowds here. Guests from our hotel actually bring their robes to the hot spring, wear it going back and then proceed straight to the hotel’s free sauna.
We stayed in Fosshotel Myvatn and loved it. It was very clean and had an on-site restaurant. The food was ok and there were not a lot of choices, and expensive as well. They do have a free sauna that you can use after a tiring day of sightseeing.
For more ideas on what to do in the north, check out the maps below.
The map below shows a touring route that takes you to the coastal landscapes in North Iceland close to the Arctic Circle.
Day 5 – Godafoss, Akureyri, Glaumbaer, Kirkjufell(West)
We started with a 1-hour drive to Godafoss and parked here.
The path is very well marked and paved. We loved that it was easy to access. There are also various paths to take around Godafoss.
Akureyrarkirkja is also a distinctive landmark and church in Akureyri designed by the same architect who did Hallgrimskirja.
Leaving Akureyri, we enjoyed a different landscape on this side of Iceland. It was more calm than driving up the east of Iceland!
Our next stop was the Viking turf houses of Glaumbaer. The places here have acted both as farms and villages since 874 AD. It is owned by the National Museum of Iceland, and you must pay 1500 ISK to enter.
Take note that the entrance is not through the church that you will see in the parking lot. You have to walk a path on the right side and you will see the houses to your left and the ticketing offices to your right.
At first glance, all you may see are a group of turf houses. However, inside them are many interesting exhibitions and descriptions that take you back to the time of how the Vikings lived thousands of years ago. Some parts of the house date back as far as the mid 18th century!
A video of one of the turf houses being repaired.
From here, we began the long drive to our lodging in the Snaefellsnes peninsula. We wanted to see Eiríksstaðir, Erik the Red’s house preserved in Haukadalur. Unfortunately, the road leading there allowed only four wheel drives.
If you don’t know him, he is famously credited for having discovered Greenland and being the father of Leif Errikson, the one who truly discovered North America (not Columbus). If you are a fan of world history like us, you should check it out and the nearby museum.
After turning back, we started our drive for Snaefellsnes peninsula. Having arrived late, all the restaurants were closed except for one – Bjargarsteinn Mathúsa; we were the last customers! We were so fortunate as this turned out to be the best meal we had for our entire trip. You should definitely make reservations here if you plan to try them out since they are so popular.
After dinner, which was already past 10pm, we drove to the nearby Kirkufoss waterfall, which gives a view of Kirkjufell mountain. In the popular TV series Game of Thrones, this is the birthplace of the Night King.
When we arrived, the late sunset at midnight and the small number of people made it more picture perfect!
We then headed home to sleep. We loved our stay in Kirkjufell Guesthouse and Apartments since it was very near Kirkjufell. It was brand new, very clean and even had laundry.
Day 6 – The Capital, Reykjavik, and the Blue Lagoon(South, back to the starting point)
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and largest city as well. Once in Reykjavik, you can park near Rainbow Street. From here, you can walk to most attractions.
The streets of Reykjavik are filled with colorful buildings, charming cafes, art galleries, and tourist shops for locally made products.
From Rainbow street, it’s easy to spot Iceland’s iconic church, Hallgrimskirja, and Leif Erikson’s statue.
Foreground: Leif Eiricsson is thought to have set foot in North America half a millennium before Christopher Columbus.
We decided to have dinner in Reykjavik and found this food court with lots of options in terms of cuisines. We chose to eat at Krost which has a lot of good reviews. I loved that it had vegetarian options!
After dinner, we drove to our lodging in Keflavik which we chose only a few minutes away from the airport. We packed our luggages and got ready for the next day for our last leg in Europe, Germany-Austria-Prague [link, article in progress]
If you haven’t tried the hot springs in Myvatn, this is your last chance to try them in Blue Lagoon. It is a perfect ending to your Iceland trip and your body will thank you for it. We were not able to do this since one of us was so sensitive to the sulfuric odor. Make sure you book it way in advance since it is so popular. Also, the lagoon is powered by geothermal power stations so it might not be the photogenic image you are thinking of. You can also combine your dinner and bath in Blue Lagoon.