I am worried how long this post is going to be as I can just go on and on and on talking about this magical island. It is not the usual what you see from this planet. You will feel like you are in another world that is still in making.
Nonetheless, everyone who gets a chance to visit this mystic island, should not think twice and make it happen. It is definitely in my top5 destinations that I visited so far.
P.S. I could not help add all these pictures as you will know why once you visit 😉 – Image snippet at the end!
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE TRAVEL:
- It’s expensive, like really expensive. But if you can manage, just go there. Even if you have to compromise on one or two other holidays to make this happen, DO IT! If you are visiting in summer, I would suggest plan between 150-200 EUR per person per day (eating, sleeping, going around, car rental). And this is when you are being modest. If you plan to hitch-hike and camp, the cost might be lower.
- No matter what time of the year you travel, it will be cold most of the time. The highest we had in July was 18 degrees with sun. So, take your winter hats and gloves with you. Having a warm water proof winter jacket and trousers would be very handy as well as the weather is always unpredictable and can change every hour (or how they say in Iceland, every 5 minutes). But, you still can jump in a warm natural pool every single day, so swim wear should go side by side in your luggage.
- The highlands are a bit off the regular ring road, but absolutely worth it. Make every effort you can to visit the highlands (Best spot for highlands is Landmannalaugavegur and you can camp there. Also, there are some rooms at the camping site, but very limited and hard to find place). You need a 4-wheel drive car to get there and also crossing a small river at the very end to reach the camping site. You can always wait for someone else to pass to see how deep it is on that very day (in case you are not daring enough to do it first). But, you can also choose to park the car right before the river and walk the bridge on side. It is just few meters.
- And now something I get asked all the time. “Did you see the northern lights?” – No, because northern lights are NOT there all year round 😉 You need dark nights for those and if you want to go for northern lights, best time is Sep till March (even better Nov – Feb). But do consider that you will almost not see any daylight and that can be depressing. So maybe shorter trip if you plan to see northern lights. P.S. You can also go to North of Norway for Northern lights.
- Blue Lagoon is not the only place to enjoy that famous alkaline thermal bath, you can have the same (may be even better) experience at the Myvatn Nature Baths in the northern Iceland. But as both of these come with a high cost, doing one is enough. I would recommend Myvatn Nature Baths though as it is less crowded and a bit off way from regular short visit crowds.
- And do not forget a good camera as you probably have never been to a place before where you wanted to click this much. And this is the reason why each stop will take you longer than expected 😉
BEST TIME TO VISIT:
I would suggest choosing summer if you are traveling for the first time as you have loooong days (22 hours of sunlight) and the night is not very dark either. And that means you have more time to explore the island, and trust me you would need it. It is never enough of this divine island. So, any time between mid-May till mid-Sep is good to enjoy longer days. Unfortunately, it is the most expensive time to visit as well (but worth it).
HOW LONG TO VISIT:
Now this one is tricky. Ideally, two weeks is good enough time to explore and drive around the whole island, but that comes with a huge cost. The shortest is 3 to 4 days, but that would give you time to only do the golden circle and that means you will be always surrounded by tons of other tourists and would never really experience that “all-island-for-yourself” or “in-the-middle-of-nowhere” experience. If you can, stay for at least 8 days!
- The best way we found was to rent a car as you can be at your own pace and are flexible. You can even take a tent with you or choose a car which gives you flexibility to sleep in the car as there are lots of camping places in Iceland and they are very well equipped. And if you are visiting in summer, when the highland roads are open, you can think about renting a 4-wheel drive as you would not be able to drive to highlands without a 4-wheel drive vehicle (the fines otherwise are very high).
- The other option is to have everything booked with a tour company that runs buses/vans. This option would limit you to some extent and would also be a lot more expensive. I would not suggest picking this option if you have a choice to rent a car for yourself.
WHERE TO STAY:
Iceland is very limited in number of hotels, hostels or bed & breakfasts, so plan well in advance if you plan to go with that option. Otherwise you can choose a camper car or take a camp with you as there are camping places all over the island and you can always choose last minute. You can possibly choose to camp anywhere on island as long as you are not destroying the nature or not blocking the path for others. Or, you can combine both, meaning take a car with a possibility to sleep over and every other day find a hotel for sleep over if you get tired of sleeping in the car. Again, I would suggest picking the camping car option if you can manage. It is more fun and you are more flexible as you might just like some place so much that you want to spend more time there. Or, sleep next to the waterfall, or on a lava field. The possibilities are many!
TIP: Spend a white night in one of the 6 villas at Hotel Glymur and enjoy the sunlight at 12 midnight (summer time only) from your private hot tub with a view. It isn’t cheap though (300 EUR/night approx. in summer 2015 for the villa. (http://hotelglymur.is – check latest pricing and book in advance!)
WHERE TO EAT:
- If you can try only one restaurant in Iceland, make sure it is this restaurant in the south east of Iceland called HumarHofnin (humarhofnin.is). You will have the best langoustine (also known as Norway lobsters) of your life. If you do not want it full or the tails, try their langoustine pizza.
- And believe it or not, I tried one of my best Pakistani meals up North of Europe in Reykjavik in a restaurant called Shalimar.
6 NIGHTS TRIP AROUND ICELAND
(7-8 nights if include trip to highlands – Landmannalaugavegur)
And now something that you would sure thank me for after your trip ;). As I did a lot of research for our trip to Iceland, I share with you the plan that we used for our trip around the island. As we were having a car where we could sleep, we did it at our pace and finished this in 8 nights. It provides you all the main attractions with the approximate distance as well.
NOTE: This is based on my trip in July 2015. It is always recommended to take the fresh road map from the place where you rent the car as the road network in Iceland is continuously improving.
Day 1: Reykjavik > Kirkjubaejarklaustur ( 270 km About 4 hr)
Hveragerði (45 km – 37 min) – Lava tube caves (stop at store EDEN)
NOTE: Here you have a choice to continue to highlands and stay overnight at Landmannalaugavegur (Highly recommended – only possible June – Sep). You would need a 4-wheel drive car and read THIS POST for directions to Landmannalaugavegur.
Otherwise continue from Hveragerði to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall (84 km – 1hr 6m)
Skogafoss Waterfall (29 km – 27 min)
Dyrholaey (cliffs at edge) – (28 km – 35min)
Reynisdrangar (other side of the cliff and US Navy DC-3 plane wreckage – GPS coordinates 63.459523,-19.364618) – (20km – 27 min)
Vik Town (can stay overnight) (11 km – 9min)
Drive over Myrdalssandur (volcano Katla) – (19 km – 13 min)
Eldgjarhraun lava field (18-19 cunic metre)
Kirkjubaejarklaustur (overnight) – (55 km – 40 min)
Day 2: Kirkjubaejarklaustur > Djupivogur (About 310km 3 hr 45 min)
Kirkjugolf (2km – 3 min)
Foss a Sidu waterfall (13 km – 10 min)
Nupsstadur / Lómagnúpur (21 km – 15 min)
(chapel must see – right by the Skaftafell National Park)
Black Waterfall, Svartifoss Trail, Island (35 km – 27 min) – 4km hike – 50 min
Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon – optional boat tour (57 km – 42 min) – Spot Puffins and Seals
Hofn – overnight (80 km – 57 min) – Restaurant: www.humarhofnin.is
OR Djupivogur overnight (104 km – 1hr 17m)
Day 3: Djupivogur > Lake Myvatn (About 270km 3 hr 40 min)
Egilsstadir and Lake Lagarfljot (visit waterfalls) (86km – 1 hr 40m)
Myvatn Lake – Myvatn Nature Baths (Grjotagja cave) (175 km – 2 hr) – explore the Myvatn area and stay overnight
Day 4: Lake Myvatn > Husavik (About 180km 2 hr 45 min)
Dimmuborgir, Island (Lava labyrinth)
Hverarond (geothermal area) – (14km – 11m)
Krafla (9.5km – 12min)
Jokulsargljufur National Park (waterfalls) – (71 km – 57 min)
On way: Dettifoss, Hafragilsfoss, Rettarfoss, Vigabjargsfoss, Holmatungur, Hljodaklettar,
Asbyrgi canyon (30 km – 32min)
Husavik town overnight (63km – 50min) – This is also town for whale watching trips
Day 5: Husavik > Skagafjordur fjord (About 185km 2 hr 30min)
Godafoss Waterfall- (47km – 36 min)
Town of Akureyri – biggest in north Iceland (52.5 km – 46 min)
(We tried horseback riding here at Skjaldarvik Guesthouse – totally recommended!)
Skagafjordur fjord/ Varmahlid village – overnight (93km – 1 hr 7m)
Day 6: Skagafjordur fjord > Reykjavik (About 315km 8 hr 30 min)
Take Kjolur Highland Road (F35) to South Iceland
Hveravellir – hot spring (110km – 3hr 43min)
Hvitarvatn lake – glacier hiking (57 km – 2 hr 10min)
Gullfoss waterfall (34km 1 hr)
Strokkur Geyser (9.7km 8min)
Þingvallavegur/ Thingvellir, Island national park/fresh lake (60.6km 50min)
Reykjavik (46.2km 41min)
And now something VERY SPECIAL!!!
Iceland is very very very special for me as we got married at this beautiful island. Hotel Glymur provided a beautiful location outdoor for our ceremony and we could not ask for a better place to stay on the island. I definitely should write a post one day on this Pakistani/German wedding in Iceland 😉
Hurry and visit as soon as you can.
Feel free to reach out to me for questions.
AND if you liked the post, kindly share it on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other network. It might help someone around you!
Image Snippet of our trip ↓