Iceland Road Trip – Tips on Planning

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What is Iceland for us? Iceland is for us is like entering to into another planet. It is far by the most beautiful place I have ever seen, and I am sure it will always remain no1 on my favourites list. The beautiful landscapes, magnificent mountains, amazing waterfalls and so much more. If you love being around nature, believe me you will not find a perfect setting like this.

So in this post I am going to delve into a bit of tips on planning your trip. If you are coming to Iceland just to visit Reykjavik, then planning is quite straight forward but if you are planning to drive around island then there are few things which you might want to consider or plan well ahead.

When to Visit Iceland

I have visited Iceland in Summers and Winters, and frankly I will not be able to pick my favourite time. It displays a different landscape in both the seasons, and some options for you to choose. Summers will give you the opportunity to see midnight sun as it never really gets dark and winters will show you the amazing Northern Lights. So if you have a bucket list with both of these items, I will suggest to make two trips to Iceland to see the beauty it offers.

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Iceland in Winters

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Iceland in Summers

To give you an idea on weather, here is what I read and saw for myself.

May to June – It is spring time, it will be cold, less crowd, snow still at some places and might be inaccessible as well.

July to August – Summers time, tourist season, pleasant weather and almost all of the country accessible.

September to October – Autumn time, a shoulder time with still pleasant weather and winters coming up. Few parts of the country might start to get accessible only by mountain vehicles and 4wd cars.

November to April – Winters time, snow snow snow and chance to see Northern Lights.

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What Must/Should go in a Packing List

When in Iceland, you could see a lot of variation in weather in a single day. When you went out it might be sunny, but within few hours its heavy rains, strong winds and by evening it could be again calm. So be prepared and bring layers with you to dress up accordingly.

Clothes – You must bring a a thermal vest, rain jacket & water proof trousers, along with a cap and gloves. Rest of the list I will leave for you to decide 🙂

Navigation – It is always helpful to have a Sat-Nav or Tom-Tom with you. Driving in Iceland is easy as there is no complicated road network. But it always added an advantage to your journey, for an instance to look for the nearest gas station or a grocery shop.

Road Map – If possible, get an Iceland road map. Sometimes Sat Nav will try to take you to the shortest route or fastest route via a impassable route or a route fit for only large vehicle. At those times, basic knowledge of ideas will come to great help.

Phones – Download a couple of useful apps on your phone to get to know the weather and road conditions while you are driving across Iceland.

  1. 112 – This is the official app for emergency service in Iceland. With this app, you can send an SMS to Icelandic emergency services while using the GPS location before dialing 112.
  2. Vedur – Best Icelandic weather app. It helped us a lot in planning our day in both of our visits.
  3. Iceland Road Guide – Gives you a very good ideas on the roads in Iceland.

 

Money/Credit Cards – Get some Icelandic currency as well as enable your cards for foreign transactions. If you are out of cash, one can always use a credit card even in remote parts of this island.

Camera Equipment – I am sure you will not forget it, but should go in the list anyways. Carry all your favourite lenses as well as tripod to capture the beauty of the place and bring it with you back home. A pack of extra battery may be 🙂

Where to Stay in Iceland

If you are touring around the island then you will be driving every other day to a new place. Around Reyjkavik , you will not fall short of options. But as you start moving away from the capital, options are a little lesser. But locations of most of the places is awesome. During our stay, we stayed in hotel, hostels as well as Air BnB in some of the awestruck settings.  If you want to stay close to the nature, I will advise you to book well in advance, as accommodations like the ones below does really get booked fast.

  1. Foss Hotel, Nupar Near Skaftafell
  2. Berunes Hostel
  3. Mjonaes Accomodation, Egilsstadir
  4. Akureryi Air BnB options
  5. Hvammstangi Seaside Cottage
  6. Bryggjukafi Hostel or Sima Hostel, Flateryi
  7. A seaside cottage, Talknafjordur

 

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Food/Grocery Shopping & Fuel

Like any other country, Iceland does not fall in the options of restaurants and grocery shop. But eating out everyday on a long trip might burn a hole in your pocket.If you are travelling on budget ( like us ) and having a self catered stay, I have listed out few super market names for your grocery shopping.

  1. Bonus – Cheapest Option
  2. Netto
  3. Kronan

Fuel – No problem in finding a fuel station in Iceland, they accept foreign cards as well as cash. When you are driving away from Reykjavik, be vary of the fact that sometimes the distance between fuel stations can go upto 100KM, so just keep an eye on the fuel tank and keep tanking it up.

Things To Do

Iceland is like Santa’s Christmas Sack which never falls short of options 🙂 There is something for everyone, whether you choose organised tours or self planned trip. And if you love hiking/walking, it will be a paradise for you. Nevertheless, I have mentioned few activites below:

  1. Hiking/Walking
  2. River Rafting
  3. Helicopter Tours
  4. Glacier Hike
  5. Rock Climbing
  6. Cave Tours
  7. Ice Climbing
  8. Horseback Riding
  9. ATV Tours
  10. Northern Lights in Winters

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Iceland Road Trip – 11 days Itinerary

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At this moment I am suffering from post holiday depression ( as  one of my dearest friend calls it ) after my superb and awesome 11 days road trip around the most lovely island – Iceland. I was thinking of ways to overcome this depression. Guess what! writing about it seemed like the best option for self help 🙂

So I started planning for this road trip from Nov 2016. You all must think that’s way too much early, but I had to as my 11 months old baby (who was 3.5 months then) was supposed to join us on this lifetime of a road trip. So yes I took my time to plan the routes, drive times, accommodations,  car hiring, sights, hidden gems, baby foods and much more.

I would like to share the details of my plans and itinerary with all other fellow travellers to make their next venture to Iceland a bit more convenient with some useful tips.  So next few blog posts will be dedicated to Happy Iceland Travel 🙂

Here is a print shot of the journey we travelled to give you an idea of our journey. PS: All the stops are not included  as Mr.Google will not allow me to add all places in one go. So I will break down my journey and travel plans for each day 🙂

 

You will notice that I have not included South west part of Iceland on the map, as we had visited that part of Iceland on our last trip to Iceland. I will provide the details on that as well.

PS: We rented a car and did a self drive tour around the Island. Our own tour, not through any tour company 🙂 We enrouted to south coast first, going anti-clock around the island.

PS: I will be writing separate posts for each of the places that are mentioned below.

Day 1 – Keflavik to Skaftafell/Vatnajokull National Park

When you arrive at the airport, your car will be ready for you to pick up and you must be geared up to start your epic road trip in Iceland.

1st Stop – Seljalandasfoss

2nd Stop – Skogafoss

3rd Stop – Vik Village and Black Sand Beach

4th Stop – Solheimasamdur Plane Wreck Site ( which sadly we could not visit, as it was pouring down heavily and we did not want a sick baby on the first day of our journey)

5th Stop – Quick Stop at Fjadrargljufur Canyons.

6th Stop – A peaceful night at your chosen accommodation. We stayed at Fosshotel Nupar, every room had huge windows with superb views.

Day 2 – Skaftafell/Vatnajokull National Park to Berunes

1st Stop – Walking in the national Park. You can choose to go for a long hike or a small hike, hard or easy, lots of choices available.

2nd Stop – Jokulsarlon Glacier & Diamond Beach

3rd Stop – Hofn Village

4th Stop – Vestahorn Mountains in Stokksnes

5th Stop – A peaceful night at your chosen accommodation. We stayed at a cottage (YHA International Hostelling) by the sea with mountains around.

Day 3 – Berunes to Egilsstaðir

It is a beautiful coastal drive, one of our favorite drives around the island. You will love every bit of this drive.

Stop 1 – Petra’s Stone Collection

Stop 2 – Hengifoss Waterfall

Stop 3 – Walk in the Hallormsstadur Forest

Day 4 – Egilsstadir to Seydisfjordur

Walk around the this little beautiful town. It is a home to beautiful waterfalls, so if you love hiking you will have a treat.

On return, visit Egilsstadir town and may be a dip in the thermal pool.

Day 5 – Egilsstadir to Akureyri – Lots of options to explore on this drive

Stop 1 – Dettifoss & Selfoss

Stop 2 – Viti Crater

Stop 3 – Krafla Power Station

Stop 4 – Hevrir

Stop 5 – Lake Myvatn

Stop 6 – Godafoss

Day 6 – Visit & Explore Akureyri – This will give you little break from all the driving.

Day 7 – Akureyri to Hvammstangi 

If you plan to visit west fjords during your trip, hvammstangi is a good option for a break in journey. It is a beautiful coastal town with many walks and options to check out Arctic Tern Colony.

Day 8 – Hvammstangi to Isafjordur or Flatyeri

Get ready for an awesome drive in the Fjords. A part of this journey will be on the gravel road, but landscape around you will make up for it.

Stop 1 – Non sense Museum – You read it right, I did not make something up.

Stop 2 – Old Book Store in Iceland – Worth a trip, if you love to read this is the place for you.

Day 9 – Isafjordur

Explore Isafjordur and near by villages. Go for long hikes or short walks.

Day 10 – Flateyri to Talknafjordur

Stop 1 – Pingyeri Village – Museums, Village Walks.

Stop 2 – Dyjandi Falls

Stop 3 – Swim in natural geothermal pools

Stop 4 – Latrabjarg Cliffs

Day 11 – Talknafjordur to Keflavik

Get ready for the longest drive of the trip, its time to head back to Keflavik and back home 😦

Before you go back home, visit blue lagoon to get those muscles relaxed and soak in the beauty of Iceland.

More blog posts coming up for each of the places mentioned above 🙂

Minnack Theatre – Beauty beyond Eyes

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During our recent trip to Cornwall, we planned to visit Minnack Theatre on a beautiful sunny but windy day. Minnack is an open theatre built on the high & rocky Cornish cliffs above the Atlantic Ocean. It is also listed in the list of world-famous open theatres. Believe me, once you visit the place you will know why is this place so much-loved.

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It is another world and it has got a fascinating history behind it. Rowena Cade is the brain and the heart behind this beautiful piece of architecture. She moved to Cornwall after 1st world war and built a house for herself at Minnack Point. She used to offer her garden space which was beside the sea to the village group people who wanted to do stage any drama for the community. Miss Cade and her gardener, Billy Rawlings, made a terrace and rough seating, hauling materials down from the house or up via the winding path from the beach below. They carried the sand and the stones on their back without any machinery, they used to carve the seats with the tools to make it more beautiful. She devoted her life to improve the theatre, working over the course of the winter months each year throughout her life (with the help of Billy Rawlings and Charles Angove) so that theatre remains functional. And the result of her hard work can be seen in pictures.

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Minnack theatre is situated not very far from Land’s End, you have to drive towards Purthcurno Bay. It has also got a rockery and alpine gardens for the visitors and a way down to Bay.

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Stykkisholmur – Secret Walter Mitty Town

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Stykkisolmur – The Walter Mitty Town was a must visit place during our self drive Icelandic Trip. And the reason of putting the place in the list was due to the fact like many others I had also fallen in love with the place while I watched the movie. And then I started reading more about the place and got to know it’s importance in Iceland and in the tourism. How this smallest town of Iceland got the title of European destination of Excellence.

This beautiful town is located in the northern part of the Snaefellsness peninsula. You can combine it with your drive to south west part of the Iceland.

We visited this place during the winters and it was so deserted and yet so idyllic and peaceful. I am not sure whether I was in the love with the seashore, empty roads, colourful houses, still boats or I was just Happy to be here.

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There are many reasons for visiting this beautiful town like the conservation of cultural heritage & history as well as its environmental awareness.

The town was also the first municipality in Iceland to start fully sorting its waste as well as the first town in Iceland to receive the prestigious Blue flag eco-label for its harbour.

The hot water used in Stykkisholmur is completely sustainable as it is reinjected into the ground when it has been used for heating purposes. The town has on top of all this started a project eliminating invasive plants from its land.
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Oh yes the road you see in the above picture, is exactly the one when Walter Mitty ran to get into the helicopter. I was so delighted to be standing here.

Fishing and tourism are the bread butter of this town.

You can walk upto an adjacent island which showcase an old red light house. It is a small walk from the town. The view from the top is worth it.

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Wondering how does the scenery looks like while driving towards Stykkisholmur during the winter months, the picture below is a snap shot of the same. It looked more heavenly than this.

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Sólheimajökull Glacier – A Small Walk

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Until we visited Iceland, the only times I saw glaciers were in the movies or national geographic documentaries. It always made me wonder, how it would feel to be standing near to one. How the place around will look like covered with ice and all you see is Ice and Ice and Frozen Ice.

So me and Ash decided to visit one of the glacier in Iceland from much closer distance. We did not go for glacier hike, but we want for a small walk on top of it and to feel the aura around it. We decided to visit Sólheimajökull Glacier on the south coast, and just 2 hours drive away for Reykjavik.


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Sólheimajökull, a glacier outlet from the fourth largest glacier in Iceland, Mýrdalsjökull. I can not express in words how beautiful that sight was. Cold, yes freezing cold but a sight that will remain in your memories forever. Those different formations of Ice clinging to one another, caresses that it was forming one after another, it looked like you are standing in a land of crystals. And the roughness of black volcanic sand adds so much beauty to the landscape.

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Happy us trying to walk over the glacier with our hiking boots.

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Golden Circle – Geysir

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While driving on Golden Circle Route of Iceland, another popular attraction or stop over is to watch out for Geysirs. The hot springs are located to the east of a little mountain called Laugafell. This place is another wonder of nature where in you see huge springs spurting out of earth, roaring into steam and then disappearing into air.

I still remember that cold afternoon, temp was just around -10 degrees but it felt like -20. But nonetheless even though we could stand outside only for 10-15 mins at stretch, it was worth every second. And I would not mind visiting this place over and over again 🙂

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Strokkur (the churn) is currently the most energetic spouting spring in Iceland. It spouts every few minutes, sometimes to a height of 40 m, yet generally less than 10-20 m.

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Golden Circle – Þingvellir National Park

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Morning of another colder day in Iceland, we decided to go for Golden Circle Tour. The most popular destination in the Iceland, almost everyone who visits Iceland heads off to the golden circle, whether it is just a lay over in Iceland or a long trip. There is a well established road network on the golden circle which makes it easier to drive in summer months and a bit comfortable in the winter months as well.

We were happy looking at the weather from the window of our Air B&B accommodation, it was a bright & sunny day and were very excited to head out on to the roads. But as soon as we came out of the room reality hit us hard, it was sunny but it was freezing cold. Temperature was -5 degrees and winds were chilled as ice. We knew we might have to spend a lot of day in the car today.

Our first stop on the golden circle was one of the Iceland’s most popular park i.e. Þingvellir National Park. This park does not only have geological significance but it plays an important role in the history of Iceland. It is situated on the northern shore of lake Þingvallavatn, Þingvellir is the national shrine of Iceland. It is the oldest existing parliament in the world first assembled there in 930 AD. Þingvellir has for this reason been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over two weeks a year, the assembly set laws – seen as a covenant between free men – and settled disputes. You can still see the fragments of booths where assembly was held.  It also have a Þingvellir Church and adjacent farm.

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Another popular destination in the park is a major rift, which has produced dramatic fissures and cliffs demonstrating inter-continental drifting is spectacular. People flock to this point to see a continental drift between the continents. The water is so clear between the drifts that it has become a hot spot for scuba dive and you can always show off that you swam or dived between the continents. I did not swim or dive in there, I could not have in freezing temperatures, but I did threw a coin between the rift making a wish to come back to Iceland and another one that actually came true 🙂

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Me and Ash are wanderers and do not know how we managed to walk all the famous parts of walk. I can still feel the cold winds slapping my face and knocking me off the ground. I think the urge to travel and see more just makes you do anything. Oh!! I miss Iceland now.

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South Coast Iceland – Seljalandsfoss

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Seljalandsfoss, another breath-taking waterfall in south coast of Iceland. This waterfall is very difficult to miss as you will notice it while driving along the Ring Road. It is very popular among the tourists, and is always crowded with tour buses and cars. Many Icelanders choose this location as a wedding photography venue as well or even to exchange vows.

Another main reason it is particularly very popular as it allows people to able to go behind the waterfall on a well developed trail.

During the winter months with days short, we arrived at Seljalandsfoss after sunset. It was windy, cold but a clear night. And this waterfall is lit up during the night, and it looked wonderful. You could see water flowing down like a cotton candy from the height. It was a mesmerizing moment. And of course Ash was happy, he wanted that we should reach at this waterfall once it starts to get darker. Why?

So that he could take some beautiful pictures of the falls.

Unfortunately we could not walk behind the falls this time as it was too cold and we were sure to get wet if we walked behind it because of the force of the wind. Frankly I did not want it either as I was freezing from cold, temperature was around 0 at that time.

Like many other places, I had to look for Seljalandsfoss meaning as well over the internet. What I found is, Seljalandi meant ‘Seller’ and Foss meant ‘Falls’, so we can call it Seller’s Falls. Interesting isn’t it?

South Coast Iceland – Skogafoss

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Continuing my posts on the attractions on the South Coast of Iceland.

While driving on South coast you will notice waterfalls after every few kms. So we decided to make a stop at Skogafoss , one of the most popular waterfall in Iceland and a true rival of the Gullfoss.

The meaning of the name of this waterfall is “skógur” meant “forest” and “foss” meant waterfall. That means somewhere in the old days this must be a “Forest Falls”. But it does not look like a forest at the moment, but has a lush of green all around. The tall waterfall (of 25 metres (82 feet) and a drop of 60 m (200 ft)) surrounded by green mountains makes it spectacular.

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Due to the amount of spray the waterfall consistently produces, a single or double rainbow is normally visible on sunny days. But we could not capture that as given the time of the year we visited Iceland, there were very minute chances of Sun itself 🙂

During my time in Iceland, I was very much mesmerized with the stories behind each attraction. So I would like to share an Icelandic tale behind this waterfall 🙂

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According to Icelanders, the first Viking settler in the area, buried a treasure in a cave behind the waterfall. The legend continues that locals found the chest years later, but were only able to grasp the ring on the side of the chest before it disappeared again. The ring was allegedly given to the local church. The old church door ring is now in a museum. How interesting, that chest actually disappeared.

If you did not have enough of the sight, you can choose to hike the path that climbs up the cliffs surrounding the recess containing the falls to yield top down views of not only the waterfall but also the view towards the Atlantic Ocean as well.

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Just before leaving Skogafoss, we took a small turn around the area to have a quick look at the open air museum that shows the houses during old times in Iceland. When I looked at the houses it definitely looked pretty, but then the thought of how people managed to live is such a small space and how bad it would be during rainy and snow days.

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South Coast Iceland -Black Sand Beach,Reynishverfi

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Reynishverfi beach, near the village Vik in Myrdalur on South Coast of Iceland, is very popular and the most impressive black-sand beach in Iceland. It is also a popular destination for day tours that are organized by different tour companies in the Reykjavik.

We arrived at Reynisfjara on a winter but warm afternoon 🙂 To our luck it was sunny today and as a cherry on top, there was no wind. It was cold, very cold but these added benefits just made the day. Before heading to the beach, we took a short lunch break at Strondin Bistro and Bar, where they served Icelandic Meat soup, in addition to many other options. Food was warm and tasty to keep us happy. Infact through the windows of the bar, you can enjoy the Vik side view of the beach on a rainy day or a windy day.

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But if would like to see those huge 68m high rocks into a different perspective then you should take a right-turn about 10 km before Vík. A road sign will take you in the direction of Reynishöfn where you can take a look at the Reynishverfi beach. It is a black pebble beach and has an amazing cliff of basalt columns resembling a a rocky step pyramid, which is called Gardar.

You will several caves under these basalt columns, according to Icelandic stories, a monster was supposed to have lived in one of the many caves at the bottom of the cliff for many centuries. But since a landslide more than 100 years ago, the monster seems to have disappeared.

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Looking towards the sea you can see spectaculary shaped basalt sea stacks Reynisdrangar.  This beach is a nesting area of puffins, they migrate back to Iceland in summers for breeding season.

According to another Icelandic tale, two trolls attempted to drag a ship to land but were turned to stone as daylight broke, turning them into into the Reynisdrangar stacks. But Geological experts have a different view from those who think they are the stature of trolls 🙂

It is a beautiful landscape that is formed by motlen lava and you can see the effect everywhere around you.

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