The land of ice and fire ...
One of the hottest destinations to visit at the moment is the isolated and rugged Iceland. So, just what is it about this place that makes everyone want to visit? It been dubbed an adventurer’s and photographer's paradise with dramatic landscapes and incredible wildlife. If Iceland hasn’t yet made its way onto your bucket list, let me assure you that you should definitely reassess that list …
How to Get There:
Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik hosts the country’s main international airport, Keflavik Airport. Located roughly 50km outside the city centre, the airport services multiple airlines across the globe, mainly connecting to the USA, Canada and Europe.
Major Airlines include:
From the airport there are three options to make your way to the city:
1. Car hire
If you’re planning on hiring a car for your Icelandic adventure, which I definitely recommend, why not pick it up straight from the airport? Prebook online or at the airport upon arrival
We hired through Green Motion Car Rental
2. Shuttle Bus
Two shuttle bus services operate from the airport terminal, Reykjavik Excursions and Grayline. Both shuttles transfer you to the city, and you can also opt for a hotel transfer, at an additional cost. Purchase tickets upon arrival or prebook online.
I wouldn’t recommend getting a taxi, Iceland is a super expensive country and the journey time sits at around 45 minutes, which is an expensive taxi anywhere to begin with.
Where to Stay:
Most people tend to stay in the capital and opt to day trip across the country, unless you’re planning on travelling Iceland’s Ring Road. Reykjavik has plenty of hotels, hostels and Airbnb options throughout the city. Prices in Iceland, however, are extremely high, so beware to factor that into your accommodation budget.
For solo travellers try Loft Hostel in Downtown Reykjavik
For small groups check out Airbnb. During my summer travels with my parents, we stayed in a beautiful, modern apartment in the city centre, check it out here.
When Should I Visit?
There no easy answer to that question. If you’re visiting during the summer time, expect roughly twenty hours of daylight, and vice versa if you’re exploring during winter, twenty hours of darkness. Keep that in mind when planning your itinerary. Both seasons have pros and cons, the longer daylight hours, make it a lot easier to see more of the unique Icelandic landscape, but travel between September and April, and you might be lucky enough to catch the Northern Lights dancing across the skies.
I've visited in both summer and winter, and although the Northern Lights were a big drawing card for me, I had a much better visit during the summer. My winter visit, happened to fall in a really bad weather period, with a blizzard spreading havoc. All my tours were cancelled, leaving me spending just about my entire trip in my hostel.
Where Should I Go:
DAY 1 - The Golden Circle
Before leaving the city for the country, take a walk, or short drive, depending on where your accommodation is, to Reykjavik’s famous cathedral, Hallgrimskirkja. The iconic landmark can be seen across the city, and as such offers breathtaking panoramic views over the city from the observation tower. 100 ISK will get you access, and you won’t even have to take the stairs, a lift takes you to the main viewing area, but you can take a short flight of stairs to a higher viewing platform.
Time for a road trip! Jump in the car and start the tunes, oh and the SATNAV of course. You’ll definitely want some kind of GPS on any drive across Iceland, most care rental companies will offer it to you, but if you want to save some cash use Google Maps on your phone. If you won’t have access to internet during your visit, download offline maps, like Maps.me but make sure to download the Iceland map using wifi, before departing for the day.
Ok, so let’s explore one of Iceland’s top routes on, the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle encompasses three major tourist highlights of Iceland, including Thingvellir National Park, Geyser Geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall. This route showcases the incredible and diverse landscape of the country.
First on the list is Thingvellir National Park, a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik. This UNESCO World Heritage site is extremely significant, having been the country’s first national park and the site of the first parliament. Historically and geographically, Thingvellir National Park is an absolute must visit for any traveller to Iceland.
The location of the national park is also extremely significant and noteworthy, sitting directly between the tectonic plates of Eurasia and North America, which are constantly separating. As a result of the separation, fissures, like the Silfra fissure have been created. These fissures have incredible clear water with visibility of over 100 meters, which make them one of the best diving sites across the globe.
Why not try snorkelling the Silfra fissure for a unique underwater experience? Want a little more adventure? If you’re PADI qualified, you can sign up for an unforgettable diving experience giving you the opportunity to swim between and touch both the tectonic plates simultaneously.
Next up, Geyser Geothermal Area! The drive should take just under an hour, and you’ll see the scenery start to change, with more evidence of its volcanic activity. The region is predominantly famous for two geysers, the Great Geyser and Strokkur. The first is relatively inactive, whilst Strokkur erupts roughly every ten minutes. Geysers are unique natural wonders that everyone should see in their lifetime!
If you’re feeling a bit peckish, before heading to destination number three, visit the restaurant or café by the car park. This site has the biggest selection of meals, but you’ll find all the major sites along the route will have cafes available. Or if you’re on a budget, BYO lunch, just don’t try and eat it in the cafes, you’ll be asked to leave otherwise.
Time to hit the road again, this time heading for Gullfoss, the last major highlight on the Golden Circle. Just ten short minutes from the Geyser Geothermal area, and you’ll be blown away by one of Iceland’s most breathtaking waterfalls.
If you’ve still got some time up your sleeve, why not visit Kerid crater on your way back to Reykjavik. The volcanic crater is filled with a sapphire coloured lake, whilst being surrounding by red volcanic rock. Entrance to the site does require a fee of 500 ISK.
Time to head back to Reykjavik after a day roadtrippin’ to some of Iceland’s most iconic locations. If you’re not ready to head back to the city just yet here are some sites nearby that you might want to visit:
Fontana Geothermal Baths
Langjökull glacier – Snowmobiling
Hvita River – River rafting
Silfra – Snorkelling or Diving
DAY 2 - The South Coast
Are we ready for day two? So, we’ve already visited the main tourist route so let’s explore a little further out, shall we? This time, heading to the South Coast of Iceland filled with endless natural wonders from waterfalls, to glaciers, mountains, volcanoes and even beaches. Expect today to be a longer day, with a lot more driving, so make sure you’ve got a solid playlist for the day and plenty of snacks.
Two hours into the day’s drive and you’ll have reached your first stop, Seljalandsfoss, an incredible waterfall with a unique viewing point. Admire the 60-meter falls from its base or wander behind the falls themselves and gain a new perspective on the phenomenal site, just be prepared to get wet!
Don’t leave before exploring the surrounding area, just a short walk from Seljalansfoss you’ll discover the hidden Gljúfrabúi waterfall. You can wade through the river to enter the canyon for a phenomenal view, or climb the adjacent path to get a bird’s eye view.
No trip to Iceland is complete without a visit to a glacier so whilst exploring the south coast, take some time to explore Solheimajokull Glacier. You can walk almost all the way to the base of the glacier but if you want to walk on it, you’ll need to book an organised tour. We booked through Arctic Adventures, and had a wonderful experience with extremely qualified and knowledgeable guides. In the summer time its rather rare to find ice caves, but we were extremely lucky to find one on our tour. It was definitely a highlight of our trip.
Tip: Make sure you’ve got sturdy walking shoes, otherwise you can hire some with most companies. Its also worth wearing a waterproof layer.
We’ve seen waterfalls and glaciers, so how about a scene change, time to head to the beach! Due to the volcanic nature of the country, Iceland is known for having black sand beaches, the most famous of which is Reynisfjara. Although some may be tempted, don’t ignore the caution signs, this is not a beach to swim in, the waves from the Atlantic are deadly dangerous. From the beach you’ll be able to see the Reynisdrangar pillars and may also be lucky enough in the summer to spot some puffins. Before heading back towards Reykjavik pop in to visit the nearby village of Vik.
One more waterfall before the day is done. Finish up the day exploring Skógafoss, another magnificent waterfall. As long as you aren’t afraid of heights take the climb up to the top of the 60-meter waterfall and admire the view out towards the Atlantic.
Time for that long drive back to the city but if you’re not quite ready yet why not explore some of these other sites along the coastal route:
DAY 3 - The Blue Lagoon
Before heading back to the airport, there one more essential Iceland destination to visit; the Blue Lagoon. A visit to the geothermal spa is often a top highlight for most tourists. The distinct blue colour is attributed to light reflecting against the silica within the lagoon. The water temperature sits at a comfortable 37-40 degrees Celsius, making the lagoon ideal all year round.
When planning your Iceland itinerary make sure to pre-book your visit to the Blue Lagoon. Unfortunately, you will not be able to visit without booking, if you’re flexible with the time, you may be able to book as close as one week in advance but I’d advise booking at least a few weeks to a month ahead.
For us, our visit to the Blue Lagoon, marked the end of our Icelandic adventures. Although it was a brief visit, we managed to explore some of Iceland’s most iconic locations.
Start planning your Iceland adventure now …