CHASING ICELAND'S TREASURES • A 2 WEEKS EPIC ROAD TRIP (2019)
Updated: May 1, 2020
Iceland is a Nordic Island of sharp contrasts. Located in the Atlantic Ocean, this is a magic country, characterised by dramatic and lush landscapes.
If you are an adventurous traveler/couple, in quest of change of scenery, Iceland is the country for you. It's also the perfect place for road trip lovers. With numerous waterfalls, volcanoes, glaciers, hot springs, lava fields... Iceland is full of these impressive natural elements, the lands of both Fire and Ice. This wild paradise will give you unforgettable memories.
Watch about it here : Chasing Iceland's Treasures.
↠ Currency - Icelandic Króna (ISK)
↠ Best time to go - July & August for the great weather conditions of summer / October to March to catch some Northern Lights.
↠ Prices - You must be prepared financially, Iceland is an expensive country. But for all we can tell, that was worth it. A good app to keep track of your expenses is “Travelspend”.
↠ Airport - Keflavík International Airport
↠ Best way to travel - Rent a car, a 4*4 might be more suitable, especially if you plan on going during winter time.
Why did we decide to go there ?
The main reason can be summarised in two words : Aurora Borealis.
One night, Pedro and I were having a beer and talking about our next adventures and our bucket list wishes, until we got caught up in the theme : "Northern Lights". This show of lights, these mystic forces of nature feeding the dreams of many around the globe... As a spontaneous reaction, we both screamed "ICELAND", it clicked !
And that's how it began. We knew that our next road trip would be Iceland.
From there, it didn't take us long to book our flight tickets, to rent a car and start the scratch of an itinerary.
Talking about itinerary, let's share ours with you. Ready ? Put your seat belts on.
Our 2 weeks road trip
16H - We landed in Keflavík Airport, jumped into a bus and headed to the city of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. We spent our first night in a nice hotel, near the marina, ready and excited for our adventure to come. We enjoyed a proper bed and a hot shower, before our 2 weeks of road trip, sleeping in the car and camping in the wild.
A JOURNEY THROUGH THE STORMY SOUTH OF ICELAND
Distance : 632 km
Length : 3 days
Don't miss it : Krisuvikurberg Cliffs ; Kvernufoss & Skógafoss Waterfalls ; Hiking in Vatnajökull National Park
DAY ONE : From Reykjavík to Strandakirkja - Here we go
8H30 - It's 7 degrees outside, lightly raining and windy, but nothing can break our enthusiasm. We picked up our Camper 4*4 in the morning and let's hit the road baby !
- Gardur Lighthouse,
- Grindavík Hot Springs.
Night spent in Strandakirkja.
We highly recommend this first camping place that we found there : Gata Camping.
That's the only free camping spot we found during our trip and it was actually one of the best. Clean facilities, helpful and kind owners... Really great !
DAY TWO : From Strandakirkja to Vík - Waterfall day
7H - Fresh first morning. The wind got stronger and the forecast announced a coming storm in the next days.
- Krisuvikurberg Cliffs,
- Ægissíðufoss Waterfall,
- Seljalandsfoss, this waterfall is famous for being the shooting place to the video clip of Justin Bieber - Cold Water. As a consequence, this place is a little more crowded than the rest of the waterfalls and you have to pay for your parking spot.
- Kvernufoss Waterfall, our hidden gem.
As travelers, we want to explore a country beyond its most touristic points and really dig into it. After some research and an adventurous hike, we found this one. This is a less known one, in the shadow of Skógafoss nearby. To find it, you should just keep going after Skógafoss for a minute, you fill find a museum. You can park at the museum's parking and you will see the start of the hike just behind the main building.
- Skógafoss Waterfall, a really impressive waterfall. Its spectacular 60 meters height makes it one of the most beautiful waterfall of the whole country. This place is also known for being the shooting spot of a Games of Thrones's episode. Indeed, in the first episode of Season 8, you can see Jon Snow riding Daenerys’s dragon through the winter landscapes of the North. He lands in a remote and beautiful location, beneath this waterfall.
Night spent in Vik.
DAY THREE : From Vik to Höf - Caught in the storm
7H - Woke up in the middle of a storm, in a shaking car. We had planned to hike in the Highlands, but with the terrible weather conditions (windstorm up to 126km/h), the roads were closed for security reasons, so we had to find a back up plan.
- Svartifoss, a gorgeous waterfall in Vatnajökull National Park. We've done a half day hike, fighting the wind gusts.
- Attempt to see Diamond Beach & the Jokulsarlson Lagoon, but the foggy weather did not let us the chance to take any pictures.
Night in Höf.
ADVENTURE MODE ON ALONG THE EASTERN FJORDS
Distance : 520 km
Length : 2 days
Don't miss it : Fardagafoss ; Seydisfjordur ; Gljufursarfoss
DAY FOUR : From Höf to Egilsstaðir - Us vs The Wild
7H30 - The wind was slightly weaker, but the conditions remained challenging. We made an attempt to visit Stokkness, but when we arrived there, the sky was completely covered and there was an entrance fee of 900 ISK per person (approximately 7 euros). As the weather wouldn't allow us to see anything, it wasn't worth paying. So we kept going to our next destination.
- Skútafoss Waterfall,
- Fauskasandur black sand beach,
- Djúpavogskörin Hot Springs, a hot bath with a view in the middle of the Fjords. There are few "improvised" spots like this in Iceland, most of them for free. However, a donation is generally possible to help the farmer/owner of the land, to maintain this nice facility.
- Fardagafoss, worth a steep two hours hike up, which was both literally and metaphorically, taking our breath away.
- Seydisfjordur, a cute town. The drive down was incredible, we've been witnessing an impressive and raw nature. Arrived in the town, we could walk along the colourful patterns and houses. We were soaking wet, but so happy.
Night spent in Egilsstaðir.
DAY FIVE : From Egilsstaðir to Vopnafjarðarhreppur - Wandering with no plan
7H - The wind disappeared but we got heaps of rain instead. We had no particular plan for this day, so we’ve been basically improvising, driving north.
- Gljufursarfoss, after a couple of hours driving, we stopped at this beautiful waterfall and hiked around for hours until we met the ocean.
Night spent in Vopnafjarðarhreppur. After few days sleeping in the car, facing stormy nights in the wild, we offered ourselves a treat and spent the night in a Cottage, with the most awesome Icelandic company. This place had an amazing view of the mountains, lost in the middle of nowhere. Meeting locals is always something we try to do as much as possible. This way, we can discover so much more about the country and its culture.
Interesting fact, our host told us that night that Icelandic people haven't seen a storm that strong since 1993, what a great timing for us.
HERE WE GO TO THE NORTH
Distance : 804 km
Length : 4 days
Don't miss it : Dettifoss ; Ásbyrgi Canyon ; Lake Mývatn ; Kolugljúfur Canyon
DAY SIX : From Vopnafjarðarhreppur to Lake Mývatn - The fairy lands
8H - We woke up with a light rain and a sky way clearer, which felt really good after days of difficult weather conditions.
- Stuðlagil Canyon, a muddy hiking. We even needed to climb at times, but we got rewarded with beautiful views all along.
- Dettifoss waterfall, the second most powerful waterfall in Europe. This one became as well one of our favorite.
- Ásbyrgi Canyon, according to a lot of Icelandic myths, this Canyon is considered as the capital city of the Elves. A perfect enchanting setting. Pedro felt in love with this place.
Night spent in Lake Mývatn.
DAY SEVEN : From Lake Mývatn to Akureyri - "Beyond the Wall"
8H - Once again, we woke up and the sky was cloudy, but it was good enough as we spent the day hiking.
- Lake Mývatn, a place between craters and hot springs, lava fields and volcanoes. We've been on a day hike around this mystical place. This lake is also known by the Game of Thrones's fans as the kingdom "Beyond the Wall". So, no need to tell how magical the sceneries were.
- Grjótagjá Cave, once again this is a famous spot of Game of Thrones's shooting. If you need a reminder, this beautiful cave was the one where Jon Snow and Ygritte had their first love scene.
Night spent in Akureyri, the Capital of North Iceland.
DAY EIGHT : Akureyri - A day back in the city
8H - A new morning, a new raining one.
We went out the previous night and we enjoyed a lot the atmosphere of the city. Therefore, we decided to spent the day there : Chilling and shopping in the main streets and the local markets.
Afterwards, we had the best idea of the entire trip. It suits all kind of budgets, travelers and ages. Ladies & Gentleman, please allow yourself to go to a public swimming pool ! It may sound complete mundane and not attracting, but the Icelandic swimming pools are on another level. As the country has its amazing geothermal power, there are swimming pools everywhere, with a cheap-entry price. Not only you can find different sizes of pools, but hot-tubes going over 42 degrees, cold baths, saunas - It is almost a spa therapy. This is a must ! You don't need to go to overpriced lagoons and spa centres (there are a lot in Iceland), it's almost the same, turned on a fancier way.
Another night spent in Akureyri.
DAY NINE : From Akureyri to Þingvellir National Park - What a wonderful world
9H - Still with a moody weather, we left the charming city of Akureyri recharged, ready to step into our last adventure's chapter.
- Hiking day in Kolugljúfur Canyon, a breathtaking spot. We hiked around for few hours, along the clear water, the reddish rocks and like usual, a lot of green !
Night spent in Þingvellir National Park.
REYKJAVIK AND ÞINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK
Distance : 180 km
Length : 4 days
Don't miss it : Efstidalur Farm ; Kerid Crater ; Gullfoss
DAY 10 : First day in Þingvellir National Park - The start of our Golden Circle Journey
8h - There we are, starting the last step of our Iceland's journey and for the first time in days, we woke up with the sun. Boy, it was amazing !
Usually, Operator tours can propose you the "Golden Circle Tour" done in a day, but we don't like rushing to visit things. Jumping in a bus, stopping 10 minutes to take some pictures in the middle of hundred people, get back on the bus and repeat... That's really not for us. But when your time is limited, this might be a good option.
As far as we concerned, we prefer to get off the beaten track. Taking other roads, getting lost, going where just few people have been... That's why we took 3 days to discover properly Þingvellir National Park. (You pronounce this beautiful weird letter “ Þ” : “th”)
- Kerid Crater,
- Skálholt, a historical viking site. From the main church, we started to wander off and got deeper in the nature.
- Faxi Waterfall.
We spent our 3 nights in different wild camping spots of the National Park, the options are countless.
DAY 11 : Second day in Þingvellir National Park - Back in Time
8h - The sky was clear, for the second day in a row, which made the end of this trip so enjoyable.
- Þingvellir Parliament, THE historic site of Iceland. It feels like a mandatory stop while in Iceland and in all honesty, it should be, as it plays such a big role in the history. Þingvellir is in many ways the birthplace of the nation, founded in 930, shortly after the first settlers founded Iceland in 874. Throughout the centuries, it has been of great importance, a gathering place where laws were made ("Þing": parliament, "vellir": plains).
- Hike into the Þingvallavath Valley.
We've been aurora hunting by night, as it was the best conditions of our stay to see them. Unfortunately, after an hour driving around, our attempt failed, we came back sadly at our camping spot.
DAY 12 : Last day in Þingvellir National Park - A day with our eyes filled with beauty
7H - Eh eh, mister blue sky. So happy to see you again. For our last day, we drove north to explore the famous Geysirs of the area.
- Sktrokkur, the mighty geyser,
- Gullfoss Waterfall, also called the Golden waterfall. It's one of the most iconic of the country, falling into the the canyon of the Hvítá river.
- Efstidalur Farm, an unique experience in the middle of the Golden Circle. This farm is at the same time : A café, a restaurant and a guesthouse. You are literally sharing the space with the animals of the farm owners. We went there for a coffee and an ice cream and it was just WOW.
DAY 13 : Reykjavik - Final day
7H30 - For our last day, the rain was back on our return to Reykjavik, but we interpreted this as Iceland being sad for our departure. We dropped the car at midday and went exploring the city.
- Walk in the colourful streets,
- Hallgrimskirkja, a Lutheran parish church in Reykjavík. At 74,5 metres high, it is the largest church in Iceland and among the tallest structures in the country.
- Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre.
Night spent in an amazing AirBnb, that we highly recommend for you : Downtown Luxury Room.
Our Top Tips
- Admire the sunset at Þingvellir National Park.
- Have a try in the delicious Gló in Reykjavik, with yummy and healthy vegan options. It's also a restaurant eco engaged, using organic food and recycle products.
- Take a picture in the bench of Kerid's crater, the hike down is beautiful as you are going into that crater that's now filled up with water.
- Dive in the Silfra Fissure, in the Þingvellir National Park.
- If your budget allows it, book yourself a guided Ice Cave and Glacier walk in the South of Iceland.
- Enjoy some natural hot springs. Avoid the crowded and expensive spa for an authentic experience in the most wonderful sceneries of Iceland. Here some examples : Seljavallalaug Hot Springs, Natural hot pool in Landmannalaugar or like us Djúpavogskörin Hot Springs.
- Need some Auroras tools ? Even if we've been unsuccessful catching some, we will share with you a couple of tips to increase your chances.
First of all, you can find several Facebook groups of people hunting Auroras. People are sharing a lot of tips and infos regarding the Auroras, it's a really helpful solution.
Second of all, there is an app where you can check if the conditions are optimistic or not : "My Aurora Forecast".
- Allow yourself extra time when you are planning your trip, like this you are giving yourself some space for improvisation and spontaneity. There is a lot of unknown falls and canyons on the way and they are worth having a look.
- Our special Eco Tip : Carry a reusable bottle of water
Instead of using plastic ones, you should definitely get yourself your own reusable water.
It's ecologic, economic and you can even go for a thermos one that can keep warm or cold your beverages. You can find one at any sizes, prices and shapes. Let your imagination speaks. You won't regret it, it's an essential element in your road trip kit.
We recommend for you the POP travel bottle.
We sincerely hope that you enjoyed this article. Wishing it can help those who are planning a road trip over there or it can give ideas to the others
Thanks for coming on board with us today, we hope this article made you travel while you were reading. Your support is incredibly important to us and we value it a lot.
Thanks for those who keep reading about our journey and thanks to the new ones to enrich our little community.
See you soon for a new adventure.