I’m also interested in visiting iceland sometime soon. tickets are so cheap from montreal!
I hear the food is really expensive there so maybe that’s worth considering.
I’m also interested in visiting iceland sometime soon. tickets are so cheap from montreal!
I am far from an expert - only been there once. One short tip though is to visit Thingvellir, even if it is one of the most well known spots. This place just made a really profound impression. Read up a bit in advance. Don’t leave it out just because all the tourist buses stop there :).
I would recommend to stay for 2 or 3 days in the area of Landmannalaugar. Really nice and amazing place to visit.
Two weeks is a good amount of time to do a full ringroad trip with the Westfjörds too. A friend and I traveled around in a week and got to see a lot, but it was a bit hurried, and we had to skip the Westfjörds which I have always regretted (now a friend lives there so I might end up visiting after all.)
One friend of mine met some extremely cute baby arctic foxes in the westfjörds, if that sounds good then maybe head to the arctic fox research centre https://www.westfjords.is/en/what-to-see-and-do/services/the-arctic-fox-center
Wouldn’t usually plug this, but as you asked about hotels: this guesthouse is run by friends-of-friends and it’s lovely. The hosts are professional chefs and graphic designers, so the food and atmosphere are both excellent. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g1833242-d10355458-Reviews-Brimslod_Atelier_Guesthouse-Blonduos_Northwest_Region.html
My favourite spots were the huge moss-covered lava fields on the south coast, Dimmuborgir in the north, and the whole of Snæfellsness peninsula, but especially the far western tip where you get really wild waves crashing around tiny little coves.
Here’s my small photo log from the trip, if there are any photos of interesting places where the location isn’t obvious I can probably figure it out: Barnaby Walters • Notes
If you happen to be interested in traditional music (Icelandic or otherwise), I can put you in contact with friends from the Reykjavík trad community.
Enjoy the trip!
One of the most amazing places i’ve ever been! In general I preferred the North, but the South is very beautiful too.
My favourite place in Iceland is the West Fjords - so beautiful and remote. Isafjordur is a good place to stay and set as a base whilst doing day trips. It is also home to one of the best fish restaurants i ever experienced - Tjoruhusid.
A great day hike in West Fjords is from Minnibakki over a mountain pass and down to the Galtarviti lighthouse. I can try to find more details, if you’re interested. It’s possible to stay at the lighthouse as well (if you’re happy bringing everything over the mountain pass on your back) - have a look online, it’s quite special!
If you go to Akureyri and are planning on driving back to Reykjavik with a 4x4, you should drive over the highlands. It is a beautiful dirt road that goes between glaciers, lakes and hot springs. Also worth visiting in the north are Dettifoss, Hljóðaklettar and Krafla lava fields.
In my experience the food is generally very expensive and not great, but there are a few nice places.
I wish i had had a chance to visit Landmannalaugar, by all accounts it seems amazing.
You’re very lucky to have a friend in the Westfjörds!
Quick comment regarding food: Bonus (grocery) is an amazing resource for one or two meals per day. My partner and I stayed in a hostel (Kex) and ate food from Bonus at least once daily.
They have decent pre-made fare and plenty of fun local snacks.
Our (month long) trip was basically all backpacking-oriented and we decided to stay at Vatnajökull National Park for 2 or 3 days. A lot of really wonderful hiking trails there, incredible views of the glacier as well as a couple spots you can get up close and personal (or book a tour that takes you up on it, though we didn’t) and the campsite has a lot of amenities. We were relying on the bus schedules to squeeze everything in so we wound up only seeing Jökulsárlón at a distance. It’s gorgeous but for safety reasons you have to book a spot in a tour if you want to go out in the lagoon, since changes in weight distribution of the small icebergs can cause them to suddenly flip upside down.
Another incredible spot in that area that caught us completely by surprise was Kirkjubaerjarklaustur and the nearby Lakagígar crater system - you can take a bus tour up to the highlands to see it. This is from a series of volcanic fissure eruptions that lasted for over a year in the 1780s and had massive impact on the livelihoods and ecology of people all over the island as well as much of Europe due to all the ash ejected.
you’re going at the best time! I’ll add to the list:
if you go to Jökulsárlón (which is spectacular even if you don’t go out in the boat – the icebergs flip and make sounds, eider ducks cruise with their chicks in tow, and you can walk out on the black sand beach across the road and see icebergs parked on their way to the sea) - right next to it along the ring road (east) is a smaller one, Fjallsárlón, which I liked better, probably bc at that time, there were fewer tourists surrounding it. also in the south, friends of mine recently said Vestmannaeyjar was the highlight of their trip. I haven’t been yet – it’s a small island off the coast, I think there’s a ferry.
for birds, I loved Lake Myvatn in the east, plus the formations around the lake looked like the Star Trek planet. so many birds everywhere, and every viewpoint was more dramatic than the rest. at the lake, wearing a bug net to go over your hat is a good thing – they also sell them in the convenience store at the bottom (south) of the lake.
you’ll be there during arctic tern nesting season, I saw them nesting near the Reykjanes lighthouse, they dance in the air and make so much noise, but you can get pretty close to the area and get great views of them. don’t walk underneath though bc they lay their eggs right on the ground, it freaks them out if you get near the nest, also it would be easy to step on an egg. but you can get to the edge of the flock. huge geysirs there too as the plates are moving apart. also, closer to town, the terns nest near the golf course at the end of Seltjarnarnes peninsula, which is just east of Reykjavik, just bike or walk along the shore path (paved) to the tip and you’ll get to the bird reserve! you’ll also pass Thufa (in old harbor in reykjavik) and the Kvika footbath, same artist, very cool. I can also recommend Floi bird reserve in the south of iceland, marshy, saw some red-throated loons there.
also in reykjavik this last time I met some very cool people at “The Space”, among other things they run photo expeditions to the Westfjords, Greenland and other places on this beautiful wooden ship.
oh in terms of the Golden Circle, it might be a fun option to go at midnight (the sun will still be more or less up – I’ve been in day and night, and the thing about the night visits is that they’re open (not the gift shops, but the areas) and the swarms of tourists are gone. geysirs in the midnight sun are something else – you can also do some field recording (which is what we did) without the crowds! also, Thingvellir looks like something out of game of thrones, I loved exploring it.
you’ll have so much fun!!
I’m interested in traditional music, would love to meet some icelandic peeps in the trad community if you wanted to send any names my way! not sure when my next trip is exactly but I go a few times a year
My tip is make sure you pack basic things like toiletries and medicines. I got a cold on our trip and was floored by the price of paracetamol.
I spent two weeks there last summer and have some thoughts.
We paid lots extra for a small 4WD SUV for the trip. Unfortunately It really wasn’t up to fording the many rivers in the Highlands. We got stuck in one river and repeatedly had to hop out and walk through the streams searching for the low spots. Anyhow, the Highlands are a must see for sure. Insane volcanic, prehistoric views.
If I could do it again (I’m sure I will) I’d rent a more extreme vehicle with a lifted suspension for a couple days in the Highlands and trade it for a cheaper car for the rest of the trip around the island perimeter.
I’d recommend F210 and F208. It will blow your mind.
Some other tips. Making time for the trip up to Borgarfjordur Eystri is well worth it. Wonderful, remote little village with unique mountains, puffins, and sometimes whales in the harbor.
Overall my favorite spots were westfjords (latrabjarg, raudisandur, isafjordur), eastfjords, and Highlands. South coast was great but a lot more people.
Iceland is on the bucket list for me. The geography there is unique and wonderful. I wish you the best and hope you have a great time! Super jelly!
latrabjarg is the best with 400ft cliffs and hundreds of puffins.
Breidavik Guesthouse close by is great place to spend the night and have a nice dinner (excellent fish and home made yogurt dessert!)
Excellent! My partner and i made a 10 day trip about the same time last year. Sounds like you’re doing it right. There are trails everywhere if you’re big on hiking. Bring nice boots! Full rain gear is definitely worth it if you plan on hanging out near bog waterfalls for long.
A 4wd car is nice to have, you’ll very likely not need an “extreme” vehicle for anything. GAS IS EXPENSIVE! Likely a bigger part of you budget than you think it will be.
Know that in the north it will be blackfly season, they dont bite but they will try to get in to every opening on your face, so some kind of bandana/headscarf/tight fitting eyewear can be something you really wish you had if you spend much time around Myvatn. It’s beautiful, and well worth dealing with the pesky gnats.
My number one suggestion is the town of Seyðisfjörður. We spent only one night and wish we’d stayed more. The drive in is maybe the most beautiful and alien mountain pass ive seen that drops in to a valley that opens to the sea. I’ll leve the description at that, no need to spoil the rest. There is an arts residency/workshop/gallery space that was closed the morning we were there. The sound sculpture in the hills is definitely worth seeing as well.
Ah, the small cultural museums are worth poking around. Petra’s Stone Collection is worth the short detour off the ring road. Its a major museum class mineral collection all gathered by hand by Petra herself, housed in her home that her friends have kept as a museum since her passing.
If you’ve got space in your budget for it, hiring a guided lava cave tour is pretty damn cool too. And if your guide likes you, they may just point you at some lava tubes that are not marked in most guidebooks
It was really the area immediately surrounding the lake, dimmuborgir, and some of the sulfur vents. It was unpleasant and had us spending less time there than we otherwise would have, but still worth seeing.
As far as the car goes, you’re good anywhere on the ring road with a compact, there are just a few spots that we went that it was nice to have all wheel drive. It was just a few km out loose sandy gravel roads to get to a particular black sand beach that seemed to go on forever that i would not have taken a little vw on.
I teach an interdisciplinary arts class every summer in Iceland.
I don’t recommend racing around trying to see a lot in two weeks.
Otherwise it’s easy to miss the subtle wonders of Iceland that lurk behind the awe-inspiring landscape.
During my class we’re only in Reykjavik, and then the Snaefellsess Peninsula. I could spend a year in either easily.
It’s a country one feels as much as one sees it.
It’s pretty impossible not to have an incredible experience there, regardless.
+1 for Snaefellsness. I spent about four-ish days there, as part of a week long holiday, and it was a grand place. Properly good, and in shoulder season, very, very quiet (compared to the golden triangle, which is really popular).
Doing a quick stopover in August on my way to Ireland to visit family so I’m very interested in this thread. Bookmarked.
You definitely want 4WD for the ring road, doubly so if you plan on exploring. Keep your wits about you (we encountered a bridge out, and hit an invisible barbed wire fence at 50kph, it was fun unwrapping that from the axle.) I think we had a RAV4 and it was a little underpowered.
The southeast arc between Jökulsárlón and Mývatn is a lot quieter/less interesting than the rest of the country, if there was a way to do a “half ring” that’d be a better trip, but I don’t think you have much choice if you want to drive. If I were to do it again, I might book a boat tour to Jökulsárlón from Reykjavík, and then drive Reykjavík- Mývatn back and forth, spending time in the west fjords (which we also had to skip due to time, much to my regret) and the Snaefelsnes peninsula (which is awesome.) Lots of cool things to see and do near Mývatn. Jökulsárlón is very pretty but photos capture it pretty accurately.
The Golden Triangle trip (Geysir, Þingvellir, Gulfoss) is touristy but absolutely worth it. Scuba diving the rift in Þingvellir is #1 on my list for the next trip, timing didn’t work out.
Check the aurora forecast and be ready to drop what you’re doing on nights the conditions are favorable.
Buying food for most meals at Bonus is the way to go. Restaurants are few and far between outside the west coast, and even when you find them the hours may not line up with your needs. When you do sit down for a meal, go to a nice place, better to pay $50US for awesome seafood rather than $35US for a mediocre hamburger.