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  • Writer's pictureKiah May

Itinerary: 10 Day Road Trip in Iceland

Updated: Jul 23, 2021

My dad and I had a fantastic 10 days driving around Iceland on the Ring Road. Here is our itinerary so you can see what we did and to help you plan your trip to Iceland!


Day 0:

We had an afternoon flight directly from Denver to Keflavík (Iceland's international airport). We landed at about 6am in Iceland and because we arrive before July 1st, 2021 we had to take a COVID test at the airport and quarantine until we got our results. (As of July 1st, 2021 COVID tests are no longer required for vaccinated travelers).


Day 1 (Grindavik, Iceland):

Driving Distance: 21 minutes/26 kilometers

After we got our negative test results, we met our guide to tour the active Fargadalsfjall volcano. We got up close with the lava and hiked about 10km to try to see the crater. Unfortunately, it was foggy so we weren’t able to see it.

Lava at the Fargadalsfjall Volcano


After our hike, we headed to the Blue Lagoon, which was so relaxing after our long hike. We had drinks and did lava scrub face masks. (Side note: slushies in Icelandic are called Kraps). We then had dinner at Lava, the restaurant at the Blue Lagoon, which I must admit was a bit overrated, although the mango chocolate moose was incredible.


We were exhausted so we headed to the Northern Light Inn, which was wonderful! The beds were super comfortable and the breakfast buffet has a wonderful mix of everything.


Day 2 (Grindavik to Snaefellsnes):

Driving Distance: 5 hours 45 minutes/375 kilometers

We got up early and begun one of our longest driving days. We made our way to the Glymur Waterfall. This hike is about 7.1 kilometers round trip. Unfortunately on we took a wrong turn and didn’t have enough time to make it up to the waterfall. A hint for others trying this hike: about 1 kilometer into the hike you will come across a fork with a cave on the left and a road on the right. When you come to this point, go down through the cave and you will find a log you can use to cross the river. The road led downstream, away from the waterfall. Despite taking the wrong turn, we still had a wonderful hike with many smaller waterfalls.

Alaskan Lupine Flowers on the Glymur Waterfall Hike


After our hike we began driving to our cave tour (thecave.is). When we arrived we got our helmets and set out on the walk to the cave which was about 200 meters. We then entered the cave and had the opportunity to see lava and ice stalagmites, stalactites, and piles of lava that the Icelandic people call lava poop. We also saw a boulder fall from the ceiling, a very rare occurrence according to our guide. At the end of the cave, we spent 5 minutes in complete darkness, listening to the sounds of the cave, which was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had.

Entering the Lava Cave


We finished our day with more driving to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. When we arrived, it was about 10pm, but still light out, so we decided to look at a statue that we saw on our drive in. The Bárður statue is a half man half troll that was erected in honor of Bárður Snaefellas.

The Bárður Statue


We stayed at the Arnarstapi Hotel which was wonderful.


Day 3 (Snaefellsnes to Akureyri):

Driving Distance: 5 hours 25 minutes/448 kilometers

We got up early again and went to the Malarrif Lighthouse, a quick 15 minute drive from our hotel. The lighthouse was originally built in 1917 and rebuilt in 1947 and stands 20 meters tall.

The Malarrif Lighthouse


We then settled into the car and began the journey to the turf houses in Glaumbaer. These houses were built using turf in place of wood as Iceland's forests had diminished drastically in the late nineteenth century. The turf houses were inhabited until 1947 and have been protected by the Icelandic Government ever since. The history of the site is amazing and definitely worth a visit!


The Glaumbaer Turf Houses


We then finished our drive to Akureyri where we visited the Akureyri Botanic Gardens and learned about many of the flowers that are native to the area around the Arctic Circle.

Flowers at the Akureyri Botanic Gardens


We stayed at the Icelandair Hotel Akureyri, which was our least favorite of the places we stayed. We tried to have dinner in the restaurant, but after twenty minutes of waiting no one had come to bring us water or take our order. We left the restaurant and went back to our room. We had to go back to the front desk to ask for the Wi-fi because the phone didn’t work. I would recommend looking elsewhere.

Some options include the K16 Apartments and the Saeluhus Apartments and House.


Day 4 (Akureyri to Myvatn):

Driving Distance: 2 hours 40 min/175.4 kilometers

Once again we got up pretty early and began to make our way towards Myvatn. We stopped at Godafoss--the waterfall of the gods--and hiked to both sides. The hike is about 500 meters total. We saw gorgeous rainbows and other smaller waterfalls, but Godafoss stands above it all. It is one of the most beautiful things I've even seen and it was definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip!

Godafoss Waterfall


After Godafoss we made the short 40 minute drive to the Fosshotel Myvatn where we were able to get an early check in. The hotel staff was lovely! We then drove to the Hverfjall Crater and hiked up to see the crater itself. The hike was not very long, but it was a pretty good climb, so I would recommend hiking poles if you can bring them, although it can definitely be done without them.

Hverfjall Crater


Our last adventure of the day was a trip to Husavik for whale watching (northsailing.is). The drive was gorgeous and when we got to Husavik, it was amazing to see the harbor. We boarded the boat and hoped for the best. We got luck in that we saw a minke whale, two humpback whales, and a pod of white-beaked dolphins with their babies.

Humpback Whale Surfacing in Husavik


Most of the restaurants in Husavik were super crowded so we headed back to the hotel where we had amazing hamburgers--while not Icelandic food, it was nice to have a piece of home even though we were 5000 kilometers away.

We stayed at the Fosshotel Myvatn for two nights and it was definitely our favorite of the places we stayed. The service was wonderful, the rooms were clean and comfortable, and everyone was so nice.


Day 5 (Myvatn):

Driving Distance: ~2 hours/110 kilometers (depending on what you choose to do)

This was one morning that we didn’t have to get up super early, so we enjoyed sleeping in for a bit then we headed off to Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful waterfall. Its name means The Collapsing Waterfall.

On the way we stopped at the Hverir mud baths. They were amazing geologically, however we couldn’t stay long because the sulfur was so potent that it was making us gag and making our eyes water. If you go here, definitely bring a gas mask!


Hverir Mud Baths


After the mud baths, we headed to Selfoss and Dettifoss. We decided to go to Selfoss first because it was a bit further from the parking lot. That was a great decision because, as beautiful as Selfoss is, when we saw Dettifoss we were completely entranced by its raw power. If you want to venture down into the splash zone, definitely bring a rain coat because you will get soaked. We spent almost an hour admiring its beauty and we had a hard time walking away.

Dettifoss


After the waterfalls, we needed to relax so we went to the Myvatn Nature Baths, which I liked better than the Blue Lagoon because it was a little bit more low-key and there were less people there.


You can also visit hike the Dimmuborgir Lava Field, visit the Grjotagja Cave and see the Pseudocraters of Myvatn if any of the above activities aren't for you.


Day 6 (Myvatn to Hofn):

Driving Distance: 8 hours/500 kilometers

This is the longest driving day on the trip, but its totally worth it. *If you want to drive a bit less you can skip the detour to Borgarfjörður Eystri. Skipping this makes your day 3 hours and 113 kilometers shorter.*


First, we went to the Studlagil Canyon. We decided not to do the 10 kilometer round trip hike into the canyon just because we knew it was already going to be a long day. While we couldn’t see very far up the canyon, it was still had a spectacular view of the basalt rocks.

Studlagil Canyon


We then began our drive to see the puffins at Borgarfjörður Eystri. The route there is extremely scenic and one of my favorite driving parts of the whole trip. You drive along the North Sea and see many volcanic mountains and tons of waterfalls.

When we reached puffin marina we were astounded by the sheer number of puffins. They were happily playing, diving for fish, and nesting.

Puffin at Puffin Marina


We made the rest of our drive through the Icelandic fog, and while we couldn't see much it was really fun to have the time in the car with my dad. Definitely make a great travel playlist!

We finally made it to our hotel, The Milk Factory, which was a remodeled milk factory. However, much to our disappointment, other than its name you couldn’t tell that it was ever a milk factory. The room itself was fine, but nothing special. It served our purposes, but if you want something else, you could also look the Seljavellir Guesthouse or the Apotek Guesthouse.


Day 7 (Hofn to Skaftafell):

Driving Distance: 2 hours/130 kilometers

As today was one of our lighter days, we were able to sleep in a bit then we set out toward the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. When we got there we were amazed by the color and size of the chunks of glacier in the lagoon. We then went on an amphibian boat tour through the lagoon, which I would highly recommend because we got to see so much more of the lagoon than we could from the shore.

Glacier in the Lagoon


After we got off the boat tour we walk around the lagoon and we saw more glacier chunks and tons of wildlife including seals. We also got food from one of the food trucks near the lagoon. We both got fish and chips and it was the best fish and chips we'd ever had.

Seal in the Glacier Lagoon


We then made the short drive to across the bridge to the other side of the lagoon to the Diamond Beach where chunks of ice wash up one the shore and they look like pieces of diamond.

Diamond Beach


We then drove to Skaftafell and after we checked into the Hotel Skaftafell, we did a short hike to see one of the fingers of the glaciers. The hike itself was beautiful and getting to see the glacier itself was amazing! However, it was sad to see how much the glacier has receded over the past hundred years.


The Hotel Skaftafell was simple, but we enjoyed the beds and the breakfast. However, on the drive in we saw another Fosshotel, like the one we stayed at in Myvatn and we thought that the Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon might have been nicer than the Hotel Skaftafell.


Day 8 (Skaftafell to Reykjavík):

Driving Distance: 5 hours 20 minutes/357 kilometers

Like many days before, we got up early and set out towards the Skogafoss waterfall. When we got there we climbed the 527 steps to the top of the waterfall. We were short on time, but there is a path up the river dubbed "Waterfall Way" where you can hike to see about 25 smaller waterfalls. Skogafoss was a perfect mix of the power of Dettifoss and the beauty of Godafoss and I really enjoyed the hike up to the top.

Skogafoss Waterfall


After Skogafoss, we went to Seljalandsfoss, a waterfall that we were able to walk behind. The experience of being behind the waterfall was really amazing. If you're planning to walk behind the waterfall, make sure that you have a rain jacket.


Seljalandsfoss Waterfall


After the waterfalls we drove to the Thrihnukagigur Volcano where we did an Inside the Volcano tour (insidethevolcano.com). While a bit expensive, this was one of my favorite experiences of the whole trip. During the tour you take a 45 minute hike to the crater and take a ride down into the crater and look around at a dormant lava tube. After we came out of the crater, we ate a traditional Icelandic Lamb Stew which was one of the best things we ate on this trip.

Inside the Volcano


After our volcano tour we made our way to Reykjavík. After checking into the Reykjavík Residence where we stayed in the prime minister's residence, we walked through the city and found a sports bar where we could watch the EURO 2020 Italy vs. Spain semifinal game. We ended up at Raektin where we had a wonderful meal and the bartender, Joey, was wonderful. After dinner we went to Valdis for ice cream, another place I would highly recommend. They have a huge variety of flavors and the two that I tried--raspberry and mango--were incredible.


Day 9 (The Golden Circle):

Driving Distance: 4 hours/151 kilometers

This ended up being a longer driving day, so if you're looking for less driving you could stay on the Golden Circle. Some options include Hotel Geysir and the 360 Boutique Hotel.


We started off from Reykjavík and drove to the Kerid Crater. This was by far my favorite of the craters that we saw simply because of its beauty. The lake in the bottom was breathtaking.

Kerid Crater


After the crater, we drove to Laugarvatn for our lava bread tour. During this tour we saw how the locals used the geothermal energy to cook meats, breads, and other things.

The tour included a demonstration of how they bake the bread and also included a taste of the delicious lava bread. The bread was sweet with a hint of ginger and a hint of maple. I am going to try to recreate it now that I am home, but I'm sure that it won't be nearly as good.

Lava Bread


We then headed to the Geysir Geothermal Area where we got to see one of the most active geysers in the world. Strokkur erupts about every 8-10 minutes. It was incredible to see the Earth's raw power right in front of my eyes.

Strokkur Geyser


Our last stop on our Golden Circle tour was Þingvellir National Park where we were able to see the Mid-Atlantic ridge where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart. We were also able to learn about the history of the Alþing where Iceland's annual parliament took place. The museum exhibit on the Alþing was incredible and if you get the chance it is definitely worth it.

A Narrow Piece of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge


We headed back to Reykjavík where we had a wonderful dinner at 101 Reykjavík Street Food and we went back to Valdis for more ice cream.


Day 10 (Reykjavík):

Driving Distance: 40 minutes/50 kilometers

We started our day with a wonderful breakfast at Sandholt, a cute bakery in downtown Reykjavík.

French Toast and Hot Chocolate at Sandholt


After breakfast, we walked around Reykjavík and we saw Hallgrimskirkja and the Sun Voyager, and went to the Perlan Museum, where we saw the planetarium show and walked through the ice cave. The museum was one of my favorite activities in Iceland.

Hallgrimskirkja

Sun Voyager


We had a late afternoon flight home, so after we went to the Perlan Museum we headed to the airport.


In Closing:

I had so many favorite activities on this trip it was hard to choose just one, so, in my opinion, you really can’t go wrong with your activities. We shoved so much into our 10 days, but you can space it out if you have more time, or, if you have less time you could cut out the day on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and you could spend only one day in Myvatn.


Final Tips:

-Pack like its winter because some days it definitely got cold.

-Invest in a good sleep mask because the sun doesn’t set.

-Bring a good pair hiking boots.


*This trip was done in the summer and some outdoor activities might be closed in the winter.*

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