Mountains, black sandy beaches, icebergs, hotpots and horses…? Sounds a lot like ICELAND! Since I’ve been dying to see Iceland for ages and waited almost 3 years, I was the happiest kid when I, together with 9 friends, finally decided to go on an Iceland road trip.
Iceland Road Trip Itinerary and General Information
Since I waited a long time to finally visit Iceland, I wanted to see it all. Therefore, my friends and I decided to stay 16 days in order to not rush and have enough time for the island. We drove the Ring Road anti-clockwise and got off the beaten path every now and then.
However, we could not visit some parts of Iceland, like the inland and Fjords in the north-west as our car wasn’t made for these conditions. So, I definitely have to return again and rent a different kind of car in order to explore this part of Iceland.
In the south of Iceland, you will have the most tourist places, all pretty nearby. Once you get up to the north, you will see fewer people, more nothingness, more nature and have bigger distances in between camping sites and cities.
Golden Circle vs. Ring Road
There are actually two recommended main routes for tourists. One is the Golden Circle and one the Ring Road. Let me explain to you the difference.
The Ring Road basically brings you all around the island and is marked on the map with a “1”. It is suitable if you are staying for 10+ days. The Golden Circle, on the other hand, can be done as a day trip from Reykjavik or during short term travels. It includes the three major sites, such as Þingvellir National Park, Haukadalur valley (home to Geysir and Strokkur), and Gullfoss waterfall.
Roads in Iceland
Understanding the roads in Iceland is super easy. The main road (Ring Road) is number 1, as mentioned above. You can never get lost as long as you are on it.
Then there are roads with 2 numbers, 3 numbers and so on. With a normal vehicle or Camper Van, you are allowed to drive on all roads with 2 numbers. For any other roads, you will need a jeep.
Another thing you should get used to is one laned bridge. Don’t freak out, it’s normal. Usually, they are short enough, so that the other person can spot you and will stop for you or another way around. Second option: Since there are few people on the island, you should never arrive on such a bridge at the same time with someone else, but you never know.
Our Camper Van
For our Iceland road trip, we rented our Camper Van from Kukucampers. They have loads of Camper Vans to choose from in different sizes. We rented one for 3 people.
The van had everything inside that we needed, including kitchen utensils, water, heater and lots of USB ports to charge our devices. However, if you need additional items, you can purchase them separately from a list, e.g. pillows, camping chairs, sleeping bags, gas for cooking and so on.
Another service Kukucampers also provides is pick up from the airport, which we also booked. There seems to be no public transportation available from the airport, so it was either walk, taxi or pickup.
It is super convenient, as you have someone waiting for you once you arrive and the office is around a 20min drive away from the airport. You don’t want to walk this for sure and a taxi will most likely cost you around 50€ or more.
When to travel?
There are advantages to travelling in summer or winter. If you go for the first time, I recommend visiting in summer.
Advantages and disadvantages of visiting Iceland in summer:
- First of all, it is light almost throughout the whole day, so you can drive for hours.
- Most roads won’t be closed as there is no snow or ice blocking them.
- Able to use camping card which is valid until Mid September each year
- “warmer“ temperatures
- DISADVANTAGE: Many tourists.
Advantages and disadvantages of visiting Iceland in winter:
- Chance to see the Northern Lights.
- Less tourists.
- DISADVANTAGE: Little daylight and risk of blocked roads.
Since I have travelled in summer, I would like to return again in winter and see the same sights, but this time covered in snow and ice, plus the Northern Lights. However, I would only stay for 3-5 days then.
My favourite sights during our Iceland Road Trip
Iceland is a country of diversity and has amazing scenery. You will see many different things during your Iceland road trip, from icebergs to glaciers, Geysir, waterfalls and much more. Let me tell you about my favourite Icelandic sights.
It is a glacier that turned into a lake once it started melting. It is popular for its swimming icebergs which can be up to 15m tall. The lake itself covers an area of about 18km and is considered a natural wonder! Just amazing.
This is a popular place where the US navy plane crashed in 1973. Rumours have it that the pilot switched to the wrong fuel tank, therefore ran out of fuel and crashed at the black beach. Luckily, everyone survived and nowadays its remainings attract lots of tourists every year.
It is a hot spring that shoots from the ground every 3-5 minutes and can be up to 100m high, due to its tight eruption canals and pressure of seepage that starts to heat up to 100 C°. It’s pretty impressive and fun waiting for the moment the water shoots up in the air.
Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss and Godafoss are just a few and most popular waterfalls we visited and you will most likely see along the way, but there are many more for sure.
Kafla & Namjafall
Kafla is a volcano with lots of mud holes. It is really amazing to see what Mother Nature actually creates, also smelly things like these mud holes. You can’t imagine how badly it stank there. If I had to describe it, I would say, kaka mixed with diarrhoea and more kaka.
One of the most famous tourist spot in Iceland is the Blue Lagoon. It is actually a man made lagoon which gets it hot water from the nearby geothermal plant. The water is renewed every 2 days.
This canyon was created during the last ice age when two tectonic plates were separated. It is also known as the Justin Bieber Canyon since parts of his music video „I’ll show you“ were filmed there.
Diamond beach/ Black beach
Just across from Jökulsárlón (glacier/icebergs), you will find the Diamond beach which has its name from the remaining iceberg parts which look like diamonds on the black sand.
There are loads of hotpot opportunities in Iceland. My favourite one was Hrunalaug near Fludir. A full map with all hotpots throughout Iceland can be found on hotpoticeland.com.
ATTENTION: Make sure to read the description carefully though because not all of them are for bathing.
Horse Riding Tour in Iceland
When in Iceland, don’t miss out on a horse riding tour. We booked ours with Icelandhorsetours.com, and can only recommend it. It’s in the northern part of Iceland and run by a German and Icelandic couple. You can choose different packages, routes and hours. They also offer group discounts.
The Icelandic horses are very unique and long-lived. Did you know that it is not allowed to important other horses to Iceland, in order to prevent diseases and illnesses? Also, once an Icelandic horse has been exported abroad it is not allowed to enter back into Iceland.
This city is located in a valley in the east of Iceland. It is said to be the city in which most depressive people live because not a lot of daylight pass there. However, we had a rather great experience there. All the buildings are very colourful, you can go hiking, karaoke parties in the city centre are so much fun, and the locals are super friendly and open. Actually, only 600 people live there! So cool!
Personal Opinion about Iceland Road Trip
After 2 full weeks living in a camper van, I have to say I might have become a small fan of camping, and would like to do it again, but preferably in a warmer country.
Since we travelled in summer it was high season. Therefore, everything was a bit more expensive and everywhere were more people than usual, which was the downside, but didn’t bother me too much to be honest.
Regarding the prices, just make sure to plan everything wisely upfront, book tickets early (I booked my flight ticket 6 months in advance), don’t eat out but cook yourself, and see if you can get group discounts if you travel in a larger group. For more Iceland travel tips that will save you money when travelling Iceland read my latest post.
Finally, the Blue Lagoon is very expensive, but absolutely worth it. Here I have a trick. Once again, book in advance as it is sold out quickly, and also choose a later time of the day, as prices are lower. Instead of 80€, we each paid 45€ including a free drink and facial mask, only because we went in the evening. Not too bad I would say.
Enough of me! Tell me about your experience. have you been to Iceland, or are you planning to go? What was your favourite spot/part?