If the land of fire and ice isn’t already on your bucket list, put it on there now! Iceland has such an incredibly diverse and otherworldly landscape, there is no place quite like it. Hiring a car is the best way to explore the island, where the scenery is the main attraction and roadside diversions include waterfalls, volcanoes, glaciers and adorable Icelandic horses.
From Reykjavík Airport, pick up your car (book one ahead of time so you can skip the queues at the airport car rentals) and stock up on some snacks from Krónan supermarket for the long drive ahead.
A volcanic crater lake formed approximately 3000 years ago, resembling an ancient amphitheatre where concerts have been held on a floating raft in Summer. In Winter, the lake is frozen over so you can walk right across it! We visited in March when the weather was starting to warm up, so the ice had started to melt around the edges.
Making up one of the attractions along the Golden Circle route is a geothermal area with more than 50 hot springs. Strokkur is Iceland’s most famous active hot spring that shoots vast jets of boiling water 20 to 40 metres up in the air. Don’t worry about missing this spectacle of nature, as it erupts every five to ten minutes; so be camera ready!
Along the Golden Circle route is this impressive two-tiered waterfall where you can witness natures power. Walk along the sides to get a different perspective of the waterfall. Warm up at the cafe nearby with their lamb goulash soup.
Within Vatnajökull National Park, there are several sights to see and a must is to join an Ice Cave tour.
Ice Cave Tour
For those looking for an adventure, you can strap on some crampons to hike up a glacier and descend into a magnificent ice cave. The experience is quite something! There are a few tours to choose from, but because of the warmer weather, our first choice was cancelled just two days before our trip so make sure you have a backup plan.
Note: Ice Cave Tours usually only run during the winter season.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
One of Iceland’s most popular attractions and it’s not hard to see why. The sheer beauty of icebergs floating in the lagoon against a backdrop of mountain glaciers is something one must see with their own eyes. If you’re brave enough, hop on one of the icebergs for a picture (be careful, it’s very slippery).
Just adjacent to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a volcanic black sand beach known as Diamond beach, where icebergs meet the Atlantic Ocean. Icebergs from the lagoon drift ashore and create the most magical setting. Ranging from shades of deep blue, turquoise to bright white, this place is a must see!
Driving from Vík, there are several stops you can make before heading back to Reykjavík. If you have time to spare, check out Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River which is about an hour hike up a mountain that will take you to a valley where you can find hot springs, mud pools and bathe in a natural hot river.
Skogafoss is unique because the waterfall comes directly from two glaciers, Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull. You can walk right up to it but you will get soaked. Climb the 370 steps to the top for a view over southern Iceland’s coastline.
Right off the Ring Road, this is one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls. There’s a path that goes right around it, so you can view it from behind the waterfall. Again, you will get wet!
One of those bucket list items that you just have to tick off. You can’t visit Iceland without taking a dip in this geothermal spa in the midst of a lava field. All ticket prices come with a free drink, so you can sip on bubbles or a smoothie while you soak. You must pre-book a time to enter the lagoon, booking in advance is advised as it fills up weeks ahead. You can book tickets here.
Where to stay:
Based on our itinerary, we booked 3 hotels in different areas.
Tips for Iceland:
Some things you should consider for the trip.
- Bring snacks from home as food and drinks are expensive in Iceland.
- Pack warm layers and a waterproof jacket
- With the unpredictable weather, tours and activities can be cancelled last minute, so you should have a backup plan.
- Appropriate footwear such as hiking boots is important, especially if you’re doing an Ice Cave tour.