Saturday, August 5, 2017

12 Day Travel Itinerary for Iceland


Many people have emailed me requesting more information on how we planned, organized, and timelined our 2013 trip to Iceland. I already have several posts highlighting the amazing feats of nature that we encountered in Iceland, as well as the fascinating man-made sights, but each post is basically a stand-alone story designed to be read on its own. I guess I wanted my posts to be able to be read individually so that people could decide whether or not to include that particular sight in their own personal travel plans.

However, some of my readers have asked me questions such as, "How far did you drive in a day?" or, "How many sights mentioned in your posts were you able to see in one day?" So I thought I would pull up my old travel itinerary from four years ago and share it in a printable format so that others could use it as a base to plan their own adventure.

Please keep in mind that this itinerary only skirts the southern portion of Iceland - we weren't able to drive the entirety of the Ring Road due to time constraints and because of how much we stopped to explore along the way. If we had skipped a lot of the sights we saw, or stayed an extra four or five days, we would have been able to drive the entire loop of the country. So factor that into your travel plans if you must.

Without further ado, here is how I plan a travel itinerary and what we saw and did in fourteen days in Iceland!

There are so many unique and beautiful things to see in Iceland!

DAY ONE: FLIGHT DAY

SIGHTS: None
ACCOMMODATION: Uncomfortable airplane seat
TRANSPORTATION: Airplane
COSTS: Flight ticket, meals at airport layovers

We opted for the red eye flight out of Calgary and skipped around the North American continent for almost a full day before landing in Keflavik. (Calgary, Seattle, Boston, then over the ocean to Iceland).

DAY TWO: KEFLAVIK / REKJAVIK

SIGHTS: The Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik (Laugavegur Street shopping)
ACCOMMODATION: Reykjavik hostel (Guesthouse 101)
TRANSPORTATION: Bus
COSTS: Blue Lagoon ticket, bus ticket, breakfast at airport, hotel, dinner expenses

We landed in the morning in Keflavik, and I was bleary-eyed and exhausted from the last leg of our journey (you can read about why in my Blue Lagoon post). We gathered our luggage and boarded a bus to the Blue Lagoon - I had secured tickets and transportation to the Blue Lagoon in advance from Canada during my trip planning. We spent a few hours enjoying the hot springs at the Blue Lagoon before boarding our bus again and driving into Reykjavik. The bus dropped us off at our hostel where we slept until dinner time, then we explored Laugavegur Street with all of its shops and restaurants. We ate dinner, then went back to the hostel and slept again.

DAY THREE: EXPLORE REYKJAVIK

SIGHTS: Hallgrimskirkja, Harpa Opera & Concert Hall, The Harbour, Einer Jonsson Sculpture Garden, City Pond, Icelandic Phallological Museum, The Pearl, Hop-On Hop Off Bus (optional)
ACCOMMODATION: Reykjavik hostel (Guesthouse 101)
TRANSPORTATION: On foot
COSTS: Hotel, breakfast, lunch, dinner, Hallgrimskirkja viewing deck fee, Icelandic Phallological Museum admission, Hop-On Hop-Off Bus tickets (optional)

We explored Reykjavik by foot on this day. We did NOT do the hop-on hop-off bus because we realized that Reykjavik isn't really that big and we could reach most of what we wanted to see by walking. The Pearl was the only thing too far away to access by foot. We stopped to eat when we found interesting restaurants, and we did spend a little money doing some souvenir shopping this day.

DAY FOUR: GOLDEN CIRCLE BUS TOUR & REYKJAVIK

SIGHTS: Geysir (particularly Strokkur), Gulfoss, Pingvellir National Park, Icelandic countryside
ACCOMMODATION: Reykjavik hostel (Guesthouse 101)
TRANSPORTATION: Tour Bus
COSTS: Hotel, breakfast, lunch, dinner, tour tickets, souvenirs (optional)

After a light breakfast in the hotel cafe, we boarded our tour bus to explore Iceland's "Golden Circle", which includes a magnificent geyser named Strokkur, a powerful double waterfall named Gulfoss, and a national park that houses Iceland's continental divide, Pingvellir National Park. We returned around dinnertime, ate our meal, and rested and packed up, since we were leaving the hotel the next morning. We also went grocery shopping at this time, because we intended on camping for the next leg of our journey, and we needed some supplies.

DAY FIVE: DRIVE TO SKOGAR

SIGHTS: hot springs along highway, Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, Skogar, lava fields, countryside
ACCOMMODATION: Skogar campground
TRANSPORTATION: Rental SUV
COSTS: Car rental, breakfast, lunch, dinner (groceries), campground fee

This day marked the beginning of our Iceland road trip. We loaded up the SUV, checked out of the hotel, and turned on the GPS (it is highly recommended that you use GPS to get around Iceland, even with the one Ring Road being your main road). Right out of Reykjavik we started to see really neat landscapes, lava fields, and 'wild' hot springs along the side of the road. We first visited Seljalandsfoss and hiked under the waterfall, then drove on to Skogar and camped beside the thundering Skogafoss waterfall. The campground was reasonably priced, and we used our back-country camping gear that we had packed from Canada to cook a cheap dinner in order to save money.

DAY SIX: DRIVE TO VIK

SIGHTS: Skogafoss hike, Skogar museum, sod houses, Seljavellir valley, town of Vik
ACCOMMODATION: Vik hostel (Hotel Lunda)
TRANSPORTATION: Rental SUV
COSTS: Car Rental, Skogar museum admission, groceries for breakfast and dinner, cafe lunch, hostel fee, golf admission and rentals

On the morning of Day 6, we hiked up to the top of the Skogafoss waterfall, then visited the town of Skogar and explored the museum and sod houses. After packing up our campsite at Skogar, we backtracked a little bit on the highway to Seljavellir valley to soak in an unreal hidden and free hot spring. After a wonderful morning there, we continued down the Ring Road to Vik. We arrived in the afternoon, found a place to stay, and I explored the town and beaches while Joey golfed. We cooked our dinner in the hostel kitchen to save money.

DAY SEVEN: DRIVE TO KIRKJUBAEJARKLAUSTUR 

SIGHTS: Dyrholaey Nature Preserve, Fjaorargljufur Canyon, town of Kirkjubaejarklaustur
ACCOMMODATION: Kirkjubaejarklaustur campground
TRANSPORTATION: Rental SUV
COSTS: Car rental, groceries for all three meals, campground fee

In the morning we checked out of the hostel, and backtracked to the Dyrholaey Nature Preserve to make friends with the puffins and explore the unique terrain. Then we drove down the Ring Road, past Vik and onwards, to the amazing Fjaorargljufur Canyon, where we spent most of the afternoon. Finally we hit the town of Kirkjubaejarklaustur in time to set up camp and eat a late dinner made on our camp stove. We ate nothing but the groceries we had purchased this day to save money, and all of the hiking we did was free.

DAY EIGHT: DRIVE TO HOFN

SIGHTS: Jokulsarlon iceberg lagoon, lava fields, glaciers, roadside stops, town of Hofn, Hofn pool
ACCOMMODATION: Hofn hostel (Hvammur Guesthouse)
TRANSPORTATION: Rental SUV
COSTS: Car rental, Jokulsarlon tour package, groceries for breakfast and dinner, restaurant lunch, hostel fee, pool admission

This day and the next day were the biggest driving days, since there's really not much for accommodations between Kirkjubaejarklaustur and the town of Hofn except Skaftafell National Park, and we weren't planning on stopping there. So we just drove and drove. We broke up the drive by stopping at roadside waterfalls, exploring the spongey lava fields (stay on the paths!), and buying an amphibious boat tour in the amazing Jokulsarlon iceberg lagoon. Jokulsarlon is a DO NOT MISS attraction, so factor this into your travel plans! Once we finally arrived in Hofn after our long day of driving, we got settled in the hostel and then went swimming in the Hofn town pool, which was really nice.

DAY NINE: DRIVE BACK TO KIRKJUBAEJARKLAUSTUR 

SIGHTS: Skaftafell National Park, Svartifoss waterfall
ACCOMMODATION: Kirkjubaejarklaustur campground
TRANSPORTATION: Rental SUV
COSTS: Car rental, groceries for breakfast and lunch, dinner in Kirkjubaejarklaustur, campground fee

At this point, we realized we had to kind of high-tail it back to Reykjavik in order to catch our flight out of Iceland, so we used Hofn as our turning point and headed back west. On the way back to the campground at Kirkjubaejarklaustur, we used the backtrack opportunity to check out Skaftafell National Park, which we missed on the way to Hofn due to weather. We did some basic hiking and stopped at the famous Svartifoss waterfall. Back at the Kirkjubaejarklaustur campground, we wandered around the town, relaxed, played cards, and enjoyed some much needed downtime after the oodles of sightseeing we had already done.

DAY TEN: DRIVE TO HVERGERDI

SIGHTS: Hvegerdi hot springs, hotel pool
ACCOMMODATION: Hotel in Hvergerdi (Hotel Ork)
TRANSPORTATION: Rental SUV
COSTS: Car rental, groceries for breakfast, cafe lunch, hotel dinner, hotel fee

We were really winding down at this point, and I was sick and tired of camping. So we splurged a little on the fancier Hotel Ork, and enjoyed eating good quality food, sleeping in proper beds, and just feeling a little pampered. (Hotel Ork isn't THAT fancy, but after tents and hostels, I felt like a queen.) We arrived in Hvergerdi around lunch time after driving from Kirkjubaejarklaustur, and since the trip was coming to an end, we ate lunch and dinner in restaurants since our groceries were running out. We explored the town, which is literally steaming due to excessive thermal action, and just relaxed at our hotel.

DAY ELEVEN: DRIVE TO REYKJAVIK

SIGHTS: hot springs along highway, lava fields, countryside
ACCOMMODATION: Rekjavik hostel
TRANSPORTATION: Rental SUV
COSTS: Car rental, breakfast, lunch, dinner, hostel fee

We cruised into Reykjavik and found our new hostel, arranged pick up for our rental vehicle, then sat in a pub and enjoyed our last evening in Iceland. Our hostel was overpriced and dirty, and I hated it. I am looking for it online now, and don't see it, so thankfully it must have closed down. I won't even bring up the name. But it did the trick, since we had to get up in the wee hours of the night to catch our bus to the airport, so I didn't even really sleep much on the bed, which I suspected did not have fresh sheets. Yuck!

DAY TWELVE: FLY FROM KEFLAVIK

SIGHTS: countryside to Iceland, Keflavik airport
ACCOMMODATION: uncomfortable airline seat again
TRANSPORTATION: shuttle bus, airplane
COSTS: Shuttle fee, airline ticket, meals, souvenirs and snacks at the airport

That about sums up the trip. We caught our shuttle, arrived at the airport, and boarded our plane smoothly. The Keflavik airport is nice and straightforward, so there's no getting mixed up about where you have to go. It was in the process of undergoing renovations when we were there, so I can only imagine it got better from that point on.

We certainly hope to go back to Iceland - see you there?

Hopefully this travel itinerary helps anyone out there who is considering doing a tour of Iceland, or is in the midst of planning one. We had such a great time, and I encourage others to design their own road trip rather than purchasing a bus package. For more tips, read my post on what to expect on a road trip around Iceland, and of course, I have a blog post about almost every sight I have listed on this itinerary (I will link them as much as I can to make finding the posts easy for you).

Would you add anything to this itinerary? Keep in mind this is just the southern portion of the island. My husband and I would like to return to Iceland and explore the western and northern regions, as I am sure we missed out by not visiting! Let me know in the comments below!

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