Travel

Iceland in Summer: The Ring Road in 7 days

August 11, 2017

In this post, I’m going to tell you my exact Iceland Itinerary around the Ring Road, or route 1.

Every time I tell someone I’m going to Iceland, they ask me if I’m heading there for the Aurora Borealis. There is so much more to Iceland than just that and I believe the best time to visit is in the Summer! Furthermore, it is almost 24/7 daylight so there’s no rush to visit any attractions within the 9 to 6 pm time range. We took the Ring Road which goes all around the island and managed to complete it in 7 days!

To be honest it was tight. I will recommend 8 to 10 days so you can enjoy the sights and towns a little longer. If you’re only able to afford a week and would like to see as much of Iceland as possible, this is probably the best way. Read on to get exact details!

The Ring Road – Route 1

Day 1 – Reykjavik

Landed in Reykjavik so we decided to stay here for a couple of nights. It’s an adorable town but I think 1 day of exploring is more than enough.

We lodged up at a cozy apartment via Airbnb and it’s perfect! It’s a more affordable option as it’s slightly away from the city, about 15 to 20 minutes away.

While you’re here, check out the Hallgrimskirkja church, you won’t miss it because it is the tallest building right smack in central Reykjavik. Love the architecture of this place and how it looks so different from every other church in Europe. What a breath of fresh air.

Credits: http://rebloggy.com/post/photography-white-architecture-pattern-church-interior-building-windows-iceland/67088958565

 

Day 2 – The Golden Circle

We set off from Reykjavik to explore the Golden Circle. It’s a very popular route and you can do day tours but I do recommend doing a self-drive instead and explore at your own time and pace.

The whole entire drive is slightly more than 3 hours but set aside a half to a whole day for this.

We also scheduled a snow mobiling tour with Mountaineers of Iceland where we met the group at Gullfoss. They’re absolutely great and would totally recommend booking with them if you’re considering taking this up. Of course, this activity would be best done in the winter but we still went on the glacier and had a great time.

Noteworthy sights along the Golden Circle:

  • Þingvellir National Park

Þingvellir National Park is a very special place to the people of Iceland and a protected national shrine. It is a historical place, literally meaning “Parliament Plains” where major events in the history of Iceland have taken place.

It’s also absolutely beautiful as well. The peacefulness of this place is really on another level. It’s really refreshing to go somewhere that’s quiet and gorgeous at the very same time. Makes one reflect on their lives a little more, at least that’s how I felt.

  • Strokkur Geysir, Hafnartún

This Geysir erupts every 8 to 10 minutes. Hotel opposite called Hotel Geysir has a brillant restaurant with really fresh and delicious food.

  • Gullfoss Waterfall

This is a must-see, but truth be told, unless you are going at the crack of dawn or late at night, there is going to be a throng of tourists here.

  • Kerið Crator Lake

This crater is located along the route. You won’t miss it.

You can start the Golden Circle any way you like, I’ve listed the sights in a clockwise drive order. If you’re going anti-clockwise simply reverse the order.

Day 3 – South Iceland

We set off from Reykjavik towards Jökulsárlón – Glacier Lagoon on the Ring Road/Route 1. This is quite a long drive so be prepared. You will see a lot of sights along the way and will stop very frequently. I reckon having an early start so you will reach your next accommodation by dinner or just after. We started our day at 10 am and ended up arriving at our hotel only at 11.30pm. Got distracted because well it’s almost 24/7 daylight here in summer and we kept thinking we have more time.

Notable sights on the South of Iceland:

  • Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Absolutely breathtaking. This is the first waterfall big we saw on this route. It had just stopped raining then so a rainbow appeared. This is also one of the only waterfalls you can walk behind of so i suggest bringing a waterproof poncho/raincoat or hoodie.

  • Skógafoss Waterfall

There is a long flight of stairs that leads to the top of the waterfall. MUST CLIMB/SEE/DO. The view is just insane! Not for the faint hearted, and I mean this in a very very literal sense. I found it quite difficult to do it myself but it sure warmed me up considerably.

  • Fjaðrárgljúfur

  • Dyrhólaey

  • Reynisfjara Black sand bead and Basalt columns

To be honest I wasn’t floored with this place but so many people come here to get their wedding photos done. The basalt columns are fantastic I’d give you that but everything else was just meh compared to the rest of the scenery I’ve seen in Iceland. Still, worth a visit since you’re on the way.

On our way to the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, we drove past this Glacial Lagoon in the distance and decided to drive right up to it, well, because we could. What we discovered was the most amazing sight I have ever seen in my life (I kid you not).

All I can say is the maps showed that I’m somewhere near here. So if you’re driving down the ring road nearing this map pin, keep your eyes peeled and you may find this glacial lagoon that’s not crowded or touristy. There is a slight climb to get to the top, wear proper shoes.

  • Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

This is a very beautiful place and if you have to decide what to see and what to miss, this is a defo must-see. We went for a Glacier Lagoon boat tour which was about 1 hour on the lagoon. The guide was great and there are only a couple of tour groups available. I do need to let you know this is one of the tours you should book way before you arrive in Iceland so you don’t get disappointed when it is full.

Accommodation wise, we stayed at Höfn in a small quaint hotel called Hotel Höfn. Great breakfast, great staff, clean and one of the more affordable options.

Day 4 – East Iceland

We set off from Höfn to Egilsstaðir, the largest town in the east of Iceland. This is a chill day. We allocated more time and decided to take a more relaxed drive.

We stayed in this perfect, isolated yet cozy cottage via Airbnb. Bought some groceries before we left and arrived early enough to have a home cooked meal.

Notable sights:

  • Lagarfljót river, where the Iceland Lochness is rumoured to be.

  • Seyðisfjörðura 25-minute drive one way along the road no. 93 from Egilsstaðir. This is also the town where the Icelandic tv show Trapped was filmed. We visited this town the next day for lunch on our way out.

Day 5 – Northeast Iceland 

We set off towards Lake Myvatn and lodged in Fosshotel Myvatn. I absolutely love this chain of hotels! The decor, and also that it is affordable. You may also want to consider the Vogafjos Farm Resort

Notable sights:

  • Jardbodin, geothermal spa also known as Myvatn Nature Baths

  • Vogafjos Cowshed Cafe. The literally have a cow shed behind the restaurant. You can actually go up to them and feed them grass then proceed in the restaurant to order a cheeseburger.

Day 6 – Whale Watching in Husavik

Whale watching! There were a few companies but we decided to go with North Sailing as they are eco-friendly. However, I do have to warn you if this is your first whale watching experience.

This is what’s promoted on the brochures:

This is the reality:

What to expect when going whale watching in Husavik, Iceland:

  • Not seeing plenty of whales. We only caught maybe 3 or 4 in the whole 3 hours.
  • We only catch them every 10 to 15 mins when they resurface from their dive to breathe. It could be more as they can dive up to 2 hours long for some whales.
  • I’ve done my research and there really isn’t the ‘best time’ to go whale watching so as to see as many as possible. These are wild creatures who are not trained to come or go at command. The noises from the boats also probably annoy the hell out of them and they would likely go as far away as possible. If you want to properly name the activity, I think it should be “Whale Catching instead of Watching.
  • Adjust your expectations and you will have a great time. I’m sure some people are lucky enough to see them close up but I didn’t and that’s probably normal.

Truth is, these whales are magnificent far or near and I’m just humbled being in their presence anyway. There are also dolphins who, on the contrary, swim towards the boats. Think of them as the less serious and fun cousin of the whales.

Also, check out the whale museum while you’re there!

We spent a night here at Fosshotel Husavik which was super close to the Whale Museum and Whale watching offices. Again, I highly recommend this hotel chain.

There is also another spot for whale watching at Akureyri and you may want to stay there instead of Husavik. It’s a much bigger town with more to see and do.

Day 7 – Blue Lagoon

We completely skipped the west of Iceland because at this point we’re all natured out. This is why I suggest 8 t0 10 days instead of a week as Westjfords’ a pretty spectacular place to visit as well.

We decided to give the famed Blue Lagoon a chance and this is our last stop. The drive from Husavik to the Blue Lagoon is an intense 6.5 hours but we would have gone around the entire ring road at this point, passing Reykjavik.

PS: There is a toll that costs 1000 Krona to enter Reykjavik, which is about $13. $13!!!!!! For TOLL! WTF. Only in Iceland.

Our Blue Lagoon Experience in summary:

  • Worth the hype. Would go at least once in a lifetime.
  • Touristy but very organized lines and service was great.
  • Water’s not really blue. Instead, it looks green to me.
  • You have to pre-book your slot.
  • We went to have dinner at 7 pm at LAVA restaurant (food is delicious) and then to the lagoon at 9 pm. We avoided the crowds this way as most people soak before dinner. As long as you go into the Lagoon during a non-peak period, early morning or late at night, you will be fine. As it’s 24/7 daylight, the place closes at 12:00 am during the summer. If you can go at 11 pm, THAT WOULD BE AWESOME. You will beat the crowd for sure.
  • We paid for the premium package which included slippers, bathrobe, both the Silica and algae mask. Highly recommend getting this package if not the comfort package is okay as well, but I’d recommend bringing slippers and a big towel if you do.
  • Toilets are clean and showers have curtains. Hairdryers, mirrors, q-tips and cotton wool provided as well so don’t worry about your makeup.
  • Many people said the Geothermal Bath at Myvatn is better. I do not agree.

Places I didn’t visit but wish I had time to:

Iceland Travel Tips:

  • Bring a waterproof, windproof jacket/coat even in the summer.
  • Bring a poncho or raincoat. If your coat has a hoodie, that is perfect.
  • It can get expensive eating/travelling around Iceland. Think S$10 for a cup of coffee and $70 for a main course of beef or lamb in a restaurant. If budget is an issue, book an Airbnb or apartment that allows you to cook your own meals. Do lots of supermarket runs and you’ll be fine.
  • Have a spare roll of toilet paper or wet wipes in the car. You never know when you need to go during your long drive. Heck, pack snacks and water too.
  • Bring charging leads and charge your cameras and equipment in the car to keep them going all day long. Or bring spare batteries.
  • Wear appropriate shoes. Think trekking/climbing shoes and no your Dc Martens are not them.
  • This is the most important: GET A PROPER 4 WHEEL DRIVE WITH GOOD GROUND CLEARANCE. If you can afford to, get the full insurance. The roads go from tarmac to gravel to stones to potholes and back to tarmac again as any point in your drive around the ring road. The car rental companies check under the car with a mirror. Steve never takes out the full insurance but he says that this would be the only scenario he would in his entire life. HEED!

That’s all for the 7 days we spent in Iceland around the ring road. Nothing is perfect and that’s the best thing about travelling and especially road trips. You’ll discover places you never think you would and spend time at some more than others. Just enjoy the trip and go with an open mind and positive spirit. 🙂

Despite this super long post, I’m sure I missed something out. Comment below or email me if you have any questions! I’d be happy to help!

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