Hit the road in Iceland

Day 1:

Pick up the camper van and hit the road! You are going to want to stop and pick up some groceries somewhere. We liked Bónus and Netto the most for their cheaper prices.

Hint: Pick up some Icelandic Skýr (it’s like yogurt) and some delicious Icelandic butter (smjör).

First stop: Reykjadalur Valley

It’ll take you around 45 minutes to hike to the beautiful geothermal river in this valley. On the way you will see sweeping views of the valley, boiling hot pots, and even a waterfall! Bring a travel towel and your swimsuit because once you make it to the river you’re getting in! What better way to start you trip in Iceland than bathing in a geothermal river running through a beautiful valley!

Reykjadalur Valley

Second stop: Gullfoss & Geysir

After drying off and heading back to your camper, hit the road and drive to Gullfoss, a beautiful waterfall. From here you will drive to Geysir, right down the road, to see the power of geothermal activity!

Campsite for the night: Skjól Campground

Skjól Campground

Day 2:

You’re going to want to wake up bright and early to start hitting the Golden Circle before the tour buses arrive! We woke up around 4:40 am and made the hour and twenty minute drive to Seljalandsfoss.

Bonus tips: Bring a backpacking drip coffee maker like ours below to stop and make coffee anywhere you go! Also, bring a long a cord to hang in the back of your van for hanging up wet swimsuits and towels!

First Stop: The Golden Circle

First make your way to Seljalandsfoss. We got there nice and early and there were just a couple of other people there. You can take a path behind this waterfall for a spectacular view, but wear your rain gear because it is very misty!

Next, continue on the ring road to Seljavallalaug and take a dip in the geothermally heated swimming pool built in the 1920’s in a picturesque valley. From here, return to the Ring road and continue on to Skógafoss!

Skógafoss Falls

Make sure you hike up to the top for some great views as well! Getting back on the ring road, you will come to Sólheimajökull, a spot with great views of a glacier tongue. After snapping some photos of the glacier, we jumped in the van, put up the window coverings, and took a nice long nap (the beauty of a hotel on wheels!). Next, on to Reynisfjara, the black sand beach. Make sure you pay attention to posted signs and keep back from the waves here, sneaker waves can catch people unaware and several tourists have died at this beach. Drive to Vik next and check out the old church, it gives some great views of the area. Lastly, we checked out the promontory of Hjörleifshöfði. Many people skip this, but it might have been one of our favorite stops on the whole trip! You take a road out to this that drives along the black sand beach. After parking you can take a stunning hike up to the top of the promontory, where the second Viking settler on Iceland is buried. This is a must do hike!

Hjörleifshöfði

Campsite for the night: Kirkjubær II

Day 3: Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, Skaftafell, & Jökulsárlón

First stop: Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Make sure to get to this stunning canyon nice and early to beat the crowds. There is a nice path that leads along the canyon and allows for some breathtaking views. We got lucky and saw a sheep roundup occurring along the road on the way there. We stopped and petted some sheep and watched the sorting of the sheep!

Sheep roundup Iceland

Second stop: Skaftafell National Park

After taking in the views of Fjaðrárgljúfur, head back to the Ring road and continue on to Skaftafell National Park. Here you can hike up to Svartifoss, a beautiful waterfall framed with a backdrop of moody black basalt columns. Take the longer path back and hike up to the lookout point in order to get a fantastic view of Vatnajökull, the massive glacier. You will also pass the turf roofed farmhouse, Sel, on this 5.3 km hiking path.

Svartifoss Falls

Third stop: Fjallsárlón, Jökulsárlón, & Diamond Beach

Continuing on the Ring road brings you to the famed glacier lagoons. Don’t hesitate to also stop at the smaller Fjallsárlón before continuing on to the larger Jökulsárlón. After taking in the gorgeous blue icebergs floating in the lagoon, continue just down the road to the beach where the icebergs make their way out into the ocean.

Campsite for the night: Höfn

Day 4: Stokksnes, East Fjords & Seyðisfjörður

First stop: Stokksnes

First stop of the day is Stokksnes. For a small fee, this farmer lets people come out and take photos of the stunning Vestrahorn mountain. There is also a small Viking village replica here nestled at the foot of the mountain that really lends to the imagination. After this it’s a big driving day, most of the day is spent weaving in and out of the breathtaking East Fjords. Stop at any of the many pull of points and snap some pictures and enjoy the views!

Stokknes

Second stop: Seyðisfjörður

This picturesque little fjord side town is a must stop in the East Fjords. The amazing drive through the mountains down into this valley is a beautiful one, and once you arrive in the town you’re greeted by eclectic, colorful buildings by the fjord. After stopping here, we continued on to Egilsstaðir to stock up on gas and groceries and then continued on to a remote campsite, Grimsstaðir, so we could get to Dettifoss before the crowds the next day.

Seyðisfjörður

Campsite for the night: Grimsstaðir

Day 5: Dettifoss, Hljóðaklettar, Krafla, Mývatn Nature Baths

First stop: Dettifoss

Since we drove most of the way to Dettifoss the night before, we were able to get there before the crowds in the morning (hint: This always proved to be the best way to see things and get the best photos!). The most powerful waterfall in Europe did not disappoint! Don’t forget to also hike up to the smaller, neighboring Selfoss as well.

Second stop: Hljóðaklettar

Also known as Echo Rocks, Hljóðaklettar, are amazing rock formations that formed during an eruption showcasing basalt columns that show up horizontally instead vertically like everywhere else. The hike here will not disappoint.

Third stop: Krafla

On the way to Lake Mývatn, you will happen across the geothermal valley, Krafla. The amazing lava fields, blue water filled craters, and bubbling mud pots leave you in awe of the raw power of the Earth. Just prepare for the stinky sulfur smell!

Krafla Valley

Fourth stop: Mývatn Nature Baths

After plenty of hiking, time to head to the Blue Lagoon of the North, Mývatn Nature Baths, for a nice long soak in the geothermally heated waters.

Campsite for the night: Mývatn

Day 6: Grjótagjá, Hverfell, Dimmuborgir & Whale Watching in Húsavik

First stop: Grjótagjá

All Game of Thrones fans recognize this steamy cave where Jon Snow breaks his oath. Bathing in it is no longer allowed, but climbing down in it for some pictures is fun!

Grjótagjá Hot spring

Second stop: Hverfell

This giant crater looks like you’ve arrived on the surface of the moon once you make it to the top. Stroll around the top of this massive crater and take in amazing views of the area.

Third stop: Dimmuborgir

Fabled to be the home of the 13 Yule Lads, Dimmuborgir, is a giant lava field with large lava rock formations creating many caves and crags. One can understand why your mind would run wild with tales of hidden people here!

Fourth stop: Whale Watching in Húsavik

Leaving the Mývatn area (and its pesky gnats) behind, continue up to Húsavik and join a whale watching tour! We booked ours through Gentle Giants. They give you overalls to wear to keep you warm and serve an Icelandic sweet and hot chocolate during the journey. We were rewarded for our freezing toes by seeing two humpback whales!
Campsite for the night: Mánarbakki (this was by far our favorite campsite!)

Húsavik Whale Watching

Day 7: Ásbyrgi, Goðafoss & Akureyri

First stop: Ásbyrgi

We back tracked a bit to make it to Ásbyrgi, but did this so we could use the paved road to there. Hike to the duck pond and definitely make the hike up to the raised section in the middle to give you amazing views of this horseshoe shaped canyon.

Second stop: Goðafoss

Once heading back on the ring road, stop at the historic waterfall, Goðafoss. This waterfall is stunning and you will get great views from every direction.

Third stop: Akureyri

Take some time to stroll through Iceland’s second city. Do some shopping, take some pictures, and maybe even eat an Icelandic hot dog!

Akureyri

Campsite for the night: Varmahlið

Day 8: Glaumbær, Borgavirki & Hvitserkur

First stop: Glaumbær

Glaumbær farmhouse is an excellent example of the turf houses Icelanders used to live in. Here you can go through the house and see examples of furniture and items that the people of the day used. It’s a great stop!

Glaumbær farmhouse

Second stop: Borgavirki

Borgavirki is more off the beaten path, but it is a super cool Viking fortress. Three of the sides are naturally forming basalt columns, while the front was stacked with stones to create the final wall. If you’re Viking obsessed like us, definitely stop!

Third stop: Hvitserkur

Hvitserkur is a rock formation just off the coast in Húnafjörður. It’s a popular nesting area for birds and looks quite dramatic when photographed. A great stop!

Hvítserkur

Also don’t hesitate to stop on your way to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula at Eiriksstaðir, the home of Leifur Eiriksson who discovered the Americas quite a while before Christopher Columbus!

Campsite for the night: Stykkishólmur

Day 9: Snæfellsnes Peninsula

First stop: Helgafell

Helgafell is fabled to be Thor’s mountain and can grant you three wishes if you ascend the 15 minutes up to it without speaking or looking back, then request three wishes while looking to the east and tell no one. It’s an easy climb and a good view, but there is a small fee.

Second stop: Kirkjufell

Stop at the beautiful Kirkufellsfoss to snap the iconic Iceland photo with majestic Kirkjufell in the background.

Kirkjufell & Kirkjufellsfoss

Third stop: Snæfellsjökull National Park

Here you can climb Saxhóll crater, explore the shipwreck on Djúpalónssandur, worship with the elves at Lóndrangar, and even descend into a lava tube!

Fourth stop: Borgarnes Settlement Center

This exhibit is great to teach you more about the settlement of Iceland. The second exhibit goes into detail about Egill’s Saga. It’s a great stop and only takes about an hour.

Campsite for the night: Þingvellir National Park

Day 10: Þingvellir National Park & Reykjavik

First stop: Þingvellir National Park

This first stop is a very important part of Icelandic history and can’t be missed. It also happens to be the spot where two tectonic plates are ripping apart from each other, creating some amazing things to see. Try to come early to avoid the tour buses, it gets crowded quickly!

Þingvellir National Park

Second stop: Reykjavik

We headed into Reykjavik to see the city and do some shopping. Stop of the indoor flea market, Kolaportið, and buy a handmade lopapeysa like I did!

Kolaportið flea market

Campsite for the night: Grindavik

Day 11: Blue Lagoon & Flying Home

Turn in the van that now feels like home and go relax in the soothing blue waters of the Blue Lagoon!

 

Read more: A week to make it: Iceland’s Ring Road in September

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