The Great 8 of Iceland
Max & Josefine
Read more: Exploring Iceland in a VW Camper – Day 5
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Editors note: For those who have a hard time reading the text or use readers, here is the text without background:
Góðan dag fellow backpackers and camping enthusiasts!
As our journey around Iceland has come to an end we would like to share our best experiences and moments with you!
To make things a bit more interesting though let‘s spice up the usual „travel journal manner“ and try a slightly different approach which will hopefully not only be entertaining – but also useful when planning your very own trip.
Iceland has a lot to offer.
Among astonishing untouched landscapes, fierce waterfalls, white mountains and green valleys, hundreds of hot pots and a bazillion sheep (yes, we counted) one might loose track of what is actually worth seeing and what is not.
Don‘t get me wrong, no matter where you look around this beautiful island you will never be disappointed by what you see – but since not everyone has the same amount of time on their hands as we did, you might want to be more selective when it comes to planning ahead.
Now before getting into our TOP 8 things to do and spots to see around Iceland let me put a little disclaimer:
This ranking is highly subjective and might differ from what other people have experienced and feel is worth seeing.
We tried to list things that might not be found on popular tourist destination lists, to give you some insight into our trip.
All the photos you will see here are made by us, so is the video we made about our trip – which you should check out!
Now stay tuned for the upcoming ranking, you might be surprised!
8. Visit Snæfellsjökull
The Snæfellsjökull national park is the newest of the four national parks of Iceland and also the most western one.
While there are many things to see in this area, we want to highlight two attractions in particular.
Let‘s start with something basic that we can all agree on:
Game of Thrones is awesome, and so is this cone shaped mountain „Kirkjufell“ which had its star appearance in the last season.
Located about 200km from Reykjavik you won‘t have any difficulties getting there, especially considering its close proximity to the ring road which offers parking in a small car park beside it.
In addition you will see a cute little waterfall right next to it, making it easy to get that stunning panoramic shot everyone loves!
Hint for drone owners: This location seems really inviting for a couple aerial shots, but beware that taking pictures of most spots in Iceland is generally forbidden, since many attractions are either privately owned or located in national parks, as is this one.
Although I saw a couple of people stopping a bit ahead of the Kirkjufell parking ground and flying their drone from there to avoid any trouble (but again, not allowed!).
If this spot isn‘t already a stop in your journey around Iceland make sure it will become one!
In the same national park, you will be able to find an incredible black sand beach known as, Djúpalónssandur.
The great thing about this spot is it not being as popular and therefore less crowded than many other beaches around Iceland, making it great for taking pictures, videos or simply enjoying a walk on the beach or on one of the many trails around the cliffs of this area.
Should you feel particularly strong the day you visit Djúpalónssandur make sure to stop at the four lifting stones Fullsterkur (154 kg), Hálfsterkur (100 kg), hálfdrættingur (54 kg) and Amlóði (23 kg).
Back in the days when the bay area was a fishing village, fisherman had to be able to lift Hálfsterkur to hip height to prove they were qualified for the strenuous work of a sailor – good luck!
7. Visit Hot Pots/Pools
This one is a must do for everyone that comes to visit Iceland!
When thinking of a hot geothermal spa the first thing that comes to mind is probably the blue lagoon, a destination that almost everyone stops at due to its reputation and popularity through hundreds of videos and pictures across social media.
However, its far from being a one of a kind thing, since almost every bigger village in Iceland has some type of geothermal pool or spa – only smaller, cheaper, and most importantly less crowded.
One that we liked a lot was located in Hofsós, which had a geothermally heated infinity pool called „Sundlaugin“.
This pool in the stunning environment of Hofsós was a wonderful location to to relax and enjoy an unbeatable view above the fjord it is located next to.
Another great destination we highly recommend to pay a visit is the nature bath in „Mývatn“.
This bath offers the closest experience to the blue lagoon in both design and appearance, with steam saunas, a bar inside the pool and other amenities which can be booked additionally.
Located in the north of Iceland and very close to the Námafjall mud pools, which are also worth a stop, this bath was definitely one of our favorites!
6. Sólheimasandur (Airplane wreck)
Another attraction that’s quite unusual and unique to Iceland are the remains of the American Navy Douglas Super DC-3 airplane that crashed on the beach in 1973 due to the pilot not switching between the fuel tanks in time.
Luckily no one died that day and the wreck can still be inspected by everyone who is keen to walk the 4km from the main road.
Tourists used to be able to access the plane by car until a couple of years ago, when the land owners no longer wanted people driving on their property.
Depending on your health and fitness the track is a 40min-60min walk for one way, so take all the camera equipment you need, pack some snacks and get going, you don’t want to miss this!
Iceland is known as the land of Ice and Fire and so far neither of the two elements were mentioned in this list, but that changes now!
Located close to the Skaftafell national park you will find Iceland’s deepest glacial lake at a maximum depth of 248m – Jökulsárlón.
What makes this lake so special are beautiful blue icebergs floating in the water, breaking from the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier.
Jökulsárlón is definitely a photo motive that your friends and family will envy you for, what really made us put this location in our TOP 8 is something entirely different.
Not only is the lake habitat to dozens of icebergs, but also to a couple of seals!
Make sure to pack your telephoto lens if you happen to have one and try your luck.
You can also book a boat tour with one of the companies right next to the lake, if you are interested in that.
Pro tip: Before entering the car park you will see a small food truck called „Heimahumar“ that sells beverages, hot dogs and also lobster rolls.
If you want to try lobster for relatively low costs you should check it out, you wont be disappointed!
4.Visit Langjökull on a snowmobile
If you liked the frosty environment of Jökulsárlón then you will love our 4th place even more – the Langjökull glacier.
This 50km long piece of ice is Iceland’s second largest glacier and it is located roughly 150km from Reykjavik.
For an even better experience of the glacier and an unbeatable view from the very top we highly recommend to take part in one of the snowmobile tours offered by various websites.
Depending on what vehicle you rent there are different ways of getting to the glacier itself.
For those who went for a 4×4 all wheel drive car you won’t have any trouble getting to the stations from where your tour starts, since access to the glacier is only possible via a F-type road.
But worry not!
All of these tours have a couple of pick up points around Reykjavik from where you will start your journey in one of the company off-road trucks that easily fit around 10 people, which is also what we did.
So put on your warmest clothes, buckle up and enjoy a stunning experience!
3.Visit Goðafoss & Seljalandsfoss
We made it to our top 3 locations and activities in Iceland, and a ranking without the appearance of a waterfall or two is obviously not going to happen!
While everyone is going crazy over Gullfoss being the most famous waterfall in Iceland or Dettifoss being the 2nd strongest of Europe we want to highlight Goðafoss in particular.
Its horseshoe shape and very deep blue water are really eye-catching and breath taking to watch.
It is one of the northernmost waterfalls in Iceland and in our opinion the prettiest one.
You can stand quite close to the edge and it is not as crowded as most of the more southern ones, due to its remote location. Giving you a unique experience of an Icelandic waterfall.
Other waterfalls are of course also very impressive, and if we would have to decide on our number 2 we would definitely go for Seljalandsfoss.
This waterfall is huge, standing at a height of 66m, with its main stream falling in front of a little cave right behind it, through which you can walk and enjoy a fantastic view.
Due to its close proximity to Reykjavik it will be more crowded than Goðafoss but nonetheless stunning!
Try to catch it during sunset and you will be rewarded with an amazing ambience, intense colors where the sunlight meets the water, and postcard worthy pictures.
See for yourself and decide which one you like more!
2.Westman Islands & Puffins
For our second place we picked both a location and an activity due to these two things being so closely related – and that’s visiting the Westman Islands and trying to find yourself some puffins.
This small group of Islands with one of them being inhabited by around 4000 people is pure eye candy.
A ferry ride of roughly 35 minutes will take you from Landeyjahöfn to the small Island, and you can also take your car!
What really made this spot so special for us is the nice environment and scenery in which the town is located.
For a town that small there are lots of things to do as well: pay Eldheimar a visit, a museum containing the remains of a destroyed home from 1973 when the volcano Eldfell erupted and buried large parts of the city beneath a stream of lava. The museum gives you a great amount of information on this particular event and also presents everything in a unique and interesting manner using lots of multimedia equipment.
Another thing that we really enjoyed was the big pool installation of Westmann Island. It is located in the local sports area, which for an island that small is impressively big!
If you happen to work out on a regular basis you will also find a well equipped gym within the same building the pool is located in – a rare find in Iceland!
Yet, what we enjoyed the most was visiting the aquarium, which should be your first destination for meeting and learning about puffins.
We went there during mid September, but the nesting season, which is usually extending from March to the end of August, should have been over by then.
Luck was on our side and we had the fortune of seeing a couple of chicks being picked up by locals for releasing them back into the wild.
As the chicks hatch in the hills their first instinct is to fly into the ocean, which sometimes goes wrong due to the distracting town lights by night, making them land on the streets.
The people of Vestmannaeyjar then find them, pick them up and release them the next morning, which is what we were able try ourselves thanks to a local asking us to join them for releasing the chicks.
So don’t hesitate to visit the Westman Islands yourself and book your place on the ferry as soon as possible!
1. Traveling in your own camper
Waterfalls, glaciers, hot pots and all the other attractions mentioned in our ranking are wonderful places to be – but obviously only if you are able to get there in the first place.
Traveling through Iceland in our very own camper van made the journey possible to begin with, in the purest way you can imagine.
Bus tours and staying in hotels may offer more comfort, but the experience we got from driving ourselves, planning our own trip, cooking outside and sleeping in our own cozy bed is unmatched by any other form of traveling.
By getting your own car you will be the one in charge, you can decide what your next destination will be and you can stay there as long as you feel like.
Choosing a camper van as your home for a week will help you escape the hectic and stressful daily routine you might have and calm you down due to the minimalistic environment it provides.
Although it comes with a mobile wifi device we recommend to use it sparingly.
Quitting social media for a couple of days will help decelerate your life and make you focus more on what really matters – enjoying the nature and atmosphere that Iceland provides.
Coming home after a long day of hiking, having a good meal and reading a book afterwards provides the best detox and gives the perfect environment for a trip such as this one.
All these things made this our undoubted first place, and if you do only one thing from this list make sure that it is this one!
Congratulations, if you are reading this you just made it through our list and are ready to plan your very own Iceland trip!
In case you are not convinced that Iceland is one of earths most beautiful places by now make sure to check out our Iceland 2017 video, where you will find a better visualization of our favorite locations than through pictures only.
So what are you waiting for, watch the video, book your flight, get yourself a camper van and experience the land of Ice and Fire yourself!
Cheers, Max & Josefine.