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Iceland - A Must See

Traveled to Iceland for 9 days May 2019 and it is the most amazing places. Below is a breakdown of our itinerary, feel free to use it. I'd be happy to answer any questions I can. 

  1. General Items
    1. Take the dirt roads as often as possible. Leads you to unknown places. 
    2. Our rental included a GPS which had a feature to search for nearby things to see. We utilized this whenever possible and I encourage you to do the same. There are endless things to see in Iceland and this list is really just the highlights. 
    3. We completed our trip in 9 days. I would recommend adding at least 1 day and up to 3 more to complete some additional sightseeing. 
    4. Most days consisted of driving 2 hours and 30mins to 3 hours and 30 mins but it took us about 12 hours from start to end due to stopping and seeing everything. Also speed is 90 kmh around most of the island which is ~55 mph. I drove 100 kmh which is just over 60pmh.  
    5. We traveled between the dates of May 13th and May 21st. This is in between their winter and summer tourist season and there are slightly less tourists. May 15th is when a lot of summer hours start to kick in. By June 1st summer hours are in full effect from what we saw. Keep this in mind if camping since not all campsites are open all year round. 
    6. Weather during this time. The west and southern coasts were cloudy with some drizzle all the days we were there. The east and north coasts were warmer and sunny. 
    7. Do not expect to see night if you travel in the summer. We stayed up until first light one night and it was light out the whole night. It was similar to what 7:30pm in May on the east coast is like in the US for comparison. 
    8. No need to tip anywhere. Restaurants, taxis, guiding services. We tipped our diving guide but it was not expected. 
    9. At restaurants you have to ask for the check. The wait staff will never just bring you the check. 
    10. Food and restaurant prices are on par with that in a big city like NYC or San Francisco. ~75 dinner for 2. 
    11. There are great little bakeries in every town, check them out! 
    12. Pizza is surprisingly good with different toppings. Smoked fishes and lots of veggies
    13. Ice Cream! Very good as well.
    14. We had cell service for the majority of our trip. 
    15. We traveled on Delta and had Comfort Plus seating on the way there, was a free upgrade, but would purchase this since we hit the ground running when we got there. 
  2. Camper 
    1. We used CampEasy https://www.campeasy.com/
    2. We originally booked the Easy Auto and were upgraded to the Easy Clever 4x4. The only difference being the Easy Clever 4x4 is F road capable. This wasn't necessary but nice on some of the back roads. 
    3. Driving was easy, rules very similar to the USA, driving on the same side of the road. 
    4. NO right on red! Anywhere! 
    5. Inner loop on traffic circles has right away. 
    6. Make sure your credit card has a PIN in order to get fuel. Most gas stations are unattended and open 24 hrs. 
    7. Check road conditions and closures at this site. https://safetravel.is
  3. Reykjavik
    1. ROX - https://www.rokrestaurant.is/
    2. MEAT – we didn’t get a chance to eat there but it looked really good. https://www.rvkmeat.is/
    3. VOX at the Hilton hotel 
    4. Braud and Co. – Awesome little bakery.  - https://braudogco.is/en/
    5. Microbar - Seemed to have all of the craft breweries and distilleries from Iceland. 
    6. Any Hot Dog stands.
    1. Prelan
    2. Saga 
    1. Restaurants 
    2. Museums 
    3. If you are driving, there is free parking by the church which is a central location to anything you’d walk to. 
  4. Day 1 
    1. We spent 4.5 hours at the Blue Lagoon which included a lunch (lunch is additional cost)
    2. They will store your luggage for about 5 dollars a suitcase. 
    3. We would not do the lunch at the Blue Lagoon restaurant again, the food was good but not much of a selection and there is better food in Reykjavik. They have a cafe with sandwiches which we would do next time. Food is extra. 
    4. We choose the premium package but is not necessary. 
    5. This was a very good way to relax after the flight. 
    1. When entering in our information into the bus drop off we selected the closest one to the AirBnB. If you are staying at a hotel they will most likely be able to drop you off at the hotel.
    1. Arrived at the KEF airport and took a bus to the Blue Lagoon. The bus was scheduled when we booked our Blue Lagoon trip. 
    2. Took bus from Blue Lagoon to our AirBnB.
    3. Walked around Reykjavik. Everything is pretty close. If you are near the large church you can walk to many restaurants and sites within 15-20 mins. A lot of little shops and restaurants in this area. 
  5. Day 2 
    1. We used CampEasy
    1. We camped just outside of Hvolsvollur 
    1. Make sure you walk up to the Glufragoss waterfall past Seljalandsfoss. One of our favorites.
    1. Haifoss
    2. Seljalandsfoss and Glurfragoss  
    1. Our campervan company picked us up from the AirBnb.
    2. We traveled from Reykjavik to Haifoss (2 hours 15 mins)
    3. Haifoss to Hvolsvollur (1 hour 52 mins) 
    4. We had extra time this day and drove past our camping site to Seljalandsfoss but you would normally pass this the next day. (40 mins round trip) 
    5. Highlights
  6. Day 3
    1. Good beer and burgers. 
    1. Seljalandsfoss and Glurfragoss - If you don’t stop and see this the previous day 
    2. Skogafoss – Walk to the top and beyond as far as you want
    3. Sólheimajökull – First glacier to get up close to. 
      1. They do glacier hikes from here, they depart at 9am. Seemed less crowded than other locations. 
    4. Solheimassandur Plane Wreck
    5. Dyrholaey – Puffins in May, lots of sea birds. 
    6. Lava fields between Vik and Skaftafell
    7. Massive glaciers in the distance as you near the Skaftafell Park
    1. Hvolsvollur to Skaftafell National Park (2 hours 51 mins) 
    2. There are a number of stops between Hvolsvollur and Vik. After Vik there aren’t a lot of places that you need to get out to see stuff but mostly pulling over the car and looking at the landscape. Vik to Skaftafell was one of the coolest parts of the drive. 
    3. Ate dinner in Vik at Smiojan Brugghus
    4. Highlights
  7. Day 4
    1. This was one of the longest days driving and we would split this into 2 days if we did this again. We would have driven from Skaftafell to Hofn. Then Hofn to Reyðarfjörður. 
      1. Hofn looked like a cool fishing town with some good restaurants and things to see. We drove through it near 11pm. 
    1. Hiking in the Skaftafell Park
    2. Lagoons of Jokulsarlon – Pull off the road where you see other cars on the left. Over the banks is an amazing sight to see.
    3. Diamond Beach
      1. After Diamond Beach watch out for Caribou. 
    4. The landscape between Hofn and Reyðarfjörður is very interesting. You are driving on the coast, very windy roads. 
    1. Skaftafell to Reyðarfjörður (4 hours and 43 mins)
    2. Day 4 started with some hiking in the Skaftafell park. Highly recommend this. We could of also spent a second day in this park as there was cool stuff to see here. 
    3. Highlights
  8. Day 5 
    1. After leaving Reyðarfjörður most of the sights are scenery to take in and the changing landscape. 
    2. Stop at Dettifoss, specifically the West side, which has much better views of the falls. 
    3. Krafla 
    4. Hverir 
    5. Grjótagjá Cave
    6. Hverfjall
    7. Myvatn Nature Baths – Another man-made lagoon but was relaxing and they are open until midnight in the summer. We relaxed here and went back to the campsite. 
    1. Reyðarfjörður to Lake Myvatn (2 hours and 38 mins) 
    2. Highlights
  9. Day 6 
    1. Goðafoss
    2. Akureyri – Larger city in the north, former capital. Good food and drinks here. 
    3. Hvitserkur 
    4. Must have dinner at Geitafell, it is 35 mins north of the Hvammstangi. Highly highly recommend the seafood soup. 
    1. Lake Myvatn to Hvammstangi (3 hours and 32 mins) 
    2. Highlights
  10. Optional day trip. 
    1. If you have the time you can go from Hvammstangi to Snæfellsjökull National Park ( 3 hours)
    2. Snæfellsjökull is where Jules Verne got inspiration for “Journey to the Center of the Earth”
    3. We did not have the extra day to make it out there but it looks like a cool place to see. If we go back to Iceland during the summer we’ll go here and then the Westfjords Region. 
    4. It would be 2 hours and 49 mins to Thingvellir National Park. 
  11. Day 7 
    1. Thingvellir National Park
      1. There is a bit of hiking you can do here and fishing. 
    2. Geysir
    3. Gullfoss
    4. You are only 45 mins from Reykjavik so getting dinner there is possible, and is what we did. 
    1. Hvammstangi to Thingvellir National Park (2 hours and 36 mins) 
    2. There was not a lot to see during this drive other than the landscape we passed. We occasionally pulled over to take in the landscape or the small towns to get a bite to eat. 
    3. We also took some detours and took the back roads to get to the National Park which offered off the beaten path sights. 
    4. Highlights
  12. Day 8
    1. This last day we free dove Silfra. Highly recommend this. 
    2. Saga Museum
    3. Prelan Museum 
    1. Thingvellir National Park to Reykjavik (About 45 mins) 
    2. Highlights
  13. Day 9
    1. Allow 3 hours (2.5 hours minimum) at the airport if you want to stop at the shops and have some food before your flight. 
    1. Took the bus from the Hilton to the Airport 

Re: Iceland - A Must See

Wow. This looks like an awesome trip.

I'm planning ahead to a trip there next summer, so I have couple questions.

I've been told that gas is expensive - to budget $400 or more for the ring road. Is that what you found?

Did you find it difficult to find hiking paths each day, or did you plan ahead for your hiking? Same with campgrounds and lagoons?

I'm a good planner, but I'm finding it a little overwhelming to plan Iceland becuase there is so MUCH to do!

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Re: Iceland - A Must See

It cost us 300 to do the ring road in fuel. Remember to put a pin on your credit cards before going over, we didn’t and almost had a bad night lol. 

We didn’t find it hard to find hiking areas but it really depends on how many days you’ll be there and what you want to get out of it. We only did 1 hike I would say. There were 3 others we thought of doing but they were either closed or didn’t fit in the time line. You can really see a lot by driving, pulling over and just stare at amazing landscape. We were also there just before the summer and not everything was open that went more inland. 

Lagoons, we went to the two listed. We attempted to find others via the vans gps but found it difficult or access was blocked. 

Campgrounds are everywhere. If you go in summer, past June 1st I think every one is open. 

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Re: Iceland - A Must See

@islandinthemist Comparatively speaking, everything in Iceland is expensive so I would just count on spending more than you anticipate. I rented a vehicle, brought my camping gear, and spent a month exploring the country. I was there from September 15-October 15 2017 which is getting into Iceland’s “off season”.

As of 7/15/19, the average price per gallon in US dollars was $7.22 per gallon. What I found to be the most expensive was food. Budget more for food. A basic burger and fries cost me right around $25 whether I was in Reykjavik or one of their many tiny (and beautiful) towns. The only meal I found to be consistently cheaper was the fish soup that could be found everywhere too.

If you’re used to being on the road and car camping or hiking you shouldn’t have a problem finding the many trails and camping spots. Depending upon the time of year that you’re there, it may be a little more difficult to find an “open” camping spot.

I’m not a big planner so when I arrived in Reykjavik I went to a bookstore and bought two small pocket photo books of Iceland. They were filled with nothing but pictures and the location of each photo. If I liked one, I would mark it on my map. That is basically how I planned my route around the country. I really liked the National Geographic map of Iceland I bought too although I did buy this map prior to leaving for the trip. I don’t remember if I saw it in Iceland although they did have the Lonely Planet guidebook which I bought too and did have some helpful tips for finding food.

 

I would recommend renting a vehicle that is classified as approved for F Roads. Even if you don’t plan on driving any F Roads, most of the roads in Iceland are gravel once you leave the main road and there are numerous river crossings if you start to get into the interior of the country. Also, make sure your vehicle has a full size spare and that you check that it’s fully inflated before you leave the rental shop. There’s a lot of open country once you leave the few big towns.

 

If you’re camping, I found that almost all the communities, no matter how small, had great community pools/bathhouses. For a few dollars you can take a shower or for a few more dollars you can have access to the pools as well. They’re great and they’re everywhere! Some even have washing machines.

 

Hope this helps someone. Iceland is great!

 

Oh, you’ll see a lot of people on forums saying don’t go to the Blue Lagoon because it’s too touristy and overrated....well there’s a reason for this and it’s because it’s beautiful (especially at night)! Have fun!

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Re: Iceland - A Must See

If you're looking to save some money, bring food from home! You can bring in 6.6lbs of food/person into Iceland with some restrictions (I think no meat and cheese... but honestly customs didn't even bother weighing nor looking at what food we brought). I checked a small cooler in a box (no extra fee but even if it costs $25 that's a great savings!) We brought granola bars, nuts/dried berries, PB and Almond butter packets, crackers, and dehydrated foods (most places have a microwave but you will get the weirdest look asking for one!). It was awesome having a base supply of food and saved a lot of money and time. Most hotels had breakfast so we would load up in the morning! 

Iceland is amazing... enjoy the midnight sun!

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Re: Iceland - A Must See

Winter in Iceland is particularly amazing. If interested, you can see my photos from that trip at the following link, and so see for yourself what a wonderful place Iceland is in the winter....

 

 

  https://www.flickr.com/photos/earthshtos-ferrari/albums/72157642631284503

   Vince Ferrari

Vincent Ferrari Photography
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Re: Iceland - A Must See

quick question. I will be in Iceland from 8/14/19 to 8/14/19. Why do I need a PIN on my credit card? I didn't need it when I was in other countries. Please add some details. thanks

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Re: Iceland - A Must See

The go-to place for groceries in Iceland is Bonus. There are stores all over the island. Decent prices (for Iceland!) with everything a visitor might need. 

 

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Re: Iceland - A Must See

@Shahriar 

To pay at the pump, you have to put in your  PIN number when using your credit card. 

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Re: Iceland - A Must See

Thanks Erik. That is something new 🙂

 

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