For Mike’s birthday I surprised him with a 4 night trip to Iceland. Iceland has always been on my bucket list and it definitely lived up to all my expectations!
We rented a car through Thrifty and drove ourselves around. I highly recommend renting a car (over doing a bus tour), because it gives you the flexibility to see what you want, when you want to … and I’d also planned for us to visit a few lesser known spots that aren’t on the tours.
I planned our itinerary as a combination of the city, the Blue Lagoon and my version of the “Golden Circle” (the Golden Circle is a short loop of sights within a day trip of the city). The highlights include:
1) Valley of Reykjadalur 2) Kerið Crater 3) Seljalandsfoss Waterfall 4) Fridheimar Farm 5) Strokkur Geysir 6) Bruarfoss 7) Blue Lagoon + Silica Hotel 8) Reykjavik City!
To get a visual of some of the things to do and see before you keep reading, you can see our video travel diary (only 3 mins!) below:
Before we jump in, a few things:
- Iceland is expensive, like NYC-expensive. Gas is expensive, renting a car is expensive, food is expensive, drinking is expensive, accommodation is expensive
- But even still, it is an incredible place that is worth the price
- When you land, grab all your alcohol from the duty free store at the airport after customs (tax in Iceland is high). Before your flight back, grab two large bottles of Reyka Vodka to bring back with you, because it is really good
- There is no need to carry cash, EVERYONE accepted credit card
- Iceland is incredibly drivable, I highly recommend renting a car
- I also recommend getting the full suite of rental insurance. Iceland is the country of rocks, ash, sand, lava, fire and ice and you should expect some minor scratches/damage to the vehicle
- Don’t bother with GPS. Buy an Icelandic simcard with Siminn at the 10-11 at the airport and use google maps on your own iPhone
- Iceland’s population is 300,000 and annual visitors amount to 1,200,000! Most of the tourists visit in the Summer. Visit in late Spring or early Fall to maximize hours of sunlight, but minimize the number of tourists
- Iceland gets an insane amount of sunlight in the summer, in June the sun never sets! Iceland in the winter is very different, where you are looking at as little as 5 hours between sunrise and sunset
- Iceland’s temperature doesn’t vary hugely throughout the seasons, with an average of 0°C in winter and 12°C in summer
Valley of Reykjadalur
Get ready for hiking and hot springs. After we landed (7AM), picked up the rental car, we drove an hour to the ‘Valley of Steam’. The hike is only 3 kms, but it was up and down and felt like much longer (still easy, but I imagined it would be easier). It took us about 90 minutes walk to get to the hot spring, 60 minutes to walk back.
Once you reach the hot stream/river, you can change into your bikini behind one of the partitions they have set up along the river, or you can embrace the European way and just get changed along the river (which we did because there were so many people waiting to stand behind the partition).
The water was deliciously warm and after about 30 minutes we were done and made our way back to our car.
Our next stop was a famous volcanic crater, which was the only sight we saw that required a payment to see it (I think about $4) and you can pay by credit card (no need for cash in Iceland!). It is really easy to get to and quick to walk around and walk into.
Seljalandsfoss is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland and what makes it so awesome is that you can walk in the cave behind it.
After Seljalandsfoss, we drove to the Reykholt area to our awesome airbnb, which was a room at a farm house (which I highly recommend, linked here) with the most fabulous host.
Go to the Efsti Dalur farm (a family-run farm) for dinner for local and tasty food.
Lunch at Fridheimar Farm
Fridheimar Farm is a greenhouse that grows tomato and cucumbers, and serves lunch in the greenhouse. We opted for the all you can eat tomato soup buffet with delicious house-baked breads and the tomato ice cream (which was AMAZING). They also make bloody marys and other delicious cocktails from their tomatoes. After lunch you can walk through the greenhouse and learn all about it. It was pretty awesome.
Stop along the way to pet some of the horses on the farm roads!
Strokkur is a famous geyser/geysir that erupts every 8-10 minutes, with water erupting 15-40 meters in the air.
Bruarfoss is a hidden gem! It is a stunning waterfall that occurred as a result of a crack in the earth. It was incredibly hard to find and we wasted over an hour until we figured out how to get there.
Click here for my post on the epic Blue Lagoon and Silica Hotel.
Day Four: Explore Reykjavik City
Take a Nordurflug Helicopter Ride over Reykjavik
Eat the World’s Best Hotdog from Islendigar Borda SS Pylsur
See a Comedy Show at Harpa Concert Hall
Go to the top of the Hallgrimskirkja Church
Start at Hrim and explore the cute Laugavegur pedestrian street
Eat & Drink
Caffeinate at Reykjavik Roasters
Drinks at Kex Hotel (has that Ace Hotel vibe)
Dinner at Snaps
Also check out Mikkeller & Friends and the unnamed bar/pizza place below it.
I cannot wait to go back. Next time I plan on driving around the entire country (the ‘ring road’).