Iceland travel series: 2 week itinerary
My friend, Mattie, and I went to Iceland in June of 2016 when it was not yet the travel destination for all millennials. I remember telling people we were going to Iceland and the typical response would be “why?” I am so happy it has become a more common travel destination because I think the country has so much to offer with its natural beauty and picturesque scenes.
We started by landing in Reykjavik, driving along the Golden Circle, exploring the Ring Road (wraps around the entire country), then enjoying some of the city life back in Reykjavik. I am by no means an expert in the county, but we did explore almost every tourist attraction the country has to offer and then some.
RentING a Car
When renting a car we found the cheapest 4x4 was a manual Suzuki Jimny. With all the different terrain you’ll be covering, you absolutely need a 4x4. This car worked very well for the two us after we laid down the backseats. We didn’t have extra room, but were able to fit everything comfortably.
This camping card is proof to the influx of travel in the country, but I still believe it is the best and cheapest option for a longer itinerary. When we went, we paid $60 for this card and now it comes out to about $180. It is valid for 28 nights and 2 adults at any of the designated campsites outlined on the website with no reservation required. We were able to determine our campsite the day of, or even night of, depending on how far we wanted to drive that day. It is an option to find hotels'/hostels along the way, but it will be much more expensive and I would highly recommend reserving them in advanced because they can be sparce in some areas and completely booked in others. Going the hotel/hostel route also means a planned itinerary with not a lot of flexibility.
We bought a number of things before going and rented a few so we didn’t have to pay for overweight bags. All of these items listed below are needed/wanted for camping and can be rented through a local company. I would highly recommend at least renting the tent, chairs, and ice chest because these are incredibly hard to pack. We used Iceland Camping Equipment Rental who I would highly recommend because they allowed an anytime pick-up and were very easy to work with.
Ice chest - used to store food in the car when going to grocery stores
Gas Can - do not get stranded without gas
Portable wifi router - picked this up at the airport and was crucial for the long car ride days and planning things last minute when we did not have cell service
Sleeping bag and pad
Inflatable pillow and eye mask
Car chargers - This will be your main form of charging your phone/GPS/anything electronic
I personally have the Big Agnes Sleeping system for my sleeping bag and pad, which I adore! When going in June, we had all different types of weather from almost too warm, to snuggling weather. I would have at least a 30 F rated bag when going in the summer.
Hit the highlights on the Golden Circle
The Golden Circle extends from Reykjavik and loops back around allowing tourists to see parts of Iceland on shorter trips. There are many guided tours through here, so expect some crowds, but here is what I feel is worth stopping at before hitting the Ring Road.
Þingvellir - National Park with some gorgeous scenery. This was our first stop where we did some hiking and exploring.
Silfra Snorkeling - Snorkeling between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, the glacier water has been filtered through porous rock and is extremely clear. The water hovers at about 33-34 F, so needless to say it is VERY cold even with a dry suit on. Very cool (no pun intended) experience but maybe not for everyone.
Geysir Geothermal Area - Geysir’s erupting for a natural spectacular showcase. Keep an eye out, they’ll surprise you.
Gullfoss Falls - One of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland.
Secret Lagoon in Fludir - I loved this geothermal pool in the middle of nowhere.
Follow Iceland’s Ring Road
Iceland has a road that wraps around the entire country that we followed for about a week. I loved stopping whenever we wanted to because there was a pretty sight or hiking a random mountain because we had been in the car too long. There is so much to see along this route, but I definitely have my favorites. The typical route is to start in Reykjavik and head East from there, following Route 1 and making detours along the way. Starting with the Golden Circle gets you started in the right direction for the duration of the trip.
Reykjadalur - This is about a two mile hike to a geothermal river in the beautiful countryside of Iceland. Stop at this at the end of the Golden Circle.
Glacier Hike - An absolute must for anyone going to Iceland. An unreal experience to hike on a glacier and taste water that has been frozen for thousands of years. We did a half day hike which seemed to be the perfect amount of time.
Hoffell Hot Tubs - Drive about an hour and a half after your glacier hike to these undiscovered geothermal hot tubs. These tubs are not wildly known like most of the other hot springs, so make sure to stop by and soak in the tubs with sweeping mountain views.
Mývatn Nature Baths - this is a smaller, cheaper, natural version of the blue lagoon in Reykjavik. Book some spa time here if you’re into that.
Explore Akureyri - Cute little town in the northern part of Iceland. Less touristy version of Reykjavik.
White Water Rafting through a glacial river- Incredible and different way to see the country rafting down The East Glacial River Gorge, not to mention some cliff jumping and amazing homemade waffles.
Spend a few days in Reykjavik
After lots of driving and adventuring, spend a few days relaxing and being a tourist in Reykjavik. Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland that holds more than half the population of the country. Spend some time going to local restaurants and walking around to take in the culture and atmosphere. I don’t think this city needs more than a couple days to explore. We stayed in the KEX hostel, which was fun and vibrant.
Read What I Wish I Wish I Knew before traveling to Iceland if you’re heading there!