21 Aug

Our Around the Iceland Trip

Our itinerary is based much on https://www.earthtrekkers.com/two-weeks-in-iceland-itinerary/ (we do longer than 14 days) and the Lonely Planet book on Iceland. 

$: Ensure you have a credit card with chip and PIN code.  Iceland gas stations require a chip card and PIN.  You don’t really need cash.  Credit cards work for us throughout. 

Car rental: Get a 4×4.  We got a Toyota Rav4, which is great for a family of four (ample space and power, plus in-car GPS, which warns us on most city speed camera locations).  Get car wifi (~$7/day) from the car rental company – totally worth it, so you don’t need international data usage, which is more expensive and I bet spottier than car rental’s in-car wifi. We rented through Blue Car Rental, which offers gravel insurance by default, which I recommend as you will surely drive through much gravel roads (the default insurance included for all cars at Blue Car Rental. It’s not the cheapest but is of great value based on online reviews, the quality and availability of features, e.g. you get free booster seats and cars are in great condition. Lotus Rental, slightly more expensive by offering additional insurance protection, is another good option. But unless you are driving off-roads intentionally, no need to take on all types of insurances.)

Hotel and map: I included daily Google maps below. I replace the start and end of each daily map with general location of the city/vicinity.  Of course, we start and end at our daily hotel locations.  We book using Booking.com (almost all Iceland hotels are on Booking.com, which is based in Europe).  I chime in below with some booking advice where it matters as well.

Day 1: We visit Blue Lagoon first before other spots on the peninsula (See G-map) (we didn’t hit Harbarberg Cliff, which takes more time). 

  • Booking the lagoon pool can be done within a month.  If you like to stay at Blue Lagoon, particularly Silica Hotel, which is of great value compared to the Retreat, try booking at least two to three months ahead.  We tried about 1.5-2 month ahead but couldn’t get it.  We ended up staying first night at Reykjavik though, which has a lot of choices.  The Lava restaurant at Blue Lagoon is great (welcoming us as our first, official proper Icelandic meal) – we dined there before hitting Reykjavík.

Day 2Snaefellsnes Peninsula. See G-map.  Following the blog, we visited Glymur waterfall first.  The scenery to the waterfall is beautiful, especially for first time visitors to Iceland on this second day.  So we end up spending quite some time (the morning till noon) on this day segment, but as you can see on the map, there are a lot of spots already for the day.  We didn’t end up visiting all spots.  Highly recommend visiting Stykkisholmur for dinner or at least spend some time in the town (or see the blogger’s recommendation for dinner at Kirkjufellsfoss – though you need to reserve that recommended local restaurant ahead of time, as it was full when we visited, but we ended up having an excellent dinner at Stykkisholmur next to the harbor. See more in our Facebook photos.)

Day 3: West Fjord. See G-map (Skip if you don’t have time, e.g. only 14-day trip). Dynjandi waterfall is fabulous (you can see in some of our Facebook photos).  Of course, if you visit in early or mid July (even better than late July when we visited), you will catch puffins in the westernmost point of Europe at Látrabjarg, which is one-of-a-kind impressive. Puffins rest back at home at night, so if you have one more day to stay nearby, you can walk to the bird cliff at night to enjoy wonderful sights of puffins around the cliffs. Remember that Iceland’s sun doesn’t really set until midnight during the summer, so this is not such a difficult arrangement. (For us, because we will visit Puffin Marina later in our trip, we didn’t opt for staying nearby just for this. We did manage to see puffins at this impressive cliff location ourselves even in late July in the afternoon.)

Day 4: IsafjordurSee Gmap.  (Skip if you already couldn’t visit West Fjord in Day 3, e.g. only 14-day trip).  But if you have time, this is a very beautiful and peaceful lake town surrounded by mountains that is serene and different from the rest of popular Iceland towns. It left an indelible mark in our minds even to this day – how peaceful and memorable the place and setting is. (See some of our Facebook photos.) We also visited the public, free, by-the-road pool at Drangsnes, which is wonderful and another new life experience we don’t get elsewhere yet.

Day 5: Spots between Laugarbakki and Akureyri (which follows the blog).  See G-map.  If you are skipping West Fjord in Day 3 and 4, you won’t get to hit all the spots on this map because you will be driving a long day to hit Akureyri. You can save the Herring Era Musuem to the next day, which we ended up doing even in our itinerary because we spent more time in the morning at the beautiful Isajfordjur.

Day 6: Spots between Akureyri and Myvatn.  See G-map.  We booked whale watching at Hjalteyri, much closer to Akureyri, run by the same company at the famous Husavik town (which the blog suggested) and also faster to watch because it’s shorter distance to see.  Our experience is that you could monitor the weather two days before deciding if you like to go watch as weather changes so much and even though we made it, kids didn’t quite enjoy rainy, windy whale watching experience.

Day 7: Myvatn. See G-map.  Our hotel recommends us to visit and take Myvatn Nature Baths after dinner.  So we actually went back to the hotel for dinner and then headed out for Nature Baths, which worked out great for a relaxing night of sound sleep.

Day 8: Puffin MarinaSee G-map where you get to see puffins closest to you at Iceland (though the southern island, Vestmannaeyjar, which we didn’t visit, has most puffin population and we heard good things about that experience as well).  We didn’t end up completing all spots in Day 7, so in our Day 8, we visit those leftover from Day 7 as well.

  • Booking a stay at Egilsstadir is difficult.  From Egilsstaadir on for the next few days before hitting Selfoss, hotel booking situation is bad during popular summer reason.  So book at least two-three months ahead to reserve where you like.  We were lucky to book a good one still with 1.5 month time ahead but not on first try (and requires daily re-checking on Booking.com)
  • There is an excellent restaurant Blabjorg at the town of Puffin Marina. Book in advance. https://blabjorg.is/restaurant/. You could also stay here. It’s a beautiful town that we can see locals and tourists spend weekends here.

Day 9: Between Egilsstadir and Hofn. See G-map.  You can stay at Hofn, which we didn’t as we couldn’t find a hotel we like 1.5 month ahead, including the few recommended by the blog.  We ended up driving another hour to stay at Glacier Lagoon (there is really only one hotel here, Fosshotel Glacier Hotel), which is a great hotel and easier for next day itinerary, so we didn’t lose much time overall.  But staying at Hofn is easier on driving, if like us, you like to spend more time at Egilsstadir (visiting the cute town and the national forest, which the blog didn’t talk about) before hitting Hofn.  Vestrahorn is beautiful – you can easily spend two hours here.

Day 10: Glacier LagoonSee G-map.  Book a boat tour (see our Facebook post).  The one we booked took us deeper into the lake to see more. It’s another unique life experience. If you stay at Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon like we did, its restaurant is good (reservation recommended as it gets busy at night) and remember to reserve its cozy outdoor hot pool ahead of time. We stayed two nights, so we were able to reserve for the next night easily.  If you reserve the night-of when checking in, chances are it’s booked already.

Day 11: GlacierSee G-map.  Depending on your group, if your youngest is at least 8 years old at that time, you can join quite a few tours for walking on the biggest glacier in Europe, Vatnajokull glacier. We arranged a private tour so our 6 year old daughter can join with a custom pace.  It’s a wonderful, new life experience. 

  • Stay at Vik if you can find a hotel (two/three months ahead should work).  We ended up staying at Hella, farther away.

Day 12: Spots around Vik and south IcelandSee G-map

  • Stay at Vik works better instead of where we end up at Hella.

Day 13: Golden Circle: See G-map. We didn’t follow the blog as we aren’t up for long hiking for most of the day (also the weather wasn’t great).  We ended up visiting most Golden Circle spots first.  We couldn’t visit Bruarfoss waterfall because of weather and time (also Sigoldugljufu the next day and the river on the way to Kerlingarfjoll show us the comparably blue experience).  We did pass by Secret Lagoon, the oldest public pool at Iceland, but didn’t bath in there because of time (also by now we bathed in quite a few places 😉

  • We stay at Selfoss, different from the blog’s suggestion. Selfoss is a great town, has many dining and hotel choices (including supermarkets, stores and Bobby Fischer center)

Day 14: LandmannalaugarSee G-map.  It’s a paradise up in the Iceland highland.  Spectacular visit. Having a 4×4 is a must; yes, we drove a very short bit of a creek on the way – it’s absolutely safe and ultimately just fun life experience.  You can see our photos on Facebook.  We didn’t visit Haifoss at the end because of the amount of time we spent in Landmannalaugar.

Day 15: KerlingafjollSee G-map. See also our Facebook photos.  Another unique and marvelous spot at Iceland. You really get to appreciate yet again why this is the land of ice and fire. The blog didn’t include this in its 14-day trip itinerary but mention it at the end if you have time. We love it; we also have a bit more time.  If you are doing 14-day trip, by skipping the two days at West Fjords, you could then also substitute more of our Day 16 for this and squeeze in Pingveillir on our Day 13.  This means you get to visit Kerlingafjoll on your second to last day and head for Reykajavik at night. 4×4 is a must with a harder road condition than Landmannalaugar.  I have never had to drive such bumpy road that long, but hey, 4×4 handles all the bumps and holes quite handily, so I learn to appreciate how tough 4×4 tires can take.

Day 16: Last popular spot of Golden Circle, Pingvellir National Park and back to Reykjavík. See G-map. We went to a restaurant that served all kinds of unique Iceland seafood (from smoked puffin, rotten shark, to whale meat).   Some recommend hot dogs and lobster tail soups, which Reykjavik/Iceland is also famous for (some say the best in the world; we just chose more exotic variations this night).

Day 17: More spots of Reykjavik and then airport. See G-map.  We didn’t visit all spots because of time (we ended up visiting the live volcano, which probably isn’t erupting when you visit.  But if it is, definitely go visit if you can hike a bit).  The 101 Street Food is great for lunch – best fish & chips we have anywhere. Lamb soup is must-have. Its beef noodle, chicken noodle, etc also will comfort those missing warm noodles with Iceland touch.

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