Buckle up friends because this is going to be a long one, but I promise the pictures are worth it! I can’t believe it’s already been four weeks since we embarked on our one week Iceland adventure. We flew in from Norway to Reykajvik excited and rejuvenated, ready to drive over the whole perimeter of the country in just one week. Our captain pointed out sights as we started our descent, places like Blue Lagoon, small towns, black sand beaches, and volcanoes.
Once we landed we took the shuttle bus to BlueCar rental agency to pick up our home on wheels for the next 8 days. It was a small 4×4 SUV called “the Duster” which Scott claimed could get us anywhere… We loaded up our stuff and headed an hour into town to pick up one of Scott’s childhood friends, Andrew, who made the trip to Iceland to hang out with us for our last week in Europe! Meeting up with familiar people from back home has got to be one of the best things about long term travel.
After we picked up Andrew we headed to a few stores to pick up supplies for the week. In Iceland you have the opportunity to rent camping gear, but you can also buy cheap gear and leave it when you’re done. We went with option two from Rumfatalagerinn. Because it was one week into September a lot of gear was either already sold out or shipped away to storage for the next season. So it left us with barebones, too small for normal humans, lacking proper insulation in freezing temperatures sleeping bags. We also picked up a small tent that we could take turns sleeping in while the others slept in the car. Next stop was Bonus, a cheap grocery store. We learned quickly that Iceland is VERY expensive. On our way to Bonus we thought maybe getting a pizza because we were starving would be a good idea, but to give you and idea of how expensive Iceland is, it would’ve cost us 30USD for a medium two-topping pizza… That idea was quickly banished. The grocery store was much more reasonable. Because we didnt have a cooler or really anything to cook with we decided to get mostly non-perishibles. Bread, peanut butter, and jelly, chips, cookies, apples, bananas, basic things to keep us going for the week. Finally, we were ready to get on our way.
Scott planned this whole itinerary, I’ll try to attach the PDF below, but basically we went through and tried to hit as many spots as we could before settling in a campsite for the night. He curated a list based on research from other bloggers, Instagram, YouTube, and Google Maps. Iceland has great campsites with full facilities to cook, shower, do laundry, and more, for pretty reasonable prices, 5-20USD per person per night. Most of the parks and sights are free and hidden gems are really hidden because the population of Iceland is just over 300,000 (basically two Eugene’s for one whole country!). Oh and did I mention he got a drone for this trip… Andrew was nice enough to bring it all the way from the states and they both obsessively played with it basically the whole trip, lovingly calling it, Droney.
Day 1: 9/2 335 Km. 5 hour 15 min driving. 6 hour 40 minutes adding epic Haifoss waterfall
Thingvellir National Park
▪ Oxararfoss Waterfall
o Bruarfoss Waterfall- Park in Bruarfoss parking lot on map right off ring road hike to falls
o Mild Foss Waterfall- this is along the hike to Bruarfoss
o Haukadalur Valley- Geysir
▪ Geysir is biggest mostly inactive but right next to it is Strokkur erupts every 5 to
o Gullfoss Falls- NO DRONE
o Haifoss Waterafll- definitely a favorite waterfall, rated 4.9 on Google (lived up to the hype)
o Urridafoss Waterfall- right off the highway easy quick park and look
o Seljalandsfoss Waterfall- NO DRONE. Scott and Andrew didn’t see the no drone signs and accidentally sent the drone up. We caught this waterfall right at the Golden Hour and it was spectacular!
▪ Gljufrabui waterfall just a short walk away up a ravine and into a grotto looks
really dope don’t miss this one
o Skogafoss NO DRONE
o Vik- just a town to drive through just push to campsite
o Pakgil- Camp here for the night roughly $15 a person. We debated staying here or Vik and ended up here. The campsite was nice, had a big common area for cooking and staying warm. Scott slept in the tent, which we found to have no rainfly (who makes tents with no rainflys
?!) and Andrew slept in the back of the car and I in the passenger seat. It was absolutely freezing and incredibly uncomfortable, but totally worth it for all the spectacular places we got to see.
We quickly found out how unfulfilling PB&Js are for dinner when its cold and rainy and you just want warm food. So our next destinations we made sure to munch on hot dogs at gas stations for snacks, and make easy warm food for dinner like burritos, pasta, or rice bowls. Hot dogs are some of the cheapest fast food in Iceland and they’re known for them, they are literally everywhere. It’s nothing crazy, a thin hot dog, toasted bun, but what makes it unique is the toppings. A traditional Icelandic hot dog is topped with diced onions, fried onions, and a caramel colored sauce called pylsusinnep, mayo, and ketchup. A combination for terrible halitosis, but delicious all the same.
Day 2: 9/3 Options: 1. 459km 8 hours 45 minutes driving Without Landmannalaugar
• Leave Pakgil campground
• Fjadrarglijufur Canyon- Looks beautiful right off the highway
• Foss a Sidu waterfall- just on the side of the road
• Dverghamrar- Cool rock formations on side of the road quick stop
• Kirkjubaejarklaustur- National Park
o Svartifoss Waterfall parking lot- Then about an hour hike there and back supposed to be
• Svinafellsjokull- 4×4 rough but not a far drive off the road
• Fjallsarlon- pretty small glacial lagoon with floating ice. Quick stop off road
• Diamond Beach- cool beach where ice chunks wash ashore looks like diamonds on beach
• Vestrahorn Mountain just look from road
• Hofn- town
• Nykurhylsfoss (Sveinsstekksfoss) waterfalls- pretty waterfalls
o Push all the way to Egilstaddir to camp there for the night
o Djupavogskorin- FREE HOT POOLS! Great reviews.
Breiddalsvik- just a small fishing village you drive through
o Egilsstadir- Camp here at Egilsstadir great spot- Hit waterfall first thing next morning
Iceland is known for it’s geothermal hot pools. Being an island of mostly volcanoes and few people we were able to find plenty of hidden gems. Some hot pools were like the one on day 2 that was just a hidden bathtub in the middle of no where, out-looking the mountains and lakes. Another we came across happened to be on the beach facing the ocean. Others were commercialized hot pools where you can pay to bath, eat, drink and relax in a bright steaming blue pool. Or you can go to any small town and swim in their local outdoor pools that are heated geothermally. The best part of the latter two is that there are shower facilities that you can take advantage of (especially when you’ve been living out of car). We made sure to check out all the types of hot pools, almost one a day. It was particularly nice because Iceland is generally pretty cold and this was a good way to warm up!
Day 3: 9/4 428km. Just under 6 hours of driving
• Leave camping at Egilsstadir
• Henjifoss waterfall- Beautiful 2 hour round trip hike see 2 waterfalls. Go early and can hopefully
have it to ourselves!
• Early morning head to Seydisfjordur only 30 minute drive
• Studlagil canyon looks dope. Kind of a long hike
• Gufu foss waterfall along the way good drone spot I think if early morning
• Head to Jokulsargljufur/ Vatnajokull National park
o Dettifoss waterfall
o Selfoss waterfall
o Hafragilsfoss waterfall
• Echo Rocks
• Asbyrgi Canyon
o• Aedarfossar- waterfall
• Lake Myvatn
o Myvatn Nature baths- One of our favorite experiences. Same idea as the famous Blue Lagoon, but less touristy and better views. We were able to enjoy a drink at golden hour in the pools.
• Dimmuborgir Lava field- cool short walk with nice rock formations from lava (consider skipping)
• Mount Namafjall- pretty cool boiling kinda hot pools with mountains short drive
• Godafoss Waterfall
• Aldeyjarfoss- absolutely epic waterfall. My favorite on the whole trip!
• Systragil Camp ground- just before Akureyri
You’ve probably been trying to figure out why so many of these destinations end with “foss.” Well we quickly figured out that foss means waterfall, and Iceland has A LOT of waterfalls. Probably some of the most brilliant and massive waterfalls I have ever seen (next to New Zealand). Scott believes that Iceland had the best, but I’d have to disagree. Regardless, if waterfalls are your thing, then Iceland is your place. There are multi-tiered, never ending waterfalls. Ones that are tall and wide, short and long, surrounded by deep blue pools, some that flow into rivers. Every kind of waterfall you can imagine, Iceland has it!
Day 4: 9/5 374km 5 hours 30 minutes of driving
• Leave Systragil Campground
• Siglufordur- driving direction
• Hofsos- driving direction
o Sundlaugin a Hofsosi “Infinity” pool. MUST GO looks beautiful
• Skagastrond- not sure what this is probably skip it out of the way
• Hvitserkur- Really cool rock formation in the water and beautiful coast line to drive along
o Look out for seals while driving along the coastline
• Hvammstangi- Stay at Hvammstangi campground or Cottages (adorable wooden cottages for reasonable prices)
o Go to Icelandic seal center hopefully see some seals
Up until this point we had been sleeping at campsites every night. Basically we would dread every evening as we got closer to our campsite for the night because it meant being freezing cold (we found that our sleeping bags were made for very small people, not three tall people, and were poorly insulated), as well as being incredibly uncomfortable. Most nights Scott slept in the tent outside, with no rainfly, thank goodness it didn’t rain the first few nights, and Andrew and I would sleep in the car, him crushed in the back with one seat down and me in the passenger seat as reclined as I could be. The night would consist of hearing Scott’s loud snoring from outside, Andrew cussing while trying to get comfortable and stay warm, and me wiggling and waking up every hour uncomfortable hoping for sunrise. So, after a few nights of that we stumbled upon these cabins where we could cook in a kitchen, have a full function bathroom, and two beds all to ourselves. Seemed like a great deal for only a few bucks more than a campsite. We got lucky that there was a cabin available night of and took full advantage of it. We walked along the river with horses grazing that ran right past our cabin and played a travel dice game, Farkle, in our warm accommodation that night, Andrew caught up on some Netflix and Scott practiced his drone flying.
A side-note, if you haven’t heard of or played Farkle, do yourself a favor and buy it on Amazon. It’s super cheap and well worth it. We’ve found that it is a super fun travel game that can be played with two people or more. Great entertainment for a low key night!
Day 5 9/6 578km 8 hours of driving- Incredible day of driving around the fjords- WHALE WATCHING STARTS @ 11- 2 hour 10 minute drive from campground don’t be late
• Leave Hvammstangi campground
• Holmavik- Laki Whale watching tour start @ 11. In my opinion, this was the best part of the whole trip!
• Valagil Waterfall- Short 2km hike will take less than an hour. Shouldn’t be too busy
• Dynjandi waterfall- Looks awesome
o Short walk to get here but will take you past other beautiful small waterfalls
• Patreksfjordur- stay at Patreksfjordur campground very nice SMALL AND WILL RUN OUT OF
SPOTS try to get there a little early if possible (there is another campsite nearby if needed)
This day may have been my most favorite of the whole week in Iceland. If you’ve followed along on the blog you’ll know I’m a big animal lover, be it horses (lots of wild horses in Iceland), dogs, whales, I’m there. So for our one big excursion in Iceland we decided to go whale watching with Laki Tours. This tour happened to be on the less touristy side of the island so it was ran by a small crew of two, one captain and one biologist, on a sweet little boat in a calm bay. I was a bit worried about getting seasick, but as soon as we set off into the bay we were reassured that the water is incredibly calm. Our captain was patient and quiet and our guide was knowledgeable, witty, and extra sassy which I appreciated. It was end of the whale watching season so I was a little bit worried about only seeing a few, but within minutes we were quickly proven wrong. There were whales coming up everywhere, even a group of six whales traveling together that swam beneath the boat and gave us a show of their blow-holes and tails up close and personal. Words don’t do this experience justice, as with most of Iceland, but it was so special and I definitely recommend taking the time to do something like this in your life at least once. The enormity of the animals themselves will be enough to leave you speechless.
Day 6 9/7 TAKE FERRY TODAY BOOKED Through Sea Tours in email LEAVES AT NOON DON’T MISS IT BE THERE NO LATER THAN 11:30 Check in with ticket office since we only have email tickets Just over 3 four drive to ferry with the stops be on the road by 6:30 to be safe. 7 hours of traveling which includes
ferry time Start early today
• Leave Patreksfjordur Campground
• Latrabjarg- millions of birdwatching cliffs (puffins!) Hike along the edge of the cliffs for some awesome views- western most point of Europe
• Raudisandur beach
• Take ferry in Brjanslaekur LEAVES AT NOON
• Mount Kirkjufell- seen by driving
• Grundarfoss waterfall- absolutely beautiful with a short hour hike.
• Grundarfjordur- Stay at campground near Kirkijufellfoss OR take a shower near this campground at the pool across the street but then head to Setberg campground a privately owned campground just a few minutes away where its very nice and quiet and partly sheltered from wind (we opted for an air bnb this night!)
The weather in Iceland is known for being harsh and cold. We were warned before hand that snow storms can happen at anytime and leave you in a total white out if you’re not careful. Luckily we weren’t traveling in a particularly snowy time. It was very cold while we were there and before we got there it had been raining a lot, not uncommon for Iceland. Luckily most of our days were sunny or at least dry. Only towards the end of our trip did the weather take a turn for the worst, hence the staying in Air bnb’s the last two night because Scott was tired of waking up in a puddle in the tent, and most of our gear was soaked. When we did stay in campsites though, they were well equipped with showers, common areas, and cooking stations.
Day 7 9/8 191km 2 hours 38 minutes drive time
• Leave Grundarfjordur camping
o Kirkjufellsfoss- EARLY MORNING HIT THE WATERFALL here TAKE DRONE
• Olafsvik- small fishing village but head this direction to drive around
• Skardsvik beach
• Londranger Sea stacks looks cool
o Gatklettur- cool rock formation on coast
• Raudfeldsgja Gorge
• Budhir- driving direction
• Yrti Tunga Beach Parking
o Great spot for seals
• Olkelduvatn Mineral spring water- kinda cool natural water, high in iron safe to drink just a quick stop to try it and carry on
• Gerduberg Cliffs
• Elborg Crater
• Borgarnes- just driving this direction town
• Camping Porisstadir- This campsite seems pretty chill or stay in air bnb like we did!
We mostly relaxed our last night in Iceland, we stayed close to the capital in an air bnb. The boys watched football and we got ready for our long journey home. Lucky for us it was a straight shot from Iceland to Portland.
Day 8- 9/9- 273km 4 hr. 15 minutes driving
• Leave Porisstadir campsite
• Deildartunguver – highest flowing hot spring in Europe
• Reykholt- just a small village you drive through to next spot
• Barnafoss waterfall- try and get here early to beat the tourists
• Hraunfossar waterfall
• Fossatun – more waterfalls
o Cool little elf houses you walk past near waterfalls
• Hvalfjordur- driving route
o Take this driving route past hear to the next waterfall prettier drive along the fjord
• Glymur- 2nd tallest waterfall in Iceland
• Reykavik- hot dogs
• Reykjavik airport
Our flight got in just one hour after we had left Iceland (thanks to the time change and a little bit of time travel). We were ready to get our stuff sorted at home, spend some time with family and friends, go to a wedding all in a short two weeks before heading off to Asia!
Iceland was Scott’s absolute favorite part of Europe. It might even be his most favorite place he’s traveled, he’s still figuring that out. But I can say for sure that it was beautiful, well worth all the driving, and so fun to have Andrew there with us. A great way to conclude our four months in Europe!
***The driving itinerary for each day is Scott’s writing contribution to the blog (with a little editing by me!***