Would you believe me if I told you I managed to go around Iceland in less than 5 days? If you are not aware, Iceland's Ring Road is one of the best experiences you can have when visiting the country. The road is approximately 1,332 km (828 miles), and for the majority of the route, the speed limit is only 90 km/hr (55 mph) or less.
Driving around the entire circumference of Iceland was something on my bucket list since my first visit, as I fell in love with the country. When my friends wanted to go back last year in September, and I realized we'll have at least 3 drivers in the group, I knew we could make it happen. This also meant that we would have long days on the road, as we would spend at least 9-10 hours of the day driving.
Now, you're probably thinking, what about accommodations? Where did you sleep? Since this trip was very adventurous, we actually would book a place to stay, on the day of! However, we did look at some options before going to Iceland to give us a better idea of what we could expect as a party of 4. We found that some places had kitchenettes, so we ensured to pack lots of snacks and food to bring with us on the trip.
On my first trip to Iceland, we had a hard time finding food options, especially since most places close early and everything is far from each other, depending on which part of the country you visit. Restaurants and even grocery shopping is quite expensive as well.
What did we accomplish in 5 days and what were our goals? Ultimately, we knew what we wanted to experience while in Iceland, which made our journey smooth:
The Northern Lights
See Icelandic Puffins
Complete the Ring Road
When traveling with a group, it is much harder to get everything done, as different people have different preferences. Luckily for us, we got along pretty well and were able to coordinate according to all our interests.
One important thing to note is that Iceland's weather is unpredictable, and thus, plans can change at any time. Please ensure to be flexible!
We booked an SUV to be more comfortable and safe, since we knew we'd be driving a lot. We also paid extra to get a Wi-Fi device to ensure that we stay connected everywhere we go. Our pit stops were mostly preplanned on Google Maps, but we made some exceptions when we came across beautiful places we knew we wanted to explore that we found while driving by.
This is what our map looked like. We added places along the way, as well as found accommodations along the way, for each night. You can access the map here.
Our itinerary included the highlights of Iceland and going off-the-beaten-path.
We started off with FlyOver Iceland in Reykjavik, as it is one of my favorite attractions and gives you a good taste of what to expect on the trip along the country. We then left the city and headed towards Hafnarfjall mountain (on Google Maps, the stop is called "Berugata Hafnarfjall View".
One tip I learned from my first trip was that I needed to be prepared for the unexpected. For this reason, I ensured to pack clothes that I can use as additional layers, as well as a jacket.
This time, I skipped the DC3 plane wreck, as we were tight on time, and the hike took us about 45 minutes each way last time.
The highlight of the trip required no hiking; Fjaðrárgljúfu Canyon. The best part was that there were not many tourists, since it's not as well-known. The location, pop of color (no filter needed) and landscape make this place a dream for any nature and photography lovers!
Here's how we broke our days of driving down:
Day 1: Reykjavik to Hofn (approx. drive time is 6 hours + stops along the way)
Day 2: Hofn to Akuyeri (approx. 5 hours of driving + stops along the way)
Day 3: Akuyeri to Reykjavik (we only had to do this as one of the girls had to leave on Day 4, hence why we needed to be near the airport for the night)
Day 4: Reyjavik and the stops nearby
Day 5: Goodbye Iceland!
Now, you're probably wondering when did we do all the top tourist spots that people visit Iceland for? You know exactly what I'm referring to; visiting the falls (Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, Gullfoss), geysirs and glaciers! These stops were places I've seen before, but that I still wanted my friends to experience, so we added it on our itinerary for our last days.
Personally, I preferred being away from the crowds of tourists and exploring the remote side of Iceland, but still loved going back to these spots as if it was my first time.
As we were so busy throughout the entire trip, by the time we got to the hotel, we felt tired to go chase the Northern Lights. We would try to find it in the area of our hotel, or track it through the app. We thought we'd have a better chance seeing them up north, but it's actually not until we got to Reykjavik that we managed to find them!
At first we were bummed that we hadn't seen anything for the first few nights, and even thought about booking a Northern Lights Tour (keep in mind, even with a tour booked, it's not guaranteed that you'll see the lights). However, after calculating the costs, we thought we're better off finding it ourselves, plus we had a car, so why not just drive to the location?
The best way to catch the Northern Lights is to be away from the city, and its bright lights. Check the weather forecast and have an aurora tracking app, as that helps a lot in identifying whether or not you even have a chance of seeing it. We ended up near the Blue Lagoon. There were no cars or people around. Just peace and darkness.
Want to know one bonus tip? Sometimes the Northern Lights can't be seen by the naked eye, but you can tell if it's hidden behind the cloud or if it's there, simply from checking your phone's camera. That's how we knew the show had started for us, before the sky lit up. I saw some movements in the cloud, but captured a shot to confirm, then surely enough, after some patience, we could see it without having to rely on the camera.
Is Iceland on your bucket list yet? Let me know in the comments!