By Karlie Marrazzo
Iceland’s popularity is higher than ever and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. And why should it? The small island nation in the North Atlantic is the most breathtaking place I have ever seen, full stop. Volcanoes, dramatic cliffs, crashing waves, geysers, majestic waterfalls, gorgeous glacial lagoons, the cutest sheep and horses, the midnight sun, friendly people and awesome vodka are just a few of the reasons I fell in love with this country.
It’s been a year and a half since I visited Iceland, and my post “11 day Iceland itinerary: Part One” is the most popular page on my site. The number of comments and emails I’m receiving about it continue to grow, so this is the perfect time for me to update all of you on how the itinerary worked out for us.
Note: We had a rough budget of $100CDN per night for accommodations. We weren’t sure how realistic this would be as the cost of hotel rooms is quite high, but we managed to clock in at $1200 for all 10 nights – an average of $120/night, not bad! We traveled in June 2013, so all of the prices I mention were current at the time of travel. Prices are sure to have gone up by now, so please double check with the links I’ve provided. June is the start of high season so costs are greater at that time of year. Also note that a lot of the guesthouses have shared bathrooms.
Let’s get to the good stuff!
Day 1 and 2: Reykjavík
The rental: We pre-booked our rental car four months in advance through Route 1 Car Rental. As we were going to be sticking to the main highway of Route 1 (the Ring Road), we didn’t book anything more spectacular than a Hyundai i30. Expect to get a manual transmission, no matter which rental agency you choose, unless you specify otherwise. This will also cost you more. Bonus: somebody from Route 1 delivered the car to our apartment and went over all of the paperwork with us there. No extra charge.
Cost: We did not need the rental for the first couple of days in Reykjavík, so had a seven-day booking. We received a discount of 12% when we booked online. Total: $430 CDN.
Note: Gas is expensive in Iceland, but we only had to fill up the car twice on our way around the Ring Road, and once to top up before returning it at the airport.
Accommodation: Hotels in Iceland are too rich for our blood ($250+/night for the most part), so we decided to use AirBnB for the first time, and thankfully it was a hit. We stayed in this gorgeous basement suite owned by an Icelandic TV personality and flight attendant. We paid $250 total for two nights, including AirBnB fees of $26.
Day 3: Golden Circle, stay in Flúðir
The Golden Circle is one of the most popular, if not THE most popular, of Iceland’s tourist attractions, due to its proximity to Reykjavík and ability to show people a microcosm of Iceland’s powerful natural beauty in a day trip. It is the perfect taste of Iceland for people who may be taking advantage of Icelandair’s free stopover program. Since the Golden Circle is a few natural sights spread out over a 300km loop, there isn’t really one town that people stay in – they usually stay in Reykjavík. Since we were moving on in our road trip, we stayed in the small village of Flúðir (Fludir) on the recommendation of a friend.
Accommodation: Guesthouse Dalbaer. Shared bathroom. Breakfast included.
Read more: Snorkeling between continents in Iceland
Day 4: Vík
Puffins, black sand beaches, howling winds, the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano and an abandoned plane wreck.
Accommodation: Hotel Edda Vík. Summer cottage. Private bathroom. Breakfast not included.
Day 5: Höfn
Take a zodiac boat tour of the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon on your way to this small fishing town (pronounced Hup) that is known for it’s incredible, fresh lobster.
Accommodation: The very cute and cozy Guesthouse Dyngja featuring a relaxing living room with record player. Shared bathroom. Breakfast included.
Read more: Scatter my ashes at Jökulsárlón
Day 6: Myvatn
Exploring the volcanic lake and relaxing at the Mývatn Nature Baths, a smaller, quieter version of the hugely popular Blue Lagoon.
Accommodation: Elda Guesthouse. Shared bathroom. Sink in room. Breakfast included.
Read more: Journey to Mývatn – A Photo Diary
Day 7: Akureyri
Iceland’s second largest city. We booked two nights here but had to cut it short due to excessive noise from the Bíladagar car festival partiers ruining our sleep. We had a whale watching trip booked in Húsavík rather than Akureyri, which meant we had to backtrack about 90km. I would recommend staying one night in Húsavík on your way instead.
Accommodation: Hrafninn Guesthouse. Priavte bathroom. Breakfast not included but full kitchen available for guest use.
Day 8: Hvammstangi
We ended up staying in this tiny village as it was roughly halfway between Akureyri and our next destination, Stykkishólmur. Hvammstangi has a good tourist info centre and is a good place to spot seals. We even spotted a whale here without having to go on a fancy tour!
Accommodation: Hanna Sigga Guesthouse. Shared bathroom. Breakfast available at an extra cost. They were the first place we called and luckily had availability for the same night.
Cost: We booked over the phone and I shockingly didn’t write the cost down anywhere; however, their current rate is around $100CDN.
Day 9: Stykkishólmur
This picturesque town is north of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, which would warrant a few days of exploration on its own. There is a pretty harbour, colourful little homes and a quirky lighthouse. We soaked in the local hot pots (thermal pools) and walked up Helgafell, a small mountain with a sacred story.
Accommodation: Holmur-Inn. Shared bathroom. Breakfast included.
Day 10: Reykjavík
Accommodation: Guesthouse Sunna. Shared bathroom. Breakfast included. I wasn’t really a fan of this place – it was more like an old hotel than a guesthouse. I’m not sure why we didn’t do AirBnB for our last night, too, so that’s what I recommend you do if the option is there.
Day 11: Fly home
Finish off your trip by luxuriating in the postcard perfect Blue Lagoon on your way back out to the airport. Ladies, wear a swimming cap or bring a lot of conditioner! The mineral rich geothermal waters completely fried my long hair and it felt weird the whole way home.
The ring road is well maintained and there is very little traffic, so you need not worry about driving on your own. I would not hesitate at all to do this trip again, and felt completely safe the whole time. However I would not recommend driving this route in the winter (or even late spring or early autumn) as weather, snow and lack of daylight can make things dangerous quickly.
The only thing I would change would be to add more time! I think two weeks would be ideal for this road trip, and you could add even more time if you want to explore the Westfjords or the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Iceland is a spectacular country that lives up to all of the praise that is heaped upon it.