Our two week Iceland road trip planning began months before our September flight. Iceland was expected to have 2 million visitors in 2017. Even though we decided to go after the high season, I read that accommodation can still be difficult to find as there just isn’t enough for all the people coming to Iceland. Thus, by June I had already booked our accommodation, flights and car. That was no easy feat, as we weren’t willing to spend an arm and a leg, nor were we willing to rent a camper van and rough it for two weeks. In the end, the accommodation dictated our itinerary. I tried to space our lodgings out by about 4 hours drive according to Google Maps. I thought this would be a reasonable amount to drive each day, with plenty of stops in between. I quickly discovered that 4 hours on the map can be up to double that depending on the road conditions, the quality of the scenery and opportunities for photos.
I decided to travel clockwise from Reykjavik (Point 12) so that we could be in the West Fjords (Points 2 & 3) earlier and hopefully get better weather, as it can get colder there before the south. We stuck pretty much to the original itinerary, until the last few days, when the weather took a turn for the worse and we had to skip the Westman Islands (Bed icon between Points 10 and 11) due to gale force winds and the ferry potentially being cancelled.
- Iceland is easy to navigate. There are not many roads, and some are in less than desirable conditions, but they are well-signed and with the help of a good offline map (we love maps.me– I don’t get any compensation from them) you should have no problem getting around.
- We never needed to use cash, but did get a little out at the ATM at the airport just for fun. You can use credit cards everywhere.
- We made sure to get gas when we were in big towns, and stocked up on groceries as well, at Bonus and Netto. We brought a small cooler and ice packs with us as well. This allowed us to bring perishables in the car, as we never stayed more than one night anywhere, except Reykjavik.
- Buy any alcohol you want at the Reykjavik airport duty free shop – it is far cheaper than the little liquor shops, which also have short hours.
- Having more than one driver was also key to our trip, as a few of the days were quite long.
- I booked all our accommodation on Booking.com (for their refund policy) and AirBNB (for the smaller towns). This gave me flexibility when some better accommodation did become available closer to our departure. Book in advance and shop around for car rentals. I ended up getting a great deal on a 2015 Citroen Berlingo from Northbound/Thrifty for about 82,000 ISK (before insurance and extra driver cost) for two weeks in September 2017. Similar cars from other companies were often twice that.
- Every one speaks English. Icelandic words are long and look unpronounceable, but once you know a few of the basics, you can start to decipher the word, though probably never pronounce correctly. Here are a few key phrases that should help:
- fjörður = fjord
- vik = inlet
- foss = waterfall
- jökull = glacier
- lón = lagoon
- á (at the end) = stream
- vatn = water (often lake)
Even more photos can be found on Riki’s website: Favorite Photos
Our basic itinerary follows:
Day 1: Arrive Reykjavik airport (Pt A, southwest) 8 am. Pick up rental car and drive to Costco outside Reykjavik. Drive 191 miles (307 km) to Grundarfjordur (Pt. 1) via Snaefells Peninsula.
Day 2: Drive from Grundarfjordur to Bjarkarholt (Pt. 1 to 2, 194 miles/312 km) with lunch stop in Stykkisholmur. Alternately there is an expensive 3 hour ferry across Breidarfjordur.
Day 3: Bjarkarholt to Isafjordur (Pt. 2 to 3, 129 miles/208 km) with stop at Dynjandi waterfall.
Day 4: Isafjordur to Laugarbakki (Pt.3 to 4, 222 miles/357 km).
Day 5: Laugarbakki to Akureyri (Pt. 4 to 5, north side, 167 miles/269 km) via Vatnsnes peninsula for seal watching.
Day 6: Akureyri to Husavik (Pt. 5 to 6, 92 miles/148 km) via Godafoss and Myvatn.
Day 7: Husavik to Seydisfjordur (Pt. 6 to 7, 170 miles/274 km) via Asbyrgi and Dettifoss.
Day 8: Seydisfjordur to Eskifjordur (Pt. 7 to 8, 46 miles/74 km) with day trip to highlands and Laugarfell for (dead) reindeer spotting.
Day 9: Eskifjörður to Höfn (Pt. 8 to 9, 151 miles/243 km) with stop at Hvalnes Nature Reserve Beach.
Day 10: Höfn to Vik (Pt. 9 to 10, 169 miles/272 km) with stops at Jökulsárlón and Skaftafell National Park. This was a long day due to lack of accommodation in the area.
Day 11: Vik to Birkikinn on the Golden Circle (Pt. 10 to 11, 89 miles/143 km) with stops at Skogafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Hellisheidi power plant, Geysir and Gullfoss. Our original itinerary included the Westman islands, but due to gale force winds we were forced to skip that.
Day 12: Birkikinn to Reykjavik (Pt. 11 to 12, 74 miles/118 km) with stop at Thingvellir National Park.
Day 13 and 14: Reykjavik and surrounding.