Two weeks ago, we were lucky enough have the chance to travel to Iceland for a week.
Iceland has been at the top our bucket list for quite some time now and we jumped at the chance to go when we found plane tickets at a fairly low price. We would have loved to stay longer as there are so many things to see and do there, but unfortunately due to school and work commitments back home in Ottawa we only had 1 week to visit this beautiful country.
That said, we still got to see a big part of Iceland for the short amount of time we had.
Here is a look at what we think are the best places to see in Iceland in such a short amount of time and our itinerary for the week (including a handy map at the bottom of the page):
Day 1: Reykjavík
Though we were jet-lagged and had barely gotten any sleep on the plane on our way there, we were determined to make the best of our trip.
We walked to the Old Harbour, had the freshest lobster soup EVER, went shopping and explored the city. Read more about what to do in Reykjavík here.
Day 2: Reykjavík/DIY Golden Circle Tour
On day 2 we woke up at the crack of dawn and headed to Kerið crater lake for the first stop of our DIY Golden Circle Tour.
Our tour lasted all day and included many stops, such as witnessing a geyser eruption and snorkelling in the Silfra fissure.
When we got back to Reykjavík that evening we went out on a quest to find the best burgers in town at Burger Joint and sipped some beer at a local bar called Kaldi (which is also a delicious Icelandic beer brewed in the North).
Day 3: DIY South Coast Tour/Vík
On the morning of day 3, we packed up our bags and headed to Vík, about a 2 hour drive from Reykjavík.
However, it took us way longer to get there as we decided to see a few sights along the way and created our very own DIY South Coast Tour.
As we’ve said before, if you’re already renting a car there is no reason to pay for expensive tours to bring you to the main attractions. They are all very easily accessible and are FREE! Sights along the way included our favourite waterfall of the trip, Seljalandsfoss, and our very first black beach sighting.
After exploring for hours and gazing at the beautiful mountains on our way, we checked into the gorgeous local Iceland Air Hotel and immediately fell in love with its amazing décor and view of the sea (we might even model our apartment after it).
We then made our way to the IceWear store which has a large selection of winter apparel and souvenirs. What interested us most though were the galleries on the second floor where you can actually watch workers making all of their products. So, if you’ve even been curious as to what went behind making that sweater you love, this is the place to go.
Day 4: Skógar/Vík
Unfortunately we didn’t get to go ice climbing on the nearby glacier, Sólheimajökull, due to extremely strong winds that day (25 m/sec – try standing straight with that blowing around you!) but no matter, we visited the nearby town of Skógar instead!
Though significantly smaller than Vík (which is saying something because Vík is only about 5 streets big), this small little gem still had plenty to offer and kept us busy for the day.
We started off by going to Skógafoss, another one of Iceland’s amazing waterfalls, and took in the view. Of course we couldn’t just stay at the bottom and stare at it, we climbed all the way so that we could get a better view (glut muscles for the win!).
One of the beauties of Iceland is that even the most visited places look as though they have been left virtually untouched. There are no ugly looking fences blocking your view to its natural wonders, they just expect you not to be stupid and let yourself fall in. So be smart and don’t disappoint the people of Iceland 😉
We then proceeded to visiting the Skógar Folk Museum which was just down the road on the other side of town.
This place was really cool as it showed artifacts from old ambulances to butter churns. We even got to visit old thatch houses that looked as though nothing had been moved or touched inside them since their original owners had vacated them.
Entrance to the museum is 2 000 ISK (about $20 CAD) and is large enough to take up about 1-2 hour(s) of your time.
Day 5: Skaftafell National Park/Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon/Seyðisfjörður
On the morning of day 5, we packed our bags once again and drove 2 hours to Skaftafell National Park, Iceland’s second largest national park.
The park has tons of beautiful trails ranging from easy to difficult, and going to various points of interest in the park.
Our main focus was getting to Svartifoss waterfall, AKA the black waterfall (in the picture below), so we set out on trail S2 which got us there in about 30 minutes.
Behold this beautiful Gothic looking waterfall seemingly untouched by man. It really makes you feel like you’re the only people left in the world (probably because we were alone at that point again).
Afterwards we hiked back to our car in another 30 minutes and were on our way to our next destination, the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon was only about 5-10 minutes away from Skaftafell and really crept up on us. One minute we were driving along barren looking land, and then BAM, blue icebergs popped out of nowhere!
Once we had done that we went to the ticket office and promptly bought tickets for the next available Amphibian Boat Tour.
Tickets can be bought at the small hut located beside the café. The tour costs about $45 CAD and takes about 30-40 minutes total and brings you out into the lagoon on a big boat which even has wheels (cool eh? – yup we’re Canadian).
They also offer private tours through the Zodiac Boat Tours which cost about $80 CAD and brings you slightly closer to the icebergs than the Amphibian Tour would.
If there is a short wait time between your arrival and your tour, have no fear! The building beside the ticket office houses a small café, gift shop and bathrooms.
Once we’d had our fill of the Lagoon, we headed to Seyðisfjörður, a small eastern fishing village nestled in the mountains about 4 hours away that would be our home for the night.
After 4 endless hours we finally made it to the east’s most populated town, Egilsstaðir.
Here we filled up on gas again (FYI always fill up when you can as you never when the next station will be) and headed up the mountain to Seyðisfjörður.
Yup, we actually drove up, on and then down a mountain to get to this little place, but boy was it beautiful when we saw it at sunrise the next day.
Day 6: Seyðisfjörður/Húsavík/Akureyri/Blönduós
We woke up insanely early on the morning of day 6 and got to see the sunrise. It was really beautiful as there is a small harbour and the town is nestled within the mountains. Unfortunately we didn’t really have the time to stick around too long other than to stop by yet another awesome waterfall on our way out of town, but had our trip been longer we would definitely have spent more time in this little gem.
Once we had driven up, on and down the mountain (in daylight this time which was much better) we were on our way to Dettifoss and Selfoss waterfall.
We can’t emphasize enough the magnitude of these huge waterfalls and how much power they hold. They really are quite a sight to behold.
Next, we got back in the car and raced off to Húsavík for our whale watching tour.
Once we came back from being at sea all afternoon in Húsavík, we headed to Godafoss for one last look at a majestic Icelandic waterfall. Again we were completely alone, and with the sun setting along the horizon this time it made for an even better view (if that’s even possible).
Akureyri, Iceland’s northern city, was next as we headed there for a bite to eat and a little bit of shopping.
We weren’t very original and went with a classic hot dog, but we did check out a local bar called Backpackers (restaurant, bar and hostel) which had a great vibe.
Sadly we weren’t able to party it up as much as we would have wanted to since this wasn’t our last stop, so we headed to our cozy farmhouse Airbnb in Blönduós (about 1 hour away).
It wasn’t so bad driving at night this time around as the roads in the north were somehow better than in the east. To make things even better, we even caught a slight glimpse of the Northern Lights! Unfortunately it was only very faint and the only time we ever saw them as the entire week had been cloudy.
Note: There is quite a bit of misconception surrounding the Northern Lights, namely that you will see tons and tons of green wisps in the sky at all times of the night. However, as we learned throughout our stay in Iceland, this is not the case. In order to see the Northern Lights, the sky must be completely clear of clouds and there must be a high level of activity for the lights. You must also be in an area completely free of any light pollution. This combination can be quite difficult to obtain, especially if you have a limited amount of time on your hands and simply end up having bad luck with the weather like we did. The Northern Lights are quite unpredictable but the Icelandic Meteorological Office does provide a daily forecast to manage your expectations.
Day 7: West Coast Drive/Reykjavík/Blue Lagoon
Our last morning in Iceland was spent mostly driving back to Reykjavík as our flight back to Ottawa was leaving that evening.
Once we finally got close to Reykjavík we got to cross the sea through a really awesome underwater tunnel (which costs $10 by the way) and walked around/grabbed lunch once we got into the city some 30 minutes later.
It turned out to be one of the most beautiful days of our trip weather wise, but we weren’t complaining as our next stop was the Blue Lagoon for a little bit of R and R.
The reason why they recommend going to the Blue Lagoon to and/or from the airport is because it lies perfectly between the city of Reykjavík and the airport.
So, in the afternoon (on our way to the airport for our evening flight) we stopped by this world renowned geothermal spa.
We had a very ambitious schedule for the week and were only able to cover a fraction of everything there is to see and do in Iceland, but you have to start somewhere!
Looking back, 2 weeks would have been a great amount of time to cover all the places we still wanted to get to but didn’t have enough time for – Western Fjords, spending more time in the East and Northern parts of the country, etc.
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