A lot of people ask me, what’s the best way to see Iceland? In my previous post I highly recommend the campervan option because it’s by far the cheapest option. What could better than enjoying lunch with a view like this?
Here is our 10 day itinerary around the Ring Road. Get comfortable because its a long one but if you make it to the bottom there is a bonus!!
There are so many options to choose from when visiting Iceland. So let me break it down for ya. Don’t worry if you don’t have 10 days, there are plenty of shorter itinerary options I will link to later in this post.
Arrive in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. From the airport you can just grab a bus to the city, about a 45 minute drive.
Our flight arrived really early so we packed our first day with some sightseeing, picked up our campervan from CampEasy, went grocery shopping and managed to get an underwater massage at the Blue Lagoon after which I was a shriveled up zombie (jetlag had fully kicked in) but I highly recommend it!
We weren’t going to depart until the second day so we stayed in a really cool hostel in town called Kex Hostel.
Since we were going to be coming back to Reykjavik at the end of our trip, we didn’t go overboard with the sightseeing the first day. We did however enjoy an amazing dinner at the Fish Market which I can highly recommend, super cool decor and amazing food.
Depart for glacier hike and see our first waterfall! The route we took around Iceland was that of a counterclockwise motion. I don’t know that it really matters which way you go but this made the most sense to use as our glacier hike was to the east of Reykjavik.
So we set out on our first day of campervan life and arrived at the first of many beautiful waterfalls, Skógafoss.
After enjoying some beautiful views and a bit of a morning spritz while walking around the waterfall, we set out for our glacier hike. We did this glacier and ice climbing tour with Arctic Adventures. The glacier we hiked is called Sólheimajökull (interesting fact, the word jökull means glacier in Icelandic).
After our glacier hike we headed for our campsite in the town of Vík, known for its black sand beach, Vík is the southernmost village in Iceland.
Visit Vatnajökull National Park. Vatnajökull National Park is a must see on your drive around Iceland, make sure you leave enough time to do some hiking and sightseeing around this massive national park. Vatnajökull National Park is one of 3 national parks in Iceland, to get into the park take the Skaftafell exit to get to the visitor center. The main attraction is Vatnajökull glacier which is a massive glacier that runs right through the park.
After the hike in Vatnajökull National Park, we left to continue our drive which snakes around the park and offers even more amazing sites such as Jökulsárlón, a stunning glacial lagoon.
We ended our day with a quick hot springs dip on our way to Höfn. Hot springs or pools can be found throughout the island, I recommend picking up a book specifically on hot springs in Iceland.
We set out for Seyðisfjörður, a small fishing village on the Eastern Fjords of Iceland. On our way we stopped at a charming tourist attraction, Petra’s Stone and Mineral Collection located in Stodvarfjordur, Iceland. This is a site worth exploring. The house where Petra lived and kept her rock collection is every bit as charming as Petra’s story.
After a bit of a drive we arrived in Seyðisfjörður. This was by far one of the cutest towns we visited, it’s located on an inlet in the Eastern Fjords. Surrounded by mountains and dotted with colorful little houses, it makes for some stunning views. It also had a really cute personality.
I can safely say we had one of the best meals of the trip at a restaurant called Nordic Restaurant. They source all local ingredients that are in season and the fish is brought in fresh everyday from local fisherman. Does it get any better than that!!??
We continued our journey up north, first stop was to see one of the most powerful waterfalls in all of Europe, Dettifoss. There are A LOT of waterfalls in Iceland but this one can not be missed!
After stopping to see Dettifoss which is a little bit off the beaten path, but totally worth it, we headed toward Mývatn. The road to Mývatn is scattered with some of the best geothermal landscapes you will see on the island, make sure you stop at Krafla and Hverir.
Geothermal activity also means some of the best natural baths. After sightseeing we stopped at the Mývatn Natural Baths.
After that we set up camp for the night and made dinner in our van while watching the sunset.
Interesting fact: The name Mývatn literally means gnat (Mý) and lake (vatn). What this meant was that Mývatn was absolutely covered in little gnats which yes was annoying but once you got past that and enjoyed the views, it was worth it.
Because of this gnat situation, breakfast from the van was out of the question so we opted for what would be one of the most enjoyable meals of the trip (see sometimes things happen for a reason).
We had breakfast at the cutest little dairy farm, the Cowshed Cafe. If you make it to Mývatn, make sure you visit this gem of a cafe. Talk about farm to table, the cows they milk for the cheese are literally in the same building as the cafe!
After breakfast we hiked up Hlíðarfjall Mountain which offers a great view of Lake Mývatn and the surrounding area. It was basically straight up hill….made for a good workout!
Next stop was Akureyri which is the second largest city in Iceland. It’s a great stop for whale watching tours and is one of the best spots to see the Northern Lights if you’re there during the season. On a random but interesting side note while refreshing my memory on Akureryri, I came across this gem. A beer spa opening this June….whatttt!!?? If any of you go, you have to let me know how this is!
We didn’t spend a lot time in Akureryri but we did have a great meal at Rub 23, enjoy the fish while you’re in Iceland, it’s some of the best I’ve ever had!
Oh and if you have a chance visit Santa’s House, yes apparently Santa resides in Akuereyri on his off season….makes sense.
A week of campervan life and still going strong! We set out for the Western Fjord area of Iceland. On our way we stopped at the turf houses located in Glaumbær. These houses are some of the oldest structures in Iceland, made completely out of turf which was a better insulator than wood during the cold winters.
We didn’t have enough time to drive through the entire western fjords but we did meet some people who did and said it was well worth it. The Western Fjords are know to house some of the largest colonies of Puffins on the island.
We were technically in Iceland during the shoulder season (the couple of weeks after the busy season) in some cases this meant that there wasn’t a whole going on in some of the smaller towns. We decided to try a visit to one of the fjords that our guidebook had recommended only to find the one shop that was open was a knitting shop. Oh well we tried, at least you know that any drive in Iceland won’t disappoint when it comes to scenery.
We set out for Snæfellsnes which a western peninsula in Iceland. Snæfellsnes, also known as “miniature Iceland” has the perfect sampling of unique Icelandic landscapes.
We drove to the very tip of the peninsula around Snaefellsjokull National Park. Here you can do various hikes, drive to the glacier and also do cave tours.
After our drive around the National Park we headed to Arnastapi to do this beautiful hike between Hellar and Arnarstapi. This hike is probably one of my favorites of the trip. The first part of the hike you wind through lava fields and eventually come out to enjoy expansive views of the coastline which include some amazing basalt rock formations.
We started to head back south towards Reykjavik. On our way back we visited what is called the Golden Circle, consisting of the Strokkur Geyser, Gullfoss Waterfall and Kerið Crater. For those of you who don’t have 10 days to drive the entire Ring Road, this is the perfect day trip from Reykjavik.
We ended that day back in Reykjavik to do final shopping and sightseeing. We visited Hallgrímskirkja, the famous Church of Iceland. This is definitely worth a visit, the church has a very unique facade, and the views that you get from the top form the perfect snapshot of Reykjavik.
Looking for a good white russian? Well you can hang out with The Dude in Reykjavik. There happens to be a Lebowski Bar in Reykjavik! Ah the randomness you find when traveling, this one is worth a visit.
Our final full day in Iceland, we started off with breakfast at easily one of the cutest cafes I’ve ever been to, The Coocoo’s Nest, you HAVE to go here! Get there before it opens because it’s a tiny cafe and fills up fast! We were all over it so before we knew it we were enjoying an amazing breakfast.
We ended our Iceland trip with a fantastic meal at Grillmarkaðurinn. The food is amazing and the dessert is served in a chocolate lava ball, need I say more?
Again if you don’t have 10 days to drive around the Ring Road, no worries! There are plenty of things you can do a short drive away from Reykjavik.
Check out Full Suitcase’s list of Iceland itineraries, it offers itineraries for everything from a 1 day layover to 10 days.
You made it! I’ve got a bonus Iceland list for you, made by a local Icelander. My friend Sara has a friend who lives in Iceland who was nice enough to share with us a local’s view on a trip around the Ring Road. Check it out here!