Iceland Road Trip: Days 1 (Reykjavík to Vík) & 2 (Vík to Höfn)

They say Iceland is the land of fire & ice. This is the truth. I found, in general, the south is the land of ice and the north is the land of fire.

First day in Iceland

I landed in Iceland in the afternoon on a Thursday and we collected our rental car from Sixt at the airport. We were very lucky – we originally booked one of their cheaper cars (Chevy Cruze) but since they didn’t have it when we arrived, they upgraded us to an Opel Insignia for free. That car literally costs twice as much per day as what we paid!! I do recommend booking your car online in advance like we did – it should save you quite a bit of money. Don’t worry about purchasing insurance in advance – we were able to add it on when we were there collecting the car.

We made our way from Keflavík to Reykjavík (45 minute drive). We didn’t have much planned for today, we just wanted to load up our car with groceries and supplies and get organised for our road trip, which would start tomorrow. We read Bónus is the cheapest grocery store in Iceland but we got there just as they closed at 6pm. We saw a 10-11 but knew this was the most expensive grocery store in the country, so we kept driving and found a Krónan shop. We bought apples, 3 bags of pasta, pasta sauce, nutella, rice cakes, bananas, peanut butter, chickpeas, rice, crackers, TONS of granola bars, protein bars, tea, gum, fig newtons and TP. We ended up eating almost all of the food and the supply lasted for the trip.

We went for a rest before driving into Reykjavík to see the Hallgrímskirkja church for the first time. I’ve seen a LOT of churches around the world and this is by far the coolest-looking one I’ve ever seen.

Hallgrímskirkja

Hallgrímskirkja

Something to keep in mind, before I get into details, for those of you planning to do a road trip around Iceland (and I will reiterate this over and over): You cannot possibly do the full Ring Road (Route 1) in less than 7 full days (if you want to see most of the sights), but I would highly recommend a minimum of 10. We did it in 7 but everyone we talked to was very impressed by this and said that is hard to do. It did seem rushed at times and we had very long days (easy to do with the midnight sun!). If you have more time, definitely make sure to rent a 4×4 vehicle because there is so much more to see off the Ring Road!

Day 1 (of our road trip) – Reykjavík to Vík

Before we got on the road, I went to Vodafone to buy an Icelandic SIM card. We went to the headquarters and oh my GOSH. I highly recommend going here just to see how impressive this place is. 1) Easily the largest phone store I have ever been in 2) Most gorgeous employees on the planet 3) Immaculate, impressive place and 4) If you make any purchase, you can get as much coffee and/or tea as you want. SAY WHAT?! I had the BEST cappuccino I’ve EVER had at Vodafone in Reykjavík. She put amaretto syrup in it and it was truly unbeatable.

We accidentally missed the Golden Circle, but I wasn’t too disappointed because it’s very touristy and crowded (especially in summer) and I knew we would be seeing plenty of incredible sights on our trip. I do wish we could have seen Geysir and the Kerið crater, though – next time!

When you are doing the drive from Reykjavík to Vík, do not be concerned. We drove for 1 hour and 40 minutes until we saw our first sight. Before coming to Iceland, I read so many blogs saying “you’ll be stopping your car every 5 minutes” because of the beauty, and I felt like we were on the wrong road because we hadn’t stopped AT ALL. When in Iceland, if you also find yourself in this position at this point of the trip, do not worry. Things will change.

I was also slightly panicked in the beginning because unless you know the names of the sights you want to see, it’s not always obvious where you should stop or when you should turn and go down a long gravel road.

Our first stop: Seljalandsfoss (waterfall). It took us approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes to get here.

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss

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Today was a day for chasing waterfalls. The sun was shining and it was beautiful outside (54F, 12C). We saw a rainbow close to the waterfall, which I sadly do not have any photos of. The mist was too strong to use my camera and I forgot my GoPro in the car. By the time I went back to the car to get my GoPro, the rainbow was gone.

Next stop: Skógafoss (waterfall). We hiked to the top and stayed up there for quite awhile while the guys went for an adventurous walk.

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

We made it to Vík, ate dinner and checked into our guesthouse at 9pm.

Accommodation: Skammidalur Guesthouse

This guesthouse is in a lovely location, not far from Vík at all. I was mostly impressed with this place except for the bathroom situation. Only one toilet, one sink and one shower for the entire ground floor to share. At least the shower is separate from the toilet. Keep in mind: the majority of guesthouses in Iceland have shared bathrooms, which is fine, but only one is not okay.

Day 2 – Katla Super Jeep trip; Vík to Höfn – our busiest day!

We started our day bright and early with a Mountain Excursion Super Jeep trip to Katla with our guide, Aron. This trip was 4 hours and I HIGHLY recommend it. I originally really wanted to go with Katla Track, but they were fully booked well in advance. Luckily, I found Mountain Excursion because seeing Katla was very important to me. It ended up being one of the most beautiful places I saw in Iceland.

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6 passengers fit in the Jeep (my group + 2 others) and the trip was good fun. If you go on a Super Jeep tour, please be smart and wear your seatbelt. We nearly got thrown around with our seatbelts on (I’m exaggerating, but the terrain is extremely rough!!). Katla is one of the most powerful, active and dangerous volcanoes in Iceland and is due to erupt. It last erupted in 1918 and usually erupts every 50-100 years. Katla is underneath the Myrdalsjökull glacier.

I matched Katla (not on purpose)

I matched Katla (not on purpose)

The area surrounding Katla is simply breathtaking. There are stunning mountains covered in the greenest moss you’ve ever seen, contrasted with beautiful black shimmery sand. The Myrdalsjökull glacier looks a bit like a zebra and its colouring is truly gorgeous. All of this with no other people in sight (you cannot get to Katla without a Super Jeep). We ate 800 year old ice from the glacier and it was so unbelievably fresh. I saw a mountain completely covered in green moss with the exception of one area not covered in moss in the perfect shape of a heart. It made my day and I only wish I could have gotten a photo of it! But my lens probably would have smashed against the window of the Jeep.

Aron going to collect ice from the glacier for us

Aron going to collect ice from the glacier for us

Ice from the glacier (we ate the inside - very clean)

Ice from the glacier (we ate the inside – very clean)

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Haunted house near Katla

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Taken from inside a cave near Katla – raven-shaped cut out above the entrance to the cave

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Driving through a river in the Super Jeep

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Stunning black beach

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The most eastern point of Iceland

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Remember when Eyjafjallajökull erupted in 2010 and caused a massive ash cloud and disruptions to many flights? Aron told us after Eyjafjallajökull erupted, the Icelandic president went on television and said “You’ve seen nothing yet. Wait until Katla erupts”. The entire world will likely see effects of this eruption and since I’m in Ireland, I am sure my world will go completely black. Aron is also on the emergency rescue team and it was interesting hearing his stories about his experiences when Eyjafjallajökull erupted. He said Iceland has no idea how to prepare for a Katla eruption.

After the tour, we went to the Vík i Myrdal Church (aka the cutest church in the world), followed by a black sand beach near Vík.

Vík i Myrdal Church

Vík i Myrdal Church

Vik

Vik

Black sand beach

Black sand beach

We made a quick stop at Laufskalavarda to see the stone piles.

“Laufskálavarða is a lava ridge, surrounded by stone cairns, between the Hólmsá and Skálmá Rivers, close to the road north of Álftaver. Travellers crossing the desert of Mýrdalssandur for the first time would pile stones up to make a cairn, which was supposed to bring them good fortune on the journey.” Source

Laufskalavarda

Laufskalavarda

We then made a quick stop to see the ruins of the Gigjukvisl Bridge. This bridge was destroyed in 1996 when “the volcano under the Grímsvötn lakes belonging to the Vatnajökull glacier erupted, and the river Skeiðará flooded the land” – a glacial lake outburst flood. Source

Gigjukvisl Bridge

Gigjukvisl Bridge

Our next major stop was Fjallsárlón – a glacial lagoon, which is less crowded and lesser known than our next stop, Jökulsárlón. These 2 sights are the most beautiful sights I have ever seen in my life. For some reason, I never thought I’d see icebergs and during the time we spent there, I didn’t feel like I was on Earth. My excitement was unbounded at both of these locations.

Fjallsárlón

Fjallsárlón

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I have a thing for ice.

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We got lucky and literally had Jökulsárlón to ourselves, even though we’ve heard it can get very crowded, especially in summer. They do boat rides at both locations (I think), but not on weekends, which is sadly when we were there. I would have loved to get even closer to the glaciers. Fjallsárlón was absolutely freezing and the arctic winds were hard to handle. Jökulsárlón was eerily warm and any wind was completely blocked. It was amazing (and a bit sad) to see icebergs at Jökulsárlón breaking and falling over. The sound was extremely loud, like a gunshot. In a funnier moment, we witnessed a massive iceberg fall over and then right itself again a few minutes later. There were a few icebergs at Jökulsárlón that were such a beautiful deep blue. Right before we left Jökulsárlón, we witnessed a large flock of arctic birds make their way across the land and go for a swim in a line. I am not sure what type of birds they were – they definitely weren’t puffins. It was very difficult to leave, especially since even while at the glaciers, I knew without a doubt that this would be the highlight of the trip for me. There were so many more amazing sights to come, of course, but this was number one for me. And it was only day 2!

Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón

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Arctic birds

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I didn’t want to leave, but we had passed the point of starvation and snacks weren’t doing it anymore. We were desperate for an N1 or any source of real food but, alas, no such luck. We still had an hour to drive before we made it to Hofn and found our trusty N1 and bought “appetisers” to hold us over until we found our accommodation for the night. We were lost. We called our host and his directions didn’t make sense to us so we ended up driving back and forth until he came to rescue us and we followed him to our gorgeous accommodation that night.

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I had intentions of being able to describe exactly how to get to this place, but I forgot to write these directions down and they are long gone in my memory now, so for this I apologise. Just know that if you decide to stay here, it is worth the search! Just make sure you have a working mobile phone to call the host because you WILL get lost. It is not on Google Earth and cannot be found on any GPS.

Accommodation: Guesthouse Birkifell

Our accommodation in Höfn

Our accommodation in Höfn

We finally arrived at 10:30pm and decided to boil water to make pasta. The water LITERALLY took 1 hour and 45 minutes to boil – so we ate dinner at 12:30am!! But it was really nice to finally have a home-cooked meal together.

Our slightly full trunk/boot, strategically packed every morning!

Our slightly full trunk/boot, strategically packed every morning!

Still to come: days 3-7 of our road trip + 2 bonus days full of adventure!

Days 3 & 4

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How expensive is Iceland (in summer)?

I returned from my incredible road trip around Iceland last Sunday. I am going to be posting many blog posts about this trip, but first up is expense.

Iceland in summer is expensive. Very expensive. It’s easily the most I’ve ever spent in a 10 day period. Having said that, I spent a lot less than I thought I would. Let me break it down for you (all prices are in USD, and I travelled with 3 other people):

ACCOMMODATION   =   $690 total (average of $69 per night)

You can definitely find accommodation for cheaper than we did – hostels do exist in most of the country, but I simply cannot stay in dorm rooms anymore. Since I knew we would be having very long days, I wanted nice places for us to relax and sleep at the end of the day. We mostly booked Airbnb apartments, but we also had a couple guesthouses, which we booked on booking.com. I will detail some of my favourite places we stayed in future blog posts. I spent 10 nights in Iceland, 2 of which were on my own (single rooms), 2 of which there were 3 of us and 6 of which there were 4 of us splitting the cost. I spent a total of $690 on accommodation for myself.

Our gorgeous accommodation in Höfn, Iceland

Our gorgeous accommodation in Höfn, Iceland

FOOD    =   $186

We went grocery shopping once and got supplies for the 4 of us and we spent $83.92 ($20.98 per person). We got things such as: granola & protein bars, pasta & sauce, rice, chick peas, toilet paper, bananas, apples, fig newtons. This lasted us our whole trip! We were very proud of ourselves.

Side note: the smallest pack of TP we could find consisted of 9 rolls – we never opened it! I had tissues with me and nature only called twice when we weren’t near a toilet.

We ate a LOT of hot dogs. They are truly delicious, and at $3 – $4 per hot dog, they are by far the cheapest food option in the country. We also ate a lot of petrol station pre-made sandwiches (tuna!) and they were quite nice. If you’re road tripping around Iceland, the N1 petrol station will quickly become your favourite. After only a couple days, it felt like home!

My love for N1 knows no bounds

My love for N1 knows no bounds

We ate out more than I thought we would, but never anywhere even slightly fancy (way too expensive!). I ate at Subway 3 times and we ate meals out such as: noodles, burritos, pitas and burgers.

I bought Skyr (an Icelandic dairy product that is supposedly cheese but tastes very similar to Greek yogurt) every day.

CAR   =   $1,420.49 ($355.12 per person)

We had the car for 7 days. This price included a GPS, Internet-to-go, as well as the best insurance we could buy (gravel insurance, sand & ash insurance, etc.). There were many times on the gravel roads that we were very thankful we purchased good insurance!

PETROL   =   $205 ($51.25 per person)

Our car (a brand new luxury Opel Insignia – thank you Sixt!) got excellent gas mileage. We fully expected to pay MUCH more than we did for fuel, especially considering the fact that we drove an impressive 2,100 miles!! P1130113 ACTIVITIES  =   $437.85

Whale watching: $68

Katla SuperJeep tour: $178

Inside the Volcano: $291.85 (but I redeemed $100 from rewards on my credit card)

I will be detailing these wonderful adventures in future posts.

EXTRA TRANSPORT (Taxi, Bus)   =   $76.50

MISC  =   $90

I went to Vodafone and bought a SIM card and we bought a car charger for all of our devices. I also bought postcards & stamps which were CRAZY expensive! ($13.76 for 4 stamps and 7 postcards) – etc., etc.

= bringing the grand total to $1,856.47 (minus flights)!

In summary, we travelled around Iceland mostly on a budget, except for accommodation. It is possible to go to Iceland without a fortune! This took lots of planning, but can be done.

Is anyone else planning to go to Iceland any time soon?

In case any of you are wondering what I spent on my flights:

FLIGHTS    = €215 (Euro)

I flew WOW Air (a budget Icelandic airline) from Dublin and got a very good deal. I booked it at the end of March for €125 round-trip. Of course, since WOW is the most strict airline I’ve ever flown (much more strict than Ryanair), I did end up paying a lot extra for luggage – €90 extra to be exact. This was partially my fault and was avoidable for the most part. When I booked my flight, I paid the additional €28 to have a heavier carry-on bag (since they only give you 7kg for free) – because at the time, I planned on travelling carry-on only. As time passed, I realised I wanted to bring a daypack and since I (very sadly) do not have the handy Tortuga daypack yet (it REALLY would have come in handy on this trip!), I needed to check my handy dandy Tortuga V2 in order to carry my daypack on the plane. They are very strict and only allow 1 bag on the plane with no option to purchase a personal item to carry on. Oh well, you live and you learn.

Side note: The currency in Iceland is the króna and cash isn’t needed in most places. They accept credit cards just about everywhere – even for a small purchase such as a hot dog. The only places I had to pay cash were a couple guesthouses and one of my tour guides.