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When I think back of Iceland, I still feel like it took me into its magic – so much faster than expected. The country reminded me a little bit of New Zealand, with the lava fields, the saturated green, the easy going of the Icelanders and the breathtaking landscapes. No question, Iceland is experiencing a huge high of tourists on the island, but it does have a good reason. If you’re planning a trip to beautiful Iceland yourself. Today you get my big travel guide, with our full itinerary, accommodation tips, restaurants, how much budget you’ll need and many more helpful tips for your adventure in Iceland!
- 1 ROAD TRIP IN ICELAND – FULL GUIDE, TRAVEL-ROUTE, BUDGET & TIPS
- 1.0.1 General road trips for a trip in Iceland
- 1.0.2 Stop 1: THE CAPITAL REYKJAVIK
- 1.0.3 Stop 2: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
- 1.0.4 Stop 3: THE WATERFALLS HRAUNFOSSAR
- 1.0.5 Stop 4: PENINSULA SNAEFELLSNES
- 1.0.6 Stop 5: THE SMALL TOWN HVAMMSTANGI
- 1.0.7 Stop 6: AKUREYRI
- 1.0.8 Stop 7: NORTH-ICELAND TO THE EAST
- 1.0.9 Stop 8: SOUTH-EAST ICELAND
- 1.0.10 Stop 9: SOUTH-EAST ICELAND
- 1.0.11 Stop 10: WAY BACK
- 1.0.12 BUDGET for 12 days road trip in Iceland
- 1.0.13 Read more
ROAD TRIP IN ICELAND – FULL GUIDE, TRAVEL-ROUTE, BUDGET & TIPS
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All prices stated here are from the low season. We travelled to Iceland from the 1st of May until the 14th of May in 2016. The high-season usually starts 15th of May.
General road trips for a trip in Iceland
- The ring-road, street number 1, makes its way all around Iceland. The road is easy to drive on and you can decide which direction you would like to go first on your road trip in Iceland.
- In Iceland, and particularly in the North, it can happen that you will be the only ones on the road for quite some time. For safety precautions, you can dowload the app 112 Iceland App, which monitors your route via GPS and where you can ask for help in case of an emergency.
- You can drink the water from the tap. Since Iceland is a geothermal active country, the water can sometimes have a different taste than you’re used to. If so, bring a water bottle in case.
- You can use any public toilets for free, even in the supermarket.
- Don’t plan each day on the way, since you should really enjoy the time given and not jump from stop to stop.
- Download the currency app to track your spendings. I always use this app on my travels.
- Download offline maps to avoid expensive phone plans.
- If you get lost or don’t know what to do, you can always ask strangers. The Icelandic people are very open and friendly and are happy to help you out – mostly.
Stop 1: THE CAPITAL REYKJAVIK
TO DO: Arrive and settle in a bit in Reykjavik and take yourself a bit of extra time to explore this beautiful city We regretted it by the end of our trip that we didn’t have much time to explore this amazing city There is so much to explore, as Reykjavik is definitely different to other European cities.
MUST DO: On everyone’s bucketlist I suppose: the blue lagoon. You reach the geothermal bath after approx 40 minutes by car from Reykjavik. But you could also go on an organized tour. It’s something really special to swim in hot water while it’s 4 degrees outside. If you take the time and swim further out, you might be lucky and have a quiet spot for yourself to enjoy the surrounding nature.
ACOOMMODATION: Our arrival time on the first night was way past midnight, so we choose a place to stay close to the airport, in Keflavik. We stayed at the Svitan Guesthouse, which is about 10mins from the airport, the rooms were cozy and clean. Price: ± 50 Euro for the double room, breakfast included.
In Reykjavik we stayed at the Hotel Lotus and were quite happy with the place. The rooms were nothing fancy, but we were really satisfied. We had lots of space, the owners were really friendly and always helped out when we had questions and the breakfast buffet is something you don’t want to miss out. Price: ± 95 Euro for the double room, breakfast included. I also heard only good things about the KEX Hostel and will def stay there next time I’m going!
WHERE TO EAT: You really need to go and check out the vegan Restaurant Glo – we loved it so much, we returned a second time on our way back! So good! Price for a big salad, the ingredients you can choose yourself: ± 13 Euro.
Stop 2: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
ROUTE: Reykjavik > Golden Circle > Borganes/Reykjavik (depending on where you will spend the night)
TO DO: The famous tourist route, the Golden Circle, shows off directly with its highlights from Iceland. We began our route in the South by visiting the crater lake Kerið!
Our next stop was the Geothermalfield Haukadalur. About every five minutes, a water fountain of a temperature of up to 80 degrees comes up, spied by the Geysir – so don’t stand too close! If you get annoyed by the cheering crowd, just make your way up the hill, from where you can watch the spectacle from a distance – plus the surrounding view!
The next station at the Golden Circle is the Gullfoss Waterfall – here you will get a breathtaking panorama! Must do: climb up the stairs to get a view from above. On the way back, you should definitely make a quick stop at the Pingvellir Nationalpark – such a magical place. I only waited for some elf to come up. Who’s into finishing the day quietly, can pay a visit to the Fontana Baths where you have an amazing view at the Nationalpark.
WHERE TO EAT: In Borganes you can find a little asian restaurant, the Matstofan, which doesn’t seem that fancy from the outside. But on the inside, it’s crowded and many Icelanders eat there. In comparison to other restaurants, the food was fairly cheap and really good! Price: ± 12 Euro for fried rice with vegetables.
Stop 3: THE WATERFALLS HRAUNFOSSAR
ROUTE: Borgarnes > Hraunfossar > Halbinsel Snaefellsness (f.e. Grundarfjörður)
TO DO: We went directly to Borganes that night, but I wished we would have had taken the time to do a little trek through the beautiful Pingvellir Nationalpark. This would be an option for the morning, as it’s not far from Reykjavik.
Afterwards you make your way into the North to the Fjord Hvalfjördur, passing the waterfalls of Hraunfossar. Here you pass a tunnel – price: approx 5 Euros. Those hundreds of little waterfalls seem to come out of the old lava field and the view is amazing. Who is keen, can also do the way to the Glacier Langjokull. There are many tours which you can do and I’m sure it’s a once in a lifetime experience. The road was closed when we wanted to go, so better get informed beforehand. In the evening you can drive to the peninsula Snaefellsnes in the West. Who is still fit enough should stay awake until super late to watch the sunset behind Kirkjufell!
ACCOMODATION: We stayed at the YHA Grundarfjördur. Everything was really clean, but we were still a little disappointed after we had read all the incredible reviews online. The room was quite small for two and in comparison to all the other accommodation we had in Iceland, quite pricy. But we could cook in peace and quiet and had some good times just hanging in the common area. Price: ± 90 Euro die Nacht im Doppelzimmer ohne Frühstück.
WHERE TO EAT: We had some great food at the harbour at Laki Hafnarkaffi – really cozy, yummy pizza and the prices are good. Also, you get tap water for free in Iceland. Price: ± 13 Euro.
Stop 4: PENINSULA SNAEFELLSNES
ROUTE: Explore the West of the peninsulal Snaefellsnes
TO DO: If you’re here at the right season (from 14th of May onwards) you can do some Whale Watching from Grundarfjördur – it’s supposed to be amazing there! Apart from that you should def check out the mountain Kirkjufell and its waterfalls Kirkjufellfoss which are not even two minutes far. You can stroll around, admire the waterfalls and say hi to the Iceland ponys.
After that you drive further into the West of the peninsula to Öndverðanes to the light house. Here, you make your way through old lava-landscape. Who would like to go further can also drive to the glacier Snaefellsjökull. We wouldn’t really make up our minds if the road that leads to the glacier was a F-road or a normal one- so we decided to not go. The rest of the day you can explore the rest of the peninsula or drive to Stykkisholmur – there are supposed to be some hot pools right by the sea.
ACCOMMODATION: You can spend another day at the peninsula in the same accommodation. It’s sometimes nice to stay at a place longer than one night.
WHERE TO EAT: Not as expensive, the lady from the hostel recommended the Restaurant RuBen to us which is right at the main road in Grundarfjördur.
Stop 5: THE SMALL TOWN HVAMMSTANGI
Route: Grundarförður > Hvammstangi
TO DO: On the next day, the road trip goes to the North of Iceland. Who has a couple of more days to explore and travels in Iceland at the right time of the year, should definitely make the way to the stunning Westfjords. We spent our time with the Iceland ponys and my new friend Buddy, but you can also go exploring the North of Hvammstangi and enjoy the view of the sea. If you’re lucky you can even spot some whales in the distance.
ACCOMMODATION: We stayed at the Hvammstangi Cottages – little, cozy cottages a little out of town. It was so quiet, you can cook your own food, relax and watch the beautiful sunset. The only downside: the cottages are right behind a little hill, so you don’t get the view of the sea. But you can just put on some warm clothes and get ready for a little evening walk.
Stop 6: AKUREYRI
ROUTE: Hvammstangi > Akureyri
TO DO: The trip goes further in the North to the little town called Akureyri, which is located right besides the fjord Eyjafjörður. There are many viewpoints, or just make a little walk along the water. We made our way up to the cemetery Höfdagata, of which I knew from the travelblog travelettes. Behind the cemetery you have a beautiful view of Akureyri and the fjord.
Akureyri is supposed to be the perfect place for watching the Northern lights. If you stay awake and are lucky – you might get to see the aurora! But you can also do some tours to the Arctic circle or go whale watching in the fjord.I told you about our great whale watching experience here!
ACCOMMODATION: This was my favourite place we stayed at on our trip: Akureyri Backpackers! It is so cozy, really clean, the interior is nice and the staff is super friendly and helpful! The hostel is right in the middle of the city and you also get a welcome drink! Price for a double room: ±42,50 Euro for the night with breakfast.
WHERE TO EAT: You can get some good food at the restaurant Bauten in the middle of the city! You have a view of the street and you can order a menue where you get the whole salad buffet included and a soup. I had some delicious salmon with both of it for about 32 Euro.
Fish&Chips you can get at Akureyri Fish&chipsfor ± 15 Euro.
The little gelato place Brynja is famous in Iceland, so better make a quick stop jere! You can get some ice-cream from 2,60 Euro.
Stop 7: NORTH-ICELAND TO THE EAST
ROUTE: Akueyri > Höfn
TO DO: We did the longest drive from Akureyri, to the harbour city Höfn in the East. Don’t underestimate the distance like we did. If there’s still snow around, which is quite likely to happen in Iceland, the drive can get really tiring. I would recommend staying at the ring-road for the whole way. Who thinks the distance is too long, you could stay for a night in Egilstaðir. Like that you could see a little more of that beautiful country, for example the Dettifoss or Gljufurarfoss or Hengifoss.
You def have to make a stop at Goðafoss which is only about 20 minutes far from Akureyri.
More stops on the way: the beautiful Mývatn See and the huge lava field Dimmuborgir.
ACCOMMODATION: We stayed at the Artbjarg Guesthouse. The owner is friendly and it wasn’t a problem that we arrived late at night. The only downside: you couldn’t book breakfast as an extra. But there is a spacious and bright kitchen which sea view, plus the supermarket is only two minutes away. Rate: about 81 Euro for a double room without breakfast.
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Stop 8: SOUTH-EAST ICELAND
ROUTE: Höfn > South-East Iceland
TO DO: One of my highlights in Iceland, close to the city of Höfn: the black beach of Stokksnes. We stayed for a couple of hours, walked through the heavy wind and enjoyed the breathtaking landscape.
After Stokksnes we kept on travelling to the South – to get to one of the biggest glacier lakes in Iceland: Jökulsárlón. The view was spectacular and we had to sit in the car for another moment to embrace it: the floating icebergs in the turquoise water, the big area of pure ice with the mountains in the background and the little seals playing in the water and curiously observing the tourists. Even though it was still very cold for the beginning of May – we stayed for a long time and enjoyed every moment.
ACCOMMODATION: We were surprised in a positive way by our accommodation in Hörgsland: Hörgsland Guesthouse. It was basic but clean and our room had its own bathroom. The shower was on the hallway, which is not a problem, only if you forget your towel, and on the top floor, there was a common room and a little kitchenette. Breakfast was included, it was super rich and yummy. Only downside: the wifi didn’t really work back in the rooms – but it is also quite nice to enjoy some time offline. Rate: about 68 Euro for a two bedroom, breakfast included.
WHERE TO EAT: We enjoyed really yummy burger at the restaurant Systrakaffi not very far from Hörgsland. Since there are no open supermarkets around at a certain time, the tiny restaurant is a great choice. Rate for a burger: about 14 Euro.
Stop 9: SOUTH-EAST ICELAND
ROUTE: Hörgsland > Vik > Skógafoss > Seljavallalaug
TO DO: Vik is a little town, but you can stroll along the black beach, observe the bird culture and enjoy the sea. Close to Vik there is also a beautiful viewpoint – just follow the signs.
About 20 minutes far from Vik, there is my absolute highlight of a waterfall: Skógafoss. The water drops down of 60 metres and it is a breathtaking view. We took our time and spent all day here. For our lunchbreak we sat at a bench and many tourists who passed by gave us a smile. We were already wondering why two men passed by and said: “Nice spot”. There was a tent behind us, that we didn’t see and people assumed that it was ours – of course, that would have been the perfect spot to wake up to.
We spent the afternoon at one of the oldest outdoor pools of Iceland: Seljavallalaug. The pool is at the bottom of a valley and it is about 15 minutes walkway far from the parking lot. Here I told you how to get there and told you a little bit about Seljavallalaug.
ACCOMMODATION: We stayed at HI Hostel a little bit out of Vik. The hostel is really cozy, there are chicken in the garden and there is a no shoe policy. The eggs for breakfast come from the chicken in the garden, they have home made jam and home made bread. Only downside: even though peak season actually starts at 15th of May, we had to pay the full summer price and actually paid the highest rate – even though we stayed at cheaper places where we had much more comfort. Rate for a double room with a shared bathroom and breakfast: around 140 Euro.
Stop 10: WAY BACK
ROUTE: Vik > Seljalandsfoss > airport
TO DO: Our flight left late at night so we still had a whole day left to explore, and did a second trip to Skógafoss. Not far from there you can find the waterfall Seljalandsfoss, where you can even walk behind the waterfall. But be prepared to get wet!
BUDGET for 12 days road trip in Iceland
- We spent approx. 430 Euro per person for accommodation. Sometimes, breakfast was included, sometimes it wasn’t.
- We spent approx. 60 Euro per person to go out for dinner and approx. 80 Euros per person in the supermarket to prepare our own meals.
- We rented our car via ADAC, with Hertz and had a small car without 4 wheel drive and a full car insurance, unlimited kilometers and one extra driver. For 11 days, we paid about 400 Euro, which is 200 Euro per person.
- For petrol, we spent 230 Euro for petrol, which means 115 Euro per person.
- Most of the times, you won’t need to rent an expensive 4 wheel drive, if you do a similar tour like ours around Iceland. Not many streets are F-roads, but get informed in advance.
- Most of the petrol stations in Iceland, are literally only stations without a cashier. You simply pay with your credit card. Don’t be surprised, when doing so, sometimes you need to pay a deposit on your credit card, which you will get back a week or so later.
- Our flight would have been 330 Euro. I was very lucky though, because I won the flight at a Christmas contest at Lilie’s Diary.
Do you have some more questions regarding a road trip to Iceland?