Iceland had always been high on my travel wish list mainly for the natural attractions. Luckily my friend was also keen to visit, so we decided it was time to splash some cash. We decided on a mini road trip of the South Coast. We would rent a car https://www.bluecarrental.is and stay in hotels along the way. Meaning that we could see so much more of Iceland than just the surrounding areas of Reykjavik. So here is our amazing 4 night itinerary to inspire you too!
We visited Mid October and were able to start our days at sunrise about 8am until sunset at 6pm. During the winter month’s sunlight hours drop dramatically. But during the summer you are spoilt for sunlight hours!
Day 1: Keflavik Airport to Hveragerdi
We boarded our flight and I patiently waiting for my first views of Iceland. And I was far from disappointed! The coastlines were covered in dark sand, but it was the huge cracks and rifts tearing through the ground caught my eye even more.
After arriving mid-afternoon, collecting our hire car, we headed straight to the hotel. It was about 30 minutes away from Reykjavik and 1 hour from the airport in a small town called Hveragerdi. We decided to stay here instead of Reykjavik as we wanted to be nearer to the Golden Circle. Hveragerdi is a sleepy town, surrounded by mountains and is known for being home to hot spring rivers. Well worth a visit if you want to experience a less tourist hot springs opposed to Blue Lagoon, we didn’t have enough time to visit though – next time!
Our hotel was an absolute dream – we stayed at Frost and Fire Hotel – http://booking.com/hotel/is/frost-and-fire
In hind sight we would have stayed longer. The hotel was situated next to the river with outside hot tubs and views overlooking the river and mountains above. We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the northern lights from our bedroom balcony. Although we were caught off guard and only had pyjamas on when we saw them from inside our room. It was a worthwhile sacrifice to freeze for 5 minutes than to miss any precious seconds of watching the bright green lights floating across the sky.
There are a few restaurants in town but I would recommend Olverk Pizzeria.
Tip: Northern Lights are usually most active around midnight so stay awake.
Day 2: Golden Circle, Seljalandsfoss and Kirkjubaejarklaustur
This was by far our longest day as we needed to get to our hotel on the South Coast. We set off early, accompanied by blue skies and sunshine, to Thingvellir National Park a UNESCO site. The Park sits in a rift valley caused by the tearing apart of the Eurasian and North Atlantic plates. The park is beautiful and we saw it in all it’s autumnal glory. From the park we headed further into the Golden Circle to Geyser, then onto Gullfoss waterfall. Trying to get out of the Golden Circle when you are pushed for time is not ideal as the speed limit on a lot of the roads is a mere 50kph.
On the way we stopped off at Seljalandsfoss waterfall, put our rain macs on to go and find the hidden waterfall of Gljufrabui. We found it and started to cross stepping stones up the river whilst being soaked by the spray off the waterfall to reach the point below.
As the sun set we were still driving and arrived at our hotel in the dark. We stayed at Icelander Hotel Klaustur in Kirkjubaejarklaustur – http://booking.com/hotel/is/klaustur
Tip: This route takes 5hrs driving time (without stopping time allocated for sightseeing).
Day 3: Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, Diamond Beach, Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon, Fjadrargljufur Canyon and Lava Fields
We started our day driving to Jokulsarlon, about an hour and a half from the hotel. The drive itself is stunning as you drive towards snow capped mountains and glaciers. This is one place not to be missed in Iceland! We were extremely lucky with the weather as the sun reflected off the white ice creating stunning views.
We then hopped across the road to Diamond Beach. Here the the icebergs wash up on the shoreline onto the black sand beach.
Next was a visit to the neighbouring glacier lagoon Fjallsarlon. About 20 minutes back up the ring road from Joksulsarlon, a much smaller lagoon but well worth a visit. We stopped there for a while and sat down and listened to the ice cracking…
We decided to head back to nearer our hotel to visit Fjadrarguljufur Canyon as it was still early afternoon. The canyon is stunning with it’s steep walls and winding river that runs through it. There are various panoramic viewpoints to take in the vastness of the canyon. Trust me when I say photographs do not do this place justice.
Right next to the entrance to the canyon, and on the main road are the Eldhraun lava fields covered in moss. There are various driving tracks off of the main road that you can drive down, as well as walking paths. The lava was created from one of the greatest eruptions in history which lasted from 1783 to 1784.
That night we returned to the Icelander Klaustur Hotel.
Tip: The road to the canyon might be slightly hard to find, it is a turning off of the ring road just before or after Kirkjubaejarklaustur. Depending on which way you are coming from and the road is not numbered. There is signposted with a white and red tourist sign with Fjadrarguljufur on it. Also most of the road to the canyon is down a small gravel track. Tt is accessible with a 2wd – just drive slow.
Day 4: Reynisfjara Beach, DC Plane, Skogafoss, Seljavallalaug and Reykjavik
We checked out of our hotel at dawn and headed straight for Vik and Reynisfjara Beach. Black sand beach as it is affectionately known as, famous for its basalt columns in the cliff face. It was absolutely freezing when we got there so needless to say we didn’t stay too long. Just enough to see the sun rising above the sea.
Next on the ring road back to Reykjavik was the DC plane wreckage. We had spotted a car park area on our way down a couple days before and thought this must be where we park up although there are no signs at all. It is about a 50 minute walk to the plane from the car park and there is a track you follow, if you walk quickly then it will take you 40 minutes. The plane itself is surreal with all the electrical wires hanging out onto the black sand. An ideal location for photographers!
On the road again…
Just a few minutes further Westwards on the ring road is Skogafoss waterfall, which you can see from the road. A magnificent waterfall, but be prepared to get wet if you try to get a good photo. Well worth a visit if like me, you love a waterfall!
After leaving Skogafoss we headed further West on the ring road and a further 10 minutes up the road was Seljavallalaug, Iceland’s oldest swimming pool and a place I was really excited to see.
Tip: You need to turn up road 242 towards Rafarfellsvegur and then keep going straight up the road. You should see signs for Seljavallalaug now. When you come to a road filled with potholes – you are on the right road. There is a car park at the top of the road. You just need to follow (walking) the path that leads back into the valley. You won’t see the pool until you are practically there – so keep going.
We then decided it was finally time to head to Reykjavik and arrived at our hotel in the late afternoon. Unfortunately as soon as we got nearer to the city the weather just changed and the rain and winds came – which we took as a sign that we should have stayed in the countryside. http://booking.com/hotel/is/hotelreykjavik
Day 5: Blue Lagoon and Home
On our last we walked into the city centre for dinner and along the main shopping street. I can imagine it being a pretty city in the sunshine, but for us the countryside and landscapes we had just experienced for the last 4 days were so beautiful that there was just no competition. However, we stayed the night as we were up early to head to the Blue Lagoon before our flight home that afternoon.
Unfortunately, the rain and wind from the previous day had got worse overnight. When we arrived at the Blue Lagoon we were faced with waves smashing up into our faces from the torrential winds. We ended up having to swim and walk backwards for the whole time. It was also disappointing that the lagoon was not warm at all – we were getting cold and decided to get out.
Tip: Obviously in better conditions it would have been a relaxing experience. For me it wasn’t a highlight and next time I would rather go and visit one of the natural hot springs rivers or pools.