How To Roadtrip Iceland in Five Days

Before moving forward I would like to address the following:

1. Iceland isn’t that cold.
2. Iceland isn’t that icy. Sure, there’s ice and snow but it’s not a forbidden arctic tundra only suitable for polar bears and puffins. In fact, Iceland, in comparison to other northern regions (ie: Greenland), is able to be inhabited because of the gulf stream that keeps it reasonably warm.
3. Speaking of Greenland, let’s just debunk this whole Greenland is icy and Iceland is green to confuse people thing. Yes, Greenland is a massive chunk of ice and during the summer Iceland is pretty green, but the name “Iceland” actually derives from the word “island” or to the locals, “ísland.” So although it is a bit icy up there and “islands” are mostly associated with tropical oases of warmth, Iceland is so named for being an island paradise, only you know, just a little chillier version than we’re used to. Crazy I know, but now you have a new fun fact in your arsenal of random information. You’re welcome.

Now that we got all that out of the way…

After traveling for three months in Central and South America we had finally come home and made it about a week in the States before we were itching to leave again. But where to go? On both our lists of places we want to see was Iceland, to which friends and family said a combination of the following:

“Huh, uh, that’s an interesting choice.”

“Wow! That’s really random..”

“What the hell is there to do in Iceland?”

But with unwavering confidence we bought plane tickets on a Friday and by Monday we were off! Now I know what you’re thinking (aside from how rash we are): No, seriously, what’s there to do in Iceland? To which I will answer: far too much. So without further adieu, allow me to introduce Iceland, unarguably one of the most stunningly magnificent places on Earth!

 

I mean, this is the view from the gas station. I’ll just let that sink in.

 

We started our journey in Iceland’s charming capital, Reykjavik, where we rented a cozy little camper that would be our home for the next five days. We highly recommend Go Campers due to their unbeatable prices, kind demeanor and for all the help we received from their camper connoisseur, Benedikt (who shared an uncanny resemblance to Benedict Cumberbatch).

Our route; Getting to the north winter was tough so we stuck to the southern coast


DAY 1

Sejalandsfoss. Fun to climb the ice stairs, or more accurately, to pull yourself up while slipping and falling like a rag doll. In summer (or winter if you’re a masochist), you can even walk behind the waterfall. 

Stuck car. We wanted to get this part out of the way first thing apparently… We were down a random road but by some miracle we were stuck directly in front of a bed and breakfast and the owner said he would help us out in ten minutes. Three hours later. Our knight in shining armor appears to rescue us! Instead of using his Jeep to haul us out he hopped in the front seat and proceeded to rock the car by performing what I can only describe as an intense version of the heimlich maneuver behind the wheel. He’d hit the gas to move it forward then violently slam his body against the seat which pushed the car back. This move was done over and over again (he’s obviously part viking) until he was suddenly reversing a half a mile down the road. I ran to the car and as I approached he walked past me without stopping saying, “okay, all done, night night.” Thanks again Strong Viking Man!



DAY 2

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. This is more of a summer spot than winter adventure, but it was a fun walk regardless. Kind of. There is this saying in Iceland, if you don’t like the weather just wait five minutes. Turns out it is true.

Sunny stroll to the canyon…
The start of the painful ice storm on the walk back…
…and the sun peaking as we drove away

Skaftafell Waterfall. Of all the waterfalls we saw this was my favorite, and trust me there are many. It wasn’t the biggest or most powerful by any means but the experience as a whole was just unbeatable. I enjoyed all of it from the short hike there to the small frozen waterfalls along the way to the massive icicles hanging from the rocks and the seriously delicious hot cocoa in the lodge afterwards (which was amazingly just from a machine!).   


DAY 3 (my favorite day of the trip!)

Jokursarlon and the Glacier Lagoon. Here you can see Vatnajokull which, at 1,800 feet thick, is the largest glacier in europe. It covers 8% of Iceland’s landmass and conceals mountains, volcanoes and valleys below it. Don’t act like you’re not impressed. Bonus fun fact: Tomb Raider, Batman Begins, Game of Thrones and Die Another Day were all filmed here!  On one side of the road you can see the mountains and watch the seals swimming in the water as broken chunks of glacier casually float towards the ocean. The other side is less popular but much better, in my humble opinion, as it is a feast for the eyes; rushing ocean waves, bright blue glaciers resting on black sand, white snow all around and rising mountains in the distance.  

Dyrholaey. This was an incredibly fun playground of cliffs, ocean spray, black sand beaches with volcanic debris and hidden caves.     

Home to the best skipping rocks!

 

Plane Crash Site. At sunset we took a 15 minute walk 45 minute foot scoot and shuffle across a flat expanse of snow and ice that brought us to the site of a fallen US Navy Plane from 1973. Don’t worry, all passengers survived but the fuselage was abandoned and never removed.  

Honestly, what could go wrong?

 


DAY 4
Geysir Geyser. There are about five major geysers in the world and what makes this one special is that it erupts every 5-10 minutes, which is pretty sweet for impatient travellers wanting to see water violently spray from middle earth.   

Gullfoss Waterfall. This is a seriously powerful waterfall! There are four viewpoints to see it and each one is as extraordinary as the next. 

Thingvellir National Park. Not my favorite place we visited, however, I think it would be much more exciting in the summertime. I did love standing between the drifting continental plates of North America and Europe and while standing in the buttcrack of the Earth I was even photobombed by a Welsh school teacher on a field trip! 

DAY 5

Kirkjufell Mountain. We found ourselves in foot deep snow (and by “foot deep” I literally mean over 12 inches..) and saw a mountain that looked oddly like the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter. 

Frozen Icelandic horses en route

Reykholt. Home to Snorri Sturluson, Iceland’s very own 13th century jack-of-all-trades; Lawspeaker, poet, author, historian, politician. I have no doubt in my mind he was also the town’s store clerk, chiropractor, dietician and​ in-house barber.  
Hraunfossar & Barnafoss. An amazing area of waterfalls that I’m surprised is not more popular, not that we’re complaining, we had it practically to ourselves!

Barnafoss waterfall

 

Hraunfossar waterfall

And there you have it, five days around the coast of Iceland!

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Sloth enthusiast, Nutella extremist, and all around sassy human with a deep love for hoppy beer and discovering the world's many gems. Currently gallivanting the globe while drinking more coffee than necessary.

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