9 Day Iceland Itinerary: Days 1 – 3

9 Day Iceland Itinerary: Days 1 – 3

When visiting Iceland, there are 2 main paths to travel. The Golden Circle is a popular tourist route near Reykjavik (the capitol of Iceland and by far the biggest city on the island) that takes you by some of the most popular destinations; it’s a shorter path and can be done in a day. The Ring Road is Iceland’s main road that travels the perimeter of the island and travels by many other must-see sites. Our plan for the trip was to first head through the Golden Circle, then travel the Ring Road counterclockwise around the island to end up where we started in Reykjavik. Over the next few posts I’ll be showing you our exact itinerary and information about the things we did along the way.

9 Day Itinerary

Day 1: Begin the Golden Circle

After landing in Iceland and grabbing our bags, we took a short walk to the Campervan Iceland building to pick up our home for the next 10 days. From there, our first stop was a grocery store to load up on supplies for our trip. Not all towns have a great supply of groceries, so our goal was to always be stocked up for at least 3 day’s worth.

Thingvillir National Park

We then headed towards Thingvellir National Park, which is of both historic and geographic significance. In 930 A.D., the Vikings set up the world’s first democratic parliament here, which continued to be the location of Iceland’s government until the late 1700’s. Additionally, Thingvellir is also home to the boundary of the North American and European tectonic plates. The plates are slowly moving apart from one another, creating a fissures and rifts. Additionally, there’s a pretty waterfall in the park that is accessible with a short hike from the parliament. All in all, we probably spent about 2 hours in Thingvellir National Park.

Parliament at Thingvillir
Parliament at Thingvillir

 

Waterfall at Thingvillir
Waterfall at Thingvillir

 

Geysir

From Thingvillir, we headed Geysir, which is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist locations. The English word “geyser” actually comes from this original Geysir. It errupts every few minutes, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to see a show. There are also several other small geysers surrounding it that errupt at differing intervals. We watched it for quite some time; it was mesmorizing! There’s also a nice gift shop (that also sells non-gifty items) and a small restaurant on site. Throw on some rain gear before you go to Geysir, because you can get soaked from the spray and mist.

Geysir errupting
Geysir errupting
The mist after a smaller geyser exploded
The mist after a smaller geyser exploded

At this point we were exhausted, having been up from a day of traveled followed by several hours of sightseeting. We drove off onto a country road and found a place to set up camp — overlooking a glacier in the distance and a field of wildflowers.

Day 2: Finish the Golden Circle and head South on Ring Road

Gullfoss

Gullfoss is a double waterfall that, while not very high, is extremely wide. It is stunning and a must-see. There are paths and several platforms so you can get multiple views of the fall. I’d recommend getting there early. It’s a popular site, and can get “busy” as the day goes on and tour buses show up. I put busy in quotes because we never found any site in Iceland to be crowded on the scale that most attractions can be.

Gullfoss
Gullfoss

 

Kerid

Kerid is an old volcanic crater with a lake at the bottom; the deep blue of the lake mixed with the bright red dirt and green grass form a beautiful juxtaposition of colors. You can hike around the upper rim of the crater and down into the bottom of the crater. There is a small fee to enter the crater, which is uncommon in Iceland where most sites are free.

 

Kerid
Kerid

 

Selfoss

The town of Selfoss is nothing special, but it does have several grocery stores and a hardware store that sells outdoor gear. We made a quick stop to get food from the grocery store and another little camping stove from Byko because ours wasn’t working. Then we carried on, anxious to see things much more scenic that this town.

Seljalandsfoss

In case you’re starting to notice, foss means waterfall in Icelandic. Seljalandsfoss is an impressively tall waterfall, but what really steals the show is that you can walk behind the fall. While there is no path to the top of the waterfall, many people were hiking up the hill. It’s pretty steep, but very doable; the views from the top were spectacular. Exploring the top of Seljalandsfoss was one of my highlights of the trip.

Seljalandsfoss from the bottom
Seljalandsfoss from the bottom

 

View from the top of Seljalandsfoss (after hiking up)
View from the top of Seljalandsfoss (after hiking up)
Behind the waterfall
Behind the waterfall

Skogafoss

Shortly after Seljalandsfoss, you’ll come across Skogafoss along Ring Road. We spent so much time hiking and exploring Seljalandsfoss that we made Skogafoss a pretty short visit. There are stairs you can climb to the top of this fall, but we didn’t venture up.

The dazzling view of Skogafoss
The dazzling view of Skogafoss

Solheimajokull Glacial Tongue

As we continued along the Ring Road, we started to see glimpses of the Myrdalsjokull ice cap. There are several places along Ring Road to see Iceland’s glaciers, espeically along the east side of the Island. The Solheimajokull is a glacial tongue on the south side of Iceland that is just off of Ring Road. We pulled off and went to explore. You need to be very careful around glaciers; deep crevices can form out of no where and may look deceivingly small. Always take an experienced guide if you’re going to venture onto to a glacier; we saved our glacier hike for the east side of Iceland and were content to experience this glacial tongue from a distance.

View of the glacier as we're driving up to it
View of the glacier as we’re driving up to it

 

I'm next to a glacier!
I’m next to a glacier!
Another view of the glacier
Another view of the glacier

After seeing the glacier, we drove a bit more down the Ring Road before pulling off to eat and sleep. We were already very appreciative of the flexibility the campervan was giving us. We were already just a bit off schedule and were happy to not have a hotel reservation to rush off to.

Day 3: Dyrholaey and Vik (Southern Iceland)

Being runners, we started our mornings with a run from the campervan. Almost every day we had perfect runs with gorgeous scenery. Except for today. While the scenery was stunning as ever, Kyle had a little run in with The Birds. The Birds are probably about eight inches tall but with beaks several inches long. And they attack. I saw Kyle off in the distance running, when all of a sudden he dove for a ditch with his hands over his head. Every time he got up and started to run, The Birds would start swooping at him. That was the only time either of us were attacked by The Birds, but we were much more suspicious of them as they circled around us while we ran. Wear a hat or have something to protect yourself if you see The Birds circling around while you’re out and about. You’ve been warned.

Dyrholaey

Dyrholaey is an impressive rock structure in the ocean and also home to scores of puffins. There’s also a lighthouse and gorgeous views of the Atlantic Ocean and black sand beaches. It closes for about a month in late May and early June to allow for uninterrupted Puffin breading, so plan accordingly.

The unique rock structure at Dyrholaey
The unique rock structure at Dyrholaey

Vik

Vik is a small town where we spent some time exploring. I had read that Vik was supposed to be quaint and cute, but I found it busy and overwhelmed by tourists. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it did let us get some food and groceries. We grabbed some lamb stew and a fish sandwich at the Strondin Bistro, which overlooks the ocean. This was our first meal that we didn’t cook, so it felt nice to sit in the warmth and let someone else cook! After a bit of relaxing, we walked from the restaurant to the black sand beaches. There were more sea-stacks in the ocean, and it was fun to hike around and explore.

Cave in Vik

Fjardrargljufur

A couple kilometers off of Ring Road (by turning left of Rt 206) is the deep canyon Fjardrargljufur. Signs might lead you to believe that 4wd is required to access it, but you there is parking before the road turns into 4wd only. There is a path along the canyon with amazing views of the river below. It’s particularly breathtaking because, while the surrounding area is largely dark lava fields, the canyon area is lush and green.

Fjardrargljufur Canyon

Drive towards Vanta Glacier

This was one of the longer days of driving we had. The drive took us through the rest of the southern coast and started us up the east coast. Luckily, you’re driving through Iceland so there’s still plenty to see and do. We pulled over whenever we saw things worth stopping for, but nothing was pre-planned.

One thing we pulled over for was the landscape shown below. There are soft, cozy piles of moss that feel just like your favorite comfy mattress!

Pillow Mounds

We also saw this huge array of piles of rocks. We’d been seeing piles of rocks like this all over Iceland, so we were curious to know why they were everywhere. A sign explained that people build piles of rocks for good luck on their journey. We added ours to the mix, and it was fun to think of all the other travelers passing through here before and after us.

Piles of Rocks

Once we were sufficiently worn out, we found a spot to camp and pulled over. Aaah, the joys of a campervan!

Are you planning (or dreaming of) a trip to Iceland? Click here to read about how and why we chose to do our trip in a campervan.

9 Day Iceland Itinerary: Days 4 – 6

9 Day Iceland Itinerary: Days 7 – 9

 

20 thoughts on “9 Day Iceland Itinerary: Days 1 – 3

  1. This is amazing! I’m hoping to visit Iceland this year so your post is super handy. I’m staring in wonder at your photos so I can only imagine how breathtaking it will be in person!

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