Iceland is only 103,001 km² or roughly the size of Kentucky so it’s hard to comprehend how it fits so many amazing sites into such a compact space. That being said the land of fire and ice will not disappoint, with a population of 300,000 there is a lot of wild places still left to discover.
I spent 10 days in Iceland and I wouldn’t recommend spending any less time here, unless you are willing to miss quite a few amazing sites. That being said it’s not a cheap country to visit, you will absolutely need to hire a car, 4WD is preferable, to save money you can camp but as I discovered September is the rainy season so be prepared for inclement weather. I also took a large amount of food with me (freeze dried hiking meals) and ate those for dinner, lunches consisted of salami and cheese sandwiches provisions for which you can buy at Bonus (the Iceland supermarket).
The 10 day itinerary
Below is a complete 10-day itinerary that outlines the amazing sites you will see, if you would like my excel version which details the entire trip Sign Up to my news letter below and I will email it to you for free!
Day 1: The Golden Circle
A trip to Iceland wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Golden Circle which consists of waterfalls, geysers and an amazing crater lake. Driving from Reykjavik this is the order of stops:
Stop 1: Thingvellir National Park (40km and approximately 30 minutes)
Stop 2: Haukadalur (60km and approximately 45 minutes)
Stop 3: Gullfoss Waterfall (10km and approximately 9 minutes)
Stop 4: Kerið Crater Lake (56km and approximately 45 minutes)
Stop 5: Hveragerdi (24km and approximately 20 minutes)
Day 2: The South
Leaving the West behind you will now travel to the South which has some of the most interesting sites Iceland has to offer including a famous waterfall, the infamous black sand beach plane crash and a secret waterfall.
Stop 1: Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
This is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland and while its popular and not to be missed don’t forget to visit the hidden Gljúfrafoss waterfall just a 10-minute walk to the left.
Stop 2: Skógafoss & Hidden Waterfall
While Skógafoss is a breathtaking waterfall it is also very crowded, for a more unique brush with nature head over to the Skogar Museum, behind the building there is a track which will take you to a hidden waterfall.
Stop 3: Sólheimasandur Plane Crash
Its important to note that the dirt track that use to allow cars to drive to the crash is now closed which means it’s a 6km round trip to see the plane, worth every step, even in the wind and rain. Did you know? rumor has it that the plane made an emergency landing due to a lack of fuel, however the plane had plenty in its second tank but the pilot didn't know.
Stop 4: Black Beach & Vik Beach
For the best views the cliffs are amazing and a must see, if you want to walk on the black sand Vik beach is a must.
Recommended Camping Spot: Looking for a truly unique place to camp look no further than Þakgil Campground located a 45-minute drive from Vik (on an unsealed road) this camp ground offers a one of a kind experience. Located in a valley with a cave that has been turned into a candle lit dining hall it’s an experience not to be missed. If you didn’t bring a tent don’t worry they also have basic cabins which you can stay in http://www.thakgil.is/
Day 3: The Glacier
The absolute highlight of my trip to Iceland was walking and climbing on the Svínafellsjökull glacier in the Skaftafell National Park. If you are planning a trip I highly recommend booking with Icelandic Mountain Guides, their guides are amazing and you will have the most amazing experience with them. I booked the Glacier Walk & Ice Climb tour which also happened to include exploring the Ice Caves as they just opened up for the season. The tour starts at 12pm and finishes around 5-6pm, I camped in the adjacent camp ground for the night.
You can read about my experience on the Icelandic Mountain Guides Website: http://www.mountainguides.is/blog/adventurer-of-the-week-claire,-forever-chasing-wanderlust-on-a-glacier/
Day 4: The Glacier Lagoon and the East Fjords
Stop 1: Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon
This is by far one of them most amazing sites in Iceland and most popular. If you can I would suggest getting there as early as possible, I arrived at 7.30am and was practically alone for an hour before the masses started arriving.
Stop 2: The East Fjords
Driving through the East Fjords is wonderful, I would recommend deviating from the National Highway 1 and driving through all the little sea side towns.
Day 5: Waterfalls and Geysers
Stop 1: Dettifoss Waterfall
This is the most powerful waterfall in Europe and is also where the opening scenes from the movie Prometheus was filmed. I have to say it was my personal favorite, you can feel the sheer power water just standing here.
Stop 2: Námafjall Hverir
Iceland is full of geysers and volcanic activity, this area is so beautiful and has a Mars like feel to it, you won’t believe you are on earth walking around here.
Stop 3: Góðafoss Waterfall
Hotel Recommendation: If you want to treat yourself while you are in Iceland and if like me you can’t bare another night in the tent I would highly recommend booking a room at the Siglo Hotel, http://www.siglohotel.is/ I have to say it’s one of the best hotels I have stayed in.
Day 6: The West Fjords
Stop 1: Hvitserkur
As you commence your drive to the Western Fjords be sure to stop here to see this amazing Rock formation.
Stop 2: Flókalundur
If you are planning to spend some time in the west, something I highly recommend your accommodation choices are very limited. I camped in this town however there is also a motel you can stay in. I was lucky enough to get a clear night, my only clear night in Iceland I might add, and saw the Northern Lights dance across the sky. I also saw the most amazing sunrise here where the sky turned to fire. If you want a truly wonderful experience I recommend getting to the thermal pool before sunrise and watching it from there, you will most likely be the only one there.
Day 7: The most Western Point in Europe
Stop 1: Látrabjarg
Today you are going to drive to what’s considered the most Western Point in Europe, the drive is 1.5 hours and 95km but totally worth it to see the amazing cliffs. In the summer season you will see thousands of Puffins nesting on the edge of the cliffs, however come the end of August they start migrating. After you have seen the cliffs it’s a day of driving to get to the Snæfellsjökull Peninsula, you can take a ferry but its $150 dollars and only leaves once a day at 6pm.
Day 8: Snæfellsjökull Peninsula
Stop 1: Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall & Kirkjufell
Also known as the most photographed mountain in the world Kirkjufell is not to be missed. The mountain/waterfall combination is Instagram gold.
Stop 2: Port Arnarstapi
After seeing the most amazing natural bridge on Instagram I was determined to see it for myself. It took me 3 hours of walking to find it so for those who want to see it, when you are looking at the ocean it’s along the path to the left, not to the right!
Stop 3: Glymur Waterfall
This waterfall is one of my favorites in Iceland, mainly because it’s a 10km round trip, up a steep hill to see it. It is therefore devoid of most tourists, it’s the perfect spot to sit and truly appreciate nature
Stop 4: Gullfoss Waterfall
If you can I would highly recommend seeing this waterfall at sunset or sunrise, it is so beautiful and most of the tour buses are gone at this hour.
Day 9: Revisit the Golden Circle
Day 9 for me was a buffer day, I wanted to make sure I had enough time to see anything I missed or wanted to add to the itinerary on the way. Lucky for me, due to the terrible weather on day 1 I used this day to revisit key spots I missed or couldn’t truly appreciate the first time around. The weather in Iceland is so unpredictable I would highly recommend a buffer day in your itinerary just in case.
Day 10: Explore Reykjavik and Fly Out
Today you leave Iceland, depending on your departure time I would recommend spending ½ a day in Reykjavik to explore the key sites.
After reading this you may be wondering, but you didn’t go to the Blue Lagoon? One of the most famous sites in Iceland… and the answer is no I didn’t. For a couple of reasons, firstly its quite expensive in my opinion at 44 euro per person, and secondly it’s such a touristy thing, trust me after 9 days on national route 1 you will be so sick of tourists wielding selfie sticks like a weapon. Instead I would take advantage of the many natural hot springs dotted around the country that are completely free and give the Blue Lagoon a miss.
As I said if you enjoyed my itinerary and want it in an easy to read spread sheet sign up below and I will send it to you for free!