Three things I can say for sure about Iceland. One, they really love their roundabouts two, the weather changes faster than any other place I’ve ever been in the world and three, it’s expensive, even for this D.C. girl!
The planning for this trip was relatively easy. We flew out of D.C. on WOW airlines for $300 total, including a $50 carry on bag fee. They are a budget airline so they charge for everything, including water. I would recommend stocking up on water at the airport and having plenty of snacks for the ride over. It’s about 6 hours. Prior to the flight, I heard that they weigh your carry on bag, but we checked in online and nothing was weighed. As long as your carry on fits the size requirements, you’re good to go!
We had a 5 day road-trip planned, so we followed this itinerary by follow me away almost exactly. . I am not going to repeat what’s already on the follow me away blog, just give you a brief overview and some epic pictures. If you’re planning on doing this road trip, you will need to check that one out first.
We arrived at the airport in the early AM which was so perfect for getting on a good sleep schedule. We rented our car from blue car rental, right outside the airport. It was quick and easy. Also, definitely add on the wifi to wherever you rent your car from. You can take the wifi anywhere with you with unlimited data, it was a lifesaver for GPS and music… and it was only $13/day!
We packed so much into 5 days so buckle up, this is going to be a long post.
Day 1: The Golden Circle
First of all, I was not expecting it to be as cold as it is here, it’s the end of MAY! I honestly almost didn’t bring any wool socks or a hat. The weather said it would be in the 40s/50s, but that didn’t include the wind and rain that we had everyday. Plus, they definitely lied because it snowed/sleeted a few days we were there. Definitely check the weather and if it’s supposed to be windy and/or rainy at all, plan for it to feel a lot colder than what it says.
The first day we did the Golden Circle, about a 190-mile round trip if you’re starting and ending in Reykjavik.
Stop 1: Thingvellir National Park: The National Park was our first stop, and honestly I found it slightly underwhelming, but still really pretty. We spent about 30 min walking around and thought that was more than enough. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful- but nothing compared to what we would experience later in the week. My friend recommended that we go snorkeling here, but we didn’t book it soon enough so we didn’t get the chance to. You can check that out here.
Stop 2: Geysers: I have seen these before in a few places in the U.S. so I wasn’t super wowed by these, plus it was pouring rain when we pulled up. We spent less than 15 min here. I would say skip it all together if you’ve seen geysers before, but it’s on your way to the Gullfoss Waterfall so you can make it a quick stop if you feel like you’d be missing out. I didn’t get any pictures here.
Stop 3: Gullfoss Waterfall: Loved this waterfall! 100% recommend walking the path to stand closer to it. You get soaked if it’s even the slightest bit windy, so make sure you’re wearing your waterproof gear!
Breakfast: We arrived in Iceland around 5am local time. We were starving and not many places were open, so we settled for a little cafe called Cafe Haiti in Reykjavik that was open. The food was really good, very affordable, and when I said no bread with my meal, she brought me out some breakfast potatoes and I didn’t even have to ask. So nice! The owner moved here from Haiti 11 years ago and runs her little cafe here. Check it out, it’s adorable.
Lunch: For lunch, I just ate some snacks. Not ideal, but the food at all the places we were near was so expensive ($30-$40) and nothing looked that appealing. When you get near the tourist attractions, food prices get even more ridiculous and gf options are extremely limited or non-existent. Literally brought snacks everywhere (proof below!) Some of my favorites are DNX bar, epic bites, and RX Bars.
Dinner: We were so exhausted from not sleeping since the day before so we went to Budget (grocery store similar to Aldi in America) and got food to make for dinner and breakfast for the next day. Having a kitchen was a lifesaver! We made eggs, turkey bacon (I never eat this, but read below), apples, spinach, potatoes seasoned with some primal palate seasoning samples I brought with me. Fun fact: Bacon and avocados are really freaking expensive here (bacon is around $20!) Oh, and I drank these Froosh drinks almost everyday. They are SO good.
We stayed at a hostel in Keflavik because it was crazy cheap ($23 a person). We were extremely exhausted so we went to bed early and wouldn’t have had time to explore Reykjavik so we didn’t mind driving the extra bit back to Keflavik to save a considerable amount of money. If you’re planning on exploring the Reykjavik and can find something reasonable, I definitely recommend staying there instead of Keflavik.
We went to bed around 8:30pm, then I woke up at 10:30pm and was so confused on how I slept so late because I thought it was 10:30am. Then I realized that it looks like daytime until around 11pm … so make sure you don’t forget your sleep mask!
Day 2 was a lot more exciting than day 1. I layered a bit more (like put on all the clothes I brought with me) so I was a lot warmer. When people say to bring layers, they are joking. Layers and waterproof everything will save you a lot of misery.
After breakfast, we headed east on the ring road towards Vik to see 3 stunning waterfalls. These are all worth checking out, all beautiful and unique.
Stop 1: Seljalandsfoss Waterfall: This waterfall is super cool because there is a path to walk behind it. Definitely do it, being soaked was 100% worth it!
Gljúfrabúi Waterfall: (same location This waterfall is hidden behind a little cave. As noted in the itinerary, you will walk about a 1/4 of a mile to get to this from Seljalandfoss. Not noted in the itinerary, you have to walk through water to get to the waterfall. I walked through the water even though I didn’t have waterproof shoes (100% worth it, but seriously just bring waterproof shoes). The view inside was beautiful. Definitely one of the coolest things I saw.
Stop 2: Skogafoss Waterfall: This was the most epic waterfall we saw this entire trip! We Definitely got soaked again with the wind, but was completely worth it. We spent about 15 min at the bottom and then hiked the stairs to the top. I’m scared of heights so the top was a little scary, but the view was incredible.
We skipped the plane wreck that was on the itinerary because I didn’t have any interest in seeing it.
Breakfast: For breakfast, we cooked at the hostel. We bought turkey bacon, eggs, and spinach and some fruit which made for a perfect easy breakfast. I brought little packs of seasoning with me to spice up the meals as well as packs of almond butter for the fruit. Definitely recommend bringing these, plus some tessames dressing packets. Completely forgot to order some before I left. 🙁
Lunch: We ate lunch on the road. We stopped at Bonus on our way out of town, grabbed some lunch meat and some Ella’s baby food packets (both veggie and fruit) and made that work for lunch. Again, we didn’t want to pay $30-$40 for a meal so we made what we had work until we got to dinner.
Dinner: We went out to dinner at this little restaurant on a farm. All of their meat and dairy came directly from the farm the restaurant was on. How cool?! I got a naked burger and some fries. Very delicious! Also, since nothing else is fried, the fries are safe for people with celiac!
Lodging night 2:
The itinerary said we should stay in Vik, but there wasn’t anything available there when I went to book it. We ended up staying at the Nice Hostel and it was by far my favorite place we stayed. It was really modern and cozy. Plus, they had free tea, coffee and breakfast! A little out of the way, but worth it for me!
Day 3 was another cold, windy and rainy day (common theme of the week) so layering up again was a must. We headed from Seljaland (where we stayed instead of Vik) to Hofn which was a crazy drive. You will drive for MILES and MILES and see nothing. It’s got to be one of the most deserted places on earth. With that, make sure you always have at least a half of a tank of gas and use the bathroom every time you can. Just FYI, there are a couple of places that charge for bathrooms, so using the free ones at gas stations is your best bet.
Stop 1: Reynishverfi Basalt Column Beach – Wow- this beach was unreal. We spent about an hour walking around here and snapping pics. Apparently they filmed some of Game of Thrones here — I’ve never seen the show so didn’t mean anything to me, but my friend was pretty excited. 🙂
Stop 2: Black Sand Beach – We filled up on gas here since we had a long journey ahead and snapped a few pics of this beach. Since we spent so much time at the other beach and were freezing, we didn’t feel the need to see this one as well. It’s pretty, but I was a lot more impressed by Reynishverfi Basalt Column Beach. Plus, if you follow this itinerary, you will be seeing more black sand on day 4!
Stop 3: Skaftafell National Park This was unreal. We hiked from the visitors center (it’s about a mile hike each way) to the nearest glacier and was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my entire life. We went around 5pm and we were the only people there — it was so peaceful and beautiful. This is a must on your trip! I also saw that they had ice cave adventures that look really cool, but they were around $200-$300 and that’s not in my budget right now. It looked amazing though!
We followed the itinerary and stayed in Hofn at the Hofn Hostel. There wasn’t much available when I booked so we settled for this place. It was ok — but nothing special. It does have a very large kitchen though.
Breakfast: For breakfast, we ate at the Nice hostel before we left. They had plenty of gluten-free options and I was able to eat enough to fill me up until lunch. It was a pretty large spread including lunch meat, hard boiled eggs, cheese, fruit, and veggies! They also had a large variety of tea which I loved since I haven’t been drinking coffee.
Lunch: Lunch was on the road again. We stopped at another grocery store and got a salad and fruit.
Dinner: Dinner was in Hofn at Kaffihornid. I ordered the salmon with the pumpkin puree and switched the barley for some root veggies. It was some of the best salmon I’ve ever had and included a ton of veggies. It was around $35 total so not too bad for Iceland prices. Definitely worth it with how delicious it was.
Day 4 the sun finally decided to come out, but it was deceiving because the wind was still in full force. We headed out to see the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Stokksnes. The Glacier lagoon was free and absolutely stunning, but Stokksnes was $8 per person. Totally worth it even if you just drive through.
Stop 1: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
This stop was my favorite of the trip. When we pulled up, I was in awe of how majestic this place was. I’ve traveled a lot so even though the waterfalls were epic, I have seen other ones, but this was like nothing I’d ever seen before.
There are tours you can do here, but we chose to just walk around. I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything because the view itself is so incredible.
Stop 2: Stokksnes
Is this Mars? Something we said many times on our road trip… but seriously…
We stayed at the same hostel in Hofn.
Breakfast: Wild friends oats – they had these at Kronan Supermarket there!
Lunch: Salad from grocery store with kombucha
Dinner: Z bistro — Z bistro was so cute. I got a burger with fries – again. This is the most reasonability priced meal for a gluten-free person (around $25). Also- their aioli mayo here is BOMB.
For our last day in Iceland, we got up early and started our journey back to Reykevik.
Breakfast: Wild Friends oats again! Kronan supermarket had a few flavors so I picked up some when we were in Vik.
Lunch: We grabbed lunch at the airport, but I would recommend getting something before hand if you’re gluten free, the options are VERY limited. Out of everything I saw, there was some fruit and a salad — although none of the labels were in English so I had to have someone help me read the ingredients lol. Just eat before- its worth it.
What I would do if I came back:
- Visit the blue lagoon
- Snorkle where the tectonic plates are
- Walking tour of Rekyvik
- Ice cave tour
Just FYI: Gas is really expensive. It cost us about $80 to fill up a Kia Rio tank.
Overall, it was a super fun, very cold, adventure filled week! If you visit, I hope you find this helpful! 🙂