Iceland – the land of burning mountains and fields of ice. Volcanic landscapes, hot springs and and nordic climate makes Iceland really unique place. I have been to Iceland 2 times now and recently I did the whole circle around the island. Iceland is one of my favourite travel destinations for sure. I recommend visiting Iceland to everyone who are seeking for stunning nature views and serious middle-of-nowhere experience.
The first thing you need to know about Iceland is, that it is an island in the middle of northern Atlantic. So it’s quite far from everything and most things are really expensive there – food, transport and especially all services that include any manpower.
Routes to take
In Iceland you have 3 main options for the route:
- Golden Circle for 1-day (300km)
Golden Circle is the fastest way to take maximum out of iceland. In the Golden circle there are 3 main attractions to see – Geysir (hot water blowing hole), Gulfoss (one on the largest waterfalls) and bingvellir natural park (crack between Europe and America).
- South Coast for 2-3 days (2x400km)
Most types of Icelandic attractions you can see by driving the south coast. Main places you want so see there are Seljandsfoss and Skógarfoss waterfalls, Sólheimajökull glacier, Dyrhólaey cliff cliff on the black sand beach, Sólheimasandur plane crash site (prepare to walk there) and of course Skaftafell natural park with Svartifoss waterfall as the main attraction there (really nice view if you take east hiking track in the park). And the perfect end for the day is Jökulsárlón lagoon where glacier melts to the ocean.
- Whole circle for 7-10 days (3000km)
If you want really maximum Icelandic experience, you should take the whole circle. I made it clockwise but the direction doesn’t matter too much. When going clockwise first I would recommend to skip Hvalfjordur tunnel and take the road around the water. After that a really nice thing to do is 3km hike to Glymur waterfall (the highest one in Iceland) – one of my favourite hikes in Iceland. After that you can take extra circle around westfjords (route 60 and 61) – it adds few hundred kilometres to travel, but all the landscape views are totally worth it, just be careful on curvy gravel roads. Kirkjufell is a really nice place to stop (mountain and waterfall) and Hofsos has a hot swimming pool with the most amazing view to the mountains (especially during sunset).
After that you arrive to Akureyri – the capital of Northern Iceland and after that to the area of Myvatn lake. Here you can find smaller and larger craters, Myvatn Nature Baths (as nice as Blue lagoon but way more cheaper), Dimmuborgir lava landscape, Grjótagjá cave with hot water and sulfur smell inside, Hverfjall crater you can climb up to and Krafla volcano with a small lake on the top.
Also you can visit Dettifoss – the most powerful waterfall in Europe. After that through the east coast and continue your way on the south coast.
If you have more money, you can take one of official tours – there are really a lot of different kinds of tours, hikes and special experiences to choose from.
Special things in Iceland
During you way you must visit hot springs – some of them are with larger and with paid entrance. Still, some smaller ones are completely free, the hard part is just to find them. I was lucky to find free natural hot springs. My absolute favourite ones were Reykjadalur and Hrunlaug.
Don’t forget to look to the sky during night – you might notice northern lights just above your head.
In Iceland there are few places you can call towns, other ones are just villages or countryside areas. Still, you can find small accommodation places in most places. Some of them might be really expensive but it also depends on the time of the year.
Another option people do there a lot is sleeping in the car. You can rent a special car with sleeping places and heating inside, it is quite common there. There are camping and parkings sites all over the Iceland, but some of them might be really expensive to just park there, so often I just parked in some random place next to the road for the night.
Iceland has almost none public transport lines outside Reykjavik. The most reasonable option is to rent a car. Iceland has rough landscapes and roads, so it’s better to rent 4×4 car if you want to reach everywhere. Smaller car is also an option, but is that case it’s better to stay on main roads – south coast in totally fine with any car and even the 3000 km circle is manageable with small car. Still, in the middle of Iceland there are only F-roads that means you must have 4×4 car for those. Always be careful when driving on mountains, it is not too hard to break a tyre there
Iceland is one of the least criminal places on earth, in most cases you even don’t need to lock the doors of your car (but still do it just in case). Most dangerous thing in Iceland is nature. Weather is really fastly changing there and mountain roads can be extremely dangerous with rain or snow. Also you shouldn’t go walking on the glacier without professional guide, because there might be ice caves under the glacier you just can’t see until the ice cracks.
Manage your budget
Iceland is one of the most expensive countries in the world. In order to save money you can rent a low fuel consumption car, sleep in it and buy food only from cheaper supermarkets (Bonus and Netto) – that’s exactly what I did. On the other hand, if you have money to spend you can enjoy your trip without worrying about little things too much.
Traveller Mihkel Sari