Iceland. The land of fire and ice.
A country full of endless, picturesque landscapes.
The best way to see Iceland is through a self-driven road trip. It allows you the freedom to change your mind, gawk at the endless horizons, and stop for the bathroom as many times as your bladder demands.
After reading many reviews and analyzing cons & pros, we decided to rent our car through Route 1 Rentals. A representative from Route 1 delivered the car to us at our hotel on Monday morning. We reviewed the insurances and rules then went outside to inspect the car.
I recommend paying for all the insurances that are offered even if they seem overly cautious (such as the ash insurance). The only one we didn’t purchase was the theft insurance. No insurance in Iceland covers water damage or damage to the underside of a car. So definitely avoid driving in rivers or over large rocks!
We did not purchase a GPS. Luckily D has T-Mobile which gave us coverage throughout our entire trip (T-Mobile offers unlimited data in more than 100 countries).
After taking pictures and videos of the car (which we endearingly called Big Red), we loaded it up with our luggage and realized we needed a holder for the phone.
Our hotel recommended to purchase one at Ekko which is the equivalent of Best Buy in the United States. After a wild goose hunt at a couple stores, we were fully equipped for our road trip and headed on our way to the Golden Circle.
Our first day of the road trip began with the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is the most popular tourist route and attractions in Iceland. The sites are remarkable and very close to Reykjavik so it makes for a great for first day on your road trip!
We reached Thingvellir National Park after about an hour. The first stop in the park looks over the entire park. There is an information center, small cafe, and a bathroom there. You have to pay 200 ISK for a token to use the bathroom, but they accept credit cards to purchase one of the tokens.
The park is absolutely gorgeous and it’s obvious why Icelanders picked this location to create their government. This is where the Alping general assembly was established around 930 AD until 1798 when it was moved to the current capital. The Thingvellir National Park is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We drove down into the valley and parked Big Red. You can walk from the top, but we wanted to save time by utilizing the car. We walked through the gorgeous Thingvellir land all the way to the Silfra fissure. The Silfra is the rift that is part of the boundaries of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The rift has beautiful clear water and you can go snorkeling in the it! (we did not do this on our trip).
Since we were off to a late start in our day, we decided to get back on the road to the Geysir. The Geysir is located right on the road and has very accessible parking. There is a great gift shop and bathroom there as well.
You have to walk along a path to the active geysir, but the land is open so you won’t miss a gush while you are in the area. You have to wait about 10 minutes to see the big gush. After a few minutes, you feel a bit silly just waiting for some water to come out of the ground.
So instead of patiently waiting, we started to walk away and right as I said, “Well that was kinda lame” the geysir exploded right next to us and I was able to quickly turn and snap this photo:
We kept our visit at the geysir brief in order to head to Gullfoss before sunset. Gullfoss is one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls and a popular spot along the Golden Circle. This was our favorite spot on Day 1.
Gullfoss is a two level waterfall and an incredible force of nature. There is a parking lot right next to the site so it is also easily accessible. You can walk down the path & stairs to stand right next to it! There is also a cafe/restaurant above the waterfall.
Sadly, we had to leave the gorgeous Golden Waterfall and make our way to our accommodations for the night before we ran out of daylight.
On Monday evening, we stayed at the Hestheimar Horse Farm near Hella, Iceland.
We arrived right before 8pm and were shocked at how remote & dark the area is at night. We slowly drove the winding gravel road to the reception house and were greeted by some people who we assumed were guests. They found the hostess who assisted us with check-in. After paying for the night (we made the reservation on Booking.com), the hostess said to us “Actually… there is a problem with the cottage”. Apparently the people before us had taken the key with them and we would be unable to lock our door. This was unacceptable to our standards even if we were in the middle of nowhere.
After asking if there was an alternative, she quickly solved the problem and changed our cottage to one with a key.
Our cottage was very cute and charming. It is a great option for a group of travelers or a family as it had many beds, a full kitchen, large bathroom, and a front porch with a picnic table.
They stopped serving dinner by the time we arrived, but the hostess recommended a great restaurant in Hella called Restaurant Arhus. The food was very good and the service was the typical of Iceland – slow and inattentive.
As we were leaving the restaurant I looked up in the sky and shrieked with
excitement. The Northern Lights were floating above us in all its green glory!!! We rushed cautiously back to the cottage to enjoy the show in the pitch black darkness at Hestheimar.
The Northern Lights are incredible as everyone says. Unfortunately, we couldn’t capture the beauty on our cameras or GoPro.
Day 1 Recap
See: Reykjavik, Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, & Gullfoss
Eat: Restaurant Arhus in Hella
Sleep: Hesthaimer Horse Farm near Hella
After breakfast, we packed our suitcases & headed down to the stables for our horseback riding tour!
Day 2 Recap
See: Hella, Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Vik, Route 1 from Hella to Kalfafell
Eat: Breakfast at Hesthaimer Horse Farm; Lunch at Restaurant Arhus; Dinner at Fosshotel Nupar
Sleep: Fosshotel Nupar
Jokurlsalon Glacial Lagoon
Day 3 Recap
See: Jokurlsalon Glacial Lagoon, Vik, Southeast Iceland
Eat: Breakfast buffet at Fosshotel Nupar; dinner at Halldorskaffi
Sleep: Vellir Guesthouse
Breakfast at Vellir
Day 4 Recap
See: Reynisfjara Beach, Skogafoss, Eyrarbakki
Eat: Breakfast at Vellir Guesthouse, dinner at Red House
Sleep: Airbnb in Reykjavik