Why everyone wants to go to Iceland
Asko returns from Iceland with plenty of advice for future Icelandic travellers.
"Volcanos, glaciers, hot springs, lava fields, and much more. Iceland is truly unique and one of most interesting places I have ever visited. It’s like a different world in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean."
This May, I had an opportunity to drive around this amazing country. Being my first visit to Iceland, I was astonished by the scenery day after day. Each location I went, there was something different to see: waterfalls, hot springs, mountains, glaciers, volcanos, black sandy beaches and wildlife. The ever-changing weather made it even more spectacular.
My journey started from Keflavík airport, the only international airport in Iceland. Instead of heading to Reykjavík, I picked up the rental car and drove to the Golden Circle area for my first night. This is only about an hour’s drive from the airport, and it’s a good starting point for the road trip around Iceland.
Guest lounge in our Director's Choice hotel in the Golden Circle
The next morning, it was time to start my big drive. I had pre-booked a Glacier walk for the afternoon, so I had an early start. After a buffet breakfast, I started on my way south. The southern region of Iceland is the most popular for daytrips from Reykjavík, so it’s good to start early before the groups arrive. Along the way, I visited the spectacular Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls. Quite soon, I was getting close to the Vatnajökull Glacier, the largest glacier in Europe. There are a few locations you can do the glacier walk or climb, but I did mine on the Svínafellsjökull Glacier Tongue.
After a good night’s sleep in one of the farm stays near the glacier, it was time to hit the road again. My third day started with one of the highlights of the trip - a boat trip at Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon. The lagoon was once a glacier, now all melted with icebergs still floating on clear glacial waters. My journey continued from the south to the east coast, where the scenery changes from green hills in the south to dramatic cliffs and black beaches on the east coast to forests around Egilsstaðir.
After spending a night in a hotel at Egilsstaðir, I continued up to the northern part of Iceland. On the fourth morning, I enjoyed some sunshine for the first time in a few days. But as the weather changes as you go, this did not last too long. My drive took me up through mountain areas, which I found to be the most fascinating areas so far. It felt like being on a different planet and again very different what I had seen so far. Rocky fields, volcanic areas, snowy mountain tops, this was truly the Iceland I was wanting to see. I visited a couple of “must-see” sights along the way, like the Dettifoss waterfall and Hverir geothermal fields before arriving at Lake Mývatn area.
For the next couple of days, I stayed in a farm stay in the Lake Mývatn area. As it was the half-way point in my trip, it was nice to stop in one area for two nights and have a bit of a rest as well. Not far from Lake Mývatn is a beautiful fishing village called Husavik, where I joined the whale watching safari on my fifth morning. After a morning spotting whales, dolphins and other wildlife, and visiting the whale museum in Husavik, I drove to the Lake Mývatn Nature baths. This was the place I was waiting for and it was so nice to relax and spend an afternoon in these geothermal waters. These nature baths are similar to the Blue lagoon, but not as big and not as busy, so well worth a visit.
On the sixth day, it was time to get back to the ring road again. Along the way, towards Akureyri, the second largest city in Iceland, there was one more “must-see” waterfall, Goðafoss. After a quick stop in Akureyri, I took a detour from the ring road via the scenic route and Siglufjörður - majestic mountains, fjords and cute fishing villages. It was one of my favourite areas and I would recommend staying a night at Siglufjörður if you have time.
The next day, I visited the Settlement Centre at Borgarnes and learned about the Viking history, and about the first settlers to Iceland. My journey continued to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula for my last overnight stop on my Icleand self-drive tour where I enjoyed the hospitality at the beautiful hotel, Hotel Búðir.
Wonderful food experiences were part and parcel of my Iceland tour. I'm giving away my preference in wine!
The next morning, it was an early start as I had booked a snorkelling tour to Silfra. I was a bit nervous about this snorkelling, as the water temperature was only two degrees Celsius. I got my thermal underwear on and they dressed me up with a full wetsuit and it was fine. Only my fingers and face felt cold, but this was worth it, as the water is so clear and visibility amazing - you almost can’t tell that you are in the water.
After snorkelling, it was time to drive to Reykjavík, return the car and check in to one of our favourite hotels, Hotel Kvosin.
The following morning I had booked a Heli-Volcano caving tour. If your time is limited in Reykjavík, this is the best way to combine a short helicopter ride and a tour inside of the volcano in just a couple of hours. Getting inside of this volcano was something I had never done before - it’s perhaps the only volcano in the world where you can descend to the bottom of the crater with a cable lift.
After the volcano tour I had couple of hours to look around capital of Iceland, Reykjavík, before I got my shuttle transfer to the Blue Lagoon. And what would be a better way to finish my Iceland tour than to soak in the warm waters of the Blue Lagoon.
Silica Hotel at the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is also an ideal stop for the last night as it’s located close to Keflavík airport which makes for an easy to departure the following day.
I had ten days to explore Iceland, but I could easily have spent a couple more days exploring. This is why it’s good to think about what you would like to see or do in Iceland, as everyone had different interests. The most popular time to travel is in the European summer months, from May to the end of August when the days are long. But then during the late autumn you might get a chance to see Northern lights as well.
When planning your trip to Iceland, think about a few questions so we can offer the correct itinerary for you:
- How much time you have? If you are looking travel around Iceland, ideally you would have 10-12 days, but less time is fine to explore certain areas.
- Are you looking for independent travel, such a self-drive, or guided tours? Car is the most convenient way to get around, but there are very good day and multi-day tours if you would prefer not to drive.
- What style of accommodation you would prefer, hotels or farm stay?
- Style and level for the activities such as glacier walks, hiking, snorkelling, horse-riding, whale watching or perhaps a helicopter tour.
- Special interests: nature, wildlife, history, food, hiking, architecture.
Driving tips Iceland self-drive:
- Check the roads from the map, some are gravel roads. Plan the route.
- It takes time get from one place to another, as there are always some places to stop along the way and speed limits are slow. It’s a good idea to stop in few locations for 2 nights and then do daytrips from there.
- Get petrol when you can and take some snacks and drinks for the drive.
- Headlights must be on at all times.
- Weather can change very quickly and you might experience all kinds of weather in one day. Take good clothing with rain and wind protections, as well your sunglasses.