Out of the comfort zone of main land Europe lies Iceland, an island that lies closer to Greenland than anywhere else. True to it’s name, Iceland is known for it’s colder climate and dark, winter days with only the aurora borealis to light up it’s sky. It’s stark contrast to every other country I have visited is the exact reason why I wanted to experience this country first hand and if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right – in a campervan! We knew that four days was a short time to attempt travelling the Ring Road. Most articles I had read previous to going had said you need anywhere between seven to ten days to really get a sense of the country, but with little annual leave at our disposal we committed to making the most of those fifteen hours of daylight Iceland are graced with in April as opposed to those dark winter months. For those of you looking to do Iceland in a short space of time, committing to waking up early and getting a head start to the day is the only way you will get it all done. As most ‘attractions’ in Iceland are free and outdoors, there are no opening hours restricting your visits. If you are planning on going for more than four days, this itinerary is easily broken down in to more days if the total distance/drive time seems too much for you, or if you are visiting during a time of year where you can’t fit as much into your days.
Iceland is easily accessible from Ireland (and most of Europe) with Iceland Air. Since the recent demese of WowAir, Iceland Air is your best bet in getting to this country in comfort. The flight is no more than 2.5 hours from Dublin, and with in flight entertainment and ample leg room, the journey is definitely enjoyable.
Arriving In Iceland
Once you land don’t be fooled thinking that you have landed in the capital city of Reykjavik. While they do have a city centre based national airport, most flights arrive in Keflavík, roughly 45 minutes outside of the city centre. If you’re planning to go to Iceland, please note that public transport to and from the airport is few and far between so you will likely end up paying €100 per person for a return bus ticket in and out of Reykjavik. We chose to go with flybus.
On day one we arrived at the airport around 12pm local time, meaning once our shuttle picked us up at the airport to bring us to our van rental, filled out all the forms and gotten organised it was 3pm before we first took off. Before you leave Keflavík make sure to stop one of the many grocery stores near by such as Konan or Bonus to stock up on anything you might need for the next few days ahead.
Keflavík to Hveragerði (via Grindavik) – 1.5 hours
In Hveragerði you will get your first experience of Geothermal pools and hot springs in Iceland. There are hot springs to enjoy here, along with gorgeous hiking trails during the Summer months when paths are more accessible. It’s very cool to see steam magically rising from the ground, but over the course of the next few days this is something you will see a lot!
Hveragerði to Kerið Crater – 20 mins
Kerið is a volcanic crater lake in the Grímsnes area of South Iceland. There is an entry fee into the site of 400 ISK (Roughly €2) to help with the upkeep of the site (FYI, they have a card machine!). Here you can walk around the perimeter of the opening, or you can walk to the bottom to view the crystal clear water up close and personal.
Kerið Crater to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall – 1 hour 20 mins
Seljalandsfoss is one of the most popular waterfalls on the Golden Cirlce. It’s a beautiful falls to visit, only minutes walk from the carpark. During the Summer months you can even walk behind the falls when the rocks aren’t as dangerous to walk over, and the experience is just amazing! Do be warned though, you get very wet!
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall to Skógafoss Waterfall – 25 minutes
From one famous waterfall to another, Skógafoss is another one of Icelands more well known waterfalls. At Skógafoss you can once again enjoy a short walk to the falls, and even opt to climb the steps on the right hand side to get a better aerial view. The carpark for this attraction is also a campsite, so if you nab a good spot you can park your van to see the falls when you go to sleep and wake up. As far as I know, this campsite is open all year around.
Skógafoss to Vik – 30 minutes
To get a headstart on the day ahead we opted not to stay at Skógafoss, but to continue on to Vik instead. Once we reached here it was dark, so we just parked up for the night in their closed campsite in anticipation for the day ahead.
Day one distance travelled: 273km
Overall travel time: 4 hours
Waking up in Vik gave us the opportunity to explore the town before the onset of tourists travelling the Golden Circle were upon us. In Vik you must visit Reynisfjara Beach. This is one of the most famous black sand beaches in Iceland, but here you will also find towering basalt columns and caves just a short distance from the car park. In Vik you can also search for the crashed airplane which we opted not to do as time didn’t really allow, and the weather wasn’t the best. The cliffs of Reynisfjall mountain are home to seabirds such as puffins. The Dyrhólaey peninsula has a large rock arch which Vik is also very well known for.
Vik to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon – 1 hour 20 minutes
The Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon is just a few minutes off the main road and provides amazing views of a fjord in Iceland. Due to high winds the area was closed when we arrived, but we did use a stile to go across the fields at the side of the entrance to visit lovely vast waterfalls.
Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon to Svartifoss Waterfall – 1 hour
Svartifoss Waterfall is a waterfall that tumbles over a vast wall of basalt columns. Hidden within Vatnajökull National Park (Skaftell), you can park your car and hike to these falls. This was on our itinerary for the day but as the weather was so bad, we didn’t think the hike was the best idea and therefore skipped it and headed straight to our next destination.
Svartifoss Waterfall to Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon – 1 hour
Laying further down the national park is the Jökulsárlón Lagoon. This Lagoon is exactly what it says on the tin! A vast open bed of water, dotted with icebergs at every turn! It is such a beautiful site to see. There is full access to walk around the Lagoon, so make sure to take a walk and see the lagoon from a few different perspectives. While we were there, there were several active seals dipping and diving in the water between the icebergs!
Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon to Höfn – 1 hour
Höfn is a very quaint and pretty fishing village in Eastern Iceland. As the weather wasn’t great, we didn’t make a long stop here but if the sun is shining you can walk by the water near the harbour here and take in the views.
Höfn to Egilsstaðir – 3 hours
Well this was a fun drive! We detoured off the 1 road onto the 95 as Google Maps told us that it cut down in time… It did not cut down time and I would not recommend this route! It takes you up the mountains onto a gravel road and on a bad day with low visibility, it’s not the nicest road to drive. Apparently, I was told that the views along the 1 route (which were beautiful until we turned off) have really amazing views and honestly, probably takes the same length of time considering the amount of potholes we came across. We didn’t do anything when we arrived in Egilsstaðir apart from set up in their campsite which is open all year round.
Day two distance travelled: 470km
Overall travel time: 7 hours
Egilsstaðir to Dettifoss – 2.5 hours
We got up bright and early to hit our first stop of the day, Dettifoss. Dettifoss waterfall is acclaimed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe, and it really is something to behold. Their is a walk/hike to the falls that is a little tricky to navigate. As we travelled in April the pathway was still covered in ice and snow but with warmer weather after the winter months parts of the ice had melted so don’t be surprised if you feet slip right through into the water below! When visiting here you definitely need to wear hiking boots and be ready for whatever the elements may throw at you.
Dettifoss to Námafjall – 1 hour
Námafjall is a geothermal area in Northeast Iceland. The sheer smell of Sulphur in the area on the main road alone will be an indicator that you are close to these geothermal pools. There are different walks you can do around this area which resembles what you would assume Mars would look like due to all the minerals in the soil. It’s interesting to visit, but you won’t stay too long with the stench!
Námafjall to Myvátn Nature Baths – 5 minutes
Close to Námafjall is Myvátn Nature Baths, a lesser known version of the famous Blue Lagoon. Tickets are 4,500ISK in the more quiet months which is around €33. We accidentally arrived at opening time and it was great to have the pool virtually to ourselves. As we stayed there, the pool filled up slowly but surely so I would recommend going as early as you can to avoid these crowds. Bare in mind the water is warm due to the geothermal areas close by, so it does still smell like sulphur in the area. Once you’re done here make sure to soak in the views around Myvátn itself before heading to your next destination.
Myvátn Nature Baths to Goðafoss Waterfall – 45 minutes
Goðafoss Waterfall is another famous and beautiful waterfall in Northern Iceland. You don’t have to pay to visit here, just park up your car and visit at your leisure.
Goðafoss Waterfall to Akureyri – 35 minutes
Akureyri is the second largest city in Iceland after Reykjavik. Located in the north of Iceland, this is a really cool place to explore and is easy on the eyes as well. Stop here for food, to refuel and take it easy. Note that there is a toll here that you have to pay online within 3 hours of using it which is the only toll you will come across on the Ring Road. You can pay it online here
Akureyri to Blönduós – 1 hour 45 minutes
To get a little bit further on our journey we decided to continue on as far as Blönduós where all we did was set up in our campsite after a long day of driving. We ended up parking up early enough in the day, so you can always add in a visit to Húsavik between Myvátn and Goðafoss to go whale watching. The campsite here is beautiful as the back looks out to the rushing river that goes through the town.
Day three distance travelled: 600km
Overall travel time: 8.5 hours
Blönduós to Geysir – 4 hours
Since we weren’t sure if we would have the time to visit some of the more well known spots on the Golden Circle on our first day, we decided we had time to visit them on our final day instead. The Geysers are really interesting, and if you are lucky you will get to see Strokkur, Icelands most famous and active geyser, make an unusually large eruption. We stayed for about three eruptions and one was so big it spilled out onto visitors of the park.
Geysir to Gullfoss – 10 minutes
Gullfoss waterfall has two drops in the fall and the viewing platforms are above the falls as opposed to below like most of the others. It is a very powerful, very beautiful waterfall but probably the hardest to see due to the shape of the falls and the way it curves around.
Gullfoss to Bruarfoss Falls – 20 minutes
The final place we went to see was Bruarfoss falls, and this was honestly the highlight for me! The hike to Bruarfoss is about 3.5km each way from the official car park and there are signs to say private property and not to trespass, but we chose to ‘not see’ the signs and head away anyway. You will first come across Hlauptungufoss falls which was probably my favourite of the three we saw. Next is midfoss, and finally Bruarfoss at the end. The falls are fed by a melting Glacier Langjokull which gives the water a stunning bright blue colour. There is a reason that it says the land is private is the route isn’t exactly the most safe so do take caution if you do choose to visit these falls – but you won’t regret it if you do! It was without a doubt my favourite activity of the trip.
Bruarfoss Falls to Selfoss – 45 minutes
Once we were done the hike we were absolutely wrecked so we drove to Selfoss campsite where we parked up for the night. Since this is on the Golden Circle route this is the busiest campsite that we visited by a long shot but the facilities were great!
Day four distance travelled: 400km
Overall travel time: 5.5 hours
Our last day we just went straight from Selfoss to Keflavík where our car rental was to bring back to van and spend the day around Reykjavik. If you wanted to visit the Blue Lagoon this would be a good time as it is a very short distance from Keflavík airport.
Personally, I’ve never found somewhere to have such a diverse landscape to what you would usually see so it was such an amazing trip for that reason. I would highly recommend it for anyone who loves nature and everything outdoors, or even just a bit of an adventure. The campervan is an added bonus as we found it gives you freedom you wouldn’t necessarily have if you had to find a hotel every night, or even somewhere just to stop and have lunch. Have you ever been to Iceland? Would you like to do an itinerary like this or would you prefer to do more/less? Let me know!