A Four-Day Weekend Road Trip in Iceland
An Epic Four-Day Weekend Itinerary
As one of my favorite destinations in the world, Iceland is full of natural jewels that should never be left undiscovered by those who have a sense of wander. The land of fire and ice features picturesque waterfalls, enchanting mountains and rolling hills, beautiful horses, dreamy coastlines, wonderful green houses and endless amount of adventure.
In winter 2017, I spontaneously booked a budget trip to Iceland with some of my close friends. During that time of the year, we went during a three-day work weekend so that we wouldn’t have to take many vacation days. Instead, we left on a Saturday night and returned back home on Wednesday night. Today, I am so excited to go back in time and go over the perfect four-day weekend that you too could follow along with your friends. (If you don’t have anyone to go with, **click here to meet new friends who will explore Iceland with you.) In addition, I will go over how we made this trip budget friendly!
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Traveling to Iceland:
Thankfully, **flights from New York City to Keflavik International Airport, outside of Reykjavík, are fairly reasonable. You could also find other **great flights from various parts of the United States and Europe.
If you are from the New York City area, like I am, the **flight to Iceland is fairly short. You will most likely depart at 5 or 6pm in the evening and arrive in Keflavík at 4 or 5am the next morning, which leaves you plenty of time to get on the road and start exploring.
Traveling around Iceland:
If you are doing an Icelandic road trip like I did, I highly recommend **renting an SUV to get around and see it all. When you travel to Iceland during the winter months (and even during the summer), it is extremely important to know that the weather conditions throughout the country are extreme, rapid and unpredictable. One minute it is clear out where you could see every star or every mountain crevice, the next moment, visibility is barely present. It is also important to know that some areas will have a lot of snow and other areas there are no guardrails, so it is imperative that you or the driver of your vehicle travels with caution.
In Iceland, it is required that the **vehicle is a 4 x 4 WD. Also, all car are required to have quality winter tires to endure the most extreme weather conditions that Iceland usually has.
Another recommendation I need to provide you with is that it is important to fuel up on gas before you head out on a major adventure. After you leave Reykjavík or the surrounding towns, you will notice that you enter into isolated areas where it is difficult to find rest stops, gas stations, etc. Even though gas is expensive in the country, it is always worth it to have a full tank. A helpful hint to save money is by doing your Icelandic road trip with a group of people like I did so that you can split gas costs.
Where to Stay:
Since my friends and I were on a budget, we booked our accommodation through Airbnb. Our Airbnb ended up being located in a town 10 minutes outside of Reykjavík called Hafnarfjörður (pronounced Harf Narf You Dor).
The Airbnb was a little apartment complex with 10 bedrooms. For $18 a night, per person, the four of us stayed in a room. The other rooms consisted of other friend groups, families and couples from Iceland, Italy, Japan, England and the United States. There was a communal kitchen and shower. So I would say it was similar to being in a luxury hostel.
There are also a plethora of **great hotels in Reykjavík as well!
Day 1: Arrive in Iceland, Tour Waterfalls and the famous Black Sand Beach
Right after we landed and checked into our Airbnb, we hopped into our SUV and got right on the road. Since we traveled to Iceland in the wintertime, the sun was out for a few hours during the day. (If you read my blog post on Finland, where I traveled in December of 2017, I only experienced a few hours of daylight there. In Iceland though, you will receive more sunlight than in Finland. That is because Finland’s Lapland is actually located in the Arctic Circle.) When we got on the road that day, it was still dark out, but the daylight started to come through around 10:30/11am.
During our first day, we made our way to the **southernmost coast of Iceland.
Seljanlandsfoss (pronounced as sell-ya-lon-foss):
During our road trip, we first stopped at a beautiful waterfall right off of Iceland’s main highway (Route 1) called Seljalandsfoss. When we got out of the car, the wind was strong, but that didn’t stop us from taking in all of the natural wonders around us. When we were there, the weather ranged from 25-40 degrees Fahrenheit. It felt WAY cooler because of the wind chill, but wasn’t unbearable since we were covered in layers (lots and lots of layers).
At Seljanlandsfoss, there are different hiking trails for you to view the waterfall. Unfortunately, since it was the middle of the winter, many trails were too icy to hike up. If you have crampons, a traction device that you attach to your shoes for ice climbing and hiking so that you don’t slip and fall, you can then explore underneath the waterfall and head up the cliff.
Vík í Myrdal Village:
After exploring Seljalandsfoss, we drove 45 minutes to the southernmost village in Iceland called Vík í Mydal, also known as Vík (pronounced as veek). The drive to Vík was a little foggy, but when it cleared up, the views were unreal. If you watch the show Game of Thrones, then you will definitely get a déjà vu.
Vík is a beautiful and cozy seashore town filled with beautiful mountains, beach homes, cafés, churches and nature you cannot find anywhere else. The world-famous Reynisfjara Halsanefshellir shore is where the famous black sand beach is situated. Everything at the beach is beautiful, historical, impressive and eerie. This shoreline consists of stacks of basalt rocks that, according to Icelandic folklore, are former trolls who tried to drag their boats out to sea only to be caught by the rising dawn. Another interesting fact about this shoreline is that there is no landmass between Vík and Antarctica. What makes this beach eerie is that it is considered one of the most dangerous in the world. Because of the shore’s high winds and rainy weather, the tides are always high and very rough. There is a monument dedicated in memory of drowned seamen.
Vík is south of the Myrdalsjökull (pronounced as meer dal ya skull) glacier, which itself is on top of the Katla volcano. The volcano has not erupted in a while, but there has been speculation that an eruption may occur soon. If there was an eruption, the lava could melt enough ice to trigger an enormous flash flood in the entire area. The town’s local church is believed to be the only building that would survive. The people of Vík practice drills regularly and are trained to rush to the local church in case of an eruption.
The black sand beach in Vík is a great place to take pictures, explore the beautiful cliffs overlooking the North Atlantic Ocean and collect sand you won’t find anywhere else. If you visit Vík in the summertime, you could see adorable puffins flying around. Unfortunately, it is rare to see one in the winter.
Skógafoss Waterfall (pronounced as sko ga foss):
After our unforgettable time in Vík, we drove back west onto Route 1 and stopped at another beautiful waterfall on the south coast called Skógafoss. This beautiful waterfall is one of the biggest in the country. According to legend, the first Viking settler in the area buried a treasure chest behind the waterfall. Legend claims that locals found the chest years later, but were only able to grab a ring before the rest of it disappeared. The eastern side of the waterfall has a beautiful hiking trail and a staircase that takes you up to the top, between two glaciers. The hike is a pretty steep trail and can be very tiring, but the views make up for it!
Indulge in a Viking Meal:
When we came back from our day adventure along the south shore, we took some time to shower and rest before heading into downtown Reykjavík to grab a delicious local dinner and a well-deserved Icelandic beverage. My good friend Meaghan visited Iceland during the summer and recommended a wonderful and classic Scandinavian restaurant called Lækjarbrekka , where you can get a delicious Viking dinner. Since my friends and I were all starving, we split the 4 Course Set Meal, which consisted of citrus marinated smoked salon, slow cooked dried cod, lamb fillet and hákarl, also known as “treated shark”.
Hákarl is a national dish of Iceland consisting of Greenlandic shark, which as been cured with a particular fermentation process and hung dry for a few months. This Icelandic delicacy has a strong ammonia-rich smell, but is delicious if you are a seafood lover like myself. It is served in a jar for preservation and is supposed to be washed down with a shot of Brennivín, which is Icelandic liquor that has a similar taste to vodka. In addition to our 4-course dinner, we all ordered the catch of the day, which was a delicious Icelandic white fish served in a scampi sauce with veggies on the side. This Viking dinner was the best way to end our first day. I also want to note that this was the only expensive meal we had during our time in Iceland.
Day 2: The Golden Circle Tour and Night Out in Downtown Rekjavík
On our second day, we explored Iceland’s Golden Circle through Reykjavik Excursions. The great thing about the **Golden Circle tour is that you can see Iceland’s most stunning and popular sights first-hand within an 8-hour time frame.
The majority of Iceland’s food is imported from other nearby countries, hence why it is so expensive. Luckily, that is soon changing due to the expansion of local greenhouses. Our first visit on the tour was to the Friðheimar greenhouse. I was so happy to be able to visit one while I was there and Friðheimar’s was awesome! When you enter the greenhouse, you can learn from Friðheimar’s owner about the magic behind growing delicious, pesticide-free tomatoes with the aid of Iceland’s geothermal heat. After the tour, you can purchase homemade tomato soup and freshly baked bread. In addition, Friðheimar’s also has beautiful Icelandic horses that you can pet outside.
The next part of our Golden Circle journey was to Geysir where the Strokkur geyser shoots water every 4-8 minutes. What is awesome is that you will be sure to catch the geyser shoot water during your time there.
This was my first time seeing geysers in real life and let me tell you that these natural pools are so powerful! It was one of the coolest natural wonders I’ve ever seen. Our tour director informed us to stay on the manmade walking trails and to respect the nature because you can accidentally fall into a boiling hot geyser if you start to venture off.
Geysir also has a vistor center where you can get delicious homemade meat soup (made with lamb) and shop for souvenirs. I bought a warm Icelandic woold shawl that I live in all winter.
After spending a few hours at Geysir, we hopped back on the bus and headed to Gullfoss waterfall, which is considered the Golden Falls of Iceland. The water plunges into a crevice that is 105-feet deep into the Earth. I have never been to Niagara Falls, but Gullfoss had to have been the best and most stunning waterfall I have ever seen in my life.
Since I visited Gullfoss in the winter, we watched the beautiful falls flow into a winter wonderland, but if you go in the warmer months, you can feel like Dorothy in the Emerald City and catch beautiful rainbows over lush greenery.
Þingvellir National Park (pronounced as thing ve leer):
We ended the Golden Circle Tour by visiting the historical and geological Þingvellir National Park where you can walk over the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates that are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimeters per year. I was so excited to tell everyone back at home that I was in two continents at once!
At Þingvellir National Park, you can walk up a trail that leads to an overlook where you are able to view gorgeous snow-covered mountains, a fresh-water lake, mini waterfalls and we even got a chance to view the sunset.
Night Out in Downtown Reykjavík:
Later at night after our amazing tour, we headed into downtown Reykjavík to explore the nightlife. Before we went to the bars, we stopped at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, which translates to “best hot dogs in town”. It is the most famous hot dog stand in Iceland and they are made with mostly grass-fed lamb and are organic and hormone-free (unlike American hot dogs). They are even served with crispy fried onions and a remoulade sauce.
Although downtown Reykjavík does have a few nightclubs, they are mainly known for their great pub culture that serves amazing craft beer that you could enjoy with friends. We started the night at Gaukurinn, which is a two-story comedy club. The comedians were hilarious and I thought it was awesome how they knew so much about American culture.
After spending a couple of hours enjoying a few beers and laughing, we bar hopped around the area and met friendly locals. In Iceland, as well as a few other European countries, it isn’t surprising to see people bring their children and even puppies out to the bars. At one of the bars, we got to play with a cute German Shorthaired Pointer!
You don’t have to worry about slipping on ice when you bounce around Reykjavík because the streets are heated! Isn’t that so cool?!
Day 3: Explore Reykjavík, Dog Sled and Watch the Northern Lights
After our fun night out in **Reykjavík, I wanted to explore the city more the next day. After we woke up, we headed to Hallgrímskirkja Lutheran church. This iconic church is also known as Reykjavík’s main landmark and it can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. One of the many interesting facts about this church is that it is fairly new. The construction was completed in December 1992. In addition to exploring the church, you can take the elevator all the way up to the tower where you can access 360-degree views of beautiful Reykjavík. When we went, it was still dark out so you can even catch the sunrise from the tower if you stay long enough.
When we finished touring the church, we stopped at a cute café to eat some delicious Icelandic crepes and then toured, Harpa – Reykjavík’s famous and iconic concert hall and convention center. The city also offers great shops and boutiques for all of my fellow fashion lovers! I fell in love with Reykjavík’s Scandinavian charm and architecture.
Whenever I think of Artic countries like Iceland, I always get a cute picture of a Husky dog in my head. My friends and I looked into places where we can go dog sledding, since none of us have ever done it before, and found Holmasel Dog Sledding a little over an hour south east of Reykjavík in a town called Gaulverjabæjarhreppi (don’t ask me how I pronounce that LOL).
During this awesome experience, we got to play and take pictures with these beautiful Siberian, Alaskan and Greenlandic huskies. They were all super friendly and, even though I felt bad for them, they apparently love taking people around this beautiful coastal area. After our fun sledding adventure, we were able to pet the Husky puppies and enjoy homemade hot chocolate.
Urriðafoss (pronounced as your eda foss):
After our fun day playing with the huskies, we stopped at Fjorubordid (Stokkseyri), a delicious seafood restaurant where we all enjoyed a nice bowl of homemade Icelandic lobster soup. We then ended our day visiting a hidden waterfall nearby called Urriðafoss. It was so nice to be near a natural wonder without being stuck in a tourist trap. We stayed there for a little while because it was so relaxing and then headed back to our Airbnb.
Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights):
One of the main reasons why I wanted to go to Iceland in the winter was to catch the Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights. You can catch the Northern Lights in places like Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Canada and Alaska. Seeing the Northern Lights has been on my bucket list for many years and I wanted to make sure I saw them before my trip ended.
There are a ton of Aurora and weather apps that you can download on your mobile device to let you know when the skies are clear and the percentage of how likely you are to see the Northern Lights. My personal favorite app that I used in both Iceland and Finland was Aurora. That night, there was a high percentage of seeing the lights south east to where we were, between the hours of 3am – 6:30am. We went to bed around 7:30/8pm at night, set our alarms for 1am, had some coffee, packed some snacks and then hit the road!
Our road trip to catch the Aurora Borealis was definitely one to remember. We all were in a great mood, listening to good music in the car and enjoying the nightly stars. I know we all have seen stars in our life on a clear night, but the stars on this specific night were the clearest I’ve ever seen them! We hung out at a few places hoping to catch the lights and around 6am, we started to faintly see them. They started out really light and then turned into their blue and green swirly colors. It was awesome!
If you are traveling to Iceland and don’t have a rental car, you could book a Northern Lights tour through Reykjavik Excursions.
Day 4: Relax at The Blue Lagoon and Fly Home
The Blue Lagoon:
The best way to end my trip in Iceland was a spending a day at one of the 25 Wonders of The World, The Blue Lagoon.
**My experience at The Blue Lagoon was definitely one to remember. It was snowing out while we were there, but the warm geothermal aqua waters made it seem like we were in paradise! I was there for a few hours because I had to catch my flight home, but I could have easily stayed the whole day. While enjoying the nature, I received a silica mud and algae mask and a refreshing alcoholic beverage from the bar located right in The Blue Lagoon.
I love how big The Blue Lagoon was, there were little caves for you to swim under, bridges, mini pools and so much more! If you want to take photos in The Blue Lagoon, you could purchase a waterproof case for your cellphone or bring your GoPro into the water.
Please note that you will need to shower before you enter the lagoon. When you arrive, you will be given a robe and some extras (based on what you paid for) and then you are required to take a shower. The locker rooms are split by gender and there is a European shower for you to wash off. (The showers have stalls, so you don’t have to worry about being naked in front of everyone.) In addition, there are specific body washes, shampoos, conditioners and oils for you to use before and after you get out of the lagoon. (Please be aware that the lagoon water will leave your hair feeling gritty for a few days, but it is all good for you and will shortly get back to it’s normal texture.)
The Blue Lagoon is located 20 minutes from the airport, so it is definitely a great place to visit when you first arrive or when you are about to leave. I personally recommend ending your trip there and believe everyone deserves a relaxing and memorable day before they leave to go back to reality.
I hope you all enjoyed reading about my four days in Iceland and that you now have a better idea on what you could do during a long weekend. If you have any questions about my trip, please feel free to email me at TAYLORL.DEER@gmail.com, contact me via social media or comment below.
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