24 Jan A Photo Essay: Iceland Road Trip
Iceland is one of our favorite places–we love the powerful waterfalls, rocky shorelines, icy glaciers, fields of lava, natural hot springs, crazy geothermal landscapes, sweet Icelandic horses, adorable puffins and so much more. The list could literally go on…and on…and on. Our first visit to the island nation was back in 2013, and we finally had the chance to head back again this past summer. While we found much of the same, we found plenty that had changed since our last visit, as well. For one, the stunning landscapes were still there, but the crowds of people were significantly larger. Iceland’s popularity has exploded over the past couple of years, and it makes sense–who wouldn’t want to explore such a gorgeous place?!
Despite the noticeable influx of crowds, we still had an amazing visit. This time around we were able to stay for 15 days and we spent most of that time road tripping around the country. The first ten days of our visit were spent exploring the Ring Road and the Westfjords with our friends Evan and Hilary in a Happy Camper camper van. Our last five days were spent taking road trips in our SADcars car rental from our base in Reykjavik. We made our way around the Golden Circle, along the south coast and to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, and of course we had to spend a little bit of time wandering around Reykjavik, too! Overall, this trip was much more relaxed than our first visit–we didn’t have a strict schedule filled with adventurous activities like we did last time. Even though we had plenty of fun adventures, we spent time just seeing where the road would take us.
We took thousands and thousands of photos during our 15 days in Iceland–photography is one of our favorite hobbies (and our job!) so we love to shoot as much as possible. That said, it was extremely hard to pull together the photos that we liked best. There are just too many to pick from, but we did try to narrow it down a bit, I promise! With that, here are some (ok, a lot) of our favorite photos from our Iceland road trip!
Our Happy Camper camper van had enough room to fit five people inside, but I would recommend only four if you are all adults and don’t want to be too cozy. We were a little nervous that we would be short on space since there were four of us in a van for 10 days, but I was surprised to see just how roomy the van was. There was plenty of space to store all of our belongings and food, the beds weren’t too cramped, and we could even fully stand up inside! To see more about the van layout, check out our camper van tour post.
Our first night in the camper van was spent in the Westfjords where we hiked to a gorgeous waterfall. I’m not sure the name of the waterfall but it was just a short drive and hike away from our campsite in Flokalundur.
Starting off a morning with a visit to a nearby hot spring is always a good idea, and that’s exactly how we spent our first full morning of the trip. The natural geothermal pool, Hellislaug, is right on the shore of Breiðafjörður Bay and it was incredibly relaxing.
After our hot spring dip, it was time to make our way to the Látrabjarg bird cliffs. The cliffs make up the westernmost point in Europe and they are home to a large population of birds, most notably Puffins. I have been obsessed with Puffins since I was a child, so it was my goal to see one in person on this trip as I missed seeing one on our first visit. We went on a gorgeous hike near the cliffs, but were unsuccessful at finding any puffins. Just as we thought we missed the birds again, Evan ended up spotting a few right before we left, so of course we had to stay a bit longer to do some bird watching!
During the summer, Iceland has daylight for 24 hours straight and the sun barely grazes the horizon before heading back into the sky. The below photo was taken at around 11 p.m. from our campsite in Patreksfjordur. If you have problems sleeping when the sun is out, be sure to pack an eye mask!
Our third day of the trip was spent driving, stopping at waterfalls, relaxing, and playing games at our campsite.
One of the prettiest and largest waterfalls of the day was Dynjandi. The photo below only shows the upper portion of the falls, and the entire series of falls is over 300 feet high!
Although the Dragness hot pots weren’t exactly on our route for the fourth day, we happily made a short detour to start our morning off with another warm soak. These hot pots weren’t in a natural rock setting, but the views were just as spectacular as they were at Hellislaug. After relaxing in the hot waters, we hung our suits out to dry on the nearby rocks and had a picnic lunch with a view.
Siglufjordur is a cute little town in northern Iceland, and we couldn’t help but spend a night here to admire the views overlooking the mountains. We also visited the Herring Fishing Museum and learned all about what life was like in the town during its days of being a vibrant fishing village.
Throughout our road trip, we ended up cooking most of our meals right in the van. We made meals such as pastas, eggs, sandwiches and Good-To-Go meals which are prepackaged camping meals that are super easy to cook, and delicious, too! We really loved how easy the van was to drive, how much storage space we had, and how simple it was to cook inside.
One of my favorite stops of the trip was when we went whale watching in Húsavík, one of the best spots for whale watching in the country. Our boat left at 10 p.m. and we had a very successful night out on the Greenland Sea. We saw over 10 whales, plus we were served a delicious treat of cinnamon buns and hot chocolate when returning to shore.
After a couple hours of whale watching, we made our way out to gaze at the midnight sun. It’s amazing to see a “sunset” full of colors at midnight!
Before heading south to Höfn, we stopped for a hike at Krafla Crater and yet another soak at the Myvatn Nature Baths–these two adventures ended up being a couple more of our favorite spots on the trip.
There is a gorgeous black sand beach on the Stokksnes Peninsula near Höfn. To access this area you need to head to the Viking Cafe Iceland where you will have to pay a small entrance fee, but you are also able to explore an old viking village that was built as a movie set.
Jökulsárlón is a glacier lagoon on the southern coast of Iceland–the lagoon is filled with icebergs that have broken off from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and it’s a magical sight to see. The nearby black sand beach is often filled with washed up ice pieces that have floated out to the ocean and then washed back up on shore.
After spending a night at the Skaftafell National Park campground, we went for a hike to visit the waterfall, Svartifoss, and the Sjónarnípa viewpoint which overlooks a glacier.
The Fjadrárgljúfur canyon was a gorgeous place to go for an afternoon hike–we loved peering over the edge and watching the river flow through the curving walls of the canyon below.
After a full day of hiking at Skaftafell and Fjadrárgljúfur canyon, we had dinner in Vik and then made our way over to Dyrhólaey. The late night sun was beautiful, and it was so windy that we felt like we were going to blow over the edge of the cliff!
Next to one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland, Seljalandsfoss, you can find a lesser visited gem tucked back into the cliff wall. To get to this spot, you have to hop along a few stones in the river, but once you make it inside you will be rewarded with amazing views of the towering waterfall, Gljúfrabúi. We visited just before midnight and practically had the place to ourselves!
The crowds at Seljalandsfoss were a different story–people were everywhere pretty much all night long, so after exploring Gljúfrabúi, we finally made our way over to Seljalandsfoss. This is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland, it’s the one you can walk behind, and we caught a beautiful sunset at the falls around midnight.
We spent a night at the campground near Seljalandsfoss and had views of the waterfall from our van. We also found a cool sink that was positioned right next to a field of flowers–I don’t think I’ve ever had better views when washing dishes!
On our last night with the camper van, we made our way back to Reykjavik to have dinner with our friend Inga from Tiny Iceland and one of her friends that we met on our last visit to Iceland. We went to KOL and indulged in their delicious tasting menu–it’s definitely worth a try if you are in town!
After our camper van road trip was complete, Evan and Hilary had to head home and we spent another five days exploring. We based ourselves in Reykjavik for the rest of the trip and took day trips outside of the city to see some of the spots we had previously missed. To start off though, we had to return to one of our favorite spots, Sægreifinn, for some fresh fish and lobster soup!
Then it was time to check out Hallgrímskirkja and the views from the observation tower at the top. I absolutely love the buildings in Iceland and it was great to see an aerial view of the city!
For an afternoon break, we couldn’t resist stopping at another one of our favorite spots in town called The Laundromat Cafe. I just had to order another blueberry Skyr parfait because I had been dreaming about this dessert since our last visit several years prior!
After some in town exploring, we decided to head back out to the Golden Circle. We had rainy weather during our last road trip around this part of Iceland, so we figured another visit was warranted. The weather wasn’t much better this time around, but it was still great to see the beautiful Gullfoss waterfall and the geyser again.
Another spot we revisited on this trip was the Blue Lagoon. On our last trip, the Blue Lagoon was our first stop after an early morning landing in Iceland, but this time we got to soak under the midnight sun! The fog was intense and it was great to relax in the lagoon at such late hours of the night.
One of the road trips we went on in our SADcars rental was to explore the Snæfellsnes peninsula. We made our way to the adorable town of Stykkishólmur where we dined on fresh fish and wandered up to the lighthouse before continuing on our way around the peninsula.
We actually road tripped up to the Snæfellsnes peninsula twice as the weather took a turn for the worse on our first attempt at exploring. On the second visit, we made our way to the Vatnshellir Lava Cave and the Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge and we couldn’t resist stopping for plenty of photos along the way!
Even after spending so much time in Iceland, our list of places we still want to see keeps growing. Iceland is such an amazing place and I know we will be back for another visit again someday. Hopefully next time we can change up the seasons and visit during the winter!
Have you ever been on an Iceland road trip? Share your favorite spots in Iceland with us in the comments below!