Iceland travel guide & self-drive itinerary for 14 days
I believe Iceland is not novel to you. Its dramatic landscape with volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields often leave people in awe. I have heard so much about the beauty of Iceland and finally I had the chance to explore it.
We went to Iceland in September for 2 weeks and we travelled the whole ring road, including a bit of the Westfjords in a camper van. The trip was beyond amazing! We literally awed for its beautiful sceneries throughout the journey.
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FAQ about Iceland
1. When is the best time to visit Iceland?
There is no best time to visit Iceland because Iceland is beautiful all year round. It depends on what you want to do and see. For example, if you visit during summer, you get to experience its midnight sun and wildlife whereas during winter, there is a chance of seeing Northern Lights and visit glacier cave or experience winter activities. However do note that some activities and roads are closed during winter due to the weather. I went in September and it is considered as the shoulder season. I think that's a good time to visit for me as we were still able to catch some summer activities and had a chance to see Northern lights.
2. How long should I spend in Iceland?
Again, depending what you want to do and see, and what kind of traveller you are. Most people visit Iceland for 7 to 10 days. If you love landscape and nature, then there is never enough time for you in Iceland, haha! We were there for 2 weeks and we managed to tour the whole ring road of Iceland. I would say we have done most of Iceland but still have bits and pieces that we would have liked to go if we had time. We are slow travellers and we don't rush through our trip so for our case, another 5-7 days would be ideal to complete Iceland I think.
3. Where to visit in Iceland?
If you have limited time in Iceland, then visit the 'must-go' places like Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik etc. They are located at the Southern side of the country. South Iceland is more crowded and touristy compared to other areas of Iceland. Most of the highlights are located there. I would highly recommend you to tour the whole ring road if you have sufficient time because each area has different feel of sceneries.
4. How to visit Iceland? What is the mode of transportation?
Road trip / driving is the way to go in Iceland! You get your freedom and flexibility to explore Iceland at your own pace. If driving is not an option for you, there are tour companies that organize day tours in Iceland. I am sure you can easily search for them on Google.com.
5. Where to stay in Iceland?
Camper van is thé way to go! During our 2 weeks trip, we stayed and travelled with Campeasy and it could not get any easier (click here to read about my experience). We loved the flexibility without the worry of hotel check ins on fixed dates. However, if camper van is not your preferred choice, you may check out apartments and hotels in Iceland but mind you hotels in Iceland are not cheap. We stayed in Reykjavik Amazing central apartment for our last 2 nights and I highly recommend this place to those who wish to stay in Reykjavik (click here to read about my stay).
6. How's the weather like in Iceland?
Crazy. That's the most common answer we get from Icelanders when asking about the weather of their country. Iceland's weather changes very drastically in a day and it is unpredictable so it is advisable to wear layers and waterproof, windproof attire and shoes. Iceland can be very windy as well to the extent the car may sway to a side (no joke) and there was once I could not close my car door from inside and I actually needed Chris to push the car door from outside to shut it. That's how windy Iceland can get. We went in September and it is considered as a shoulder season where it transits from summer to winter (read: Autumn). Temperature was as low as -2'c at night and the highest being 7'c during day time.
7. What to pack / How to wear for Iceland?
WATERPROOF and WINDPROOF attire is a MUST in Iceland! It is always recommended to cover yourself with layers. For the weather during our trip in September, we got some good winter clothing from Uniqlo. This is how I layered myself from inside to outside: Uniqlo extra-warm heat tech (top and bottom), Uniqlo fleece or any knitted wear and Uniqlo down jacket, with scarf, gloves and Uniqlo heat-tech socks. Tips: Uniqlo normal heat-tech and extra warm heat-tech is only a 15% difference so I would recommend to go for the extra warm; Jeans are not windproof so unless you have cold-tolerant legs like mine (because of the fats layer), you can pair it with heat-tech leggings (extra warm) or stockings. Otherwise, get a pair of waterproof pants or cover up your jeans or sweat pants with a waterproof pants cover. However, do take note I was told by Uniqlo's staff that their winter clothing is only suitable for temperature up to 0'c. So do check for yourself if you will need more or thicker layers during the time you visit Iceland. I learned that the most important body parts to be kept warm during winter are your head, neck, fingers and feet. As long as you keep them warm, you should be fine to withhold the weather.
8. Does Iceland involve a lot of walking or hiking?
This is a definite YES. Most of the beautiful places in Iceland require some effort to reach. There are walking and hiking involved, sometimes even crossing the water or pulling ropes etc (depending on the intensity of hike) but the end results are always very rewarding! Make sure you have a pair of good waterproof shoes to go through thick and thin with you.
9. Where to eat in Iceland? How is the food like?
The best lamb and fish are in Iceland and I am still missing them! Oh my! If you like yoghurt, you will love their Skyr yoghurt which is one of Icelandic delicacies. Skyr has a thick texture, similar to greek yoghurt. If you are not very tolerant to sour, make sure you get the vanilla or fruit flavour instead of the original flavour. If you are adventurous enough for some exotic food, the Icelandic traditional food such as fermented shark, smoked puffin, sheep head, whale steak, horse steak etc will sure satisfy you. One of the best places to savour these is 3 Frakkar in Reykjavik or Cafe Loki opposite Hallsgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik.
Food in Iceland is generally known to be expensive. The main city of Iceland, Reykjavik has a wide range of cafes and restaurants. But when you are far from the main area, you do not get many choices on food and I realised most of the restaurants close pretty early. Hence, most travellers who stay in Air Bnb prefer to cook their own meals. For those who stay in a hotel, most hotels have a restaurant for you to dine in. As for us, we did our grocery shopping from Bonus Supermarket (The most popular and widest supermarket chain in Iceland) and cooked our own meals on most of the days. Iceland's produce is very fresh especially the meat so no heavy cooking is required to make a delicious meal.
10. When and where can I see the Northern Lights?
Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis is one of the biggest draws to visit Iceland. Many tourists around the world flock to Iceland wishing to witness the magical Northern Lights. Northern lights are best viewed when it is dark (away from light pollution) and when the sky is cleared. Actually Northern lights are active all year round but it is only visible from September to April when the weather is cold and there is darkness. During summer, Iceland is bright almost all the time hence Northern lights cannot be seen. Having said that, it also heavily depends on your luck and the weather. You may refer to the Aurora forecast at http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/ and there are scores to indicate the strength of the lights and cloud cover. From there, you will be able to see where is the best place to see Northern lights in Iceland.
However, a piece of an advice, don't go to Iceland ONLY hoping to see Northern lights. Other than weather and forecast, it mostly depends on luck as well. I have heard cases where they have travelled to 4 different destinations for Northern lights but did not have any luck seeing it. Iceland has so much more to offer and I am sure you will have a good time there anyhow. Having the expectation may sometimes ruin your trip and you don't want that.
11. Should I travel clockwise or anti-clockwise in Iceland?
I found many articles debating the difference between doing clockwise vs anti-clockwise circle on the ring road and it seems like there is not much difference as long as you plan your itinerary thoroughly and allocate enough time and not rush through the places you wish to go. I read someone suggested anti-clockwise because there are more things to do aka more touristy at the Southern side of Iceland so you may want to finish off all the 'must-do' in Iceland before continuing your journey to the less visited areas. It really depends on you. We did anti-clockwise (starting from South - East - North - West) mainly because we had a few tours that were set on the first few days of our trip.
If you have more questions, feel free to leave your questions or comments below and I will reply ASAP! ;)
Below is my 2 weeks itinerary in Iceland for your reference. Kindly note we are relaxed travellers as we like to take our sweet time and explore a place to its fullest (click on the day for an elaborated post for the day - still updating, please bear with me).
- Arrival at Keflavik Airport
- Hveragerdi campsite for shower
- Golden Circle
- Overnight at Gullfoss
- Golden Circle (cont')
- Bruarfoss waterfall
- Laugarvatn Fontana Hot Spring
- Overnight outside N1 station on the way to Seljalandsfoss
- Thorsmork super jeep tour with Southcoast Adventures
- Ship wreck on Landeyjahofn beach
- Overnight at Gesthus Selfoss campsite
- Inside the Volcano tour with Guide to Iceland
- Overnight at Seljalandsfoss campsite
- Landmannalaugar super jeep tour with Southcoast Adventures
- Overnight at Skogarfoss campsite
- Skogarfoss waterfall
- Overnight at Kirbjubaejarklaustur
- Skatafell - Svartifoss waterfall
- Hofskirkja (last tuft church in Iceland)
- Overnight at Hofn
- Stokksnes - Viking village
- Overnight at Egilsstadir
- Grjotagja Cave (Game of Thrones filming location)
- Myvatn Nature Bath
- Overnight at Godafoss
- First encounter with Aurora Borealis at Westfjords!
- Overnight at Westfjords
- Dynjandi waterfall
- Snaefelles Peninsula
- Overnight near Thingvellir National Park
- Thingvellir National Park
- Overnight at Reykjavik
- Overnight at Reykjavik
- Last minute shopping in Reykjavik
- Blue Lagoon
That concludes my adventurous and fun-filled vacation in Iceland. Traveling in nature is a whole new level of experience and Iceland can be described as 'another world'. This is by far the most memorable trip and a trip that has broadened my perspectives. I have attached a map of where I have been during my trip as a reference for your convenience. Feel free to take out those you are not interested in or add in other places if you wish. Tweak the map to your liking and have a wonderful journey in Iceland!