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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Iceland 10 Day Itinerary, Map, Video, Tips, and Trip Costs!


If you want to go to Iceland, this may be one of your most helpful tools when planning your trip. The amount of research I had to do for this trip would probably blow your mind and scare you a little bit. You should see the google doc Amanda and I created and constantly went back and forth on updating GPS points, tips, expected costs, and "must-see" sites. But, a goal of this blog is to make it so you don't have to go through all the painstaking labor I went through.

MAP: In this post, you will see my interactive map where you can zoom in and out, and click around each spot (with links included) to see where we ate, slept, hiked, and played. Note: We drove the country in a counter-clockwise loop.


ITINERARY: You will also see a list of activities day by day (in the order we did them), including total driving time and distance (in kilometers).

COSTS: Lastly, I calculated our day by day costs (what we spent on food, gifts, and tours- excluding hotel costs). At the end of the post, I share my total trip costs including everything (hotel, car rental, gas, gifts, food, parking... every penny spent)

HOTELS: We stayed in AirBnbs or guesthouses with shared bathrooms and avoided expensive hotels. Most of the time we had a kitchen to cook in or had breakfast included which helped with costs. You can see my organized spreadsheet of where we stayed (including links, check in times, etc).

VIDEO: Here is a link to my Iceland recap video which is one of my favorite ways to reflect on a trip- 10 days in about 15 minutes.

TIPS: Lastly I share some tips that I was glad I knew, or WISH I knew before heading to Iceland. I also share some tips on how to keep costs down without depriving yourself.


   
View of the harbor from Harpa Hall 

EXPLORE REYKJAVIK
We took a red-eye in from Newark and spent the day adjusting to the time change and exploring Reykjavik. This is also the day we snuck in our riding tour as we knew we had a little bit of time and there are several operations in the area.

SITES
Horse Riding Tour
Exploring Reykjavik:
-Culture House
-National Museum
-Laugavegur Street
-Harpa Concert Hall
-Solfar (boat sculpture)
-Hallgrímskirkja (church)

FOOD
Breakfast ($): Granola bars on plane
Lunch ($): Hot dogs at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur
Dinner ($): Groceries/cooked pasta at AirBnb

LODGING
Reykjavik AirBnb ($245 four people/ $59 each)
Our Airbnb Get $40 off your first stay by using this link

DAILY COSTS
Airport coffee $4.72
Liquor Store: $67.05
Museum (1 Adult 1 Student): $27.99
Grocery Store (2 people) : $37.89
Hot Dogs (2): $8.40
Micro Bar Drinks (3): $32.71
Salmon (market) for lunches (2 people): $5.61
Museum Parking: $2.80 (1 car 4 people)
Hot Dog Parking $2.80 (1 car 4 people)
Card at museum: $3.08
Horseback riding (1): $ 109.41
(all lodging included in final cost)
Day 1 Total Costs 2 people: $300






Gulfoss on the Golden Circle 
REYKJAVIK TO SELFOSS
On Day 2 we left Reykjavik to tour Iceland's famous Golden Circle. This is a crowded area with lots of tour buses so try to get out there early. After the Golden Circle we continued east a bit to give us a head start to Day 3 up the eastern coast.

SITES
Self Guided Tour around the Golden Circle
Stop 1: Thingvellir National Park
Stop 2: Geysers at Haukadalur (Geysir and Strokkur)
Stop 3: Gullfoss Waterfall
Stop 4: Haifoss waterfall and Fossárdalur Valley
Stop 5: Kerið Crater Lake
Drive: 300 km at 4 hr 45 minutes

FOOD
Breakfast ($): Grocery store/yogurt
Lunch ($): Grocery store/sandwiches
Dinner ($): Yellow (chicken curry plates) quick and easy, cool spot.

LODGING
Selfoss Garun Guesthouses
($266 four people- two rooms at $133 ea. shared bathrooms)

DAILY COSTS
Souvenir/Geysir Blanket: $137.37
Thingvellir Parking: $6.54 (1 car 4 people)
Dinner Yellow (2 people): $36.20
Souvenirs: $17.08
Crater Admission (2): $7.46
Groceries (2 people): $21.36
(all lodging included in final cost)
Day 2 Total Costs 2 People: $223


Beautiful black sand beaches in Vik

SELFOSS TO VIK On Day 3 we started to leave the super popular and busy areas around Reykjavik and see some of Iceland's quieter landscapes. Bring your bathing suit along for a dip in Seljavallalaug Pool.  Beware of the wind at Dyrholaey and layer up!

SITES
Stop 1: Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
Stop 2 Skogarfoss Waterfall
Stop 3: Seljavallalaug Pool
Stop 4: Black Beach Dyrholaey
Drive: 170 km at 2.5 hours

FOOD
Breakfast ($): Grocery store
Lunch ($): Grocery store/sandwiches
Dinner ($$): Sudur Vik (local food, highly recommended, reservation recommended)

LODGING
Vik Giljur Guesthouse ($177 for 4 people)

DAILY COSTS
Sudur Vik Dinner: 2 people $72.43
Kronor Vik (groceries): $32.12
Vinbudin Liquor Store: $24.93
Waterfall Parking: $6.54
(all lodging included in final cost)
Day 3 Total Costs (2 people): $133



Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

VIK TO HOFN
This is a busy busy day JAM packed with lots of great sites. Make sure you are up and out the door as early as possible. Skip the basalt tiles if time is tight. Leave ample time for your hike to Svartifoss and time at the glacier lagoons. Pick a shorter glacier tour so you have time to squeeze everything in. Hofn is known for its lobster and Z Bistro is an affordable place to try it. Hafnarbuðin also came highly recommended (diner style) but closes at 9pm.

SITES
Stop 1: Fjarðárgljúfur/Fjardrargljufur Canyon
Stop 2: Kiirkjugólf Basalt Tiles
Stop 3: Hike to Svartifoss waterfall at Skaftafell National Park
Stop 4: Glacier Tour *Skaftafell National Park
Stop 5: Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Stop 6: Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Stop 7: Diamond Beach
Drive Time: 4400 km / 5 hours

FOOD
Breakfast ($): Grocery store
Lunch: Grocery Store/sandwiches
Dinner: Z Bistro (lobster pizza and lobster sandwich)

LODGING
Sefdalur Studio Apartment (4 people one room): $325

DAILY COSTS
Coffee at Glacial Lagoon: $3.71
Dinner Z Bistro (2 people): $50.12
(all lodging included in final cost)
Day 4 Total Cost two people: $54


 

HOFN TO MYVATN LAKE
Day 5 we had to modify due to some nasty Iceland weather. We crammed in a lot of driving to make up for the lack of outside time. We detoured off the Ring Road to check out one of Iceland's fjord towns. Given more time, there are some great hikes around Seyðisfjörður. The Myvatn Nature Baths are also on the pricey side and can be a) done at night or b) skipped entirely to a lot for more time driving or around the fjord town. I HIGHLY recommend finding some date pudding while visiting this area. 

SITES
Stop 1: Seyðisfjörður Fjord Town
Stop 2: Myvatn Nature Baths
Drive: 6 hours, 420 km

FOOD
Breakfast ($): Groceries
Lunch ($): Groceries
Dinner ($): Groceries/stir fry

LODGING
Skútustadir Guesthouse
($294 four people- family room private bathroom)

DAILY COSTS
Groceries BONUS: $50.54
Cafe in Fjord town (Coffee and date pudding): $16.30
Myvatn Baths: (1 adult, 1 student): $67.73
(all lodging included in final cost)
Day 5 Total Cost (2 people): $135


Hverfjall/Hverir Geothermal Area 

AROUND MYVATN
Day 6 we were up early to check out some cool sites right near our hotel (the psuedo-craters, the lava field, the cave, and this geothermal area). Then our plan was to check out the amazing dettifoss and spend some time in that area seeing the fall from both sides. Again, nasty weather had us replanning our day so after seeing one side of Europe's most powerful waterfall, we scrapped the other side and took a detour off the Ring Road to see Europe's whale watching capital, Husavik. Great museums, awesome food, and a whole lot of charm await in this little whale watching town. Don't leave Iceland without trying Fish Soup!

SITES
Stop 1: Skutustadagigar Pseudocraters
Stop 2: Dimmuborgir Lava Field
Stop 3: Grjótagjá cave
Stop 4: Hverfjall/Hverir Geothermal Area
Stop 5: Dettifoss Waterfall
Stop 6: Húsavík and Whale Museum
Drive: 230 km and around 3 hr. 15 min

FOOD
Breakfast ($): Included
Lunch ($): Fish Soup Naustiq
Dinner ($): Fish and chips at "Fish and Chips"

LODGING
Kidagil Guesthouse ($240 four people with breakfast)

DAILY COSTS
Whaling Museum (1 student, 1 adult): $31.95
Gift Shop: $9.77
Lunch: Soup and beer at Naustiq: $39.59
Dinner: Fish & Chips: $15.98
(all lodging included in final cost)
Day 6 Total Cost (2 people): $97






MYTVAN AREA to GAUKSMYRI 
Blue skies ahead on Day 7 (and exactly one week into Iceland)! We had plans to check out yet another waterfall by last nights guest house. After that, we spent some time checking out Iceland's "capital of the north" before heading on to see some of Iceland's classic turf houses. After the turf houses, we spend some time photographing a herd of horses in the area before checking into our horse themed lodge and heading to Hvammstangi for dinner. The seal museum was closed by the time we arrived but it looked like a great little spot to explore before dinner. 

SITES 
Stop 1: Goðafoss Waterfall
Stop 2: Akureyri
Stop 3: Glaumbær Turf House
Stop 4: Hvammstangi/Seal Museum 
Drive: 300 Km and 3 hr. 45 min 

FOOD 
Breakfast ($): Included 
Lunch ($): Akureyri Backpackers 
Dinner ($): Sjavarborg Restaurant 

LODGING 
Gauksmyri Lodge: $215 for 4 people with breakfast 

DAILY COSTS 
Bakery (two pastries): $6.12 
Lunch (split entree and beer) $30.55 
Souvenir (mittens): $27.4 
Dinner: Sjavarborg Restaurant two burgers: $46.36 
Liquor store: $24.6 
(all lodging included in final cost) 
Day 7 Total Cost (2 people): $135




Snaelfellsnes Peninsula


GAUKSMYRI to BOGARNES
Blue skies stayed around as we made our way around this famous Peninsula. It is here where you see "Iceland in miniature", some of the countries most famous features on one peninsula. There is a lot to do an see so start early. The proximity to Reykjavik will mean the area will be busy.

SITES
Stop 1: Berserkjahraun lava field
Stop 2: Kirkjufell Mountain and Kirkjufoss
Stop 3: Lunch in Ólafsvík
Stop 4: Djúpalónssandur Beach
Stop 5: Snaefellsjokull National Park/Glacier
Stop 6: Arnarstapi (Hellnar coastal path and fishing villages and Gatklettur)
Drive: 400 km, 5h 30min

FOOD
Breakfast ($): Included
Lunch ($): Grocery store/sandwiches
Dinner ($): Grocery store/cooked Arctic Char at the house

LODGING
Bogarnes Airbnb cabin: $170 for all 4 - one of our cheapest nights! 

DAILY COSTS 
Cafe Emil Coffee: $3.27 
Dinner Groceries: $12.86 
Beer at Arnarstapi: $9.4 
Total Day 8 Costs (2 people): $26



Glymur Hike
BOGARNES to REYKJAVIK
We dedicated this entire day to hiking Glymur and making our way back to Reykjavik. We were so happy the nice weather stayed around (3 days straight!) so we could hike one of Iceland's tallest waterfall. An amazing hike so start early and have lunch at the top of the waterfall. Spend the rest of the evening soaking up your last full day and exploring more of Reykjavik.

SITES
Stop 1: Glymur Hike
Stop 2: Reykjavik
Drive: 135km and 2 hours

FOOD
Breakfast: Groceries/yogurt
Lunch: Groceries & Fries at Lebowski Bar
Dinner: Shwarma Ali Babas

LODGING
Reykjavik Airbnb apartment ($184 with discount four people)
Get $40 off your first stay by using this link

DAILY COSTS
Lebowski Bar: Fries and beer (happy hour- 2 people): $19.27
2 Beers at a Bar: $14
Shawarma at Ali Baba (2 plates): $32.71
Total Day 9 Costs (2 people): $66





SITES
Walked around the city

FOOD
Breakfast ($): Groceries
Lunch ($): Noodle Station
Dinner ($): Airport sandwich

DAILY COSTS
Noodles (2 bowls- vegetarian): $17.36
Duty Free Alcohol (gift): $19.03
Candy Store (gifts): $16.32
Dinner (airport): $20
Total Day 10 Costs (2 people): $53




These costs reflect two people trying to stick to a budget but still enjoying Iceland's food and culture. All lodging was in the middle of the price spectrum and was clean and we had no complaints (you can go full hostel or fancy hotel, we found a nice middle). As far as food, we stuck to $ or $$ restaurants, avoiding fine dining and restaurants with expensive menus. We looked for places that had breakfast included and almost always relied on the grocery store for lunch. Lodging and a reliable rental car were our high ticket items.





Iceland is an expensive country and there are several ways you can save some $ without really missing out on the culture of the area. There is also some good information here on what to pack, where to shop, and selecting a rental car.

1) Stock up (I mean STOCK UP) on liquor duty-free at the airport. A bottle of Brennivan at the liquor store around the country was $60 compared to $20 at the airport. Avoid ordering expensive drinks at dinner and instead, stock up at duty-free and enjoy a cold beer mid hike or overlooking a waterfall.

2) Know where to buy liquor: Liquor over 2.5% is only sold at the National Liquor Store- Vinbudin. The stuff sold at the grocery store is 2.5% and is under the soda/juice section of restaurant menus.

3) Grocery Store: The grocery store will be your best friend. It is the most practical way to save money on this trip. If breakfast wasn't included, we stocked up on yogurt and pastries at the grocery stores. Stock up at the grocery stores and know that BONUS and KRONAN are the bigger stores on the island- more about grocery shopping in Iceland here. Bring your own bags or expect to pay for bags.

4) Spend the extra $ on a good car rental: I went with one of the more expensive rental car companies. Why? After doing a ton of research and talking to several people- it was where I wanted to spend my money. If you are driving around the country and relying on your vehicle for 10 days in areas where you are in the middle of nowhere- you want a reliable vehicle. This meant I wanted a newer car, an SUV, and reliable dependable customer service. I did the math and compared various companies (and read a ton of reviews) and Blue Car was what we picked. We had zero issues picking up or returning the car and the customer service was great.

5) Get Car Wifi and ALL the insurances: You don't think you need extra sand ash and gravel insurances until someone passes you on a gravel road going 60 and large rocks come CRASHING onto your car. Get the additional insurances if you are driving the country. Also, if you get the extra insurances, they do not look over your car with a fine-toothed comb because its all covered (with the exception of under your car, the top of your car, and doors blowing off so be aware of that). Having wifi in our car meant we could always look up information on our sites and use google maps for all our navigation needs.

6) Gas stations: There were plenty of gas stations around the island but always make sure you are aware of how far you are traveling and where they are. I am sure you have also read horror stories about un-manned pumps and needing a special N1 card. N1 cards are just a gift card for that particular gas station and will allow you to pump gas without a pin number. At unmanned stations, you will need a card with a pin to purchase gas. Out of the four of us, only one card was working so be aware this may be an issue.

7) Pack so many layers. Like so many more layers than you think you will need. Hat, gloves, scarf, vest and of course rain gear. Don't pack fancy shoes or cute heels, you won't need them. You will need high-quality rain boots, rain gear, and clothing that will keep you warm and dry. Iceland's weather changes in an instant and 50 degrees in the states feels a whole lot warmer than 5o degrees in Iceland (wind, damp, rain, repeat). The wind in Iceland is no joke so be prepared (and leave your umbrella at home).

Friday, December 1, 2017

Day 9: Hiking Glymur - Iceland's 2nd tallest Waterfall


If there was ever a way to end a trip, this is itSunshine, beautiful weather, and an amazing hike up, across, and down one of Iceland's tallest waterfalls (second tallest to be exact). You follow a rocky trail up the waterfall, along cliffs, crossing the icy flowing river at the top of the fall, and eventually making the slow descent back down.  So far, all the of the waterfalls we had been to were a drive and a short walk away.  But throw in a 7.5km hike round trip to see Iceland's second tallest waterfall and you really weed out the crowds.  You can find solitude, and take in the raw beauty of this fall from the trail.  This gets the title of one of Iceland's best hikes for a reason. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Day 8: Snaefellsnes Peninsula "Iceland in Miniature"





If you have been following along on my Iceland Adventures, you know how amazing and diverse the landscape has been thus far.  Day 8 proved to be a perfect way to start wrapping up the trip, seeing some of Iceland's most famous features on one peninsula.  The plan for Day 8 was to drive out and around Iceland's famous Snaefellsnes Peninsula which is known for being "Iceland in Miniature".  If you don't have time to see the whole country, a drive through this peninsula will give you a mini-tour of some of Iceland's most famous geologic structures and landscapes.  It's proximity to Reykjavik (just 1.5 hours north) also makes it an easy way to see a lot of Iceland in a little bit of time.  A famous glacier, charming towns, plenty of opportunities for hiking, beautiful arches, folklore, Iceland's classic basalt features, sunbathing seals, lava fields, famous mountains, flowing waterfalls... it's all here. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Day 7: Glaumbær Turf Houses, Horses, Sjavarborg Restaurant, and Gauksmyri Lodge

Glaumbær Turf Houses
To me, there is something iconically Iceland about a turf house.  Beautiful little buildings with mud walls and roofs hidden in the landscape.  We had seen a few scattered around the country, but hadn't been to a dedicated "turf house site" and we knew such a thing existed.   Glaumbær turf farm was the perfect place to see these structures up close and learn more about Iceland's history and culture. And yes, the sun came out and we soaked up every bit of sunshine and thanked the photo gods for giving us enough light to capture this stunning part of the country.


Glaumbær Turf Houses


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Day 7: Visiting Akureyri - Eat, Drink, Art, Shop


Akureyri (pronounced ah-koo-rare-ee) is fondly known as Iceland's "Capital of the North" and its second city (and second largest urban area with a population of about 18,500).  Akureyri is on one of the longest fjords in the country and is surrounded by mountains reaching 1000-1500 m.  At this point in the trip, we had left Reykjavik 6 days earlier and had spent our time driving through quiet sections of Iceland and sleepy tiny towns.  We were looking forward to seeing Iceland's OTHER city and soaking in some more Icelandic charm.  We didn't really have set plans but knew we wanted to spend a few hours walking around, grab lunch, and stop in a few shops along the way.