There’s got to be hundreds of different combinations of how to best spend 9 days in Iceland. I can’t tell you how many times I changed our itinerary, myself. We didn’t want to miss anything, and we also tried to be realistic at the same time. If you have limited time (7-10) days, and want to be able to drive Road 1, AKA Ring Road, this itinerary can work for you.
Buckle up, it’s a long post, detailing stops along the ways, hotels/guesthouses we used, and tips for turnoffs to get to your destinations. I also have a post with a few vlogs of my time in Iceland, if you’re interested in checking those out, too.
This itinerary starts and ends in Keflavik, and will take you all the way around the country, via Road 1. There is a detour for the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. This itinerary does not include the West Fjords (so I’ll just have to go back another time 😉 ). This is for 9 days, you can skip if you need to make it shorter, or elongate if you have more time. You can do it forward or backward, skip anything that doesn’t interest you, and add anything in along the way that does. I was worried it would feel too rushed, but it truly didn’t. Though I do wish I would’ve had more time in some areas, I still didn’t feel rushed.
Day 1 – Keflavik and Reykjavik
Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral & area on foot
Grocery & supply shopping
Downtown Rekjavik on foot
Bar hopping until exhaustion sets in
We’re starting in Keflavik, picking up our rental car right there at the airport. Nice and easy, no extra transportation needed. If you are wanting more information on car rentals in Iceland, check out my post on that.
We had originally planned to get straight to the volcano this day, but as fate would have it, it was only really active at one point during our trip, and that was about 3 in the morning when we were elsewhere in the country. So after getting into our rental, we headed right into Reykjavik!
It was still early, so we couldn’t check in yet. We parked a few blocks away from the Hallgrimskirkja cathedral, took a nice stroll to check it and the area out, then went to get some lunch. Admittedly, we were up for over 30 hours with no sleep. After lunch, we were fortunate enough to be able to check into our hotel early. We stayed at Hotel Muli, and I can recommend it. Free coffee, free use of washer/dryer/laundry detergent, free parking, close to a supermarket, 5 minute drive from downtown (pleasant 30 min walk) and a helpful hotel staff.
After the nap, we ran to the market to get some groceries and supplies, then set off on foot to the downtown bar scene. I love to walk around when I’m traveling. It gives you a new perspective and helps you to better explore the areas, seeing things you may have missed if you were driving. We checked out the Lebowski Bar, and it was a sensory overload! So many people, so loud, so hot. It was definitely an exciting setting, for those of you who are into that. My friend and I, not so much! So we didn’t spend too much time there before deciding to look elsewhere for a drink.
We then headed to The Irishman Pub, which was much quieter and cooler (temperature wise). There were security guards standing outside the entrance, which made us feel a little intimidated to enter, but then we realized that seems pretty standard and you don’t even have to say anything to them, just… head inside. We were hovering, wondering, when we saw two other people do just that, so we realized we could just walk in, too. We spent a while hanging out here, enjoying some drinks, before heading out.
Our flight attendant had told us about a really cool gay bar called Kiki Queer Bar, and we ended up finding it and who else was standing outside, but our flight attendant! It was a fun reunion moment and we tried to buy him a drink, but he absolutely insisted on taking us inside said club and buying us a drink. This club has very loud music, as expected, but is a very inclusive and welcoming place with fun wall art. We saw many types of people coming in, here. Even the restrooms are shared for any gender.
After eating and drinking our way through downtown for a couple of hours, we decided to head back to the hotel and get some shut eye.
Day 2 – Blue Lagoon and Reykjavik
Blue Lagoon (9:00 AM slot)
Reykjavik Museum/s of choice
Strolling/exploring the waterfront on foot
We had pre-booked our Blue Lagoon tickets well in advance. If you’re doing the Blue Lagoon, make sure you book in advance as well, or you might not be able to go. We signed up for the earliest time slot and I’m so glad that we did! It wasn’t crowded for the first hour or so, then slowly became more crowded as the hours passed. We stayed here a good 3-4 hours because even when it became crowded, it wasn’t too crowded and we were able to move about to different areas as we pleased. It was a cold day, on and off rain, and it felt so amazing getting to sit in the hot springs through that. I was worried it would be too touristy, but I am so glad I gave it a chance because I loved it so much 😭 We were wishing we booked another visit on our last day just so we could relax in the silica waters one more time.
We headed back into Reykjavik for a late lunch and then the weather took a turn for the worse. The wind and rain became so intense that we stayed cooped up in our hotel room and ordered in some pizza. When it calmed down a bit, we headed to the water and got some awesome sunset views, along with colorful rainbows.
You could easily spend time in one of the many museums in Reykjavik, or stroll along the water and check out the sculptures, street art and scenery along the way. We were worried to drive in that bad of downpour and unfortunately had to waste a few hours of our precious time 😬
Day 3 – Golden Circle
Thingvellir National Park
Reykjavik Night Life
On the third day, we hit up Iceland’s Golden Circle, going in a clockwise direction. We skipped on Geysir because we had another day of awful weather and we live within hours of Yellowstone, so… we decided to skip it. But if you want to check it out, you can add it in after Gullfoss!
Our first stop was Thingvellir National Park, where the water runs through two tectonic plates. You’ll stay on Route 1 until Road 36, then turn on Road 36 (if going from Reykjavik). We didn’t do anything wild like snorkeling between them, but we did spend some time here, walking along the pathways. Keep in mind there was a parking fee here of 750 IKR for a family car. You can easily pay this at the self service machine in the building, all you need is your license plate number.
The mountain walls are so gorgeous and the running water rushing around creates the most pleasant atmosphere.
It even started getting rainy and windy here, but it was so beautiful that it was easy enough to ignore the oncoming bad weather. I put on my gloves to keep my hands warm and already had on my waterproof/windproof jacket, so I was all set.
The views you can take in here, too, are just incredible.
Our second stop was Gullfoss. To get here, you’ll get back on Road 36 after Thingvellir, and continue east until Road 365, which you’ll turn left on (the road turns into 37, then 35, keep following signs for Gullfoss). At this point, we were in another downpour with wicked wind 😬 You know, one of my friends went to Iceland in September and only had one day of rainy weather. We had rain almost every day! But some days it was much lighter. It was mainly the first few days in Reykjavik that it was miserable as could be.
I put on my waterproof pants before getting out of the car and if I wouldn’t have, I would have been absolutely soaked to the bone. Which… my friend was absolutely soaked to the bone. Especially when she learned that her waterproof jacket she bought for this trip was, in fact, not waterproof. While I was in complete awe and absolutely amazed at the power and beauty of Gullfoss, I can’t help but feel like I didn’t get the full experience. I couldn’t wear my glasses because of the rain 🤣 so even that was detrimental to my experience.
But I mean, look at her. She’s gorgeous. Even if the weather was miserable, I couldn’t help but enjoy my time there.
So yeah, my friend was soaked to the bone when we got back in the car and we travelled on down to Kerid Crater. To get here, go back the way you came to Gullfoss, but take a left at the fork to stay on Road 35 instead of going back to road 37. You’ll stay on 35 all the way until you get to Kerid Crater. There is a per person fee here of 400 ISK, and a booth at the trailhead where you can pay it.
This place is awesome! The colors were just incredible! I wanted to take a photo at every angle because I didn’t want to miss capturing any of it.
We were overjoyed on our drive here when the weather started clearing up, and the sun even started to peek out! Definitely still very windy, but the wind was much easier to handle when there wasn’t pouring rain, too.
After Kerid Crater, we headed back into Reykjavik for dinner. You can add a few hours of downtown nightlife again, if you’re into that! I think being beaten by the wind and rain all day had us exhausted, because after dinner, we wound down at the hotel, then went to bed.
Day 4 – East on Route 1
Seljalandsfoss & Gljufrabui
Hof (stopped for the horses!)
We started early, left around 7AM to head to our next hotel, Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon, in Hof. We already knew the stops we wanted to make along the way, so we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to get from point A to point B.
Turning on Road 249 (signs present), we arrived at Seljalandsfoss and saw a tour bus in the parking lot. We had hoped to make it before any of those, so it was a little disheartening. But it turns out they had been there for a while, because the majority of them were heading back when we were heading out. There was a pay to park meter here, but after using it, we weren’t sure if it was only for commercial tours or not, but best to check when you go! There was free use of toilets here, too.
We only had to wait in one instance, while someone took a photo, and then were able to use that same viewpoint to do the same. Other than that, we didn’t have to wait on anybody. We even had a significant period of time behind the falls without anybody else, which was cool.
It looked so pretty from every angle!
After soaking in the view, we headed North of the falls (if you’re standing in front of Seljalandsfoss, facing it, take the trail going left) to Gljufrabui. I hear that most people don’t know about this one and it’s such a shame, because it’s only a few minutes away on foot, and so cool!
You enter a massive crack in the mountain wall and take a very short water hike inside. If you don’t have waterproof shoes, your feet might get a little wet at this point. There is a big waterfall pouring in, and it actually felt magical. I know that sounds silly to say as an adult, but it really did!
The giant boulder in front made for a great photo op.
After exiting here, I was actually shocked that my pants were only a tad damp. Maybe 30 seconds after I marveled at that fact, we got caught in a downpour. It didn’t matter how fast we walked, even running wouldn’t save me now. So yeah, my pants were soaked when we made it back to the car. But hey, at least I was in the warm and dry car now!
The next waterfall we checked out was Skogafoss. Skogafoss can be seen from Route 1, and you’ll follow the signs to get there, which isn’t far at all from the main road. This one is so cool because it’s like bam, there it is! Very short walk from the car pack and so massive, right in front of you. There’s also an extra long stairway (that took me a very long time to get up because my lungs were not cooperating) so you can view the falls from the top.
After taking in the views from the bottom, we made the trek to the top and got lovely views from there, too!
There was a hiking trail that we were a bit tempted to follow, at the top of the stairs, but we already had a lot of ground we needed to cover this day, so we decided we’d leave the hike for another trip ( 😉 ).
We continued on our way, next stop, Reynisfjara Beach. This one requires a slight diversion off of Road 1, but it’s only one way in and one way out, so you’re not going to get lost. If you’re coming from Reykjavik, turn right on Road 215. At the end of the road, you will reach the car park. It’s free of charge, but if you need to use the restrooms here, that will cost you. The card machine was freezing up that day, but lo and behold, still charged my friend twice when she thought it didn’t work the first time. So if it freezes on you, it probably worked. She had to carefully step over the turnstile even though she paid twice.
There’s a short walk from the car park to the beach. You pass a building with the paid restrooms and also a restaurant. I didn’t eat there, so I can’t speak to its food, but you certainly get gorgeous views with the floor to ceiling windows.
The moment you hit the beach, you immediately are hit with stunning beauty. Even with a crowd of people there (this was probably the most crowded of any of our stops, still didn’t ruin the experience).
I’ve never been to a black sand beach, so this was incredible in itself.
Now pair it with the gorgeous basalt columns and crashing waves. It just kept on giving.
We walked further along where there weren’t any people and I set up my tripod to get some shots of us without anyone else in them. And then… then this woman strolled into our frame. I truly think she did it on purpose. She was watching me as I set up my tripod. So rude… anyway, jokes on her, we still got great photos.
Definitely be careful here, people have been unexpectedly swept away, forever, here. So yeah, don’t jump in the water! It’s really cold, anyway, not great for swimming 😅 Iceland doesn’t like roping things off, they want you to enjoy everything without unnatural obstruction. Being smart at places like this helps keep the experience enjoyed by all.
We weren’t sure if we’d have time this day to hit up Fjathrargljufur Canyon, but it turns out since we got started so early in the day, we did, in fact, have time. To get here, turn left off of Road 1 (if coming from Reykjavik) onto Road 206 Holtsvegur. You’ll eventually come to a fork and you’ll want to take the left fork to stay on 206. The right fork is an F road. If you’re in a 4WD, then you can certainly take that road, it takes you to a higher car park where you bypass much of the hiking (the lower car park has free restrooms if you need them, not sure about the higher one for 4WD).
But the hiking gives you so many great photo ops!
This is, hands down, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I absolutely loved this canyon and couldn’t stop photographing it!
Keep going to the end of the trail to see the gorgeous falls running into the canyon river below. It’s just… so damn beautiful.
After taking in the stunning views, we headed back onto Road 1 to continue to our hotel. On the way, we saw these adorable horses and there just so happened to be a designated pull off across the street from them.
So we pulled over and went to say hi. They were so sweet, and so cute!
We probably spent a good 20 minutes, giving each of the horses loves and pets, that were curious and came to say hello.
We continued on to Fosshotel, spotting some really cool looking glaciers along the way.
Fosshotel was our most expensive stay, and it was a nice place, but I think our room was below the restaurant kitchen… it was really loud, unfortunately. But we got some amazing views just from our hotel window, and it was nice to have a restaurant available (with vegan options, too) since we were quite in the middle of nowhere.
Day 5 – East on Route 1
We ended up getting a later start than anticipated. Probably from the lack of sleep from the incessant banging coming from above, the night before. Anyway, we back tracked just ever so slightly, so that we could start with Svartifoss. We almost forgot about this one, because it somehow got written off of our itinerary. My friend remembered it just the night before, so we were luckily able to get it back in. To get here, off of Route 1, turn onto 998 (signs for Skaftafell).
Svartifoss is in Skaftafell National Park, and from what I read on the official site, you don’t need to pay for hiking to this waterfall. So we bypassed the first parking lot that had pay machines and continued to the end of the road where the hike began.
There were only two other cars here when we arrived around 9:00 AM. The hike isn’t super strenuous, but it did take about 45 minutes to get there. My asthmatic lungs were alright, just had to stop and rest briefly, a couple of times. There’s another waterfall you see on the way up. You can diverge off of the path, heading right, to a viewing platform for it. Or you can take in the views from the left, and keep going toward Svartifoss at the viewing platform turn off.
There are a lot of trees and beautiful nature here that you get to see along the way.
We also saw this little building after diverging down toward the river at one point. No idea what it’s for, but it’s freaking adorable.
And then you make it to Svartifoss. It really is gorgeous! The basalt columns behind the waterfall looks even prettier, darkened to such a black from being soaked by the water. There are a few viewing points here, we took our time going along them to capture the beauty from different angles.
The trek back to the car was much easier, hardly any uphill, mostly all going down. If going up took 45 minutes, coming down probably only took 25-30. We didn’t need to stop along the way and we already had checked out the things that looked interesting, on the way up.
After this, our next stop was Diamond Beach. We chose to park on the Diamond Beach side because it’s a right turn off from the road, a right turn to continue on our way, when done. You can park on either side, and use the pedestrian path under the bridge to get from one sight to the other. The car park is free, and there were free restrooms on the Glacier Lagoon side.
It was cold and very foggy, which prevented us from being able to see too far out into the ocean. But still clear enough to get a great picture of the ice pieces floating onto shore.
After watching the waves for a while, you’ll start to see some being pushed in. That was cool, too, watching it make its way to shore.
We then walked under the bridge to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and immediately spotted an adorable seal, swimming through. We were able to see many seals this day, which was cool.
The icebergs look so cool, and I love the way they’re different colors.
One of them had a giant piece break off while we were observing seals, and I’m not gonna lie, it scared the crap out of me. I don’t know what I thought was happening, but I know I was terrified 🤣 After realizing it was a piece of ice breaking off, I then had my wits about me to pull my phone out and film what was left of it sinking in.
The fog gave such a creepy atmosphere here, but in the coolest of ways. Everything seemed quiet and slightly ominous. I loved it!
We spent more time here than anticipated because it all looked so cool and we wanted to stroll along the water’s edge for a bit, taking in the different views of the colorful icebergs.
Then we hit the road again, heading to Hofn where our next accommodation was, at the Apotek Guesthouse. I loved this place! “Apotek” means pharmacy, and this building used to be a pharmacy. Our room had a private shower/toilet, and a private outside entrance. Though we opted to use the main entrance, as it was.
There’s a shared kitchen where you can cook your own food, and they offer free juice, milk and coffee. You can hear your neighbors when they’re in the hallway near your room, but otherwise, it was very quiet here. It’s also across the street from a Netto, so that was a bonus.
Hofn is an adorable port town and we wished it stopped raining so we could’ve explored more on foot. But we did at least get to take a nice look around where we were staying.
Day 6 – East & North on Route 1
Stokksnes Beach (Vestrahorn)
Our next lodging took us to Egilsstadir, but we already had a couple of stops we wanted to check out along the way.
Just before hitting our first tunnel on Road 1, we took the right turn off (sign for Stokksnes) for the dirt road. Stokksnes Beach is a private beach and a per person entrance fee of 850 ISK is required. This can be purchased at the Viking Cafe, once you reach it. You’re given a card that will open the gate arm for you to drive down toward the water.
There’s an old movie set from a Viking TV show that you can walk out to. It was actually cooler than I thought it was going to be. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but we were able to climb onto and inside some of the structures.
It made for really fun pictures!
It wasn’t crowded when we stopped, either. We did hit it early, probably around 9 or 10 AM, so that may have helped.
The next parking we drove to was the area where you can get that classic shot with Vestrahorn in the background, reflecting in the water. However, it was so foggy this day that unfortunately we didn’t get to see all of the pretty mountains.
But we still got some cool shots that almost appeared as if we were walking on water.
It was really pretty here, I couldn’t stop taking photos. And the sand is super fine grained, compared to the coarser sand at Reynisfjara.
I’ve heard some people not like this place, calling the owner greedy, etc., etc. However, I don’t think he’s greedy at all. People can be so disrespectful and at least he’ll have means to pay for necessary cleanups caused by said disrespectful people, by charging an entrance fee. He could’ve kept it all to himself and I wouldn’t even blame him for that. Some people try to say it’s ugly and just a gravel pit, etc. It’s not! I think they’re just pissed they had to pay an entrance fee. As I said, we’re lucky we get to visit here at all!
I definitely recommend stopping here if you’re going this way on Road 1, as it is. It was so pretty, and I’m sure even prettier when you can see more of those wonderful mountains. As mentioned, the crowd here couldn’t even be classified as a crowd. There was ample opportunity to take photos with absolutely nobody else in them.
We headed on, toward Egilsstadir. We also didn’t realize Google maps took us off Road 1 for a “shortcut” until it was too late and we were about an hour into a dirt road, approaching a mountain pass. Luckily it wasn’t an F road, but jesus christ, I have never been more terrified driving in my life. The fog was so thick, there were cliff drops all around, and I felt like I was driving straight up. I almost had an anxiety attack, even if I did laugh after we made it through with no incidents. I’m sure if the fog hadn’t been there, it would’ve been just fine. But not being able to see really freaked me out!
So yeah, make sure you’re following Road 1 to avoid something like that 🤣 This is such a gorgeous drive, y’all. You are mainly cruising the coast, ocean views along most of the way. You’re going to see a lot of pull offs for picnic stops. They let you know one is coming up ahead of time with this sign:
We pulled off at a random one in a mountainous range. There was one house nearby, but nothing else. There were also these strange spiky black balls, both marking the turn off, and along the trail we explored.
There was also these wooden deer, set up like they were on a stage, with audience bench seats. …I did joke that “this is how horror movies start”, because it was weirdly eerie 😅 But we survived the stop unharmed and didn’t become any of the 1.5 murders per year that Iceland averages.
Onward we drove, straight up another mountain (at least this road was paved) and then straight down the other side, to the adorable and charming town of Seydisfjardarkirkja. What can two queers do but of course visit the rainbow road, leading to the baby blue church.
If we would’ve had more time, this town was seriously so charming, I would’ve loved to explore more on foot. But we were ready to find our next accommodation, so we made a brief stop at the town cemetery to see if I could find any family names, then headed back up the mountain, straight down the other side, into Egilsstadir.
Our guesthouse was Hjartarstaðir Guesthouse, which was technically just outside of Egilsstadir. I loved that it was away from the city, but close enough that we could easily drive into town for anything. We actually caught our first glimpse of the northern lights here. They were quite far and dim, but they did start to make an appearance.
This tiny guesthouse has 4 cabins, everything you need inside of them. Kitchenette, shower and toilet, and a spacious room with two beds. You even have your own little front porch with a table and chairs, separated by a wooden wall, for privacy from your neighbors. I regret that I only got to spend one night here. I loved this place!
After unloading the car, we made online reservations for the nearby Vök Baths. After securing our 7:00 PM time slot, we packed our suits/towels/flip flops into small bags and headed into town for dinner. We ate at Askur Pizzeria, after reading reviews that we could get vegan cheese there. It was really good!
With full stomachs and tired bodies, we drove out to Vok Baths. Do keep in mind, the entrance to this place is down a ramp, sort of… underground, almost. When Google maps told us we were there, all was saw was some parking lot, so we kept driving. After a few minutes, we decided to turn around and go back to the parking lot. I joked “is it underground or something?” and we laughed, but then it kind of was! Don’t make our mistake and keep driving passed the seemingly lone parking lot.
There are private showers here, as there are at the Blue Lagoon, but I also noticed I (well, and my friend) was the only one who seemed unsure about getting naked in front of others. It wasn’t very crowded here, either, so that helped ease me into the idea that everyone else was just freely walking around naked, so I would be fine to do the same. I mean you could always wrap up in your towel, carry your suit with you to the shower, then change into it after showering, if you really can’t get comfortable to strip down potentially in front of others.
These baths overlook a cold lake and you do have the option to dive into this cold lake if you so choose. I thought they were all crazy, but halfway through the night, I decided I wanted to know how it felt, too, and opted to climb down the ladder, and experience the shocking cold water before quickly climbing back up and jumping into the warmth of the bath.
The pool the furthest out is the warmest one. The other waters are quite warm, but not hot. We didn’t realize this until the last 45 minutes or so, we decided to check that one out. That’s why it was the more crowded pool, I realized.
The views here are gorgeous.
This is a more natural location, and you will see some algae, probably. If that thought is gross to you, you can stay in the larger pool that’s closest to the building. It was the lakeside pools that I noticed it in. There’s quite the constant flow of water. I wouldn’t call it dirty, by any means.
After a few hours of relaxing soaking, we decided to call it quits and head back for some shuteye. Our Covid test was scheduled the next day in Akureyri, so we needed to get an early start to hit up everything we wanted to see along the way, before our appointment.
Day 7 – North and West on Route 1
Exploring down town Akureyri on foot
Hot tub relaxation (at our hotel)
Bright and early start, and luckily a sunny start! Egilsstadir certainly gave us some of our best weather on our trip. We filled up our tank in town before heading out on the open Road 1. First stop, Dettifoss! One of Europe’s most powerful waterfalls. And boy, is it powerful! There are a couple of different ways to get here, and if you turn on the road Google maps suggests, you’ll see a sign that suggests you turn around and take Road 862. This road is a much smoother ride, and the road we took.
There is a new road, once you take your right (right, if you’re coming from Egilsstadir) that shortcuts to a new parking lot. This just opened in 2021. In fact, they were erecting the sign for it at the turn off, when we visited in September. This route wasn’t even on Google maps, but I had read about it somewhere and my gut told me to turn right, so I told my friend who was driver that day to take the turn. It was make or break, because we didn’t have time to spare, if we were wrong.
And as luck would have it, I was right. At least my internal maps didn’t lead me astray! This cuts off I think an hour, from what the previous route took. When we were leaving, there they were, putting up the sign for the turn to Dettifoss 🤣 It’s a nice road, a nice car park with plenty of free restrooms and easy to spot trail head.
It did get quite cloudy and started raining on us, of course. Rain was present through most of our adventures. But that didn’t stop us from being able to recognize the incredible power of Dettifoss.
There is another trail to another waterfall here, but we were paranoid we’d be late for our COVID test appointment, so we decided to skip it. I would recommend taking the trail and checking it out! Then tell me what beauty I missed 🤣 Damn COVID, anyway!
We stayed here for 10-15 minutes, taking in the falls and capturing it from different view points.
The walk out to the falls wasn’t strenuous, but was quite rocky at times, so be careful on the rougher terrain.
Our next stop was going to be Godafoss, but when we got hungry on the way and wanted to find a stop and make some PB&J sandwiches, we happened upon Námafjall, a geothermal area. If you’ve never been to a geothermal area, this one has walkways for you to check it all out and parking is right off of the main road via left turn, if you’re coming from Egilsstadir. I would allocate about 30 minutes if you want to check it out! It’s just east of Mývatn.
Next stop is Godafoss! It’s really cool the way you can see it from the road. We were marveling, wondering what it was, when we realized the GPS was telling us to go there. How convenient that it’s right off the road, very easy to get to.
It’s also a very short walk from the car park. There are a lot of viewing spots here, including stairs, for more angles. But if you have issues with stairs, there are opportunities to view it beautifully without taking any.
This one is so pretty, I couldn’t stop taking photos of it!
From here to Akureyri, it’s only about a 30 minute drive. A pretty drive, too! You can take the toll road, but it only shaves off about 10 minutes, so I would recommend taking that extra ten minutes because you get beautiful views of the fjord, too!
Akureyri was my favorite city to stay in. It was big enough that it had everything we needed close by, but small enough that I didn’t feel worried at all when driving in town. We stayed at Hotel Kjarnalundur, and it’s older, a bit noisy, but it was alright and I’d stay there again. There are free hot tubs outside here, for guests to use, and for the majority of our soak, we were the only ones out there. There are two different tubs as well, so even if another party comes out, you can be in different hot tubs. If you aren’t staying here and would still like to get a nice warm soak in this night, you can hit up Sundlaug Akureyrar, where you can both swim and soak in hot tubs. Back to the hotel!
It’s up on a hill, a few minutes away from downtown, and it was absolutely perfect when the northern lights came out to play!
We were able to turn off some of the indoor lights to be able to see them even better.
It was so amazing, we didn’t even have to leave the hotel grounds and had a full on light show!
When a group of people realized I knew how to change manual camera settings, I became the Aurora Borealis saviour, helping other guests get some shots, too. If you’d like to know how you can change your manual camera to catch the northern lights, check out my post on that. One of the guests thought it was cute, the way we were laying on the ground to capture them, and took a photo of us, sending it through email 😊
We had a great night in Akureyri, and were able to park near a restaurant, then explore on foot.
I think that I’d like to spend a few days here, if I go back. I really liked it.
Day 8 – West on Route 1
Akureyri whale watching tour
Long drive to Kirkjufell
One last box to tick before leaving Akureyri: Whale Watching.
We joined a tour in advance, so we had our tickets ready to go when the day came. We booked the 9:00 slot because we knew we had a very long drive ahead of us this day, so the sooner we could hit the road, the better. The tour was slated for 3 hours, and that’s right about how long it was.
We boarded the boat and geared up in the suits they provided on board. I was glad I had my gloves here, because it did get quite chilly out on the waters.
On and on we sailed, further out into the fjord, our lovely boat hostess providing details and history along the way. She also let us know one of the boats up ahead had reported a humpback whale was out there feeding. I was so excited!
I’m terrified of the ocean. I mean absolutely terrified. The glacier piece breaking off almost gave me a heart attack. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel when I realized I was floating in the ocean and an actual humpback whale was swimming near me. But in fact, it was like all fears disappeared the moment I saw that whale!
It was so incredible, I was in too much shock and awe to be scared. He even came up right next to our boat, and I was absolutely delighted.
We were able to watch him for a bit as he came up to the surface in between feeds. After a while, we headed back to the dock to be back around 12 noon.
This is a good spot where you can alter your itinerary based on your number of days. We wanted to check out the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, but if you are shorter on time, this is a good point to head back into Reykjavik/Keflavik. If you have another day, the peninsula is absolutely gorgeous and I’m so glad we didn’t miss it! It’s about a 5 hour drive between Akureyri and Kirkjufell. We picked Grund I Grundarfirdi, a guesthouse very close to Kirkjufell. In fact, you can see that photogenic mountain from the kitchen window of the guesthouse!
This place had very spacious rooms, a shared kitchen, living room, and bathrooms/showers. There was also free use of laundry washers/dryers here, including detergent. We were able to get that last load in before flying home with a luggage full of dirty clothes, it was nice.
Our drive here was almost entirely rainy. It was a dreary drive, fog covering much of the landscape, unfortunately. But we made it safely from point A to point B, and because we couldn’t really see what was beyond the road, I guess it saved us a lot of time from not wanting to pull over and explore every so often. It may take you longer than us, if you’re able to see what’s beyond the road. It rained really hard all night, here. There wasn’t much close by, so we made us some PB&J and filled up on grocery store snacks that we’d grabbed in Akureyri. If the weather isn’t bad for you, I would drive the few minutes into the nearby town and explore there. It was a cute seaside town and had an interesting looking church.
As for us, well, we were pretty exhausted after our long drive in the rain, so we turned in early, getting plenty of rest.
Day 9 – Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Snæfellsjökull National Park
Budir Black Church
Back to Keflavik
First stop, Kirkjufellfoss! When it should have been gas… After Kirkjufell, we had to go back for gas because we thought there would be a station closer. Turns out we were wrong. We didn’t want to miss our chance to fill up, so we went back into the cute little town and filled up the tank. If you need to top off, do it before you get to Kirkjufellfoss. I can’t recall how close the next one is, but I’m glad we were able to top off here after our long drive the night before. You won’t miss the turn for this, it’s right off of the main road and easy to see the car park.
Kirkjufellfoss is such an iconic stop and even though we got there before 9:00 AM, there were already people, mainly photographers, set up and ready to go. There are a few different view points, some that you can get both the falls and the mountain into the shot.
This definitely isn’t a huge waterfall, but it’s still incredibly beautiful, especially with its magnificent backdrop.
Even though there were other people here, I was still able to get a few shots that seemed as if it wasn’t crowded at all.
We headed further into the peninsula, enjoying the beautiful scenery along the way.
Then, of course, we entered into Snæfellsjökull National Park. It’s not hard to spot the giant glacier.
We weren’t sure where to stop, but then I remembered the beach with the shipwreck, and we thought we’d look for that. Though for the life of me, I couldn’t remember what it was called. Lo and behold, luck was on our side. The road we finally decided to turn onto happened to be that very beach. Dritvík & Djúpalonssandur is a black sand beach that is both breathtaking and not very crowded.
We were surprised at the lack of other people, here, and the majority of the time, had the beach to ourselves.
We walked along the shoreline, spotted a seal swimming, checked out the shipwreck, got a cool shot of us with the glacier and… just relaxed and snacked on the beautiful beach.
We stayed here longer than we initially thought we would, because it was so relaxing and beautiful. It felt really nice to hang out here for a while, listening to, and watching, the waves crash in.
As we headed back onto the main road, we noticed this really cool looking crack in the mountain, seeing there was a car park. I remembered reading about Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge, and we decided to pull off to check it out. Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge has a steep hike up to it (it doesn’t appear steep, but it is!) and with the colder air, just be careful if you have weak lungs. Out of my whole trip, this was where I came frightfully close to having a full asthma attack. Just take it slow if you feel like it’s getting hard for you!
After finally making it up, we entered inside the gorge to see how it looked.
It was really cool, especially the way the water was running through it.
We decided not to be too adventurous and river trek up the gorge (1, because I almost just suffered an asthma attack and 2, my friend is a little worried in places like that, that it could cave in on her!). If you decide to trek up it, make sure you’re wearing waterproof boots at the very least, and be careful. It looked really fun, there were some people heading further down, when we were there.
On our way out of the peninsula, we decided to stop at Budir black church because it’s adorable and my friend is goth, so we couldn’t pass it up.
It was quite surprising to me how many people were here. Maybe if we would’ve been there earlier, we could’ve had it mostly to ourselves. But there were several photographers even, set up on their tripods, just waiting for the tourists to clear out, to get their best shots. It really did surprise me to see so many people at a little church, but hey, I guess I stopped, too 😂 Though my main reason was to check out the attached cemetery.
Again, I looked for family names that I could share with my grandma, back home. There weren’t many familiar names here, but it was still a cool stop, and we got some nice photos.
This little black church really is too cute.
The inevitable finally happened. It was time to make our way back to Keflavik, to check into our last hotel for the night. Our flight was scheduled for the following morning, so we opted for a close location. We stayed at Hotel Tjarna, and I’ve never seen such a spacious budget hotel room. Though it was a bit noisy here (we faced the parking lot, with attached stores below) and the blackout curtains weren’t actually “blackout”, it was still a good place to rest our heads for the night, and I’d stay there again.
Depending on how much time you spent going around the peninsula, you can decide how to fill your last few hours. You could hit up downtown Reykjavik again for a bit of nightlife, you could sign up for an evening soak at the Blue Lagoon, you may even be able to hike out to the volcano, if it’s still erupting while you’re there.
Or you can check into your hotel after getting some dinner, and make sure you’re all packed and ready for your early call time the next day! There is no wrong way to spend your last night, just do whatever makes you feel happy 😊
This was such a fun and incredible 9 days in Iceland for me! I can’t believe I was able to see that much of the country in 9 days. I would’ve loved to spend more time in each place, but since my time was limited, I have no complaints about how my trip turned out, and the things I got to see and do while I was there.
I hope this itinerary can help inspire your next trip and whether you follow it to a T, or only take one thing from here, I’m happy to help in any way I can, so that you can enjoy your trip to Iceland as much as I enjoyed mine!
Let me know in the comments what you’re most excited for 😊
If you’re looking for more information on Iceland, check out my additional posts: