When E and I flipped a coin to determine our next vacation destination, truthfully, I was super disappointed that he won and chose Iceland of all places! I mean, my dream vacation doesn’t require a coat and nearly always involves Español and margaritas by the pool. Iceland was about to be the exact opposite of everything I wanted, but stop me now because I know I sound like a spoiled brat. 😉
I quickly began researching the country online and looking through different hashtags on Instagram. (You’d be surprised at how often those come in handy!) #MarinosInIceland totally changed my ‘tude. Her photos were breathtaking and when I messaged her, she replied giving me as many details and tips from her time there. The internet is pretty freakin’ awesome, y’all.
Before I divulge the details, let it be known: If you’re searching for an unforgettable adventure and enjoy a nice road trip, Iceland (and its “Ring Road”) will not disappoint. Lurking around every bend a stunning new landscape reveals itself. You’ll experience bubbling geothermal springs, sparkling rainbows, beautiful horses, tumultuous waterfalls, and rugged mountains day after day. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be saying “somebody pinch me” an awful lot. It’s just THAT incredible!
Here’s our trip unpacked. 🙂 I hope it helps you plan yours!
When to go: We heard March was the off-season for Iceland, but it was the best time for us to go due to our work travel schedules and wedding season being just around the corner. We wanted to be sure we got this trip in before August, when we’re moving into a bigger space and opening up our home as foster parents. That being said, we have ZERO regrets of going in March! The off-season only meant that things were a bit cheaper and much less crowded.
How to get there: We booked decently priced flights through Icelandair. Our flight was direct; Chicago to Reykjavik, just over 6 hours flight time.
How to get around: We booked a rental car ahead of time through Dollar.
Where to stay: We mapped out our trip and then found Airbnb‘s or hotels to stay at.
Reykjavik —> Selfoss —> Vík —> Akureyi —> Reykjavik
Upon landing in Reykjavik we took the airport shuttle to the rental car place, loaded up the car with our luggage, and hit the road. We went to a little bakery for coffee and then drove to our first destination: Selfoss. The drive was gorgeous, full of mountains and winding roads. We quickly picked up on the fact that Iceland’s terrain is gorgeous, but the weather is wacky. Out the window, the sun was shining, lush greenery all around, then we’d turn a corner and it was snowing and totally white. Bizarre! When we got to Selfoss, we went straight to our Airbnb which was perfect for our short stay. During our time in/near Selfoss we saw the Geyser, the Crater, and Gullfoss Falls.
The drive from Selfoss to Vík was E’s favorite part of the whole trip. Driving on the main road, we saw the Seljalandsfoss Falls, Skogafoss Falls, and Iceland’s Famous Sólheimasandur Plane Crash. This was also the day we took a random dirt road way back into the middle of nowhere between mountains, parked the car, hiked quite aimlessly, and stumbled upon a heated pool. In Vik, we stayed at Icelandair Hotel Vik which was super modern and completely exceeded my expectations!
From there, we drove north to Akureyri. That drive was nearly 7 hours, but nonetheless, gorgeous. In Akureyri we saw the Goðafoss Falls. We stayed at Icelandair Hotel Akureyri which is part of the same chain, so once again it was even better than I thought it would be!
We left Akureyri and headed back to the southern part of Iceland and stayed rest of our trip in an Airbnb in Reykjavik, driving outside of the city in different directions to sight-see even more. We enjoyed the Blue Lagoon, an hour uphill trek to soak in the Hveragerdi hot spring, and nightlife in the capital city.
Notes that I jotted down in my journal throughout the trip:
- So.Many.Horses. I might die from all the beauty.
- Bokakaffio (in Selfoss) is an adorable cafe/book shop.
- Selfoss was cool, but we wish we would have only stayed one night instead of two.
- Gullfoss Falls is gorgeous. Wow.
- There is no prettier drive than the drive from Selfoss to Vik.
- Seljalandsfoss Falls is UNREAL. Next time, bring a rain coat!
- Skogafoss Falls is breathtaking. Saw a perfect rainbow.
- Went to the Seljavallalaug Pool. We did not know what we were doing, took the weirdest path, and totally stumbled up on it by accident! Super cool.
- The infamous plane wreckage was quite underwhelming. You have to park your car and walk for a really long time. We felt like it was overrated.
- Definitely could have stayed a second night in Vik. The restaurant at the hotel was really good, too!
- Driving up north to Akureyri was probably the one city I could have done without, but I’m glad we ordered Domino’s pizza tonight.
- If you got to Akureyri you MUST have brunch at Berlin!
- I have not seen a Starbucks or a McDonald’s. Weird. Also, sad that I’m missing them this much.
- In Reykjavik, favorite coffee shops include: Reykjavik Roasters, C is for Cookie, and Vinyl.
- In Reykjavik, the peanut butter smoothie goodness that is from a little place called “Bootzt Bar” (inside of a random gas station) was divine.
- In Reykjavik, we also loved eating at The Laundromat and The English Pub. I’m over hot-dogs.
- The Blue Lagoon is highly overrated. I felt like it was a waste of money, but perhaps that’s because it’s not a natural hot spring, it’s crowded, & super overpriced.
- The highlight of my whole trip was the reward of soaking in a 104-107 degree natural hot spring after hiking uphill for over an hour to the Hveragerdi hot river. That was heavenly.
Is the food expensive? On average it’s double, sometimes even triple, what you pay in the USA. So, YES. Pack snacks! If you run out of snacks, purchase more from HAGKAUP, which is their local grocery store which we found the best prices at.
What’s the food you must try? Surprisingly, a hot-dog from a gas station. We got ours wrapped in bacon and smothered in onions. It was quite delicious.
What should I not forget to pack? A camera (back-up in case something were to happen to your phone especially!), a towel, lots of snacks, and a pair of hiking boots.
Are the electrical outlets the same as ours? No, so make sure you bring a European adapter.
What would you have done differently? We would have booked our Blue Lagoon tickets ahead of time so that we could have gone at a less busy time. We would have brought a drone. We would have stayed only 1 night in Selfoss. We would have stayed an extra night in Vik. We would have possibly skipped Akureyri altogether. Oh, did I mention pack more snacks?
How did you navigate where you were going? We called Verizon ahead of time and activated E’s cell service for GPS because it was just $10 a day to do that. I believe you can purchase navigation with your rental car, but I would assume it’s more pricey than $10/day.
Is there WiFi at most places? Yes, I was able to easily connect when we were at our Airbnbs, hotels, and restaurants.
Are your pictures super filtered or is it really that pretty? I only use 1 filter on all of my images and that’s the A6 preset on VSCO 🙂 Pictures don’t do it justice. It’s beyond beautiful.
What’s the time difference? 5 hours ahead of Chicago.
What was the weather like? It was gorgeous, even in mid-March! Almost always sunny.
Did you have to exchange money? No, we used our credit card the entire time. They accept all major credit cards.
Do they speak English? Yes, everybody we ran into spoke English. Which is a relief because Icelandic sounds like gibberish to me!
What was the best/favorite part? Road tripping and being amazed at the scenery. Felt surreal. Also, the Hveragerdi hot river.
Did you see the Northern Lights? Sadly, we did not. Unfortunately seeing the lights all depends on the aurora activity and cloud coverage. The odds were not in our favor, but maybe next time!
I think that covers most of it! I think it says a lot that Iceland was not on my radar whatsoever and now I cannot wait to go back someday! If you are able, GO. It was my fifth trip to Europe and by far one of the best destinations.
If you have any Q’s at all, feel free to comment below and I’ll answer them to the best of my ability.