2. Akureyri & Mývatn
4. Vatnajökull National Park
5. Snæfellsnes Peninsula
This is one of my favorite activities to date. You hike about a mile or two across lava tubes to the base of the volcano. Once you climb to the summit (not very far or strenuous), you walk onto a catwalk and lowered several hundred feet down into the volcano. A bit scary for those weary of heights, but the experience inside is magical. This inactive volcano is beautiful and one of only a few in the world you can actually go inside. Only several people can be lowered in at once, so it’s very quiet and intimate. The colors are amazing and you can see tiny drops of water coming down from the ceiling. It’s pretty surreal.
I read about this hike on the plane and between the pictures and description it looked “fine” and if we had time and were interested in a day hike, we’d check it out. Turned out to be the crescendo and best unexpected adventure of the trip. This incredible 90 story, 300m/900ft waterfall overlooking the canyon valley is a site to behold. Even at the edge of the cliff you can’t see all the way to the bottom. There is a pretty wide river crossing, a log to cross, and chains to hoist yourself up along the trail. The trek is 3.8mi roundtrip that takes 4-6 hours. Plan adequate time, don’t go too late in the day.
Nice little town centrally located on the East Coast of Iceland. Great place to stay and some excellent seafood. Definitely go to Pakkhús, one of the best restaurants in Iceland. If it's busy, nearby Humarhöfnin Veitingahús is also good. Both are known for langosteen, which is excellent. Hoffell Hot Tubs are a neat mini excursion with a small set of outdoor hot tubs. Nearby Hvalnes Lighthouse offers nice views on the way further north. And if you're continuing along the Ring Road North, Djúpivogur is a nice stop for lunch and a dip at the local Sundlaug (swimming pool).
Continuing North along the Ring Road, Egilsstaðir is a good place to stop overnight. Good for food, gas, groceries, and other things you might need to replenish on your trip. There is also the Vök Baths for some more hot springs.
This famous whaling town is a nice little town if you're interested in a small diversion on your route and the road to get there is gorgeous along the sea cliffs. kind of like the Pacific Coast highway in California but with sea cliffs.
- Flights: $700 (RT from Texas)
- Lodging: $1,586 (AirBnB, Guesthouse)
- Transportation: $2,150 (rental car)
- Activities: $207 (ice caves, glacier hiking, hot springs)
- Food: $1,200 (estimated $80/day)
*cost includes the 16 days I spent on my second trip
- Weather. Though the weather can be a bit all over the place, it's generally somewhat temperate as compared to say Norway, not reaching quite those frigid temperatures. Iceland does get a lot of rain and a lot of wind. Wear layers, wind and waterproof clothing and warm shoes/boots.
- Rental Car. I researched quite a bit about various car companies from review sites to blogs. I felt most comfortable with Blue Car Rentals due to their reputation and car selection. I was interested in a 4x4/AWD small/medium SUV not a Dacia or Suzuki, but a Jeep, Toyota or Subaru (just my personal preference). If you're not planning on driving any F-roads, and you're not visiting when there is a chance for inclement weather, you'd be fine renting a sedan which is much cheaper. I would highly recommend going with the full insurance package which is extremely comprehensive and specific to the conditions in Iceland (ash, sand, etc.) as the costs for repairing the car if such conditions occurred are exremely expensive. I wanted the piece of mind, and this was beyond the normal car rental insurance included with my credit car. I never go beyond that, but none of it was covered. So go with it, or not (at your own risk), whatever works for you. Several other car rental companies I liked in my research were: Lagoon Car Rentals, Ice Rental 4x4, and Happy Campers (camper vans).
- Driving. You'll hear about the infamous F-roads that are 4x4/AWD, high clearance roads as they are often unpaved, may have snow, may have river crossings. They are both fun and stressful. Be mindful of the weather and check for road closures at http://www.road.is/. Some roads may be extremely windy, especially flat, open roads.
- Footwear. Wear warm, sturdy hiking boots. Preferably winter/waterproof for walking in snow, ice, or even through water. Iceland is mostly volcanic, so it's very sharp and rocky in many places.
- Clothing. Layer up! In late fall, I wore a base layer, long sleep hoodie, insulated jacket, and wind/waterproof rain shell. My bottoms were thermals, pair of normal hiking pants, and snow pants (though I would recommend some thing rain paints). This thin layering with water/windproof top layers made it easy to travel light while still keeping warm. Personally, I feel thick jackets are expensive and single purpose, so layering in this way gets more versatility and bang for your buck.