Itinerary for an amazing 19-day road trip in Iceland


This post is our itinerary for an amazing 19-day road trip in Iceland, in July 2020.

The post is part of the series we have written from our trip to Iceland in July 2020.

We endulged in the unique nature, drove the ring road around Iceland from Reykjavik towards the east and north. We drove the gravel road F35 across the highlands from north to south, and ended with a few days around Snäfellsnes.

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Itinerary

This itinerary for an amazing 19-day road trip in Iceland includes Laugavegur, a 4-day hike in the highlands, which was just as beautiful as we had read. We rode icelandic horses, went whale-watching, hiked a glacier and bathed in thermal hot pools. And in between we saw so many beautiful waterfalls and landscapes that the boys ended up having too much. Helle and Peter enyoyed it all the way.

Here is our itinerary for an amazing 19-day road trip in Iceland:

  • Day 1 – 2: Arrival in Keflavik. Golden circle (Thingvellir national park, Geysir and Gullfoss waterfall) and the Kerid crater.
  • Day 3 – 6: the Laugavegur hike from Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork. Read all about our hike of Laugavegur here.
  • Day 7: Drive to Skaftafell, on the way visit the Lava Centre in Hvolsvollur, experience Seljalandsfoss waterfall and the Dyrhólaey Viewpoint
  • Day 8-9: Glacier hike at Skaftafell. Drive to Hallormsstaður woodlands near Egilsstadir on the east coast and into the highlands. Visit Laugarfell thermal pool and Stuðlagil canyon (with the basalt columns) on F907
  • Day 10: View the puffins (sea parrots) in Borgarfjörður. Continue to Reykjahlíð at Lake Myvatn.
  • Day 11: Explore the area around Lake Myvatn. Hells kitchen in Hverir, Krafla crater, Dimmuborgir and Skútustaðagígar pseudo craters.
  • Day 12: Morning whale safari from Husavik. Visit Dettifoss waterfall and Asbyrgi canyon on the way back to Reykjahlíð.
  • Day 13: Drive to Akureyi. Visit the botanical garden.
  • Day 14-15: To Varmahlid via the Arctic Coast Way. Horseback riding.
  • Day 16: Across the highlands on F35. Visit Hveravellir and stay at Kerlingarfjöll.
  • Day 17: Visit Kerlingarfjöll geothermal area in the morning. Drive via F35 to Borgarnes.
  • Day 18-19: visit Snæfellsnes and the Blue lagoon

Accomodation, food and transportation

We went to Iceland to be in nature, and decided we wanted to tent camp some of the nights. However, we knew it was a gamble because tent camping is great when the weather is mild, but rough if the weather is bad. Therefore we booked an apartment for the first nights after our arrival, and cabins strategically before and after hikes, etcera. Moreover, we looked at statistics and could see north Iceland is statistically dryer and sunnier than the rest of Iceland. Well, not when we there, though!

For food we decided to go self-catering for several reasons. It keeps costs down, and makes it easier for us to make sure we have gluten free food for Tobias. In addition, self-catering also gives some flexibility not to depend on finding a nice restaurant twice a day. There are many supermarket around Reykjavik, but they are sparse in the rest of the country. We have added them on the Google maps, and stopped to stock up every time we passed one. Most days the temperature was below 10°C, so groceries stayed fresh for 2-3 days.

Read more about experiences about planning and travelling gluten free in Iceland.

We rented a 4×4 for the entire length of the trip to be able to get around independently. We brought a lot of luggage, and needed a reasonably big car. For the Laugavegur 4-day hike we brought 70 liter bag packs, two lightweight tents and sleeping bags and mattresses. For the car camping we brought our big tent and cooking equipment. In addition, because weather in Iceland also in the summer can range from mild to rough and cold, we brought lots of warm clothes as well. In all, we checked in five pieces of 20 kg luggage on the plane.

The car we rented was an older Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo from icerental4x4.com, which is one of the larger 4×4’s available, but it still required “3D Tetris” skills everytime we packed the car!

Read more about our experiences renting a 4×4 car and driving in Iceland here.

Day 1 – 2: Arrival in Keflavik. Golden circle (Thingvellir national park, Geysir and Gullfoss waterfall) and the Kerid crater

We stayed at Bakki apartments and hostel in Eyrarbakki for two nights. We has a brand new and very large apartment with two bedrooms.

Thingvellir
A stream flowing through the continental rift zone in Thingvellir
Thingvellir
The site of the Althing – the parliament – of Iceland some 1000 years ago
Strokkur geyser
The powerful eruption of the Strokkur geyser
The geothermal area Geysir with spectators assembled around Strokkur
Gulfoss waterfall
Gulfoss waterfall
Gulfoss
Up close you feel the power of Gulfoss
The deep blue water of the Kerid crater

Day 3 – 6: the Laugavegur hike from Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork.

Read all about our hike at Laugavegur here. It truly is a very beautiful hike!

Day 7: Drive to Skaftafell, visit the Lava Centre in Hvolsvollur, experience Seljalandsfoss waterfall and the Dyrhólaey Viewpoint

We stayed at the campsite in Skaftafell national park in our camping tent for the night.

Seljalandsfoss waterfall
You can walk behind the Seljalandsfoss waterfall
Dyrhólaey Viewpoint
The south Atlantic coast at the Dyrhólaey Viewpoint
The landscape is flat when driving the Ring road on south Icaland
The Svartifoss waterfall is a short hike from the Skaftafell national park camp site
We enjoyed an evening walk to Svartifoss while the boys slept in the tent

Day 8-9: Glacier hike at Skaftafell. Drive to Hallormsstaður woodland near Egilsstadir on the east coast and into the highlands. Visit Laugarfell thermal pool and Stuðlagil canyon (with the basalt columns) on F907

We stayed at the Atlavik campsite in the Hallormsstaður woodland. It is a well-known and popular campsite among Icelanders. The location is great at the shore of lake Lagarfljótriver, and the microclimate is relatively warm.

We joined a group tour for a fun glacier walk with crampons near the Skaftafell national park
Taking in the view at Jökulsárlón iceberg lagoon where small icebergs brakes from the glacier in the background
The landscape of the south east as we saw it from the car
Enjoying the view at the lake at Atlavik campsite
It was a joy to dip in the thermal pool at Laugarfell and a cloudy day with light rain
The canyon Hafrahvammagljufur. We hiked down into the canyon from the parking. The trail ends here, with a view to the pinnacle and the canyon beyond
Stuðlagil canyon is known for the hexagonal basalt columns of solidified lava
The basalt columns can take many forms

Day 10: View the puffins (sea parrots) in Borgarfjörður. Continue to Reykjahlíð at Lake Myvatn.

We stayed at Berg campsite for three nights at Lake Myvatn. The location is on the shore of the Lake. We had rough weather with low temperatures, rain and high winds. In those conditions, a more sheltered site had been better. In good weather it must be a great site.

The puffin marina in Borgarfjörður, where hundreds of thousands of puffins nest
Photogenic puffins in Borgarfjörður, they really were this close to us
Geirsstadakirkja was built around year 2000, modelled after a turf church from the viking era between 930-1262

Day 11: Explore the area around Lake Myvatn. Hells kitchen in Hverir, Krafla crater, Dimmuborgir and Skútustaðagígar pseudo craters.

Hverir, the geothermal area at Lake Myvatn
Hverir is also called Hells kitchen, there are mud pools and fumeroles everywhere and the smell of sulphur is intense
The strong colors of the earth and rocks is a characteristic of the geothermal areas
Mineral deposits around a small mud pool
Steam was rising everywhere we looked
There were so many small details to explore at Hverir
The Krafla crater a few km north of Lake Myvatn, picture perfect with deep blue water
Dimmuborgir, “the black castle”, is a lava field where lava has solidified into strangely shaped figures. There are good walking paths with many twists and turns, that take you through the area
Dimmuborgir
Lake Myvatn with some of the Skútustaðagígar pseudo craters in the foreground
The nature baths at Myvatn were our favourite on Iceland. Dipping in on a cold and windy day was pure luxury

Day 12: Morning whale safari from Husavik. Visit Dettifoss waterfall and Asbyrgi canyon on the way back to Reykjahlíð.

It is an open and empty landscape we saw on the road from Lake Myvatn to Husavik
The harbour in Husavik is the departure place for many whale safaris
On board the whale safari wessel from North Sails. The first whale we saw jumped out of the water before anyone had there cameras out. The safari was on!
One of the many humpback whales we saw
The last whale we saw kept flapping its tail for several minutes
We stopped by Asbyrgi canyon, with limited time and not knowing what to expect. We quickly realised we could have spent hours here. It is a horseshoe-shaped canyon with basalt column walls on the sides. We walked to the far end of the canyon where there is a view point. If you have more time you can walk to the top of the canyon walls, with a view of the entire canyon.
The Dettifos waterfall, supposedly the most powerful waterfall in Europe. We heard the roar of the water before we saw it, and got wet from the mist when close. Surely impressive!
The Selfoss waterfall is a few km upriver from Dettifoss. The water falls in many smaller waterfalls, making it seem less powerful

Day 13: Drive to Akureyi. Visit the botanical garden.

We stayed in an airbnb apartment outside Akureyri.

The one lane bridges are very common on Iceland, also on the ringroad.

Day 14-15: To Varmahlid via the Arctic Coast Way. Horseback riding.

We drove the Arctic Coast Way from Akureyri to Varmahlid. The weather was rough with lots of rain and poor visibility. On a different day it must have been beautiful.

In Varmahlid we stayed two nights at the resort Hestasport. The region around Varmahlid is the centre for horse breeding in Iceland, and Hestasport has its own stables. In addition, there was a thermal pool just outside the cottage.

Our cottage at the Hestasport resort in Varmahlid.
It was really fun riding icelandic horses on a tour with Hestasport. None of us have experience riding horses. The boys loved that they “steered” their horse themselves. But clearly, the horses had strong opinions, too.

Day 16: Across the highlands on F35. Visit Hveravellir and stay at Kerlingarfjöll.

We stayed at the campsite of the mountain resort at Kerlingarfjöll.

There are several road that cross Iceland via the interior highlands. These are gravel roads that are only open in the summer, and requires a 4×4. We drove F35 from Varmahlid in the north, to the Golden circle in the south. Some of the reports we had read said that it required a lot of skill to drive these roads, partly because not all rivers had bridges. We found it was a very easy drive with no river crossings.

Kerlingarfjöll should not be missed in an itinerary for an amazing 19-day road trip in Iceland!

Our rented Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4×4 was fun to drive on the F-roads
Hveravellir is a mountain resort on F35. It has a small geothermal area and a very popular geothermal pool.
Sheep grazed around the geothermal area at Hveravellir
Sheep are everywhere in Iceland

Day 17: Visit Kerlingarfjöll geothermal area in the morning. Drive via F35 to Borgarnes.

We stayed outside Borgarnes, in a cottage called Mulakot Cozy cabins. It was a classic holiday home that had been very tastefully refurbished recently. We liked that place a lot.

The colours of the Hveradalir geothermal area at Kerlingarfjoll are amazing and adds contrast to the blue sky and snow on the mountains. And to add even more to the magic, there are so many mud pools and steaming fumeroles
Steam vents (fumaroles) release minerals that colour the ground
We felt so lucky to visit Kerlingarfjoll on a day with mild weather and blue sky
We walked the 5 km trail through the Hveradalir geothermal area. With every turn of the trail, a new perspective
The patches of green on the ground had a deep glow, seemingly all the colours at Hveradalir are exceptionally intense
Glaciers cover are large part of Iceland, and are often visible, also from Hveradalir
The trail circles the Hveradalir area, and takes you close in the valley as well as a perspective from above
At places the trail follows ridge lines that gives proportions and overview
Leaving Kerlingarfjoll on the small mountain road
We met a herd of horses on F35 towards the Golden Circle

Day 18-19: Visit Snæfellsnes and the Blue Lagoon

The Gerduberg basalt columns on Snæfellsnes are remarkable and a good place to visit
There is a large seal colony the the Ytri Tunga beach on the south coast of Snæfellsnes. We saw some 10 individual seals on our visit, mostly were relaxing on rocks like this one

Our plane departed in the afternoon. The drive from Borgarnes to Keflavik is a few hours. We decided to spend the time we had in the Blue Lagoon. It is nice, however obviously designed for mass tourism.

We hope you found our itinerary for an amazing 19-day road trip in Iceland. You are welcome to leave comments below!


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