Iceland’s natural landscape is like nothing I’ve ever seen before! It’s rugged and harsh but also breathtakingly beautiful. With Icelandair you can do a stopover for up to seven nights in Iceland at no additional charge. We decided to stay for 5 nights which was the perfect amount of time to see many of the most magnificent sights.
In just a few days we were able to see waterfalls, glaciers, lava fields, volcanoes, geysirs and hot springs. Here are some of the highlights of our 5 day roadtrip around the Golden Circle and South Iceland.
Day 1: Arrival at Keflavik Airport – Blue Lagoon – Reykjavik
Since we arrived in Iceland early in the morning, we decided to pick up our rental car at the aiport and head straight to the famous Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa located in a lava field on the Reykjanes Peninsula and only a 30 minute drive from the airport. Book your tickets in advance online and you can skip the long line-ups. This is probably the most touristy (and pricy) thing to do in Iceland but it was money well spent! Relaxing in the mineral-rich waters and breathing in the fresh Icelandic air was a perfect start to our trip.
We then made our way into Reykjavik where we checked into our hostel at Hlemmur Square and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring downtown Reykjavik. We also went to the top of Hallgrimskirkja Church to get an amazing 360 degree view of the colourful capital city. If you are just wanting to explore Reykjavik on foot and visit a couple museums then one day is more than enough time.
Day 2: Golden Circle – Dingvellir – Geysir – Gullfoss – Seljalandfoss
We hit the road early in the morning partially due to having some jetlag and also because there is nearly 24 hours of daylight in Iceland during the summer months!
Day 1 was all about the Golden Circle, Iceland’s popular tourist route in southern Iceland. The Golden Circle covers about 300 kilometres looping from Reykjavik into the southern uplands of Iceland and back.
Golden Circle Highlights
- Dingvellir National Park – situated on the shores of Lake Dingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland at 84km²
- Geysir – watch the hot spring Strokku erupt every 5-10 minutes
- Gulfoss – an impressive waterfall which falls into a gorge that is 70m deep. The waterfall itself is 32m high and 350m wide.
We then made our way back down towards Reykholt where we went for a quiet dip at the Secret Lagoon. The Secret Lagoon is a natural hot spring located in the small village of Fludir. I loved that this place has been kept in its natural state and is surrounded by many little geysir hotspots. For only 2800 ISK this was a perfect afternoon activity. The facilities were very clean and the water between 38-40 Celsius.
Our final stop was Seljalandsfoss the 40m high, narrow but powerful waterfall. You can walk behind the waterfall but be ready to get absolutely soaked from the spray of the waterfall! Further down towards the campground where we spent our first night, there is a more hidden waterfall call Gljufrabui which you can actually walk into.
Day 3: Seljavallalaug – Skógafoss – Vik – Kirkjubejarklaustur
We woke up to a rainy day 3 but we were on a mission to find Seljavallalaug, the hidden hot springs located totally off the beaten tourist path. With little to no signage we hiked into a misty valley where we believed the brick hot springs pool to be. When we found it and were the only ones it was a pretty incredible experience. Check out my post on hot springs to visit in Iceland for clear directions of how to get here!
You can see Skógafoss for miles when driving towards it on Route 1 and the closer you get the more you realize how beautiful the waterfall is. At 60m high it was probably my favourite waterfall. We climbed up the walking path on the east side of Skógafoss and despite the rain continued further along the top for more stunning views of the river, rapids and waterfalls.
When we arrived in the small town of Vik (pop. 300) and the weather was super nasty with torrential rains and strong winds. Thankfully we found an amazing little restaurant called Suður-Vík Restaurant where we shared a delicious pizza and kept dry for awhile!
We continued on to Kirkjubejarklaustur where we spent our second night sleeping in our car. Yes you heard correct! Iceland is INSANELY expensive so we decided to spend three nights sleeping in our tiny car! Trust me, we were not the only ones!
Day 4: Jökulsárlón – Höfn – Skaftafell – Vik
On day 4 we woke up to perfect roadtrip weather – sunny blue skies! We drove all the way to Jökulsárlón the most amazing glacial lagoon I’ve ever seen. This was definitely one of my favourite places in Iceland! Black Diamond Beach across the road from the glacial lagoon was equally as beautiful.
We then drove up to Höfn to check out the town and returned back south with a stop in Skaftafell where, despite the rain, we hiked into Vatnajökull National Park to see yet another beautiful waterfall. Svartifoss is surrounded by dark lava columns and therefore a unique waterfall. We decided to spend the night back in Vik at the campground right in town. Vik is well known for its little church on the hill.
Day 5: Skogasandur – Hveragerði – Reykjavik
Another early start and we were off on a walk to find the Sólheimasandur airplane wreck, about a 2.5km walk through the black sand and gravel. I suggest you follow the yellow markers that signify the trail because the land is so barren that you could quite easily get lost, especially in bad weather.
The scene of the wreck was very dramatic like it was taken out of some apocalyptic zombie movie. The United States Navy DC plane ran out of fuel and crashed on the Solheimasandur black sand beach in 1973. Thankfully all on board survived the crash.
We then made our way to the town of Hveragerði from which you can hike about 1 hour up to the warm river that flows down Reykjadalur valley. Reykjadalur (literal translation: ‘Steam Valley’) was probably my all time favourite hot spring in Iceland because you literally just sat in a natural stream where the water was hot. It was the perfect ending to our roadtrip around South Iceland!
In the afternoon we made our way back to Reykjavik where we enjoyed the sunshine and strolled around town. I had the best coffee of my whole trip from Reykjavik Roasters so what more can a girl want?
Coffee. Travel. Repeat.