Trip to Iceland: itinerary, useful info and tips
In August I followed one of my closest friends family trip through Iceland. Day after day I waited for her pics and posts on Facebook and little by little I started feeling in love with this country. I couldn’t help but ask her to tell me/you about her travel to Iceland …
Roberta’s family trip to Iceland
The trip to Iceland bewitched us. This country somehow so primitive and authentic seems coming out of a science or a geography textbook… to see with our own adults eyes and through those of disbelief of a child, the alternation of fairy-tale landscapes and powerful waterfalls, the irreverent geothermal and unstoppable icerberg drifting, the bizarre alternation of light and dark, the horse races with the mane to the wind at the foot of a volcano and insatiable sheep suspended between the sky and the sea, with respect to the nature and the kindness of the islanders … all this we’ve certainly impressed in each of the hundreds of photos we took.
We took a Wowair flight from Milan Malpensa (1650 € for three return tickets) on August 18th at 10:40 p.m. (we allowed ourselves the luxury of a direct flight) and we landed on time at Reykjavik, Keflavik airport (KEF) at 0:50 a.m. local time. The Icelandic company has been a positive discovery, as well as having direct flights with affordable prices, it is efficient and fast in both boarding operations of landing. The crew is welcoming and helpful (snacks and drinks are not included in the price, but are served for a fee during the flight).
The airport is small and well organized and we easily found the Hertz desk, open 24 hours, where they were expecting us to hand over the car we had booked from Italy (Toyota Aygo, 460 € for a week).
With the car we headed straight to Bergas Guesthouse Reykjanesbær (160 € / night), where we found, as agreed, the key in an envelope in the front of the door.
Blue Lagoon and Golden Ring
We started our “Journey to the Center of the Earth” with a visit to the much photographed Blue Lagoon and then continue on the main tourist route in Iceland: the Golden Ring, a path for all seasons, not demanding, where you are in contact with the essential elements of Iceland.
The first stop we made it to Þingvellir, seat of the Icelandic Parliament and a meeting point between the American and European tectonic plates that, contrary to popular belief, are distancing from each other. Next stop was the discovery of the geothermal area of Geysir: stunning with the Strokkur spraying every 7 minutes a 30 meters high geyser.
We then reached Gullfoss, one of the most colossal natural wonders of Iceland, and our accommodation, the Guesthouse Drangshlid Skogar (186 € / night)
From Skogarfoss to Jokulsarlon lagoon
We kept heading South where we met the beautiful waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss and Skogarfoss. Amazing colors and landscapes that made me doubt I was actually standing into a PC screensaver …
We then headed to the Dyrhólaey headland to see the puffins, as well as the magic of the black / white contrast: the white foam of the sea that shattered on black, black rocks as the beach, black as the stacks rising next to one another like organ pipes. A natural masterpiece!
Following the southern coast road we came across in the wide expanse of Myrdalssandur and the Eldhraun lava field.
We crossed the desert plains of Skeidararsandur heading to Skaftafell National Park, a green oasis at the foot of the Vatnajökull glacier.
Arriving at Jokulsarlon lagoon we witnessed a unique show: huge icebergs that break off from the glacier (feel and see it live) and floating on the water slowly coming into the sea.
Here we stayed at Gerdi Guesthouse (219 € / night).
Fjords road to Djupivogur
Along the coastal road we dived in the quaint world of fjords, up to the impressive and picturesque village of Djupivogur, staying at the Guesthouse Sara Egilsstadir (160 € / night).
Dettifoss Waterfall and Lake Myvatn
The journey continues to the north of Iceland, to the Dettifoss waterfall.
We then crossed the solfataras of Nammafiatla that seem to come out of the pages of the Divine Comedy: mud and geysers are very active and very developed.
The apex of the incredible was actually the volcano Katla: you walk on a path that allows you to get to the top to take in every detail of the lake / crater and observe the activities in geothermal power plant.
After visiting Lake Myvatn we stopped for the night at Raudaskrida Hotel & Guesthouse Þóroddsstaður (230 € / night)… at dusk we were having a relaxing bath in a wooden tub with naturally heated water!
We woke up with an idea in mind: see the whales and at 10.30 we were already part of the crew of Nordur Sigling to Husavik which led us in pursuit of large cetaceans, almost to the coast of Greenland. The puff of whales and their huge tail that disappears in a moment in the waves is one of the most exciting shows I have ever witnessed!
On the way back we took the car to reach Goðafoss (Waterfall of the Gods) which is one of the most famous and spectacular waterfalls of Iceland, located in the north of the island at the beginning of the Sprengisandur road. Here the waters of the river Skjálfandafljót fall for about 12 meters, a width of about 30 meters.
We then headed along the fjord up to Glaumbaer, a small village dating back to 1100, with turf roofed houses covered with grass.
For the night we stopped at Sauðárkrókur, where we witnessed one of the most picturesque sunsets of the week before settling down at the Mikligardur Guesthouse (128 € / night).
Road to Reykjavik
After a hearty breakfast we headed to the Hraunafossar waterfall, with the most powerful hot spring in Europe, the Deildartunguhver. Along the way we passed through the region of Skagafjordur, famous for horse breeding and the green valleys of Borgarfjordur.
Driving through the new tunnel running through the Hvalfjordur we finally reached Reykjavík in the late afternoon, stopping at Guesthouse Andrea (225 € / night)
We spent our last morning in Iceland visiting the outskirts of Reykjavík.
Arranging a trip to Iceland
Before leaving I downloaded a great travel app on my Apple device: maps.me. With it, without an internet connection, you have immediate access to detailed maps of each location.
As for the hotels I decided to book everything from Italy and I recommend it to avoid loosing time looking for an accommodation once in Iceland.
I also recommend you pack waterproof clothes, with removable padding, mesh fleece but also short-sleeved and especially hiking boots. The swimming suit is also necessary to be able to use the thermal baths. Do not forget sunglasses for the day and if you are used to sleep in the dark, a mask for the night: the dark hours are not many, and the windows have no shutters but only sheer curtains or rudimentary blinds.
Typical Iceland food & beverage
The Icelandic cuisine is mainly based on seafood (mainly cod and herring) and lamb. One of the most common dishes is just as smoked lamb, usually served with caramelized potatoes and red cabbage, but for the more adventurous palates, there are also the most complex specialties such as putrefied shark, said hákarl.
The preparation of this dish is quite long: the shark meat are buried (three to six months) until it is not rotten to the right degree (otherwise it would be toxic to humans), that is, when it smells like ammonia!
This dish is accompanied by shorts powerful Icelandic brandy, the brennivín, without which it would be more difficult to overcome the ammonia aftertaste.
I couldn’t help but taste everything!