I'm Jessica Lauren - a wedding photographer for happy couples who are stoked about their wedding day! I couldn't be more thrilled that you stopped by! This is where I share bits and pieces of my passionate heart, spontaneous adventures, and pretty pictures of my rad clients! Feel free to grab a cup of coffee and stay awhile! xoxo
It’s taken me forever to write this blog post, not just because I’ve been in the thick of my busiest season, but because I have so much info to share that I’m not sure the best way to narrow it down into blog post form! I spent the three months between when we bought our tickets and when we took off for Iceland scouring the internet for resources, tips, and ideas for our trip. And while they were incredibly helpful in our preparation, there’s nothing like experiencing something like this for yourself!
So – whether you’re here for some pretty pictures or you’re here for helpful tips & tricks for your own trip to Iceland, I hope you’ll enjoy a peek into our experience!! Here is everything you should know about roadtripping in Iceland!
Let’s start with some logistics. We spent seven days and six nights in Iceland during mid-late August and we drove along the ring road (which means we stayed in a new place each night) – and this was the BEST decision we made for the entire trip! It made the logistics of planning and booking accommodations significantly more complicated (also because we are in our 20’s and trying to travel as cheap as possible, ha!), but – all the planning was 100% worth it!
Speaking of traveling cheap – we flew WOW air (which was a shockingly great experience!), and didn’t want to pay an extra $90 each for carry ons, so we each packed for our week in Iceland in a backpack. I had clean clothes everyday so it IS possible, my friends! We did pay for one carry on so that we could bring the drone and camera equipment (priorities, duh).
Here was my packing breakdown:
Three pairs of leggings
Waterproof boots (I tied tennis shoes onto the side of my backpack and never used them! I bought these shoes last minute before I left and it was the BEST decision)
A mix of long sleeve shirts/zip ups
Patagonia pullover (this was a warm layer that I was grateful for because my jacket wasn’t super warm, just waterproof!)
PJs, socks & toiletries
I wore my bulkiest clothing on the plane so that I could fit everything in my backpack!
Things I wish I would have known ahead of time:
The roads are not THAT bad. Every blog post I read talked about how dangerous the Iceland roads can be because there aren’t shoulders, sheep roam freely, and there are one lane bridges. My advice? Use your brain and you’ll be just fine. Speaking of using your brain, I would highly recommend not speeding! It’s really difficult to drive the speed limit because it’s so dang slow and you will find yourself in the middle of nowhere, but they don’t mess round in Iceland! We didn’t get a ticket, but a sweet family we met got hit with a massive ticket for only going 10km over the speed limit. Not fun!
Food is expensive, but it’s absolutely possible to eat on a budget. Shopping at the grocery store saved our lives! We ate peanut butter and jelly almost every day for lunch, and not only was it crazy cheap – it also gave us more time to adventure instead of wasting time at a restaurant. You just have to be willing to not be picky! We made spaghetti one night that cost us $5 to feed three of us. Way better than dropping $20-30 per person!
I think we may have gotten really lucky, but I think it only rained one day of our whole trip – and even then it was very off and on. We had mostly beautiful, sunny days! I would definitely bring a waterproof jacket & shoes, but I personally didn’t think it was necessary to have waterproof pants.
The ONE time Sprint comes majorly in handy is in Iceland! I had free data and ironically better service than I sometimes get in the States. We also rented this portable wifi hotspot from the airport, which I would still recommend doing so you have a backup if you’re in a pinch. But if you happen to have Sprint you are going to be smooth sailing in Iceland!
Let’s talk MONEY. You know, the thing no one likes talking about. If you didn’t already know, Iceland is one of the most expensive countries in the world. And understandably so – literally everything has to be imported, which is expensive! With plane tickets, accommodations, car rental, travel insurance, and the portable wifi hot spot we leveled out at $1,000 per person. And there were three of us! That didn’t include food, coffee, gas, or blue lagoon tickets, but overall I’d say we spent around $1,300ish each. Gas is quite pricey (think around $7 dollars a gallon – which is why you should definitely go in a group so you can split it!), and food is expensive if you’re eating out.
We loved the time of year we went! August is peak season for a reason. Longer days, no snow & subsequent difficulty driving, milder weather, etc. I did have a little bit of a hard time finding places to stay within our budget, but I think that was primarily because I was booking accommodations two and a half months out… nothing like booking a trip to Iceland spontaneously!
So, without further ado, here are all the details & our step by step itinerary for each day around the Ring Road!
Day One: Recovering from our flight & Exploring Reykavik
We flew out of St. Louis at 11:55pm at night and landed at the Keflavik International Airport at 11:00am Icelandic time. Once we got our rental car (we rented from Hertz because they waive young driver fees since I’m a USAA member). We did not add any extra insurance coverage to our car – but that’s totally a personal decision. Lots of resources recommended doing so, but we skipped it and were fine!
Our amazing Airbnb host let us check in early, so we took a quick power nap before heading out to explore Reykavik a bit and pick up some groceries! We stayed at this Airbnb and would highly recommend it!
We loved Stofan Cafe in Reykavik as well as some local hot dogs with all the fixin’s!
We finished up our first day at the Blue Lagoon which was honestly so much fun. I was hesitant that it would be all that it was cracked up to be – but we loved it!! Be sure to book your spots at Blue Lagoon a few weeks ahead of time. We booked a late evening spot (I think 8pm), and it was amazing because the crowd was beginning to weed out. You definitely need to make the Blue Lagoon happen on your trip – it’s totally worth it for the experience!
Day Two: The Golden Circle & Skogafoss
I think one of my very favorite parts of the trip was this day! We were so excited to get out of Reykavik and start exploring! We hit all the big stops of the Golden Circle; Thingvellir Park, Gulfoss Falls, Geysir Area, Seljalandsfoss, (and Kerid Crater Lake!) and then we made our way to Skogafoss that evening.
(Pro tip: If you walk past Seljalandsfoss to the left and follow that trail, you’ll find the coolest little nook of a waterfall – and WAY less people!)
Y’all. The funniest part about this is that we thought Skogafoss would be a “quick stop”. Little did we know!!! The waterfall is absolutely beautiful, but what’s even better comes after you climb all those stairs next to the waterfall and just start walking. We passed maybe five people once we got far enough up there, and it was absolutely magical. The sun peeked out from the clouds and bathed the landscape in golden light and I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen anything more beautiful. This was SUCH a fun night!! I’m so grateful the days are so long in August because we always crammed as much as possible into each day.
We spent the night at Stay at Hotel Edda Skogar which was not the world’s best experience, but not the worst. It was decently clean and you can do anything for one night. ;)
Can you even HANDLE the light?! I’m obsessed in every way.
Day Three: Reynisfjara Black Sand Beaches, Vik, Jokulasarlon Glacial Lagoon & Höfn
The first thing we did was hit Reynisfjara Black Sand Beaches bright and early to avoid the crowds! It was absolutely beautiful and the basalt stacks were incredible to see in real life. We didn’t see any no drone signs (score!), so we popped up the drone for a few photos of the black sand hitting the beautiful water. So incredible!
We got back on the road and stopped in Vik to get gas (and coffee!) before continuing our trek. One of my favorite things to do in Iceland was to pull off on little roads or parking areas to explore. The big, grandiose places were incredible, but getting some of the simply, stunning glory of Iceland to see on our own was my favorite. We were baffled by the fact that the Icelandic landscape changed so drastically every 15-30 minutes. From bright green meadows, to moss covered rocks, to black sand beaches, to dark volcanic rock as far as the eye can see – it was absolutely insane to experience in real life.
We stopped at Jokulasarlon Glacial Lagoon right off the highway which was beautiful!! Once again – the most randomly gorgeous area that just came out of nowhere.
We had a hotel booked for that night in Höfn which was he cutest little fishing town – wish we could have stayed here a bit longer. House on the Hill was darling and we loved our stay here! We splurged and ate at Otto Makur & Drykkur that night and it was SO GOOD! It’s also been open since 1897 so that’s casual. I had the lobster bisque which was insanely delicious.
Day Four: East fjords of Mjóifjörður & Seydisfjordur, & Dettifoss
This was our BIGGEST driving day and if I could change anything about the trip I would have broken this up a bit! Only because the East Fjords are so epic and beautiful that we absolutely could have spent a full day here and cut something out of the back end of our trip. You live and you learn – but we loved this day!! We pulled off on a bunch of beautiful side of the road spots, but our favorite adventure was the Mjóifjörður fjord. We took this pretty sketchy gravel road down into the most darling and picturesque fjord and it was just unreal beautiful. Waterfalls everywhere. Bright green meadows. Flowers. Apparently only 40 something people live in this little town. It’s honestly straight out of a fairytale.
Seydisfjordur was the cutest little town with the rainbow road and we explored a bit and grabbed coffee (again. ;))
We had to make it all the way to Akureyi that night (it’s about a 6 hour drive from Höfn with no stops), but we crammed one more thing in this day and that was Dettifoss – the most powerful waterfall in Europe. It was QUITE the drive on an awful gravel/pot-hole filled, seemingly never ending road, but it was pretty incredible to witness.
We had our entire Airbnb to ourselves in Akureyi (most of our hotels & Airbnbs had shared bathrooms) which was so nice. Loved this place!
Day Five: Akureyi & Blönduós
We adventured around Akureyi this day and once again – got coffee and some awesome fish & chips! This was one of our more chill days because we only had a two and a half hour drive until we hit our next Airbnb in Blönduós. We made quite a few stops (one of them being to jump on the giant rainbow trampolines in town – haha!) and had a nice dinner that night at the only restaurant we could afford that was open. ;)
We stayed in a little Airbnb right outside of town that was absolutely perfect!
The boots!! That I never took off and I will forever be obsessed with!
Day Six: Snaefellsnes National Park, Kirkjufell Mountain, & Stykkishólmur
I distinctly remember this day because we listened to a podcast about Ted Bundy (lol) as we drove to Snaefellsnes National Park. We stopped at the most darling cafe called Cafe Brák for some coffee before heading into the park. This day was a bit chillier and windier than all of our other days, but I definitely had enough layers to stay warm! We stopped at Kirkjufell Mountain on the way out of the park, which was cool but saturated with people, which always takes away from the glory in my opinion. We stayed at an Airbnb in Stykkishólmur which was a really cute little town! We got milkshakes and fries at the best little joint called Skurinn that you have to hit up if you are close by!
Day Seven: Driving back to Reykavik & Flying Home
Our final day!! We got up early so we could head back to Reykavik for one final jaunt around the city. We stopped at our favorite café once again before heading to the airport.
And that’s a wrap, y’all!