Iceland is a country that enthuses mostly with wild, unusual and funky nature and less with affordability of travel – but this is something you have to accept when traveling this beautiful country. It is worth visiting nevertheless the price – as it is simply magnificent. If you want to lower the cost of traveling Iceland, you will have to plan the trip at least six months prior. More about logistic and technical information you can read here.
Many times people ask how much time you need to go to Iceland so you are able to see the most in as short amount of time as possible (because of the cost)?
Firstly you have to ask yourself:
What do you want to see in Iceland?
There are quite a lot of tourists going to Iceland, but they are staying mostly around Reykjavik, Golden Circle and Vik, they usually don´t go any further.
If you want to experience a little of the real Iceland, without tourists, than I recommend you do Big Circle, which I will present it in this article. Big Circle means circumvent Iceland and see its beautiful north and west part as well.
How much time you need for that?
We were on Iceland 8 days and 7 nights and we did Big Circle without any hurry and really enjoyed in its beauty without tourists – they were mostly around Golden Circle and between Reykjavik and Vik.
To do Big Circle, you have to make reservations in different places and it is really important (especially in towns Vik and Hofn) that you make those reservations six months prior, because there are little accommodations. You should make reservations of accommodations that offer joint usage of the kitchen as food in restaurants is really expensive. This way you can lower the cost of the trip.
When to travel to Iceland?
We recommend traveling there in summer months as possibility of nice weather is much bigger and in summer months you can also observe many sorts of animals (puffins, whales, seals…). But it is also true that it is almost impossible to see northern lights in summer months. If you are traveling to Iceland mostly to see northern light, than you have to go there between September and May, but even then you have to have luck with the weather. In winter months it is more difficult to do Big Circle which means you stay in area where all the tourists are and you don´t get as authentic experience as you could.
But in any case and in any season you have to rent a car, as only that way you can freely explore the country. It is cheaper to rent a car many months in advance as when you come to Iceland.
Let´s take a look at travel by days, if you have only 8 days (7 nights):
Day 1: Keflavik – Blue Lagoon – Reykjavik
We recommend that after landing on the airport in Keflavik and renting a car, you drive to famous Blue Lagoon and rest a little in thermal waters. Entry fee to Blue Lagoon isn´t the cheapest as standard fee costs a little less than 50 eur per adult but it is free for kids between 2 years and 13 years. We recommend buying the tickets in advance as it is allowed only limited number of visitors. We saw many people refused to entry as they didn´t buy their tickets in advance. If entry fee to Blue Lagoon is too expensive for you, you can drive around Reykjanes peninsula and enjoy and wonder in unearthly landscape that was shaped by glaciers and volcanoes. Spending the night: Reykjavik.
Day 2: Golden Circle
Golden Circle is the biggest tourist sight of Iceland and here you can expect many tourists (too many for our taste). Even though it is worth seeing it as the landscape is gorgeous. Golden Circle comprise national park Pingvellir and by the Pingvallavatn Lake there lies first parliament in the world and here is also tectonic fault between two continents. You go further to well known geyser Stokkur that erupts every 5-10 minutes and further more to magnificent waterfall Gullfos (Golden Watewrfall) that falls in three degrees 32 meters deep in the ravine under it. You can end your day with walk around crater lake Kerid. Spending the night: Reykjavik.
Day 3: Reykjavik – Vik
The third day start the Big Circle. From Reykjavik go to Vik. There will be many wonderful waterfalls on the way; the most beautiful ones are Seljalandsfoos and Skogafoss. Before town Vik you should go to beautiful black beach with many puffins and climb to viewing point Dyrholaey Arch. Spending the night: Vik.
Day 4: Vik – Hofn
We are coming to the most beautiful parts of Iceland by our opinion. Area between Vik and Hofn is area of glacier and glacier lagoons that represent why Iceland is called ICE–LAND. Magnificent work of nature. Besides more well known Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon you can enjoy peace and quiet in smaller lagoons in the area. We found Fjallsarlon Lagoon the prettiest and we were almost alone in the wild beauty of the nature. Glaciers tongues and glacier cubes that are floating in the water are really something special. And the experience is even more beautiful when among them you see seals and numerous puffins. Spending the night: Hofn.
Day 5: Hofn – Husavik
The fifth day the drive will be the longest as you have to come from south shore to north side of Iceland – from Hofn to idyllic village Husavik, five and half hours of driving. But because summer day is long and there are many beautiful spots by the road, that shouldn´t be that big of a deal. If you have enough time, you can cut the drive in half and spend the night in one of the villages by fjords on east side. We didn´t have that time, so we went directly to the north. And in between we admired wild landscape. On this part of the trip we didn´t have the nicest weather so we didn´t stop at the most water-rich waterfall of Iceland: Dettifos, which you should include in your itinerary. But luckily the weather cleared when we reached volcanic Lake Myvatn that is also starting point to Husavik. There are many motifs to photograph wild and unusual phenomenon, mostly weather that changes from minute to minute and creates many rainbows and crazy light. Drive around the lake and climb to black crater Hverfjall or rest in local natural spa. When you reach Husavik in late afternoon you totally understand why the long trip was worth it. Colorful idyllic village totally charmed us. Spending the night: Husavik.
Day six: Husavik – Akureyri
Husavik is idyllic fisherman town on north of Iceland that breaths with sea and nature and you can feel that on every step. Travelers usually come to Husavik with intention to see puffins and whales and to have contact with wild sea life. We went with authentic sailboat of North Sailing to see the whales and Puffin Island and were thrilled. We saw many whales, dolphins and hundreds of puffins. We recommend! After wonderful adventure (that you should reserve in advance for morning sail) you can go to Lake Myvatn again, this time to see wonderful Krafle with crater Viti and Hvervir with its geysers. On short road from Myvatn to Akureyri you should stop at the most beautiful waterfall on Iceland (by our opinion) – Godafoss (waterfall of Gods). That was beautiful end of one of the most beautiful days of our life. Spending the night: Akureyri.
Day 7: Akureyri – Grundarfjordur
Going from Akureyri on north to Grundarfjodur on west side of Iceland was the most boring part of the trip, but still beautiful. Grundarfjordur lies on Snaefellsnes Penninsula and is known as starting point to see whales and sea life (similar as Husavik). Its specialty is the most photographed, famous and beautiful mountain Kirkjufell, that is natural scenery of idyllic town where we almost didn´t meet any tourists. Wonderful scenery of Grundarfjordur is even more beautiful because of waterfalls and Icelandic horses. Spending the night: Grundarfjordur.
Day 8: Akureyri – Reykjavik
You should wake up early and circle Snaefellsnes Peninsula. In warmer months there are many seals that hang on south coast of peninsula, more accurate on the beach near Yitritunga (64°48´6”N 23°04´52,9”W). When you come to Reykjavik in the middle of the day, go to the mail square and enjoy in beat of the town. We had an evening flight home and it suited us as we had enough after spending half a day in Reykjavik. But if you like to explore capital cities, you can extend your trip for a day.
Iceland is wonderful and we would come back without hesitation – even though it is not the cheapest. I hope that our travel itinerary will help you to decide or to plan your trip to that wonderful country.