An extended layover in Iceland en route from America to Europe is a brilliant idea, as it is pretty much smack in the middle and it is honestly one of the most fascinating countries I have ever been too. Icelandair understood that and is now offering up to a seven-day layover at no additional cost on many trans-Atlantic routes. Once you’re in Iceland, because of the poor public transport system outside of Reykjavik, there are two ways to explore the rest of the country: either by A – joining a group tour (and you may have read that it isn’t exactly my thing…) or B – by renting a car. When I partnered with TripCreator on this trip, I was informed that the latter was the plan, and I did have a brief moment of panic because… I do not know how to drive! Thankfully, the funny and wild woman that is my mother volunteered herself to be my personal driver, so we were all set to go! Yay!
We had four days to explore as much of Iceland as possible, and so driving the whole Ring Road (which runs the circumference of the country) was a bit too ambitious – for that, I would plan a whole week, minimum. What we opted for was a few days of driving up and down through the South West of the country, and that alone was plenty to make me fall head over heels for this totally outlandish place. And according to my mom – who’d never driven outside of Canada – driving in Iceland was super easy. The roads are in great condition and we had them all to ourselves most of the time. Here is what our itinerary looked like, which accounted for about 200 to 300 km of driving per day.
DAY 1: 30 KM
TAKING IT EASY AT THE BLUE LAGOON
Opinions are mixed, but the Blue Lagoon remains in my view a not to be missed experience for anyone visiting Iceland. Take it for what it is: a man made, extremely popular, little over-the-top and overpriced, but still drop-dead-gorgeous and very relaxing touristic activity. It is the best possible way to cure your jet lag and the perfect introduction to Iceland (or the best way to get ready to leave Iceland, as it is so close to the airport and a lot of people choose to have one last dip before leaving the country). It was quite otherworldly, after a night spent in commute, to look through the mist hanging over the milky blue water cradled by black lava rocks, and the silica mud face mask was lovely. I felt like I had just landed on another planet and I believe my mother felt like she was on some hallucinogenic drugs, by the look of her on these photos!
DAY 2: 240 km
ALL OF THE GEOTHERMAL ACTIVITIES
We started our first full day in Iceland with a bang by taking a helicopter tour with Norðurflug. I had never been in a helicopter before so that alone was a treat, but gliding smoothly above the snowy peaks and landing in an otherwise inaccessible geothermal zone for a photo stop where hot springs and boiling mud pits abound was pure magic. It was honestly one of the most incredible things I have done in my whole life! There will be a video about this coming soon. We then followed the road north to see the Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Waterfalls with photo stops at both the Deildartunguhver Geothermal Area and the cute Brautarholtskirkja Church. All of these were lovely, but the highlight remained to simply drive across the quiet countryside.
DAY 3: 300 km
THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
Day three was devoted to what is possibly the most popular day-trip out of Reykjavik: The Golden Circle, which consists of a look through the most attraction-packed road in South Iceland. We visited Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss Waterfall, THE Geysir (the one that gave its name to all the other ones, how cool is that!?) and if that wasn’t enough, ended the day floating on our back in a 38 degree secret lagoon with underwater speakers playing Sigur Ros while receiving a massage. This was supposed to be an Aurora Borealis observation, but unfortunately there was no activity. It really didn’t matter though, it was just lovely to soak in the the oldest swimming pool of Iceland in the middle of the night with a futuristic floating helmet!
DAY 4: 350KM
MAKING OUR WAY BACK TO REYKJAVIK
From Fludir, we made our way back to Reykjavik with a stop over at Seljalandsfoss Waterfall and a cheeky last visit to the Blue Lagoon. Relaxed and floppy, we came back to the city – not without a quick stop to pet the majestic Icelandic horses! – and traded our rental car for a City Card to explore the many outdoor thermal pools and the excellent vegan food scene (article coming soon!)
Have you been to Iceland? I still can’t wrap my head around everything that I saw! Top tip is to pack for all seasons because you never know what you’ll get, so check out these handy Iceland packing tips!
For more Iceland South Coast daytrip ideas, check out my friend Danielle’s guide!
Heartfelt thanks to TripCreator, Icelandair and Visit Reykjavik. As always, your receive my honest opinion no matter who is footing the bill.