Iceland in 7 days!
Iceland in the last few years has been a popular destination spot for tourist around the world. If you fly with IcelandAir (which we did) , they highly promote to stop over in Iceland for a few days before your final destination. This is smart, especially if you are heading to other parts of Europe. It is easily accessible and on the way. Plus why would’t you want to explore a beautiful country with vast and unreal landscapes that no words can explain.
Tickets were decently cheap in the end of February, where we had a block of days off. We ended up paying around $600 CAD each with return and direct! Another reason we went during February is that it was nearing the end of their winter and we didn’t want to get caught up in crazy weather conditions (Although the weather is still unpredictable!). We also wanted to try and catch the Northern Lights.
If you are looking for ideas and have only 7 days to do it. Here is an extensive guide on our adventure in Iceland.
We left Vancouver, BC at around 3 pm on February 25, 2018. The flight took about 7 hours. Like I mentioned earlier, we flew with IcelandAir. I have to say that their service was amazing, no delays and I think we may have arrived around 15-20 minutes earlier then scheduled. There is an 8 hour time difference in Iceland, so we ended up arriving at 6 am the following day.
Check in at our hotel was not until 11 am. So what do you do? You head down to the famous blue lagoon and take a relaxing dip into their geothermal heated blue colored hot spring!
The water was amazing and warm. But as you can see, when we arrived, the weather was windy and cold. As you dip into the heated water, all your worries go away. Plus, being an aspiring photographer, the clouds and wind give the Blue Lagoon a moody look. A different take on all the photos you see online of the sun gleaming over the lagoon.
Tip: Don’t let the weather discourage you from checking out the Blue Lagoon, but if the conditions are extreme, which they can be, the staff can re-book you. You do need to give them several days notice! The place gets booked up really fast, so make sure you stay up to date with the weather conditions!
After a long day of travelling we checked into our hotel. We stayed at Reykjavik Lights Hotel which is located about 5 minutes away from downtown Reykjavik. One thing I do have to mention is that coming from an expensive city like Vancouver, I have to say that food in Iceland is not cheap. Finding a hotel that provided free breakfast was a plus for us. Keep this in mind! To put this into perspective, a bowl of Pho in Vancouver goes for about $8-$10 CAD. In Iceland it can go up to $20 plus.
After checking in and resting at the hotel we decided to walk around downtown Reykjavik and check out the night life. Tip: A lot of retail and groceries stores close early during the week. So plan ahead if you are trying to stock up on some groceries!
The weather was forecast to improve in the following days while we were in Iceland. So we figured that we wanted to see the major tourists spots along the golden road when the weather was more optimal. So we decided to go around Reykjavik on our second day and check out the popular tourist spots. Here are a few must see spots to check out in the city!
1. Grotta Light House
We went to the Grotta light house first thing in the morning. We had the whole area to ourselves to enjoy the peacefulness of the waters and to capture amazing photos without too many tourists. Also, be sure to go during the day when the tide is low.
Tip: Wear some proper shoes as there is some sea weed around the area that can be quiet slippery!
2. Hallgrimskirkja (Church)
One of the most famous buildings and the tallest in Reykjavik is the Hallgrimskirkja. The architecture is amazing and is hard to miss!
You can take a small elevator to the top of the church for about 1000 Icelandic Krona which is about $12 CAD. At the top you can see an amazing view of Reykjavik.
The Perlan is a revolving dome shaped building that has a cafe, restaurant and an exhibition, all in one place. Just like the beautiful architecture with Hallgrimskirkja Church, the Perlan is definitely an amazing work of art.
The cafe serves all kinds of coffee, pastries and sandwiches. We took a little break from exploring the city to enjoy a great cup of coffee, while enjoying the beautiful views.
3. Harpa Concert Hall
I can’t express enough how much detail is put in the architecture in Reykjavik. Another amazing building to visit is the famous Harpa Concert Hall. We didn’t get a chance to watch a concert while we were there due to time constraints, but it is definitely a must do!
The concert hall is open from 8 am – 12 am. As amazing as it is during the day, at night is when the building comes to life!
4. The Shore Walk and Sun Voyager
Outside the Harpa Concert Hall is a walking path along the shore. Here you can sit by the water and watch the epic views!
If you walk further along the shore walk you will eventually see another famous tourist attraction, The Sun Voyager.
After being well rested, it’s time to hit the road and explore this beautiful country. Cowina and myself opted out on tours and decided to explore on our own. We rented a car and did some research before hand of popular tourist spots to check out.
Tip: Most rental cars in Iceland are manual! You can rent automatic cars but with an extra cost.
There are 2 main routes that are easy to drive and navigate. The first route is the Ring Road that goes around the entire country. (We only did a portion of this road on our way to Vik, which I will get into later). The Second route is the Golden circle which is a popular route in the Southern part of Iceland located near Reykjavik. The route takes about 3 hrs to make a complete loop. Keep in mind that this does not take into account all the pit stops you will likely make at each tourist destination. So be sure to plan ahead!
We started to hit the road at about 8 am. The roads are completely safe to drive on and are well maintained, as long as you stay on the main roads. We were driving a small Nissan micro which got us from Point A to point B. The next time we come back to Iceland we will definitely rent a 4×4 of some sort to do some more exploring! So what ever your goal is, keep this in mind! Also it is ill advised to speed especially around the city as there are speed camera’s everywhere! Remember that the cost of everything is quite expensive and I could imagine their speeding tickets are equally as expensive.
Depending on the time of year when you decide to go to Iceland, I can’t stress enough to plan your routes accordingly. Keep in mind the weather and when the sun sets as there does not appear to be a lot of street lights the further you drive away from the city. (This applies more in the winter season)
Here are a few of the stops we were able to make in one day around the Golden Circle!
1. Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir is a historic national park that contains a large walk way, beautiful landscapes, lakes, waterfalls and more. Tip: There is so much to do here and if this is one of your stops in the Golden Circle, it is probably best to go first thing! Especially if time is a factor.
The next stop was the famous Geysir.
When we arrived here, there seemed to be a lot of construction going on. In the next few years a hotel will be built if staying near this area is something you are wanting to do. Like every touristy spot, there are a few places to eat and shop for souvenirs!
3. Gullfoss Falls
If you don’t already know, Iceland is filled with many unreal waterfalls. Gullfoss is definitely a site to see. This massive waterfall surrounded by vast land, makes for an epic picture!
4. Kerid (Volcanic Crater Lake)
The last stop we were able to make before heading back to the city was Kerid, which is a beautiful volcanic crater lake.
Tip: This site is drone friendly! Be sure to keep an eye out for drone signs at these tourist sites to prevent breaking any laws.
When we were there the lake was still frozen.
Side note: Along the road you will see many epic views and even those famous Icelandic horses. Be sure to be respectful as these horses are roaming around on people’s private property!
After all the excitement from yesterday’s adventures. You have your self wanting to explore some more!
One of the places that we recommend going to if you are planning on sticking around the southern parts of Iceland is the city of Vik. There were a few tourist spots we wanted to see on the way to Vik and the drive from Reykjavik to Vik is about 3 to 4 hours. We decided to rent a hotel in Vik for one night as we didn’t want to spend our whole day driving!
Here are few must see places on the Ring road, on the way to Vik.
One of the famous waterfalls in the southern parts of the Ring road to see is Seljalandfoss. You may have seen photos of people taking photos from the back of the falls. When we were there the pathways were still quite icy and wet so getting that shot was not worth it. It is still an amazing waterfall to check out!
If you thought Seljalandfoss was amazing, Skogafoss was an unreal site to see! This water fall was huge, which is an understatement, as you can see in the picture above. Definitely a must see! There is also an awesome fish and chip spot just before you enter. It was a small red wagon! You can’t miss it.
3. Solheimasandur (1973 U.S Navy Plane Wreck)
This plane wreck was one of the spots to see on on my bucket list, this trip. Ever since I saw one of my favorite film maker/photographer, Peter McKinnon do a short sequence at this site, I knew I had to go and get some epic shots of my own.
Tip: The parking area to the plane wreck is a 4km walk one way. Be sure to have proper shoes and dress accordingly. It was quiet windy and cold when we were there despite having the Sun gleaming down on us.
After a long trek on the way to Vik, we decided to check in our hotel and hang around the city. We stayed at Iceland Air Hotel. The accommodations were nice, clean and the staff were very helpful.
From our previous research we heard that the Northern Lights can be seen very well at Vik, due to low light pollution. When we were there everything was working in our favor. The skies were as clear as can be and the weather was optimal. Unfortunately the lunar activity was strong and the solar activity was about a 2 in the Kp scale. We were not able see the Northern lights this time around. We will definitely try and chase them the next time we are in Iceland.
On day 5 our plans were to visit the diamond beach and the black sand beach. The diamond beach was about a 2-3 hr drive from Vik which meant a total of 6 hrs back to Reykjavik. So we decided to leave the diamond beach for another time and stayed in Vik for breakfast. We did go to the black sand beach and spent most of the morning there, while watching the sun rise.
Reynisfara (Blacksand Beach)
The blacksand beach or Reynisfara is about a 20 minute drive from Vik. The Rock formations and sounds of the ocean splashing on the black sand is definitely a site to see.
Tip: Be careful not to be to close to the waters as they can be deceiving. The waves may look smaller then they actually are. These waves are called sneaker waves. Several people have died in the past from these sneaker waves.
There are also beautiful landscapes around the roads leading to Reynisfara. This meant for some epic drone footage.
The last destination we headed to before heading back to Reykjavik was a tourist spot that contained the Arch with a hole. Also known as Dyrholaey. I believe this spot was a national park that is by the coast. The views were amazing!
Tip: There are two ways to reach Dyrholaey. You can either hike up a relatively steep path from the parking area at the entrance to the park or if you have a 4×4 there is a rocky path to the top. We decided to hike as our car was not a 4×4.
Like i mentioned earlier, the views at the top of the trail were beautiful. There was a light house, beautiful view of the black sand beaches and the water. Also, the landscapes were unreal!
On the last few days of our trip we were pretty exhausted from being on the go. When you are in Iceland the natural tendency is the need to explore and see everything. It is not your typical trip where you have time to lay back and relax on the beach. When you have only a few days in Iceland, you definitely want to make the best of it.
On the last full day, we stayed in the city, explored a few restaurants and checked out a few more tourist spots.
Iceland is a beautiful country filled with beautiful landscapes and a strong sense of pride in their culture. You definitely get the sense of adventure when you are exploring the country. Everything feels in a sense, magical. Iceland is definitely a place we would come back to as there is still so much to see and do. A country that is definitely or should be on everyone’s bucket list. I hope you enjoyed our journey and our take on Iceland!
Thanks for reading!