Hello Iceland

Photo of Hello Iceland by nidhi patnaik

Welcome to the dreamlike world of natural lava fields, powerful stunning waterfalls, nature baths and hot springs, magnificent sparkling glaciers, smoky mountains, martian landscapes, erupting hot geysers, tantalizing black sand beaches. A volcanic island in North Atlantic Ocean with almost twice in size of a state 'Himachal Pradesh' in India is astonishing because of it's much diverse and vivid landscapes.

Why Iceland?

It wasn’t that we were done with all other countries we had on our list of places to visit. Infact, what started with planning for a vacation to United Kingdom ended with Iceland.

While looking at the map, we zoomed into this tiny island between Norway and Greenland and were curious enough to check it’s details. The pictures enticed us to include this in our itinerary of UK as it only looked like a small island then. Who would have thought that such a small island would take actually a minimum of a week’s time to explore?

But, this is what made us make this vacation only about Iceland. And even with 9 days in Iceland during the summers(maximum daylight hours), we still missed a lot of amazing places and we had a hard time choosing what places to include as there are so many of incredible unique places in Iceland.


Iceland is a sparsely populated country located in the north Atlantic ocean and near the Arcrtic circle with a total population of just 3.38 lakhs. It was an unknown land for many years until Vikings ,a term for the people from Scandinavian countries what is now Norway, Denmark and Sweden discovered this mysterious island and started exploring it.

Iceland is aptly known as the ‘Land of Fire and Ice‘ owing to it’s highly volcanic nature and enormous glaciers placed side by side which create a wide contrast in its climate and landscapes. Iceland will not cease to surprise you with its scenic landscapes of all kinds ranging from rugged mountains to very green conventional type of sceneries making a strong imprint on our hearts, difficult to forget.

The Challenge

It was quite a challenge to plan for a travel destination like Iceland due to it’s myriad landscapes offering a lot of places which differ from each other and can’t be missed. Also, the expensive country owing to it’s geographical location imports most of the things making it capable of digging a big hole in our pockets.

Gasoline is quite expensive along with food in Iceland. There is a budget friendly grocery store Bonus which is useful to buy essential food and other necessary items.

The fairly easy part was booking the flights as we found the most economical and convenient flight of Finair from New Delhi to Iceland via Helsinki in Finland ( Round trip cost is approximately 82,000 INR for 2 people).

With a layover of around 15-16 hours, we pounced upon this chance to visit another country. As Iceland is a Scandinavian country, a schengen visa works like in the rest of the countries in Europe.

A road trip through the ring road of Iceland was what we decided would be best to do as it is a national road that encircles the island and covers most of it . The length of the ring road is approximately 1300 kms.

Just that the attractions were again too many and it was hard to decide the places to visit as the entire country has abundance of stunning attractions. We charted out a high level plan and listed down the places which were a must-see for us.

The golden circle route is a popular tourist route of 300 kms looping through southern Iceland which starts from the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik. Tough to pronounce? There are going to be more like this .I had to maintain a separate diary for Iceland with all the names of the places and their details along with their names noted down in our mobile phones before leaving. ????

So, We planned golden circle for the first day itself as it started from Reykjavik where the flight would land from Helsinki, The highlands were on our minds as soon as we found about them, and I don’t think I could have left without visiting them.

Landmannalaugar is a place in the central highlands of Iceland known for it’s fascinating and out of the world landscapes. We squeezed in Landmannalaugar (around 200 kms from Reykjavik) in the second day before starting the ring road which made our itinerary look quite taxing because of the long drives and the number of places we had to visit.

This made me nervous as our trip was nearing but there was not much we wished to do about it. And of course, I can say now that every bit of the challenge and the long tiring drive was worth what we saw and felt.

Though, We would still recommend to plan minimum 10 days in Iceland (during Summers) especially to explore Iceland’s complete Ring Road circle and the highlands.

From the 3rd day, the plan was to hit the ring road of Iceland and explore the attractions on this route. We kept the last day for Reykjavik as it is a beautiful city with some remarkable architecture sites which would prove to be a perfect end to this surreal journey. Another challenge is the weather which requires some preparations beforehand in order to be dealt with in an appropriate manner.

Time for some preparations

Contrary to it’s name, Iceland is not only about Ice at least in summers though 11% is permanently covered with Ice.

There is an Icelandic saga behind it which says that the vikings who discovered Iceland wanted to discourage people from coming here, so they named it as Iceland and Greenland which is 80% Ice was instead named the opposite. It is interesting to look at the globe and see Iceland and Greenland contradicting their names by looking the opposite,

Even in summers, the weather is a bit of a challenge as Iceland experiences all 4 seasons in one day. It is good in a way as the rain or the cold doesn’t last but it does require some serious preparations beforehand with respect to clothing and footwear.

We ensured buying everything required from rain proof jackets to gloves and headbands as mentioned in an extensive list we found on the internet.

Good hiking waterproof shoes are obviously a must which was amongst the first things we shopped for. It is very important to be dressed appropriately in order to enjoy completely in Iceland. We were always dressed in layers as it helped to peel off a layer if it used to get hot.

Our last 2 days in Iceland were quite warm and sunny, so you never know how it is going to be like :). The sun rays falling directly used to be quite strong even at 9 PM. Surprisingly, even sunglasses and sunscreen are essential to carry while travelling to Iceland in summers.

A magical journey to another world

Even the best pictures give only a faint idea of what it is like to be here in real. The road trip is full of surprises and wow moments. It is hard to keep your eye on the road with so many distractions around but there are nice parking lots on the sideways where one can stop to admire the constantly changing picturesque scenery.

The road trip is the highlight of Iceland which blew our minds out.

As soon as we landed at Reyjkavik, We were driven to the car rental office near the airport from where we picked up our rental car. A Suzuki Vitara for driving on the F-roads in the highlands with fully covered insurance ( CWD, gravel and ash protection ).

Car rental for road trip in Iceland: https://www.nordiccarrental.is/our-cars/suzuki-grand-vitara-or-similar---automatic

Photo of Hello Iceland 1/1 by nidhi patnaik
Day 1

Blue Lagoon and Golden circle

As soon as we landed in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, We headed out to relax in the Blue lagoon which is an iconic spot of Iceland, The warm milky blue colored water and the rugged mountains in the backdrop with smoke coming out of them made it perfect to relax and experience the feeling of being in another planet.

After unwinding ourselves, we were off to the popular golden circle route to explore Thingvellier national park which is a UNESCO site, Gullfoss one of the most heavenly and mystical waterfalls of Iceland, hot erupting geyser Strokkur and Kerid crater lake with which we ended the 300 kms loop at Reykjavik.

Read more about Day 1 in Iceland....

Photo of Golden Circle Iceland, Austurströnd, Seltjarnarnes, Iceland by nidhi patnaik

Link to the video of our first day in Iceland: https://youtu.be/AJhbcNLec28

Day 2

The central highlands of Iceland are extremely rugged and define beauty in a very unique way. We were all set to experience and explore these unreal mysterious mountains.

We were staying in an Airbnb in Reyjkavik, around 209 kms from Landmannalaugar. The long drive is treacherous due to the gravel roads in the mountainous terrain.

But, like it is commonly said ‘no gain without pain’, is a phrase especially made after a place like this.

We first stocked up with food from a supermarket Bonus in Reyjkavik. The fresh strawberries and peanuts turned out to be much needed munching companion during the long drive as there are no food outlets and restaurants on the way or in Landmannalaugar.

The easiest and the most popular route is through F208 North without any river crossings.

Read more about Day 2 in Iceland...

Link to the video of our second day in Iceland: https://youtu.be/V1eaeyqToNg

Day 3

Drive from Reyjkavik till Vik ( southern Iceland)

This was the beginning of our ring road itinerary in the anti clockwise direction starting from the south coast of Iceland.

We were tired after a challenging and a long drive the previous day. But, the excitement didn’t wither off to explore some of the spectacular waterfalls of Iceland.

Today’s plan included attractions like Seljalandfoss and Skogafoss which are the most popular waterfalls in Iceland, followed by a glacier hike at Solheimajokull, and watching a sunset at Dyrholaey overlooking the Reynisfjara Beach (the famous black sand beach) near Vik.

Read more about Day 3 in Iceland...

Day 4

Drive from Vik till Hofn ( a south eastern fishing village)

After spending an amazing evening in Dyraholey and Reynisfjara the previous day in southern Iceland, We were all set to explore the quaint little town of Vik with blooming lupins and drive south-east of the ring road towards an Icelandic fishing town, Hofn.

We first visited the( impossible to pronounce) Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, very close to Hofn. It is a breathtaking view, especially of the canyon which looks like a well crafted design covered with a green carpet providing a narrow passage for the water to flow in between.

I was eagerly looking forward to visit the popular Diamond beach and experience the boat tour at Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon.

Read more about Day 4 in Iceland..

Day 5

Drive from Hofn till Myvatn (towards North Iceland)

It was going to be a long drive today, as we planned to go to Myvatn area which is in North Iceland, 429 kms away on ring road route 1.

Furthermore, we were keen on stopping at some of the places in between especially at Seydisfjordur. So, We wanted to leave early in the morning to make time for the attractions and reach Myvatn by late evening to make it on time to Myvatn nature baths.

The first stop in Hofn, Vestrahorn mountains, were approximately 10 mins away. The mountains looked admirable from here with their peaks poking out like horns giving it the name it dons. We drove further along the east coast of Iceland besides the deep blue ocean to Seydisfjordur near Egglistadir.

Read more about Day 5 in Iceland...

Day 6

Drive from Myvatn till Saudarkrokur ( North West Iceland)

Myvatn is a beautiful lake in north Iceland. The area is known for it’s nature baths, geysers, smoky mountains because of high volcanic activity.

One of the strange experience here was of hot water smelling like rotten eggs due to it’s geothermal origin and presence of sulphur in it.

From our airbnb in a town called Reykjahlid in the Myvatn area, the geothermal area of Hvevir was quite close. It was like an alien unique land with steaming vents and is rightfully compared to Mars because of it’s barren and mysterious traits.

The Viti crater in Krafla Viti lava fields is another incredible volcanic crater with clear water, It is located near the geothermal plant with pipes laid out in the vast mountains. Dettifoss, one of the largest waterfalls in Europe, is around an hour from the Viti crater after which we stopped at Akureyri, one of the biggest towns in Iceland.

Godafoss is another spectacular waterfall on the ring road, quite visible and easy to spot on the way to Akureyri.

Read more about Day 6 in Iceland..

Day 7

Drive from Saudarkrokur till Grundarfjordur (West Iceland )

It was still raining in the morning, so we had to cancel our plans of visiting a natural pool in Saudarkrokur.

So, we left after having breakfast and bidding our host goodbye to drive further towards West Iceland to Grundarfjordur which was our next destination.

The Gabrok crater on the way was a surprise as it was captivating enough to make us stop despite the rain. After stopping a few more off-road parking spots to admire some unique landscapes with red mountains and lava fields, we stopped at Stykkisholmur for lunch.

The famous Game of Thrones shooting location at Kirkjufell mountain in Grundarfjordur was close to our airbnb accommodation.

Day 8

Next day, we explored some other places in Snaefellsness Peninsula which is the western region in Iceland. Djupalonssandur Beach is a beautiful black sand beach with rocky basalt cliffs.

Anarstapi Hellnar trail is a popular 6 kms walking trail along the coastline through steep cliffs and lava rocks. Close to here is a black church, Budakirkja, which is a remarkable structure radiating beauty and elegance.

Read more about Day 7&8 in Iceland..

Day 9

Next day in the morning, we left to return the rental car at Reykjavik. There was a path along the coastline where people were walking and running.

I loved watching people exercising in such stunning landscape with the warm and lovely sunshine on their side. The deep blue sea and the surrounding mountains with a steel boat sculpture along the sea does make the capital city of Iceland stand out for it’s artistic beauty and enjoys nature’s generosity.

The famous Reyjkavik cathedral, Hallgrimskirkja, is a landmark located in the center of the city.

The view of the entire city from the top of the church consisting of colorful buildings lined across the streets, the vast ocean with mountains brings out the true essence of Iceland.

Read more about Day 9 in Iceland..

Some tips and general information-

1. Credit cards are used almost everywhere even at gas stations.

2. Food is quite expensive, so it is recommended to arrange your own provisions for food or shop at the local grocery store Bonus.

3. It is recommended to add one more day for a stay at Egglistadir to explore east Iceland or to relax in between the long drives.

4. The above itinerary is only for summer months with maximum daylight hours.

5. For driving in highlands, a 4x4 is mandatory.

6. The highlands have no gas stations, so it is important to have a full tank before setting off to them.

7. Spend atleast 1 day to explore the Golden circle.

8. Double check the route to Landmannalaugar to avoid the one with river crossings.

9. It is advisable to take full insurance on the rental car.

10. There are limited airbnb's and hotels, so do plan well in advance.

11. The weather is quite challenging, but we managed getting most of the appropriate clothing from Decathlon.