My trip to Iceland was very spur of the moment, decided and booked only a month before departure. Wow Air had advertised deals starting from $200 CAD roundtrip and so we jumped at the chance to go. (Flight was actually $499 CAD with $60 baggage fee one way; not as cheap as advertised eventually, but see footnote below for details)
The trip was a total of 10 days, 9 nights and a total expenditure of $1700 for this week and a half.
I went in mid-October, which isn’t the best time to go, as the weather is gloomy and rainy most days. The benefit is that you get to see the Northern Lights without going mid-winter. We were lucky that we had a few days of sunshine when we needed it and it rained on the days that we were driving mostly.
The tourists all go to Seljalandfoss, but often miss Gljúfrafoss a short drive away. A short, steep climb allows you to get right up to the falls. The climb itself was just as fun as the view you get at the top.
The windy day and the waves crashing on the rocky shore made Dyrhólaey truly terrifying. There’s even a sign that tells you to proceed at your own discretion before you climb the rocky incline, but the view is breathtaking.
DC-3 crash in Sólheimasandur
You’ve probably seen JBeebs skateboarding down this plane, but the DC-3 crash in Sólheimasandur is eerie and isolated at the same time. They recently closed down the driving road to get here, so you have to park 4 km away and walk in order to reach this site. The entrance/parking to this site was difficult to find as well, but the site is very photogenic especially with the landscape in the background. *No one died when this flight crashed*
Black Sand Beach
You can sit on the vertical rock columns and watch the sunset at Black Sand Beach; where the sand is actually black (more like pebbles).
Fjaðrárgljúfur is a canyon is pretty well hidden. When we first arrived, we looked around and didn’t see anything. It’s only when you walk a little closer that you notice the depth of the entire thing. The entire route is 2 km.
Svartifoss waterfall and Skaftafell glacier
Svartifoss is a waterfall where the Skaftafell glacier is located. I would recommend looking at the hiking trail map before going up, in order to get to whichever waterfalls you want without getting lost.
The hike to Svartifoss and Skaftafell (the glacier) is breathtaking. Both routes eventually lead back to the starting point, although Svartifoss is on the left and Skaftafell is on the right. We went to Svartifoss and doubled back to the fork in the road to get the Skaftafell. I would recommend doing both those routes. Definitely worth it.
This is the epic Skaftafell glacier. (The tail end at least). We just see a bit of the whole thing.
I guess the view walking down was okay.
Next stop! Iceberg lagoon aka. Jökulsárlón. This lagoon has icebergs that flow from a rapidly receding glacier. We also took a boat ride through the lagoon costing around $60 CAD and got to taste a piece of the iceberg (our most expensive excursion).
*All these photos so far have been from Southern Iceland. Although we did the entire island on the Ring Road, southern Iceland had by far the most interesting attractions.
Grjótagjá is an underground cave that used to be a popular bathing site in the 1970s. Now it is illegal to swim in the water due to unstable and changing temperatures. Its a tiny climb down an unassuming entrance and looks straight out of scene in LoTR.
Troll Cave in Dimmuborgir
Upon hiking in the Dimmuborgir lava fields, we stumbled on a cave that looked like it had been lived in. There were blankets on the floor, laundry hung up, pots and pans and even some money on the table. It was pretty creepy especially because the cave is a kilometre off the main road and nobody else was there but us to see it.
Myvatn Nature Baths
Similar to Blue Lagoon, but much less populated (cheaper too) is Myvatn Nature Baths. The water is baby blue and you can even feel the moss and rocks underneath your feet. It really feels like you just took a dip in a random hot spring you just happened to stumble across. Around $40 CAD.
The second largest city next to Reykjavik.
Selfoss and Dettifoss
These two waterfalls you can only get to by driving down a rocky gravel road. Its a difficult road for a normal car to get through, since there’s a lot of potholes and rocks. It would be very easy for a 4×4 car, but you’ll have to decide whether it is worth the unpleasant ride and possible scrapes to your rental car to venture out here if you don’t drive a 4×4.
Now, fair warning, the Northern Lights definitely look better in photos. Do not be disappointed because even though these look very bright and strong, they were much fainter to the naked eye. That’s not to say that they weren’t still beautiful. There were 2 or 3 times where the lights were very bright and no photo could ever match that kind of brilliance. They do also appear more white than green to the naked eye, but we have seen them green-tinged and even purple. Usually they are just streaks in the sky, but we have also seen them dance. We were only able to see the lights in North Iceland, and it had to be a fairly clear night (which was quite rare). There are Northern Light tracker apps online that are very helpful to see if you’ll have a good chance of seeing them in the region you are in.
So that’s my week and a half in Iceland! I didn’t talk about most of the very touristy locations (except the ones that were too nice not to talk about!) and chose to show just the highlights of my trip. Places like Blue Lagoon, Skogafoss are talked about in most travel blogs, so I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about those. I have another blog about more tips and tricks to saving money and how we managed to keep under 2 grand for this entire trip!
P.C. Jason Tam