6 Unforgettable Days in Iceland: The Ultimate Ring Road Itinerary (Part II)

Made it through days 1-3 of my Ultimate Iceland Itinerary? Then you are in the right place! In this post, I am sharing the final 3 days of my epic adventure road tripping in Iceland. So buckle up those seat belts and prepare to see some more awesome canyons, waterfalls, glacial lakes, thermal areas, Game of Thrones filming locations, and so much more!


Day 4: Fjaðrárgljúfur, Svartifoss, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lake

Driving time: Approximately 2 hours

Distance: 80 miles, 130 kilometers

Fjaðrárgljúfur

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After waking up at one of the most beautiful campsites we stayed at during our trip, we set off for Fjaðrárgljúfur. You might recognize this location from Justin Beiber’s “I’ll Show You” music video, although I am happy to report that this 9,000-year-old canyon is even more stunning in person than it is in the video! The canyon is over 1 mile long and over 300 feet deep, making for some pretty stunning visuals. Oh, and did I mention there is a waterfall? Fortunately when we visited it was sunny and warm, but cloudy conditions would have been much better for photographing the deep canyon and river below. There are walking paths you can take to explore the area, although many paths are now closed off to protect the local flora. All in all, we probably spent about 1 hour-1.5 hours here.

Svartifoss

svartifoss-iceland-waterfallThe next stop of the day is Vatnajökull National Park, which is only about an hour’s drive from Fjaðrárgljúfur. There are many things to see in this massive national park (I could have spent days there), but with only 6 days in Iceland, we decided to stop at the park briefly to see the Svartifoss waterfalls. After parking in the lot and heading to the public restrooms, we set off on a mini hike to the falls.

Since our itinerary was so full, we, unfortunately, didn’t have much hiking scheduled, so it was great being able to explore the park on the way to the falls. On our walk to Svartifoss, we passed another waterfall, a stream, got a great view of the valley and river beyond, saw another glacier, and saw some beautiful fall foliage in different shades of green, yellow, brown, and orange.

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Svartifoss, or “Black Falls” is known for the hexagonal basalt columns that the water cascades down from. This waterfall was probably my favorite in Iceland. As you know from my visit to Reynisfjara on Day 3, I am obsessed with basalt columns and was completely drawn in by the unique look and feel of these falls.

Svartifoss was the perfect spot for a lunch break-we sat on some nearby rocks and ate our snacks while listening to the water fall just feet away from us. Since the sun was out, we were also able to and enjoy the rainbows created within the falls. It was such a peaceful spot to relax and take a break in!

While these falls are a little further off the Ring Road and require more walking than some of the falls you will visit in Iceland, we really enjoyed our afternoon in Vatnajökull National Park!

Glacier Hike

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Due to time constraints and budget, Amanda and I only wound up doing one excursion while in Iceland (snorkeling in the Silfra fissure). However, if you have more time (or funds) this would be another excellent opportunity to go on a glacier hike or ice cave tour!

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lake + Iceberg Lagoon

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The Jökulsárlón iceberg lagoon was hands down one of my favorite stops on our trip and was the perfect end to an already amazing day. The lagoon is filled with massive ice chunks that have fallen from the glacier and is truly breathtaking. In some places, the Jökulsárlón lagoon is over 800 feet deep-making in the deepest lake in all of Iceland. There are several areas from which to see the lagoon, so don’t be afraid to park at a few of them to take in the views!

The jet black of the sand beautifully contrasts with the stark white, sometimes blue color of the ice chunks. We were lucky that we visited on a sunny day, because the blue of the sky was reflected perfectly in the water between the lagoon’s ice hunks.

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If you’d like, there are boat tours of the lagoon available so you can explore the lagoon from the water.

As you follow the lagoon past the bridge, you’ll be able to watch the chunks of ice making their way out to the ocean beyond. We even managed to spot a seal frolicking in the water near the bridge, and this area is known for its seal sightings!

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Don’t forget to spend some time near the ocean-many people call this area the “diamond beach” because of the crystal clear ice chunks that you’ll find on the beach. We enjoyed listening to the waves roll in and watching the ice from the lagoon make its way out to sea.

Where To Stay + Cautionary Tale

It was this night that we probably made our biggest error in deviating from the itinerary. Instead of staying in the town of Hofn, near Jökulsárlón, we decided to “get a head start” on our long drive for Day 5. Which was a great idea, in theory. The problem was we didn’t bring a campsite map with us, and didn’t realize that the eastern fjords have VERY FEW campsites as they are quite rocky and exposed to the coastline.

So, instead of camping nearby, we proceeded to drive…and drive…and drive as it got darker…and darker…and darker until we came across what seemed to be the world’s longest and most pothole filled road. Then we (and by we I mean my friend Amanda, who thankfully did all of the driving since I am a terrible driver) had to drive on this long, bumpy, and mildly terrifying road in total darkness until we finally FINALLY arrived in a town called Egilsstaðir sometime around 9:30 PM. Tired, cold, hungry, and weary from our unexpectedly long day, we briefly considered renting a warm room at the campground we eventually stumbled upon. Ultimately, however, we decided to suck it up and set up our tent by the light of our headlights, which was surprisingly easy.

Moral of the story: don’t go camping in Iceland without a map of all the campgrounds, and don’t get caught on an unpaved road in the dark!

Needless to say, I fell asleep within minutes of crawling into my sleeping bag.


Day 5: Long Drive, Dettifoss, Mývatn, Hverir Mud Pits

Driving time: Approximately 6.5 hours (Hofn-Dettifoss-Mývatn-Godafoss)

Distance: 247 miles, 399 kilometers

The Long Drive

If you weren’t able to make it to Egilsstaðir (and didn’t end up stuck on the unpaved road from hell like we did!) then today is going to be a longggg drive! The driving time from Hofn (the town nearest to Jökulsárlón) to the next stop (Dettifoss) is about a 5-hours, so you’ll want to make sure you get an early start and to stay on schedule.

Be sure to stop for gas often in this area, as gas stations are few and far between…which brings me to our next stop (and misadventure!)

Dettifoss

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Dettifoss is known for being the most powerful waterfall in Europe (by volume) and is located off the main paved road. Unfortunately for us, this meant more potholes! There are so many potholes that it took us over an hour to finally arrive at Dettifoss, but the view was totally worth it!

There are actually two different roads that lead to Dettifoss, but make sure that you enter from highway 864 (not 852!) for the best view! We were lucky that the GPS took us this way naturally, but you will want to double check!

Amanda’s favorite part of this waterfall was the fact that you can walk right up to the edge. It was pretty rainy and windy the morning we visited, which made this my least favorite part. I distinctly remember yelling “Amanda! Get back here! Your family is going to kill me if I have to bring your body back to America” over the roar of the waterfall, a sentence which she claims she “didn’t hear.”

I am happy to report that Amanda did not get swept away by a freak wind, and we both made it out of Dettifoss alive and well.

The Time We (Almost) Ran Out Of Gas

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Remember how I said that in this part of Iceland you should always refill your gas tank? Well…it was at this point that we learned that lesson the hard way.

Since our Dettifoss detour took so much extra time, as we approached our car we discovered that we only had less than 1/4 tank of gas to get us to our destination. Which, thanks to the potholes, was now well over an hour away.

As we slowly plodded along, bumping down the road, our tank got lower and lower as my anxiety rose higher and higher. I used our internet to ascertain that the nearest gas station was, indeed, in the next town. I was particularly worried because the area is quite remote, and the prospect of hitching a ride to/from town for gas was not an exciting one.

Finally, we managed to roll into Mývatn while essentially running on fumes. I have never been happier to see a gas station in all my life.

Fortunately, all of the sites around Mývatn are pretty close to each other and are easy to find, so we didn’t have to worry much about driving anymore!

Hverir Mud Pots

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The more I explored Iceland, the more I came to realize that sometimes the “Land of Fire and Ice” is simply otherworldly, and the geothermal area of Hverir completely exemplifies this. The Hverir Mud Pots are hard to miss-you can see the steam rising from them from the distance as you approach.

As we walked around the area, I became more and more convinced that we had somehow left Iceland and landed on a completely different planet.

The landscape here is quite bizarre-we walked around listening to and watching the bubbling pits of mud in fascination.

Once you’ve had your fill of the mud pits, you can walk over to the steam vents, which churn out sulphuric steam from within the ground at an impressive rate.

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Warning: it smells strongly of sulfur which is basically a rotten egg smell if you haven’t been near a geothermal area before.

I took this cheesy shot while by the steam vent because that’s what all the tourists were doing! Just don’t stick your hand in-the steam is hot, and I witnessed one person burn themselves while trying to touch it.

Grjótagjá (The Game of Thrones Cave)

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If you are a Game of Thrones fan, then you will definitely recognize this next location as ~the cave~ where Jon Snow and Ygrette…ahem…get it on…in Season 3.

If you aren’t a Game of Thrones fan, then you should probably stop reading this blog immediately, grab some popcorn and start binge watching!

Just kidding, even those who haven’t seen GOT will love this next location, a naturally hot pool of water hidden inside the earth.

Several blogs I read claimed that this area was difficult to find, but we had no trouble at all and there were actually quite a few tourists there, probably due to the location’s appearance in Game of Thrones.

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Can you swim there?

Prior to visiting, I had read that this was possible, but when we arrived there were signs that said swimming is prohibited. Not only does the site way that swimming is prohibited, but I also found that the water was too hot to swim in. While I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the thermal water inside this incredible cave, I still was ridiculously excited to be in the same spot where my GOT crush once stood.

I definitely enjoyed my visit to Grjótagjá, even if Jon Snow didn’t magically pop out of the cave and save me from a Wight Walker.

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Same, Ygritte, same.

Mývatn Nature Baths

If you are looking for a thermal bath you can actually bathe in, the Mývatn Nature Baths are also located in this area. I didn’t personally choose to stop here, as we had already opted to visit the Blue Lagoon. That being said, I have heard mixed reviews! Some people we talked to said they preferred the Mývatn Nature Baths as they were less crowded than the Blue Lagoon, and others said that the Blue Lagoon was more worth it. It is important to note that the Mývatn nature baths are less expensive, costing 3800 ISK ($35.00) to 4700 ISK ($44.00).

More in Mývatn

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Depending on how much time you spent driving today, you may have time to explore more of Mývatn. We stopped by the tourist information center when we filled up our gas tank, and they gave us a helpful map of all the sites within the area. Explore the area around the lake, check out some popular hiking trails, visit some nearby craters-whatever strikes your fancy!

Goðafoss

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The final stop for the day is Goðafoss, a waterfall located about 45 minutes away from Mývatn. The waterfall is named the “waterfall of the gods” which is about as epic of a name as one could find for a waterfall. Interestingly enough, this name dates back to the year 999 or 1,000-when a lawmaker made Christianity the official religion of Iceland. Legend has it all of the statues of Norse gods were thrown into the falls.

The falls are just off the road, making it an easy and scenic stop before stopping along the way to set up camp.

Where to stay

If you still have the energy to continue along the road, I recommend driving as far as you can to help cut down your day 6 drive time. We chose to camp in Blonduos, a coastal town another 2 hours and 20 minutes away from Goðafoss.

 


Day 6: Kirkjufellsfoss, Return to Reykjavik

Driving time: Approximately 5.25 hours

Distance: 251 miles, 404 kilometers

Day 6! We couldn’t believe that it was already the final full day we had in Iceland. We didn’t have too much scheduled for the day, as we wanted to make sure we had time to relax a little bit in Reykjavik and prepare for our flights the next morning.

Kirkjufellsfoss

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Game of Thrones fans won’t want to miss out on a stop to Kirkjufellsfoss, or “Church Mountain Falls.” While the falls themselves aren’t that impressive, the uniquely shaped Kirkjufell mountain in combination with the falls makes for quite a pretty picture.

The falls and mountain have been featured in a couple of Game of Thrones episodes, and it is crazy to think a mountain like this exists in real life!

I was really happy we drove a couple of extra hours to fit this stop in, but if you aren’t a huge fan of Game of Thrones or are running behind on your itinerary, you can shave off about 2 hours from your drive back to Reykjavik by skipping this location.

Back to Reykjavik

We then proceeded to drive another 2 hours back to Reykjavik before checking into Campsite Reykjavik.

At this point, we were both pretty exhausted from our jam-packed road trip but had completely fallen in love with Iceland.

That night we enjoyed a cooked meal-pasta-and reflected on all of the amazing things we had seen and done in just 6 short days.

From hidden hot springs and gigantic glaciers to the seemingly endless waterfalls situated in surreal landscapes, there was something new and exciting to explore with each bend in the road.

From our first hours spent swimming in the Blue Lagoon, I had a feeling that our trip was going to be special. As we sat cozied up drinking tea at the campground, I knew it would be an adventure we would never forget.

And, by some miracle, as we headed back to our tent in the evening, the (finally!) clear skies revealed that Iceland had one final surprise for us-a chance to see the Northern Lights.

As we stared up at the sky, watching it light up various shades of green, we couldn’t think of a more perfect ending to an absolutely incredible trip.

 

Image: Giphy

Image: Giphy


After my 6 incredible days spent camping and road tripping around Iceland, I couldn’t recommend a trip more! Iceland is absolutely one of the most unique and special places that I have ever visited. It truly is a special place, and the sheer amount of natural beauty I encountered there in just a few days is astounding.

Which of these Iceland sites do you most want to visit (or what would you skip)?! Let me know what your favorite part of the itinerary is in the comments below!


Don’t forget to read 6 Unforgettable Days in Iceland: The Ultimate Ring Road Itinerary (Part I) for information about days 1-3 in Iceland!

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