In September 2017 my mother and I completed a self drive tour circling the land of Fire and Ice with a dense 43-page itinerary that kept us on the move - often with 10-12 hour days - to see lots of iconic landmarks in a short period of time! Following a 7hr red eye flight to Keflavík we picked up our Kia Sportage (with built in GPS and additional Wi-FI router - these came in handy when navigating difficult locations!) and from there our adventure began! Landscapes ranged from epic sea cliffs with waterfalls or glacier tongues erupting from them seemingly every two minutes, to expansive rolling hill pastures, and moss covered rocky lava fields. We quickly realized N1 stations would be our best friends as they had petrol for the car, snacks, coffee, and friendly employees. Challenges arose with figuring out the order of destinations to navigate to in keeping up with the itinerary, and so as not to backtrack. Each night we would go over when we should wake up, visit Destination 1, when to leave Destination 1 to catch a tour at Destination 2, etc etc. Meanwhile I'd be offloading footage, charging different camera batteries, and posting daily summaries to Facebook. Overcoming these adventure travel challenges, however, let us experience a vast spread of Iceland, learn a lot of history, and meet wonderful people. Visiting in September had reduced crowds and surprisingly crisp weather; usually around 50°F in the day, with minimal rain and wind.
If you’ve been thinking of visiting Iceland I hope this helps solidify your decision - this place is life changing! We saw DOZENS of friends and young couples driving around in small “Happy Camper” vans spending the night wherever they could park. There were people like us following an itinerary and staying in hotels, and even many people backpack traveling and likely staying in hostels or AirBnB!
Huge thanks to all the tour companies and their excellent guides!
For travel information see resource links at bottom
The South Coast
• Descending 120m into the magma chamber of dormant Thrihnukagigur volcano on caving tour
• Walking behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall
• Relaxing in the Blue Lagoon geothermal hotspring
• Amphibian boat ride on Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon where James Bond car chase on ice was filmed!
• Diamond Beach and Reynisfjara black pebble beaches
• Glacier hike with crampons and ice axe on Sólheimajökull glacier
• Svínafellsjökull glacier tongue just outside window at Hótel Skaftafell
The Golden Circle
• Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park, where Icelandic parliament was founded in 930 AD, and a beautiful landscape where the tectonic plays of Europe and America meet
• The eruption of Strokkur the geyser at Geysir hot spring in Haukadalur valley
• Staying in Hótel Gullfoss, seeing aurora borealis for the first time and a sunrise visit to Gullfoss, the Golden Waterfall the next morning
In the East
• Driving through the East Fjords offered impressive cliffside views with scattered rock and grass encircled by seabirds above, endless dramatic light and shadow!
• Egilsstaðir, a nice town we spent a rainy night at a warm little restaurant with great pizza
In the North
• Standing at the edge of Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall and the filming location for the intro to the movie “Prometheus”!
• Driving around Lake Mývatn, a volcanic lake surrounded by moss covered rocks, and nearby tephra cone, Hverfjall
• Whale watching tour in Húsavík
• Turning 30 in Blönduós with beach sunset and aurora borealis
• Visiting Nyibaer turf house in Hólar
In the West
• Kirkjufell, the most photographed mountain in Iceland and nearby Kirkjufellfoss waterfall
• Driving the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Lóndrangar basalt pillars
• Staying in at Hotel Fransiskus, once a Catholic monastery turned hotel, in Stykkishólmur, near where a scene from “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” was filmed
• Hvítserkur basalt stack on beach that looks like a dragon drinking
• Walking inside Langjökull glacier on the Ice Tunnel tour
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Canon 16-35L + 70-200L
DJI Mavic Pro
Guide To Iceland (Overall 10-day self-drive trip itinerary)
Inside the Volcano (Thrihnukagigur magma chamber tour)
Troll Expeditions (Glacier hike on Sólheimajökull)
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon (Amphibian boat tour)
Into the Glacier (ice cave tour inside Langjökull)
Gentle Giants (Whale watching tour in Húsavík)
Iceland - 10 Days on the Ring Road
Check out the interactive map below to see where many of these spectacular sights were located!