Updated: Jul 20
Iceland. The land of fire and Ice. Where do I even begin? It has been one of my most requested itineraries. It was also my first solo trip. I did a lot of research before settling on Iceland for my first vacation alone. I was most drawn to it due to it's naturally diverse landscape - from massive icebergs, to towering waterfalls to bubbling lava, this is simply the most stunningly beautiful country I have been to so far.
I visited Iceland in June, nearly 2 years ago...since then just one other country has even come close to replacing this place as my most favorite country of all time. When I visited in 2017, this place was just starting to get on the "tourist" radar. Now, of course, there are over a gazillion itineraries on the internet. What I am doing here is giving you a guide for everything I covered during my 6 day trip.
I don't drive, so this itinerary will help big time if you are a) traveling solo and b) looking to avoid driving for some reason. I did all my trips with Extreme Iceland. They were professional, shared lots of information about the country, were on time - and, most importantly, all their tours included pick up and drop off at the hostel.
P.S. I clicked around 500 pictures during my trip but I lost almost all of them when I was transferring some data a while back. These are all mostly phone pictures..
FIRST TIMER'S ITINERARY One day in the Reykjavik area
Golden Circle (Geysir, Gullfoss. Pingvelir. Kerio, Hverageroi) South Iceland (Vik, Black Sand Beaches)
Western Peninsula (Snaefellsnes).
Skogafoss, Seljalandsfoss Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. Diamond Beach. Optional - Blue lagoon
TABLE OF CONTENTS
FLIGHTS + VISA
I traveled by Qatar Airways (literally just a week before all the trouble with our country began) - definitely one of my favorite airlines. I flew into Denmark and then flew with WOW Air into Iceland.
Schengen Visa required for entry into Iceland. There was no immigration as such since I flew in from Copenhagen. Just walked right out with my trek bag.
WHEN TO VISIT I have been asked if it’s worth visiting Iceland in summer. Iceland is one of those places that you can visit all year round. I went in June and was welcomed by fantastic weather, lush green mountain, crystal clear waterfalls and acres of lupine meadows. It was beautiful and dramatic at the same time. Iceland is unique, and it will definitely surprise you. Iceland is magical any time of the year. Pack your bags. Just go!
The official language spoken in the country is Icelandic but almost everyone I encountered was fluent in English.
Travel and Medical Insurance is mandatory to travel to all Schengen countries. Currency is Icelandic Krona.
WHERE I STAYED
I stayed at the Bus Hostel in Reykjavík. Shared with 3 other travelers. They have the most amazing views of the alps from their hostel. This is where you can pick up breakfast and coffee in the AM. The hostel was comfortable enough with a shared kitchen and bathrooms. The bathroom was spacious, which was a pleasant surprise.
COSTS + GETTING AROUND IF YOU DON'T DRIVE
When I booked my tickets with WOW Air, I also booked a bus shuttle from the airport to and from the hostel. They picked me up right outside the airport. On my way back to the airport, I called to confirm the pick time from the hostel. Since I went in the summer, I enjoyed walking in the city. I also decided to do tours every day, all my trips outside the city were included in the package. That being said, Iceland is expensive - I spent 8 EUR for a tiny cup of coffee!
SOLO TRAVEL + SAFETY
One of the best places in Europe and probably the world for a solo trip. I was alone throughout my trip. One of the safest countries I have ever been to.
VEGAN + VEGETARIAN FOOD
There was not a lot of decent vegetarian food available (but I already expected this). I carried ready-to-eat oatmeal, noodles/pasta, granola bars on my trip. Used the hostel kitchen to cook myself a meal at night. During the day, I managed with juices, coffee and light sandwiches. Either way, good food IS expensive, so carry food IF you are looking to save.
IF TRAVELING IN THE SUMMER, WHAT TO PACK?
Even the summers here can be unpredictable. I got lucky with absolutely no rain. You should still pack waterproof jackets and pants. A thick fall jacket and a beanie, if you are camping. Good trek shoes. Pro tip: Pack an eye mask (I always carry one with me anyway), you will need it. It's bright out throughout the day (hello, midnight sun). Your body cycle will definitely get affected. Camera - DSLR, phone and tripod. I had so much fun clicking my own pictures.
Unfortunately I lost all my pictures from here but here are some of the places I covered by hitching a ride with fellow hostel mates.. Hallgrimskirkja Church Harpa - concert hall Maritime museum Perlan and Tjornin at the city center
My second day in Iceland was spent exploring West Iceland or the Snaefellsenes Peninsula. What I covered during the day: Ytri-Tunga Beach Unlike most beaches in Iceland, this beach has golden sand and not black sand. This is also the best place to find seals..
Snæfellsjökull National Park The National Park is close to the glacier Vatnshellir and was the setting Jules Verne chose for the start of his famous adventure.
An iconic landmark in West Iceland with uniquely shaped structures that are actually the remains of a volcanic crater eroded by the sea. If you are up for a hike, drive to Malariff and take a 1 hour walk from there.
After a small hike in the Arnarstapi village, came across this incredibly beautiful arc - pretty much the highlight of this place. It was straight out of a Tolkien novel.
The Djúpalónssandur beach is different compared to the other beaches on the Southern Peninsula because it’s filled with lava pebbles. This place has an eerie vibe to it. I spent an hour walking along the beach but I wish I had the time to stay longer. This is also where I got to see for myself how cold the Atlantic Ocean is in June.
Kirkjufell Mountain and falls
Our last stop for this mountain that I still can't get over being so close to. You might have seen tons of pictures during the winter but believe me, nothing can compare to seeing it during the summer.
THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
If it is your first time in the country, you have to do this to get a sense of the crazy diverse landscape this country offers.
The Kerið Volcanic Crater
This crater has red volcanic slopes and is nearly 3,000 year old. As a result of minerals from the volcanic soil, the water is a unique and strikingly vivid aquamarine shade of blue.
Geysir geothermal area Strokkur geyser, which spouts every five minutes or so and projects steaming water. We had a mini break here for lunch. I spent some time exploring the area around the Geothermal park.
Gullfoss or The Golden Waterfall Gullfoss, meaning "golden waterfall," is a massive waterfall on the river Hvita in western Iceland. The name is inspired by the phenomenon when glacial sediment in the water turns the falls golden in the sunlight. The water plunges 105 feet in two steps over a deep, dramatic crevasse in the river valley. As I climbed up, I was able to hear the falls well before I could see the wild, tumbling water.
On the way back from Gullfoss, stopped by the beautiful Faxi waterfall, which is in the river Tungufljot..
Icelandic horses Of course, I had to spot these cuties on our drive back to the city.. they are just like their country of origin - little but oh so fierce. They are smallish horses and are more like ponies.
Another 9 a.m. pick up - today we were going to be driving to the two most photographed falls in all of Iceland. Keep in mind that there’s an overwhelming amount of waterfalls, valleys, coastal retreats and more that months could be spent exploring them all; an amazing feat if you stop to think about it.
Fact: I think we all have a certain level of skepticism whenever we see stunning photos online or in calendars and books. In Iceland there’s no need for photo editing – it really is that gorgeous.
Seljalandsfoss One of the most popular falls in Iceland. Classic from the front, the 60 meter drop reveals a magical sight when you walk behind. Get ready to get soaking wet as you wait for the right moment to take that one perfect photo.
Skogafoss Next stop was the Skogafoss Waterfall. This is also 60 m in height and is one of the most amazing sights I have come across.
P.S. don't miss the double rainbow!
For lunch, we stopped near the Vik area, Iceland's southernmost village facing the Atlantic Ocean. What I loved most about this place were these lupines - they were in full bloom and were visible almost everywhere. We then drove to the mind blowing black sand beach in Vik with surreal basalt column formations and these magnificent Reynisdrangar sea stacks.
On the way to Jokulsarlon, I saw enormous devastated areas of sandy plains covered with green moss. Not all effects of glaciation take place over thousands of years.
Pro Tip: take a small walk through the Skaftarhreppur as you drive up to Jokulsarlon.
At around 6, we were ready to call it a day at a lodge near the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. Stay at a cozy cabin and dinner was provided as a part of the tour.
DIAMOND BEACH On the last day of the trip, we drove to the Diamond Beach (the main reason for my trip) In true Iceland form, the weather was cold and really windy even in summer BUT it was a clear day and the sunshine reflecting off of the glaciers on the beach was beyond beautiful. Our guide dropped us off to explore the area on our own for a few hours (honestly, I would have never left...)
I remember sitting here mesmerized at the way the glacial water gently lapped at black sand, and how the clouds appeared to be slicing the sky in two.
After lunch, we were ready for our Glacier Hike in the mighty Vatnajokull, the largest icecap in Europe. The hike was close to 3 hours. The hike was riddled with ice caves and sink holes. Blue Ice and Volcanic rocks appeared like a painting from another world.
I always pictured glaciers as big old blocks of ice floating in the middle of the ocean but Solheimajokull is a glacial tongue that is riddled with ice caves and sink holes. Blue ice and black volcanic rocks appeared like a painting from another world!
Lastly the Gljufrabul. This hidden waterfall in Iceland deserves so much more recognition. I was envisioning a 10 feet drop when I walked to the other side of this waterfall but I was welcomed by an almost 30 feet drop that was spectacular.
Pro tip: GET YOUR FEET WET. You can walk all the way through to the other side in knee high water to get closer to the waterfall - just be careful with your camera. I left mine with a friend to avoid getting it wet.
LAST DAY I spent the last day exploring the city and taking a sauna bath before my flight back to Copenhagen. In case you were wondering, yes I skipped the blue lagoon. I'm not a fan of pools no matter how colorful they are. If you wish you to do this, perhaps save it for the last day so you can unwind after a hectic trip.
FINAL THOUGHTS There are very few places that leave me with such vivid memories. Even after two years everything is as fresh as it was the day I visited. The afternoon glow, the “greener” than green moss, the fresh flowing water, the magical air.
This is a country where you will find surreal sights with every road bend. I took this trip all by myself - with complete strangers. On hindsight, I doubt I would have been as mesmerized by it had I gone with company. The landscape I saw all around me was beyond stunning and left me with goosebumps more often than not. When you’re in Iceland you just learn to appreciate the privilege you have to live on this beautiful planet.
I have always seen myself as a jungle person. The waterfalls, mountains, glaciers and pure beauty in you has me completely mesmerized. Thank for helping me find pieces of myself. Thank you the fantastic weather everyday. Forever grateful. Forever thankful. Till next time, I will be thinking of you, beautiful.
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