tl;dr: spend 8 days in Iceland with friends, here are the pictures : https://flic.kr/s/aHskYQ7RPW (taken with a Galaxy S7) and the itinerary : https://drive.google.com/open?id=18uWnQ0053LtnbjZp0X09FcjU7eY&usp=sharing -- (some of things were dropped, others added, but it's 90% accurate) ; Thanks flagamuffin for the tips you gave me!
We decided to go to Iceland. I mean, it looks amazing, so obviously if you got an opportunity to go there, you would. Is it though? Amazing? Yes.
Who is we? 4 guys, mid-twenties, French, with a low-budget. Let’s get this straight: Iceland is expensive. Really expensive. 5 euros for an espresso, 10 euros (11.35$) for a beer.
First things first, we decided to book tickets from WOW Air, an Icelandic company, from May 25th to June 3rd. We chose to add 2 cabin baggage and one checked baggage for the 4 of us to bring our stuff: it worked great.
The second and third questions that came, were, where do you sleep and how do you travel in Iceland? Well, the answer was simple: we rented a car! A Renault Kadjar (4x4) from Blue Car Rental. We slept 8 nights there and, while a bit tiresome, we were able to save significant money and explore way more than your typical trip.
This was our journey:
May 25th -- 26th Day 1
Our plane was leaving Paris on May 25th at 10 pm. We arrived near midnight in Keflavík (4 hours travel time, -2 due to time zone). We went to pick up our car at 00:30, we drove to Blue Lagoon and slept in their parking lot: our entrance ticket was at 07:00. Slept 6 hours, woke up, spent 4-5 hours in Blue Lagoon. It’s a geothermal spa that looks really great, and we spend a really great time there. It’s quite expensive though (50€ -- 57$ per person). From there, we decided to drive to Reykjavik, we stopped at a Bonus on the way (name of a cheap –but it’s Iceland so it’s still really expensive-- supermarket). We went to eat a soup at a restaurant called Svarta Kaffid (it was really good: it’s like in San Francisco with bread bowl, but instead of fish it was meat). Once our stomach was doing good, we drove to Þingvellir national park where we did a short trail to see Lögberg and Öxarárfoss. We continued to drive, stopped, walked 40 minutes to see Bruarfoss Waterfall, went back. You can get really close to this waterfall which was nice, but it was less impressive than others. From there, we went to see Strokkur Geysir, Geysir (which gave the name to the word), and Gullfoss Falls. The sky was not good, but the places were amazing. We continued to see a Crater called Kerið with vivid colours. Finally, we drove to Seljalandsfoss and slept there, in the car, with the waterfall in front of us. There wasn’t much noise.
May 27th Day 2
Woke up early (2nd night to sleep in the car, we weren’t familiar with the conditions yet), visited Seljalandsfoss (great waterfall), and her sister Gljúfrabúi which also deserves to be seen. We drove a bit, parked our car, and went to Seljavallalaug which is a fantastic pool you discover after wandering 10-15 minutes through the mountains. The surrounding is fantastic and the water is nice. There is no shower, so it can be a bit dirty, but it’s ok. We spend a few hours there. We fell in love with Icelandic hot pools. Drove to Skógafoss, went to the top of the waterfall. This one deserves to be seen. Not far from there is Kvernufoss Falls, her sister, which doesn’t get half the praise of Skógafoss but we found it to be even more lovely. We were alone there, we had to jump over a fence to see it (seems to be legal though). On the way back to our car we came across some people who also went there. At that point, it was around 12, so we drove to Vik and went to eat at restaurant called Halldorskaffi, which was also great. After eating, we went to Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, Dryholaus, and Dyrhólaey. The black sand beach and Dyrhólaey are worth doing, Dryholaus is a small cave which can give you a nice photo, but other than that it wasn’t particularly impressive, worth doing If you have a blue sky. From there, we drove back to the parking lot of Solheimasandur Plane Wreck and walked 45 mins to see the wrecked DC-3 plane. The surroundings are great because there is absolutely nothing. A lot of people visit this spot though, it can be a bit crowded. After this, we drove to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon and walked along the path, it’s a beautiful canyon. We ate at the end of the path at 10 pm. There is no night during this period in Iceland, which is quite weird to experience, but amazing if you want to enjoy your time fully. We drove a bit and slept in a spot near Road 1.
May 28th Day 3
Hike day! We went to Skaftafell National Park, we did the trail which included Svartifoss and Sjonarnipa, and from there we continued on the S3 trail. We tried to reach Kristinartindar (S4 trail), but we saw on the trail that it was very dangerous – way too much ice. So we decided to go back and follow the S3 trail from one end to the other. I think we did it between 6 and 8 hours, I don’t remember exactly, but it was definitely a really great hike and one of the highlights of these 200 hours. After this, we went to see Svínafellsjökull Glacier up-close, that’s where a scene from Interstellar was done; it was also really nice. From there, we went to Fjallsárlón Glacial Lagoon and Jökulsárlón Ice Beach: both amazing and deserving their visit. We drove a bit, and around midnight was when the clouds decided to leave the sky, it was beautiful.
May 29th Day 4
We drove a bit and stopped at a Cafe in Egilsstadir called Salt Café & Bistro, which was nice. Then, we drove all the way to Selfoss and Dettifoss Waterfall, in the north of Iceland. These two were great waterfalls. You can get really close to Selfoss if you are a bit adventurous, but be careful. We also went to see Krafla Crater. After that, we decided to try Myvatn Nature Baths near 6pm, which was really great: it closes at midnight in summertime, we spent a few hours there. From there, we wanted to visit the famous cave from Game of Thrones where John Snow discovers adulthood, so we went there. It’s called Grjótagjá cave, we wanted to swim there, but the water was really hot (50°C – 122°F) so it was a no-go. Not far from there was another hot spring caves called Stóragjá, which is a bit hidden – you have to find steal stairs that goes down, and then you continue a few meters and there is an entrance with a rope on your left which can be used to go safely in the hot spring cave. We went there, the water was ok. Not cold, not really hot, but it was a fun experience. The cave was nice even if we didn’t see much as light was quite low. After searching Google, it seems that Grjótagjá and Stóragjá are not safe spot to bathe, as there might be the presence of e-coli bacteria. 3 of us bathed in Stóragjá for a short time (about 10 mins) and were not affected. I don’t know how true/scientific these claims are.
May 30th Day 5
We visited Dimmuborgir, a lava-field, which was nice but a bit disappointing compared to other Icelandic-landscape. Still worth doing if you are in the area. After this, we went to Namaskard, and to the top of Mt Namafjall. I’ve never seen so much wind. The colors were amazing. We drove to Goðafoss Waterfall and then to Aldeyjarfoss (this one is a long way out but really beautiful). Then, we drove all the way to Osar and tried to see some seals: we saw them in the water, and then we walked to Hvitserkur, along the beach. We drove to the Fjords.
May 31th Day 6
Fjords Day! We drove, drove and drove around the fjords. For the first time, blue sky was there, which was quite nice. It’s a real pleasure to drive around the fjords. We did a short stop at a Vinbudin store (there are dedicated liquor store in Iceland: you can’t buy what you want everywhere and the opening hours are quite restricted) and went to Látrabjarg (the westernmost point of Europe) to see some Puffin. We were able to take some great pictures of them. We walked along the cliffs and there were a lot of birds, it was a nice moment. Then, we went to see Garðar BA 64, an abandoned steel ship and continued the journey to see Fjallfoss. Drove a bit to find a little hot spring called Hellulaug. After meeting with 4 other French guys there, we had the spot to ourselves and beers. It was 2 am. At 3 am, an Icelandic woman from nowhere joined us. She stayed around an hour. At 5 am, we went to sleep. Hot springs are amazing.
June 1st Day 7
We drove to Kirkjufellsfoss, in the Snæfellsnes peninsula. We woke up quite late as you can imagine, so we did a short version of our plan for this day. We went to Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge, it was amazing: you can enter quite deep in the gorge. At a moment, you will face a rope that you can climb to continue, but there is water around, you have to put your foot on a rock on the right (in the water, but you can see the rock) to help you get to the rope and climb it. Then we went to Ytri Tunga Beach to do some seals-watching. From there, we tried to find a new hot spring from this website: http://hotpoticeland.com/ ; we tried Landbrotalaug but it was a bit weird: there was a hot spring but only 20 cms deep, so it was unusable, and a bit further, there was a little spot with hot water, quite deep, but you didn’t really know where the water was coming from and we were afraid to try it. We tried another one, called Sturlungalaug, near a Volcano, the water had a weird color and bubbles, so we didn’t try it either. The surrounding was amazing though. We drove a bit and slept.
June 2st -- 3rd Day 8
We went to eat at Reyklavik (to a Taco Bell -- I know, it's definitely not local, but I mean, we don't have Taco Bell in France and some of my friends never tried it and it's delicious so you will pardon me -- and it still cost 15$ per menu to give you an idea of Icelandic price), and went to Reykjadalur Hot Spring Trailhead. It’s a 45 mins’ trail between beautiful surroundings, and at the end, you have a nice hot spring! There were a lot of people, it was really nice to be able to bathe after doing the trail. We went back to Reyklavik and visited the city, Hallgrimskirkja, Harpa and Sólfarið being the main sights, it was a short visit. We did some souvenir-shopping along the way. And then, it was time to go back. We cleaned the car and returned it at midnight, and waited at the airport till 6 am, when our plane took off.
Overall, the sky was grey. But we had a great adventure! I would recommend it to anyone who loves nature.
If you want to see Ice Caves and Aurora Borealis, you must go during winter months
If you want to travel to Þórsmörk and Landmannalaugar to do some great hikes (we weren’t able to because the roads were closed), you must go during end of June – July – August.