Two-Week Iceland Itinerary
In late June/early July 2018, my husband and I went on a two-week road trip in Iceland, covering the Golden Circle, highlands, South Coast and the glacier lagoon. While we could’ve driven around the entire country on the Ring Road in two weeks, we opted to do less driving and spend a minimum of two days in each location, which proved wise. As I mentioned in a previous post, the weather in Iceland can be incredibly fickle.
Below is a list of all the places we visited on this trip, along with a map. If you want to visit waterfalls, glaciers and the mountains, use this two-week Iceland itinerary as your guide:
- Blue Lagoon, Grindavík
- Laugarvatn, with day trips to: Þingvellir National Park, Geysir and Gulfoss
- Hrauneyjar, with a day trip to Landmannalaugar
- Hvolsvöllur, with day trips to: Vik, Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss, Dyrhólaey, Reynisfjara and the Sólheimasandur plane crash
- Höfn, with day trips to Diamond Beach and Jökulsárlón
Related article: The Ultimate Iceland Packing List for All Seasons
Arrival Day & The Blue Lagoon:
Hotel Jazz, Keflavik for arrival night
Hotel price:: $234
Rental car price: $2,700 for a Subaru Forrester (included Premium Insurance package, which covers river crossings, sand and ash protection, etc)
Activities: Sleep (zzzz) and The Retreat Spa at the Blue Lagoon
Drive time from Hotel Jazz to the Blue Lagoon: 20 minutes
Drive time The Blue Lagoon to Laugarvatn: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Blue lagoon price: $235 per person
We arrived at 8pm and picked up our rental car from Lotus Car Rental, located just a short shuttle ride away from the airport and headed straight to the hotel to get some sleep. We stayed at Hotel Jazz on our first night and our last night due to it’s close location to the airport and it was relatively affordable compared to other options in Keflavik.
The next morning, we woke up early for our 8am reservation at the Retreat Spa at the Blue Lagoon, which is an exclusive area of the Blue Lagoon. For $235 per person, you get a separate entrance, private room with a shower, access to the spa’s retreat rooms (such as a fire room or water drop room), Blue Lagoon ritual and most importantly, access to the Retreat’s secluded lagoons, which was the primary reason for booking. The Retreat also offered several spa treatments but we opted to skip those in favor of spending more time inside the lagoon and the relaxation rooms.
Since the Retreat has a no-photo/phone policy (the staff can take your picture if you ask), I don’t have a ton of pictures from my experience but I highly recommend splurging if you can. I walked over to the regular section of the Blue Lagoon to see what it was like and it was insanely packed.
After our 4 hours were up, we ate lunch at the on-site restaurant, which was a little on the pricey side (as is all food in Iceland), but it was delicious.
Sidenote on food prices; I’m not including the prices because it was roughly the same every day. Breakfast was included in the cost of the accommodation, lunch was typically $50-60 for two (for hamburgers, fries and drinks) and dinner was typically $120. The exceptions were the days we ate gas station hotdogs for lunch and/or dinner, which averaged about $5.
After exploring the Blue Lagoon, it was time to drive to Laugarvatn, our base for exploring the Golden Circle. The drive is fairly short but fair warning: you’ll be so relaxed after The Blue Lagoon that you’ll probably be a little sleepy.
After check-in, we went on a walk but went to bed a little early due to jet lag.
Laugarvatn (The Golden Circle)
Hotel: Heradsskolinn Boutique Hostel in Laugarvatn for 2 nights
Hotel price: $173 per night, plus $20 service fee (double room with private bath)
Activities: Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, Gulfloss, Efstidalur II for ice cream (all free, minus the ice cream)
Food options: Quite a few restaurants to choose from in the Laugarvatn/Golden Circle area
Drive time from hotel to:
- Þingvellir National Park: 35 minutes
- Geysir: 25 minutes
- Gullfoss: 33 minutes
We woke up to rain pounding on the window, which is pretty typical in Iceland. Thankfully, we were well-prepared with water-proof gear and set off to explore. Our first stop was Þingvellir (pronounced Thingvellir). In additional to featuring a gorgeous waterfall and canyons, Thingvellir plays an important part in Icelandic history and culture. Iceland was settled in 874 and founded in 930 and Thingvellir was the place were laws were made, workers looked for jobs and important banquets were held.
Our first stop was Thingvellir’s only waterfall, Öxarárfoss, which just requires a short hike to reach. During the day, the waterfall was packed with tourists everywhere so we didn’t get a good view. Our trick to enjoying the waterfall in peace in quiet? We returned at 11pm later that evening and had the entire place to ourselves. This is a common theme throughout Iceland. If you want to avoid the crowds, you need to visit places at weird times. Thankfully in the summer, it never truly gets dark, even after the sun sets.
Other places we visited at Thingvellir included: Almannagja, the eastern boundary of the North American plate and Drekingarhylur, where women were drowned starting in the 16th century. We never made it to Thingvellir Church or Flosagjá, where you can snorkel between the North American and European plates.
After hiking around Thingvellir, we drove to Geysir for some lunch and to explore the geothermal pools. Geysir has a rest stop with a couple of restaurants inside as well as a gas station. We spent around an hour hiking around the area before eating lunch and then heading to Gullfoss.
Even though we arrived at Gullfoss in the middle of the day, we lucked out and managed to time our visit outside of the bus tours so it was pretty quiet. It was raining while we were there but even if it wasn’t, the spray from Gullfoss is so powerful that you’ll get wet regardless.
Kerlingarfjöll (The Highlands)
Hotel: Kerlingarfjöll Mountain Resort, 2 nights
Hotel price: $285 per night (for hotel room with private bath)
Drive time from Laugarvatn to Kerlingarfjöll: 3 hours, with plenty of stops
Activities: Hiking around the Kerlingarfjöll area (free)
Food options: Only one restaurant at the hotel
After spending two days exploring the Golden Circle, we made our way towards Kerlingarfjöll, stopping multiple times to enjoy the scenery. It’s important to keep in mind that Road 35 turns into F-35 shortly after Gullfoss and you must have approval from your rental car agency to drive on this road. You also need to check the status of the road you’re driving on here. If the road is closed, do not drive on it under any circumstances.
The road is a fairly standard gravel road and it’s pretty easy to drive, although it’s filled with a lot of potholes and we drove much slower than the speed limit. Keep in mind that you’ll usually be driving below the speed limit on F roads because they aren’t always in the greatest shape.
After turning on F-347 to head towards the resort, we came to our first river crossing of the trip. My husband is an experienced 4×4 off-road driver and we followed all of these safety tips before making the decision to cross, but it still nerve-wrecking. As we were measuring the depth of the river, a bus crossed, allowing us to see how deep the river is.
We rented a regular hotel room from Kerlingarfjöll, which was clean but fairly basic. The resort has an on-site restaurant although as a fair warning, the menu is pretty small and the food is even more expensive than the rest of Iceland. How expensive you ask? For one lunch, we purchased two sodas, two bowls of lamb soup, a piece of cake and a muffin and the total came to $90.
After checking in, we started hiking up a path near the hotel entrance. After hiking for 1.5 miles, the wind started to pick up and the weather changed quickly so we decided to turn around and head back. It was a wise decision, given that the winds eventually picked up to 50mph and that “moderate breeze” windstorm lasted for two days.
The next day, the wind was still gusting to 50mph and visibility deteriorated. Just behind the resort is a 4×4 road that takes you directly to the geothermal area in about 3 miles. We were hoping for better visibility up there but we couldn’t see anything. After finding the parking lot, we turned around and went back to the hotel.
The temperature continued to drop to around 25 F, with the wind chill around -15. At one point, there was a small break in the weather so we drove back to the geothermal area in an attempt to hike. Our attempt was foiled after the wind came back with such a force that I was worried we would be knocked off the trail. We got out of there asap.
Even though we couldn’t hike the geothermal area, we still enjoyed our summer blizzard in Iceland.
Hotel: The Highland Center, Hrauneyjar, 2 nights
Hotel price: $310 per night
Driving time from Kerlingarfjöll: 3 hours
Activities; Hiking around the Landmannalaugar area (free) and Háifoss waterfall
Food options; Only food is at the restaurant
To get to The Highland Center, our base for the next two nights, we had to backtrack on F35 for a bit but we didn’t mind since the scenery is gorgeous. We also got stuck in the most adorable traffic jam, surrounded by hundreds of horses everywhere.
We arrived at The Highland Center just in time for dinner so we relaxed in our room so that we could wake up early for our drive to Landmannalaugar.
The drive from the hotel took Landmannalaugar took an hour on F26 and 208 but we made a couple fo stops along the way, including Ljótipollur Lake, which I highly recommend you stop at. Once at Landmannalaugar, we purchased a hiking map from the information desk and proceeded to do an easy 3-4 hour loop, which ended up taking us closer to 6 hours because I kept stopping to take so many photos.
One note: I chose to stay in a hotel an hour away but you can rent a cabin or camp at Landmannlaugar.
On our way to the South coast, we stopped by Háifoss waterfall, which was the least crowded waterfall we saw in all of Iceland. Definitely worth a visit if you’re not scared of heights, since it’s also the second tallest waterfall in Iceland.
Hotel: UMI Hotel, Hvolsvöllur, 3 nights
Hotel price: $400 per night
Driving time from the Highland Center: 2 hours
Activities; Waterfalls (Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Gljufrabui), Sólheimasandur plane crash, Dyrhólaey (puffins and rock arch), Reynisfjara black sand beach, glaciers (Sólheimajökull and Mýrdalsjökull)
Food options: Delicious food at the hotel; several restaurant options in Vik (30 min away)
After two nights at the Highland Center, it was time to drive towards the South coast to explore waterfalls and black sand beaches. UMI Hotel was a bit of a splurge and it was so worth it. By far, the best breakfast spread in Iceland and an incredibly friendly owner.
The increase in tourist crowds was noticeable compared to the highlands. We spent our days exploring the waterfalls mentioned above, hiking in the area and relaxing. Unfortunately, we lost one full day of vacation dealing with tire issues. Thankfully, Lotus car rental brought a new car to our hotel so that we could continue our exploration.
If you’re here in the summer, I highly recommend you stay out late or visit the popular tourist attractions early in the morning.
Hotel: Hali Country Hotel, 2 nights
Hotel price: $340 per night
Driving time from UMI Hotel: 3 hours
Activities: Diamond Beach and Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, with a stop at Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon on the way (free)
Food options: Only food in the immediate area is at the hotelWe stayed at Hali Country Hotel the next couple of nights, which is a 10 minute drive away from the glacier lagoon, the closest lodging I could find. On the way to the glacier lagoon, we stopped at Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, which is now famous for being the filming location of a Justin Bieber music video. We spent some time walking along the canyon ridges before continuing our drive.The next day, we spent the entire time photography and admiring the glacier lagoon and diamond beach, two of my favorite locations in all of Iceland. We returned at 10pm and had the whole area to ourselves.
Hotel: Airbnb, 1 night
Hotel price: $300
Driving time glacier lagoon to Heimaey: 4 hours (includes 35 minute ferry crossing); note: You should book ferry tickets in advance here
Activities: Exploring the island (mainly watching puffins and hiking up a volcano)
Food options: Lots of food options on the island. Our favorite was the affordable Fiskibarinn
The island of Heimaey is worth visiting, even if it’s just a daytrip. While you don’t absolutely need a car on the island, I recommend bringing one if you’re visiting for a short time so that you can easily visit the puffin area (Storhofdi) and the volcanos. We had less than 24 hours on the island and felt like we saw all the main highlights, although we certainly could’ve stayed longer if we had more time.
Hotel: Hotel Jazz, Keflavik for 1 night
Hotel price: $230
Activities: None, other than packing up our stuff and eating dinner
Food options: Quite a few in Keflavik
Since we had to be at the airport at 5am, I opted to stay at Hotel Jazz again in Keflavik.
I hope that you find our two-week Iceland itinerary useful. Please keep in mind that this itinerary is only useful in the summer months since the highland roads close during the other seasons.
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