After booking round trip tickets from New York to Iceland, it was time for Ryan and I to begin planning our vacation. We had seven days, and no idea where to start. My initial thought was to drive the Ring Road and experience everything Iceland has to offer. However, after further research, I realized we would spend more time in the car than actually enjoying the land of Fire and Ice. Instead, we decided to drive the south coast of the island and experience as much as we could in this region. Not sure how to spend a week in Iceland? Keep reading!
Day 1: Blue Lagoon & Reykjavik
Our red-eye to Iceland landed at 6am. We picked up our rental car (be sure to buy all the insurance suggested as weather conditions in Iceland are constantly changing), and drove straight to the Blue Lagoon. Not far from Keflavik airport, the Blue Lagoon is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate before your epic Iceland adventure. While many will tell you this is a tourist trap, and there are better, quieter geothermal pools to check out, I firmly believe that if it’s your first time in Iceland, it’s a must-do. It’s like Times Square. If you’ve never been, you have to go at least once. After that, you can decide for yourself whether to visit again. The Blue Lagoon offers in-water beverages and silica face masks which we took full advantage of. After feeling fully relaxed, Ryan and I visited the spa’s restaurant, Lava, where we dined in our bathrobes, champagne in hand.
After recovering from our overnight flight we made our way into Reykjavik. Ryan and I checked into our hotel, wandered a bit around the city, and settled in for dinner at Kock for burgers and beer. We got to bed early that night as we wanted to start our Iceland road trip early the next morning.
Day 2: The Golden Circle & Hotel Ranga
The Golden Circle is a must-do in Iceland. Even if you’re only in the country for three days, the national parks and natural wonders found along the Golden Circle can be accomplished in just a day’s time. Our first stop on the Golden Circle was Þingvellir National Park, about a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik. This UNESCO World Heritage site plays a major part in Iceland’s history, and features stunning rock formations, waterfalls, lakes and the Silfra Fissure. This park will look familiar to fans of Game of Thrones as scenes from the HBO smash were filmed here.
The next stop on our Golden Circle journey was Brúarfoss Waterfall, which we stumbled upon by accident. After noticing a decent amount of cars in a parking lot on the side of the road, we decided to pull over. We learned there was a waterfall at this site, so we decided to make the trek. What we didn’t know, however, was that it would take us roughly an hour to hike there. We made our way through swampy paths, muddy trails, and took a couple of wrong turns, but eventually made it to Brúarfoss. Though the journey was slightly treacherous, it was well worth the reward. This was by far the most beautiful waterfall we saw on our adventure through southern Iceland. If you’re up for an exciting hike, I highly recommend making Brúarfoss part of your Golden Circle itinerary.
Continuing along the Golden Circle, we stopped at Geysir, which, compared to our previous stop at Brúarfoss was a bit disappointing, but still a must-do. The Geysir erupts roughly every 10-minutes and shoots scorching water over 200-feet in the air. After seeing this happen once, you’ll most likely be ready to continue exploring the Golden Circle. A few miles down the road is Gulfoss. This waterfall is quite impressive and falls in two different stages. There are a variety of paths available to take in the spectacular views of Gulfoss and it is quite easy to spend at least an hour wandering the grounds, taking in the natural beauty.
Instead of completing the Golden Circle in one day, we decided to visit the last two stops of the journey on our drive back to Reykjavik at the end of the week. Instead, we made our way to what would be one of the most magnificent hotels we have ever had the luxury of staying in. Located just outside Hella, Hotel Ranga is slightly off the beaten path and is the only four-star hotel in southern Iceland. Upon arriving at the log-cabin style resort, we were immediately swept off our feet by the panoramic scenery and the extraordinary interior design. After checking in and signing up for a Northern Lights wake-up call, we made our way past a towering 10-foot tall polar bear named Hrammur and continued on to our master suite which was nothing short of magical. The African-themed suite featured a magnificent balcony, bongo drums, wooden giraffes, African tapestries and a tub big enough for four. After settling in and exploring the resort, we made our way to dinner at the hotel’s acclaimed riverside restaurant. While we ate at countless gourmet eateries while in Iceland, Ryan insists none of them compare to the quality of food and service we experienced at Hotel Ranga’s restaurant. And I just might just agree with him! The resort, named one of the best Small Luxury Hotels of the World features 52 uniquely decorated rooms, a lounge and bar, meeting rooms, a game room, massage facilities, and three luxurious outdoor hot tubs heated with geothermal water.
Day 3: Journey to Vik
While I was reluctant to leave Hotel Ranga, it was time to continue our journey across southern Iceland. After after hugging and kissing every inch of the hotel goodbye, we hit the road and began the hour-long drive to Iceland’s small fishing village, Vik. Along the way we stopped by the Keldur Turf Houses, small sod-covered homes located on the ancient Keldur Farm.
We also stopped at Seljalandsfoss on our way to Vik. One of the best-known waterfalls in Iceland, Seljalandsfoss is over 200-feet tall and even on the cloudiest of days, is draw-droppingly beautiful. This waterfall is particularly unique as it gives visitors the opportunity to actually walk behind it. You might consider a raincoat as the mist from the waterfall is heavy enough to soak you to the core, but despite the potential of getting wet, the experience is worth every drop. I mean, how often do you get to walk behind a waterfall?!
We wasted no time exploring Vik after checking into our hotel. We started at Dyrhólaey, better known as The Arch with the Hole. This was definitely a cool site to stand before as we had seen it so many times in pictures and of course in Game of Thrones. The hit HBO series did a lot of filming in Vik, particularly at our next stop, Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, which was used to film scenes “North of the Wall.” This is an absolute must for visitors as they are overwhelmed by the basalt stacks, the gorgeous Atlantic waves, extraordinary views and interesting folklore. While there are many stories regarding the previously mentioned basalt columns, the one I like the most tells the tale of trolls who were on a mission to pull ships in from the ocean. However, the trolls worked too hard, went out too late in the night, and when dawn broke, the trolls turned to solid stone. Side note: A lot of Icelandic folklore mentions trolls freezing to stone.
We continued exploring Vik by driving up to the town’s church, high above sea level. While the church itself was quintessentially Icelandic, we really went there to take in the views of the village.
For dinner that night we ate at the highly recommended Sudur-Vik Restauraunt – Cafe – Bar. Known for the best pizza in Iceland, we had to give it a try! I started with the asparagus soup, which was delicious, and Ryan ate a burger which he was fully satisfied with. When it came to the pizza, however, I have to admit I was a bit shocked. Call me a cynical New Yorker, but if that’s the best pizza the country has to offer, I’d say avoid pizza in Iceland altogether. It’s not that I would call it bad, but it tasted more like Elio’s pizza, you know, the kind you find in the frozen section of the supermarket. Pizza aside, I would definitely recommend this quaint yet bustling restaurant to any visitor!
Day 4: Vik & Journey to Jokularson
Before continuing our journey out east, Ryan and I went horseback riding on Vik’s Black Sand Beach with Vik Horse Adventure. Icelandic horses are so beautiful, with manes that would make any hair aficionado seethe with jealousy. This adventure was a birthday gift from Ryan, who, by the way, is terrified of horses. He has no problem sitting atop a saddle-less wild elephant in Thailand, but when it comes to an animal a fraction of the size, he freaks. Regardless, I was so proud he pushed his fears aside and mounted his horse. A group of about 10 people took a stroll on the beach, the sun beaming on our faces as the Atlantic waves crashed on the shore. It was such a peaceful ride, allowing us the opportunity to breathe in that fresh Icelandic air and clear our minds as we trotted along. If given the opportunity to interact with Icelandic horses (many of which you will find on the side of the road), I highly recommend it!
After our grand horse adventure we packed our belongings and began the nearly two-hour drive to the Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon. Along the way we stopped at Fjaðrárgljúfur, a stunning canyon that runs over 650 feet deep and is over 6,500 feet long, with the Fjaðrá river flowing through it. This canyon, which dates back to the Ice Age, about two million years ago, features steep walls and winding water, giving any nature lover a sight to behold
Day 5: Vatnajökull National Park & Jökulsárlón
This was one of the most magical days in Iceland. We started the day with a glacier hike with Glacier Adventure. After meeting our tour group, of just four people, we collected our crampons, harnesses and ice picks and left for the Vatnajökull Glacier where we took an unforgettable journey on Breiðamerkurjökull. After arriving at the glacier, we hiked for about 20 minutes before hitting the ice. We took turns drinking water straight out of the ground and leaning into a 200-foot waterfall all while exploring the glacier’s incredible views and breathing in the kind of fresh air that is hard to find most places on earth.
After the glacier hike we drove to the area’s famous Glacier Lagoon. The lagoon looked straight out of a movie with its glorious crystal blue waters dotted with crisp white icebergs. We walked around the area, crossed the street to visit Diamond Beach and then began our road trip back through Vik to Umi Hotel where we settled in for the night after a day of exciting adventures.
Day 6: Journey to Reykjavik
On our journey back to Reykjavik, we stopped at Skógafoss, a waterfall situated on the Skógá River. Though we had already done a lot of hiking on this trip, the climb to the top of this waterfall left me out of breath. However, stopping half way up to take a hit from my inhaler was totally worth the view from the top. You might think that climbing to the top of waterfalls can get repetitive, but each one is beyond unique and the views are always worth the journey.
We finished our Golden Circle journey on the way back to Reykjavik with a stop at Kerid Crater. This volcanic crater is filled with aqua blue water and is surrounded by red volcanic rock. There is a small entrance fee at this natural wonder, but visitors can walk along the top of the crater and journey down to the bottom for a closer look.
After arriving in Reykjavik and checking in to our Airbnb, we hit the streets and began to explore. We ate lunch at the famed hotdog stand, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, definitely worth the long line, and continued our walkabout around the island’s largest city. We made our way to Hallgrímskirkja Church, the largest church in Iceland, and one of the tallest structures in the country. The house of worship offers an elevator to an observation deck with outstanding views of the entire city. For dinner that night, we went all out at Grillmarkaðurinn, one of Reykjavik’s best restaurants. And I have to say, it did not disappoint.
Day 7: Reykjavik and Journey Home
On our final day in Iceland, we only had a few hours before our flight back to New York. We spent the day exploring the shopping district, Laugavegur, the street our Airbnb was situated on. We did a bit of shopping ate crepes for lunch, and said our final goodbyes to the Land of Fire and Ice.
Shop My Iceland Looks Below:
Any questions on how to spend seven days in Iceland? Drop them in the comments below!
This post is sponsored in part by third party affiliates, as always all opinions are my own.