There is something magical about landing on the mystical island country of Iceland. From the basaltic lava rock formations, that make you believe in fairytale trolls, to the highlands that feel like you just walked into Middle Earth, there is never a dull moment driving on Highway 1. During the summer months you get a little rain here and there, but you get nearly 20 hours daylight for all your outdoor activities! With so much to see and do I decided to start my Iceland story by doing a short stay in Reykjavik and a self-driving tour along the western side of the island.
Before I begin, I want to preface that I only booked one excursion before I went and did very minimal research just to even see if 3 days in Iceland could be enough to see anything at all. Let me tell you, for a tight budget and a lot of energy filled snacks, my days were filled to the brim with adventure! Waterfalls, active volcanoes, and even trying shark meat were just things that I happened upon. However, you are in luck because I have now done the first hand research for you. So here it is, your 3-day guide to self-driving western Iceland!
I started my first day by landing at the Keflavik Airport early in the morning so I could get a full day in. This airport is a quick 45-minute drive to the capital city of Reykjavik, however that was not where I went first. After picking up my rental car keys by the exit doors of the airport, I drove a short 15 minutes to the Blue Lagoon. As soon as I got to the Blue Lagoon I quickly changed the GPS on my phone to read as Kilometers instead of Miles, it makes a difference, I promise! The Blue Lagoon is one of the 25 wonders of the world. Even before you get to the lagoon, you begin to see the creamy blue color of the silica rich water in the creeks running alongside the road. Once inside the lagoon, the heat from the geothermal seawater loosened my tight muscles from the plane ride. A mud mask and a signature “krap” icee later, I was off to my next location.
I then began the 3-hour drive to Vik to see the black sand beach. More about that once we arrive there. Along the way I knew I would be on the road often, so I stopped at one of the many BONUS grocery stores all over the island. The one I stopped at was in Selfoss. These grocery stores will not have flat water or tap water. Tap water in Iceland is free and clean, so you can use any water fountain or sink to fill your water bottle if you prefer non-carbonated water. This set me back up to take Highway 1 south to Vik. The Black Sand Beach of Vik is beautifully settled in a valley that, once upon a time, was the outflow of an ancient volcano. This black lava rock has been beaten and broken by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean to create the sandy texture of the rocks. Be warned, if it’s raining, the rocks will stick to everything!
Once I got my fair share of rain and rock, I headed for the hotel in Reykjavik. Along the way I saw a billboard for a free glacier hike, I immediately took a right turn and headed for the Solheimajokull Glacier. A short 5-minute walk from the parking lot, you come up to a glacier lagoon that is at the mouth of the 11 km long glacier! 15 minutes down the road from the glacier is the picturesque Skogafoss waterfall! You can take pictures at the bottom of the glacier and waterfall or hike up to the top of the and glance from the overlooks at both locations! After staring at the waterfall for way too long, I decided to make the trek back to Reykjavik to check into my hotel and call it a night. For hotel details, contact me with my information at the bottom of the article.
Day two was met with a breakfast buffet and an eye-opening drive to the Snaefellsjokull Peninsula just north of Reykjavik. Once I got to the town of Borgarnes, I stopped at the gas station right off the road and then headed on Highway 54 to the Bjarnarhofn Shark Museum. One thing about the gas stations, you fill up your car and then go into the station to pay for the gas you just put in your car. Crazy right?! Once I finally arrived at the shark museum, I hoped out and took in the views! This place is a must see. You even get to try shark liver! I won’t tell you how it tastes, you’ll just have to try it for yourself. I continued along highway 54 and saw Kirkjufellsfoss, the Ondverdarnesviti Lighthouse, stopped at Saxholl Crater, the Black Church, and a few other hiking trails that I spotted on my drive. Made it back to Reykjavik and called in a night.
Day three was filled with whim and adventure! Remember that excursion I had talked about? That is what I did this morning. I went snorkeling between the continental plates! Yes, it was freezing and yes, we wore very unfashionable dry suits, but it was such a cool (pun intended) experience. Want to go on this excursion? I can book it for you! While I was there a sweet couple from Tennessee convinced me to cancel my plans of driving the inner island and heading three hours south to hike an active volcano! I asked no questions and was glad I didn’t, cause if I would have asked how long the hike was (4 miles round trip) I would not have gone. If you can’t do steep incline or long hikes, Geldingadalir Volcano is not the excursion for you. I recommend doing the Golden Circle drive, this was what was on my schedule to begin with. I did the hike, got to walk on freshly dried lava and even saw some molten lava! I am so glad I said yes to whim and went with my gut.
After the hike, I headed back to Reykjavik for an early evening. I got back to my hotel, got cleaned up and headed for the bar district. I parked in a parking garage (NOTE: the parking garage closes at midnight and your car will be locked in. Set an alarm on your phone to be back before then or you can’t get your car till 5am) and walked up and down at all the eye-catching murals and art-work on all the buildings, took some selfies and sat down at the Labowski Bar. An homage to the movie “The Big Labowski”. Their signature drink is a mule, so everything on the drink menu was based on that. After a few bar hops, I had to taxi back to my hotel, because I locked my car in the parking garage. Don’t be like me and be prepared!
All in all, this short self-drive around western Iceland was one that I highly recommend anyone doing if they have a few vacations days to spend. Interested in booking this trip? Contact me with the information below and I would be happy to help get you to my favorite destination thus far!
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