We left Reykjavik – capital of Iceland, in a rare warm afternoon of a Northern summer. Yellow faded fluttering sunshine as a wavy line comforted 2 lighthouses, which were also dressed in bright yellow on both sides of the harbor.
A little nervous and excited about returning, having soft beds, warm water and, especially, a good roof over our heads, since after 17 days in Iceland (2 weeks of the trip) we became accustomed to backpacking lifestyle – we were free like Iceland sheep wandering around, fighting with cold rain, sleeping roughly under a tent, which just wanted to be gone with the wind sometimes.
ICELAND: 2-WEEK BACKPACKING ITINERARY
More than 7 months ago, on a winter day, a longtime friend from Facebook suddenly texted me asking: “Do you guys want to visit Iceland with me?”. So we hit the road next summer…
At Reykjavik, it was not sunny in the days when I arrived there. The sea-breeze, swinging grey clouds back and forth right over my head, caused some spray-like rain, spring rain, but sometimes like summer heavy rain. Reykjavik was calm and peaceful, not hustle and bustle as in most other European cities, and that made me think about a melancholy girl sitting quietly and looking forward to the sea.
17 Days itinerary of wanders
For the 2 days that I stayed there, I just wandered around all the harbors, small streets, bars, ice-cream pots, bookstores, and some backpacking outdoor equipment stores. On Friday afternoon, I hung around to see some music bands performing under drizzling rain.
My trip was started on Saturday morning, at the appointed time, right in front of the local travel agency, from whom we rented a car a few months ago. After that, it was easy for us to go, if we wanted to travel, we just traveled. An undetermined space appeared in my eyes, which made me ask myself 2 questions: “Where am I going to go and where am I going to sleep tonight?”
Day 1: Flight from Toulouse – Munich – Reykjavik
Day 2: Reykjavik – 2 bright pretty nice blocks, where sea-breeze through a tang of autumn into the summer air in July.
Day 3: Reykjavik – Þingvellir – Bruarfoss – Geyser (A, B, C, D)
Day 4: Gullfoss – Hjalparfoss – Háifoss (4×4 compulsory) – Landmannalaugar (4×4 compulsory) (E, F, G)
Day 5: Landmannalaugar, Seljalandsfoss (G, H)
Day 6: Vestmann Island
Day 7: Skógafoss, Vik (I)
Day 8: Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, Nupsstathur Farm, Skaftafell(Svartifoss) (J, K)
Day 9: Glacier Walk, Fjallsalon, Jökulsárlón (K, L)
Day 10: Hofn, Hoffelsjokull, Western Gulf (M, N)
Day 11: Seythisfjorthur, Desstifoss, Hvenrir (O, P, Q)
Day 12: Krafla, Grjotagja, Godafoss(R, S)
Day 13: Akureyri, Glaubaer Farm, Vatnsnes, Hvítserkur (T, U)
Day 14: Hraunfossar, Husafell (V)
Day 15: Vatnsnes, Anastasi, Snaefell (W, X)
Day 16: Snaefell, Kirkjufell (Y)
Day 17: Reykjavik (A)
- 1 € =132 ISK (1000 ISK = $8.1)
- Flight: 322€/person
- Transportation: divided for each person: rented car 4×4: 500 €/person (2000€/a car/14 days), petrol 110€ (about 190 ISK/ little), 73€ (ship, taxi, bus)
- Accommodation: Airbnb 100€/2 people a room/ a public bathroom, camping 10€/person/night, Guesthouse about 140 rooms/4 people/night
- Eating and drinking: at restaurant 30-50€/ person/ 1 meal
- The expense of 4 people in 17 days: 1773€/person, total km on road: 2765km 3 nights at Airbnb, 1-night Guesthouse and 13 nights camping.
Read more: Cost of living in Iceland
When is a good time to visit Iceland?
The answer to this question depends on what you want to see there. Some active volcanoes and cold winters make Iceland a haven for traveling throughout the country not only in winter but also in summer.
If you go to Iceland to climb mountains, seeing whales and Puffin birds and explore volcanoes you should visit the country in the summer, from June to September. Discovering some unique volcanoes located at the center of the island you would find that some of them are like heaven and some are like hell.
The F road, used for racing cars, was just opened in this period. Personally, visiting Iceland at this time is perfect, the number of tourists is not high and the weather is not cold. We still can pitch the tent to cut expenses (or costs).
At the end of September, you can see Aurora, if you are lucky enough. July and August are considered the 2 most beautiful times of the year, but too many visitors will reduce the charming beauty of this land. The meaning of “a good time” is just relatively. I stayed there for 17 July days and met only 3 sunny days, and the temperature was only about 5 to 15°C.
If you want to see Aurora, go to ice caves; you should go there in winter, from October to March. It is supposed that you should go in October to see Aurora. The climate in Iceland is unpredictable. A bright day can easily be changed by a sudden downpour and a stormy wind.
A suggestion of 4-day itinerary in Iceland
- Day 1: Reykjavik – Þingvellir – Bruarfoss – Geyser (A, B, C, D)
- Day 2: Gullfoss, Vik, Black Sand Beach, Dyrholaey (E, between I and J)
- Day 3: Skaftafell (Svartifoss), Glacier Walk (K)
- Day 4: Fjallsalon, Jökulsárlón, go back Reykjavik (L, A)
A suggestion of 7-day itinerary at Iceland in summer
- Day 1: Reykjavik, Þingvellir, Bruarfoss, Geyser (A, B, C, D)
- Day 2: Gullfoss, Háifoss, Landmannalaugar (E, F, G)
- Day 3: Landmannalaugar (G)
- Day 4: Landmannalaugar, Seljalandsfoss (G, H)
- Day 5: Skógafoss, Vik, Black Sand Beach, Dyrholaey (I, between I and J)
- Day 6: Skaftafell (Svartifoss), Glacier Walk (K)
- Day 7: Fjallsalon, Jökulsárlón, go back Reykjavik (L, A)
We flight from Toulouse to Reykjavik (Munich transit). Booking airplane tickets 6 months in advance: 320€/round trip. It is cheaper to buy tickets from cheap-price Airlines, for example, WOW airline and Transavia than booking flight from other big European cities that has straight flights. The ticket price Paris- Reykjavik sometimes was just around 100€/ round trip.
Tips: Icelandair Airlines has a “Stopover” ticket among Europe, Iceland, and North America. You can buy a ticket from Europe to the US or Canada and stop at Iceland for a maximum of 7 days at a reasonable price.
Going by a ship, not the way we went to Iceland, is interesting. You can drive to Hirtshals – Denmark. Then have a ship to Seyðisfjörður – a small lovely city located in Western Northern Iceland (transit at Faroe Island – Denmark). The popular price is from 300€/round trip/person (bed car and a 4-bed room not included) to the most luxurious price 1200€/round trip/person (a big car and a twin VIP room included). The trip on the sea lasts around 50 to 60hrs, that sounds weird, but if you want to stay in Iceland for a long time and travel by private car there, this is the most economical choice.
From Airport to Reykjavik
There are 3 types of buses running at all hours of the day or night from Keflavik Airport to the center of Reykjavik about 45 minutes, 1 hour after a plane lands. The bus takes each group to a hotel, the campsite area in the city. If you are at Airbnb, search hotels in the vicinity of you and request the driver to take you there.
The difference between the prices of each bus company is probably too small to be significant, about 3000 ISK/1 way (=23 €), 6000 ISK/ round trip. You can buy a ticket on websites of bus companies or you can buy a ticket directly at the box office near the airport. Please be noted, if you buy tickets on websites, you still have to go to the box office to present, and they will provide your destination to the driver.
Examples of 2 bus companies:
Read more: Bus Companies in Iceland
Like at other airports, you can catch a taxi, but it is not cheap, from 125€/taxi
Moving in Iceland
The roads in Iceland seem to like to be born for roundtrip. The high way No. 1, as the name of it, Ring road, surrounds the island in 1 round, 1330km in length, through biggest cities with famous tourist attractions.
Cars are transportation means that help you control your time. You do not need to rent a 4 seat car if you plan to visit tourist points on the Ring Road. The price of renting a 4 seat car is much more 1.5 times to twice more than renting a normal tourist car. In the 14 days itinerary above, we just had to travel by 4 seat car when going to Háifoss and Landmannalaugar.
3 Points need to be noted when driving at Iceland that the car owner advised us:
- Be careful when crossing over rivers. The road to the center of Iceland is difficult to drive on. Some pieces of road are needed to be crossed over some rivers. If the car was stuck at the river or broken, you need to pay the fee for repairing.
- Hold the door of the car when it is windy. Sea-breeze is so strong that jerk the door open. Every time you go out of the car, always say a magic spell: “’ Hold the door!”
- Driving to Landmannalaugar. Landmannalaugar is a must-go destination for people who like to go trekking. You should go on the road F208 from Gjiains because you don’t need to cross over rivers.
This is not the vehicle we chose to use for that trip, but it is a good way to explore Iceland. From June to September, buses arrive and take passengers to the center of the city every 30 minutes.
In the camping, I met a lot of youngsters going around Iceland by bike. Terrain climate makes Iceland an ideal place to challenge your selves.
Eating at Iceland
Like other places, we have 2 options: cooking by ourselves or going to the restaurant. It is not cheap, if we dine out, about 30-50€/person.
A supermarket, it is not as cheap as at other places (twice more than the same one at Paris’s supermarket). Two favorite supermarkets are Netto and Bonus.
Fruits are not fresh, canned food is poor. Most of the food in Iceland is some kind of fish and canned fruit, bread with a short expiry date.
Beer and liquor, just sold at some government stores, which can be closed the whole day, are expensive. You should buy them at some stores at the airport if necessary.
Some good restaurants in Iceland
- Hofn: Pakkhus restaurant or Humarhöfnin Veitingahús restaurant. These two restaurants are located in the Hofn Habour. The hotel owner advised us to eat there and insist that it is the best restaurant in the area. It is warm and well-decorated. Humarhöfnin has the specialty – shrimp. I like shrimp pizza there, lamb is also delicious.
- Grundarfjörður: Bjargarsteinn Mathús having a wonderful view; guests can look a whole view of Kirkjufell, with a lovely Northern style decoration.
Sleeping at Iceland
Iceland has the most expensive hotel price that I have ever seen. At the rush point, the cheapest hotel price is from 130€ /night/twin. Apart from hotels, you can choose other options as below:
Price about 10€/night/person.
Advantage: Do not need to book in advance, very active
Disadvantage: Bulky. Wet and cold if meet inclement weather.
Price about 30€/bed.
Advantage: Cheap, don’t have to sleep in cold weather as sleeping in a tent.
Disadvantage: Have to reserve before.
Guesthouse and Airbnb
Advantage: can have a shower, cook and wash clothes, warm bad and convenient accommodation.
Disadvantage: Rarely have Guesthouse and Airbnb in the big city, have to book for months before.
Camping-car or pickup truck
Advantage: active, mobile. Fridge and stove inside included
Disadvantage: Cannot go to F road in the highland
Read more: Travel Iceland in Style with Kúkú Campers!
What to bring during trekking?
- Warm clothes (regardless of summer), waterproof clothing, heat-tech long-sleeved top. You should not bring jeans or cotton pants.
- Waterproof trekking shoes, a pair of high boot to go through ice river (compulsory), low – necked shoes to wear when going on a short trek or driving.
- A well-qualified tent that can stand at the inclement weather. We had 2 tents of the North Face, Mountain 25 submits and Talus 2, both have pros and cons but they are still good.
- Air mattresses are necessary for us to sleep at the cold wet glass. We used Forclaz A200UL L Quechua, tiny and light (730gram, 16x25cm when being rolled and 180x50cm when being stretched out.
- Sleeping bag at the degree 0°C. We used Forclaz 0 Light, Quechua that can be coupled. The disadvantage is heavy and bulky.
- A mini stove.
- Aluminum pan, dishes, spoons and forks, knives.
- Moisturizer and sun cream
- Garbage bag
- Dried or canned food(3kg/person)
- Cigar lighter 220V to charge phones
- If you go in summer, do not need to bring lighters because the sky is bright all the time.