If you’ve ever imagined what inter-planetary travel is like, imagine no more. All you have to do is book a plane ticket to Iceland, leave the capital city of Reykjavik and you’ll be transported to a whole new world.
Get your cameras ready. Bring along weatherproof gear. And be prepared for a spiritual awakening like no other in the Land of Fire and Ice.
Upon arrival at the airport, pick up your rental car and head into Reykjavik. We rented a 4×4 SUV from GO Car Rental. Prices for everything in Iceland are pretty steep but scrimping on a cheaper/ smaller car is something we definitely would recommend against. A sturdy 4×4 is safer in difficult weather conditions and will allow you to travel on more difficult roads.
We rented a Subaru XV from GoCarRental. If you were on board a long-haul flight like we were (SIN-DXB-LON-KEF), we recommend spending the first night in Reykjavik to rest and adjust to the new time zone. If your flight was a short one, skip to Day 2.
#HHWT Tip: You rarely need cash in Iceland as 99% of the merchants accept credit cards!
Spend some time in the city of Reykjavik. Visit Hallgrimskirkja – an iconic church of Iceland, designed after the basalt rock formations and mountains in the country.
Head on over to Mandi, a Muslim-owned café which offers middle-eastern fare. Pictured here is the “Mandi Mix” – tender lamb, juicy chicken and fluffy fish served with salad and rice.
#HHWT tip: Halal meat and chicken is not available outside of Reykjavik, so savour this meal!
Once you and your car are fueled up, leave Reykjavik and head towards Thingvellir National Park to take a walk in between the two tectonic plates of Earth.
Next, take a 25-minute drive down to Kerid – a crater lake that was formed as a result of volcanic activity, although it really looks like it was formed by the impact of a meteor.
Get back in the car and drive on down to your next accommodation. Ideally, you’d want to find a place near Vik, but not exactly in Vik! We stayed at Hvammbol Guesthouse for 2 nights which gave us easy access to plenty of attractions in South Iceland.
Remember we said that you’d want to leave Reykjavik? THIS IS PRECISELY WHY.
You can only see the aurora given 3 conditions: a clear night sky, good solar wind and a place without light pollution. While witnessing the northern lights is nothing short of a mind-blowing experience, the night can get pretty brutal in Iceland – think sub-zero temperatures coupled with really strong winds. Hvammbol Guesthouse’s perfect because all we needed to do was to step out into the porch to witness the aurora. And if it gets too cold, we could just head back in for heating.
#HHWT Tip: Head to en.vedur.is for a comprehensive forecast of the Aurora. We also downloaded the AuroraNow app to compliment the website.
Wake up bright and early and don’t sleep after Subuh (if you already do this on a daily basis, masyaAllah). Have a hearty breakfast because you’d be doing a 3.5km walk on gravel road (one-way) to the plane crash on Solheimasandur Beach.
We always sacrifice sleep for a good photo opportunity. And most of the time, we get rewarded by having the whole place to ourselves. Here’s proof:
Take the 3.5km walk back to your car (You forgot it was that long, didn’t you?). Drive back to your accommodation for lunch and prayers. Get ready to get wet (on the outside at least).
You’ll be visiting Skogafoss, Seljalandsfoss and Gljufrabui. Iceland is a country of many amazing waterfalls but these three are the most iconic and beautiful in our opinion.
The best part? You can get right up close with them!
Check out of your accommodation, and then it’s time to hit the beach. Yes, that’s right. The beach. IN WINTER.
In Reynisfjara, you’ll witness the roaring waves of the Atlantic. A quick word of caution: Do not get too close to the water. 2 tourists have drowned as a result of waves pulling them out to sea. (Not exactly the kind of beach you’d want to swim in)
And remember the church? This is what those basalt rocks look like.
Your second stop is the Dyrholaey lighthouse. Here you’ll get an overview of Iceland’s black sand beach and the Atlantic Ocean. The view is PHENOMENAL and every drone pilot’s dream come true.
Enjoy the drive to your next accommodation near Jokusarlon. You’ll be passing through the town of Vik, so you can stock up on supplies here.
We stayed 2 nights at this beautiful hotel – Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon. Definitely not for the budget conscious, but the interior and location are fantastic.
#HHWT Tip: Staying in an Airbnb or hostel is a lot more affordable but hotels have their perks too. Our favourite – wake up call when the northern lights are sighted by the hotel staff!
Head to bed early. A frozen adventure awaits the next day.
Drive out to Jokusarlon, the famous glacier lagoon. Meet up your ice cave guide, gear up, and get ready for an experience of a lifetime.
#HHWT Tip: Ice-caving can only be done in Winter. We booked our ice-caving adventure through Glacier Trips (glaciertrips.is) 3 months before our trip. Look for the “Adventurer’s Dream” – it’s more expensive than the other ice cave tours, but you’ll get the whole ice cave to yourselves.
Hike on Europe’s largest glacier for 3km (HIKE AGAIN?), then descend into its depths. Take as many photos as you want in the cave. You’ll have 1.5 hours to do it, in a cave that is approximately 400-meter long, with absolutely no one else except your tour group.
#HHWT Tip: If you have a drone, bring it along with you, you’ll get to fly it over the glacier with permission from your guide.
What goes up, must eventually come down, and in our case, we hiked back from where we started with our guide who brought us back to Jokusarlon and called it a day.
Choose to either go back to your accommodation to wash up and have a meal, or you could stay and take photos at Jokusarlon and Diamond beach. We chose the former and came back during sunset.
You’re probably exhausted right now, as were we. But if the Aurora forecast is good, summon whatever remaining energy you have left to step out of your accommodation and look to the heavens.
Once you’ve had your fill of pictures, head back to bed. Tomorrow will be another long day of driving.
Your destination today is East Iceland. This will be the longest drive you’ll be making, about 5 hours in total. So, try not to make unnecessary stops along the way.
The operative word here is “try”. Because you’ll find several obstacles along the way – horses and fresh fallen snow to name a few 😛
#HHWT Tip: That said, time management is crucial in Iceland and you may have to forgo some incredible viewpoints while driving. Driving after sunset can be dangerous in Iceland, especially with strong winds!
Arrive in Egilsstadir and stock up on groceries. Check into your accommodation near Egilsstadir. We booked ours through Airbnb. A cozy little cottage just 10 minutes away.
As night falls, check the aurora forecast again. We were really fortunate another dazzling light show appeared right above our heads for the third time.
Continue driving towards Akureyri.
Make your way towards Dettifoss – Europe’s largest and most powerful waterfall. Almost 200,000 L of water goes over the waterfall PER SECOND. It’ll be an easy 1km walk to the waterfall. You can only view it from afar, unlike the first 3 waterfalls we’ve seen so far. But it’s still beautiful nonetheless.
Stay on the ring road and you’ll eventually reach Namafjall where you can see Earth’s geothermal activity.
You’ll also want to make a stop at Godafoss (the waterfall of the gods), just before checking into your accommodation in Akureyri.
Spend the day (or two) in Akureyri. If you are looking to take a breather after 7 days of non-stop driving, Akureyri is the place for you. You could explore the town, or you could just spend the day resting. The reason why we decided to spent 2 nights in Akureyri was to turn things down a notch. Although in retrospect, we felt that we could have done without.
There’s one restaurant we’d recommend in this town, and that is Akureyri Fish & Chips. The restaurant is Muslim-friendly. It offers a full seafood menu, but we just went with the good old fish & chips.
Time to leave Akureyri, head towards Hvitserkur – an elephant looking rock formation off the Northwest coast of Iceland. Stop at any of the towns along the way to have lunch.
#HHWT Tip: Some petrol stations have seafood sandwiches, which is a quick option.
Arrive at Hvitserkur and marvel at this odd-looking rock. If the tide is low enough, you could walk out to it.
Drive to your next accommodation. We chose to spend the night at Hotel Laugarbakki, a boarding school turned hotel.
No rush here. You can leave at your own time as you’ll be heading back to Reykjavik.
Check into your accommodation and get ready for a trip to the picturesque Blue Lagoon.
#HHWT Tip: For hijabis; ensure that you attire is made of lycra. You will be required to take a shower with nothing on (there will be a frosted screen). You may be told by a female staff that your attire does not qualify as a swimsuit. Politely and firmly clarify that it is indeed a swimsuit then waltz right in. Watch the sun set as you wade in the warm waters of the lagoon.
Drive towards Kirkjufell and enjoy the Snaefellsness Peninsula. Or revisit any of the attractions that you may have missed in South Iceland due to bad weather earlier (especially the plane wreck).
Credit: Guide to Iceland
Bad weather prevented us from visiting this mountain and the peninsula, so we revisited the 3 waterfalls that we mentioned in Day 3.
Head back to your accommodation and shop for souvenirs in Reykjavik when you’re done. Hit the sack early if you can!
Get to the airport in good time. Drive safe and remember to take photos of the rental car from all sides (as evidence that the car was not damaged).
Board your plane. Watch the sun rise from your window seat and bid adieu to what is probably the most beautiful country on Earth.
As much as we tried to do justice to the raw beauty of Iceland through our photos, we feel that it must be seen in person. We hope that this little guide has inspired you to visit Iceland. If you’ve booked your ticket already, be prepared to experience beauty that is otherworldly and unparalleled.
TL;DR (Too long didn’t read)
Here’s a video version of this itinerary! : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTeamf_qPqo