Iceland in 5 days

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ICELAND Southern coast

Your go-to guide for the land of Fire & Ice.

In the middle of the Atlantic there is an island which would be the only place on earth I would describe as grey, rainy, rough, cold and absolutely magical! Iceland truly is like no other place with its isolated nature and culture which spans back to the Vikings. 

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The best way to experience all of the incredible nature of Iceland is to rent a car and drive along the coast. The distances are not long and more often than not, your car is the only car on road 1, which is Icelands only road going around the country. Despite this, driving takes longer than you expect. Partly because the weather conditions and relatively low speed limits, and partly because you are going to make plenty of stops along the way. 

Make sure you pack warm clothes, good hiking shoes and a rain coat. If you have this, you are all set to enjoy all of Iceland.

 If you only have a few days in Iceland, this list will guide you in how to maximize those days and see as much as possible of the southern coast of Iceland.  

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DAY 1

Lagoons & Waterfalls

What can be better after a long flight than walking into a geothermal spa, putting on a facial mask and getting a drink from an in-water bar? Not much, according to me! Thats why a stop at the Blue Lagoon, just 20 min from Keflavik airport, should be your first Icelandic experience. 

When your fingers have turned into raisins and you feel recharged with energy, you can get started on the real road trip. Load the car up with some snacks and if you forgot to bring it, buy some warm clothing and a rain coat. Now you are ready to hit the road! 

Put your wet swim wear in this wet stuff bag, so all other packing stays dry!

 Stopping at Seljalandfoss waterfall is a great way to kickstart the waterfall bonaza you will experniece during the coming days. The waterfall is not Icelands largest, or most beautiful, but it allows you to walk around it so you can see it from behind. 

 View from behind the waterfall

View from behind the waterfall

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First of many waterfalls

After a day at the lagoon and the waterfall, we drove all the way to a small town call Vík. Here you can stay at Kría Hotel which offers both nice interior, exterior and great food. This will be your home for the next two nights. 

 Hotel Kria in vík

Hotel Kria in vík

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DAY 2

Glaciers and Lava fields

Starting from Vík in the morning continue on road 1 and make your first stop at Fjadrárgljúfur for a post breakfast hike. The canyon offer beautiful views and Instagram friendly backdrops.

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When you feel ready to get back in the car, a drive past moss-coverd lava field awaits. These fields slowly turn into glacier landscapes as you get closer to your end stop – Glacier Lagoon.  

 Rainbows are as common as the waterfalls

Rainbows are as common as the waterfalls

At glacier lagoon, Jökulsárlón , you will see large chunks of ice floating around together with seals. Across from the lagoon is a black volcano beach filled with ice chunks from the Glaciers. 

 After the lagoon, start heading back to Vík and make a final stop at Svartífoss Waterfall. To get to the waterfall you have to walk for about 15 min, and its well worth it. The fall is unique due to its geometrical stone wall which has inspired architercture around Iceland.

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 Back at Vík, stop at Sudur Vik for dinner. Although prices are fine dining high everywhere, the meals are usually tasty but basic. All restaurants offer Lamb, Chicken and of course Fish.   

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Day 3

Beaches and Hikes

Start the day by discovering the black sand beach just opposite the hotel, either by foot or horseback. Just by the beach you can also find the Lava Center, which shows simulated volcano eruptions by heating up lava and pouring it out on ice. The center also has a nice soup cafe where you can have lunch.

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BLACK SAND BEACH

 After the show, head around the mountain to see the black beach from the other side, as well as the incredible stone wall and cave, which looks like a man made sculpture, but has been formed by volcano eruptions.

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 As you are starting to make your way back to Reykjavík there are many small stops to be made. First is a look-out point where you can see glaciers and mountains in one direction, as well as endless ocean and black beaches in the other. 

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VIEWS FOR DAYS

The next waterfall you will see was one of my favorite stops along the coast - Skogafoss Waterfall. The powerful waterfall is spectacular but even more so is the hike along the top of the waterfall. Just climb (the many) stairs up to the top and keep walking for as long as you please.

After the hike awaits a short walk to your next unique stop. The natural pool among the mountain is not marked out on many of the tourist maps but still well worth a visit. After parking the car you follow the river for about 15 min until you come to the geothermally heated pool, called Seljavallalaug Pool.

Stay the night in Hella or Hvolvöllur for a chance to see the Aurora Borealis and the most starlit sky you will probably ever see.

Day 4

Golden circle

This is the day of the Golden Circle. Being close to Reykjavík, this is the most visited place in Iceland and therefore, more tourist are here than on the other stops along the coast. There are a lot of nice stops along the Golden Circle, with the Geyser, Gullfors Waterfall and Tingvellin National park being the main tourist attractions. 

 The Geyser erupts every 5-10 minutes, so don’t worry, you will definietely see the 100 degree water shoot up multiple times.

The Geyser erupts every 5-10 minutes, so don’t worry, you will definietely see the 100 degree water shoot up multiple times.

You should of course stop at all these famous stops, but since they are the obvious choices I will list two more unexpected attraction. The first being Kerid which is a crater lake. Only stop here if the sun is shining though, because when it does the sand surrounding the crater shines up with red and the water in blue.

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 The second stop is more of a hidden gem and my number one favorite stop – Bruarfoss. To reach the waterfall you park by the Bruarfoss bridge, then walk along a small path, which starts along the river. After you reach a sign that says Private property, turn right and follow the small path along a fence. When the path ends, walk over the run down fence and you will see signs to follow for the waterfall.

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Day 5

Back to the city of Reykavík

The city of Reykjavík is very cute but one day here is all you need. Even though 200 000 of the 330 000 living in Iceland call Reykavik their home, there is not that much to do. If the weather permits, a whale watching tour can be made from one of the many boats who offer it by the docks. The buildings Harpa, Perlan and Hallgrímskirkja is also well worth a visit. 

 View for the bar at Perlan, a remade water reserv

View for the bar at Perlan, a remade water reserv

The city is small so you can walk everywhere. The Sandhotel is located right in the middle of the main walking street and has both great rooms and a luxuries breakfast. 

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Unlike the smaller towns in Iceland, Reykjavík offers a range of restaurants and many of them are packed even on weeknights. For a laidback dinner you can try Snaps, and for fine dining experiences try Grillið or Fiskmarkaðurinn. For a midday snack, make sure to visit Braud & co for one of their famous cinnabon buns.

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Pack like a pro

When going on a road trip and changing hotels often, packing in a smart way makes your life so much easier. My number one tip for road trip packing is packing cubes, a large toilery bag where all your toiletries can be in one place, a lingerie bag and of course a laundry bag.

Jennifer Jansch