Two Weeks in Iceland
Iceland is a raw land that is full of history, bold contrasts and mind blowing supernatural sights. I recently had the chance to explore Iceland on a two week adventure and we saw a surprising amount of the country in this short time. This post highlights our itinerary and my favourite images from our trip to the land of the Vikings.
We had a unique experience, completing a 55km ultra marathon as part of our adventure, so we managed to see a region that normally takes 4-5 days to explore in 6-8 hours. My team of 10 Canadian Ultra Runners trained and rocked the race! If you are an ultra runner, I highly recommend the Laugavegur Ultra marathon (you can read my race report here)! Otherwise, be sure to add 4-5 days to this itinerary in place of the race. We spent the first week between Reykjavik, the Thorsmork Valley and the Laugavegur Trail. On our second week, we rented VW vans and drove around the entire country in 6 days, completing the Ring Road at a steady pace. Read on for a summary of our two week Iceland adventure!
*Ready to go to Iceland? Be sure to read my 'Top Tips for Travelling in Iceland' to get all of my juicy tips before you go;)
Two Weeks in Iceland
Arrive Reykjavik- Post flight/jet lag zombie strolling mode will be in full effect, so wander down the main drag (also called Laugavegur), do some people watching at a sidewalk bistro and visit the beautiful Sun Voyager sculpture on the coastal walkway. Try to stay awake and get on the local time in the land of the mid-night sun.
Explore more of Reykjavik - Rent a bike (best way to see the town by far!), join the locals for a hot swim at Geothermal beach, climb up to The Pearl observatory and take your pick from Reykjavik's many tasty downtown bistro's.
Drive out to the amazing Thorsmork Valley, stop at the stunning Seljalandsfoss falls on the way, then turn inland and head 'off road'. Stop in the moonscape along the way to view the massive Eyjafjallajökull glacier (which was blown apart during the 2010 eruption of the volcano laying beneath it), then continue inland, crossing rivers in a monster bus and claim your bunk in the rustic Basar Huts . Spend the afternoon hiking stunning Valahnjúkur mountain. We booked with Arctic Adventures for a 3 day, 2 night guided trip in the Valley- great option if you want to learn about the area and chat with local guides!
Thorsmork Valley-Climb a volcano. Go for a 16km hike (or run!) with fantastic and breathtaking views over Eyjafjallajökull Glacier and Volcano, Mýrðalsjökull Glacier. Break bread with your new trail family in the Basar Huts.
Camp life is good life:) Family style breakfast thanks to our guides from Arctic Adventures.
Loved having my inReach device for texting while in Iceland! No need for a cell plan and you can use it anywhere in the world, off the grid!!
Hike the magical Strákagil Canyon in Thorsmork then travel back to Reykjavik to prep for the ultra marathon (or just walk down this Valley and stay here for ever).
Reykjavik part 2. Bistro's, sea walk, flea market (weekends only), shopping. We were resting and preparing for our big race the next day. So, we took it easy, did some strolling, ate everything in sight, got our race packages and lounged about our apartment.
Laugavegur Trail 55kms (Ultra style!). Off road bus 4hours to Landmanallauger, run 55kms through out of this world, mind blowing terrain for about 6.5hours...finish in Thorsmork Valley. Bus back to Reykjavik 4.5hours. Looooooooong but unforgettable day. Be sure to read my race report and Team ELM Canada reports for all of the race deets! Sure, you could hike it too;). The Laugavegur trail IS one of Icelands most popular multi-day through hikes. Peeps come from all over the world to take on this amazing trek! You should too!
#vanlife road trip begins! Drive to Skaftafell National Park. Along the way visit Skogafoss (learning that all waterfalls end in 'foss'). Stop in Vik to visit the black sand beaches and basalt volcanic rock formations. Stop in Seljavallalaug to walk into the so called 'off the beaten path' hot pot...or go to the secret heart shaped natural hot pot if you know where to find it...
Hike to Svartifoss (amazing basalt stone waterfall) and then up up up to mount Kristínartindar for an awesome 17.5 +km dayhike to view Vatnajökull Glacier. Then hit the road and follow the coastline up to the famously beautiful Jokulsarlon - Glacier lagoon. Continue northward (mind blown) and cook up a van dinner on the waterfront in Hofn, then camp in a local campground or find a nice spot on the side of the road (Leave No Trace wilderness camping is permitted in Iceland).
And now for something totally amazing! Jokulsarlon Lagoon!
Situated at the head of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, massive chunks of ice, break off and fall into the lagoon (it's recession is what has created this lake and it is growing), then float out to sea, before washing onto the shore...
Drive north and explore the small fishing villages tucked within the fjords and coves of the east. Travel through dark tunnels - even some single lane tunnels that are 6kms long and play chicken with the motor homes! Yikes! Keep your eyes peeled for reindeer and you might be lucky as we were to spot them near Bulandsindur, Icelands highest mountain. Take a detour out to the amazing Dettifoss (and get absolutely soaked!) then continue to head west along highway 1 and camp overnight on lake Myvatn at one of the many sites- lovely! And buggy too lol!
Explore the Myvatn lake shore sights (we didn't get to, as we had car trouble that needed looking at in Akureyri) and then head west along Highway 1. Stop at Godafoss in the morning before the tour buses arrive. Visit Akureyri, I lovely city, (second largest in Iceland) for a downtown stroll, a view of the harbour from the church, grab a latte and any tourist items you forgot to pick up in Reykjavik lol. Drive on to Dalvik to visit the 'House of the 3 brothers' and enjoy the best fish soup of your life! Fresh baked bread, salad, soup and coffee or tea for $20 - that really is a steal in Iceland! Stop to feed grass to the beautiful free roaming Icelandic horses... Drive onward, gripping the steering wheel through the winding roads of the north fjords. Continue northwest and pick a campsite somewhere along the way, once you get tired of driving or too thirsty to continue.
Head inland at Reykholt and visit Snorri's house for a history lesson and a drive through the back roads and villages. Then, back out to the main road and head west to explore the westermost penninsula and Snaefellsjokull national park for some amazing hiking and bird watching. See if you can find the secret Landbrotalaug hot pots (ok not so secret but still hard to find) for one last dip on the way back to the big city. Drive under the ocean in a 6km tunnel (Surprise! No one told us about this or the other crazy tunnels on the Ring Road!) to return to Reykjavik area. Camp overnight at Mosfellsbaer campsite and enjoy a dip in the local rec centre pools (or just a shower!). Celebrate the last night in Iceland by eating all of the food and drinking all of the drinks that are left in the vans.
Get up early and climb Mount Esja to sneak in one last adventure. Hope for sunshine and views of the city! Clean up, pack up and return the van rental, then head out to the airport for the start of the long journey home.
Gain a bonus day, wake up yesterday at home hahaha! Spend the next 14 days dreaming about Iceland!
Iceland will be in my heart forever. #imusthavebeenaviking