If there’s one place that’s been the new travel trend over the past couple of years that completely lives up to the hype, it’s been Iceland. And it’s hard to see why not – ‘otherworldly’ is probably the most apt description of this country, whose landscapes have been compared to that on the moon. Everywhere you turn, the beauty of this country will leave you breathless, and while you might freeze in the winter tundra, trust me, it has never been more worth it. Whether you’ve got 3 days or 10, you will be crying to come back for more – so, I’ve put together my hit list from my most recent trip over that you have got to complete – and it’s doable in 3 days!
Yes, you’ve heard about this and seen this on every Iceland list, and I’m not surprised. About an 8-hour roundtrip, this ride takes you through the Icelandic countryside (you have GOT to stop on the way to play with the country’s beautiful wild horses – easily some of the friendliest creatures who will run to meet you the second you get out of the car) driving southwest. Your main stops include the Gulfoss Waterfall and Geysir. Watch out if you’re visiting this in the winter as the waterfall is frozen over the top and some of the viewpoints can be particularly treacherous. Almost like a three-step staircase, this waterfall gushes into an enormous canyon and is picture perfect, winter or summer.
Geysir is a spectacular sight to wait for, as the hot spring erupts every 5-7 minutes. Fun fact – Iceland is straddling two tectonic plates – sitting right where the Eurasian and American plates meet – and the friction pushes this spectacular (and first ever recorded!) spring almost 200 meters into the sky… just some of the very mysterious things that happen in Iceland’s countryside.
THIS. is. everything. While the Golden Circle was beautiful, I was completely unprepared for how truly spectacular the southern coast of Iceland was! If you’re taking a tour, this is a full day (say 10-12 hours easily), but if you’re driving, I’d recommend taking a few days to fully explore the area, staying in and around it as you drive through.
Skógafoss Waterfall was one of my favourite sights to see along the drive – its magnificence is hard to describe and I need far too many pictures to give you an indication of how breathtaking it was. Definitely climb the 400 or so steps to the top, and if you’re there during the summer, don’t miss the walk along the edge of the canyon to get up close with the falls. The cliffs surrounding the falls formed the coastline of Iceland many many years ago, and the water flows directly from the two neighboring glaciers. One of the largest waterfalls in the country, legend has it that there’s an ancient Viking treasure hidden somewhere within… Iceland is full of stories like this but hey, you never know!
If you’ve got time to spare, definitely do the glacier hike further south from the waterfalls, and if not, don’t worry – head on over to the most picturesque little town of Vík and the black sand beaches of Reynisfjara. The southernmost village in Iceland and one of the largest settlements on the south coast, this town is gorgeous as it sits at the waterfront, in the shadow of a glacier and surrounded by black sand beaches and cliffs.
Seljalandsfoss is another gorgeous waterfall, and one of the more popular must-see places along the south coast, but I’d definitely say, if you’re pressed for time, Skógafoss is your go-to!
The glacier lagoon is unmissable, and the only reason a 3-day trip is a little tight as you might not have enough time to visit. Make sure to put Jökulsárlón on your list!
Of course. You were probably reading this post and wondering when I was going to bring this up, right? You cannot miss this. I don’t really care how touristy it is or how much of a cliché it might be, make this a part of your trip for some much needed and deserved R&R. My recommendation would be to do this on the way to or from the airport as it saves you a trip out of Reykjavik, especially if you’re short on time. Seriously though, can it get any better than a geothermal spa in the midst of a lava field? Their mud masks are blissful and you’ve got no time limit, so you can make a day of it or just unwind for a few hours!
They have pretty much everything taken care and thought of, and it couldn’t possibly be a more hassle-free experience!
Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)
If you are planning to visit Iceland in the winter primarily to visit the Northern Lights, don’t worry, I did that too. This phenomenon is absolutely worth standing in the freezing cold for, and the sight will stun you. Either drive out or take a tour to go hunting for the lights, and make sure you’re well clad with optimal photography gear to really capture the magic of the lights. For your comprehensive polar lights photography guide, click here.
#protip : plan your tour for the first night you get to Iceland, as most companies offer a free second tour in case you don’t see them on your first try!
You can either drive around to all these sights or take tours – the decision is yours, but if you’re visiting in the winter, I would recommend being 1000% comfortable on incredibly icy roads before attempting a self-drive. The summer time would be ideal if you’re a road-trip addict, but if you don’t mind tours (and trust me, they’re some of the better ones you’ll ever go on) then hit up GrayLine tours for some of the best local guides you can find – if you ask them nicely enough, they’ll even stop for you to meet the horses!