7-day self-drive itinerary of Iceland: Golden Circle, south coast and Reykjavik

August 8, 2018 (Last Updated: November 11, 2022)
by Carolyn
Iceland 7 day road trip itinerary

I’d been wanting to visit Iceland for a few years and had actually planned and booked a 5-day visit back in 2016.  Unfortunately, that trip was cancelled at the last minute due to a family member falling ill so to say I was excited about finally visiting Iceland was an understatement. 

This time around I made a few changes to my original plans and came up with a 7-day self-drive itinerary of Iceland that would see us visiting the famous Golden Circle, the south coast, and the capital Reykjavik. 

Below you’ll find my daily Iceland itinerary, tips on renting a car and driving in Iceland and much more. 


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My 1 week Iceland road trip itinerary  

Day of arrival in Iceland

Our flight from London arrived into Reykjavik’s international airport, Keflavik, just before midnight. 

It was raining when we arrived but despite the overcast skies, there was still plenty of ‘daylight’ as it was June when Iceland receives around 22 hours of daylight each day. 

Rather than travel the 35 minutes or so into Reykjavik on arrival, I had booked a hotel closer to the airport, but first we needed to collect our hire car. 

Travelling in Iceland with children? Browse a list of the best family hotels in Reykjavik in this article.

I’d pre-booked our car through Ice Rentals who unfortunately don’t provide ‘on-airport’ collection. Instead, they have a depot about 10 to 15 minutes’ drive away. 

This meant we had to wait until their representative arrived to pick us up (about half an hour after we’d collected our luggage) and then transfer to their depot, wait in a line to be served, and then go through a lengthy amount of paperwork before we were given the keys to our vehicle. 

By now it was well after 1am and we still had to get to our hotel – which didn’t prove easy! 

For some reason, the GPS in our hire car couldn’t pick up the address of the hotel so, after driving back to the car hire depot and asking for directions, we stumbled on. 

After a couple of false starts, we finally found the hotel – which was very poorly signposted – checked in, and got to bed around 2.30am. 

Thankfully, the bed was comfy and the curtains blocked out the daylight so we slept well. 

TIP: If you plan on collecting your rental car from Keflavik airport, I highly recommend choosing a company that has on-airport collection (eg. Europcar) as this saves a lot of time.  See more tips for renting a car in Iceland below. 

Seljalandfoss Iceland’s landscape can change rapidly but much of it is lush and green. That’s Seljalandfoss (waterfall) to the right.

Day 1 – Keflavik to Laugarvatn  (The Golden Circle) 

After a pretty basic breakfast surrounded by some Canadian servicemen (we found out later the hotel is a converted military base!), we set off to get our Iceland adventure under way. 

I’ll admit we were a little underwhelmed as we drove from Keflavik towards Reykjavik.  The landscape along the Reykjanes Peninsula must be the most barren and unattractive of the whole country.  There is very little vegetation and the soil and rocks are volcanic black. 

We skirted around Reykjavik and headed east to Selfoss (the landscape had changed dramatically and was now lush and green) and then north to Pingvellir (also called Thingvellir) National Park, one of the three stops on what is known as the Golden Circle. 

Golden Circle scenery Driving the Golden Circle, we crossed flat plain with snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Pingvellir National Park 

Most visitors to Iceland complete the Golden Circle in one day – it’s a popular day trip from Reykjavik (click here to check prices) – but I’d opted to do it over two days so that we wouldn’t be quite as rushed. 

At Pingvellir, we visited the lovely Oxarfoss (foss means waterfall in Icelandic) and the nearby lookout which gave us great views over the surrounding countryside and Pingvallavatn, Iceland’s largest lake.   

Pingvellir is the site of the world’s first democratic parliament, established here by the Vikings in 930 AD. The stone foundations of the ancient meeting place can still be seen today.  

You can also visit Almannagja, a rift in the land where the tectonic plates of Europe and North America are separating from each other at a rate of 1mm to 18mm per year. 

There are no entry fees at Pingvellir National Park and parking is free. 

After a lunch stop at a café/tourist information centre not far from Oxarfoss, we headed on to our overnight stop at Laugarvatn. 

Pingvellir National Park Pingvellir National Park’s volcanic landscape.

Laugarvatn Fontana

Arriving early afternoon, we had a relaxing afternoon in our apartment and after dinner, walked the 200 metres to the Laugarvatn Fontana, a Geothermal pool complex. 

The complex, which is built beside the Laugarvatn lake, features five different pools that range in temperature from 32C to 40C, three steam rooms at various temperatures, a sauna, ice bucket ‘shower’, and steps to allow you to plunge into the lake. 

We spent about two hours at Fontana in all the different pools and one of the steam rooms.  My husband also braved the ice bucket! 

Entry fees are ISK3,800 (about AUD47/EUR30 at the time of our visit) and towels and swimsuits can be hired for ISK800 each (AUD10). 

The excellent change room facilities include shampoo and conditioner, body wash, hairdryers and even a water extractor to squeeze out your swimsuit. 

There’s a café and a geothermal bakery on site, and the complex is open every day of the year (10am to 11pm in summer). 

Laugarvatn Fontana can also be included as part of a Golden Circle day tour from Reykjavik – click here to check prices.

TIP: All bathers are required to shower naked in the communal showers (there are separate change/shower rooms for ladies and men) prior to entering the pools. 

Laugarvatn Fontana There are five different pools to bathe in at Laugarvatn Fontana.

See below for more tips about Iceland’s thermal pools 

Where to stay at Laugarvatn 

I stayed in a 1-bedroom apartment at Golden Circle Apartments which are located just off Highway 1 and have views of the lake.  Click here to check current prices

Day 2 – Laugarvatn to Varmahlid (south coast) including The Golden Circle 

Our first stop of the day, and the second natural attraction on The Golden Circle, was just 30 kilometres from Laugarvatn.   


Geysir is a geothermal area when geysers spurt hot water fountains into the air and streams of hot water (between 80 and 100C) flow along the ground. 

The most well-known geyser is Geysir (this is where the English word geyser comes from) but it erupts fairly infrequently whereas Strokkur, just a few metres away, puts on an impressive show every five to ten minutes. 

The entire Geysir geothermal area consists of numerous geysers, hot pools and streams with good paths between the various points of interest. 

The geysirs are roped off but you are still able to get close enough to feel the force of the water as it spurts into the air.

Entry to the geothermal area is free, as is parking.  A donation box is displayed at the entrance for those who would like to contribute. 

Across the road from the natural attractions, you’ll find a hotel, a large restaurant, café, souvenir shops and WCs (free). 

Geysir geothermal park Geysir geothermal park is one of Iceland’s main attractions. The geyser known as Strokkur is the one in the middle.


Next on our itinerary was the third and final stop of The Golden Circle, Gullfoss falls.  The falls are just ten kilometres from Geysir and were, for me, the highlight of the sights we had seen so far. 

Gullfoss is a double waterfall, where the water cascades in two layers and it’s definitely one of the best Iceland waterfalls to visit.  It’s not so much the double effect that is most impressive, though, but more the sheer volume of water that is tumbling over the falls. 

A number of viewing platforms have been built around the falls allowing fantastic views from various angles and being so close to the water you can really appreciate the force of all that water. 

I could have stopped and looked at the falls for hours but the weather wasn’t on our side.  The rain was now coming down in bucket loads so we headed for the restaurant and enjoyed a bowl of an Icelandic specialty, lamb soup.   

At ISK1950 a bowl (around AUD25) it wasn’t cheap, but it certainly tasted good! 

In the same building as the restaurant you’ll find a souvenir shop and toilets (FOC). 

Entry to Gullfoss, and parking, are free of charge. 

Gullfoss Iceland The amount of water that flows over Gullfoss is incredible.

It was now time to head to our base for the next few nights at Varmahlio on the south coast.   Despite the rain, the scenery was spectacular and much more like we had expected Iceland to be. 

After a stop at Selfoss to buy some groceries, we drove on to our cottage which was located about halfway between the towns of Hvolsvollur and Vik. 

Where to stay on the south coast of Iceland 

Ideally located on the south coast of Iceland, and about 30 kilometres from Vik, I stayed for three nights at The Garage. 

Owners Anna and Siggi have a number of self-contained cottages and studios on their farm to choose from.  We stayed in Axel’s Studio which was perfect for the two of us.  Click here to check prices

The weather can be incredibly changeable in Iceland.  Here’s what to wear in Iceland to suit the climate.

Day 3 – South Coast sights: Seljalandfoss, Skogafoss, Dyrholaey and Reynisfjara beach 

Waterfalls are everywhere in Iceland and after seeing two pretty impressive ones on our first two days in the country, there were two more on the itinerary today. 


We’d caught a glimpse of Seljalandfoss as drove past it on our way to our accommodation yesterday so we knew it was going to be worth a visit.  And it certainly was. 

The falls cascade over a cliff about 60 metres high, falling like a curtain of water but the highlight for many visitors is the fact that you can walk behind that curtain of water and see the falls from the back. 

You’ll definitely get wet if you choose to walk behind the falls, and the path is quite slippery, but it’s well worth it. 

About 500 metres further on from Seljalandfoss, via a well-made walking path, are the Gljufrabui falls, also known as the Secret Falls.  These falls cascade down inside a gorge which you can squeeze into for a closer look. 

If you’re not up for the squeezing, you can see them well enough through the narrow gorge opening. 

There is no entry fee to either of the falls (there’s a donation box at the entrance) but parking costs ISK700 (about AUD9) which is paid for by credit card.  On site you’ll find a small shop and food van and toilets. 

Seljelandfoss Iceland Seljelandfoss can be seen from the main highway and is well worth a visit.


Of all the falls that I had included on my itinerary, Skogafoss was the one that I knew the least about.  I’m not sure why I hadn’t read more about it in advance but as it turned, that was a good thing.  I was delightfully surprised. 

Skogafoss is a 60-metre high waterfall that feeds the river Skoga below.  With two major glaciers in the vicinity, it’s easy to see why there is so much water cascading over Skogafoss. 

Beside the falls, steps lead you up to a great vantage point at the top of the falls, and the path then continues on past more waterfalls.  It’s a solid climb up the stairs but well worth it. 

Entry and parking are both free at Skogafoss.  There’s a good restaurant near the parking lot which has great views of the falls where we enjoyed a light lunch.  (Bowl of soup ISK1700, bottomless coffee ISK400, 300ml beer ISK800). 

Skogafoss Another of Iceland’s incredible waterfalls, this one is Skogafoss.


On our next stop of the day I was hoping to tick off a bucket list item – seeing puffins in the wild.  And I succeeded! 

Dyrholaey is a peninsula along Iceland’s south coast which has a naturally formed arch (120-metres high) in the cliff.  It’s also a nesting ground for Atlantic Puffins and Arctic Terns. 

As we were visiting in the second half of June, we were fortunate to see a number of puffins on the grassy hills of the peninsula, as well as some of the cute birds flying to and from their nests. 

Had we been visiting in May or early June, the peninsula would have been closed to allow the birds to nest. 

There are a number of paths around the peninsula where you can see the puffins and get great views of the coast, Reynisdrangar Sea Cliffs, spiky basalt rocks in the ocean which featured in Season 7 of Game of Thrones, and the black sand beach below.

There’s also a century-old lighthouse – now converted into a luxury hotel! 

Dyrholaey is about six kilometres off the main highway.  Entry and parking is free.  There are toilets by the car park (ISK200 – about AUD2.50). 

puffin at Dyrholaey Bucket list item ticked!! This was one of the puffins we saw at Dyrholaey.


About 25 minutes’ drive from Dyrholaey, heading east, we found ourselves at Reynisfjara beach.  This is the black beach we had seen from Dyrholaey but it’s not only the volcanic sand that attracts visitors here. 

Alongside the beach stands a basalt cliff face which looks like it is made from rocks stacked on top of one another. The smooth face of the rocks is testament to the power of the waves that continually hits them. 

Speaking of those waves, the ones that come ashore at Reynisfjara are particularly fierce.  Known as sneaker-waves, more than one tourist has been dragged to sea in the past and never been seen again. 

Visitors are warned to never turn their back on the ocean and to keep a distance of at least 30 metres.  Even on still days, the tide has been known to dramatically change and sudden sneaker-waves have come ashore, taking innocent bystanders by surprise. 

Reynisfjara beach is so unique that National Geographic have named it as one of the Top 21 beaches in the world. 

Entry and parking at Reynisfjara beach are free.  The beach is about six kilometres off the Highway 1, and there’s a restaurant and WCs near the car park. 

Basalt rocks at Reynisfjara beach Huge basalt rock faces and black beaches make Reynisfjara beach quite unique.


Before we called it a day, there was one last stop to make.  We drove a few kilometres further on to Vik, the largest town on the south coast to visit the supermarket. 

Prominent from just about anywhere in town is the red-roofed church up on the hill above town so, after a quick grocery shop, we drove up for a closer look and to take some photos. 

Rain had set in again so the views weren’t as good as they could be on a fine day but they were still spectacular.  

TIP: Follow the dirt road just beyond the church car park to a great lookout point. 

Vik church From high on the hill above Vik you get great views of the pretty church and the Reynisdrangar Sea Cliffs.

Day 4 – Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon 

I thought I’d seen some amazing scenery in Iceland already but it was about to get even better.  Today was going to involve a long drive but it was oh, so worth it. 

Today’s destination was Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon which would take us about three hours to reach from our cottage at Varmahlio  (Jokulsarlon is 190km from Vik). 

The drive wasn’t boring, though, as the landscape changed regularly.  From lush green plains full of purple lupins to towering cliffs, from glaciers almost to the road’s edge to kilometre after kilometre of sparse moonscape-like earth, we had it all. 

As we neared the lagoon, we could see why Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is regarded as one of the must-see sights in Iceland.  It is simply breathtaking. 

Icebergs on Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Visiting Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is a surreal experience.

The lagoon itself sits between the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, part of the larger Vatnajökull Glacier which covers 8% of Iceland and is Europe’s largest glacier, and the North Atlantic Ocean. 

What makes it so special are the huge icebergs – chunks that have broken off the glacier – that are floating in the lagoon on their way to the ocean. 

Just seeing the floating icebergs with a huge glacier as a backdrop is quite a surreal experience. 

I had pre-booked a ride amongst the icebergs in a Zodiac boat but on the day we visited strong winds made it unsafe for these boats to operate (and boy, was it windy!). 

Instead, we boarded an amphibious vehicle for a 30-minute cruise on the lagoon. 

It’s hard to describe what it was like floating amongst these massive icebergs – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and without doubt, the highlight of my visit to Iceland. 

Not sure what time of year to visit Iceland? Here are 13 reasons to visit Iceland in March.

Our knowledgeable guide explained that the lagoon developed about 60 years ago as rising temperatures meant the glacier tongue started to melt. Previously the glacier reached right to the ocean.  

In 1975, he told us, the lagoon was about 8 km2 – it’s now about 18km2 and increasing in size every year.  With continued global warming, it’s thought that the glacier might not even exist in 100 years – a sad and sobering thought. 

After taking more photos than I care to admit, it was time to start the long journey back ‘home’.  Was a six-hour round trip worth it for a two-hour visit? ABSOLUTELY! 

Parking and entry to the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon are free.  You can walk along the lagoon’s edge and get great views of the icebergs from the shore. 

I highly recommend pre-booking a boat ride on the lagoon. (Tickets can be purchased on arrival at the lagoon, subject to availability). 

There’s a basic café, which sells soup, sandwiches and drinks, as well as toilets (FOC).  

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Look at the size of these icebergs. They are huge!

Highway 1 crosses a bridge between the lagoon and the ocean. If you walk down to the ocean’s edge to what is known as Diamond Beach, there’s every chance you’ll see an iceberg or two washed up on the black sand.  

TIP: There are numerous day trips available from Reykjavik to Jokulsarlon Glacier (click here to see prices) but be prepared for a VERY long day (about five hours travel each way). 

Day 5 – South coast to Reykjavik via Kerid 

There was plenty more to see along Iceland’s south coast (including Vestmannaeyjar island, the Lava Centre at Hvolsvollur and the Skogar Museum), but it was time for us to head to Reykjavik. 


Before hitting the capital, we took a slight detour just past Selfoss to visit the Kerid volcano crater.  

Kerid can also be visited if you are driving the Golden Circle.  We had planned to visit the crater after completing the Golden Circle sights a few days previously but heavy rain that day had us changing our plans.   

Nevertheless, it is only 13 kilometres off Highway 1, so we were happy to make a detour on our way back to Reykjavik. 

This volcanic crater is believed to be about three thousand years old and this is the reason its slopes are red instead of the usual volcanic black.   

Visitors to Kerid can walk right around the crater and also down to the edge of the lake at the bottom of the crater. 

The lake, which varies in depth from around seven to fourteen metres, is a beautiful aquamarine colour, thanks to the minerals from the rocks seeping into the water. 

Kerid is situated on privately owned land so a small entry fee (ISK400 – about AUD5) applies.  Parking is free.  There are no toilets or other facilities at the site. 

Kerid crater Iceland Kerid crater’s lake is a stunning turquoise colour.


It was around 1pm when we arrived in Iceland’s capital so we enjoyed a nice lunch at Café Loki (near Hallgrimskirkja) before checking in to our apartment. 

Our afternoon was spent familiarising ourselves with the city centre before we headed to the square at Ingolfstorg where we joined thousands of locals to watch Iceland’s national football (soccer) team take on Croatia in the World Cup.  

Unfortunately, the local heroes were beaten but the atmosphere was electric just the same. 

Had we not been engrossed in the football, another fun thing to do would have been a food tour in Reykjavik.

Where to stay in Reykjavik  

Rey Apartments are perfectly located in the heart of Reykjavik and within easy walking distance of all the major sights.  I booked a small studio for our two night stay.  Click here to check current prices

To browse other accommodation options in Reykjavik, click here

Reykjavik street Brightly coloured buildings line every street in Reykjavik.

Day 6 – Reykjavik 


We had planned a few activities for our 48 hours in Reykjavik and the first one was to visit the city’s famous church, Hallgrimskirkja.

Resembling a space shuttle about to launch into the atmosphere, the church’s 74.5-metre spire dominates the skyline across the city. 

The church’s interior is quite plain but it was the views from the tower that we had come to see.  A lift whisked us up to the open-air viewing level from where we had a fantastic 360° view of the entire city. 

Access to the tower costs ISK1000 (children 7 – 16 years ISK100) and tickets can be purchased in the church shop on the ground floor. 

The tower is open daily year-round but closed on Sundays between 10.30am and 12.15pm when mass is held. 

Hallgrimskirkja Reykjavik Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavik’s iconic church.

Flytographer Photo Shoot 

After exploring some of the back streets and admiring their brightly painted buildings, we headed to our next assignment – a photo shoot!  I’ll write more about this in a separate article but let me just say, despite my nervousness, it was a great experience. 

Our photographer, a Reykjavik local, took us to various locations around the city to take photos and gave us a mini-city walking tour along the way.   

She pointed out important buildings like the Parliament building and showed us the small gardens at the back which we would never have known existed.

We probably wouldn’t have visited the City Hall, either, and it was definitely worth a visit as it is built on a lake and has great views to Hallgrimskirkja. 

After an hour of learning more about Reykjavik and her buildings – and having many photos taken of us – we headed back to our apartment for a bit of a rest. 

Flytographer photo shoot Reykjavik Our Flytographer photo shoot in Reykjavik was a fun experience – and we ended up with some great photos.

Puffin-spotting cruise 

With a few extra layers of clothing added, we walked down to the harbour to join a one-hour puffin-spotting cruise. Even though we’d been lucky enough to see puffins in the wild at Dyrholaey, I was keen to get another glimpse of these quirky little birds. 

I had pre-booked our cruise with Special Tours (click here to check prices and availability) and the one-hour trip took us out of Reykjavik harbour and around Akurey island where puffins nest. 

It is thought that around 30,000 puffins nest on the islands off Reykjavik so there’s a good chance you’ll see plenty of them – and we did.

Binoculars were supplied onboard to allow us to see the puffins better but the boat was able to get reasonably close to the shore, so seeing the puffins was never a problem.

puffins We had no trouble spotting puffins on our cruise.

Our guide was passionate about sea birds, and puffins in particular, and told us lots of fun facts about them.

The puffin spotting cruises operate multiple times per day from May to August. 

Next stop was the Harpa Concert Hall, just along the harbour. The building’s beautiful glass façade allows plenty of light inside but also helps it to blend in seemlessly with its watery surrounds. 

We finished our day with a nice dinner at Scandinavia, a restaurant in Reykjavik’s main street, Laugavegur.

Harpa Reykjavik The Harpa Concert Hall blends beautifully with the the harbour.

Day 7 – Reykjavik

On our final full day in Reykjavik we still had a few things to tick off.  First up was a visit to Whales of Iceland, an excellent museum which has life-size models of the 23 different whale species found in the waters of Iceland.  

Audio guides (included in the entrance fee) provide interesting information about each whale and there are also interactive displays and info boards.   Click here to purchase your tickets.

If you’re looking for things to do in Reykjavik on a rainy day, this is a great option.  There is also a café on-site.  

The museum is open daily all year round and is about 10 minutes by car from the city centre.  Allow at least one hour for your visit. 

Whales of Iceland museum The Whales of Iceland museum is a great rainy day activity.

Sun Voyager sculpture 

Back in central Reykjavik, we stopped briefly at the Sun Voyager sculpture.  Many people say this reminds them of a Viking ship but to the artist it’s a dream boat and ode to the sun. 

Whatever it reminds you of, it is certainly an impressive sculpture in a magical setting on the shoreline. 

After our final meal in Reykjavik – a delicious lunch at Le Bistro, a French-style bistro in Laugavegur, we headed back towards the airport to visit the Blue Lagoon. 

Sun Voyager Reykjavik’s Sun Voyager sculpture – on a sun-free day!

Blue Lagoon  

Just as our drive between Keflavik and Reykjavik had been disappointing back on day one, today’s was even worse. 

I had pre-booked our Blue Lagoon visit for 3pm and, despite leaving plenty of time to get there from the city, the atrocious weather conditions had me thinking we would be late.  

Extremely strong winds whipped across the barren plains, rocking the car, and rain fell in sheets as we made our way there. Nevertheless, we arrived just in time and booked in.   

The Blue Lagoon is huge and on a fine day – or even one with no wind – it would be lovely to soak in the hot pools, but unfortunately that wasn’t what was served up to us. 

When we were in the pool, the wind was so strong that it created waves that knocked you over when you stood up. The wind also meant that fog and steam blew across the pool, and at times it was so thick we couldn’t even see the main building adjoining the pool! 

The wind also cooled down the water temperature and you had to really move around to find a warm spot that was a bit protected. 

Blue Lagoon Iceland This is what the Blue Lagoon looks like in good weather. Unfortunately we couldn’t even see the buildings from the pool!

We had originally planned on staying three or four hours at the Blue Lagoon, and eating at the café, as our flight wasn’t scheduled to depart until 11pm.  We managed to stay an hour and a half, but with the wind giving us both a headache, we called it a day and headed to the airport early. 

I purchased the Blue Lagoon Comfort package which cost EUR54 and included towel hire, a complimentary face mask, a free drink from the ‘swim up’ bar (beer, wine, soft drink, fresh juice, smoothies). Other packages are also available. 

The Blue Lagoon is open every day of the year. Pre-booking is required. 

A wrist band is given to each person on entry ­and this is used to access a locker, to obtain your free drink, and to purchase any additional drinks or food. 

The Blue Lagoon change rooms are large and include communal and private showers, body wash, conditioner, hairdryers, cotton buds/makeup remover pads.  All guests must shower before entering the pools.  

There’s a cafe and restaurant and gift shop, sauna and steam room, and massages and spa treatments are also available. 

A visit to the Blue Lagoon can be included on a Golden Circle day trip from Reykjavik – click here to check prices.

Reykjavik rooftops The colourful rooftops of Reykjavik as seen from Hallgrimskirkja.

Our first and last impressions of Iceland may not have been great but as we headed to the airport we were certainly not disappointed that we had spent a week in this beautiful country. 

With such an array of incredible natural attractions and a vibrant and relaxed capital, Iceland really stole our hearts as we explored it on our 7-day self-drive itinerary.  We would love to return again and explore more of this amazing country. 

Total distance covered on our 7-day self-drive itinerary of Iceland: 1,256 kilometres. 

Tips for renting a car in Iceland 

On-airport collection: For convenience, I recommend booking your rental car through a company that offers on-airport collection.  This means that the car will be waiting for you in the airport car park on arrival and you won’t have to be transferred by a shuttle van to an on-site depot. 

Age of vehicle: When booking, try and get an indication if the company supplies new (or newer) vehicles.  The car we rented from Ice Rentals had 40,000 kilometres on the clock – and, according to my husband, who was our designated driver, it had more rattles than a millionaire’s baby! 

Whilst the car didn’t let us down mechanically, the rattles and constant wind noise coming in the rear passenger window, were very annoying. 

GPS is a great accessory to have, particularly for navigating your way around Reykjavik.  If you are mostly heading to the main tourist sites, I don’t think a GPS is necessary.  I purchased a good road map of Iceland before our trip and used it to navigate our route around the Golden Circle and the south coast. 

Driving in Iceland Most roads in Iceland are narrow and have few places to pull off the road safely.

Driving in Iceland 

Here are a few observations from our experience of driving in Iceland. 

The major roads in Iceland (Ring Road/Highway 1 and the Golden Circle route) are well maintained but we aware that they are very narrow in places with minimal shoulders.  Highway 1 is mainly single lane each way, sometimes reducing to just one lane when crossing a bridge. 

There are very few places to safely pull off to the side of the road and there are often sheep grazing by the roadside (having escaped their fenced paddock). 

The maximum speed limit in Iceland is 90 kph. 

Many of Iceland’s internal roads are closed to all non-4WDs during winter.   

The Safe Travel website provides up-to-date information on road closures and driving conditions around the country. 

We found that road signs were usually placed exactly at the turning place, rather than in advance.  There was no warning that the turn off for a particular site or attraction was, for example, 200-metres away. When you saw the sign, you were at the turn off.  This is where a good map came in handy. 

Fuel: Most petrol stations in Iceland are self-service and a credit card is necessary to operate the pumps.   In June 2018, unleaded petrol cost around ISK218 (AUD2.75/EUR1.76) per litre. 

lupin field in Iceland During summer time, you’re likely to see fields of lupins in flower as you drive around Iceland.

Tips for visiting Iceland’s thermal baths  

These observations apply to Laugarvatn Fontana and the Blue Lagoon. 

All bathers are required to shower naked prior to entering the pools.  There are communal showers at Laugarvatn and both communal and private showers at Blue Lagoon.  (Separate changing/shower rooms for men and women). 

You should drink plenty of water both before and after bathing.  The warm temperatures quickly dehydrate you, particularly if you also visit a steam room or sauna. 

The minerals in the thermal waters do leave your hair feeling like straw.  Conditioner is provided at both facilities but if you have long hair, you may prefer to tie it up before entering the water. 

Likewise, the minerals can leave a white powdery-looking stain on your swim suit.  I found this especially at the Blue Lagoon, but after a couple of washes, the residue disappeared. 

Reservations were not required for Laugarvatn but are essential for Blue Lagoon.  I booked two days in advance and there were only limited time slots still available. 

Woman in Iceland thermal pool I preferred Laugarvatn Fontana over the Blue Lagoon due to both the weather conditions and the number of other bathers.

Blue Lagoon or Laugarvatn? 

Thanks to the less-than-favourable weather conditions on the day I visited Blue Lagoon (see Day 7 above), I would have to say that Laugarvatn wins hands down for me.  Laugarvatn Fontana is also a much smaller facility and has far less visitors which is another plus. 

Laugarvatn was also cheaper, costing EUR35 (including towel hire) compared to the Blue Lagoon’s EUR54.  The Blue Lagoon’s entry fee did include a towel, mud mask and a complimentary drink, but in my opinion, Laugarvatn Fontana was much better value. 

Keflavik Airport Information 

Iceland’s major international airport, Keflavik, is located about 35 minutes’ from Reykjavik.  Despite receiving up to 100 flight arrivals per day, Keflavik is not a large airport and has limited facilities. 

In the arrivals hall/check-in area, there is just one coffee shop and one convenience store (similar to 7Eleven), and limited seating.  Free WiFi is available. 

Check in for flights opens two hours before departure, not before.   

As we arrived at the airport well before our flight opened for check in, we had a long wait with limited food/drink options until we could pass through security.  Once through security, there are more eating options. 

Reykjavik harbour Boats bob in the water of Reykjavik harbour.

Iceland Facts 

Iceland is the third windiest country in the world. The two windiest countries have hardly any people living there! 

The population of Iceland is about 350,000 with around 220,000 residents living in Reykjavik. 

Summer and winter temperatures in Iceland aren’t very different. Average winter temperatures range from –1 to 4° whilst summer averages are between 8 and 15°.

June is usually the driest month (but not in 2018!!) when it rained every day. 

Most days of our visit the top temperature was around 11 or 12°. 

This article will help you decide what to pack for Iceland.

Blue house Reykjavik Even on an overcast day, Reykjavik’s brightly coloured buildings bring a smile to your face.

Discovering Iceland video


Iceland Road Trip 7 day itinerary 350