Day 1 of 7 on the Ring Road in Iceland

Hey Guys!

Since we did the Ring Road and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in 7 days, I felt it was probably best to do a day by day itinerary in 7 different blog posts because one post would be way too long!

Read Day 2 here, Day 3 here, Day 4 here, Day 5 here, Day 6 here & Day 7 here

However, with that being said, check out my last blog post where you will find my complete itinerary and will answer any question you may have about traveling to Iceland!

Click here for the 24 best places to visit in Iceland

Our trip started off very stressful as our flight out of Nashville on Fri the 13th ended up being cancelled due to mechanical problems and we were the last flight out for the night.

So, as you can imagine, I was scrambling trying to cancel and rebook things. I was on the phone with United for an hour trying to get our flights rebooked.

By the way, I will NEVER fly United again…worst flying experience ever!!

We were rebooked for the next day and I extended our stay until Sun since we lost a day going. However, this rebooking had us with two 6 hr layovers on the way there and back!

Thankfully, I was able to cancel our first nights hotel stay without any penalty and get our rental car rebooked for the next day.

However, because we had to rebook our flight until the next day, when we arrived in Iceland on Sun, we had a 5 1/2 hr drive to what would have been our 2nd night hotel stay!

Our first night was supposed to have been at the Bru Guesthouse approx 2.5 hrs from the airport.

There was no way I would have been able to rebook all of our hotels since we had a different hotel for 7 nights.

We ended up flying out on Sat around 12 pm and arriving in Newark, NJ and had a 6 hr layover. We then boarded our plane to Iceland and the flight was approximately 6 hrs long.

We arrived in Iceland on Sun around 8:15 am, picked up our luggage and walked approx 10 mins to Blue Car Rental to pick up our rental car. They do have shuttles you can get on but we felt it would be quicker to walk.

Read here on how to get a discount with Blue Car Rental.

When you exit the airport walk straight and then turn left. You will be walking on the road so be mindful of that if you decide to walk. They are all in the same place.

Once arriving at Blue Car, the process took about 15 mins. You walk in and press pick up on this little machine at the door and it dispenses a number. They will then call your number. I would highly recommend using them as we had no issues at all. My sister had used them 4 mons prior to us using them and had no issues as well.

We met a young lady who had rented from Sixt and told us she was charged $400 for a very small scratch so beware of that place!

We paid approximately $600 for a very small Aygo and that included ALL the insurance you can get. However, they still have a deductible if you cause any damage to the vehicle. I think there’s only a handful of car rental companies in Iceland that have a zero deductible but I’ve read they are more expensive.img_8349

The trip cost us approx $4500+ and that includes airfare, gas, food, hotels, souvenirs and airport parking in Nashville. We only spent around $300 in gas in the 7 days we were there and we drove approximately 2k miles! Our hotels cost us around $1500.

Tip: Iceland’s gas is priced by the liter – 4 liters equals 1 gallon. Currently, the price for one liter of gas in Iceland is $2.75 a liter making one gallon of gas $11.00 (2023 prices)

Just an FYI, I also had enough points on my credit card to cover $600 for one of our tickets. So, we ended up paying around $1k out of pocket for both of our tickets.

We used the app to get us around Iceland. It’s a great app and is very reliable…it also doesn’t use your data. However, I would highly recommend you pick up a map so you can stay on Road 1, which is the Ring Road, because the app will always direct you to the shortest route which can put you on some very remote, gravel roads that have potholes the size of Texas! I was seriously praying that we wouldn’t blow a tire on some of the roads we went down!

Click here & here for a map of the Ring Road with attractions

Also, if you use the app, make sure you have the correct spelling of each place you are visiting because you won’t be able to pull it up on the app if you don’t.

Tip: For cheap data to use your phone while in Iceland, download an Esim card from the Airalo’s only $13 for 5 GB of data. I used it recently in Italy and it worked perfectly.

Thankfully, I had a very detailed itinerary with all the names of the places we were headed spelled out correctly.

We also downloaded the WhatsApp so we could stay in touch with family while we were gone. You do have to be on WiFi to use it but it works great! However, if you have purchased data, you can use WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.

We headed to our first stop on our 2nd day’s itinerary which was Seljalandsfoss.

We had beautiful weather the entire time until we headed back to Reykjavík where it was rainy and gloomy!

I don’t care what you have read, you will need rain pants, a rain jacket, gloves, scarves, hats, under armor, and good waterproof hiking shoes. It’s not as cold in some places as it is in others but you need to be prepared if the weather suddenly changes.

We also had bought water bottles to take with us so we could keep them filled because we had read you could drink the water straight from the faucets and springs. We also kept our plastic water bottles when we did buy water and would refill them which kept us from having to buy a lot of water.

Before arriving to Seljalandsfoss , we made a few stops along the way. One stop we made was to see some of those well known Icelandic horses!! They are everywhere so you will definitely have lots of opportunities to stop and see them!!

We then made a stop at Hraungerði church. Hraungerði’s church is first mentioned in the files of Páll, bishop from about 1200 and since then there have been numerous churches in Hraungerði. The current church was established in 1902.

I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the landscape…it was incredible!!

Our next stop was the beautiful Seljalandsfoss waterfall! It was absolutely amazing and we had perfect weather on top of that so it made the experience even better!

Make sure you have your rain gear on if you plan on walking behind the falls because you WILL get wet! But, I highly recommend you do this…it was so cool!

There are actually around 4 waterfalls here. Just walk the paved walk way to the left of Seljalandsfoss and you will see them.

Also, make sure you keep walking the path to the “hidden” waterfall called Gljufrabui. It’s found behind a small opening in a rock wall about a 10 min walk from Seljalandsfoss.

It was really cool and not many people were around. Make sure you have on waterproof pants and shoes because you will have to walk a short distance through the water to get to it.

With that being said, we mostly got to it by walking on stones in the water without ever getting our feet wet. 😁

Note: If you are wanting to visit the Westman Islands, it would be your next stop – read more here on how to get there. The ferry that takes you there is a 15 min drive from Seljalandsfoss. If you go to the Westman Islands, look for Elephant Rock.

After leaving here, we headed to our next stop, Skogafoss. However, we made a few stops along the way.

Tip: Two stops you can do before before arriving to Skogafoss is a cool church called Stora Dalskirkja which is 6 mins from Seljalandsfoss and the Seljavallalaug Pool – The pool was built in 1923, making it one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland. The actual oldest is the Secret Lagoon in Flúðir, which dates all the way back to 1891.

Tip: Click here for a list of all the hot springs in Iceland

I couldn’t stop taking pictures while we were driving!!

I can’t remember the name of this church because we stopped at so many.  I’ve read there are around 360 churches in Iceland…they were everywhere and they are all so beautiful and unique!

Click here to see more churches in Iceland & Click here to read my blog post on all of the churches we visited in Iceland.

We loved all the beautiful horses!

We passed the Rutshellir Cave but didn’t have time to stop. The cave is located 6 mins away from the Skogafoss waterfall.

We finally arrived to Skogafoss after about a 30 min drive. It’s a very impressive waterfall but I liked Seljandlandfoss better just because you could walk behind it. 🙂

This waterfall is known to produce beautiful rainbows on sunny days but sadly, we didn’t get to see one.

There are 527 steps leading up to an observation deck overlooking the falls but we decided not to climb the stairs since we were on a tight schedule due to our itinerary being messed up.

There is also a story that a chest filled with gold and treasures, has been put beneath Skógafoss waterfall, and in olden times one could see one side of the chest protruding from the waterfall.

So, if you find it you have to share it with me since I told you about it! 😉

After leaving here, we headed to our next stop which was much less crowded. There was only one other person here when we arrived and then one other couple arrived while we were there. This waterfall is called Kvernufoss.

To find this waterfall, put Skogar Museum in your GPS. Pull in the parking lot of the museum…continue driving and park at the 2 buildings to the right of the museum. You walk behind the building until you see a ladder (stiles) to cross over the fence.

We loved this waterfall! The landscape on the short 20 min hike was amazing! It was so green and there were flowers blooming everywhere!

Below is a picture of the turf houses at the Skogar Museum.

The ladder you will climb over.

You can walk behind the waterfall but it looked a bit challenging so we passed.

After leaving here we headed to our next stop, Solheimajokull glacier. You can actually walk right up to the glacier tongue. It’s only about a mile hike but again, we were a bit rushed so we decided not to walk it but now I regret not doing it! 🙁

After leaving here, we headed to our next stop, Dyrholaey Lighthouse.

Tip: Your next stop could be the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck – it’s a 10 min drive from the Glacier

The first lighthouse at Dyrholaey was constructed in 1910. The present lighthouse was built in 1927 and stands 43 ft tall. The site is open to visitors but the tower itself is not.

At this same stop you can see the Dyrholaey arch. Dyrhólaey is a huge black arch of lava reaching out into the sea which the peninsula takes its name from.

When driving on the main road 1(Ring Rd), you take a turn to the right onto road 218. Drive that road to the will have two options here…you can either drive it all the way or make a right turn up the hill. That is because Dyrhólaey is divided into two parts; upper and the lower.

You can also see the beautiful black lava seastacks Reynisdrangar and a view of the endless black coastline.

I highly recommend you see as much as this area as you have time for as it is truly beautiful!

My biggest regret is not carrying my digital camera with a 50x zoom lens as there were puffins flying all around! This is the best shot I could get with my IPhone 😭

After leaving this area, we headed to the next stop, Reynisfjara beach and the basalt columns. However, as we were headed there, we saw a small pull off with a path that led up to a cave.

I had actually read about this cave before my trip and had it on my itinerary but wasn’t exactly sure where it was. You will pass this shortly after you leave the Dyrholaey area heading towards Vik.

I love photography and had seen some really cool shots from this area so I was really hoping we would find it. It is a bit of a walk uphill but worth these views!

This small red building sits at the location of the cave

After taking 329 cool shots of the cave, we headed to black sand beach but first we made a quick stop at another church while I continued my non stop photo shoot of Iceland! 😉

Reynisfjara was one of our favorite places but when you drive the Ring Rd, you will have lots of favorite places!

Click here for the 60 best stops along the Ring Road

Just a word of warning, the waves on this beach are extremely dangerous! They may seem calm at times but NEVER turn your back on these waves! Read about sneaker waves here. They are deadly! There have been people swept out to sea at this beach and not lived to tell about it!

Tip: In case of an emergency, call 112. It’s Iceland’s version of 911.

Also, be very cautious when walking near or under the basalt columns as there have been thousands of pounds of rocks to collapse in the small cave like area on the beach. Iceland is a beautiful place but demands respect!

Obviously, these girl’s parents didn’t realize the dangers!!

We then headed to Vik to grab something to eat and to capture that iconic shot of the church. 😁

We ate at a cute little place attached to a gas station. I ordered the curry chicken with rice and the hubby ordered a burger and we ordered a bowl of the lamb stew…so good!!

Tip: A restaurant you may want to try in Vik is Halldor’s Cafe. It was originally a general store that was built in 1831 or grab a coffee at Skool Beans Cafe.

Tip: Just about every restaurant will have the lamb stew and they have free refills! It was so good…try it!

Look at that view we had!

There was a path behind the restaurant that led to a black sand beach and a better view of Reynisdrangar…the 66 m high rock pillars that stick out of the sea. So, after we ate, we walked the path to get a better view of the rocks.

Tip: Other things you can see/do in this area is the Katla Ice Cave tour (45 mins from Vik), Paragliding in Vik, Horseback riding or go swimming in the Vik swimming pool

After leaving here, we headed to a place that was a Must See on my list, Fjaorargljufur Canyon. This place is beautiful but it became well known after Justin Beiber filmed one of his music videos here.

Tip: Before the canyon, your next stop could be the “Yoda Cave” known a Hjorleifshofdi or Gigjagja in Iceland – This cave was featured in the movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in the film’s opening scene.

However, before arriving to the canyon we stopped off to take a closer look at all the moss covered lava rocks…it was amazing!

We then continued on to our next stop. It was late when we arrived so there was hardly anyone else around.

The canyon is amazing! It’s up to 100 m deep and about 2 km long, with the Fjaðrá river flowing through it .The canyon has steep walls and winding water.

There is free parking and free bathrooms (called WC or water closets in Iceland) on site .

There is a pathway that takes you to 3 different lookouts. The walk is uphill but it’s only about a 10-15 min walk.

Sign we saw near the canyon….shocking this is even necessary! 😳😬

Tip: 15 mins past the canyon is the Stjornarfoss waterfall

We passed the Foss a Sidu waterfall as we were leaving the was located 25 mins past the canyon

Our next stop was going to be Diamond beach and Glacier Lagoon but it was getting late and we were so exhausted after hitting the ground running as soon as our plane landed that morning, so we decided to head to our hotel.

The drive to Diamond Beach is 1 hr 45 mins from the Canyon.

Tip: There are two stops you can do before Diamond Beach and those are  Núpsstaðarirkja church – Smallest turf church in Iceland & the Skaftafell National Park –the park is 1 hr from the Canyon – There is also a gas station with a restaurant 7 mins from the National park called Soluskalinn Freysnesi and a N1 self serve only gas station 20 mins past the National Park.

Our hotel was only 10-15 mins from the beach and lagoon so we decided to add it to the next day’s itinerary.

Tip: Click here for hotels near Diamond Beach

On the way to our hotel we passed several glaciers that could be seen right from the road. We hated that it was too dark to see all the snow capped mountains but even with the midnight sun, it was still too dark to make out some of the landscape.

My pictures didn’t turn out too well since it was so late & I was taking them from the car.

We were going to try and head to Svinafellsjokull glacier but the road was in horrible shape and only recommend for 4WDs so we ended up turning around. Book tours here. This area is approx. 1 hr from Diamond Beach.

We finally arrived to our hotel. I think it was around midnight. I didn’t have cell service so I couldn’t call them and let them know when we would be arriving.

Thankfully, I had messaged them through Travelocity before we left on our trip to make them aware of our situation and told them I didn’t know what time we would arrive but knew that it would be late.

I use Travelocity for most all of my trips to book our hotels, car rentals, airfare & never had any problems.

The hotel messaged me back and told me what building our room was in as there were several different buildings on site. When we arrived, I went into that building and an envelope was lying on a table near the door with my name on it.

A lot of these guesthouses along the ring road have limited hours so they want you to call and let them know when you will arrive. Fortunately, we didn’t have any problems. They would just leave a note and your key at the reception desk if they were gone for the night.

We stayed at the Hali Country Hotel and paid approximately $315 for the night. Their front desk hours are from 8 am – 9 pm.

The side of their building looked like a set of encyclopedias…it was so cool!

The view from our window

A glimpse inside the room…very roomy & spacious!

Just an FYI, most all of the places we stayed at, only had one dispenser of soap in the shower to bathe and to wash your hair, if you have a favorite shampoo you like to use, you may want to bring your own.

I had brought travel size shampoo and body wash with us & we used it but it’s not a necessity.

That’s all for day one! It was exhausting but fun and we got to see a lot considering we had a 5 1/2 drive to our hotel from the airport.

Thanks for reading and I hope this helps you plan your own trip to Iceland! 🙂

Your route on Google Maps:

Stay tuned for Day 2!

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