Iceland, the land of ice and fire, often known as the most beautiful place in this planet with its dramatic natural scenery. It is also one of the highest ranked among the world destinations for road trip. What’s more, being tagged as the best place to chase for northern light (also known as “aurora”) makes Iceland one of our dream bucket list.
With preparation of almost one year ahead, we had finally completed our 7 days 1,100 kilometres Southern Iceland road trip in September 2016. It was absolutely a mesmerising trip with so many stunning views and magical moments in this island of Scandinavia region. We are also equally amazed with the Icelandic culture and history too.
We hope our sharing on itinerary and travel tips will be useful and practical to those who are planning their way there. If you are looking for a less , 7 days itinerary with relaxing pace and ample time for photograph along the way, do read on.
Road Trip Itinerary (Click to see more photos from each day)
Day 1 – KEF airport (Arrive) > Bergas Guesthouse
Day 2 – Keflavik > Stekkjarkot (grass roof ancient house) > Reykjavik > Hallgrimskirkja (modern church) > Solfario (viking ship steel sculpture) > Point 4 Thingvekker > Oxararfoss (waterfall) > Laugarvatn Fontana > Golden Circle Apartment
Day 3 – Laugarvatn > Gullfoss (magnificent waterfall) > Strokkur (geyser) > Seljalandsfoss (spectacular waterfall) > Skogafoss (broad waterfall) > Skammidalur Guesthouse (near Vik town)
Day 4 – Vik > Svartifoss (waterfall) > Fjallsarlon Glacier Lagoon > Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon > Vik
Day 5 – Vik > Solheimasandur (plane wreck) > Blue Lagoon > Silica Hotel
Day 6 – Blue Lagoon > Reyjavik > Harpa Concert Hall and Conference > Keflavik > Skessuhellir (giantess cave) > Bergas Guesthouse
Day 7 – KEF airport (Depart)
Generally there are plenty of car rental companies available in Iceland. Most of them are set up near the Keflavik Airport while some are bit distance away. Do check with them whether they provide free shuttle to collect the car if the company is not within walking distance from the airport. We took Green Motion which provides free shuttle (every 15 minutes) from the airport to the pick up point. Stay at the lobby as the car rental guy will be welcoming you with a board printed with the car rental company name.
You might be asked to top up car insurance coverage for special situation i.e. sand storm, etc. Well, the premium is not cheap and it is all on your own risk and judgement. However, we were lucky as do not encounter any harsh weather throughout the trip. Be cautious when opening the car door as the strong wind might force the door to bang against any object around it.
You do not need a 4 wheels drive if you are just planning a southern part road trip as the road is in good condition. You might need it only if you are planning on some off-trek adventures.
Note: Apps like Google Map and Waze are pretty accurate and useable on the island, save some bucks on GPS rental if you have a data loaded mobile.
You may opt for a local sim card at the airport if you are travelling alone. It is highly recommended to rent a wifi egg if you are travelling in group as it provides unlimited data usage with only $10 per day. We rented one from Trawire and satisfied with the connection quality and coverage. The portable egg could be picked up from 4 different local N1 gas stations. Do check for more information from Trawire.
Weather and Attire
Iceland is basically having an all-year-long chilling weather with average of 0-7 celcius throughout the year. Important to get a wind breaker jacket and thermal wear or long johns. It could get pretty windy at times that you will really need a scarf or mask to cover up the mouth and neck area. Don’t forget the moisturising lotion and lip balm too.
Both cash and card payment methods are widely accepted in Iceland. However, do ensure that you have activated your credit card PINS with your local bank for overseas usage as there are many gas stations especially in the outskirt are not manned. You will need to self-service hence the credit card PINS is pretty important. Just to be safe, you might also want to have credit card with different gateways i.e. Visa and Mastercard in hand when either one doesn’t work.
Northern Light Chase
- Plan your trip around September to March when the night is longer than the day.
- Try not to stay near the area with a lot of light pollution.
- You might need to stay awake all night long as it could happen as long as 15 minutes or as short as just 1 minute or few seconds.
- Use the local weather forecast web to gauge on the clouds movement but do not fully rely on it. (really just for reference, as the weather in Iceland is too fast changing and unpredictable)
- There is also a aurora forecast website that you could check on.
- Standby with a camera which has high ISO, long shutter, low light settings.
- Tripod to stabilize the camera and shutter remote control.
- Use compass apps as guidance and try to always gaze towards north direction.
- Good luck! It is really on luck and don’t be disappointed if you don’t get to see it as Iceland is really so amazing that it’s more than just the aurora.
Note: Do you really need a Northern Light Chase local tour package? Personally, I would say not really as Iceland is strategically located within the Arctic Circle. That means you can actually see the northern light dance in most of the places. Of course, the tour increases the chance by bringing tourists to places with less light pollution and less clouds (higher altitude)