Last year my sister started talking about wanting to go to Iceland. In January I found cheap tickets for June so we soon had the tickets booked. Turns out, those tickets were the cheapest thing on the whole trip…
During Easter we started planning the actual trip. We knew Iceland is an expensive country, but we weren’t prepared for just how expensive it actually is. We looked at hostel prices in Reykjavik and day trips and soon figured out that we shouldn’t stay in Reykjavik for the whole six days. We needed to rent a car. This was the first time I had rented a car. We used rentalcars.com and the actual company was Geysir. We had booked an automatic, but we got a manual car (I’m still waiting for rentalcars.com response/compensation). I am a good driver, but it was really stressful to drive in Iceland. The roads were good, but I was more stressed about doing damage to the car. Funnily enough, we noticed that we seemed to be the only ones who got a green rental as all the other rental cars at parking lots and sites seemed to be white. I had only put one driver on the contract to save money. I bet my sister was rolling her eyes when we literally went chasing a waterfall my sister had seen on Instagram, and ended up on this horrible small dirt road, and I refused to drive faster than 20km/h. And we couldn’t get to the waterfall as the pathway to it was closed!
After the fumble at the rental company, I quickly familiarized myself with driving a stick. We had also rented a navigator which was money worth spend in my opinion. As we drove out of Reykjavik, I noticed how fond Icelanders are of roundabouts. If you are driving in Iceland remember to keep both hands on the wheel as the wind can be vicious.
So we had sorted out wheels for ourselves, where to go? In Easter we made a list of things we wanted to do in Iceland based on travel guides I had borrowed from the library and planned a rough route based on that. We knew we couldn’t go north or east because this was a short holiday, so we focused on making the most of what eastern and southern Iceland had to offer. We pre-booked our accommodation, because we were travelling during peak tourist time. We also pre-booked a whale watching trip. When we looked at Blue Lagoon’s website in Easter there were no mention of pre-booking anything, but the day before we left I checked their website and suddenly they had a time slot entrance requiring pre-booking. Luckily, we managed to get tickets to the Blue Lagoon and didn’t have to miss that.
We both had the Golden Circle on our list so we headed there for two days. Our first stop of the day was Thingvellir national park. It was a windy day and it was lightly raining, but luckily we were properly attired to enjoy the beautiful park. In this park you can be on two continents at the same time as the American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet here and are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimetres per year. One foot in America, one foot in Europe!
We knew Iceland is an expensive country so we had packed tea, coffee, hot chocolate, porridge satchels, peanut butter, biscuits, chocolate and pasta meals. We stopped at the first supermarket near the airport, and after seeing the prices, I was so happy we had brought food with us. We only had to buy some bread and jam, but that was expensive enough.
We stayed at Laugarvatn which was good place to stay as it is near to all the sites. The town itself is pretty small and I recommend doing your shopping in Reykjavik as the prices are quite high. There is Laugarvatn Fontana, a geothermal spa, you can go to. It is quite expensive and small, but it was nice to relax in warm water after a day of hiking in rain and wind.
We woke really early the next day and I was behind the wheel at 8 AM. Our first stop was to see Geysir and Stokkur. You could see steam rising from the ground and hear the water boiling as you walked closer to the geysirs.
Geysir is dormant, but it is worth watching Stokken erupt. I have video footage of it and I’ll add it on my Iceland video for you to see.
The next stop on our Golden Circle tour was Gullfoss (Golden Falls) waterfall. This was the highlight of the whole trip in my opinion. Gullfos was absolutely magnificent and just stunning. The pictures don’t do it justice. I’ll add some footage of Gullfos to the video as well, so you can hear the force of the water. There are three places you can stop and admire Gullfoss (on the top, next to it, and further down the stream) and I recommend admiring it from all these angles.
The best part about renting a car? Freedom. You can stop when ever you feel like it. Whether to take photos of stunning scenery, admire Icelandic horses or the beautiful lupine filled mountains.
My favourite stop was at Efstidalur farm. We saw a sign for ice cream on the road and Icelandic horses when were driving to the yard, so we knew we had made a good choice.
You could see the cows straight from the small cafe. There were friendly dogs in the yard begging to be scratched and the horses were just waiting for their photoshoot.
That was pretty much the Golden Circle portion of our trip. The next day we headed further south, but more on that later.