Sunday, April 2, 2023

Our Epic DIY Self-Drive Road Trip to Iceland in 12 Days - Sep 2018

***Sorry for the maybe-outdated information. This blog post sat in my blog draft for 4+ years.😅

Aurora Borealis in Iceland, September 2018

This was a holiday which we had it planned since 9 mths before our trip in 2018.

It was an all-girls trip; just the 4 of us girls.

Now, I would like to jot down our experience as I see it, and hopefully benefit those of you trying to plan your own trip to Iceland.


Our trip was in September 2018. Below are the dates to be exact.

We decided to go in September mainly because we wanted smaller crowd and still enjoy the relatively mild and good weather. And that we wanted to do lots of hiking if possible. And September was also a month which we hoped to be able to catch the Northern Lights if we are lucky (and lucky indeed we were!)

So we got the best of both worlds. Great weather (except for the last few days) with lots of daylight hours. And driving was easy and safe compared to wintry weather. And enough dark hours to spot the Northern Lights.
The only thing we didn't get to do was to visit a natural Ice Cave (which is usually only available starting of Nov).


We flew with Finnair, mainly because it was the cheapest we could find. We transited via Singapore and Helsinki.
They connected us via Silkair from Penang to Singapore, and then Finnair for the next 2 legs of our journey.

We flew:

and the other way for our return trip.
KEF - HEL  (we had a long 8-hour layover in Helsinki so we went out for a day tour) SIN - PEN

We paid SGD1221.20 for our flight (~MYR 3.7k)


We did contemplate between renting a Camper Van or something similar or to stay in Airbnbs.
We finally decided on Airbnbs because we wanted the space and a decent place to rest every evening after us exploring the whole day.
We were lucky we chose this because the last 3 days we were met with Iceland's first winter storm of the year!

And so we stayed in Airbnbs for most of the days except for in Hofn where we stayed in a guesthouse.
For those interested, you can have a look at the area and price we paid for it.

We were all very happy with our accomodation via Airbnb because most importantly the locations were perfect. Plan where you would be after the whole day of sightseeing and where you want to head to the next day. Stay somewhere in between or so as you wouldn't want to drive for hours after a whole day of sightseeing.

Please bear in mind that accommodation in some areas are very scarce and limited especially once you are out of the Golden Circle.
So, plan and book early. We booked our accommodation 9 mths before and yet some of the better priced/and or better location ones were already booked by others!


We decided to do one whole round and cover the Golden Circle then continued on to the Ring Road.
The word Ring Road should be self-explanatory. It is a road that covers 13,000km and I heard that the whole route takes about 16 hours non-stop driving, though we did nothing of that sort.

Usually people do the whole round drive in a week or two because there are many attractions and views to stop for photographs or just to feast your eyes on.
Everything in Iceland is about nature and all 4 of us love nature so we were in heaven during our days in Iceland.

Unlike other countries, where their main roads are big highways with mutiple lanes. The Ring Road in Iceland is a fantastically 2-lane road with picturesque views all around.

Iceland hardly has any trees. So on most days, the view from our car stretches endlessly towards picturesque farms, fields, mountains, beaches, lakes, glaciers, hot springs, the North Atlantic Sea and we caught many full rainbows, and even double rainbows.

We did consider traveling with a Campervan but decided against it because we still needed to find Camping ground to park (you cannot park your campervan anywhere you like; it is illegal!), and the cost of a Campervan and camping ground rentals came out to be almost the same as if we just hire a car and airbnb.
And also if we do hire a motorhome, none of us wanted to deal with the sewage care. So, we ditched the idea and settled for a rented car and Airbnbs.

We went anti-clockwise around the Ring Road starting from Reykjavik.


We booked our rented car from Icerental 4x4.
We didn't have a very good experience with this rental company.

We booked a new model Honda CRV,  but we got a smaller, older version car instead, a Suzuki Vitara. The reason they gave us was that the Honda CRV that we booked was spoiled when someone returned it to them yesterday.
There was actually nothing we could do about it but to agree, because it was quite early when we reached, and they were the only company who was open at that time.
We paid ISK 104,760 for 12 days.

But to be fair, in return, they gave us a free pocket Wifi to use throughout our days.

Bu we also encountered some problems with our car - Low batt with our keys; which ended up we had problem starting our car at one point.

Ok, let me just summarize our days in Iceland. 

DAY 1 - Reykjavik

Day 1 in Reykjavik greeted us with the most expensive soup + bread meal we had at Iceland Street Food.
RM225 for 4 but with free refills of bread and soup though.
Taste wise it was ok for me.

We just walked around Reykjavik while waiting for our Airbnb check-in time which was at 4pm, in which there were some hiccups too. 

The iconic Sun Voyager sculptere was prettier when I saw it in person than in Google Images (probably due to the beautiful background).
Everybody was stacking the pebbles nearby there too so I took a photo of them.

Love the lake with the ducks swimming in it and I went near to take some photos. I was shocked when I saw a few ducks jumping up to the pavement after I took the shots. Luckily they didn't peck me while I was near.

We waited for sunset and it was a beautiful first sunset in Reykjavik, Iceland. 

Coupled with jetlag and all, we did not bad by clocking 20,000 steps on Day 1.
By 9.30pm all 4 of us were in bed. Long day indeed.

DAY 2 - Thingvellir National Park (Almannagjá Gorge, Öxarárfoss Falls, Silfra), Strokkur Geyser, Gulgoss Waterfall

Day 2 in Iceland started with a Unesco Heritage Site - Thingvellir National Park.

The Almannagjá gorge was one of the Game of Thrones (GoT) filming sites. I loved the dark stones with its many fissures and cracks.

We even took a photo with someone who was an Extra in GoT! 

Also saw our first waterfall - Öxarárfoss Falls in Thingvellir.
Nothing impressive but since it was our first waterfall, we clicked away. 

The viewing platform from Thingvellir was nice too. 
We could really see miles and miles of the scenery surrounding us.

Thingvellir is also the only place in the world where you can stand between two continental tectonic plates. 

The ravines opened by the tectonic movement full with the meltwater from Langjokull glacier, which has travelled underground for decades through porous lava rock, undergoing a very thorough filtration process.  When it enters the ravines, therefore, it is pristinely clean and crystal clear. 
The most famous one of these ravines and the only one it is permitted to snorkel or dive is in Silfra. 

Then we visited my first ever geyser. 
Strokkur is a fountain-type geyser located in a geothermal area in the Hakadalur Valley. 
It was a fountain geyser that erupts every 5-10 mins with a height of 15-20m, and it can sometimes erupt up to 40m high!

Gulgoss waterfall was a powerful falls; thundering and showering us with mists as we walked nearer. 
It was really impressive to me!

We ended Day 2 with a outdoor Hot Tub soak at our very nice Airbnb farmstay. 
The water was really hot at 40 dC but after awhile our body got used to it and it was nice to soak outdoor in the cold! Such a nice feeling!

DAY 3 - Kerid Crater Lake, Reykjadalur Valley, Seljalandsfoss

Day 3 in Iceland started off with Kerid Crater Lake, which was a almost-neon blue lake sitting in a volcano surrounded by rare red volcanic rock.

Then it was an uphill 1 hour hike up Reykjadalur Valley, a geothermal region with boiling hot pools and steam rising.

The hike was not very easy as it was uphill most of the way. But it was really beautiful once we hiked into the valley.
I’ve never hiked so deep into a valley before. We went so deep inside the views there were amazing.
Best part was the end of the hike was the Thermal Hot Spring where we soaked ourselves into! 😉

Next highlight of the day was to visit Seljalandsfoss where we could walk behind the falls.
The experience was really special.

Last highlight of the day was the hidden waterfall nearby where we needed to wade through the river to get to it.
Luckily we were prepared and bought shoe covers from the pasar malam so everyone was envious of us wading into the river easily! ✌️😬

Now you know why Day 3 was so pretty awesome for us. 😉

DAY 4 - Seljavallalaug Hike, Skogafoss, Sólheimasandur, Dyrhólaey, Aurora Borealis

We started Day 4 in Iceland with another morning hike to Seljavallalaug, the oldest swimming pool in Iceland. The pool was nothing special (just a very old normal-looking pool) but the hike and view there was pretty amazing.

Then we went to another waterfall, Skogafoss where we climbed 500+ steps to reach to the top of the falls.

Next was the 7km round walk to see the US airplane that crash-landed on the black sand beach of Sólheimasandur in 1973.

Let me tell you, the walk there was torturing although it only took us 45 mins walk in and 45 mins walk out.
It was gravel all the way in and there was nothing to see. The beach looked so near yet was so far...
The plane wreck was ok, but I won’t walk again. It was not that the path was difficult, it was just that the walk there was super boring to me haha 😓

Then we drove up to the cliff to see the magnificent view from atop and the view was really great!

We also stopped nearby for another viewing point to look down to the black sand beach and Dyrhólaey, the Arch with the Hole.
Dyrhólaey is also one of the Game of Thrones filming site.

And best of all, Day 4 was the day we saw the millions of stars and the Aurora Borealis/Northern Lights right from outside our farmhouse airbnb! So lucky!
(Photo of the aurora taken with my Canon point-and-shoot camera with some settings adjustments and WITHOUT a tripod! ✌️😅

DAY 5 - Paragliding at Reynisdrangar, Hjörleifshöfði Cave @ Mýrdalssandur Black Sand Beach.

Day 5 was the most crazy day for me in Iceland!

Firstly, we went to the black beach to see the Reynisdrangar, which are basalt sea stacks situated under the Reynisfjall mountain.

Then we went to do Paragliding! (Omgosh....i’m not the type that does all these crazy stuff)
That was why I said it was a crazy day.

3 of us went tandem paragliding in Vik, South Iceland with True Adventure.

Before that, our paragliding pilot, Sammi took us up the Reynisfjall Mountain, which had the most incredible views of the Reynisdrangar Sea Cliffs. They are the towering, spiky basalt sea stacks jutting out from the ocean.
I think my dad would have a heart attack seeing how near we stood near the mountain cliff. 😅😱🤭

After that, we just paraglided from the hill out into the Reynisfjara beach and out above the ocean with the Dyrhólaey nearby too!!!

It was not as scary as I thought it would be. It was surprisingly easy to take off and landing, thanks to our experienced pilot.
I felt quite relaxed sitting down and leaning back while enjoying the view for my 10-15 minutes ride up in the air!

But truthfully, if it had been 1 hr paragliding in the air, I would have felt nauseous, as I’m an airsick person! So 10-15 mins was just a nice ride i think for me! (Btw, i declined all stunts in the air. I jist wanted to relax and enjoy the view in the air! 😌🤭)

Lastly we drove out to the Hjörleifshöfði Cave at the Mýrdalssandur Black Sand Beach. The cave was nicknamed the Yoda Cave (alert, all Star Wars fan!)
You will need a 4x4 car if you want to drive all the way to the end of the beach. I liked how isolate the beach was, with barely anyone there. 😏

The drive on the beach where it was only us was really really nice!

This sums up the most crazy day 5 in Iceland with me doing tandem paragliding....omgosh i still can’t believe I did that!

DAY 6 - Fjaðárgljúfur Canyon Skaftafell National Park, Svartifoss Black Falls, Sjónarnípa for Skaftafell Glacier

Day 6 in Iceland was Hiking Day

Firstly, it was an easy hike to Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon was a 100-meter deep passage with stunning moss-coated walls and an ancient river flowing through its base.

Because of the sun's direction, we could not see clearly the pure blue river colour.

Then it was hiking at Skaftafell National Park.
We started having early lunch at the Information Center. Our lunch view was unbeatable.

Then we hiked about 30 minutes to Svartifoss (Black Falls).
The waterfall tumbled down 20 metres over a cliff which was bordered on both sides by tall black basalt columns, resembling pipes of a giant organ, and was very unique and beautiful!

Then we further hiked up another 1 hour to Sjónarnípa which was a viewpoint overlooking the Skaftafell glacier and its surrounding mountains. It was beautiful at the view peak.
We didn’t stay long up there though as we saw rain clouds above us. We took another 1hr+ to hike down.

The hike to the glacier was a very beautiful hike. It was full of greens with the mountain glacier just in front of us.

On our way, we saw a few smaller falls and we filled up our water bottles there. My 1st time drinking straight from the falls. ✌😊
We ended the day driving to our next airbnb and saw a few rainbows along the way. Managed to capture one which was really very distinctive in its colours, even with the grey cloudy skies.

DAY 7 - Glacier Kayak @ Heinabergslón

Day 7 in Iceland was another exciting day for me.
We signed up for the 3 hour Glacier Kayak with Ice Guide and had one of the best experience of our lives!
(Except that our feet were freezing numb after awhile!)
We kayaked in the Heinabergslón (Heinaberg Lagoon).

Surprisingly, it was quite easy to kayak. I mean, i was just thankful that our kayak didn’t capsize 😅!
And that our hand/shoulder muscles didn’t ache the next day seeing i rarely exercise my upper body.
We spent at least 2+ hours kayaking and about 1/2 hour walking on the glacier/icebergs. We were suited up with a drysuit and life jacket so we felt really safe just in case we topple over 😬!
Fyi, our feet were really freezing as our feet didn’t move much during kayaking and also we walked on freezing icebergs!! 😅😅😅
. And be forewarned that you needed to hold your pee for like the next 4+ hours (yes, that was how long needed to wear our drysuit/gears and then drove to the lagoon, kayak-ed for 3 hours, then we drove back to the changing area!)

2 of us in our group was like super-needed to pee and it was suffering to have to hold your pee for so long! And the freezing cold did not help either! So tips is to minimize your water intake before doing this activity!
After the kayak, we had a late lunch at the cafe at the meeting point.
And on our drive to our next airbnb, we saw some magnificent Icelandic horses which are unique to Iceland only.

DAY 8 - Mývatn Nature Baths, Hverir Geothermal Area, Grjótagjá Cave, Dimmuborgir Lava Fields, Goðafoss

The highlight of Day 8 in Iceland was us soaking/bathing in the Mývatn Nature Baths.
Mývatn Nature Baths are a set of geothermally heated pools and steam baths found in the Lake Mývatn area.

We decided to go to this one and not the more famous Blue Lagoon as we preferred it to be less crowded. And we never regretted it!

When we went in, we had the pool almost all to ourselves, with just about 10 other people in other parts of the pools. It was really nice and we could pose in the blue water with barely anyone.

And we also got a great discount 40% as the weather was cold which made the water to be cooler than usual. So lagi tatt for us! ✌️
The water there was packed with minerals, particularly sulphur, which was supposed to be good for our skin. Whatever, but we felt really good soaking our bodies into the warm waters.

And then it was a visit to all the Game of Thrones filming sites.

First, it was to the Hverir, a geothermal area with boiling mudpots and fumaroles. At a depth of 1000m, the temperature at Hverir is above 200 dC. There was the sulfur smell (to us, it smelled of rotten eggs!) from the fumarole gas.
This was the GoT filming site where Sam Tarly killed a White Walker.

After that, we went to the nearby Grjótagjá Cave, which was another one of the Game of Thrones filming site. That was the cave where Jon Snow lost his virginity to Ygritte.
It was just a small cave with natural hot springs which we had to kinda climbed inside and although it was dark, we could still see that the water was blue.

And for the last one, we went to Dimmuborgir Lava Fields. It was another GoT filming site as a location beyond the wall, where Mance Rayder’s wildling army camp was. .
This frozen lava field was a lovely place, with the amazing rock formations. Lotsa trees n planta there too so really a pretty walk for us.

This frozen lava field was a lovely place, with the amazing rock formations. Lotsa trees n planta there too so really a pretty walk for us.

Before we ended day 8, we visited Goðafoss (Waterfall of the Gods). It was really a beautiful one although I’ve seen so many waterfalls in Iceland.

DAY 9 - Akureyri, Aurora Borealis @ Þjóðvegur Airbnb

Day 9 in Iceland was a restful day for us. We reached the 2nd biggest town in Iceland, Akureyri the night before and walked the town a ‘lil bit.

Had gelato just next to our airbnb in the cold at 5dC!

We then drove to our next airbnb in Þjóðvegur at the Northwest region of Iceland. Our home for the night was a Geodome so it was pretty unique.

We just walked around the farm nearby our Geodome and did funny antics (like this crazy Pat who is trying to be a “Rosmah” priest!).

We ended the night by staying up until midnight to catch the Aurora Borealis again because the forecast said the activity level is ‘4’ .
Roz said we are the most lazy Aurora Hunters because all we ever did was to just go out of our airbnb in our Pyjamas and hoped to see it from outside our airbnb!

Luckily we saw it again, and this time it was dancing! ✌️

DAY 10 - Hvítserkur @ Vatnsnes peninsula, Sjavarborg Restaurant in Hvammstangi town,

Day 10 itinerary in Iceland was a visit to the Rhino - Hvítserkur.
We drove along the Vatnsnes peninsula which was where the Rhino was, an extraordinary rock formation of Hvitserkur which was a 15 meter tall cliff jutting out straight from the sea.

You could watch it from the platform above, where the carpark was.

Or you could admire it down there by walking down a rather steep trail to the sand below. (Which we did, btw! 🤭) It was quite a steep path and so please thread with caution.

Loved how unique and beautiful this Rhino rock was, especially with the sea and beautiful blue sky as the background.

Then we had lunch at Sjavarborg Restaurant in a town (Hvammstangi) we stopped by. Beautiful scenery but mediocre food. 😅

Then we did grocery before we reached our next cabin airbnb to prepare for Iceland’s first winter storm. 😅😅😅

It was getting quite windy. Watch the video on how the wind is blowing the sand on the beach! We were abit unfortunate as the news forecasts said the first winter storm in Iceland came early!

DAY 11 - Kirkjufell @ Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Day 11 in Iceland - Luckily, we could still make it in time to our tiny cabin overlooking the Kirkjufell, a 463 m high mountain on the north coast of Iceland's Snæfellsnes peninsula. This mountain was also one of the filming site in Games of Thrones.

The wind was howling the whole time there so all of us were stuck in our teeny tiny cabin.

All we managed to do was to walk about an hour to the nearby lighthouse. Look how stronhg the wind was (video of the grass n also me meditating in the strong wind 😝)

So we played Chor Dai Dee cards while being stuck in our cabin!

P/S - It got up to “feels like -11dC” according to Yahoo! Weather!!!

DAY 12 - Snæfellsnes Viewpoint, Gerðuberg Hexagonal Basalt, Anarstapi Village, Statue of Bardur

Day 12 was our last day in Iceland.
We drove up to the mountains to the Snæfellsnes Viewpoint. We even spotted a rainbow on the far right but I think my phone didn’t capture it.

Then we spotted some cars parking nearby some cliffs so we stopped too and joined them. We then walked in the strong wind to a little canyon to have a look inside. We saw a mini waterfall with a mini glacier at the top. With open view on top as well. Pretty special!

Then we went to have a look at the Gerðuberg. The Gerðuberg is a row of perfectly shaped hexagonal basalt columns that run along a cliff on the southern side of the Snӕfellsnes Peninsula, in west Iceland.
To me, it kinda looked like a fortress wall.

We wanted to climb on top of it but decided not to because the windy was really strong and chilly and all we wanted to do was to get back into our car away from the strong wind! Brrrr....🤭

After that we stopped for lunch at the Anarstapi village, where we tried horse meat which tasted not bad. We had lamb n Cod fish too. But the bread with their complimentary homemade butter was the most delicious haha!

Just nearby our lunch place was this Statue of Bardur Snaefellsnes - a half-man, half-giant that is said to roam the Snaefellsnes glacier in Iceland.

There are so many myths and legends in Iceland, with its trolls and elves and such, making Iceland really magical.

Thant's all for 12 days in Iceland. Bye-bye Iceland.

Hope my summarized trip to Iceland inspires some of you out there to visit beautiful Iceland!