Iceland's Ring Road - Part 1

June 23, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

It's been nearly a decade since I've written about my travels and now I've written about Iceland twice in a matter of months. I've recently returned from my second trip to the land of fire and ice. My parents met me at Keflavik, we rented a car with a wifi hotspot and started our journey around Ring Road. This was the first time I've had wifi while traveling internationally and now I'll never go back! It was so convenient to be able to look up restaurants, reviews and the history of Iceland while on the road! It was also a lifesaver when menus were only online, so I quickly learned to grab it from the car whenever we went in to eat, just in case there was no wifi available which did happen a few times.

Day 1 - Getting to Snæfellsnes Peninsula

We got an early start on the day with our overnight flight and started making our way to Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The first stop is a bakery for breakfast. While almost everyone speaks English, I was delighted I learned some Icelandic since my last visit!  While we were waiting in line, I could decipher some of the ingredients. The first meal was simple sandwiches and coffee but it was delicious!  

Instead of heading straight to the peninsula, I had to make a detour to see Þórufoss, a waterfall along the way. It was a quick stop but well worth it. Then on to the Black Church of Budir. By this time the gray clouds had parted and the sun was shining with a gorgeous blue sky. 
Cascade waterfall surrounded by green moss-covered lava rocks.Þórufoss   A black church stands with a rock wall surrounding it. The church has 3 white windows and a door. The sky is blue with wispy clouds.Black Church

One more waterfall by the road and then off to a late lunch dinner at Reks. It turns out that on Sundays in this area, many restaurants are closed so we had a limited choice but the food was incredible! We all ordered the catch of the day and I can't even remember what was in it but the flavors just burst. It was late enough in the day so we checked into our AirBnB in Grundarjför. Cute 2-bedroom apartment above a store with a great view of Kirkjufell. 

Cod placed on a creamy sauce surrounded by broccoli, mushrooms and pickled radishes.Cod dish Window looking out at the mountain6FD6CC41-F8EB-48AF-81D1-AFF693109B04 Day 1 Map: Keflavik to Grundarfjörður routeDay 1 Keflavik to Grundarfjörður route

I tried to make it until 7 pm but I was so exhausted I barely made it to 6. I didn't even look at the Aurora forecast! Luckily, at 11 pm I woke with the sound of car doors slamming and immediately checked. There was a decent chance so I threw on clothes and woke my parents, giving them the option to sleep or come with me. Of course, they weren't about to let their daughter go out alone in the middle of the night, let alone in a different country! We drove a few minutes to Kirkjufell Mountain and found parking. As soon as we were out of the car we saw some light green waves in the sky. Within 20 minutes the colors got darker and started dancing! It was so beautiful! This was the first time, despite many attempts I've seen the Northern Lights. They did not disappoint! We were back in bed at about 2 am, for our 2nd nap.

Whirls of green and purple dance in front of a mountain's silhouetteWhirls of green and purple Whirls of green and purple dance in front of a mountain's silhouetteWhirls of green and purple


Day 2 - Exploring Snæfellsnes Peninsula

We were out of the house by 9 am, and not wanting to miss anything of our full day, grabbed breakfast and coffee from the bakery in the grocery. We also got gas for the first time. I'm sure you've already read how you should have a credit card with a pin. We had that but our pump wanted us to select how many liters we wanted to buy. There was no option to just fill the tank. Luckily this was our only gas station that had this. We quickly learned N1 gas stations let you fill the tank all the way up without having to guess how much to buy.

Our first stop was Kirkjufell.  Although we saw the silhouette against the aurora, it was incredible to see this iconic mountain during the day. The sky was a gorgeous blue with wispy clouds, my favorite for photos on a sunny day. I could have spent hours by Kirkjufellfoss, with the mountain in the background, granted I could do that by any waterfall. They truly are my happy place.

Waterfalls in the foreground while a mountain looms in the background against a blue skyKirkjufellsfossSnaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland The edge of a green mountain touches the river running along side it. Wispy clouds float in a deep blue skyLands of Kirkjufell

Next stop, Kerlingarfoss. If I had all the time in the world, I. would have come back to get a better photo, but when you're trying to explore as much as you can, you can't wait for the lighting to be right. You take what you can get and what I got was a waterfall with the sun directly behind it, arguably the worst lighting possible. But it was a waterfall and they are always worth the stop. 

A cascade falls between two moss covered vocanic rock cliffs. Deep blue sky is above and a bright starburst sun washes out some of the colorKerlingarfoss Two toasted flour tortillas filled with fried shrimp-looking lagoustine, pico de gallo, and a creamy pink sauce.Langoustine tacos

Langoustine tacos at Sker Restaurant were next. Once again, it was very delicious! 

We drove through Snæfellsjökull National Park, stopping at Svörtuloft Lighthouse and Skarðsvík Beach via a gravel road. The landscape looked like we were on another planet! Green moss-covered volcanic rocks as far as you could see. We stopped at Saxhóll Crater but I decided not to go to the top because we were tight on time. A mistake I won't make again! It was the perfect day for a grand view. We made our way along the south side of the peninsula to Lóndrangar Basalt Cliffs but by that time the clouds had rolled in. After a coffee stop at Hellnar, the clouds disappeared and we saw the coastline again. 

A tall orange square building towers above a black rocky ground, with pale blue sky and whispy clouds behind it.Svörtuloft Lighthouse Windy gravel road with black rocks covered by moss. In the far distance are mountains.Snæfellsjökull National Park Fog rolls in on a rocky coastline. In the distance, you can make out the faint outline of tall spires. Black cliffs connect with the ocean.Cloudy coast Green and yellow grass covered coastline with rocky outcrops against a light blue sky with whispy clouds.Coastline A mix of light brown and black sand creates the beach. The tide flows into the picture and black rocks and cliffs are in the distance. A blue sky is covered in whispy clouds.Skarðsvík

We stopped at some more waterfalls, Bjarnarfoss and Selvallafoss and then dinner at Sjávarpakkhúsin in Stykkishólmur. Once again the dinner was incredible! with Burratta and mouth-watering scallops.

I'm leaning over my camera on it's tripod while I shoot a tall skinny waterfall coming out of a mountain in the distance.Attachment A skinny waterfall cascades amongst dark rocks and green grass. A path leads behind the falls.SelvallafossSnæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland Day 2 Map - Clockwise aroundSnæfellsnes PeninsulaDay 2 - Snæfellsnes Peninsula Route

Day 3 - Akureyri

This was our longest driving day, about 5 hours. There was much I wanted to see on the way but so much more in the rest of the Island so I just drove straight to Akureyri so we had time to explore the town. I had delicious sushi at Strikið and we wandered the town and enjoyed the troll and mermaid art. Checking into our Airbnb was an adventure. There was scaffolding covering most of the stairs so there was no way to carry a very large suitcase up them and make the 90-degree turn to squeeze in the door so we got creative. Only later did we discover a back door which would have been so much easier! Of course, I couldn't miss an opportunity to get a picture of the heart stoplights that are all over the city!

Day 3 Map: Grundarfjörður to AkureyriDay 3 Grundarfjörður to Akureyri Large hunched over troll woman with a pointy nose sculpture stands on the sidewalk.troll woman White and gray cat sitting on a pile of sweaters for saleiceland iphone-101 I'm standing on a scaffold, bent over grabbing my large suitcase from my dad who is standing on the ground hoisting it up.IMG_2430 Vertical stoplight with a red heart for stop at the top.IMG_0142


The day's highlight was a soak at the Forest Lagoon, a fairly new lagoon 5 minutes from downtown. I had only been to the Secret Lagoon and Blue lagoon before and this was the best of both worlds! The lagoon had a swim-up bar, fresh cold water drinking fountain and was very small and quaint. Do not miss this if you are in Akureyri!

A stone path winds up a hillside that is treelined.iceland iphone-120 My darkhair is twisted up and I stand, underwater at the edge of an infiniti ledge into the trees. Steam rises off the teal lagoon water.iceland iphone-115 A water fountain launches fresh, cold spring water into the hot lagoon. A sign in Icelandic and english says "Please remember to stay hydrated"iceland iphone-116

Heavy appetizers and cocktails were at Múlaberg Bistro and Bar. The Beef Carpaccio was divine and everything else was delicious, even if I can't remember what it was! Icelanders know their food!

A peach cocktail with frothy topA peach cocktail with frothy top 4 plates of food, 2 bowls of soup and 2 platters of breadIMG_0144 Irish Coffee in a Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey mugIrish Coffee in a Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey mug

We attempted to do laundry but the machines were in Icelandic. We had very few places that had laundry facilities so any chance we got we did laundry. I was able to figure out the washing machine but no matter what I couldn't get the dryer to work! So before breakfast the next morning found a laundry service that would dry our clothes.

Day 4 - Húsavik and Lake Mývatn

After breakfast, we drove up to Húsavik, it was warm enough to wear my Birkenstocks!  This is where I made my only driving mistake. We went through a toll tunnel and I didn’t realize it so days later I got an email from the rental company to pay a penalty. It wasn’t terrible, maybe $20 but it was annoying! So watch out for the one toll road in Iceland! Once we got to Húsavik we wandered around the town until our reservation for the Geosea. This was another amazing lagoon. It was very small and quaint, and a gorgeous infinity pool looking out at the mountains. I could’ve stayed there all day.

Multiple boats are docked at a marina with mountains in the distance and bright blue skiesIMG_0159 An older couple sit at the edge of an infinity pool and the ocean behind them. In the distance, snowcapped mountains.IMG_0162 The stone edge of an infinity pull shimmers below the water's surface. Past the edge lies the ocean, blue skies and mountainsIMG_0186

Lunch was at Naustið. I needed a break from all the seafood, so I had a delicious hamburger. Mom and Dad got the fish stew. All of it was amazing.  Then the drive south to Lake Mývatn.

A big juicy cheeseburger with skinny friesIMG_0191 Burnt orange soup in a black bowl topped with cilantroIMG_0190

We checked into our Dimmuborgir Guesthouse cottage and found a place for dinner. It was so gorgeous outside it was most definitely our warmest day. I even got down to a tanktop to eat dinner outside since the sun was amazingly warm. We had lamb stew and something else and of course, smoked salmon on the famous geyser bread.

A wood cabin with 2 large windows on either side of the glass front door and a front porch with a table and chairsIMG_0200 Thin round flatbread cut into trianglesIMG_0210 Brothy stew with carrots potatoes and breadIMG_0212 Greens topped with pink cold smoked salmon topped with a lemon wedgeIMG_0213 A selfie with my dark hair pulled back, sunglasses on, black tank top with the sun brightly shining on my face.IMG_0215

It was still early and the light lasted for hours, so we decided to check out Dettifoss in Vatnajökull National Park, a waterfall about an hour away. The plan was to get there with plenty of time before sunset since that was the perfect time from the west edge to get great pictures, or so another blog told me. It was only a 15-minute walk to the viewing point but unfortunately, the light was not perfect because of the harsh sun and shadows I didn't get the beautiful sunset picture of golden light I was hoping for. I did get a photo from a distance of Sellfoss with some pretty lighting.  Driving back to the cottage. We saw the gorgeous skies.  We also saw the steam from the hot pots rise up from the land and it was majestic!

A powerfall waterfall surrounded by greenish rocks and harsh orange light from the sun.iceland iphone-169 A rocky foreground leads up to a very wide waterfall in the distance flowing down a cliff withink and yellow skiesIMG_0221 Steam as thick as smoke rises from the earth, backlit by a golden, pink and blue sunset.IMG_0224 Day 4 Map: Akureyri to Husavik to Myvatn to Dettinfoss ack to MyvatnDay 4 Akureyri-Husavik-Myvatn-Dettinfoss

Day 5 - Waterfalls

I had promised my parents a lazy day since we were staying at the cottage a second night. But it didn't quite turn out that way! Too many waterfalls in close proximity for me to resist! The first waterfall of the day was the majestic Goðafoss or "Waterfall of the Gods." It was spectacular. We could walk along and canyon and visit both sides. 

Horseshoe shaped waterfall surrounded by moss-covered volcanic rock pouring into a teal poolGoðafossDiamond Circle, Iceland Milky teal water flowing from Godfoss down between the two rocky cliffs of the riverIMG_0262 2 Horseshoe bend in the river with overcast skies above.IMG_0259 Silky waters flow from the Godfoss horseshoe into a still pool belowIMG_0264 3

Lunch was at Vogafjós Farm Resort Cafe where we had a lovely view of cows! Smoked trout on geyser bread, more beef carpaccio, stew and potatoes.

Entrance to the cafe that is near the open door with cows in their stallsIMG_0271 Full length windows look out of a pasture of happy cows, blue skies and fluffy cloudsIMG_0272 2

Dense dark brown geysir bread is topped with pink smoked salmoniceland iphone-195   Crisp potato wedges topped with cheese in a small cast iron skillet.iceland iphone-196

Since we didn't have much planned for the day, I asked my parents if they'd be willing to go back to Dettifoss again. I wanted to capture its full glory without the harsh sunlight of the night before. So back we went back. This time, we hiked first to Selfoss and then continued the loop to Dettifoss, something we didn't have time for the night before. It was worth it! I was able to capture much better pictures this time! Yes, the tiny people in next to Selfoss are my parents.

A DSLR Canon camera sits on a green tripod framed between the two cliffs pointing at a waterfallIMG_0291 Close up of a waterfall spilling over the edge of a cliff that is hundreds of fee wide.Iceland ring road-116 I sit crosslegged at the cliff edge of a river, with my hat on backwards looking at my camerabag. In the distance the waterfall I want to shoot.IMG_2431 Two small silhouettes stand against the blue sky. To the left a waterfall flows into a river.iceland iphone-198 2
Flat rocks span the landscape while puffy clouds spot the blue skyiceland iphone-212 A thunderous block waterfall falls across the frame. Barren rocks stretch along the far side while moss and grass cover the near bank.Edge of DettifossVatnajökull National Park, Iceland

We were so close to a 4th waterfall that I couldn't resist yet again. We drove north a few miles and I hiked to a gorgeous viewpoint of Jökulsárgljúfur, or "Glacier River Canyon." The lighting wasn't right for Hafragilsfoss so I didn't bother hiking closer. I was more than happy with my canyon shot. It's one of my favorites ever!

A canyon stretches into the horizion, the water is a deep sapphire blue and the canyon walls are dark to light grey. Feathered clouds dot the blue sky above.Jökulsárgljúfur Canyon

We made our way back to Mývatn and decided ice cream was in order! So we drove back around the lake to Skútaís, Farm Ice Cream. It was creamy and delicious. Then off to Mývatn Nature Baths. This one is smaller than the Blue Lagoon but much larger than the other lagoons we tried. The bottom is full of rocks so for my parents it wasn't as nice on their sensitive feet. I still got my swim-up beer, so I was happy. Sunset was beautiful! 

2 scoops of Beige ice cream with chocolate chunks in a cupIMG_0329 Metal stairs go down into a milky teal waterIMG_0330 A dozen people submerged in the hot springs silhouetted against a fading blue sky.IMG_0332 Lights light up the hot springs, buiddings and paths while the distant light of the sun is almost gone.IMG_0340

Afterward, we were tired and hungry and the only place open for a late-night dinner was Daddi's Pizza. We destroyed those pizzas after a long day of hiking, driving and soaking. It was our latest night out so far and I hit the most number of steps. So much for a lazy day!

Day 5 Map: Godfoss to Dettifoss to MyvatnDay 5 Godfoss to Dettifoss to Myvatn

Day 6 East to the Fjords


After having a traditional Icelandic breakfast of geyser bread, smoked arctic char, smoked lamb, hard-boiled eggs and cheese, we set out for the east fjords. On the way, stopped at Rjúkandafoss. However, this was not even the 20th roadside waterfall we passed. Many had no pullouts or were on someone’s property. Several had the waterfall in their backyard! And I’m not talking about little ones either. Magnificent giants thundering water down. That would be my dream home!

Breakfast plate of hardboiled egg, dark geysir bread with butter and jam, cold cuts and cheesesiceland iphone-259 A multitiered waterfall standing high above the roadside.IMG_0366 2RJkúandafoss

Our second stop and highlight of the day was the cute town of Seyðisfjörður. If you’ve seen any pictures of Iceland, you’re sure to recognize the rainbow road leading to the church. Lunch was at Kaffi Lara El Grillo Bar . Then we walked and shopped around the little town.

A rainbow painted path leads up to a white churchIMG_0375 Still lake showing the reflection of the mountain and houses and streaks of cloudsIMG_0377 2
Hamburger on cibatta bun with a potato speared with butterIMG_0372 Melty brie ontop a bed of lettuce with a dollup of jamIMG_0371

On our way out, we stopped at Gufufoss. The sun wasn’t in my favor but I still got a decent shot. Our AirBnB was in Neskaupstaður, a cute 2 bedroom apartment with a washer! This was a rare find. This time I was easily able to use the machine and we hung our clothes to dry in the living room. Dinner was at Kaupfélagsbarinn, in the Hildibrand Hotel. Dinner was divine, even if I can't remember all that we ordered.

Waterfall illuminated by the bright sun, mist obscuring the details. Above bright blue sky with puffy cloudsIMG_0380 Towering mountainside stands above the fjordiceland iphone-253 Small skillet with potatoes, fish, greens and lemons with a side of dark bread and butterSmall skillet with potatoes, fish, greens and lemons with a side of dark bread and butter A plate of chicken with a cream sauce sits at top farro. A green leaf salad with blue cheese and balsamic.iceland iphone-255 Another plate of salad with balsamic, tomatoes and blue cheese, lamb and potato wedges.iceland iphone-256 Chocolate icecream in a  glass with a stem with strawberries, caramel and whipped creamChocolate icecream in a glass with a stem with strawberries, caramel and whipped cream Dark chocolate cake smothered in caramel and strawberries with whipped cream on the sideDark chocolate cake smothered in caramel and strawberries with whipped cream on the side Day 6  Map: Myvatn to Seydisfjordur to NeskaupstadurDay 6 Myvatn to Seydisfjordur to Neskaupstadur

Day 7 Höfn

We made our own breakfast of geyser bread and smoked trout, butter and jam. We followed the coast and stopped at Við Voginn for fish and chips. This was the first rainy day we encountered! We stopped at Barkináfoss but it was so rainy I didn’t want my camera to get wet! We checked out the beach and Skútafoss but didn’t stay long.

geysier bread smothered with butter and jamgeysier bread smothered with butter and jam fish and chips and a beerfish and chips and a beer Misty waterfall pushed back into the mountainMisty waterfall pushed back into the mountain

We warmed up with some coffee at Kaffi Hornid. We couldn’t resist trying the Icelandic donut, Kleinur with caramel. With our bellies full, we stopped at a grocery and got charcuterie for dinner later. We checked into our cute Airbnb Birkifell cottage, settled in for the night and enjoyed the hot tub in the rain!

3 crispy pastry drizzeled with caramel, blueberries, raspberries and whipped cream3 crispy pastry drizzeled with caramel, blueberries, raspberries and whipped cream Cabin with porch and double glass doors with a misty mountain backdropCabin with porch and double glass doors with a misty mountain backdrop Hillside with at least 8 waterfalls streaming downHillside with at least 8 waterfalls streaming down Day 7 to BirkifellDay 7 Map: Following the coast to Birkifell

To be continued in Part 2.


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