Favorite Experiences in Iceland along the Ring Road + Golden Circle
Seeing this gorgeous blue waterfall almost didn’t happen. We made the mistake of just typing “Bruarfoss Waterfall” into google maps, which led us into a residential area. Understandably, locals had become fed up with tourists trespassing on their property, so they put up a gate to block off what used to be a quick path to the waterfall. Thankfully, they had a sign with directions as to how you could hike to Bruarfoss, but we weren’t sure if we could fit a two and a half hour round trip hike into our day.
But it was one of the top things on our list, so we found the parking lot off the highway and decided to make the hike. While hiking along the river towards the falls, we discovered two bonuses to the gate blocking the shortcut:
1) The gate kept out hoards of tourists and busloads of people from reaching it, as most people don’t want to take the time to hike to it when the majority of waterfalls in Iceland are quick stops not far from the highway.
2) We would have never seen the other beautiful waterfalls prior to Bruarfoss had we not hiked!
The trail runs mostly along the river to the left, and farmland to the right. It can get quite muddy, so be sure to wear waterproof hiking shoes! Gongustigur is the first waterfall you will come to, followed by Hlauptungufoss and Midfoss.
You will have to remind yourself that the clear blue water is not photoshopped because you are there seeing it in real life!
Finally, the path arrived at the much anticipated Bruarfoss! We were the only ones at this unique and magical waterfall. Standing there on the bridge without any other tourists at this magical waterfall was one of my favorite moments of the trip. Bruarfoss’s unique shape is due to crevices in lava formations. When you go to Iceland, definitely put this hike on your agenda!
**The parking lot for the trail is now on Google Maps! Search for Bruarfoss Waterfall Official Parking Lot, or click here
DC-3 Sólheimasandur Beach Plane Wreckage
There are not many places in the world where you can see an old plane wreckage. And with the black sand contrasting against the plane, it is such a hauntingly beautiful sight to behold. This Navy plane crashed on the beach in 1973. (Everyone survived, you can learn more about the crash by clicking here)
To reach the plane, you will park in a lot off the highway, then walk about forty-five minutes on a boring, flat, rocky path. You might think ‘is the plane even still there?’ several times because you’ll be able to see the ocean and the long black beach ahead of you, but you won’t be able to see the plane until you pass the little bluff concealing it. You’ll want to say for at least a half hour, so plan for a minimum of two hours total with walking there, exploring, and heading back.
Tips before you go:
There are no restrooms so go before you make the trek!
It gets VERY cold and windy by the plane, dress extra warm.
We went in August when there are about 21-22 hours of sunlight a day. It wasn’t packed with people because we went around 8PM, and got back to our camper van in the parking lot in time to watch the sunset around 10:15PM
Seyðisfjörður - Iceland’s cutest town!
The Visit Seyðisfjörður Website describes the town as “Quirky, Charming, Fun, Funky, Lively, Lovely, Different, Friendly, Creative, Historic, Peaceful, Artistic, Beautiful, Open Minded, Active, Bohemian, Natural, Special” and I couldn’t agree more! This darling western town is not easy to get to, but it was so worth it! The Fjardarheidi Mountain Road is the only road you can take to get to Seydisfjordur. It is the highest road in Iceland, taking you up and over a steep mountain pass with the most incredible views. You look down into this incredible valley, with very steep mountain cliffs and waterfalls surrounding it, and see the most peaceful little fishing village.
I wish we would have had more than an afternoon to spend here! We stopped for lunch and a beverage then explored the town. When you look up at the surrounding land there are SO many waterfalls pouring down from the mountains, and you can hike up and around the entire valley. We hiked up one side of the mountain, and then sat and enjoyed the stunning view. Everything about Seyðisfjörður gives you the happiest vibes and I did NOT want to leave.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon + Diamond Beach
Jökulsárlón translates to 'Glacier's-River-Lagoon.' It is one of the most incredible places I have ever seen. We viewed photos prior to going and thought it looked beautiful, but seeing the beautiful blues and greens of the ice in person was breathtaking. Seeing seals pop up and swim around as they hunted for fish was a huge bonus.
The area is enormous - covering roughly seven square miles. Large chunks of ice break off of the glacier, plunging into the lagoon, and slowly drift down the short river to the ocean. It’s crazy to think that for how large the icebergs are above water, about 90% of it is below water. You can take an amphibian boat tour if you want to get up close with the glacier wall, but we just stayed on the shore and walked around taking in the views.
Make sure you walk out to Breiðamerkursandur Beach, where large chunks of ice have washed up on the black sand beach. If it is sunny, the ice will sparkle in the sun, which has led to it being known as ‘Diamond Beach’.
Blue Lagoon + Silica Hotel
The Blue Lagoon is unsurprisingly the number one destination in Iceland. It is close to the airport, so lots of people will do a day or two stopover in Iceland on their way to Europe, and spend a day at the Blue Lagoon. Since we were driving around the entire island in a camper van for a week, we decided that one night we would splurge and book a room at the Silica Hotel. And I am SO glad we did! The views of the moss-covered lava field that came right up to our window was unreal. I felt like I had traveled to Mars or another planet.
The Silica Hotel has its own private lagoon, and we enjoyed having the place pretty much to ourselves in the afternoon, as well as after dinner. If there was space in my suitcase, I would have bought the hotel robes they gave you because they were divine!
Dinner at Lava was incredible! The floor to ceiling glass windows show incredible views overlooking the Blue Lagoon, and again we felt like we were on another planet. We chose the four-course tasting menu - this is very common at Icelandic restaurants to have several courses of smaller plates, which is fantastic because it allows you to try several different things.
The next morning we headed to the giant public lagoon. Included in the price of the Silica Hotel is a VIP ticket that comes in quite handy when there are 200 tourists in line. Also included in this premium package is a robe to use while you get out of the warm water and into the cold air. While the big lagoon was fun for about an hour, I would hands down rather enjoy the private lagoon at Hotel Silica, as it was so much more peaceful and relaxing.
Click HERE to book your stay at the Silica Hotel. There is only about 20 rooms total, so be sure to book several months in advance!
Friðheimar Tomato and Horse Farm
We discovered this place last minute. We had been exploring the Golden Circle, and when we got back into the camper van, I began to look around google maps satellite view and found a beautifully laid out farm. I clicked to find out what it was, and we soon discovered this farm had raving reviews for their food!
The moment we pulled in to the Friðheimar Farm, I wanted to move in and live happily ever after. There are horses everywhere, the grounds are beautiful, and then you reach the worlds cutest greenhouse restaurant.
Their primary focus is growing tomatoes, so the menu has a very tomato based theme. We hit up the bar since we did not have a reservation. (highly recommend called weeks in advance) Can you imagine how amazing our bloody mary’s tasted with the fresh tomato juice!?
The bar menu had three options: the best tomato soup ever with homemade bread, handmade ravioli with the freshest sauce, and a ‘tortilla’ or rather a thin crust pizza. We decided to share all three. IT. WAS. DELICIOUS.
For dessert we ordered the Tomato Ice Cream - which was homemade ice cream topped with tomato jam. How cute is this!? Find out more about the darling Friðheimar Tomato and Horse Farm HERE, and be sure to add it to your itinerary!
We had a beautiful morning hiking in Vatnajokull National Park, and the highlight was reaching Svartifoss Waterfall. It has such a unique look to it due to the hexagonal black basalt columns. While you can find these columns in a few other areas around Iceland, these are very rare around the world. It is about a mile hike to get there, mostly uphill, but there are excellent views and stops along the way.
Reynisfjara Black Beach
Another incredible location in Iceland that features the hexagonal basalt columns is the famous “Black Beach.” The rock formation makes you feel tiny when you stand next to it. This is another really popular tourist destination, so I recommend going early in the morning or later in the evening when the tour buses from Reyjkavic aren’t dropping off swarms of people.
Fjorubordid translates to “at the seashore,” aptly named for its location right off the ocean in the small 500 person town of Stokkseyri. Fjorubordid is known as the best lobster restaurant in Iceland, and I am here to tell you the reviews are not wrong! Make a reservation ahead of time as they catch enough langoustine (smaller, skinner lobster) each day based on the number of guests coming. As you enter the charming restaurant, you immediately feel at home in its cozy environment.
The menu is very simple, and you can order their main feature of langoustine in 250 gr. 300 gr. and 400 gr. portion sizes. They cook it in butter and garlic and bring homemade fresh slices of bread that you will devour soaking up every last drop of butter sauce in the pan. I wanted to bath in that butter which sounds bizarre, but I’m really just trying to convey how freaking delicious this meal was!
Driving and Living out of our Go Camper Van for a Week!
Living out of this van for a week exploring all over Iceland was one of my favorite parts of our trip!
If you are thinking about visiting Iceland in the summer - DO IT! While you can’t see the Northern Lights because it only gets dark for about 2-3 hours this time of year, you can do SO MUCH with all the sunlight. We went the first week of August and it was in the 60s. BONUS - Iceland is one of only a handful of countries in the world that has no mosquitos, so you don’t have to worry about those pesky bugs while you are hiking all over this beautiful country.
Are you planning a trip to Iceland? Let me know if you are heading to any of these places and don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions!