Iceland In Seven Days Part 1: Driving The Golden Circle

Let's get a couple of introductions out of the way before we get going, if you've read another Iceland Post, these are all the same,so feel free to skip down to the next picture:

  • This is going to be a Multi-Post EPIC JOURNEY THROUGH ICELAND, so you can read them in order, or skip around, or don't read any of them, I'm not your mother, I'm just glad you clicked.
  • If you like the pictures, there are A LOT more on our Facebook page, go like us and look at them! Again, or don't. I'm not your mother.
  • There's going to be a lot of Iceland Inside Jokes throughout this, so you can go back and read them again later and you'll enjoy them on another level. This will be the Memento of blog posts.
  • It's my hope that people planning a trip to Iceland can use these posts as a loose guide to getting around the Ring Road, or just cherry pick some ideas from it. At the very least, you can click from here to this Expert Vagabond post, which was extremely helpful for our first couple of days.
  • We traveled to Iceland during the shoulder season (late April/Early May), which was fantastic, as the weather cooperated for most of our stay there, and it wasn't too crowded at any tourist attraction. There were many times when we didn't see another person/car for almost an hour. 
  • There's A LOT of driving. You're driving almost 900 miles if you simply rock the Ring Road and don't deviate, and you will deviate, because Iceland is insanely beautiful and you're there to see things and do stuff. Be ready. It's a lot of driving.
  • Iceland is incredibly easy to navigate once you get out of the city (mostly because there's just not that much outside of Reykjavik), road signs are a-plenty, but we used Google Maps for a fair amount of our travels while we were in Reykjavik or on the south side of the island. How did we use Google Maps, you ask? CHECK THAT NEXT BULLET POINT, SON.
  • As soon as you arrive in Iceland, go into the Duty Free store and buy the following: However much booze you'll drink for your entire stay, and a SIM Card for your phone. The 1000kr and 1GB Data card which cost 1990 krona lasted us the entire week and we used it a fair amount. Why buy booze? It's incredibly expensive and hard to find outside the airport, and we know you like to drink. DON'T LEAVE THE AIRPORT WITHOUT BOOZE, YOU WILL REGRET IT.
  • If you're here for a bunch of praise for the hot dogs in Iceland, you're going to be sorely disappointed. SPOILER ALERT: THE HOT DOGS IN ICELAND ARE JUST HOT DOGS. HOT DOGS ARE PRETTY GOOD EVERYWHERE, STOP BLOWING SMOKE UP ICELAND'S HOT DOG'S BUTTS JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE SOLD IN A LOT OF PLACES.  HOT DOGS BE HOT DOGS.
  • If you see this symbol on a road sign, something incredible and otherworldly is coming up, pull your car over and get your camera ready. Let's go to Iceland.

DAY 1: The Golden Circle & Reykjavik

We arrived on WOW Air at 4:10 AM on Monday morning. I'll say a couple of things on WOW Air before we go forward (Yes, that's right, more blurbs, get hype for them.):

  • They charge for everything on WOWAir, yes, they're like Spirit Air but better. It's three Euros for a bottle of water, but if you're prepared, you should be totally fine. BRING WATER YOURSELF AND YOU WILL SURVIVE. Complaining about airlines charging for everything when you bought your ticket for $99 is ridiculous. The guy next to me bought a baguette sandwich for 5 Euros that looked DELICIOUS.
  • I've got nothing but good things to say about WOWAir, there was an outlet underneath every seat, the flight was on time, oh, and most importantly, ALL THEIR EMPLOYEES LOOK LIKE ABERCROMBIE MODELS. For reals. Good looking flight attendants in smart outfits and berets made both of us feel like we were flying in the sixties.
  • Obviously, this flight from Boston comes in every day (the 4AM arrival is mentioned in multiple blogs and even a couple of brochures in Reykjavik), and I'm going to recommend it for the following reasons:

If you hit The Golden Circle early, you will be the only person out there. 

That's right, we went straight from the tarmac to Dollar Rent-A-Car (more on this later) to Thingvellir. We arrived there about 5:15 AM (it's only about 30 minutes past Reykjavik) and we were literally the only people there. We stopped back through there on our last day (SPOILER ALERT FOR DAY SEVEN) and it was packed with people. Getting there early allowed us to take our sweet time and really take in this beautiful area. Even if you don't arrive at 4AM, here's the first piece of advice, and I'm even going to put it in bold so you'll see it:

DO THE GOLDEN CIRCLE AS EARLY IN THE MORNING AS YOU CAN TO AVOID THE CROWDS.

Sorry for yelling. I assume you clicked the link above and read about Thingvellir, but if you didn't, it's a UNESCO Heritage Site where BLAH BLAH BLAH a lot of history happened BLAH BLAH BLAH tectonic plates shifted BLAH BLAH BLAH Law Rocks BLAH BLAH BLAH it's one of the most spectacular views I've ever seen. We took a bunch of pictures, explored for about 30 minutes and moved on. Hey, it was 5:30AM and cold. 

The next stop on the Golden Circle (about 45-50 minutes down the road) is to see two geysers, only one of which is still active. Geysir (Fun Fact Alert: Do you like the word geyser to describe a hole in the ground which shoots water in the air? THIS IS WHERE IT COMES FROM.) hasn't geysered since an earthquake a few years ago, but Strokkur blows water about 50-60 feet in the air (The sign said 15-20 meters, but THIS IS AN AMERICAN BLOG WE USE FEET HERE THESE MEASUREMENTS DON'T RUN) every 7-8 minutes. We stood here for about six eruptions, trying to deduce when it would happen, and being both wrong and startled every burst. Again, it was before 7AM, and THERE WAS ONE OTHER PERSON THERE. It was a Top Five Most Visited Destination In Iceland (Note: I made this stat up.), and there was no one there but us. AGAIN:

DO THE GOLDEN CIRCLE AS EARLY IN THE MORNING AS YOU CAN TO AVOID THE CROWDS.

Not the best picture, the water was about halfway up, but LOOK AT HOW CLOSE SHE IS.

Not the best picture, the water was about halfway up, but LOOK AT HOW CLOSE SHE IS.

Now that you've gotten your fill of water shooting up in the air, let's shoot just down the road to Renee's second favorite site in Iceland, the waterfall Gullfoss.

There are multiple parking lots here, we recommend the bottom one (it's the fork to the right as you drive up), but you can't go wrong. The waterfall is huge, a three-step staircase which rolls down over 200 feet (How many meters is that, you ask? GET OUT OF HERE YOU METRIC SYSTEM JERK), and again, if you get there early, YOU WILL BE THE ONLY PERSON THERE. We certainly were. If you enjoy waterfalls (and we do), you'll hang out for a while and take a lot of pictures. 

That's literally a picture of Renee taking a picture of Gullfoss. This is the matrix.

You've now completed the Big Three of The Golden Circle. And it's not even 10AM! You deserve some food, and I'm going to share with you the best tip you can get about traveling on a budget in Iceland: EAT THE GAS STATION SANDWICHES. They're a Godsend, available at pretty much every gas station in the country, and surprisingly fresh and delicious. The food in Iceland is stupid expensive (We're talking $17 for hamburgers and Quizno's subs. Seriously.), so if you can get a delicious sandwich for under $6, you definitely should. 

Another popular stop on the Golden Circle is the Crater Lake in Kerio, but we skipped it, because they charged an entrance fee of about $5 per person. With all the natural beauty in Iceland that's available for free, we had a moral issue with paying to see just about anything. Plus, when we arrived there, it was almost 11:30, and there were already 30-40 tourists snapping pictures. I'll just pop a picture down here, and you can pretend we went there. 

So. It's noon, you've driven for almost seven hours, and have already seen the Golden Circle. What are you going to do? Do what we did. Pull it over and take a nap. These symbols are all over the road signs, and they usually mean there's a beautiful view or vista coming up, but it definitely means there is a great napping spot coming up. Hit that snooze button, and we'll meet back up in an hour.

Rested up? Great! Let's head back to Reykjavik and check into your beautiful hostel. We stayed at the BUS Hostel Reykjavik, which we highly recommend, it was clean, walking distance to the city center, and at $21 a bed, supes affordable. Plus, they had a Happy Hour with Beers For Under $5! You may not be impressed with that price point, but in Iceland, that's a fucking steal.

We were only going to be in Reykjavik for one afternoon/evening (or so we thought), so we headed out to hit some highlights. What a beautiful city this place is. Walking by the water, checking out the shops on Laugavegur, Harpa Concert Hall, Hallgrimskirkja Church at the top of the hill, these are all absolutely must-see. But I've got something to say. If you've been in Reykjavik for one day, that's all you need. There is too much to see in Iceland to spend too much time in it's capital. Get out there. I TOOK THIS PICTURE LESS THAN A THIRTY MINUTE DRIVE FROM REYKJAVIK.

Take one evening, walk around Reykjavik, and get the eff out of there. 

Here's the other thing: Hot dogs. I read a lot of blogs extolling the virtues of the hot dogs in Iceland. I had a friend tell me personally "THE PYLSUR STAND IN REYKJAVIK CITY CENTER IS WORLD FAMOUS AND DELICIOUS!" But let me repeat what I said above. THE HOT DOGS IN ICELAND ARE JUST HOT DOGS. Do these look world famous and better than a hot dog you can get at any shitty bodega near your house?

Let me answer for you. Nah. Them hot dogs are just hot dogs. I know Bill Clinton and Kim Kardashian had hot dogs at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, but guess what?  They're hot dogs. Hot dogs. I feel like Allen Iverson, I've said hot dogs so many times in this paragraph, but WE TALKIN' BOUT HOT DOGS. 

Did I mention they cost over three dollars each? NO THANKS ICELAND. I'll take my gas station sandwiches all day.

So now you've been up since 4AM, driven hundreds of miles, been between two tectonic plates, seen a geyser shoot water sixty feet in the air, a crazy awesome waterfall, and a crater lake (theoretically), eaten a gas station sandwich, seen almost all there is to see in Bjork's hometown, and eaten overrated hot dogs. So what's left to do? 

Have a beer and go to bed. 

ICELAND DAY TWO: A HOT SPRINGS RIVER, DIARRHEA IN YOUR TROUSERS, A GROCERY STORE WITH A PIG FOR A LOGO, AND MORE DOPE WATERFALLS.