Spend 4 days here at least in the Summer, and consider a week in the winter
Iceland has always seemed to be the right of passage for people who want to do something slightly off the beaten path (AKA, France, Italy, Germany and England) but where it is still plenty safe. Say you go to Europe with your parents and want your own adventure on your own or with your friends, this is what I had always considered Iceland to be. While I had assumed this place would be a lot of hype, it actually was a great place to visit.
People are right, it is a fun country, that is easy to navigate, full of cool things to see/do, and well worth it. Also, it is one of the few places I’ve been to that has very different experiences between winter and summer, but are still worth experiencing. People don’t exactly go to SE Asia for the winter sports and all. Here though, Iceland can be a good 3-4 days in the Summer, maybe less, and could be a week in the winter. Harder to see things in the winter with limited sunlight. So, see what you can, drive, or look at the northern lights.
Summer or winter you can go inside glaciers, see remote parts of the island, and explore. In the summer, you can see more waterfalls, travel further during the day, but no northern lights. Both are good, but just know you can’t do it all.
We went in May and so it was just turning into Summer. Still cold, but no northern lights. It was still chilly, but not a ton of tourists which was fine with us.
Reykjavik (Spend 1.5 days here, all you need)-
You can do most everything worth seeing in an evening/afternoon, including the Blue Lagoon. The extra day I recommend is the Golden Circle which I’ll include in its own section below. The whole country is very, very expensive. So, stock up on food here if you need to, there aren’t a ton of grocery stores outside of the capital.
The Blue Lagoon just outside of town. Well worth it, but probably best for an afternoon or morning, you won’t want to spend a whole day here.
Golden Circle (1 full day) –
This is about 7 hours and well worth it. 3 hours of driving and the rest observing. You’ll see geysirs, a crater or two, lagoons, waterfalls, and the scenery, in general, is nice. You can get a guide if you want, but if you are renting a car to go east you may as well use it for this as well. Everything is very easy to find.
Drive to Jokulsarlon (At least 2 days, but 3 to enjoy it fully and in winter keep going and see more) –
We did this drive and had a blast. Just remember to bring a ton of food because there is nothing out there. You can get tours that do this in a day, and if you are strapped for time this is an option, but if you can drive it is a beautiful drive and you can explore a bit more. Just remember that gas is crazy expensive and it is a further drive than you realize. It seems to be about 50% more than in Europe and at least 3x the U.S.).
Iceland is incredibly safe, easy to travel, friendly, and fluent in English. Your biggest challenge here will be that once you get here, cost of living is a bit expensive. Well worth a visit though, and a good trip to the grocery store will save you a lot. If you have 2 people or less you may consider doing a tour to save money (pooling costs of the van), but you might break even with two and enjoy the freedom of your own vehicle.
Country Difficulty Rating – 2/10