Iceland, you were wonderful. Well, I mean you were cold and wet and snowy, but gosh, you were beautiful. Before sharing in depth insights of my trip, here’s an overview of my itinerary and some advice for how you should go about planning your own trip.

I should mention before going any further that this trip did not go to plan, at all, so perhaps it was just as well that it was the first trip I’d ever planned so loosely (I knew I’d be distracted by the landscape.) It can be daunting trying to plan a roadtrip – particularly when you’ve got somewhere to be and have a destination for the night – trying not to cram too much in but equally wondering if there’s anything crucial you’ve missed. In my case, the weather posed the problem, but that’s half to be expected when you visit somewhere with such a unique weather system and fast-changing climate.

Seljalandsfoss, day one

My advice for planning any trip would be to first work out how much time you have, then sit down with a map (yes, the good old fashioned way!), see what is marked, pinpoint any areas of interest, or any areas that you’d like to research further. Then make your list of priorities – what is it that you want to see or do? Quite often you’ll find that you want to do much more than your time will allow (that always happens in my case, anyway!), and I would suggest picking a section of a country to explore, rather than trying to get further, and ultimately see and experience less…you don’t want to be stuck in the car the whole time, do you?!

Having done all of that, I then translate my plans into a Google map, pinning the places I want to visit, the places I want to stay, and some rough routes so I know how long it’ll take to get from A to B, plus essential things like petrol stations! I always take a printed copy of my itinerary with me, and for this trip created each day’s route as a separate map layer, took a screenshot, and added some way-markers for sat nav references to make sure I was taking the road I’d wanted to! Never leave home without everything on paper, you never know if and when technology will fail you!

Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, day two

I concentrated mainly on the stunning south coast of Iceland; here is a rough idea of the itinerary I had planned, versus the itinerary I ended up doing due to the weather:
Day One
Land at Keflavik International Airport, collect hire car, explore part of the south coast, then drive to Vík, stopping at Seljalandsfoss, Skógafoss and Dyrhólaey on the way
Day Two
Drive from Vík to Stokksnes, stopping at Skaftafell National Park and Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon in particular
Day Three
Go for a hike in Skaftafell (planned)
Explore Dyrhólaey and surrounding areas (actual)

Dyrhólaey, day three

Day Four
Explore part of the “Golden Circle” – Gullfoss, Haukadalur – plus Kerið

Haukadalur Forest, day four

Day Five
Drive through the top of Þingvellir National Park, around the coast and to Víðgelmir Cave (planned)
Get distracted by the beauty of Þingvellir National Park in fresh snowfall and spend most of the day here (actual!)

Þingvellir National Park, day five

Day Six
Head west and explore Þjóðgarðurinn Snæfellsjökull (planned)
Visit the Settlement Centre in Borganes & Víðgelmir Cave (actual)

Víðgelmir Cave, day six

Day Seven
Go to Víðgelmir Cave if not seen already, drive south to Þingvellir National Park (planned)
Explore Reykjavik & Reykjanesfólkvangur (actual)
Day Eight
Head back to Keflavik International Airport, fly home!

Reykjavik, day seven

The biggest changes in my itinerary came in days six and seven; because of the way I’d booked accommodation, several of the things I knew I wanted to see could have been undertaken of various days – which is why I think this plan worked so well – so a reshuffle of what to see on which day wasn’t really the problem. In my case the crazily snowy Icelandic summer had brought with it the mother of all snowstorms, and the roads quickly became thick with ice, the visibility was all of about 0, and cars were coming off the road left, right and centre! We turned around several times, making the routes up as we went along, and even the locals advised not to go any further. Day seven’s plans had already been done, so detouring to Reykjavik wasn’t such a problem – I just didn’t think I’d end up there! Our accommodation was booked for the southern end of Þingvellir National Park, which I had to cancel and rearrange that morning because the road conditions wouldn’t have allowed us to get there (and get up and out in time to catch a flight!) So a major takeaway from this is to factor in the changing weather, driving, and every other eventuality into your plans. I’ll be sharing some tips for driving in Iceland, and in-depth location reviews and photo essays in future posts!