I was so excited to start this blog post – but at the same time, I was feeling so overwhelmed cause I have so much to share with you guys! If you follow me on Instagram – @laura_peruchi – you know I recently returned from Iceland, and it was epic! We traveled around the country for 11 days and saw many beautiful places. I must be honest: Iceland has never been on my bucket list, and I had no expectations, but it was crazy. I have never been to a place like that. So unique! In this post, I will share everything we did – the places we visited, the accommodations we choose, the restaurants, how much we spent, what we packed, and all the details. I’m not an expert, but I believe in sharing experiences, so here I am. Kudos to my sister Meiry (aka @flaneriephoto), who planned the entire trip and found all the accommodations where we stayed.
- 90% of the pictures on this post were taken by my sister – and edit by me. She would have done a better job on editing, but I think it was too much to ask her after all her effort lol.
Getting to Iceland
There are direct flights from New York City to Iceland. We traveled from JFK to Keflavík International Airport (KEF) with Delta. Our flight departed around 11:30 pm, and the journey took approximately 5 hours and 30 minutes. We landed around 8 am; it was a red-eye flight – did I hear jet lag? As you probably noticed, it’s a very short flight compared to other destinations in Europe or even in the US! On the way back, our plane took off around 11:15 am, and we arrived in NYC at 12:40 pm – it was during the day, much better.
Weather in Iceland
Summer – the peak season is between June and August – is probably the most popular time to visit Iceland (and also the more expensive) cause the weather is so much better (and it’s not even hot!). Our trip was between April 26 and May 7th, when the weather is considered “mild”, but trust me, it was pretty much like wintertime in New York City, or even worse. Iceland’s weather can be highly variable and unpredictable – because it also depends on the places you are visiting. Overall, I felt that the weather was nicer in the areas near the capital.
For this period of the year, the daytime temperatures typically range between 5-10°C (41-50°F) but can vary depending on the location and weather conditions. Of course, the weather can be quite changeable, with the possibility of sunny spells, rain, snow, and occasional strong winds. We certainly experienced lower temperatures than average. On our first day on the road, there was a snowstorm. We drove for 2 hours without barely seeing what was around us. It was beautiful and scary, lol.
Another thing to keep in mind is the sunrise and sunset times. On average, during late April and early May, you can expect the sun to rise around 5:30-6:00 am and set around 9:00-9:30 pm. That makes it easier to explore the places at your own pace, without rushing, cause there’s a lot of light – but keep in mind, that doesn’t mean sunny days. Also, remember to pack a sleep mask; you will need that when going to bed, trust me.
Our road trip to Iceland – Ring Road (Route 1)
There are a lot of ways to explore Iceland – with some planning, you could probably stay in Reykjavík and visit some of the most famous attractions by hiring a tour company – I saw a loooot of buses from excursions. But, honestly? That would limit you, so I definitely recommend renting a car so you have more freedom and flexibility.
That’s what we did – and our route was Iceland’s Ring Road (Route 1), a popular route offering some of the world’s most stunning and diverse landscapes. It is a circular road that covers the entire country. Starting and ending in Reykjavik, the road is well-maintained and can be driven in about 10-14 days, depending on how much time you want to spend exploring the different areas and attractions along the way. Expect to see volcanic fields, glaciers, waterfalls, fjords, and black sand beaches, as well as charming towns and villages where you can rest, eat, and enjoy local culture. It’s an unforgettable experience and we started the route on April 26th and finished it on May 5th.
What to pack to Iceland in April/May
We did some research about what to pack, and as it happens in New York City, layers are the key, as well as great shoes for long walks and hiking, plus other accessories. After exploring the country for so many days and experiencing all the different weather situations (sun, rain, snow, wind), there are my ultimate recommendations:
- Thermal clothes – Uniqlo is still our go-to brand when it comes to thermal layers. I highly recommend buying the tops and bottoms – I wore thermal tights underneath my pants every day. If you have a chance, pack some layers from their Extra Warm collection.
- Second layers – I brought some sweaters and also a light jacket – like the Ultra Light down from Uniqlo, which is an excellent choice.
- Coat – I brought my coat from Calvin Klein – it’s not a down coat, but it’s great for freezing temperatures and, combined with the layers, it was perfect. I’m linking a similar one. Both my husband, my sister and my brother-in-law brought their parkas from Patagonia. I linked them on the widget above.
- Boots – pay special attention to the shoes! I recommend either Hiking boots – there are a lot of affordable options on DSW – or even snow boots! I brought my snow boots from EMU Australia and they ended up being a perfect choice because these boots are waterproof and lined with wool, which kept my feet so warm!
- Socks – also, I recommend choosing your socks carefully. I brought some Merino socks from Bombas and it was the perfect combo with my snow boots.
- Pants – I read in some blogs that denim pants were ok for this period of the year in Iceland – and I even packed a pair that I ended up not using. Before the trip, I did some research cause I wanted to buy some pants for this trip – I needed them to be comfy and warm – and I found these Snow Pants from Athleta, and OMG! Best choice ever! They fit so well, and they are water-repellant. I wanted to make sure that I was also buying something that I could wear during winter in NYC, you know? It was such a great choice!
- Accessories – I packed some beanies, a scarf and gloves. Please don’t forget that! Another thing that can help a lot is a hand warmer – and my sister bought this one on Amazon; it’s a rechargeable one.
- Miscellaneous – It’s also good to have a great backpack to put some snacks, your camera, and other stuff. Mine is from Knack and it’s so comfortable to carry and it features so many pockets! Also, bring a water bottle to refill. This is important: water in Iceland is abundant and widely considered to be among the cleanest and purest in the world. So, don’t waste your money buying water! Last but not least: bring a power bank to charge your smartphone while you are on the road and/or a cable to charge in the car. I highly recommend having paper tissues; I had a running noose every time I was outside, lol.
Renting a car in Iceland
We rented our car in Iceland after making a pre-booking online. Because we started to plan this trip early – we booked the flights in August last year – we had some time to research the best price for car rentals – more on our budget at the end of the post.
We picked up the car at the Keflavík International Airport (KEF), and the process was easy and fast. Our car was a Duster, and it fit our two big luggage plus a carry-on and some backpacks comfortably. It was a 4×4 car – but it was not a car suitable for visiting the highlands.
In case you are not aware: The highlands are a vast and rugged interior region of Iceland that is largely uninhabited and inaccessible by conventional vehicles. The region is characterized by rugged mountains, glaciers, volcanic landscapes, and vast stretches of barren, rocky terrain, and the area is largely inaccessible by conventional vehicles, with many roads and trails closed to regular traffic due to the rugged terrain and unpredictable weather conditions.
Iceland road trip – Ring Road (Route 1) – Itinerary
Our first day in Iceland was a bit of a waiting game, as my husband and I arrived early in the morning but had to wait for my sister’s flight to arrive in the afternoon. We decided to take it easy and rest up at the Courtyard by Marriott Reykjavik Keflavik Airport, which offered hourly rates and was a great spot for a quick nap. I tried other hotels near the airport but none of them offered hourly rates. We spend $110 with the hotel and €20 with each taxi ride from/to the airport/hotel.
Once my sister and my brother-in-law landed, we met them at the airport, where we picked up our car and we drove to Reykjavik. Our first stop was a supermarket – Kronan, a chain with some locations around Iceland – where we stocked up on groceries and snacks for our trip – our plan was to have breakfast and dinner at the accommodations we stayed in and lunch on the road. We then headed to our Airbnb – it was a small apartment with 2 bedrooms.
After check-in and leaving our luggage, we decided to explore a little bit of Reykjavik. We visited the Harpa Concert Hall and the iconic Hallgrimskirkja church – and we also spotted the cute Rainbow Street. For dinner, we opted for a vegan meal at Mama Restaurant (you can click to check the menu and prices), which offered delicious and healthy plant-based dishes. It was a great first and slow day in Iceland, and we were excited to start the road trip the next day!
We explored some of the country’s most famous waterfalls on our second day in Iceland. Our first stop was Seljalandsfoss, and it took us around two hours to get there – mostly because of the weather conditions, which were extreme, with heavy snowfall – I must say it was a little scary… but we made it! Despite the cold and wet, we were blown away by the beauty of the waterfall – so impressive! I recommend bringing a waterproof poncho if you wanna see the waterfall from behind. Good to remember that there are restrooms and a snack shop at the parking lot – you pay around $5 to park.
After taking in the views, we drove to our next stop, Skógafoss, another waterfall – where the famous TV shows Vikings and the Marvel movie Thor were filmed. But first, we had lunch at the Hótel Skógafoss Bistro Bar, where I had a delicious fish dish.
The Skógafoss waterfall was beautiful and impressive, and we also climbed to see Hestavaðsfoss, which was easy, thanks to the stairs. The snowfall made the climb even more magical.
We then drove to Dyrhólaey viewpoint – a prominent headland and nature reserve on the south coast of Iceland. The name Dyrhólaey translates to “door hole island” in Icelandic, referring to the large natural arch that has been eroded into the cliff face by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The arch is a prominent feature of the headland and is so stunning! Although it was very windy, I almost cried; it was so freaking cold! – it was probably one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. From there, you can see the black sand beaches of Reynisfjara. We even spotted some puffins!
Then, we headed to our Airbnb – it was an excellent apartment with two bedrooms and even a balcony. This place had a washer and dryer, so we used it because why not? I recommend including at least one accommodation – perhaps in the middle of the trip – that features a washer and dryer. This apartment was located in a cute village named Vik.
We started the day off at Reynisfjara Beach – our plan was to visit the beach the day before, but because it was rainy and windy, we decided to postpone it, and it was the best decision because, luckily, it was sunny and perfect (which also made the village Vik look so stunning with all the snow from the day before!). Reynisfjara is widely considered one of Iceland’s most beautiful and dramatic beaches. It is made up of black volcanic sand that is created by the interaction of hot lava and cold seawater. Also, one of the most striking features of Reynisfjara is its basalt columns, which were formed by the slow cooling and crystallization of lava flows.
After exploring the beach, we headed to Svartifoss, a picturesque waterfall at Skaftafell. We hiked to see the waterfall, and it was a moderate hike that took us about 60 minutes round trip. Important to say that there’s a visitor center at the park – and a restaurant, but the food didn’t appeal to us. So we decided to try a food truck there, which was so good! They serve a delicious lobster bisque and fish and chips.
Our next stop was Jökulsárlón, a glacier lagoon that was the highlight of the entire trip for me because it was so impressive. It’s the kind of thing I’ve only seen on TV, you know? The lagoon is filled with floating icebergs that have broken off from the nearby Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, creating a surreal landscape. This glacier is one of the largest glaciers in Iceland, covering an area of over 200 square kilometers (77 square miles). It is part of the larger Vatnajökull ice cap, the largest glacier in Europe by volume.
Then we quickly checked Diamond Beach, located not far from Jökulsárlón, and has this name because of the chunks of ice from the lagoon that wash up on the shore and sparkle like diamonds. It was an unforgettable sight. After a long day of exploring, we finally made our way to our apartment booked on Booking – not before putting fuel in the car for the first time.
We started day 4 in Iceland by visiting Stokksnes/Vestrahor, a beautiful mountain. In order to enjoy these beautiful views, I recommend putting Viking Cafe as your destination and, through the path, you will be amazed by the scenery. We stopped to take pictures and it was breathtaking. After getting back to the road, we also stopped by the Hvalnes lighthouse for more stunning views.
Then, we drove to Djúpivogur, a little village and we stopped by to Við Voginn for a coffee and to use the restroom. For lunch, we headed to Askur Pizzeria, in Egilsstaðir, for some delicious pizza. They also have a tap room with local beers next door. My sister wasn’t feeling well, so after lunch, we checked in at our next accommodation – a cute cabana we booked through booking.
While my sister decided to stay in to rest, the rest of us drove 30 minutes to Hengifoss – yep, you guessed right, another waterfall! We embarked on another hike and it took us around 45 minutes to reach the waterfall. The hike was not easy – it was so windy and cold – but the view was absolutely worth it. Hengifoss is one of Iceland’s tallest waterfalls – 128 meters (420 feet) and is known for its red and black layers of rock, which are caused by volcanic ash and erosion.
After our hike, we decided to relax at the Vök Baths – this was not planned, we saw the signs on the roads and, when I decided to check, I found out it was just 4 minutes driving for our cabana! It was already 7:30 pm when we get there – and the place closes at 10pm – but after a day on the road and the hike, it was so worth it! The place features geothermal floating pools with an infinity view. The site is located on the gorgeous Lake Urriðavatn in East Iceland.
You can book it below and use my code LAURAPERUCHI to get 5% off.
Another day and more stunning Iceland’s natural landscapes. We started off by driving two and a half hours to Dettifoss, one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe. There are two routes to get there, and we chose the west road because it was paved. I marked it on the map, which you can see at the bottom of the post. Between the hiking to reach the waterfalls plus the time exploring and contemplating the area, we spent around 2 hours at Dettifoss. Despite the cold and windy weather, the waterfall was truly amazing and worth the journey. There was a lot of snow around!
For lunch, we headed to Vogafjos, a restaurant located on a farm – and I had some delicious fish. The environment and views were beautiful, and the highlight was definitely the Vogafjos cake that we had for dessert. So good!
We then checked out Myvatn Geothermal Area, where we paid around U$5 for parking. It is a geothermal area, part of the Krafla volcanic system, which is still active and has erupted several times in the past few centuries – you can expect to see bubbling mud pots and steaming vents. Be prepared: because of the sulfur and other minerals in the steam, the air can be quite pungent. I didn’t walk around cause the smell was too strong for me.
After that, we headed to Hverfjall – where we also paid U$5 for parking. This is a volcanic crater – and you can actually climb it. It took us around 10 minutes to reach the top, but the wind was intense and made it quite a challenge. Hverfjall was formed by a volcanic eruption around 2,500 years ago. The crater is approximately 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) in diameter and 140 meters (460 feet) deep, making it one of the largest and most impressive volcanic craters in Iceland – and its landscape has been featured in several films and TV shows, including “Game of Thrones.”
Finally, we drove to our hotel – Sel – Hótel Mývatn – it was such an excellent choice. The rooms are very spacious, and the hotel has two hot tubs, and it’s conveniently located right in front of another place to visit in Iceland – Skútustaðagígar. This area consists of a group of volcanic craters formed by steam explosions that occurred when molten lava encountered water from the lake. This process created a series of small craters with steep walls and flat bottoms – that’s what makes the pseudocraters of Skútustaðir so unique.
We had dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, and the food was really good – also, this hotel offers an excellent and complete breakfast, with fresh bread and pastries, fruits, and more!
Our original plan was to go whale watching in Húsavík, but the weather wasn’t favorable, and we also became hesitant after reading reviews of people getting seasick during the tour. However, if you’re in the area and feel up for it, whale watching is definitely an activity worth considering! Another place to visit in the area is Myvatn Nature Baths, which features lagoon-like outdoor baths with milky blue mineral-rich water naturally heated by hot springs. You can book these activities below and use my code LAURAPERUCHI to get 5% off. Last but not least, you could even try snowmobiling.
Since we gave up on the whale-watching plan, we decided to drive to Dimmuborgir Lava Field – let’s say we were underestimating this place, but it ended up being impressive! The unique and striking landscape was formed over 2,000 years ago by volcanic activity. The name “Dimmuborgir” translates to “dark castles,” and the area features a collection of rock formations, pillars, and caves that look like a series of twisted towers and fortresses. It was snowing that day and everything became more magical! We also caught a glimpse of Hverfjall (the volcano crater from the day before) covered in snow.
Then we stopped by Hofdi – this is a forested peninsula that extends out into the fjord of Eyjafjörður and offers spectacular views of the surrounding landscape. We then headed to Godafoss – yep, you guessed, another waterfall – good to know that there’s a coffee shop and souvenir store nearby. Again, it was cold and kind of windy. But, there’s no hiking involve – the waterfall is pretty close to the road.
It was around 5 pm when we got to Akureyri – it is often referred to as the “Capital of the North” and is the largest town outside of the Reykjavik metropolitan area. We stopped by Ketilkaffi restaurant & coffee shop to eat – their lemon cake is so good! – and we finally checked into our Airbnb, which was a 15-minute drive from the town.
As you probably noticed, we spent every night in a different place, so we knew we would be tired in the middle of the journey, so we booked two nights at this Airbnb to have a lazy/relaxing day. And I highly recommend doing this! The Airbnb had a wash & dryer, so we did some laundry, and we slept more, we rested, cooked our lunch… and we also walked around the house area – including a beautiful waterfront.
At the end of the day, we drove to the town to visit the Akureyri Botanical Garden – admission is free – and to eat something at LYST coffee shop. Besides the yummy pastries and coffee, the design of the place was gorgeous!
We would hit the road for 5 hours that day. Along the way, we stopped by Viđimýrarkirkja, a beautiful turf church that dates back to the 19th century. We also stopped at B&S, in Blönduós, for a quick break, where we used the restroom and grabbed some coffee. After more than 1 hour on the road again, we stopped by Sjávarborg Restaurant – this place had a very great deal – a small buffet with fish, rice, soup and salad + coffee and tea for a fixed price (I believe it was around $25 per person).
Then, after some time on the road, we arrived at our next stop: Kirkjufellsfoss, a waterfall located near the iconic Mount Kirkjufell, one of Iceland’s most photographed landmarks. Such a stunning view! We walked around and we took beautiful pictures.
After that, we headed to our Airbnb to check in and rest. This Airbnb was special because it was located on a farm and the surroundings were like a movie scene, with Mount Kirkjufell in the background, the sea, and the horses.
On this particular day, we spent a lot of time driving until we finally arrived at our first destination: Búðakirkja and Búða Beach. Búðakirkja is a small black wooden church that dates back to the 19th century and is a very popular tourist attraction in Iceland – I’m sure you’ve seen a picture, it’s such unique architecture and a picturesque location. Búða Beach, located nearby, is known for its black sand, stunning ocean views, and unique black pebbles covering the shore. It’s a beautiful place! This day was particularly interesting because we were back to “civilization”. I’m joking, but let me explain: upon this point, the places we’ve been were not crowded – but we started to see more and more tourists as we approached the capital’s area.
After exploring Búðakirkja and Búða beach, we had lunch at Galito restaurant, in Akranes, with a menu featuring pizzas, burgers, and sandwiches, and then we stopped by Kronan to shop for groceries – it was across the street.
Our final stop was Kerio Crater, a volcanic crater lake in the Grimsnes area of South Iceland. The lake is around 55 meters deep and surrounded by vibrant red and orange volcanic rock, making a beautiful contrast against the blue water. We walked around the crater, and then we went down to the lake. Parking is free and admission is around $3.
We then finally checked in at our next accommodation: a cute cabana with two “apartments” in the Golden Circle area.
On our last intense day in Iceland, we started by visiting Gullfoss, another iconic waterfall in the country. This powerful two-tiered waterfall is located on the Hvítá River and is known for its impressive size and beauty. There is a visitor center, a coffee shop, a restaurant, and a souvenir shop in the parking lot. After spending some time taking in the views, we headed to Geysir, an active geothermal area that features bubbling mud pools and geysers that shoot water high into the air. One of the most famous geysers in the area is called Strokkur, and it erupts every few minutes – it’s another popular spot to visit in Iceland. It was so impressive! We stayed there for a while – he hiked to the top – and we were able to see the “explosion” a couple of times!
Next, we went to Friðheimar, a greenhouse farm that produces tomatoes all year round. They have 9 greenhouses – and they are able to control the temperature, the light and the water, which results in 2 tons of tomatoes PER DAY! Yep! They also grow lettuce and basil. The highlight here is the Friðheimar Restaurant, where they serve dishes with a main ingredient: tomato, of course! The food was delicious, and the atmosphere was cozy and welcoming. Try the tomato soup and the pasta – these were definitely our favorites. Getting a table may take a while, but it is worth it!
Our last stop of the day was Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is located in a rift valley that marks the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, and you can actually walk between the plates – you can actually dive between the tectonic plates. We spent almost 2 hours walking around and exploring some of the highlights.
After a full day of activities, we returned to Reykjavik to check in at our Airbnb – I’m gonna link it here anyway, but our experience was not good. The directions led us to the wrong location – plus we choose this place because there was a washer and dryer on the listing, but the host removed them from the apartment, and she didn’t update the listing. We ended up going to another accommodation the next morning – and Airbnb quickly accepted our cancellation and refunded us an entire night plus a partial amount from the night we stayed in.
We had breakfast at the Airbnb, and since our flights were the next morning, we decided to book a hotel near the airport. Maybe that should have been our choice since the beginning because our plan for this last day was to go to the Blue Lagoon, which is not far from the airport. Plus, since my sister’s flight was at 6 am and our flight was at 11 am, one couple would have the car to drive to the airport, and the other couple would have to pay for a taxi – and a taxi from Reykjavik is around $150 (yikes!). So, choosing a hotel near the airport would be more convenient and economical for everyone.
We booked two rooms at Konvin – this hotel is a 9-minute drive from the airport, and they offer a shuttle plus breakfast; depending on your reservation, it may be included, or you have to pay it separately.
After checking in, my husband and I decided to have lunch, so we drove around 10 minutes to Kef Restaurant, located in Vatnsnesvegur. I had a steak salad and Thiago had a burger – but the highlight was the dessert, a passion fruit white chocolate mousse and ice cream. So delicious!
Then, we stopped by the hotel to pick up my sister and my brother-in-law, and we headed to Blue Lagoon, and I’m sure you heard about this place! It is a popular geothermal spa located in a lava field. The lagoon is fed by the water output of a nearby geothermal power plant and is known for its milky blue color, rich minerals, and therapeutic qualities. They offer a lot of packages – including spa treatments. We choose the basic one, which includes access to the lagoon, a drink and a mask. The Blue Lagoon is open year-round, and you must make reservations beforehand. Please don’t repeat the same mistake we made: we booked last minute (meaning Saturday, noon) and besides the limited time-slots entrance availability, we paid more. So, don’t forget to make your reservations.
The experience at Blue Lagoon was amazing. The water is so warm, and the place is bigger than I expected. You get a wristband that gives you access to a locker – and the changing rooms are equipped with showers, shampoo, conditioners, towels, and hair dryers. There are fancy restaurants at the spa, a coffee shop, and a cosmetics store where you can buy Blue Lagoon masks and other products – and they are pricey. But I have a tip: Blue Lagoon has a store at the airport and you can save up to 20% because of the tax-free policy.
Iceland trip cost: detailed budget breakdown
As you probably noticed, I listed the prices already converted to Euros or Dollars because I think it’s easier that way. Keep in mind that the currency used in Iceland is the Icelandic króna (ISK), and 1 Icelandic króna (ISK) is approximately equal to 0.008 US dollars (USD). My sister brought some cash (she bought krónas in France), and we also used our credit cards – and we had no issues! I highly recommend having at least one credit card – because, for some parking, the only payment method was credit cards.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think it was such an expensive trip – but I’m biased since I live in New York City, one of the most expensive cities in the world. However, I’m pretty sure a trip to New York City or Paris would cost more than we spent in Iceland. One comment I heard from a girl on YouTube and found very interesting is that even though some things are expensive – like some accommodations or restaurants – the vast majority of the attractions are free, which brings balance to the expenses. In addition, the time of year we traveled is one of the best in this regard – out of curiosity, we checked the price of one of the accommodations where we stayed for August, and it was twice what we paid.
This was what we spent during 11 days traveling around Iceland (in US Dollars) in a group of 4 people
- Accommodations – $2,432.70 total – $608.175 per person
- Flights from New York City – $491.87 per person + $150 to check luggage (round-trip)
- Car rental – $712
- Fuel – $314
- Groceries – $320
- Restaurants – $243 per person, on average
- Parking – $20
- Blue Lagoon – $104 per person
And that’s a wrap! Below, you can check the map with all the highlighted spots, restaurants, and other places we’ve been! I hope my post can help you to plan your trip to Iceland!
Content creator and journalist in New York City. Here, I share lifestyle, beauty, NYC tips, thoughts, and the struggles about living in the most amazing city in the world! I’m not gonna pretend to be another person: I’m a Brazilian immigrant and I think this is my soul, it is part of who I am. I hope you enjoy my content! Follow me on Instagram!