Hidden Gem 11-day Ring Road Tour
As far as adventure travel goes, Iceland is easily one of the most unique travel destinations for avid travelers. The island is full of vast landscapes and epic sights peppered throughout the island in the most unsuspecting spots. A land where golden fields suddenly morph into giant, emerald, moss-covered canyons in the blink of an eye. There is much to be found in the backcountry and highlands of Iceland, yes, but there is a lot of undiscovered territory hidden just amongst the classics – exactly where our road trip itinerary will take you. You will visit well-known regions along the Ring Road, able to hit the iconic spots, if you choose, and discover new, unexplored territory along the way, entering into a portal of the most dramatic scenes, hidden in plain sight. Are you ready to explore this map of hidden treasures? Grab your backpacks – it’s about to get wild!
Day One | Selfoss to the Bubble Hotel by Airmango
The day had arrived for us to start our road trip around the island to make our way to our first stay, grabbing fresh juices from Vor along the way. As we made our way out of Selfoss, we arrived at a forest surrounded by a vast landscape of soft hues. Horses glided past the Tesla as we pulled up to one of the most unique hotels in the world, the Bubble Hotel by Airmango. As we settled into our Bubble for a late morning chill, cozying up and slipping into sweatpants with our favorite books while we enjoyed the serenity of nature after a long past couple days of traveling.
After some rest, we headed straight for Seljalandsfoss, one of the two most famous waterfalls in south Iceland. Having been to this spot before, we only took a few photos and headed over to the main attraction in the area – Gljúfrabúi, the falls inside a cave left of Seljalandsfoss. Although it seems like you’d have to hike to the highlands for this kind of view, it was hidden just in plain sight and ended up being the most immersive waterfall spot on the itinerary. For dinner, we drove back to Selfoss for Mjólkurbúið Mathöll, grabbing Mediterranean food at Kurdo Kebab. After dinner, the Scandinavian in me had a sweet tooth, so we decided to go for the best ice cream in town – Ísbúð Huppu, a spot with hand-spun milkshakes filled with Icelandic candies.
Arriving back at the hotel, it was dark as we wandered through the enchanted forest to our Bubble and finally saw the true charm of the Bubble glowing bright against the tall green evergreens. There is nothing like falling asleep under the glow of the moonlight, with the sounds of nature all around us. We both agreed this was the perfect way to start our road trip around this picturesque island, full of gems for us to discover. To be continued…
Next up: Back on the Ring Road towards Umi, with many favorites along the way.
Day Two | Bubble to Umi
Waking up to the first light and sways of the Bubble, we packed our bags, grabbed a coffee from the clubhouse and loaded up our camera gear for our next adventure. First thing on our agenda was the iconic Skógafoss waterfall, but our main intention for this stop was to check out the Kvernufoss next door – a lesser-known canyon and waterfall combo that ended up being our favorites of Iceland’s falls. If you’re lucky like us, you may even have the canyon completely to yourself. We then moved onto Vík and Reyjnisfjara to see the stone pillars, charge the Tesla and grab some groceries for the road. On our way out of town, we decided to check out a viewpoint we’d heard about, just a short drive up the mountain to Dyrhólaey Viewpoint, where the wind whips you like a tornado, but the expansive view of Vík’s beaches is well worth the whiplash. Our last stop for the day was Umi Hotel, one of the more aesthetic and modern hotels. Here, we found the best spot to relax after a fairly hectic past couple of first days with a nice cocktail and dinner with a view, and after dinner, caught up on editing our plethora of fun content that we were able to capture.
Next up: Headed for the biggest highlights of the road trip along the way to Brunnholl.
Day Three | Umi to Brunnhóll
After an incredibly refreshing stay at the lovely Umi Hotel, our road trip continued, now heading towards Brunnhóll, a long 3hr30m drive up the southeastern coast with many sights to see, starting with a visit to the epic yoda-shaped cave, called Gígjagjá. A lot of people think this landmark takes quite the trek to get to, but if you keep driving past Hjörleifshöfdi Mountain, you’ll find a parking lot one minute from the cave. Next on our agenda was one of the top attractions in all of south Iceland – Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. This iconic destination is one that brings people to Iceland just to stand in awe of the size and vibrancy of nature in front of their eyes, and honestly, it lives up to the hype – this was rad. After the canyon, we stopped in Kirkjubæjarklaustur for a late lunch between the canyon and the next lagoon, grabbing sandwiches and a mixed milkshake while we charged up the car and quickly checked out the little fjord town.
Back on the road, we ventured to a unique lagoon that we got all to ourselves, called Fjallsárlón. It’s a good distance from the main road on an unpaved and unmarked road, so this definitely made for a bit of an intimidating ride in the Tesla, but it wasn’t too bad. We caught the sunset here, took tons of photographs of the glacier, and enjoyed having such an unsuspecting landscape to enjoy as one of our more off-the-beaten-path dots on our map. Finally pulling up to our hotel after a long day, we were quite excited to stumble upon a humble B&B tucked into some of the most dense fog we’ve ever seen. You better believe I quickly pulled a reverse, cranked up our country music, and peeled out of the drive to get lost in the haze and shoot some footage for the vlog. That was an epic end of a sunset, turned spooky in the best of ways!
Next up: Experience Iceland like the Vikings.
Day Four | Brunnhóll
Rise and shine, well, for me at least. Anthony had a really late night of editing, so I decided to have a solo adventure, grabbing a coffee and the keys to the Tesla as I headed out the door with a huge grin on my face. I was off to one of my favorite spots in Iceland – Jökulsárlon Lagoon; I know it’s notorious for being touristy, but that icy blue always wows me. I was stoked to shoot it this time with a new lens to bring a fresh perspective to a familiar view. To my surprise, I actually had the entire lagoon to myself, with only a few stragglers coming in at the tail end of my hour-long session as the Tesla charged 100 feet from me – clutch, yet again. The fog rolled in super dense again, so I skipped Diamond beach and enjoyed the view along the drive back to catch Anthony for breakfast.
Our plan was to head for Vestrahorn first, a giant mountain backdrop to another black sand beach, which was such a cool place to drone shoot, though a bit tough with the wind gusts over the Arctic coastline. Right next to Vestrahorn, there’s also a super old viking village that stands in front of some more massive mountains, making for a pretty cool sight to see. After our little hike over to the village, it was time to start the winding roads to explore the fjords in search of the perfect aerial view to shoot the drone. Let me tell ya, we found it. We drove for a little while, taking in the views and then u-turned to head back to our hotel for some food and rest.
Next up: Experience Iceland like the Vikings.
Day Five | Brunnhóll to Breiðdalsvík
Let the more rural part of the itinerary begin! Today’s agenda had us heading up towards our next stop for two nights – Breiðdalsvík. We didn’t quite know what to expect here since it’s a fairly small town with not much around but fjords, but little did we know that this would be one of our favorite and most unique towns to experience in the day ahead. After a short drive from Bláfell to Breiðdalsvík, we decided to catch up on editing the hundreds of shots that we’d taken thus far on our journey and begin crafting our 10-day tour. That being said, today was a more sedentary Sunday, posted in our hotel in order to be ready for an off-roading adventure tomorrow. Once we’d explored the area around our hotel for a bit to scope for the best spots and failed to find a “secret” falls, called Beljandi, we finally drove back to our hotel to get ready for dinner, where we had a fantastic meal of local poultry, lamb and steak paired. Stuffed to the brim with our 3-course dinner, we did a bit of research for our next few days and finally let our heads hit the pillow after a long day of hard work playing catch up.
Next up: Another day, another adventure – the local way.
Day Six | Breiðdalsvík
Our time up north from this point forward was incredibly unique and nothing like Anthony or I had ever experienced traveling before. The northern side of Iceland is something different – local, yet modern, and made up of artists turned entrepreneurs that own multiple businesses that make their lifestyle feel natural and effortless. Our time in Breiðdalsvík was no exception, staying at Hotel Bláfell, right across the street from a vintage car museum filled with classics mixed with a local tour company, called Tinna Adventures, owned by Breiðdalsvik natives, Ingólfur and Helga.
After a quick breakfast, we met Ingolfur at the door of the car garage and got to hear all about his gorgeous collection of cars and how he’s been able to find such gems to add to the showroom and occasionally even take out of their hanger to be featured in films or local shows. Once we had our James Bond moment, picking out our personal favorites from the lineup, we jumped in the enormous off-roading vehicle for our adventure deeper into the center of east Iceland. We got to cross Tinna River in the Land Cruiser to discover Beljandi Waterfall, the waterfall we’d been aimlessly searching for the day before, and another secret falls that have remained local. During our tour, Helga told us the wild Icelandic folklore, from the 13 evil santas to the stories of the trolls. In fact, there wasn’t a single dull moment with Helga, the perfect tour guide who excitedly shared her culture with us all the way back to the hotel, stopping to see the old farm houses and other highlights along the way. Since we came at the tail end of winter, not much was open restaurant-wise once we got back to the hotel, so we decided to have dinner there again, followed by a relaxing sauna session to wind down before another full day to come.
Next up: Exploring the otherworldly land onward to Myvatn.
Day Seven | Breiðdalsvík to Mývatn
The next morning after our off-roading adventure, we got up at the break of dawn to get started early on the drive to Mývatn since it’s a longer drive. The first sights we had on our list were side-by-side waterfalls, Dettifoss and Selfoss – two incredibly powerful falls found along a half a mile hike. This area is a bit more crowded than some of the other sights as it’s a highlight of the area, but generally, the further north you go along the Ring Road, the less touristy it gets. It was a crazy windy and rainy day, but the cold didn’t impact our stoke to brave the hike to the falls. In fact, it almost added to, laughing hysterically as I stood as a human shield for Anthony’s camera to get the perfect shot. After stretching our legs and stripping our soaked raincoats, we hopped back into our Tesla, ramped up our heater to de-thaw our frozen fingers and we headed towards Mývatn.
The further we went inland, the entire landscape began to change, slowly at first, and then abruptly morphed into a different landscape entirely, as it often does in Iceland. What were once sharp cliffs turned into a black and white stretch of total desolation, and then the moon full of colorful craters, finally landing us at the Hverir geothermal pool five minutes from our hotel, Sel Hotel Mývatn, only staying long enough to drop our bags and head for a dip in some nature baths at Mývatn Nature Baths – a utopia after braving the rain to see the canyon, stopping at Hverir geothermal pools along the way to watch the colorful canyons come to life and spurt smoke and geysers from the earth. On our past visits to Iceland, Anthony and I had both visited the notorious Blue Lagoon and enjoyed it, but felt it was underwhelming compared to what we’d pictured. This nature bath in Mývatn was a completely different story, walking into a much more serene and intimate vibe with a much prettier surrounding landscape. This was the rejuvenating nature bath experience you hope for when you simply want to wind down in the warmth of mineral water in the peaceful company of your party and only a handful of others around. Pro tip – go at night, the sunsets are epic from the baths and the “crowd” dwindles as the sky darkens and the moonlight shines above. Weathering the storm all day made a very relaxing evening, and afterwards grabbing some comfort food for dinner that we ate over several rounds of pool at the hotel.
Next up: A taste of the humble farm life at Lamb Inn.
Day Eight | Mývatn to Akureyri
Ahh…what a good night’s sleep can do for you while on a long road trip. We felt the relaxation that comes with being on the north side of the island, where everything feels slower pace. We sat down at our hotel for a real breakfast spread and sipped our coffees as we looked over the map for today’s escapades. It was a super gorgeous drive headed for Akureyri, made even better with the tunes of Teddy Swim as sprinkles hit the windshield. We chose to stop at Goðafoss to see the massive and powerful falls to break up the drive, which was touristy, but a good stop nonetheless.
Arriving in Akureyri, we drove around the town for a bit, stopping at our favorite coffee shop, Lyft Coffee, with a giant A-frame window and the best cappuccino on the island and then a flatbread from Lemon for lunch. We had a couple of hours before our scheduled afternoon with some huskies, so we opted for a short fjord trip towards coastal towns past a giant tunnel that opens up to Ólafsfjörður and Siglufjörður, the highlights of this area. Once we pursued the Norwegian towns for a minute, we headed back towards Akureyri to get the unique experience of playing with eighteen huskies all at once at a family-run dog sledding business, called Go Husky. Their owner, Helga, was so fun and it was wild how trained all of these dogs were being 18 all together. Since it wasn’t snowy at this time, we weren’t able to sled, but the experience alone makes it a great stop year-round. This couple also does local tours, if you’re interested.
With full hearts and full of fur, we left the huskies for our farmhouse for the evening at Lamb Inn. As we pulled up, we heard the tiny lambs from the barn, including one that was born just hours before our arrival. Johannes, the lamb farmer, gave us a tour of his inn, including showing us his family heirloom – a little piece of Icelandic history within the splithouse of his dwelling. It was like getting a tour from your sweet grandpa, excited to tell his stories, with the twist of him then proceeding to cook us an Icelandic meal of his local creations and lamb, ending with ice cream made by a nearby dairy farm down the road. This spot could be a bit underwhelming to some, but we really enjoyed the home feel of the Inn and appreciated his generosity in sharing both his culture and his home. Getting a second wind from the beauty of the sorbet-colored sunset and a good meal, I ripped open my bag to grab my drone and flew it into the mountains over the fjord to catch the dwindling sun.
Next up: The true charm of north Iceland – Blönduós.
Day Nine | Akureyri to Blönduós
We gulped down our coffee eager to see some sunshine after a couple of days of rain and snow and arrived at our first stop – Glaumbær. This is an old Icelandic farmhouse, the type that was built into the landscape with a grass top that was preserved and made into a historic museum. The two of us aren’t much for museums unless they’re modern, but this one was actually super interesting and a pretty location surrounded by mountains and hillside as far as we could see.
It’s a great morning already, but little did we know that we were headed to the spot that ended up being one of our favorites of the trip, another pin on our map that really blew away our expectations. Hvítserkur Rock was our next stop, a coastal viewpoint that resembles a giant dragon taking a drink of water out past the cliffs. This spot and the next are actually past the town where our guest house was located, but it was a short drive and we wanted to get out into nature for a bit and split up tomorrow’s longer itinerary. It was a windy one, which made for a shorter stop, but well worth it in both of our opinions. We saw a few people make the hike all the way down the cliffs to visit the beach, but being quite frigid, we just caught the views from the topside.
After the lookout, we got back on the road to Kolugljúfur Canyon, another beauty next door to Bergarfoss, a smaller but noteworthy waterfall. After the falls, we turned back to Blönduós to Atelier Guesthouse & Restaurant to settle in for the evening and enjoy our French/Icelandic 3-course meal prepared by our guest house’s owners, Inga and Gísli. It was our absolute pleasure to get to know this artsy couple turned chefs and guest house owners. This is another hidden gem that’s completely unsuspecting from the outside, and immediately upon entry, we were in awe of the homey atmosphere and warm welcome. Their approach to B&B is rare these days, wanting to keep a local feel, while bringing travelers of all kinds together over a meal. They told us that when the time and conditions are right, they’re able to see the Northern Lights unlike any other place in Iceland due to the lack of light pollution in one of the most remote and sleepy areas on the island. Amongst the wonderful company, we had our most exquisite meal yet, from the seared lamb carpaccio salad to the lamb shanks and wine, this is one food experience that you don’t want to miss. The cherry on top of a perfect evening was the vibrant sunset out the giant window alongside the family-style dinner table to close our night. Following the setting rays, we walked back to our guest house with full hearts and stomachs, satisfied in solace.
Next up: Coming full circle in Reykjavik.
Day Ten | Reykjavík
It’s the final day of our road trip, but it was far from over with many more sights to see as we moved onward to come full circle around the Ring Road over to Reykjavik. Writing this last day as we finish up our trip is a mixed feeling of satisfaction and sadness that it’s coming to an end, but we know it’s not the last in Iceland. We grabbed breakfast from our guest house, looking out the same window as yesterday’s sunset over toast, gathered our things and set out for one more adventure with Inga and Gísli’s local tips in mind. As the road wound around gradually building craters, we arrived at Grábrók Crater, one of the craters where you’re able to walk along its rim to get an expansive and immersive view from the top. It’s a short and easy hike up and around the crater that ended up being so cool that we decided to pull out each of our drones to get some aerial footage, and the view didn’t disappoint! This was easily another of our favorites – a cool first of our last stops to get to Reykjavik. After spending about an hour at the crater, we moved on to Barnafoss and Hraunfossar, the last two falls of our itinerary. These falls are smaller than some, but beautiful nonetheless and a nice final spot to feel one last magical mist.
The adventure may be over, but the day was not quite finished. We grabbed a late lunch at Krua Thai for arguably the best Thai noodle soup of Scandinavia to warm us up and then wanted to try the iconic ice cream spot, Valdís, and wow, it was the creamiest gelato around. Feeling a bit in a food coma, we checked into our hotel, IcelandAir Hotel Marina, and photographed the many different rooms of this melting pot found in the hub of the city. We sat down on our couch and checked out the remained of the photos we’d taken from the last leg of our journey and then popped over to Jungle Cocktail Bar to cheers each other to complete our road trip and reminisce over the countless waterfalls, craters, canyons and glaciers that we had the opportunity to explore over the past thirteen days spent on the Ring Road – Skál!
Next up: Heading home.
Day Eleven | Heading Home
Here it came, day eleven of our trip, marking an official end to our trip around the Ring Road. Waking slowly with nowhere to be for the first time in eleven days, we eventually made it downstairs for some breakfast before a day of exploring the gems of Reykjavik before dropping off our Tesla. Highlights included the famous church, Hallgrímskirkja and rainbow road followed by a trip over to the Grandi Mathöll for lunch with a friend.