An Iceland road trip from Akureyri to Reykjavik is the perfect way to spend your time in this stunning country. Driving in Iceland is no mundane experience, it’s packed full with relaxing hot springs, waterfalls cascading from mountain sides, and glaciers melting off into the ocean. If your timing is just right, you can even catch the northern lights dancing. We were lucky enough to experience all of this during our 8 day stopover in Iceland. Here’s the simple itinerary that we followed.
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8 Day Iceland Itinerary - Akureyri to Reykjavik
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Day 1 Reykjavik to Akureyri
We took a flight from Reykjavik to Akureyri, instead of driving 5 hours to the northern city. Our short 40 minute flight with Air Iceland cost 139 euros, including a charge for 20kg of luggage.
It was nighttime when we arrived. As we landed, I could see the flickering lights surrounding the coastline. Akureyri is the biggest city in northern Iceland. But take a 20 minute drive outside the downtown area, and you are once again free from light pollution. This is a prime requirement for viewing the northern lights.
After picking up our car rental at the airport, we dropped off our bags and headed into the darkness to hunt for northern lights. But we had no luck that night. If the northern lights is on your bucket list, like the ones below, check out the aurora forecast here.
Day 2 & 3 Akureyri to Myvatn
On Day 2 of our Iceland road trip, we started our route on the ring road. It traces the coastline and is dotted with gorgeous sights that will make you question why you don’t live in Iceland. If you are interested in driving full ring road – check out how to self-drive Iceland’s ring road.
On the 1 hour drive from Akureyri to Myvatn, we stopped to admire Godafoss. It’s a stunning waterfall with a short trail leading to the base of the falls. It’s hard to miss important sights in Iceland, usually they are easily seen from the road.
If you take this route, you’ll see a big change in scenery. The volcanic nature of the island is very evident in Lake Myvatn. We took 2 days to explore the area. Here is a list of places you need to check out. Just for fun, try to pronounce these names.
- Dimmuborgir: A lava field, full of strange rock formations. There’s a trail that takes you around lava pillars rising from the water. It gives me mixed feelings, but I’ll mention that this location was used for a Game of Thrones episode.
- Hverfjall: A large crater rising 452 m from the ground. There’s a trail that takes you up and around the entire crater. If you need to make a bathroom stop, there is also a very nice washroom located near the parking lot.
- Grjotogja: A cave with a hot spring. The cave is easily accessible from the parking lot, and although it’s tempting, taking a dip is not recommended. And yes, this is Jon Snow’s cave. But there’s so much more to it. Take some time to walk on the area above the cave. The ground literally splits and rises as if it’s still about to erupt.
- Vindbelgjarfjall: This one is for the hikers. It’s a mountain that you can easily spot from the road. The reward for reaching the top is a gorgeous 360 degrees view of the small pockets of lake in the surrounding area.
- Krafla & Leirhnjukur: Both are active volcanos located 20 minutes from Lake Myvatn. This area looks completely alien, steam rises from open lava tubes and milky sulphuric lakes are nestled in the yellow ochre terrain. If you don’t mind the rotten egg smell of the Sulphur, take a walk around the area, but make sure to stay within the trail.
- Myvatn Nature Baths: This is northern Iceland’s more affordable answer to the Blue Lagoon. The entrance fee was $47 cad, although the changing facilities were not as fancy as the Blue Lagoon, the warm water was equally relaxing.
Day 4 Myvatn to Egilsstaðir
After 2 days of exploring Myvatn, we were ready to get back on the ring road. We headed east towards Egilsstaðir.
On the way, we made a stop to Dettifoss. Surprisingly easy to pronounce, it’s also one of the strongest waterfalls in Europe. It takes 1 hour and 15 min. to drive from Myvatn to Dettifoss. Although, it’s not located directly on the ring road, it’s still worth a visit.
Our Airbnb in Egilsstaðir was another 2 hours from Dettifoss. On the way, we were lucky enough to see some wild reindeers. The rest of the drive was pretty and quiet.
We arrived at our Airbnb in the afternoon and still had some time to explore Seydisfjordur. Seydisfjordur is a picturesque town located 30 minutes from Egilsstaðir. The road will take you high up the mountain before it descends into the valley towards the fjords. This is also where the skateboard scene from Secret Life of Walter Mitty was shot.
The town is very hip and has a strong artistic community. There’s a nice waterfall trail near the water called Vestdalurfossar. If you’re looking for a more challenging hike, check out the Avalanche Barrier trail on Mt. Bjolfur. The trailhead is just off the road before you enter the town. The reward is a stunning bird’s eye view of Seydisfjordur.
Day 5 & 6 Egilsstaðir to Vatnajokull
The drive from Egilsstaðir to Vatnajokull National Park is about 4 hours. There are plenty of sights to see along the way. We decided to commit one day for the drive and another day for exploring the park. Here are some sights to see on the way to the Park.
- Vestrahorn Beach: A black sand beach with stunning views of the mountains
- Hoffel Hot Pots: These 4 outdoor tubs are fed with water from a hot spring. The price is 500 Kronas per person, and collected through an honour system. You can also catch a view of Hoffel’s glacier while relaxing in the warm water.
- Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach: These are very popular stops on the ring road, and for good reason. The giant icebergs in the lagoon look like sculptures as they drift in the water. Some of the ice finds its way back to shore, and they look like shiny jewels against the black sand on Diamond Beach.
We spent the following day at Skaftafell visitor’s centre. It’s a great place to park and explore Vatnajokull National Park. Vatnajokull is the largest glacier in Europe. If you have the budget, I highly recommend a glacier hike. A 5 hr hike cost $350 for 2 people. Check out more details on the glacier hike here.
But you don’t have to break the bank to have a glacier experience. You can get up close and personal with the ancient ice by taking the Skaftafellsjokull trail from the visitor’s centre. It’s a short hike that leads to a glacier lagoon, and it has a great view of one of Vatnajokull’s glacier tongue.
Day 7 Vatnajokull to Reykjavik
Our adventure was coming to a close. The following day we would be flying back to Toronto. But first we had 4 hours of driving from Vatnajokull National Park to Reykjavik. This part of the ring road is full of popular stops.
- Vik: A small town famous for its hillside church
- Solheimajokull: Another glacier stop. There’s an easy trail from the parking lot that takes you on the glacier. It can get a bit more crowded due to all the bus tours.
- Skogafoss: A gorgeous waterfall that’s easy to spot from the road. There’s a set of stairs you can climb to the top of the falls. It’s also the trailhead for the beautiful Fimmvorduhals trail.
- Seljalandsfoss: Yes another waterfall, also easy to spot from the road. There’s a path that will take you behind the falls. It can be quite slippery so be careful.
- Reykjadalur: This is a river that mixes with hot spring water. It’s the perfect temperature for relaxing and soaking. If you have more time in Iceland or if you’re using a camper van, this is a great stop. It’s not on the main road. But definitely worth a side trip. Please note, it’s an hour hike to the river from the parking lot.
Day 8 - Reykjavik to Toronto
Finally we made it to Reykjavik. Reykjavik is best to explore on foot. There are great restaurants, and my favourite is Nudluskalin with its delicious warm and spicy soups. Another popular spot is the church Hallgrimskirkja.
If you have extra days to explore Reykjavik, check out the Golden Circle route. It includes Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss and Geysir. All these spots are within a 2 hr drive from Reykjavik. If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, then check out the hike to Glymur Waterfall, or the isolated hot spring Landbrotolaug.
But if you’re time has run out, I suggest taking a relaxing stroll through downtown Reykjavik. You’ve spent a lot of time on the ring road and it’s time to let it all sink in. A lot of memories have been made on your drive from Akureyri to Reykjavik, talk it over in one of the quaint coffee shops, and don’t forget to say ‘takk’ (thank you) Iceland.
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About The Author
Hi! I’m Millie and I’m obsessed with adventure travel. I’m not a professional guide or super fit in any way, but I do love to get outside and explore new places. I started taking hiking vacations in 2014 and since then I’ve managed to trek through Everest Base Camp, Camino de Santiago and Machu Picchu. My mission is to help you prepare for your next hiking vacation by sharing tips I learned from my own adventures and mishaps. You can find me on my social media channels – Instagram & Pinterest and my website Amateurist Advice.