This drive was so incredible! You don’t need an off-road vehicle. All the sights are visible from the ring road and easy to access. This drive was better than then Golden Circle.
Our drive to Vik was the highlight of our trip. It is an easy ride along the ring road and unless you want to hike or find hot springs, you don’t have to map and plan much to see the sights along the way – they are right by the road.
There are beautiful waterfalls, strange lava formations, glaciers atop large mountains and looming volcanoes. There are fields full of vibrant shades of green, yellow, red and brown. There are black sand beaches, Icelandic horses and lots of grazing little lambs.
It’s about a five hour round trip drive from Reykjavik to Vik. Our only regret is that we didn’t make a hotel reservation in time to drive an extra 2 ½ hours east to the glacier bay at Jokulsarlon. By the time we decided to do this, the few hotels and guesthouse in the area were already fully booked. We decided it was just a bit too much to do in one day, so we had lunch in Vik and made the scenic journey back to Reykjavik.
I would say, if you only have time to chose one: golden circle or drive to Vik – definitely drive to Vik!
We were hesitant to go out of our way to visit the Blue Lagoon because we thought it may be a tourist trap. BUT there is a picture of its beautiful blue water in an Iceland Air ad on the Washington D.C. Metro that I often stared at dreamingly during my daily commute. And so, I had to check it out.
It did not disappoint! Touristy? Yes. Heavenly? Absolutely. The water was warm and wonderful, the backdrop was beautiful. The wine was tasty. The people were friendly. Need I say more?
We didn’t make reservations, but we called ahead and raced over when they told us they had some room (which apparently never happens, so book online at least two hours ahead of time). They ran things so efficiently that, despite the line to get in, everything went smoothly and the atmosphere was calm and relaxing. We went at about 7 pm and I highly recommend this time – when it isn’t as crowded.
Reykjavik is a beautiful town and perfect for wandering on foot. Everyone is friendly and locals will gladly help you find your way around. It’s a bit cold and rainy, but that hasn’t taken away from the experience. The weather right now (in August) is sort of like October weather in New York.
The travel was easy with a 5 ½ hour direct flight from JFK and a reservation for the Flybus to take us into town. We arrived at our adorable little studio (reserved through airbnb for a fraction of the hotel rates) at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning.
Reykjavik has a reputation for being a party town and it didn’t disappoint. After asking a few questions out on the safe and clean streets, we found our way to the heart of town. Laugavegur, the main street, was full of tall and sturdy-looking youth in various stages of intoxication running from club to club or standing in very long lines outside awaiting their chance to get into the next venue.
We were glad to find a pizza shop and some food trucks operating at the late hour – the famed hot dog place, Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, had already closed. Then we opted for a quite spot and sipped on vodka drinks while we watched the scene from the window.
When our quiet pub closed at 3 a.m., we were provided plastic cups for our drinks and we wandered home, passing by the still raging nightclubs along the main street.
Keep in mind, Reykjavik is small and beautifully quaint. Many of those raging clubs operate as cafes and restaurants (or perhaps even a laundromat) during the day. There are no skyscrapers or superhighways. But there is plenty to do.
The food is absolutely amazing! Try the tasting menu at Apotek or Fishmarket for a once in a lifetime culinary experience! It’s very pricey, but tax and gratuity are included in the price, so it’s really not that much more than what you would pay in New York or Washington D.C. after you add that in – if you’re from less expensive areas though, you should prepare yourself for sticker shock.
Tomorrow we are renting a car and we plan to drive through south Iceland. We hope we get some sun!