Iceland has quickly become a very popular travel destination, and for a great reason. The country is not very large at all, so it attracts many adventure travelers that spend a few weeks exploring the whole island, but it also is great for shorter trips. I spent a little longer than a week in Iceland and explored all over western Iceland. Since the main airport to Iceland is located on the west coast, along with Iceland's capital city Reykjavik, adventuring around western Iceland is a perfect introduction to the country and great for those who only have a short time to visit the country.
If you are planning a trip for Iceland, be sure to check out my packing guide! >here!<
During my time in Iceland, we had rented a car, which I would highly recommend. We used Enterprise, but there are many good companies in the airport or around the airport. For some people, renting a car wasn't right, but for us it was perfect because we wanted to be able to travel all around western Iceland and not have to wait on buses or be on anyone else's schedule.
The Blue Lagoon
Once you arrive in Iceland at the airport, you will then be only a few miles away from the Blue Lagoon. This amazingly popular hot spring has become very popularized but is definitely worth the money to visit. The Blue Lagoon is a unnatural hot spring, but has natural chemicals that give the hot water benefits to your skin and is super relaxing, especially after a long flight. There is a lot to the Blue Lagoon, so I will go more in detail in another post, stay tuned for that!
Right around the area of the Blue Lagoon are some great little towns too! Since we arrived super early in the morning, I think it was like 5 am, we had some time to kill until the Blue Lagoon opened. This gave us some time to drive around the see the surrounding area. We drove to the town of Grindavik, which is a small fishing village on the southern coast of the island. In that town there was a really cute looking coffee shop, Byggjan. Sadly for us, it wasn't opened yet so I can't comment on the food or drinks. But the location is awesome! It was right on the docs where the fishing boats were coming in and out, and had a small outdoor seating area, if it is nice out when you are visiting.
This city is beautiful and honestly much larger than I had expected it to be. There are many parts of the city that are worth exploring, and again something that I will dig further into in another post where I can just focus on this happening city and really get into the details!
The Golden Circle
A very popular area to see in western Iceland that is just a short drive from the city of Reykjavik is called the Golden Circle. For the warning, this is a very touristy thing to do, but we really thought it was worth seeing all the stunning sights all along the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is a driving route that allows for many stops along the circle loop of breathtaking sights, adventurous activities, and amazing Icelandic towns. Below are are best stops to make along this route!
This national park is a valley where two tectonic plates create a rift. This is the location where you can actually go snorkeling or scuba diving in this rift that the separation of these tectonic plates caused. For more info on snorkeling the Silfra fissure, check out my blog post >here<
You guessed it, this is a geyser! While the area of Geysir has a few little geysers, the main attraction is the large geyser that erupts every few minutes. It is pretty cool to see, so waiting for it to erupt is worth it. There is also a hill right next to the main geyser, if you walk up to the top, there is a stunning view of the valley and beyond that is worth the little hike.
If you came to Iceland for the waterfalls, this is one not to miss. This is a massive waterfall, and is a short hike to get to the main viewpoint, but if you travel to Iceland in the winter like I did, you may have a little bit more difficulty getting to it due to the snow and ice on the pathways.
This very small town has a huge historical significance in Icelandic culture, and is a great quick stop on the Golden Circle route. The main attractions to this town is the beautiful Skalholt Cathedral that is open to the public, and a small Icelandic home right next to it. Also along with side of the cathedral there is an area that was once the location of an old town that is now nothing but very scarce remains. Right next to that area you will also find a secret passageway that leads to a second entrance into the cathedral, although I assume it remains locked.
Kerid is a massive volcanic crater lake. In the summer the photos of this look amazing due to the bright red hue the earth around the crater has. But if you remember, I traveled to Iceland in the winter so we were unfortunately not able to make it to see it. Plus there isn't much of it to see in the winter as it tends to ice over and fill up with snow, so it just looks like a few hills with snow. But even though I didn't get to see this, it should still be on your list for western Iceland!
Although it would be very difficult to tell you exactly where we stopped to see the Icelandic horses up close, it really doesn't matter. There are these small wild horses everywhere outside the main cities and if you are able to pull your car over and walk up to the fence, there is a very good chance that they will run up to greet you. The Golden Circle route has so many opportunities to stop to meet these adorable animals, and it will be totally worth it!
Just a short drive north of the capital city of Reykjavik, this small town is situation on the western coast of the Island. This town is a great stop no matter what season you are visiting Iceland. All the way on the western edge of the town there is a lighthouse known as the Akranes Lighthouse, and if you are there on a clear day, you will get some amazing views of the ocean and mountains beyond. This is also a great spot to catch the sunset over the ocean!
Another small town north of Reykjavik, this was a quick stop on our way to the Snaefellsjoekull Peninsula. Like the town of Akranes, there are some pretty amazing views of the ocean and mountains if you are lucky enough to have a clear day. We also ended up stumbling on this statue in the photo above. There is a historical significance to the heritage of the town, but I won't get into that here. Regardless of the details of its backstory, it was pretty cool to find and was sitting on top of a small hill behind a place called The Settlement Center.
This area of Iceland is obviously a peninsula in the mid western region of the country. With only a few hours of a drive to the end of the peninsula, this is a perfect day trip for anyone staying in Reykjavik. There are a bunch of cute towns with amazing ocean and mountain views and even a national park all located on the Snaefellsjekull Peninsula.
A great first stop on the the Snaefellsjekull Peninsula, Arnarstapi is a small fishing village situation on the edge of the cliff. The views on the ocean are beautiful. After you to take a hundred pictures of the scenery, there is a small path that you can follow that will lead you to the next town over. The walk is pretty short but if it is super cold like when I was there, driving just made more sense. Also in the village is statue that is worth seeing and taking some photos of!
Lighthouses are all over the coast of Iceland, but this one was a pretty cool stop because it was such a modern structure, and it resembled a spaceship to me. Since this is also on the coast the views are amazing if you have a clear day, or a summer day. Sadly, when I was there it was freezing, foggy, and super windy so I didn't get many great photos of the views or the surrounding area, but you can take my word for it!
Again, a very small fishing town but this one has something going for it, a cafe. This cafe has great reviews and is run by a fisherman's wife so the seafood is always super fresh. Side note: if you are like me and traveling Iceland in the winter, it will most likely be closed due to the winter. I was very sad about this too but the town was still so cute and it is worth giving a visit!
Even though it is small, this waterfall is still a great one to see when on the peninsula. When I saw the waterfall it was frozen over yet it was still pretty to see. And if it isn't freezing when you see it, there is a pathway that you can walk up over the top of the waterfall. This is also a great location to get some stunning views of the Kerkjufell Mountain.
Once you get your time seeing the waterfall, just an extremely short drive away is this stunning mountain. We found a great spot across the water from it for some amazing photos. But if you don't feel like driving closer, you can still get great photos from the waterfall. They are seriously almost right next to each other!
Since Iceland is a volcanic island, there are lava fields all around the country, but there is a beautiful one on the peninsula that you can enjoy in your car driving past it. So it also can be a little hard to find because it doesn't have a name or location you can search on any map so you will have to find it by the roads and the nearby towns. it is close to the town of Bjarnarhofn on route 54 close to where it meets route 56. As you can see in the photo, it is at least worth a slow drive by!
This amazing waterfall is probably one of the many waterfalls you can find in western Iceland. The thing that makes this one stand out from the rest is the ability to walk behind the waterfall. Like many other things on my list, this I did not get to experience due to all the snow and ice on the pathway to walk behind the waterfall. But regardless, it is still beautiful to see from the front. And for an added bonus, if you follow the path next to the waterfall it will lead you to other waterfalls. There is one waterfall at the end of the pathway that is hidden in a cave. The photo below is of that waterfall!
Another amazing waterfall in the southern area of Iceland. Start doing your stretches because if you want to get the full experience of this waterfall, you will be walking up A LOT of stairs. But don't worry, coming from someone very out of shape, you can make it if I did! And the view from the top of the waterfall is something you won't want miss out on. For an added bonus, on the drive in there a few small houses and one house has a red food truck in the front, stop there and get the fish and chips! The owner is a lovely lady from England that gets fresh fish everyday from other local fishermen. I'm not from England but I thought the fish and chips were really good and a great lunch.
This is a beautiful black sand beach on the southern coast of Iceland. Seeing a black sand beach is amazing enough, but this beach has stunning basalt structures and a cave right on the shoreline too. Side note: be careful near the water, right before I was there someone actually died because they got swept away by the current. But don't let that scare you from visiting this beach, it is sight that pictures don't even begin to do justice to!
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