Iceland is one of those places I always wanted to visit, but knew absolutely nothing about. Like most Americans will tell you, all you really learn in school about Iceland is that Iceland is green and Greenland is ice. So when my friend asked if I wanted to join him for a week during his law school spring break, I immediately agreed without thinking about it much.
As it turns out, Iceland is one of the coolest (maybe literally) places I've ever visited. However, Iceland is NOT the type of vacation you just wing from day to day, especially when it's March and the weather is still winter. We learned this the hard way and ended up with a not-so-efficient drive route shown below:
Day 1: Rejkavik
For dinner, we went to Dill based on some recommendations from friends. Given it's Iceland's first restaurant to receive a Michelin star + all the rave reviews we heard and read, we were very curious to try it. We paid around $200 USD each for 5 course + wine pairing and sadly, we both felt that it fell short. My advice, skip it unless you really want to splurge.
Day 2: South to Vik
Day 3: Back to Rejkavik and back South to Svartifoss
Day 4: To Jokulsarlon and then back to Keflavík
Later we went to the Blue Lagoon Hot Springs close to the airport. While extremely full of selfie-taking tourists (ourselves included), I have to admit it was less crowded and better than I thought. Worth it? Depends. If you have time to visit other Hot Springs, I wouldn't say it's a MUST. If you want to go, make sure you pre-book your time slot.
Day 5: North to Hofsos
Day 6: East to Myvatn
Post the hot springs, we couldn't be bothered to attempt to cook in the snow again. We camped at a nearby campsite and we were pitifully drinking the remainder of our beer after getting kicked out of Daddi's Pizza. Right then, some people jumped out of a nearby parked car and started taking photos of the Aurora Borealis.
IT WAS AMAZING.
I didn't expect any luck with the lights during our trip given the low activity and heavy precipitation. VERY happy/lucky to have witnessed it!
Day 7: Back towards the Golden Circle
Day 8: Golden circle and back to Rejkavik
Back to Rejkavik for a last night and casual $20 beer (it was good) at Mikkeller before I left for the airport early in the morning.
Rent your car ahead of time: I highly recommend getting a larger 4x4 capable of driving through all types of weather conditions. In the winter, all F-roads are closed, but in the summer those require 4x4 vehicles. Plan ahead of time also if you are like us and can only drive an automatic. We struggled to find a camper van and luckily managed to secure one with Go Campers. We had a great experience with them and would recommend them to anyone interested in renting a camper van.
Insurance: Given the quick weather changes and potentially other poor tourist drivers on the road, I would recommend at least taking the Gravel Protection insurance add on when you rent a car. We didn't take anything else, as I had rental car insurance with my credit card. We saw a couple really bad accidents, so better safe than sorry.
Camp or Hotel?: I loved the flexibility of the camper van and thought it was a fun way to travel. Keep in mind camper vans are required to park at campsites now and there is a fee to stay overnight. The bathroom facilities are usually nice and using a campsite kitchen is way better than cooking on a camper van stove... in the snow. Not all campsites are open during the winter. A few times, we ended up camping in a school parking lot or at an unopened camp site.
Weather: The weather changes VERY quickly, with insane winds also blowing around. Check the weather here constantly.
Duration: I would recommend at least 10 days to do the full Ring Road. You could do it in less, but much of the trip will be driving.
Don't be a shithead. Tourism is increasing at a rate in which Icelandic infrastructure is struggling to keep up. Tourists pooping everywhere is becoming an issue and while signs like this are extremely funny, it's kind of sad.
Food: cooking in winter sucks, don't forget that. Food in general is pricey around $20 for a burger or pizza. There are also a strangely large amount of Quiznos around.
Clothing: Prepare for it all. One minute it's sunny and the next minute you're being blown away in a windy hail storm.
Additional Resources: some other blogs/websites we referred to