If you are only in Iceland for 1 or 2 full days, and want to see nature that is doable as a day trip from Reykavik, the itinerary below will take you a couple hours. You would leave in the morning around 9-10 AM and return around 5PM.
We went on this trip in early July so depending on when you go, the driving conditions could be entirely different and will affect your total time to complete the trip. Another thing you should keep in mind is that we had virtually 24 hours of sunlight. The darkest it got was in the picture below taken at 1AM! If you go during other months, you might get the opposite – no sunlight!
Note that we used Google Maps the entire time with no reception issues. Also, of all the itineraries for Iceland I will post, this was my least favorite. However, the others will require you to either drive for an extremely long time in one day or stay in another town.
Stop 1 – Thingvellir National Park (about 45 minutes from Reykjavik)
The entrance to the park is free but you will have to pay to park your car. Simply head inside the visitor center and pay using the ipads provided and a credit card.
There are two significant things about this site #1 It was where the Parliament of Iceland was established in 980 AD, and sat there until 1798. #2 The park lies in a rift that markets the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. You can see this in the image below.
To me, this was the least impressive of everything I saw in Iceland. I would almost suggest you skip it. If you are a geology fan you will love coming here, but otherwise, I do not think its worth coming just to see this. However, it is on the way to the next two sites which get better.
Stop 2 – Geysir (about 40 minutes to 1 hour from Stop 1)
The next stop was the Geysir. You park at a facility and walk across the street. From there you will see a number of smaller Geysirs and then the main one. If you have never seen a Geysir before, you will probably find this fascinating. However, if you have been to places like Yellowstone Park, this may not be impressive for you.
Stop 3 – Gullfoss (9 minutes from Geysir)
Saving the best for last is Gullfoss. These were spectacular and worth the drive.
If you have more than a few days in Iceland, I would definitely recommend driving to Vik and beyond. You will see truly magnificent scenery. I found that as we got further from Reykjavik, on the South Coast, the landscape changed so frequently, and was so interesting to see.
I will post other itineraries in future posts. Another great thing about driving around Iceland is seeing all the free roaming animals. Like the sheep below; just be careful when you are driving!