michelephants asked: A second visit to Iceland in 2014 is in the works. We flew in Keflavik and only stayed in Reykjavik for the 6 short days we were there. We are planning on a two-three week visit, flying in and renting a car. Would you recommend us flying into Akureyri renting a car and working our way back down to Reykjavik, or start in Reykjavik and work our way up to Akureyri? I must see the North of Iceland, should our route be through the middle or of the coasts? I must see Dettifoss and glaciers. thanks :)
It is a bit unfortunate that domestic flights are located in Reykjavik, while international flights go through Keflavík (45 minute drive). I’d say skip the domestic flight and drive the whole circle. It takes 4-5 hours to drive from Reykjavík to Akureyri and with more than one person in the car, driving is definitely cheaper than flying (here are some tips on travelling around Iceland).
Since you’ve seen Reykjavík already, just rent the car at the Keflavík airport, drive through Reykjavík and head north. Spend your first night somewhere north of Reykjavík. The small town of Borgarnes is a good choice with plenty of charm.
Day two, drive out onto the Snæfellsnes peninsula and if you can afford it spend the night at the awesome Hótel Búðir. Otherwise have a stay in Arnarstapi or Ólafsvík.
Day three, drive on the northern side of Snæfellsnes to Stykkishólmur. On the way get an awesome pizza in Grundarfjörður and eat some shark in Bjarnarhöfn. Spend a full day or two in Stykkishólmur (my favorite town) and be sure to go on one of the boat tours.
From Stykkishólmur you can either take the car ferry to Brjánslækur on the Westfjords (Vestfirðir) and explore them for a week if you are staying for three weeks. Otherwise head east for a really scenic drive back to Highway 1. Spend the next night in Sauðárkrókur or someplace on the way. If you would like a scenic day of driving, drive the new roads on the northern coast of Tröllaskagi, through Ólafsfjörður and Dalvík to Akureyri. Spend a couple of days in Akureyri, relax in the pool and enjoy the town.
This puts you on day 6-8. Next, head east to visit the Mývatn lake, Goðafoss waterfall and possibly go to the town of Húsavík for whale watching. Stay somewhere in the area.
Next go to Ásbyrgi, part of Vatnajökull National park. Ásbyrgi is amazing and also only a short drive from Dettifoss. If you are camping, then the camp site in Ásbyrgi is really nice.
Next head further east. If you want a long but interesting drive, drive the coast. You will go through the tiny towns of Kópasker, Raufarhöfn and Vopnafjörður (lived there when I was a kid) and see many abandoned farms along the way. Keep your eyes open for foxes as well.
Otherwise take the much shorter drive along Highway 1 to the East Fjords (Austfirðir). Egillsstaðir is the main hub in the east, but you can spend as many days as you’d like exploring the small towns in the nearby fjords. This is also a great area for hiking, so if you want to hike, skip some of the longer drives previously mentioned and spend more time in this area.
Once you’ve spent 2-5 days in this area, head south towards Höfn í Hornarfirði. From there you have a six hour drive to Reykjavík, however it is easy to spend a week.
The south coast is so well documented and popular, I won’t go into details. But be sure to do a glacier tour in Skaftafell (I recommend the 4 hour Glacier Adventure with Icelandic Mountain Guides (I guide this tour sometimes)) and go to Ingólfshöfði (a.k.a. Puffin Island).
You also ask if it’s a good idea to go through the Highlands. It certainly is, but it is a very different experience. The roads are only open in the summer (mid-late June until mid-September) and they require a decent 4x4 vehicle.