Icelandic Road Trip Ideas: Stops, Activities, and Unique Stays

Icelandic road trip, namafjall

Namafjall by

I was reminiscing about my incredible time hitchhiking and Couchsurfing Iceland on my 6-day stopover en-route to Puerto Rico from Morocco in 2009. The eerie geography, outworldly landscapes, and relatively-easy way to get around captured my attention. Then, it dawned on me–my next visit has to involve an Icelandic road trip.

In fact, I should come up with my own Iceland self drive tour!

Everything from camping to dropping by unique guesthouses to even crashing a local couch or two all over again. Season? The summer, in order to see those stunning frozen landscapes in vibrant greens under the intriguing midnight sun.

But…where to go?!

There’s so much ground I was unable to cover on my first trip there. Moreover, there are dozens of other unique activities I would like to include in my itinerary. So! To narrow it down, I came up with this Icelandic road trip ideas photo essay:

Icelandic road trip, diamond beach

Diamond Beach under the midnight sun by

Icelandic Road Trip Ideas: Route Options

My first dilemma is routes. Most options follow the famous Ring Road with little to no detours. Yet, how many stops will I make? This depends on how much time I have.

My top two itineraries thus far include a straightforward 8-day Ring Road trip, including the following stops: Reykjavík, Akureyri, Jökulsárlón, Dimmuborgir, Geysir, Gullfoss, Dyrhólaey, Þingvellir, Hraunfossar, Deildartunguhver, Höfn, Vik i Mýrdal, Blönduós, Kerið, Godafoss Waterfall, and Lake Myvatn.

I’ve already been to 5 out of 16 of those highlights, though. This is when option B becomes more attractive: 12 full days, visiting all 3 Icelandic National Parks, hitting most of the aforementioned highlights, in addition to zigzagging the East Fjords:

  • Reykjavík: the world’s northernmost capital
  • Akureyri: northern city with cool restos
  • Jökulsárlón: stunning glacial lagoon
  • Snæfellsjökull: 700,000-year-old stratovolcano
  • Skógafoss: my fave waterfall with interesting rock formations
  • Seljalandsfoss: to see it in full force, not frozen
  • Geysir explosions: they are always sweet to look at
  • Gullfoss: I wonder what it looks like lush, under the midnight sun?
  • Dyrhólaey: spectacular promontory, black sand beaches
  • Þingvellir: so I can finally swim between 2 continents!
  • Snæfellsnes Peninsula: wild, Western Iceland + EarthCheck community
  • Höfn: to take in the Hornafjörður Fjord and surrounding landscapes
  • Stykkishólmur: coastal town, gateway to countless of islands
  • Borgarnes: to visit Fljotstunga, the largest lava cave in Iceland
  • Lake Myvatn and Dimmuborgir: as I’m obsessed with lava formations
  • Seydisfjordur: to visit Skálanes reserve and adorable puffin colonies

From what I can see, itinerary B only excludes a few towns such as Blönduós and popular attractions I’ve already seen (i.e. Kerið).

Icelandic Road Trip Ideas: Activities

Either road trip route includes several outdoor activities and uniquely-Icelandic pastimes I wish to try out. Here’s my preliminary list:

  • Ice climbing: hello intimidating glaciers!
  • Geothermal springs: dipping beyond the touristy Blue Lagoon
  • Cruising: sailing by dramatic icebergs and small fishing villages
  • Camping: midnight sun equals fabulous weather, endless sunlight!
  • Hiking: from expansive pastures to rugged coastlines and lava fields
  • Couchsurfing and Meal Sharing: meeting locals is always my top priority
  • Horseback Riding: the small, mostly pony-sized breed is so stinking cute
Icelandic road trip, horseback riding

adorable Icelandic horses by

Icelandic Road Trip Ideas: Unique Accommodation

While I love Couchsurfing, I want to ensure I have some “us” romantic time if my man tags along. For this reason, I also looked into unique accommodation options around the spots on my wish list. Here are some ideas:

Happy Campers: what about a camper van, rented from a local family?

ION Luxury Adventure Hotel: or floor-to-ceiling glass windows to stargaze (while cuddling indoors!) nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site Þingvellir? Hmm…

Volcano Hotel: or undisturbed stargazing on a remote black sand beach after a day of glacier hiking nearby? Sounds dreamy!

Cabin Rental: luxurious log cabin, with hot tub, and walking distance to geyser. SEXY.

Viking Hotel: live like them, be kidnapped by them 15 min. from Reykjavík. I’m intrigued.

Kerlingarfjöll Mountain Resort: pick between traditional cabins or campground to rest at after a full day hiking Iceland’s largest geothermal area. Both mountainside, surrounded by hot springs. Ahhh

Hotel Glymur: four-star, Jacuzzi included, plus stunning views of Whale Fjord.

Icelandic road trip, Hraunfossar

Hraunfossar by Aconcagua, Wikipedia

Phew. That’s quite some planning and unique ideas alright! I’m not sure when I’ll be able to finally go on this dreamy getaway to my favorite country in the world. However, I’ll be more than ready when the opportunity arises 😉

Have you gone on an Icelandic road trip? Share your ideas below!

While I was asked to share my dream Icelandic road trip by Guide to Iceland, these are my honest plans. I can’t wait to go back to this beautiful island!

Vik Iceland beach and the South Coast: Photo essay

As I promised last Friday on my Iceland waterfalls photos post, today I will publish some never-seen-before shots from my winter trip there. Thus, Vik Iceland beach and surroundings are this week’s Travel Tuesday features.

Also read: Iceland Couchsurfing and hitchhiking

On the map: Vik, Iceland

Vik Iceland beach and town location

While I usually travel on a shoestring and recently discovered the joys of travel without a plan, I took 3 tours while in Iceland and they were well worth the money. Not only was Go Travel Iceland the agency that offered the cheapest tours around, but also they are the most thorough. I remember our tour guide, owner Gumi, taking us to rugged off-beaten-path places in his van that not even other 4×4 tours would go into! The passion for Iceland was reflected on Gumi’s face at every stop we made, and he truly made my trip to Iceland incredibly memorable (in addition to my Couchsurfing hosts of course!). Hope you enjoy the Vik photos we took during our South Coast tour!

The town of Vik

The full name of the southernmost village in Iceland is Vík í Mýrdal (Wikipedia). It is home to only about 300 inhabitants and in constant threat of natural disasters. Not only does it have the Mýrdalsjökull glacier right above it, but also the Katla volcano happens to sit right below the glacier! It is said that the only safe place, if Katla were to erupt, is the town’s church.

Vik Iceland beach road sunset

On our way to Vik! I made our tour guide stop =P

Vik Iceland beach town

The town of Vik from our van window (the “safe” church afar)

Glacier from Vik Iceland beach

Glacier from the road: On our way to Vik beach

Vik Iceland beach: Solidified lava and black sand

While I have posted photos of the amazing formations of Vik’s volcanic beach before, I got a couple more to show you!

Vik Iceland beach formations

Entering the famous Vik black sand beach. I couldn’t believe my eyes

Vik Iceland beach lava stairs

Marcello and I climbing the amazing lava formations

Vik Iceland beach solidified lava

Solidified lava! This particular wall gave me a weird sense of vertigo when I photographed it

Vik Iceland black sand beach

Me! =)

This was the last stop of our South Coast tour. Needless to say, it was sad when we had to leave. So after hours of beautiful landscapes, and a beaming orange sunset, the town of Vik said farewell. Fortunately, we had a local electronica concert, some happy Couchsurfers, and delicious Icelandic food waiting for us in Reykjavik.

Vik Iceland black sand beach sunset

Farewell, Vik!

Hope you enjoyed these Vik Iceland beach photos! I’ll post more of our other stops, including one of NatGeo’s Top 10 Most Beautiful Beaches in the world, next week.

Comment: Have you been to Iceland? Is it on your travel bucket list?

Iceland waterfalls photos: Photo essay of my favorites

Happy Friday! For FriFotos this week, I decided to share some Iceland waterfalls photos that I have not posted on LatinAbroad yet. Hitchhiking and Couchsurfing in Iceland is definitively one of my top trips to date. Those 7 days, albeit frozen and windy, were fabulous. Iceland is like a different planet and I’ll always be in love with its foreign landscapes and incredible geography. I can’t wait to go back!

If you rather go straight to the FROZEN waterfalls, goto bottom of this post! 😉

Skogafoss face formation

Loved this waterfall! Not only you can see it from the road and it gets more and more impressive the closer you get to it. Also, Skogafoss face formations are interesting and quite fun to photograph. I kissed that wild Icelandic local there…and I liked it.

Iceland waterfalls photos: Skogafoss face formation

Skogafoss face formation

Iceland waterfalls photos, Skogafoss face picking nose


Iceland waterfalls photos frozen Skogafoss

Me freezing, standing on lava rocks by Skogafoss. Look at that nice rainbow (on left) making an appearance!

Frozen Seljalandsfoss waterfall

While the flow of Seljalandsfoss waterfall during the winter is rather thin, what I love the most about it was its frozen surroundings. Being from Puerto Rico, I had never seen such a beautiful winter wonderland and it was my very first time seeing frozen landscapes in person. I was like a kid in Disney World! Water that spritzed on my hair froze instantly and I could simply not stop giggling. You can probably see that through these photos!

frozen Seljalandsfoss, Iceland waterfalls photos

Me walking toward frozen Seljalandsfoss. Such a beautiful winter wonderland!

frozen Seljalandsfoss river, Iceland

Frozen droplets on my hair! I had a giggles attack…

frozen Seljalandsfoss, Iceland waterfall photos

Me atop frozen Seljalandsfoss waterfall. I had to take some crazy, completely frozen stairs!

Gullfoss: Iceland’s most popular waterfall

Gullfoss is one of Iceland’s top attractions and for a good reason. These falls are stunning. They are the biggest I’ve seen on my travels actually. Yes, this means I haven’t visited the Niagara Falls, Angel Falls nor the Victoria Falls (yet!). And so, Gullfoss dropped my jaw gently 🙂 Once again, the beautiful frosting was indeed the perfect topping.

Gullfoss Iceland waterfall photos

River and frozen Gullfoss upon our arrival

frozen Gullfoss Iceland waterfalls photos

frozen Gullfoss in all its glory

frozen Gullfoss Iceland waterfalls photos

Gullfoss and Marcello!

| Read more: Iceland Couchsurfing and hithhiking by the Arctic!

Have you visited any Iceland waterfalls? Which is your favorite?


Travel through Icelandic food: Photo essay

Continuing the popular series, this Cultural Tidbits Monday we Travel through Icelandic food, sampling some dishes of this isolated, yet spectacular island of Iceland. Hope you enjoy the brief photo essay!

Icelandic food: Appetizers, meats and sides

Icelandic food and sides

Þorramatur: A traditional Icelandic food plate. On left: Hangikjöt, Hrútspungar, Lifrarpylsa, Blóðmör, Hákarl, Svið. Plate on the right: Rúgbrauð, Flatbrauð. (Photo: Creative Commons)

I’ll start this Icelandic food photo essay with the dishes that were the most foreign to me. A plate of Icelandic products, cured in a traditional manner, is called Þorramatur (Wikipedia). Above, you see the not-so-foreign rye bread (rúgbrauð) and flatbread (flatbrauð) alongside some interesting-looking meats & sides. Hangikjöt is Icelandic smoked lamb, which is eaten cold or hot and also happens to be a popular side dish in a bigger meal (typically including green peas and potatoes bathed in béchamel sauce). Hrútspungar are lambs’…balls, soaked in sour whey. Lifrarpylsa translates to “white pudding” and it is in fact a meat dish made out of oatmeal, bread, suet, pork meat and fat, then shaped into a big sausage (only a slice pictured above). The black version of the pudding, named Blóðmör, is made out of lamb’s blood, oats, rye flour and stuffed inside pouches that…happen to be the lamb’s stomach. Oh and the Svið? The most popular of the group, it is a singed head of lamb. Ummm so! What’s next!?

Icelandic food, appetizers plate

Whale (top left corner), puffin (center) and smoked lamb (bottom right). We could dip them on raisin reduction (bottom left)

Above is an appetizer plate that I ordered at a restaurant when I visited Iceland. It consisted of whalepuffin and smoked lamb. Whaling is frowned upon almost worldwide nowadays, but I was told by my hosts while Couchsurfing in Iceland that I had to try it. In fact, he offered me some smoked whale as an appetizer when I came back to his place that same night. I feel kind of guilty admitting it, but it was delicious. But then again, you feed me smoked anything and I’ll love it. Oh, and you must be wondering what a puffin is?

Puffin, Icelandic food

These are puffins. (Photo: Chris 73 / Wikimedia Commons)

And yes, I did feel really guilty for eating one as well…

Icelandic food: Fast food and other entrees

Icelandic food, mink whale kebabs

Mink whale kebabs (Photo on right: Creative Commons)

Mink whale (hrefna hvalur) is typically served on a stick with peppers and veggies — aka “kebab” style. It may be found in restaurant menus or supermarkets (ready to be cooked). I could not bring myself to eat this much whale, however…

Icelandic food, fish and chips

Icelandic fish and chips

These are more hybrids between fast food and a main entree: Icelandic fish & chips. My travel buddy went down the traditional route, with fried fish sticks (left). I decided to have the haddock in delicious garlic pesto sauce (right). Our chips (real-cut red potatoes bathed in a type of aioli) came with curry (yellow) and rosemary/garlic (green) dipping sauces. All delish!

Icelandic food, Vikivaki

Vikivaki: Best place for late-night, fast Icelandic food

I’m surprised I even have a photo of this place. Most nights we would stumble upon Vikivaki after hard-partying with the locals or right after pre-gaming (read: Still somewhat intoxicated). Thus, no photos of the actual food. From what I remember, I would always order some delicious sausage and/or hot dog with tons of cheese and chili. Yum.

Icelandic food, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur

Bæjarins Beztu, an infamous Icelandic food stand (Photo: Richard Eriksson, CCommons)

Bæjarins Beztu is infamous, known for being the best place to get a hot dog in all Reykjavík. I made sure I tried one of their creations before I left the country and rumors are right. From what I remember, they were even better than Vikivaki’s. Make sure you get a hot dog with chili on top! It is so good.

And that’s it for my introduction to Icelandic food! Next week we’ll be traveling through the culinary treasures of a different country. Got interesting country suggestions? Drop me a line!

Have you ever had Icelandic food? Any favorites not mentioned above?

Christmas traditions around the world + photos!

In the Western & Christian worlds, we celebrate Christmas this weekend. In celebration, I decided to compile some unique Christmas traditions around the world! Since our globe has more than 200 countries, the list below includes only the ones I have personally visited and/or lived in. This way, we keep the number close to 30 😉 Hope you enjoy it!


Christmas traditions around the world, ajaca

Ajaca: Traditional food eaten during Christmas in Aruba, it is made of plantains and stuffed with pork, chicken or beef (

In this beautiful Caribbean island, it is commonplace for families to go to church together on Christmas Eve. Then, families gather again for Christmas dinner the next day and sing Aruban songs as they eat ajaca (also eaten in Puerto Rico, but known as “pastel”), salted ham and salmon.


Christmas traditions around the world, Austria markets

Christmas market in Vienna, Austria (Photo: Manfred Werner)

While Christmas markets are very popular in several cities across Europe, they are particularly important in Austria. The most popular in this quaint country are found in Vienna (in front of the City Hall), Innsbruck (in square by the Golden Roof), and Salzburg (by Residenzplatz/the big Cathedral).


Christmas traditions around the world, Barbados

Christmas Pantomime by St Winifred School, Barbados (

In the Barbados, a curious tradition is that children put on a pantomime show (instead of a traditional Christmas play) for school. This is also common Christmas tradition in Jamaica.


Christmas traditions around the world, Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas (Dutch Santa Claus) and his helper, Zwarte Piet (Black Peter). Photo: Looi at nl.wikipedia

In the Dutch Caribbean (including the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao) they celebrate what it’s called Saint Nicholas Day. What’s really special in this region, however, is Sinterklaas: The Dutch Santa Claus! He makes an appearance on December 5th and gives out the gifts then! Oh, it is also feast day 😉

Dominican Republic

Christmas traditions around the world, Three Kings

"Los Tres Reyes Magos," meaning "The Three Magic Kings" (Photo:

While many Latin American countries celebrate both December 25th (Santa Claus/Christmas) and January 6th (Three Kings Day), only the latter is celebrated in Dominican Republic. There might be some exceptions to the rule, such as wealthy families exchanging gifts on both days. This, however, is rare. What, then, happens on January 6th? Children leave grass for the “camels” of the Three Kings to eat under their beds (not tree!) and then see their gifts there the next morning.


Christmas traditions around the world, fattah

Egyptian fattah (Photo:

Christmas in EGYPT? That’s right! While more than 90% of the population in Egypt are Muslims, there is still a Christian minority, called the Coptic Church. Also, as an Orthodox Church, so they actually celebrate Christmas on January 7th, a day after Three Kings Day in Latin America (Epiphany). Then, on Christmas Eve, everyone goes to church midnight service wearing a brand-new outfit, then goes home afterward to eat delicious fata (pictured above).


Christmas traditions around the world, Boxing Day

Keswick Boxing Day Hunt, Market Square, Cumbria, Lakes District, England in 1962 (Photo: Phillip Capper, Wiki)

Some peculiar Christmas traditions in England are the Queen of England’s speech (radio and televised) on Christmas Day and the celebration of Boxing Day on Dec. 26th, which nowadays involves giving small amounts of money as gifts to those who have helped you throughout the year (i.e. the mailman, the newspaper boy, etc.). When it comes to food, Christmas lunch includes a chestnut-stuffed turkey, Yorkshire pudding and roast beef or roast goose.


Christmas traditions around the world, suckling pig

Suckling pig: Traditional German dish eaten on “Dickbauch” feast day (

As in several European countries, the day that German kids actually receive gifts is December 7th. Thus, on the night of December 6th, children place a boot or shoe by the fireplace (similar to the mistletoe tradition!) and wait for St. Nicholas to fill it with gifts! Another funny fact? Christmas Eve is called “Dickbauch” (which means “fat stomach”) and if you do not eat well on that day, you will be haunted by DEMONS! Say wha!? Interesting Christmas superstition indeed!


Christmas traditions around the world, Yule Lads

Two of the Yule Lads on a billboard in Iceland (Photo:WikiCommons)

Icelandic Christmas is great, as it lasts 26 days and brings about 13 different “Santa Clauses” (also called “Yule Lads”) and they start bringing gifts 13 days before December 25th! The story behind them is that their parents are mean mother Grýla (who takes away the naughty kids in town!) and father Leppalúði, who is not that bad. Their children then are the infamous Yuletid, and each day of the Icelandic Christmas a different one comes to town, either bringing gifts or a prank, or both! 😉 on December 12th, children place a shoe by the window and expect one of the many “Santa Clauses” to leave gifts – but if you have been naughty, you get a potato instead! The major gift exchange and Christmas celebration, however, happens on Christmas Eve, when many Icelanders also go to midnight mass.

Israel & Palestine

While Jews celebrate Chanukkah around the same time, a minority of Christian Arabs do celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, on December 25th. Celebrations are particularly evident in Bethlehem and the Church of Nativity, where it is believed to be the location of the manger where Jesus was born more than 2,000 years ago. See the video above to get a taste of Christmas in the West Bank/Palestine!

For part 2, and many more traditions from other countries, CLICK HERE!!

What are your favorite Christmas traditions around the world? Why?

FriFotos: Amazing formations & solidified lava in Iceland

FriFotos time! This week’s theme is “STONE” so I chose some of my favorite Icelandic formations.

On these first photos, I am at a volcanic ash beach located in Vik, southern coast. It almost seems as if a sculptor simply carved into the rock, but this “stepped stone hill” of sorts and surrounding formations were chiseled and smoothed out by lava flow. Fascinating!

Vik, Iceland

Me @ the “stepped” hill in the southern coast – SO unreal, no?!

Icelandic beach

Us climbing the “lava stairs” hill at the Icelandic beach!

Icelandic landscape

solidified lava

Icelandic landscape

amazing formations at volcanic ash beach by Vik, southern coast

Many great “stones” or rocks can be found all over Iceland, though. Below, volcanic rocks (and some smothered in covered with silica mud) at the Blue Lagoon. White remnants of a silica mud facial mask can be found on my face:

Blue Lagoon

Me @ Blue Lagoon, taking a dip by volcanic rocks covered in silica mud

Blue Lagoon

many volcanic rocks @ Blue Lagoon by the entrance of the complex

Blue Lagoon entrance

Volcanic rocks, silica mud & frozen waters (by the “shore”) @ the Blue Lagoon

I love Iceland as a whole, though–not just the scenes from these pictures. I found all Icelandic landscapes to be so fascinating, all throughout the country and just so different from the rest of Europe! I actually felt as if I had landed on a different planet. And Icelandic people? Some of the friendliest I have ever encountered in my world travels. Ahhh, can’t wait to go back! =) My first and only visit was a week-long stopover in December 2009.

Icelandic landscape

Cool mountain spotted during one of our Icelandic road trips

Have you ever been to Iceland?

Icelandic superstitions: Part 8 of series

So it is MONDAY, meaning we resume the already-popular The World’s Superstitions series! Today we travel to Europe, oh-so-close of the Arctic circle and grab a list of Icelandic superstitions! If you have any suggestions for future Monday cultural tidbits posts please let me know with a comment below! Any feedback is appreciated!

* Want a little weather forecast? Look at your cows. If they are licking trees, there’s a high chance of rain!

* Moving to a new house? Make sure you do so on a rainy day. Why? According to Icelandic superstitions, doing so will bring you wealth!

* If you are fasting, pay attention to your sneezing. If you sneeze three times before breaking fast on a Sunday, you will get some reward that week! Oh an by the way, if you are sick but also happen to sneeze three times on a Sunday, that means you are getting better and will be healthy soon.

Icelandic superstitions elves

Elf houses near Strandakirkja, Iceland (by Christian Bickel, Wiki Commons)

* Is mingling with elves and other “hidden people” on your bucket list? Then Iceland should be on your travel bucket list as well! Icelandic superstitions say that Hafnarfjordur (second largest port in Iceland) not only recognizes elves as citizens, but they also enjoy civil rights on this town. Gotta head that way next time I visit!

* Pay attention to your pregnant animals in the beginning of winter. Why? If the first calf born during the winter is white, the winter will be a bad one!

* Speaking of seasons, sheep are key weather forecasters. According to Icelandic superstitions, if sheep gnash their teeth during round-up in the autumn, that winter will be harsh. Conversely, if sheep gnash their teeth any other time or season, it still equates awful weather!

* Puerto Ricans have the Chupacabra superstition, Australians have the Bunyip superstition…while Icelanders have the Jólasveinar! Part of Icelandic superstitions since the 17th century, they are the sons of Grýla and Leppalúði, who themselves appeared in the 13th century and were thought to be thieves and children eaters. Yikes!

* There’s more than one mischievous, criminal Yule lad however (according to Icelandic superstitions!). Other examples include Stekkjastaur (harasser of sheep), Gluggagægir (looked through windows for things to steal), Stúfur (steals pans in order to eat the crumbs and crust left), Ketkrókur (meat stealer, using a hook to do so), and Bjúgnakrækir (sausage snatcher, but only if they are smoked!). I’m not sure whether I want to go back to Iceland now with all this knowledge…seems like I was very lucky last time! That or they just don’t like to come out during the winter…

And that shall be all for Icelandic superstitions! Next Monday I shall have a new [surprise] country and its nice list of superstitions! If there is a particular country you would like me to research, tell me in your response so I take it into consideration! (Hint: I will probably write about every country I am provided *wink*)

Previously featured countries:
Puerto Rico

Know any other Icelandic superstitions? Share them in a comment below!

Sunset reflecting over a geysir, Iceland

Iceland: This shot of sunset reflecting over a geysir was taken by Marcello Arrambide (@wanderingtradr) when we traveled through Iceland together for a week back in 2009. For me, this was the last stop before going home (Puerto Rico) after 16 months traveling and living in the Arab world (Egypt, Morocco, Jordan) and taking holidays throughout Europe (Spain twice, Italy and England). Oh, by the way, Iceland, the aurora, the geysir, the Middle Eastern journey — all part of my travel bucket list =D

Hope you enjoy this week’s FriFoto! =)

geysir Iceland

Sunset over geysir that just exploded (after a friggin' 30-minute wait!) - Iceland

Have you seen a geysir Iceland? How long did you have wait for one to explode!?