After spending time in Reykjavík, we discovered a fantastic way of immersing ourselves in Icelandic culture – and we didn’t really appreciate the immense beauty of the country until we hit the road. Our Iceland family trip with Hey Iceland was an epic adventure and we managed to pack so much in over just 7 days. I know that Iceland popularity is an upward trend that will continue to grow and with it more and more visitors wanted to get a taste of Scandi-cool in just a short break. This is why our 7 day Iceland Itinerary will be useful, so you can pack as much in as possible but still get to slow down and enjoy a break, even with kids.
Hey Iceland’s Self Drive Tours
If you have longer to explore, the option of a self-drive adventure is a great way of seeing more of the countryside without the hassle of sticking to schedules and waiting around for other tourists. So we opted to go on self-drive around the south of the Island with Hey Iceland – who not only organised our car hire but our accommodation, too – a converted farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in order to increase our chances of seeing the Northern Lights. We felt this was the best way to utilise the time we had for our 7 day Iceland itinerary.
With over 170 different types of countryside accommodation from b&bs to farm stays, plus guided tours, car hire and customised trips, Hey Iceland firmly believes that they can help you plan your holiday without any complications.
I liked the idea behind Hey Iceland. Their philosophy is simple: to provide good service to visitors while maintaining sustainable tourism in rural areas of Iceland. In fact, the travel agency is still majority-owned by farmers, which keeps profits local and benefits rural communities. Which means by booking through Hey Iceland you are helping to support local businesses.
Follow our 7 Day Iceland Itinerary
Days 1-3 – Reykyavik
Staying in the capital for at least a few days is a must. There is so much to see and do in Reykjavik, that is would be completely feasible to just base yourself there for the duration of your Iceland family trip. From the uber-cool city vibes juxtaposed against snow-capped mountains and the raging Atlantic Ocean, just hanging out in the numerous cafes and bars, as well as walking the parks and streets will give you much to digest.
But from Reykyavik you can do so much – from swimming in the world-famous Blue Lagoon to going whale watching – three days really will see you super busy. For more insight into what you can do in Reykyavik do check out these posts for more Iceland inspiration.
For more on Reykyavik…
A Guide to the Blue Lagoon
Day 4 – The Golden Circle – Hella
Because we were spending some time in Reykjavík, we asked for our Hey Iceland car to be delivered to our apartment. We opted for a cosy two-bedroom apartment close to the city, which meant it was easy for us to walk in and back out even in the snow. Our host Ingunn was so helpful, and the apartment was well priced even by Icelandic standards.
Alongside a sat nav and a car seat for Monkey we were impressed with our vehicle. A Skoda estate with four-wheel drive and automatic transmission, it was a beast of a car – able to handle the snowy conditions and icy roads, comfortable and plenty of room for our luggage.
If you’re in Iceland during the winter do make sure you have a four-wheel drive and a car that can handle icy tough conditions.
There was no set route – we were given a map and detailed instructions on the whereabouts of our hotel near a small agricultural town called Hella. So we wanted to make sure we made our way around the Golden Circle en route. Made up of the epic natural wonders of Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall. All three are just a few hours from Reykyavik and can easily be seen in one day – which is why so many day excursions are available.
Highlights for us was watching the geysers exploding from the ground – and hearing Monkey squeal in delight, as well as watching the raw power of Gullfoss’ thundering torrents. Even though it was extremely cold, slippy and icy on the foot, it was great knowing that we had the freedom of our car to get back into the warmth.
That was the beauty of having our own vehicle – being able to go where we wanted, stay for as long as we wanted, and leave when we’d had enough. The other benefit was being able to avoid large crowds because the tour groups tend to stick to a tight timetable – we just made sure to set off a little later, after all, we weren’t in any rush.
We saw the Northern Lights, too!
After getting to our farmhouse that evening, we were all knackered – but not too tired to be woken up to see the Aurora Borealis shimmering emerald green in the night sky. It was a truly breathtaking, gasp-inducing hour. And I would highly recommend that you stay in the Icelandic countryside where there is absolutely no light pollution. It would be tough to take young kids on a night-time Northern Lights expedition, so like our hotel, you’ll be woken up if there are any sightings.
Day 5 – Vik and Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Being on the open road was fantastic. It was my most favourite part of our Iceland family trip. We could travel for hours and just be in awe of the sweeping landscapes surrounding us. It was hard not to constantly gasp – we’d often see snowy-topped mountains, icy rivers, frozen seas and waterfalls when we were least expecting them. This was the highlight of our 7 day Iceland itinerary.
On our fifth day, we decided to drive some distance and head to the black sandscapes of rural village Vik and its dramatic Reynisfjara Black Beach. So what exactly is in Vik? Well, not a lot. But you will be rewarded with achingly beautiful views across remarkable lava formations, majestic cliffs and basalt sea columns. In the summer, you will see nesting puffins, but I think we appreciated the panorama even more sprinkled white. We spent hours just walking along the beach – it was mesmerising.
Day 6 – Skógafoss Waterfall and The Secret Lagoon
While Gulfoss Waterfall is perhaps one of the most famous in Iceland, there are a staggering 10,000 in the country! And the one waterfall that we really fell in love with is Skógafoss. It’s staggering because the waterfall comes directly from two glaciers, Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull. You can walk right up to it – even though you get drenched! Then prepare yourself to climb the 370 steps to the top. I promise the view over the Icelandic coastline is phenomenal. And we managed it with a four-year-old in the middle of winter.
The Secret Lagoon…
Whale watching in Iceland
Find out more
After our morning exploring Skógafoss, we headed to the relaxing heat of Gamla Laugin – or as it’s better known as The Secret Lagoon. It is so much quieter than the Blue Lagoon, albeit a bit more rustic and basic. Read above for a full review.
Day 7 – Hella – Reykyavik – Home
It was our last day – and with only the morning to really get back to Reykyavik and to the airport, we decided to have one last sojourn in the city before getting to Keflavik Airport.
For anyone thinking of taking a self-guided road trip in Iceland, I would highly recommend it – and not only do Hey Iceland have tours to suit any time frame but they can also customise an adventure to suit your needs. The great thing about going with such a renowned company is that the hassle is taken out of any planning – and your accommodation will be situated off the beaten track – therefore giving you a unique Icelandic experience.
Extra Tips While You’re On An Iceland Road Trip
• There are numerous car hire companies in Iceland to service your needs – and plenty of visitors make use of the option pick up their car from Keflavik Airport – this certainly saves on the transfer costs into the city.
• Be prepared to change your plans – and check with www.road.is for all the latest road reports. The weather in winter is unpredictable and roads can be closed without warning.
• Do stock up on water, snacks and petrol before you head off. We usually went to the nearest petrol station for supplies in the morning which were not only cheap but meant there was no need to detour to find food en route. Sometimes we would go for miles without seeing any civilisation.
• Make sure you have all the right clothing for when you need to get out of the car. You can be lulled into a false sense of snugness and warmth inside!
• Be safe and mindful of other people. Don’t just stop in the road so you can take photos. Granted this is pretty hard with such breathtaking scenery, but wait until you can pull over safely.
• Take it slowly. The roads in Iceland are pretty good, but with bad weather and sudden snow flurries, a clear road can suddenly be icy. Meanwhile, if you haven’t got a four-wheel drive, don’t even attempt to go off-road. Not only is it dangerous, but you could face a hefty roadside assistance bill if you get stuck.
* We were fortunate to be guests of Iceland travel agencies Hey Iceland on their Northern Lights Self-Guided Tour which included the car hire, and bed and breakfast at Hotel Lækur, but as always my opinions are my own.