I recently went to Iceland with my best friend for five days in October. Our best discovery? Rent a car! The freedom of having your own car allows you to explore outside of the main city of Reykjavik. Sure, there’s plenty of activities to do within the city, but the rest of the country is filled with breathtaking views just waiting to be seen.
HOW TO RENT A CAR
It’s a very simple process to rent a car in Iceland. After looking at a few different car rental sites, I found the best deal on Sixt.com. I booked the car a few months prior to our trip not only to secure the deal, but to make sure we got an automatic car, since neither of us can drive stick shift. When you arrive at the airport in Iceland, they have a bus shuttle that drops you off in front of all the car rental buildings. All you have to do is check in, pay and then you’re good to go!
After we picked up our car, we had a few hours to kill before we could check into our AirBnB, so we parked nearby (thanks to free parking 24/7 on streets outside of the downtown area), and went on a free city walk tour. We got our first glimpse of the impressive Hallgrímskirkja Church that day!
The most helpful tip I can give you is to use the offline feature of Google Maps. Before your trip, open the app on your phone and download a map of the city. Once it’s saved as an “Offline Area” on your phone, you can access it at any time – even when you’re not connected to internet and you’re in airplane mode. I downloaded a section of Iceland that included all the spots we wanted to stop along the Golden Circle Drive. While offline, I put in a destination and it still was able to give me step-by-step directions! Speaking of the Golden Circle…
DRIVE YOUR OWN GOLDEN CIRCLE ROUTE
The benefit of having your own car (versus going on a guided bus tour) is that you can stop along side the road any time you want. And trust me, you’ll want to stop A LOT. We devoted an entire day to driving the Golden Circle Route and I’m so happy that we did. Technically the route can be driven in as little as 3 hours, but with all the stops that we made, we spent about 8 hours driving around the Icelandic countryside.
Of course we made sure to visit the four main stops along the Golden Circle Route. We spent about two hours walking around and exploring the Thingvellir National Park, which was the original site of Iceland’s Parliament in 930 AD. Next up was the famous Strokkur Geyser, where we also hiked up a mountain and witnessed a couple get engaged! And just a short 10 minute drive from the geysers, was the massive Gulfoss Waterfall. The last stop on the route was the incredible Kerið Crater Lake. This was once a volcano, but it collapsed on itself after it erupted thousands of years ago.
MORE WATERFALLS THAN YOU CAN COUNT
On another day, we drove down to Southern Iceland and I swear I saw more waterfalls and rainbows that I’ve ever seen in my entire life. One of the more popular waterfalls is called Skógafoss, and it did not disappoint. We loved hiking up the stairway off to the side, which lead to a platform overlooking the top of the waterfall!
Whether you only have a few days or a whole week to spend in Iceland, I cannot recommend this destination enough. Are you traveling to Iceland soon? I’d love to hear about your plans!
Do you have Iceland tips? Please share with our readers in the comments section below! Read Next > 7 Ways To Go Off The Beaten Path In Iceland
Written by Kate Sonneborn of Katherine Laurel