We went to Iceland in late August and early September, 2017. The trip was timed so that we were still able to see puffins (they are supposed to fly out to sea and stay there after mid to late August) but avoid the summer crowd. Furthermore, places (related to tourists) start to close at the beginning of September, and they are definitely close by the end of September.
Iceland has increased its tourism by 300% in a decade after the financial crisis. Most of the tourists stay for a short time and visit areas close to Reykjavic, helped by the Icelandic Air's free stopovers in Iceland on flights from North America to Europe. But its stunning scenary facilitates its spectacular rise. Our Iceland trip is one of the most awesome trips that we have taken, even though we are jaded by the amazing scenery in the Pacfic Northwest.
We taglined Iceland with "Land of Fire, Ice and Water". Iceland is situated along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between the North American Plate and the Euro-Asian Plate. Therefore it has plenty of tectonic actions with frequent volcanic eruptions. It lies just south of the Arctic Circle. The average high temperature in the summer (August) is only 55 degree F. It has lots of glaciers. Because of the fjords and hanging valleys, there are plenty of waterfalls.
We flew to the capital Reykjavik. After a couple of days there, we went to the island Heimaey off the southern coast to see puffins. It requires us to take a long-distance bus to a ferry terminal 140 km to the southeast. We chose to take the bus instead of driving a rental car to avoid dealing with ferry reservation for the car. We didn't want to leave the car at the ferry terminal parking lot - there are frequent strong wind which could sandblast the car. After Heimaey, we came back to Reykjavik the same way. Then we rented an all wheel drive SUV to drive to Landmannalaugar in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve. After that, we drove along the ring road around Iceland, visiting various national parks and fjords. At the end, we visited the Golden Circle (places where most short-duration tourists visit) using Reykjavik as a base.