Iceland

Read on for a short write-up and some photos of our Iceland Road Trip....


In late July/early August my girlfriend, two friends of ours and me spent 8 days on a road trip in Iceland. And what can I say? Iceland is such an amazing country! Even in these few days we have seen numerous waterfalls and stood beneath some of them, bathed in natural hot water, saw geysers erupt, experienced the strong smell of sulfur in the air due to geothermal activity, we saw dolphins, whales, seals and puffins. We explored a lava cave and experienced total darkness in it. I've been hiking a beautiful trail to the highest waterfall of iceland and we drove more than 2000 km with hundreds of them on unpaved roads, which is an adventure on its own. I definitely have to go back to iceland at some point in the future, that's for sure!

Itinerary:

It's not super accurate, but it will give you an idea of where we've been. As you can see there are still lots of red POI markers that stand for POIs we haven't been to yet. So I think it's inevitable that we go back to iceland at some point :-)

Day 1

 

After receiving our rental at the keflavik airport, a Suzuki Grand Vitara, we headed straight to Reykjavik.

 

Tip:If you ever go to iceland and intend to drive on your own, do yourself a favour, spend the extra money and get a 4x4, it's expensive as hell, but it's worth every penny as there are some roads you will not be allowed to drive with a "normal" car and in general you will have a much more comfortable journey!

 

Our accomodation for the first night was the Fosshotel Baron. Nothing special but more than OK for one night. As we arrived in late afternoon, we still had some time to explore the city before we boarded the vessel from elding that took us on "a truly unique whale watching experience in the magical light of the midnight sun", which it was :-)

Day 2

 

The second day consisted of the typical "iceland first-timer tour" a.k.a. the Golden Circle, which on the one hand means visting beautiful sights like the Thingvellir National Park including a nice waterfall called Öxarafoss, exploring the lesser known and harder to reach Bruarfoss, marvel at the eponym of all pulsating springs "Geysir" and its more active brother strokkur and last but not least seeing the mighty Gulfoss. On the other hand it also means that you will most likely be surrounded by a lot of other travellers and tourists, as these sights are all in the extended vicinity of Reykjavik and therefore are fairly easy to reach (maybe except Bruarfoss which is more of a "secret spot" you will have to earn yourself ;-)

As we had to be at our home for the next three nights by 8 pm at the latest, we had plenty of daylight left after checking in, which we used to visit another great Waterfall and somewhat of an icon of Iceland called Seljalandsfoss. Unfortunately I greatly underestimated the prevailing water spray on that one, which led to the fact that i didn't get the shot i had in mind, as my camera indeed is weather sealed but stupidly, due to the fact that there isn't a single weather sealed aps-c ultra wide angle on the market my lens isn't. And i didn't want to take the chance to loose this lens just on the second day of our trip. You have been warned, so be prepared!

If you are ever going to visit Seljalandsfoss here is another tip: there is a smaller waterfall hidden behind the cliffs just a few hundred meters away called Gljufurarfoss that is also worth seeing. Don't know why we didn't go there, but somehow I forgot about when we were on-site.

Day 3

 

After a sunny breakfast in front of our cottage we drove east on the ring road. Our first stop was another icelandic icon, the waterfall skogafoss or to be precise the parking lot of the skogar museum, because as expected, being a popular sight this large waterfall was crowded by tourists. So instead of joining the jumble we explored the by far less known/crowded Kvernufoss right next to it (scroll down here), in fact we were the only people present :-)

Next stops on our day tour into the east were the Sólheimasandur plane wreck, the famous promontory Dyrhólaey, that you might know from the Ikea spot :-), the little town of Vik and the impressive canyon Fjaðrárgljúfur. On our way back into the west we stopped at the black beach Reynisfjara with its basalt sea stacks Reynisdrangar and finally got to see the skogafoss that we ignored in the morning. The initial plan was to visit seljavallalaug as well, but as it was getting late, we skipped that. Maybe next time.

Day 4

 

This time we drove a short way west on the ring road before turning north. Allmost all our destinations this time were waterfalls. The first was Thjofafoss, then Haifoss and Grannifoss and after that Gjáin. Getting to these falls involved a whole lot of fun driving on unpaved roads, but it also meant less people around :-) So again remember to get a 4x4!

Our last stop for the day was the secret lagoon in Fludir which we enjoyed a lot. Personally I liked it a lot more than the blue lagoon we did on our last day, but more of that later. Ah almost forgot, the really last stop was Uridafoss. Another Waterfall, were we saw some fisherman. But I think you can skip that one. Nothing too fancy there.

Day 5

 

We changed our accomodation for the last time that day. The destination of our tour was Hraunsnef Country Hotel, which also offers two small cottages that we occupied for the next three nights. On the way we stopped at the volcanic crater lake Kerid and the small town Borganes. I hiked the beautiful trail to the highest waterfall of iceland Glymur, ok it really isn't considered the highest anymore as you can read here, but if you're into hiking you definitely have to do that one, the view is stunning. And while I was hiking the others visited another small town named Akranes. As stated here it is possible to go up to Glymur on both sides of the canyon, with the south side offering the better view of the falls at the top. I didn't know that at the time I was there, so I got up on the north side and had to cross the river on top and believe me that's freezingly cold :-) So if you want to avoid that: take the south side up. Everybody else: do both sides as they both offer stunnig views.

Day 6

 

Now it was time to go underground. So besides visting the magical blue falls of Hraunfossar and Barnafoss (also see here) we stopped at the highest-flow hot spring in Europe Deildartunguhver and explored Víðgelmir cave. You definitely have to see the falls for yourself. The spring and the cave? I'd say read the 3 stars reviews on these here and here and you get an idea of what i think about them. It was OK, but in no way overwhelming. Oh and bring your own headlamp! The ones you are given are crap and you will only be allowed to use them on half the power as to save batterie life!!

Day 7


On our second-to-last day we circled the whole Snæfellsnes peninsula. It's hard to see and do everything you can do here on a one day tour, so we only stopped at selected spots (see the stars on the map above) with Mt. Kirkjufell and its Kirkjufellfoss being one of the main reasons you must not omit Snæfellsnes, if you ever happen to be in iceland. But If you are interested further, see here and here for more information.

Day 8


The last day took as back to keflavik airport, but as our flight didn't leave until 00:30 am the next day, we had plenty of time on our hands to do some further sight-seeing. We ended up visting the Graenavatn crater lake, the geotharmel area around the Gunnuhver hot spring, standing between continents and of course, as everybody who visits iceland has to do it once, we went to the blue lagoon. But as I hinted before it didn't blow me away. Don't get me wrong it's a nice experience, but i think it's way overpriced and there are better options on the island imho. But maybe I have do give it another try as this guy did here and here on our next visit to iceland, who knows? :-)


All in all it have been 8 days that leave me wanting to get back to this beautiful island again pretty soon!

If you like what you saw here, feel free to share! Or leave a comment below!

Additional links that can be helpful in planning a trip to iceland:

 

Best maps for iceland

Info on road conditions

Another travel blog (german only)

Cheap camper vans

Campsides

Camping card

 

...and even more stuff that could be of interest when in iceland:

 

 How to achieve perfect water streaks