We are a two young guys – an IT Technic an and an architecture student. Tom (architecture student) was (ostensibly) in Iceland to photograph the many unique and wonderful church buildings to be seen in Iceland whilst I was there mainly for the ride – happy to take Tom’s architectural studies as an excuse to see the land of fire and ice.
Our mission was to get as far around Iceland as possible whilst also fully enjoying the spectacular sites on offer (whilst photographing church buildings of course). The first day we traveled through the gorgeous mountain scenery of the Golden Circle intending to reach the beautiful Seljalandsfoss by nightfall.
We succeeded and decided to camp as near as we could – looking forward to exploring more in the morning. Having made this decision we played Dobble (a game of observation, speed and reflexes – google it!) and slept warm and soundly (big kudos to whoever designed the camper’s heating system) until morning.
We awoke next morning to see the falls look even more stunning than they had the previous evening and we spent more time than intended simply enjoying it, filming and taking photos before heading off to our next objective – Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon (I have absolutely no idea how that is pronounced).
We were freezing and wind-swept but the photos speak for themselves – the view was out of this world. We explored the river Fjaðrá that winds its way through the canyon and tasted of its waters – I don’t know why but there is something that feels special about drinking river-water direct. It’s cool, clear freshness easily rivaling bottled water in the UK.
We decided to head straight to Höfn in order to top up on fuel and enjoy the sites from the road – glaciers, icebergs, fields that look like giants had been there playing tiddlywinks with boulders, moss-covered fields that looked like the lava was still bubbling beneath the surface and scenery that simply defies description.
Approaching the Vatnajökull National Park was stunning. We could see the mountains in the distance before we passed into them as though entering some gigantic gate. We arrived at Höfn late and I made the mistake of parking in the camp site atop some elevated ground. Tom slept fine – I, on the other hand, was waked by the sound of what for all the world sounded like a hurricane and I slightly feared for our lives.
But we lived! and the next day saw us stocking up on food and resources. Readers who are interested in architecture may want to visit the pyramid-shaped Bjarnaneskirkja just outside Höfn. It’s quirky shape and unexpectedly-shaped entrance were delightful and we spent considerable time there – time we couldn’t really afford as it turned out.
We had booked a tour of an ice cave and glacier in the Vatnajökull National Park and we were blissfully unaware that Glacier Guides request that those on the tour arrive a half-hour before the tour was due to leave at 1.30pm. At 1.25pm we rolled up into the car park before a frantic couple of minutes were spent first persuading the guides to let us on the bus before having crampons, waterproofs and helmets thrown on our persons and a mad scramble onto the (pretty much) moving bus.
Panic over, we were able to enjoy the scenery that was, as we had come to expect, spectacular. Vatnajökull glacier was a privilege to climb – the ice-lagoon we visited was worth the tour price alone – no picture does it justice. I was also pleased to learn a new word – a moulin, referring to the truly terrifying shafts frequently found in glaciers. Often covered in snow/ice, an unsuspecting climber may fall into one of these and fall tens, perhaps even hundreds of meters. With this cheery possibility in mind we kept close to our guides’ footprints.
We descended back to sea level and re-traced our steps back in order to visit the icebergs of Jökulsárlón. This is a must-see for anyone visiting this part of Iceland so be sure to schedule significant time here! The icebergs were really cool – ice-cold in fact – and there were seals! We happily stayed there until evening before embarking on a late-night journey to the mighty Skógafoss waterfall.
When we arrived we could hear the waterfall but could see nothing in the pitch blackness. It was not till morning that we saw the true wonder of Skógafoss. The nearby hotel was helpful in providing us with change so that we (I mean ‘I’) could take advantage of the shower which I much appreciated (Tom was content to simply remain looking like he had gone through a hedge backwards and taken a few wrong turnings on the way) before climbing and taking extensive pictures of the stunning waterfall – complete with lovely rainbow at its misty base. (This seems a good point, by the way, to say that the Wi-Fi included with the van was crazy! It was quite an experience to be literally half way up a mountain in the wilderness and yet still able to happily surf the web!)
The final leg of our camper trip was a quest to see The Great Geysir and the hot pools of The Secret Lagoon. The sights were awesome, the smell was not. The mist and steam from the boiling bubbling pools look great in a picture but so much up the nose. Nevertheless, it was a privilege to see these great wonders of nature.
There is not much to add and I’ll save you a description of the tense journey back through the Golden Circle where we feared that our fuel would not hold out – it did and we safely made it to the nearest fuel station where we re-fueled and returned our camper on schedule.
All in all, it was an amazing experience and the memory of it will stay with us for a long time. Thank you so much for an amazing time.