A weekend in Iceland
You think driving around the ring road in just 5 days is impossible? We did it!
Before we get to the good stuff, let’s begin with why we decided to spend a long weekend in Iceland.
Lasia: Iceland has always been a mysterious place for me. It feels so far away, remotely existing over the perceptual horizon, untouchable. When I was little, I heard people say, an ice-cold place called Iceland only has one single tree in the whole country. I was so amazed by it and couldn’t help imagining the place covered with white snow with only one green tree standing lonely in the middle of nowhere. I wanted to explore this mysterious place and see if they really have only one tree.
GSane: Ever since I can remember, I was completely captivated by nature´s beauty. So, when I was little, I decided that I would travel to all the most beautiful places on earth in my life. One of my passions is photography and from the Iceland pictures I had seen, I knew that one day I had to explore this wonderful place. And so I did. Now that I am back, I can tell you that what I have seen in Iceland is not matched by anything I have experienced so far. If you love nature, there is no way around Iceland.
We left the office a bit earlier than usual on Tuesday, heading to Frankfurter airport. After the common pre-flight activities, our excitement started to rise while we were taking our seats in the airplane. In only three hours we would be in Iceland and the journey we longed for so long would finally begin.
We landed at Keflavík International Airport late in the evening. Iceland greeted us with fog and lots of rain. The thought what the weather would be the coming 5 days crossed our mind but was quickly dismissed. We knew, weather in Iceland is unpredictable and can change any minute. A friendly guy from Rent.is picked us up and brought us to the car rental office not far away from the airport. Not long after arrival and we were sitting in our very own 4×4 VW California camper van. This would be our home for the next few days.
Chapter 1 – Kirkjufell -> Hvítserkur -> Goðafoss
Seen many times in pictures, we wanted to kick off our trip around the island with a sunrise at Kirkjufell mountain. The only catch, it was already close to midnight and sunrise would be at around 3 am already. So, we hit the road and started driving. By the time we arrived by a nearby parking lot, we were surprised to see…nothing except thick fog and rain. Not giving up so easily, we took a nap at a nearby camp site and tried again in the morning.
A few hours later we were enjoying the view of Kirkjufell mountain and a nearby waterfall, feeling the warm sun on our faces. Amazed by the view, we stayed almost 2 hours taking many pictures.
We continued our journey to Hvítserkur, which is in an area well known for seal watching. One thing we realized quickly was that Iceland offers astonishing landmarks around every corner. So, we stopped not just once on our way there to enjoy shimmering water, great mountains and lambs chewing their grass lazily. What a feeling!
After a few detours here and there, not to mention having a quick meal (cereals with fruits!), we reached Hvítserkur. This spot is famous not just for the seals, but also for the seashore with cliffs, black sand and a strange rock formation (Hvítserkur rock formation) just standing there in the middle of the seashore.
A quick walk from the parking lot, at the edge of the hill, a path leads down to the sandy coastline. When we first arrived at the edge, we were stunned by the wonderful view. Water, wind and rain – all the natural forces are leaving their own marks at this spot.
A few hours and lots of photographs later, we planned how we would spend the rest of our day. It was already around 8 pm, but we were determined to reach Goðafoss waterfall for sunset at around 11.30 pm. In around 3 hours we would be enjoying our first sunset at this astonishing waterfall. We drove as fast as we could (of course within the speed limit), but when we arrived the setting sun was already covered by clouds. Never mind! If the sun turns his (maybe her?) back against you, it means he/she is going to embrace you with his/her smile!
This time we cut the mandatory photo session short to get some shut-eye before sunrise. We wouldn’t miss it…again. All in all, this meant only 45 minutes sleep, because of the transfer to a nearby camp site, getting ready for bed etc. We arrived early, and the sun didn’t let us down. Our first sunrise in Iceland and it was mesmerizing.
Chapter 2 – Goðafoss -> Akureyi -> Mývatn Natural Baths -> Dettifoss & Selfoss
The thing about big waterfalls like Goðafoss is that your chances are pretty good to get wet. That might not be a problem for you, but most cameras don’t like it too much. After 6 years, our DSLR decided to die on us. But with so much more to see, we agreed to buy a replacement right then and there. Lucky for us, the second largest city in Iceland, Akureyri, was not far away and it even had a camera store. The whole camera situation cost us almost half a day…
Next, we headed for Lake Mývatn to see one of the famous Icelandic hot springs, relax a little, and take a look at the mud pots we heard of so many times. A unique experience that no one should miss – we had a really good time! Now it was night already, but that didn’t stop us from visiting two more waterfalls on our list – Dettifoss and Selfoss waterfall. Interesting fact about the days during our trip. They were pretty long and during the night there was still enough light to see everything. After a long drive on a deserted road, we arrived at midnight being greeted by huge rising “water smoke”, revealing to us the exact location of Dettifoss. When we first saw the “water smoke”, it was kilometers away, so you can imagine what a water volume we are talking about. The rocky, never ending land around the waterfalls, was impressive. The way leading up to Dettifoss was full of huge stones and moss, and we had to climb over a dark huge stone hill. All in all, it was a great explorer feeling…like we were searching for some hidden treasure.
Lasia’s take on Dettifoss and Selfoss: I swear I would never ever been able to imagine how magnificent these waterfalls are before I really had them in front of my eyes. All that water running down from over 40 meters height – no, they are actually roaring down with tremendous speed and immense power, it was an unbelievable feeling. We were really overwhelmed. Somehow, I couldn’t help comparing Dettifoss with Niagara, the greatest waterfall I had seen before: Even though the Niagara Falls are much wider, bigger and have more average water flow, I must admit, I prefer Dettifoss better. Niagara Falls have become way too commercial, you go there just to put a check-mark on your sightseeing list among many others. At Dettifoss, you see the waterfall in its real natural, wild way – you must seek for it, take the time and energy to get there. No ticket office, restaurant or selfie stick vendors – you can build a pure bilateral connection towards Dettifoss without disturbing factors, which is impossible with Niagara.
The ground near the waterfalls has interesting structures due to the constant influence of water. You can find stones of the most diverse forms, covered or surrounded by moose, and the special black earth.
Chapter 3 –Dettifoss & Selfoss-> Vestrahorn -> Jökulsárlón & Diamond Beach -> Svartifoss Waterfall
Fully tanked with satisfaction and with no time to waste, we started our so far longest driving route to Vestrahorn mountain – right after getting back to the car from Selfoss waterfall. Although on this part of the trip, we hadn’t marked any particular tourist spots, this was one of the most beautiful regions we passed through.
Coming closer to our destination, the weather shifted from blue sky to cloudy. When we arrived at the Viking Café close to Stokksnes, the mountain was hidden by thick clouds. Tired from the trip and filled with hope that the sky would clear up, we stayed a while at the café, having some coffee and tea to keep us warm from the cold wind outside. This time we weren’t so lucky… after taking a final peek at the mountain, we moved on to Jökusárlón iceberg lagoon and diamond beach.
Jökusárlón surprised us with icebergs, lots of them coming in many inspiring forms ranging from swans to alien spaceships and sailboats. They were making their way from the iceberg lagoon to the ocean, where they would be driven towards the black sandy beach again and again by strong waves. A perfect place for photographers. The Contrast between the black fine sand and the crystal clear artistically formed ice pieces lying on them look just amazing.
Our day was concluded by a quick stroll in Vatnajökull National park. The park offers many nice hiking trails – you could literally spend days there just exploring. We didn’t have that kind of time, so we were forced to stick to a quick hike to the wonderful Svartifoss waterfall. It lies between black “stone sticks” reminding us of huge pipe organs from church.
Chapter 4 – Reynisdrangar Cliffs -> Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck -> Skógafoss ->Seljalandsfoss
Our “Hotel California” gave us great shelter and comfort through another night in Iceland, preparing us well for Reynisdrangar Cliffs. On the east side of the cliffs is a nice small town called Vik. We first wanted to approach the Cliffs from Vik to discover a new perspective, instead of the usual starting point on the other side. Much to our surprise, we found a super nice spot for bird watching! The east side cliff of the mountains facing the sea is home to lots of Puffins and Iceland gulls. There were so many of them flying around that you couldn´t even decide which one to watch. We spent a wonderful time enjoying being part of their busy life.
After we soaked up the beautiful view from both sides, we drove to the Sólheimasandur plane wreck. That’s right, a crashed navy plane from the 70’s just sitting there in the middle of nowhere. In 73 the Douglas DC-3 ran out of fuel and crashed in the south coast of Iceland. Everybody survived and later the crash turned out to be caused by human error. The pilot simply switched over to a wrong fuel tank. Who would have thought that this misfortune would attract masses of tourist’s decades after?
Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfall were our last destinations for the day. The weather wasn’t great, but these waterfalls were still able to show us all their beauty. It was the first time we walked behind a waterfall.
Chapter 5 – Háifoss Waterfall
Time flies and before you know it it’s your last vacation day. Waking up in our camper we had to face the hard truth that we would be leaving this beautiful country in less than 24 hours. Little did we know that this day would be the best day of the whole trip. For most of the time we stayed close to the ring road, but today we would advance a little further into the heart of the country to see Háifoss waterfall (just a little taste of what´s to come when we will visit the “real” highlands someday).
It is situated near the Volcano Hekla and has a height difference over 120 meters. We literally had to hold our breath at the gaze of it. The mountains from both sides are very steep, plus the great depth going straight down to the bottom, you feel like you were standing at the edge of the world. This is one of those times where you realize how small and insignificant you are compared to nature.
We thought it couldn’t get any better, until the sun came out and surprised us with colorful rainbows. We spent hours there enjoying the breathtaking view. Every change of angle, and of the sun position gave us another beautiful perspective. What better place to enjoy our breakfast?
All good things come to an end. Now we had to say goodbye to our loyal travel companion, our camper, and to Iceland. Bye for now, we will see each other again. Incredible country, best road trip so far!
Read more: In love with Iceland
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