Adventure around Iceland
Our adventure in Iceland began dark and early upon our arrival in this magical country. First stop was to pick up the camper van rental and hit the road. As we pulled out of the parking lot, which was a bit of a bumpy start considering neither of us had driven a manual in quite some time, we were ready to find some coffee and really get this adventure started.
We had planned out our adventure around Iceland to fit into 4 days and go clockwise around the ring road. The first stretch of driving was 6 hour journey as the sun began to break across the horizon, revealing our first glimpses of the constantly changing and impressive landscape of Iceland.
Goðafass Waterfall was our first waterfall of the trip. Little did we realize how many more we would see, yet each time they would continue to take our breathe away. After our first awe-inspiring waterfall we were ready to see some hot springs.
Hverir is an experience for all of your senses; seeing all the steam flowing up out of the ground, smelling the unique sulfur scent, feeling the heat, and hearing peoples ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhhs.’ The Hverfjall crater, which we could see from the hot springs, was calling to us to explore. After hiking to the top, despite the incredibly strong winds, we knew we had to hike all the way around. The view looking across the crater while seeing the sun begin to set with it’s striking color display was quite the sight!
For dinner we had heard that the Vogafjós Cowshed Café was a spot you didn’t want to miss. Although we felt a built guilty eating delicious lamb as the animals at the farm turned their backs to us (potentially out of spite knowing what we were eating their friends inside the restaurant?), it lived up to the reviews.
A trip to Iceland isn’t complete without experiencing some hot springs so we headed to Mývatn Nature Baths to experience the warmth. We had heard that some people like to get the full experience by going in their birthday suit, aka completely nude, so we were torn as to what we should do. After looking around the locker room it appeared as though everyone was making the decision to wear a swimsuit, so to our disappoint when followed the group and wore a swimsuit. However, this didn’t take away from how amazing it was sitting there enjoying the warm water while looking up, trying to take in the vast beauty of the Northern Lights.
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Day 2 began by wiggling out of our sleeping bags in the cozy back of our van and hopping back onto the ring road. We had been warned to be careful opening the van doors when it was windy, and boy did we have to hold on tight as we got out at Viti to explore the crater lake on Krafla volcano and the lava fields. Although we were tempted to climb to the highest point of the crater, it was so windy that we were nervous, I was nervous we would get blown into the beautiful torquise water within the crater.
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We continued our journey on the ring road, looking forward to seeing the coast lines of Iceland. We did quite a bit of driving this day as we were trying to get to the must see spots in the Southern region of the country. It’s amazing as your driving on the ring road. You can go for quite some time without seeing any other cars or people! It really makes the experience of exploring Iceland seem even more impressive as you take in the landscape while feeling like just one small person in the vast expanse of nature. We ate the most delicious lobster soup in Höfn, at a cute spot called Kaffi Hornio. I strongly recommend stopping at this spot.
Upon arriving at the Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon we didn’t realize how incredible this spot would be, and it was also a bit strange seeing more people after being one of the only cars on the road in the Eastern region of Iceland. The different blues of the icebergs you see on the lagoon are beautiful from aqua to deep, dark turquoise, to striking royal blue.
While getting our photo taken in front of the lagoon where here a strange noise and turn around to see an iceberg calving right next to us! Then a couple minutes later we saw a sea otter swimming right by. This really got some reactions out of the people nearby. What we didn’t realize was that you could also walk out to the beach right near the glacier lagoon. The beach was covered in icebergs of all different sizes. This was quite a different experience than being down in the Gulf Shores of Alabama.
We decided to drive an hour more from the glacier lagoons to Kirkjubæjarklaustur where we had delicious pizza at Systrakaffi. There’s a very useful information site in this town with a great map that they provide of Southern Iceland. The following morning we ended up exploring Kirkjubæjarklaustur. While drinking coffee in the morning at a local café we saw a photo of the waterfall right nearby and asked, “Is there a way to get to the top of that?” As it turned out there was a trail right next to the waterfall that you can hike up, and then explore the area above. There were some interesting signgs along the way. For instance, we learned that there’s a legend on the lake that back when there was a convent, two nuns saw a hand reaching up out of the lake with a golden comb. After swimming into the lake to retrieve the golden comb, the nuns were never seen again.
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From our morning hike around Kirkjubæjarklaustur it was a short drive to Fjaðrárgljúfur, which is a gorgeous canyon that I would say is a must see site in Iceland. It’s a magnificent and massive canyon, about 100 meters deep and about 2 kilometers long. The canyon has sheer walls and is somewhat serpintine and narrow. Driving from Fjaðrárgljúfur to Vik while continuing along the ring road you get to take in sights of Eldhraun, the moss covered lava field. This is the result of a huge lava flow that occurred in 1783 from Lakagigar, which is believed to be one of the greatest lava flows in a single eruption in the history of the world.
The afternoon began by exploring Dyrhólaey, which is a sheer headland rising 120 meters out of the sea with a huge natural arch near Vik. We began having some rain on and off during this part of the day and started joking that if I wore my rain paints (which looked like two giant blue trash bags) this would bring us good luck and stop the rain, which as it turned out was exactly what happened!
Our next stop was the Sólheimjökull Glacier, where we didn’t do a glacier hike, but in retrospect I wish we had done this. After parking in the lot you walk along a trail that takes you essentially right up to the glacier, which is much closer than we were able to get to a glacier compared to the Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
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Our last part of the day was spent taking in the sights of three amazing waterfalls. First up was Skógafoss, which tumbles 60 metres down from the cliffs. If only it had been sunnier and we could have seen a rainbow! An interesting legend exists that there is a chest of treasure poking out of the waterfall that some people have attempted to remove with no avail. However, we couldn’t manage to see a treasure chest. I think even more impressive than Skógafoss was Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi Waterfalls. You can walk behind the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, which is awesome, and then even cooler is how you’re ableto shimmy between to rock and then stand right under the Gljúfrabúi waterfall. Our next day was spent exploring Reykjavik before catching our flight back to Washington, DC. What an amazing trip! There’s so much to see in Iceland definitely want to visit again!
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