Backpackers in Iceland
Once upon a time, 1000 words surrounded the sea
“Once upon a time” is how all tales begin.
Tales about ogres, goblins, fairies.
Tales about fantastic things that sometimes become true.
Once upon a time…, two backpackers that visited Iceland. And of course not, we didn’t see any ogre, goblins or fairies. But we could see fantastic things. We saw powerful waterfalls falling down. Huge glaciers rising between the slopes. Craters that erupted many years ago. Thermal baths authentically relaxing. We climbed mountains and craters, walked the paths and explored volcanic caves. We saw dusk and dawn in the Icelandic sky. We had the opportunity, or the “luck”, to be fascinated by wonderful and amazing Aurora Borealis. We saw how sheep are the real queens of Iceland. All things that you see through pictures are, without any doubt, the best presentation letter of Iceland.
We started to plan how the travel should be. What to do. Where to sleep. How to move. So, our trip started weeks before we landed in Iceland. We landed in Iceland at 2:00 AM on 13th September 2016. The dawn was cold. It was raining and a strong wind welcomed us. We picked a rented camper van up near the airport and we drove to the nearest campsite to rest a few hours before we started our road trip.
We spent the first three days of the journey through the West. The volcanic landscape became evident as soon as we entered the peninsula of Snæfellsnes. Snaefellsnes welcomed us with intermittent rain. During the raining moments, we visited the Vatnshellir cave composed of 200 meters of lava flow and with a dip of 35 meters below the surface. We called it our particular “Journey to the Centre of the earth”. But not only that, spectacular craters awaited our arrival. For instance, the famous Saxhóll crater, easily accessible, or charming cities such as Arnarstapi and Hellnar with a wonderful path surrounding the coast that unites them. Also Hellissandur, where we spent the night.
We left the west heading for the north center of Iceland. We made a stop in the city of Akureyri to buy some bread and coffee. Then, we continued our road trip to Goðafoss waterfall. Goðafoss waterfall was one of the most spectacular things that we could see. The widest waterfall in Europe (30 meters wide) and with an interesting story behind its name. According to legend, the waterfall receives this name because when Iceland adhered to the Christian religion, all statues of the pagan gods were thrown down. “Goði” = God, “foss” = waterfall.
But the most incredible part of northern Iceland is certainly the region of Mývatn. We spent two entire days in order to visit all the possible attractions. The funny thing was to discover that the name of “Mývatn” comes from the Icelandic: mý (“midge”) and vatn (“lake”) “the lake of midges”. We realized that still being in September, there were a huge number of midges especially in our first stop; the Vindbelgur Mountain. We also visited the black lava castles of Dimmuborgir, the Stakhólstjörn pseudocraters, the Hverfjall crater and the Námafjall-Hverir zone. But, definitely, besides the stunning setting, and the great place for many magnificent walks, and hikes, Mývatn is a relaxing place, especially in the natural geothermal hot spring of the Mývatn Nature Bath.
After leaving the region of Mývatn, we headed Egilsstaðir (at east of Iceland). A radical change of landscape. From rough terrain to greenish colors decorated by hills leading to the sea as a background. During the road trip between Mývatn and Egilsstaðir we made three stops. The first one was in the Kafla volcanic zone, the second and the third stops were in order to visit Dettifoss and Selfoss waterfalls (one stop in each side of the river). Then we drove and continued driving until nightfall.
The eastern part of the island also offered some incredible sights. We had driven many miles of rough, dry terrain, and the contrast surprised us. Although we arrived in the evening at Egilsstaðir, during the next morning we could appreciate what the typical fishing villages in Iceland are like.
Before taking on again the main road, we had a stop near to the Lagarfljót lake that, although tells the legend (and the posters that surround it) that inhabits a monster inside, the truth is that all we saw were waterfalls, waterfalls and more waterfalls.
Then, we continued our road trip driving between the east fjords along the coast until we reached the city of Höfn. We slept there.
The road to Vik had peculiar stops. For instance, a beautiful black sand beach the “Diamond Beach” and the Jökulsárlón glacier. It’s indescribable to get to the foot of the beach and find blocks of ice that triple our body size. The beach is called as “Diamond Beach” because the light during sunrise or sunset illuminates the icebergs looking like diamonds.
Jökulsárlón means “glacial river lagoon” and interestingly, in this place were filmed some well known Hollywood movies such as “Die Another Day”, “Tom Raider” or “Batman Begins”. The third stop of the day was in the Vatnajökull National Park where we made a beautiful route to the top of the National Park. It was a tiring day with many miles traveled by car and on foot. Hence we decided to sleep in Vik.
Read more: Famous movie locations in Iceland
Over the next three days we planned to visit the southern part of Iceland, including a route around the Golden Circle. We visited the three most popular attractions of the Golden Circle; the Gullfoss waterfall, the famous Geysir and Strokkur geysers and the National Park of Þingvellir. In this last stop, we learnt a little about the political history of Iceland and about its origins.
But also, during the way, we made a stop at the Laugavatn thermal baths, so nice, and we cooked a delicious salmon with rice.
We spent our last two days in Reykjavik, in which the most amazing thing was waiting for us. It was our last night in Iceland, we had dinner in the harbor when we decided to come back home. When we left the restaurant, we could see some green lights in the sky! Oh god, Auroras Borealis!!! I think it was one of the best moments of our life.
So yes, Once upon a time…, two backpackers that visited Iceland… and of course, they will dream of coming back.
Read more: Around Iceland in 8 days with a Camper Van
Happy Camping! #CamperStories
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