All’s well that ends well
Our Iceland story began at the end of July, 2017 when we decided to purchase autumn discount tickets from Riga to Reykjavik. As soon as we bought the tickets, we started planning how and what we should see on our 8 day trip around the island, but in reality our plans collapsed on day four. Why? Let’s find out.
Day 1 – Arriving in Iceland
We touched ground of Keflavik airport and went to Reykjavik by public transport. We had arranged accommodation with some locals in Reykjavik, who shared their stories of Icelandic life with us. It’s always nice to learn how people live around the world.
Day 2 – The Golden Circle
It was an early morning, we had a lot ahead of us. We had chosen a camper as our means of transportation – a small car with a bed in the trunk, which seemed like a good, cheap and relatively comfy way to travel. The camper we had seen on the internet and were hoping to get had a great drawing on it – a beautiful landscape with an air-balloon, but the camper we got only had some writings on it. 🙂 We were already packed and started the car, when we noticed a warning indicator on the dashboard, so we decided to ask what’s wrong. As it turns out, the car needed maintenance, and since we didn’t have time to wait, we were given a different car and as luck would have it – the one with the beautiful drawing, yay! 🙂
The journey was finally set off. We started by going south and met our first sights – Þingvellir national park and the first waterfall, just beautiful. As we kept going, we visited Strokur geyser, where we had a never-before experience – we were surrounded by water and vapour when a sudden explosion of a 20m tall water fountain rocketed into the sky, impressive. And by the next waterfall, Gullfoss, we were starting to realize what a real waterfall looks like, because this one was really huge, and what’s more important – Iceland is full of them. The next place we visited was Kerið crater and even though the story has just began I already feel like I’m running out of words how to describe them all. The volcanic crater also left an impression on us, with its magnitude and breath-taking image.
By the end of the day we went to the local low price shop Bónus and were heading to our camping. We witnessed the price difference, compared to Latvia, but what stood out were Pringles chips and onion crisps that were 40% cheaper here than in Latvia, while other products were unsurprisingly more expensive. Despite the autumn, the camping was quite busy and the kitchen was full with tourists that had chosen to spend the end of September in Iceland in campers or tents. All the camping sites where we stayed at were well organized, with nice kitchens and warm showers.
Day 3 – Driving the South coast
Since we had chosen a camper with heating and the size of the bed was more than enough, the nights we spent in the car were quite pleasant, worm and comfy.The plan of our third day was rather successful and we saw a couple more beautiful waterfalls, a crashed plane, black beach, the ocean, far reaching rocky landscapes and friendly horses and sheep. We were slowly adapting to the island’s weather which was sending rain clouds our way from time to time, however, the further we went, the more the rain picked up and the forecast was predicting a couple more days of rain. Iceland’s southeast had been overpowered by the precipitation for multiple days already, and it wasn’t going to get better. On this day we also were greeted by drones which we hadn’t yet seen in other tourism spots in the world. Here they were merrily singing in their buzzing unison, flying above our heads like flies and capturing the precious images.
The second camping was similar to the first one, just a lot muddier and more drenched, because the rain had overtaken everything.
Day 4 – Fighting the weather
The rain was starting to bring along its friend, wind, and we were starting to feel a bit uncomfortable – even a Gorotex rain-proof jacket was starting to object and soak through, after yesterday’s moisture and the first challenges of today. The morning had already started interestingly, because we had gone the wrong way for almost 10km when things started looking strange: “Didn’t we see a waterfall just like this yesterday?” Funnily or not, but it might have been a sign of what was about to come later.
When it’s the first time seeing the mighty glaciers, you don’t really care about the weather, you want to see and feel everything all the same. The glacier in Iceland really is huge, beautiful and definitely a sight to see. And even though the rain and wind was also accompanied by a low fog, nothing could stop us. Well… almost nothing.
We tried leaving meal preparation for camping sites, but a couple times we did it along the road, because we had everything we need in our camper – a gas cooker, kitchen supplies, cutleries and even an expandable kitchen table. It’s an interesting feeling, stopping by the road and making dinner, while cars are passing by, and turning salivating heads, because of the tasty sight (thanks to Ilze for cooking).On this day, after the dinner, we saw an ice lagoon, which wasn’t very visible because of the fog that had stolen all the visibility.
What happened next was a quite unexpected and sudden – we were driving further, when we were met by a tractor that was crossing the road. A rain-drenched girl jumped out of it and said that the only road that leads to the next town has been swept away by the river, and while the rain keeps falling, there’s nothing to be done.
Hmm… Oh, my… Oh, well…
The first thing we do is look at the forecast – 2 more days of rain.
Hmm… Oh, my… Oh, well…
We look for the closest camping, maybe things change till tomorrow. And it’s 80km behind us…
Hmm… Oh, my… Oh, well…
On our way to the camping we stop at a gas station, where a TV announces that the storm isn’t going anywhere and tourists aren’t advised to go to south-eastern Iceland…
Not much we can do, we stay at the camping, remaining hopeful but already starting to think about going back and planning the trip all over again.
Day 5 – Driving back to Reykjavik
The morning didn’t bring any good news – the rain was falling, some of our clothes were still drenched and the road didn’t seem to want to return. We had no choice but to go back the 330 kilometres.
On our way to Reykjavik, in less than 50km, the sun started shining and some of the places we had seen were starting to look differently, so we had to take pictures again, since it was a whole new experience.
By the evening, we had passed where we had begun the journey, and kept going to the north. Later we met other Latvians in the camping, and shared with each other our experiences. We also saw the Northern Lights, for the first time on the trip – and it’s not like autumn doesn’t bring them to Latvia as well, but in Iceland, every autumn and almost every night paints the sky with the beautiful flow of colour. The evening went by with us trying to plan out what to do next, because the sightseeing objects of the north were too far and the previous plan was now in the dumpster, since we had to visit a part of Iceland we didn’t even consider as a possibility. Fortunately it all worked for the best.
Day 6 – The Southwest
It was a nice start for the day, rain clouds mostly kept around the southeast, not here. And while we were looking at the places we are visiting on the map, we realized that we are going to have the local delicacy, shark meat, on our menu today. We visited a bunch of lovely spots on this day – small churches, a stone figure by the ocean, lava fields, but the shark museum probably stole show. What we had heard about shark meat wasn’t very flattering for the fish, and the pungent smell, and toxic ammonium in the meat before it’s ready for eating, made us question the dinner choice. But since the locals seem healthy enough, might as well do it. And, of course, the meat turned out ok, leaving a pinching aftertaste and smell that’s probably not among the most pleasant things, but still, far from unsavory. It’s probably not something to eat regularly, but it’s a meal for special occasions here as well.
What needs to be noted as well, is the camping that was in our opinion the best one from the whole trip – „Skjöldur camping and Community Center”. Not too crowded, a big hall for some dancing, a coach corner, spacious showers, everything necessary in the kitchen and a huge field that offers a great place for stargazing and taking in the Northern Lights. Maybe it was the exhaustion from the road, or the lovely place, but we were sleeping like children on this night.
Day 7 – Glýmur
We had left the most impressive sight to see for the last – Glýmur. The weather was spoiling us and we enjoyed an awesome day, having visited a volcanic crater, hot springs and making dinner at the foot of a mountain, next to a lake. Glýmur is the highest waterfall in Iceland, and it’s accessible only by hiking, which took four hours for us. We had to traverse a cave, a whitewater river and climb a steep mountain, even using ropes at times (see video below). But it was worth it, because the sight is wonderful. There is an easier way to see it – with a helicopter (which we saw hovering above our heads for a minute before going away). This attraction costs only 1000 euros, so we decided we are better on our feet.
Editor’s note: Glýmur has lost the title of the highest waterfall in Iceland. Latest measurements suggests Morsársfossar being 30 m higher than Glýmur.
We spent the night at a camping that had a kitchen in a greenhouse and a shower beneath the stars, because why not? 🙂
Day 8 – Exploring Reykjavik
Since our plane back to Latvia was leaving in the evening, and we had to bring back the car to Reykjavik in the morning, we decided to explore the capital as well. Even though there aren’t that many tourism spots here, it was ideal for the last day – a beautiful church, a concert hall, souvenir shops and some tasty local pizza. So that was our trip that took a sharp turn on day four, but ended wonderfully, with more of Iceland left to see for the next time.
We can surely suggest others not to be deterred by the weather, because as Icelanders say: “Bad weather? Just wait another 5 minutes!”
Our video highlighting the different waters we encountered.
Read more: Exploring Iceland in a VW Camper – Day 6
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