Exploring Iceland in winter

We met in Reykjavik, but we had known each other for more than 25 years. To go to Iceland has always been a dream. It finally came true and this blog about our trip tries to encourage everyone to explore the youngest country on earth as well. It has much more to offer than we ever expected. You will find our daily destinations and the total kilometers of our trip around the island in the headline of each day. Checking on the weather we decided to go counterclockwise, following Road 1.

Day 1 – Gullfoss (125 km)

We picked up the camper van in the early morning, excited to start our adventures in Iceland. We got familiar with the car and packed it with a lot of groceries from Bonus, the most affordable supermarket in Iceland, then finally hit the road. First stop: Þingvellir national park. We found ourselves in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic ridge where you can actually see the
boundary between the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plate as well as the largest natural lake of Iceland – Þingvallavatn. Furthermore it is the place where the parliament of Iceland was founded.

Hyped by that we moved further along the Golden Circle, probably the most famous thing to do in Iceland. We stopped at a gigantic geyser, waiting for it to blow while the wind reached a speed of more than 25 meters per second – so worth it! We finished the day and spent the night at the famous and really stunning waterfall Gullfoss.

Driving the Ring road

Day 2 – Vík (360 km)

We woke up at Gullfoss, ready for more adventures and scenic roads. The heating system as well as cooking inside of the car worked surprisingly well and so we could start the day well-fed and warm. Our daily goal would be the small town of Vík in the very south of Iceland. Our way led along the Þjórsá, the largest river of Iceland and the Eyjafjallajökull, which became famous when the volcano erupted in 2010 and stopped the air traffic of Europe for quite a while. Just before it was getting dark we arrived at a crashed DC-3 plane, lying in front of one of Iceland’s famous black sand beaches. Be warned, it takes much longer to walk there then first expected, but it is definitely worth it. It was late and already dark when we arrived in Vík, but it was not the end of our already eventful day. Weather was on our side and we were speechless when we witnessed extremely intense Northern lights that night.

The crashed DC-3 plane,

Day 3 – Svínafellsjökull (552 km)

The day started promising, as we did not see any clouds when we got up. Luckily the weather was not about to change that day and we enjoyed very sunny and scenic six hours of daylight. We started with exploring the surroundings of Vík, which is an absolute must! You do not want to miss the Dyrhólaey Arch and the beach and cliffs of Reynisfjara. Around noon we followed road number 1 again, also known as the circular road, which goes all around the island. Just before nightfall we arrived at Iceland’s largest ice field. We parked and slept next to the blue ice mass of Svínafellsjökull. We spontaneously booked an ice cave tour for the next day.

Camping by Svínafellsjökull

Day 4 – Höfn (703 km)

We put on our crampons and started the day with a nice walk on the glacier. We went into a crevasse and explored the unique shapes of an ice cave. We finished the tour around noon and decided to hike up the famous Svartifoss waterfall before we hit the road again. On our way to Höfn we passed Jökulsárlón, a large glacier lake in southeast Iceland. You can see seals playing around small icebergs, which creates a mind blowing arctic atmosphere. When we arrived in Höfn we finally managed to sit in our first hotpot. We called it a day while we soaked in 40ºC/104ºF naturally heated water.

The fall Svartifoss

Day 5 – Egilsstaðir (1004 km)

On our fifth day of the so far amazing road trip we wanted to do some kilometers. The road was scenic and followed the fjords of eastern Iceland. We stopped wherever it was too beautiful to just drive past, which happened to be almost every 15 minutes. We arrived at Egilsstaðir late in the afternoon, unfortunately too late for another hotpot. We spent the night next to the Lagarfljót, Iceland’s second largest lake.

East Iceland driving

Day 6 – Húsavík (1240 km)

From here on, Iceland should be covered in snow. We passed a large plateau in the northeastern part of the island while the sun was giving us a hardship reflecting on that white vastness. Do not forget your “sunnies” – seriously, some people even became snow-blind! On the way to Húsavík we stopped for a hike to the crater of Krafla and a little stroll around the geothermal fields of Hverir. In the village of Húsavík we went to the most amazing swimming pool of our entire trip and enjoyed the advantages of coming to Iceland in winter: No other people. Later that night we felt blessed to witness another sky filled with northern lights.

The geothermal fields of Hverir

Day 7 – Hofsós (1478 km)

We got up and went through our morning procedure of checking the roads and the weather online. The conditions seemed to be perfect and so we decided to take the smaller roads, close to the sea. On our way to Hofsós we passed Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest urban area and fourth largest municipality. It is also known as the capital of northern Iceland. In summer you are supposed to see up to 11 different kinds of whales around Iceland, especially in the north. But it is not only that we did not see any whales or puffins that we already decided to come back in summer. We tried to imagine all those unique and bizarre landscapes without the snow cover, as well as the magically growing urge to explore more of this island. In Hofsós we finished the day in the local hotpot, which we were calling our evening ritual from now on.

North Iceland Fjord

Day 8 – Borgarnes (1759 km)

So far, we have been really lucky considering the weather conditions and so the rainy and foggy weather that day did not change our good mood. Loud music and snacks along the way to Borgarnes was basically it, but we were looking forward to a tour through a lava cave on the next day. Thankfully it cleared up in the afternoon and we observed the sun dipping into the Atlantic Ocean in Borgarnes. Evening ritual, dinner and we called it a day.

Borgarnes Lighthouse

Day 9 – Akranes (1944 km)

Waking up on the west coast we started the day with a tinge of wistfulness, as we are about to face our last day of the road trip, but it was not over yet so we got excited again on our way to Víðgelmir, where the lava cave is located. “Headlamps on, watch your steps and enjoy the show”, is what our guide said before we disappeared from this world for about 2 hours. A staggering experience that we would highly recommend anyone who is visiting Iceland. Later that day, in Akranes we have been gifted with a clear sky and some more northern lights – not to mention that we had a nice bath.

Northern Lights Iceland

Day 10 – Reykjavik (2000 km)

It was not far to Reykjavik anymore. We drove through an amazingly deep tunnel and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise on our way to Reykjavik where we had to return our third fella. It is strange how fast you can become attached to an object when it gave you shelter for 10 days and the independence to go almost everywhere you want. Summarizing, we are more than happy that we rented a camper van, which made everything possible and created unforgettable moments. What are you waiting for? Go to Iceland!

Winter Camping Iceland

 

Read more: Winter road tripping in Iceland

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