Iceland & Back – An Unexpected Journey
Following months and months of planning and anticipation, the day was nearly here. It was 10.30pm on a foggy London Wednesday evening and we were absolutely fizzing for the exciting trip to what was to be the northern most point we had ever ventured. Our bags were packed, and we were ready to go, now for a night of restless sleep as we lay dormant visualising the week ahead.
Our plane departed Gatwick Airport at 6.30am, bound for Keflavik International Airport, and for once in the history of Ryanair flights, we were on time.
Upon landing in Reykjavik, we were met with our first hurdle – accidentally putting our car pick up location in the city, not the airport. Following a few emails and phone calls with the lovely folk at Rent.is, we were on a bus heading north to Reykjavik’s city centre.
We arrived at the Rent.is at 2pm and picked up our hotel on wheels, packed with all the essentials for a camping trip in the snow – a comfy double bed fitted with pillows and sleeping bags, a gas cooker, fridge, table and chairs… the works! And we were off.
Now being a couple of gents from down in New Zealand we aren’t too familiar with driving on the right-hand side of the road. This became increasingly more obvious the further we got away from car yard. At one point I (somehow) managed to take a left turn sharp enough to find myself on the more familiar left-hand side of the road, with a car heading towards us. Failing at my first game of chicken in Iceland I swerved back into the right lane and continued towards Hallgrímskirkja.
A wander around the church and up the tower helped relaxed the driving nerves. The curved contours of the 74m tower was a view in itself, but taking the elevator to the top floor to see the city from above was essential.
We left the tower behind and headed for a surprisingly affordable and delicious late lunch in Svarta Kaffið, feasting on a meat (as opposed to the only other option on the menu – vegetable) soup served in a bread bowl and a cold Icelandic lager. After sitting for an hour or so with our first opportunity to take in the surroundings and acknowledge our location, we were off to Blue Lagoon.
We timed our arrival perfectly at Blue Lagoon to see the last glimpses of the sun before it set behind the snowy mountains. We sat waist deep in the murky blue water sipping away on a bottle gin we sneakily smuggled in to the baths as we stared up at the starry night, quietly hoping for the green blur of the Northern Lights to appear. But tonight wasn’t our night for the lights. We finished off the remainder of the gin, had a shower, got changed, set up our gas cooker in the parking lot and heated up a bowl of soup we purchased during our supermarket run earlier in the day. On full stomachs and sporting a mild level of intoxication, we crawled into bed ready for our first day of sightseeing in the Iceland countryside.
Our 7am alarm shattered the quiet of the morning reminding us of the day ahead. I jumped into the driver’s seat, heated up the car for 5 minutes and ventured north to our first stop of the day – Þingvellir National Park. On the slightly overcast morning we cooked our bacon and eggs on our little gas cooker to prep our bellies for the day of walking. The breath-taking view of the vast snowy plains was incredible and was a perfect backdrop for our brekkie, then we set off for a walk through. After taking photo after photo and the odd video, we departed our first stop of the Golden Circle for Geysir witnessing the raw power of thermal pressures from below; then to Gullfoss falls watching the mammoth flowing falls through the mountains.
En route back to Reykjavik we stumbled (Googled) across the Secret Lagoon located circa 100kms east of the capital. The naturally heated pool was a perfect way to warm up from our icy day of sightseeing with an amazing snowy mountain range as a backdrop. Once the sunlight emptied the sky we decided it was time to disperse from the water, head back west and find a local watering hole to unwind with a pint.
The nightlife in the city was great! We jumped around a few bars and checked out the local scenery, staying up late enough to get a decent slice of Reykjavik by night. We headed back to the camper van after a beer or two and nestled up into bed to catch some much needed zzz’s.
Saturday turned out to be the most scenic of the trip for me. We drove to Kerið in the morning, pulling into a small stop off to fry up our typical bacon and eggs. The colours of the crater when we arrived were stunning and the reason behind our overly extended stay. However, we kept moving to our next stop, Seljavallalaug.
Our initial plan when walking toward the outdoor pool in the mountain was to have a quick look and head back to the heated car. However, when we arrived at the pool it was so incredible we stripped down into our undies and jumped in, drying the 1°C water off ourselves with our leftover shirts and thermals.
We stopped off at Skógafoss falls and Dýrhólaey Beach on our journey east before heading into Vik to restock supplies, finally pulling into the most scenic side street we could for the night.
Sunday morning greeted us with a sunrise walk to the famous 1973 plane wreck on Sólheimasandur beach. We took some amazing photos as the sun rose in the background transforming the sky into a splash of colour. Our next stop for the day was Reynisfjara Beach, a black sand beach with massive cliffs and large basalt columns. We spent the latter part of the morning walking through the snowy black sand before continuing our journey north east, driving with an open ocean to our right and rolling cliffs to our left.
Skaftafell National Park was our final stop for the day while the sun was shining. We were (easily) talked into a glacier walk where we saw amazing ice cliff faces forming parts of ginormous mountains. We kept walking around the glacier and found ourselves at one point standing between 2 blocks of solid ice taller than a building. It was incredible.
We finished up the day with dinner under Skógafoss hoping for a hopeless glimpse of the Northern Lights. We were however unfortunate in not managing to see the lights during our stay, but given the adventure we had just been on, we weren’t at all phased.
Our final day started with a drive back to Þingvellir National Park for a snowy snorkel between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plate. The beautifully clear glacier water with up to 100m visibility made for amazing underwater views. We finished up the snorkel and headed back south to the airport to board our flight back to London where our trip had finally reached a close and we were to head back to reality.
Read more: Iceland Journey – Almost everything in one week!
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