Travel Diary 17th – 27th of July 2018.
What is life if it is not travel? Although I harbored serious doubts about this trip I was fully committed into turning those doubts into a single wonderful experience. Through will and hard work we all have the power to change our destiny. I decided to do this trip solo in Iceland with the sole purpose of having my own adventure, something that would only belong to me. When I finally decided and purchased the ticket I did not know what would I obtain from the trip, what would I learn, but deep down I knew that routine was not the answer.
I arrived from NYC early in the morning to the Reykjavik airport. As typical in Icelandic summers it was already broad daylight at 6am and the cold hit heavy on my face. My first expensive experience in Iceland was taking the $40+ hour-long bus to Reykjavik and paying for my overpriced lodgings in the city. During the day I went wandering around the small streets in Reykjavik having breakfast and trying on things here and there. The shocking part was paying around $22.00 for two eggs and ham with a coke for breakfast. Damn.
I surely knew that I was ill equipped for the summer cold and its winds so I started window-shopping to see what was the less expensive. Iceland is crazy, crazy, crazy expensive. Heed my words, expensive and unnecessary expensive. Going back to my hostel I met a French couple who were both super cool and we decided to bar hop until the early morning, which still had daylight in it. The bars along the city’s main commercial street are great and cool with everyone being happy and friendly. I liked the Chuck Norris one in the basement and the Whisky on top; Chuck Norris is full of hilarious situations in which Chuck always wins.
After going to bed I woke up around 10am, did a loop around the hostel looking for people and took off to have some lamb dinner for breakfast-lunch at Mandi. Real good, not that expensive, plenty of food and flavorful, I recommend it at least one. Waking up late was part of the jet-lag thing. I had to pick up the rental from RENT.IS around 2:00pm at their place to the airport so I decided to go around all the city visiting the mayor’s office, the monument at the middle, the Concert House and just plain wandering around everywhere. The people is super nice, there are a lot of curious things to see and is fun to walk it around.
Going by public bus from Reykjavik to the airport is a hassle, it takes time and you have to do multiple stops and layovers. Beware. It can take from one to two hours so be careful if you’re in a rush. The private company servicing the route is more expensive. I got to the airport like 3 hours after or so, crazy right, and there I went with the rental shuttle to pick up the mini camper. When I saw it I just fell happy because I knew that it was my ticket to adventure. Fully equipped with folding chairs and table, cooler, water, heater, bed, curtains and stove I had a rolling mini house.
After picking up the van I saw online that the Blue Lagoon was close by so I went for a visit. I spent a good deal of time at the lagoon because it looked like from another planet. Afterwards I went back to the city at around 9pm for some bar hopping and food.
After doing some early shopping I went to Dive.is office in Reykjavik because I had a two day diving course and tour with them. As my tour started the 20-21 I couldn’t go very far. From Reykjavik I decided to go south to the Seltún Geothermal Area. It was not that impressive as the puddles where only releasing some gas, but the road to get there was. Just astounding. The big steep mountains, the valley to get to them, the lake and further down what it seemed to be a geothermal lake.
I continued south through the road all the way to Þorlákshöfn where there is little to see. From there I went north through 1stopping at the lava tunnel before reaching Reykjavik again. This day seemed long and I ended up at the Whiskey bar listening to some good jazz band. I spent the night at the Oddson Hostel.
I took my dry suit course during the whole day with Alexis of Dive.is and afterwards we went for an spectacular dive in the edge of the lake near the Silfra dive place. I really cannot describe how clear the water was. One thing is that it is cold as hell even with the dry suit!!! I met some really good people at Dive.is and afterwards we went in the van to the hot pool and steam rooms in the city. The city’s steam rooms is super and everyone should try it. The only difference is that you have to shower naked before and after leaving the pool. Some people may not be comfortable.
After the shower I went for some nice clubbing in the city and went to sleep at the Reykjavik campsite around 2am.
I slept most of the day in the Rent.is van, which was nice and warm. My next cold water dive was at 1600 so I decided to get some lunch and in Camp Reykjavik I met Lila who was looking to hitchhike to Landmannalaugar. I told her that I could take her as far as I could but that we had to stay in Þingvellir for the dive. We arrived at beautiful Þingvellir and did a short walk before going diving. The place is nice and green. The diving was awesome and COLD but diving between the tectonic plates is unique. Walking back to the camp with the scuba gear sucks but is pretty much worth the effort. After two dives I was ready for some dinner and we moved the van to a camping spot where we mad rice and vegetables. We stayed at Þingvellir.
We had breakfast and moved to Landmannalaugar to see the color mountains. The mountains have different colors because of the exposed minerals. This is a must see place, sadly is only available for 4×4’s. The road to the place looks out of something taken from a Dali painting, massive structures of stone and sand, empty spaces with odd rocks in the middle and weird landscapes. This place looked, specially the road to it, from another planet. It takes around an hour or two though a dirt road to reach Landmannalaugar.
Read more: All year campsites in Iceland
The campsite has everything but the showers need to be paid for. The place looked like some kind of Tibet. We got to the campsite and we decided to camp there and make food. We walked for hours across the mountains and the place is inspiring and unique. There are several paths that have several difficulties and ranges. When we got back into the camp we decided to go to a thermal pool close by. The camp and the thermal pool are full of super cool people that all want to hangout and relax. We spent a couple of hours in the pool talking to everyone. In the pool we met some Germans that were doing a 4×4 expedition and they invited us for some coffee in their big tent. I truly recommend this place but you will have to hitch a ride if you don’t have a 4×4 for the last section of the road. You can get there on a 4×2 but the sign does not recommend it. I saw the road and during the SUMMER is not that bad.
After a nice coffee and hot natural pool we went to sleep.
Lila stayed in Landmannalaugar to trek for the next couple of days. I went in the direction of Vik along the #1 Road. By the time I reached back to the camper it was close to midday and I decided to stop at the first little hotel in the road for some gas and hamburgers. After I stopped by a huge waterfall with a group and did some laps with the drone.
Before stopping in Vik I went to the black sand beach. Real nice, the geo formations are spectacular and the columns are a must see. The beach is really easy to reach and the walk around is excellent. Be careful with the waves, a tourist got hit by a big one that came out of nowhere so don’t get too close.
On the beach I met a couple of girls, one from USA and the other from Germany, between beer and talking a couple of hours passed by in the camper and we decided to move to a campsite near Vik for dinner were I literally spent two or three hours cooking rice with meat. After eating I decided to travel to Skaftafell all night for a couple of hours. Driving late at night in Iceland is interesting, the endless summer nights make you feel productive and tireless and seeing the empty road just for yourself makes you keep driving even longer. By the time I reached Skaftafell it was almost 2am and I literally crashed to bed. The road from the south towards Skaftafell is full of sights, I saw impressive vistas even at night and I do not want to imagine what I missed have I not drove down during the night. Before reaching camp I saw the huge glacier of Skaftafell down the road. The road is flanked by waterfalls that are a must.
When I woke up in Skaftafell I saw the one of the German group girls walking to the showers. They had arrived a little later than me and parked down the road. I had breakfast and lunch together in their camp and thereafter set off to an iceberg lagoon near Skaftafell. The stark reminder that these places are dangerous is set in stone by a bronze plaque announcing the disappearance of two hikers a couple of years ago in the same place. For a couple of minutes I imagined myself falling through the ice down to the freezing water. Hiking through Skaftafell for a few hours let me tired and after I decided to head up north on a single shot all the way to Egilsstaðir. I arrived to the campsite close to 9pm at Egilsstaðir and made dinner with spaghetti and meat balls with a Swiss family that was on vacation waiting to ship back their car by boat.
Super Mega lazy day, eating and a short trip with some sightseeing to Akureyri. Once in Akureyri I just had dinner with a couple of friends I met on the camp in the Hamborgarafabrikkan and spent most of the night there and waking up and down the hilly town. I remember going in the north to a hot spring pool a la Blue Lagoon, so I spent most of the day here, cheaper and not that crowded.
I woke up really early and head out down the road from Akureyri on my last part of the trip. In the middle of the road I picked up Kristan or Christian from Latvia. We spent 12 hours since the moment we left Akureyri until we reached Reykjavik. Literally from 9am to 9pm. We drove all the way to Snæfellsnes peninsula, to Djúpalónssandur black beach stopping along the way in every interesting thing we saw. The road to Djúpalónssandur is windy and looks incredible with all the grass and trees growing sideways because of the wind. There are numerous things to do in the road, but sadly we got caught in a never-ending mist that lasted a couple of hours and we only stopped for a short hike up a mountain.
On the road to Djúpalónssandur you go between a big mountain and the beach looking at all the farms and small lakes reaching the cave of the troll, a couple of big waterfalls and after the hill you enter Snæfellsjökull. We saw the black sand beach, the church of the elves stone, the strong stones and the shipwreck remains and stayed at the beach for quite sometime. The wind was pulling us in and pushing us back on our way to the car. The road back was fast and I’m feeling the tiredness now as I’m writing this as I was driving back to Reykjavik, my trip was at that moment done and everything was thanks to my camper.
TIPS for Iceland
- It’s expensive, so bring everything that you can, if you can to save. If you bring your food, the better.
- In the campsites there’s usually left over gas, seasoning, salt, shampoo, dish washing soap, some food (rice, sauce etc) and it’s a great opportunity to make friends.
- Gas is also really expensive, but if you’re on the road it’s inevitable.
- Everything is touristy, so many tourists. If you want to enjoy be prepared to seriously hike and venture out so it helps being in shape. Going to places like Landmannalaugar require some preparation.
- Do not take risks, in some places you can literally fall and die.
- Plan ahead for everything. Because of all the tourism everything is booked or full so you need to plan and buy things up front to reserve your spot or come the day and you’ll be left out.
- See the weather channel or news. Weather can change your plans and make everything great or sucky.
- Don’t trust the waves, they will crash on you.
- Online greatness, you can do everything online. And pay online.
- The camper has everything you need except a hammock, and then again you’re not in the tropic. Besides dish washing liquid there’s little else that you need. Be careful with the cooler, is not very powerful.
- Venture out and meet new people, but have common sense. The place is safe, cool, people basically come from really far to have a good time, but that does not mean that you’re going to be a moron and leave your stuff around.
- Everything pays crazy amounts of money. Small ride in the public transport can cost more than $5 easily, the $10 and up to $40 in Reykjavik.
- Stop and see everything.
- The best thing about the van is sleeping with a someone on a rainy and cold night all comfortable under the blanket looking outside the windows and hearing the wind howl.
- Travel with someone. I went alone and I had to put an effort to meet some great people along the way, if you’re shy, and you don’t like to have an adventure this will be your crash course. Just go and sit and talk with people.
- Bring your camera gear, backpack gear, cold gear, etc. Be prepared to carry them if you want to visit meaningful places.
- Nice views are all the way up a mountain or down a steep path, wear appropriate shoes.
- Ice is scary, you can die in the icebergs and stuff so it’s a big no no for me.
Read more: A Family trip to Iceland
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