On the road in Iceland
My husband and I have been married for almost 5 years. Life has been great, but we needed some time to get away. Iceland was the perfect location for us to do that and as you will see, the experiences we had were incredibly memorable.
We rented a campervan from Rent.is for the length of our trip and I am so glad we did! My husband and I are “fly by the seat of your pants” kind of people and we only had a rough plan of where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see. The flexibility of the campervan allowed us to explore wherever we wanted without worrying about being somewhere.
It all started in Reykjavik, as I’m sure it does for most. The city is beautiful. We didn’t want to spend too much time in the city since there were a thousand things we wanted to see and not a lot of time see them.
We saw everything on our Reykjavik list in a three hour walk. We also collected some information at one of the tourist stops which helped us with our journey.
I’d advise anyone to take advantage of the information centers. We relied heavily on some of the materials picked up there and they have maps that are more current than Google. They also have emergency phone numbers and a website for road conditions around Iceland.
The Golden circle
Our first driving adventure was the Golden circle. This was a very touristy area, but totally worth the stops. Þingvellir is beautiful and also has some interesting history. Geysir was mesmerizing. You will want to watch it go off a couple times before you move on. In my opinion the best part of the Golden circle was Gullfoss.
After Gullfoss we headed south through Flúðir to see all the greenhouses. Our goal was to end up in Vik for the night. That worked out wonderfully because we got to be on the black sand beach for the sunset. We even saw some puffins on the cliffs.
We decided to stay at the campsite in Vik, but the next day we realized there are plenty of spots along the road where you can camp without paying. We also learned, the hard way, that in areas outside of Reykjavik and the more populated cities, the grocery stores close early.
We started bright and early the next morning to head to Skaftafell. We weren’t originally going to go that far east but that decision quickly paid off. By the time we reached Skaftafell we were ready for a good hike and there are many options depending on what you want to see. All trails are well marked and mapped out. We stopped by Svartifoss and then continued on to the lookout over the glacier. It was a pretty neat experience or as my husband would say “mind blowing”.
After Skaftafell we returned west and stopped at everything possible including the moss covered lava field, Fjaðrárgljúfur (a breathtakingly green and lush canyon), Hjörleifshöfði, Skógafoss, and Seljalandsfoss. Hjörleifshöfði, headland not far from Vik, has a cool cave on the south side and we were literally the only ones there.
It was rainy and cold but it added to the ambiance and mystery of the area. Many of these stops along the south were less touristy than the Golden circle and in some places we were the only ones or two of very few. We reached Seljalandsfoss after dark and it was another pretty amazing experience to see a waterfall after the sun had gone down. The falls have lights that shine on it which provided enough light for us to walk behind the falls.
We attended church at a local meeting house in Selfoss the next morning. The locals were welcoming and since there were quite a few visitors they spoke the majority of the service in English. It was lovely to meet people who live there.
After that we continued north to Snaefellsnes peninsula. On the way there we had to stop at the bakery in Borgarnes known to some as the Papa Johns in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It happened to be my husband’s birthday so we got a piece of carrot cake. As a side note, we stopped at a few bakeries while in Iceland and none of them disappointed us. I highly recommend stopping at one for lunch or breakfast. After our bakery stop we went to Reykholt which also has some fun historic sights including Snorri’s pool. The town was perfectly framed in a rainbow as we left.
Snaefellsnes peninsula was by far our favorite region. It is filled with wonderful sights that include beautiful nature, dramatic sagas and even some world history. Snæfellsjökull national park was beautiful. We were hiking around the area bright and early in the morning and the sun shining on the cliffs was a sight to see. We loved the area by the lighthouse where they have a zipline and a cute little project from the local school children about the people who used to live on the farm there.
Berserkjahraun is an amazing lava field that comes with a saga about two Berserkers who had to clear a path through the lava field. Like most of the sagas in Iceland it ended in death. The two berserkers were killed. After an archaeological excavation they found the bodies of two large men that gave some credibility to the story. But the lava field in and of itself was just cool. We drove along Berserkjahraun and climbed to the top of some craters. The views were astonishing.
We ended that night at the campsite in Flókalundur in the Westfjords where we saw the northern lights. The following morning we went to the little hot pot that is right near the campsite. We had it all to ourselves with the morning light and a perfect view of the fjord. It was a nice way to start the day.
The roads in the Westfjords are a little scary, winding, quite steep in places, and narrow, but there isn’t a lot of traffic. Be aware that travel time will increase since driving will be slow. Despite the longer travel times, we were not disappointed as the scenery was breathtaking. We continued on to Dynjandi which was definitely worth the trip. Pictures do not do these falls credit. Dynjandi is massive!
Read more: Waterfalls in Iceland
We knew we wouldn’t have time to go any further north so we returned south through Patreksfjörður. We also stopped at the red sand beaches, Raudasandur. They weren’t quite what we expected. The sand looked like any normal sand you would find on a beach anywhere, but it was still a lovely place. We pulled off to park and walked towards the beach and we had a darling little dog escort us out and back. There was no one around. It was a perfect place to enjoy the beauty around us and talk about anything on our minds. It was a very picturesque place with the gorgeous blues from the water, rich greens of the vegetation, all framed by giant cliffs.
We ended our trip with the Blue Lagoon. We scheduled it the afternoon the day before we left. It was a great place to soak our muscles and relax from all the hiking and driving we had done the previous week. I highly recommend you watch the video they send before you go. They do a good job explaining their process.
Our hearts were heavy as we returned to the airport the following morning. We were so happy to have the camper van to explore at our own pace and schedule. It is hard to fully explain our incredible journey. We already want to return and see what we did not get to on our first trip. Iceland is a truly amazing place.
Read more: Intrepid Iceland honeymooning
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