Ring Road trip in beautiful fall colors
Day one – Getting started
We landed in Keflavik in the afternoon and quickly picked up our camper van. The van was very cozy with cooking gear, table and chairs. The beds were quite comfortable, which we did not expect them to be. The extra sleeping bag and pillows helped us keep warm because it gets really really cold at night in Iceland in October. We had a long night ahead of us, and drove for about four hours in complete darkness. The upside was the fact that we could chase the Northern Lights, which made it quite hard to keep our eyes on the road. So beautiful – a magical experience.
Day two – Driving north
We woke up to a beautiful morning in the mountains at camp Varmahlíð
Our first stop of the day was the second largest city in Iceland, Akureyri. The drive here was incredible because of the many beautiful mountains and the landscape surrounding them. In Akureyri we stopped for a short break and got something to eat. It was quite expensive, so that was a onetime thing for our trip. The town was very cozy and had little shops where we bought some souvenirs. Our next stop was Goðafoss, a beautiful waterfall. There weren’t a lot of people her, so we almost had it to ourselves.
Next stop was the Mývatn lake, where a bunch of great experiences was located right next to each other – it was also where we camped for the night. The first thing we did, was hiking up to Hverfjall, an old and black volcano crater, with stunning views of the crater and surroundings. Nearby was the Dimmuborgir rock formations that are displayed in Game of Thrones. Of cause we had to see this since both of us are huge fans of the show. Staying in the nerd corner, we also went to the nearby Grjótagjá Cave, John Snow and Ygritte’s love cave.
Finally we saw the Námaskarð – a geothermal site that looked like something from another planet. We hit the Vogar camp late that night and decided to prepare some canned food we brought with us from Denmark, not the best decision ever – it was kinda gross. Another cold night in the car awaited us, thank god for the heating system.
Hverfjall, Volcano crater Dimmuborgir rock formations
Day three – Whale watching & Dettifoss
We started the day with some hot chocolate and coffee and headed for Húsavik. The town was a small fishing village full of colors and very beautiful. At 10 o’clock we sailed from shore hoping to see some whales in what they call ‘shaky bay’ because there are about 200 earthquakes here every year. The trip was so very cold, but we were offered suits and hot chocolate, which made all the difference. We spotted about 10 different humpback whales – some in the distance and some very close to us. They were so big and glorious.
Whale safari in Húsavik
Getting back to shore made us a bit seasick but nothing that a sandwich couldn’t fix. Moving on we drove to Dettifoss, which if you did not know is Europe’s most powerful waterfall. We took a trail there in the very slippery and wet landscape. The view was breathtaking and you felt very small compared to the greatness of the waterfall. For dinner we found a Subway in the town of Egilsstaðir, so the whole “what are we having for dinner” issue got so much easier. This was also where we camped for the night.
Day four – Hengifoss & Jökulsárlón
We drove to Hengifoss and hiked about three hours to the waterfall. We had the trail all to ourselves and it literally felt like were the only people in the world. The trail offered sights such as the beautiful Icelandic landscape, numerous waterfalls, lava stones, basalt columns and sheep. We would recommend EVERYONE in this part of Iceland to visit Hengifoss!
Trail to Hengifoss
Despite it being in October, this was our only rainy day. The only time it stopped raining was during our 3 hour hike to Hengifoss, so we were pretty lucky!
We drove for most of the day and our next stop was the famous glacier lagoon, Jökulsárlón, with hundreds of icebergs floating around. It is the deepest lake in Iceland and is about 248 meters deep. Fun fact; The iceberg that Titanic hit possibly originated from here. Also, numerous world famous movies have been shot here. It was pouring rain, so this was a quick stop for us unfortunately. Driving across the road we reached Diamond beach. The ice cubes lying in the black sand looked incredible and they were lighting up in the dark sand and the bad weather. For the first time we camped on the south side of Iceland, at camp Skaftafell, and that made the weather a bit rainier but definitely a lot warmer.
Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon Diamond Beach
Day five – South Iceland highlights
From the camp we hiked to Svartifoss. It was a very nice and semi long path, however the clouds were hanging low that day so we were not able to see anything clearly. Back at the camp we spend some time drying our clothes from the day before. The feeling we had putting on our warm clothes was indescribable. Nearby was the Svínafellsjökull glacier – part of the Vatnajökull glacier which is one of the biggest glaciers in Europe. We were able to climb the rock formations next to it. There is no fence on the ‘trail’ so you should be very careful if you do this.
Svartifoss Svínafellsjökull glacier South Ring road
Next stop in our program was Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, which became one of our top five things in Iceland. The canyon and the waterfall melted together and the reflection of the sun made it even more beautiful. It looked like something taken out of the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings movies.
Then we drove to Reynisfjara black sand beach. It is a very famous tourist spot and therefore there were lots of people. The beach have sneaky waves – meaning waves that multiply in speed as they hit the ground so remember to keep a safe distance from the water.
Reynisfjara black sand beach
Our last two stops of the day were both waterfalls. No surprise there. Back in Denmark we found photos of a hidden waterfall, Kvernufoss near Skógafoss, and decided to check it out. I was very secluded and we had to climb a fence (which is not as illegal as it sounds) and walk through a field of sheep poop to get there but it was so worth it. We had the sight to ourselves and you were able to walk behind the waterfall.
Nearby was the famous Skógafoss, another massive waterfall. We got here after sundown so it was really dark. However it was the first time our flashlights came in handy. We ate at the restaurant located at the site and the food was absolutely delicious. We were back at the camp (Hamragarðar Campsite) around nine o’clock and we sat in the camp kitchen and drank some warm tea before heading back to our camper.
Day six – Waterfalls & Geysir
From the camp we walked to Gljúfrafoss. This waterfall is inside a narrow canyon. You had to walk on the small stones lying in the river in order to get inside the canyon. We were only a few feet away from the waterfall and we could feel its enormous power.
Back in the car we changed clothes and went to the famous Seljalandsfoss where we had to pay for parking. The waterfall was huge and beautiful, and you could walk all the way behind it and to the other side, but it was a bit overrun by lots of tourists.
Next was Gullfoss the most visited waterfall in Iceland – again there were lots of people here and it can quickly seem a bit crowded, but definitely worth a visit.
Next on our agenda was the world famous Geysir and the other geysers in the geothermal area. One of the geysers erupts every eight minutes causing a big water explosion about twenty meters high. The beauty of this is hard to explain so you should definitely come to see this for yourself (and ignore the smell of rotten eggs while you’re here). Last stop of the day was another volcano crater Kerið which is known for its red color. We watched the sunset from the top and walked all the way around it before driving to Selfoss, where we camped for the night.
Day seven – Þingvellir & Reykjavik
This was our last day with our Camper that we had named Tormund. We drove to Þingvellir national park, where we yet again saw a beautiful waterfall and our first rainbow of the trip. After this we went hiking in the park and made our way to Silfra. Here we saw some people getting ready to snorkel in the Silfra Canyon which is famous for its crystal clear glacial water and blue color between the North American and Eurasian continental plates. Our faces turned green with envy.
We talked about doing this during the planning of our trip, but decided not to do it because of the cost and other factors. However, standing there and seeing these people getting ready to dive in, we quickly decided we had to do it as well and signed up for a trip the next morning. This is another advantage of not traveling during the high season; there is room for these impulse decisions.
Afterwards we drove to Reykjavik where we saw Hallgrimskirkja and Perlan viewpoint and museum. We just had to see some of Reykjavik while being here, even if it was just for a short time.
Sadly it was getting time to say goodbye to our camper Tormund, and we headed to the airport to return it. It was safe to say that we were a little nervous turning in the van because we had gotten a major crack in the windshield in the size of a humpback whale. Luckily we had bought the premium insurance and there was no problem with the return. Rent.is was so kind and just smiled and said we were wise to choose the expensive insurance.
From home we had rented another smaller car for the last few days of our trip. After the switch of cars, we drove to the Blue Lagoon. Here we were spoiled with facial masks, drinks, and the hot water. Everything you need after sleeping in a car for six nights.
Hallgrímskirkja, us spending quality time with our camper van, Tormund, and the view of Reykjavik from Perlan Museum.
The rest of our trip
We only had one full day left, which we started with snorkeling in Silfra. This has to be our favorite experience of this visit to Iceland – it’s hard to describe just how beautiful it really was.
Next stop was Glýmur, one of Iceland’s tallest waterfalls (around 200 meters). The hike there is really beautiful where we had to cross rivers and climb through caves, it’s not possible to reach the waterfall itself during this season though – but the trail is worth a visit in itself.
Our last destination in Iceland was probably the most well known view in Iceland – that of Kirkjufell Mountain and waterfall. This was truly incredible. We spent some time here – we brought blankets and celebrated the fact that we have now been friends for 20 years. It was a beautiful ending to a beautiful and memorable adventure.
This country is so spectacular and otherworldly – you simply cannot get enough of it. Each place is so unique and incredible. We will definitely return here someday, and maybe explore the highlands a bit more. Travelling here in October was a blessing and something we would recommend people doing. In wasn’t as expensive as it is during high season, it wasn’t overrun by tourists, and you felt you had most of the places to yourself and most important: the fall colors just made everything even more stunning. We were really lucky with the weather and had almost no rain. It was pretty cold, so if you intend to sleep in a car you should bring lots of warm clothes. It’s still not as cold, as it is during winter time, but you still have the chance to see the amazing northern lights. To rent a camper van and have the freedom to go wherever we wanted was just perfect! It’s a wonderful opportunity in a country like this.
Thank you for an amazing experience!
Until next time,
Mia and Christina, Denmark
Read more: A Canadian couple in Iceland
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