Travel lovers takes on Iceland
As travel lovers and best friends Adriana and I get to travel a lot together including one big trip to celebrate our birthdays which happens to be on the same day. For a long time Iceland was on top of the list and travelling from our new homes in Dubai and London, the two Brazilians decided to finally take on Iceland!
The planning started for summer 2016 and soon we found out that most hotels were fully booked…
“What about renting a camper van?”
This was unusual coming from my friend (she is more akin to the fancy hotels of the world).
It was this simple question and response that subsequently was responsible for the trip of a lifetime! We found ourselves with a fully equipped rented camper van: and we were ready to get going!
We arrived in Reykjavik where we explored the city with lots of young people and artwork around the streets. Next morning we finally started our road trip. We were so excited! The journey was going to be an anti-clockwise trip starting heading down south.
Day 1 – Black sand beaches
We headed to Seljalandsfoss – A unique waterfall in the river Seljalandsá located only 40 minutes outside Reykjavik. On the way we passed by Eyjafjallajökull Volcano – the famous volcano that erupted in 2010 creating one of the biggest air travel disruptions since the Second World War. Then a quick stop at Seljavallalaug swimming pool – a beautiful 25-meter outdoor pool. Skógafoss – a stunning 60m high waterfall – where one of the “Thor” scenes was filmed.
Sólheimasandur black sand beach – on the beach is a wreckage of a USA DC 3 plane that had to do an emergency landing in 1973 after running out of fuel. I read that apparently the pilot had switched over to the wrong fuel tank but lucky for them, managed to survive!
Dyrhólaey – the “door whole island” with a breathtaking view to a black sand beach. Reynisfjara – a black pebble beach featuring an amazing cliff of basalt columns. From there you can see Reynisdrangar, the basalt sea columns in the ocean and there we saw loads of puffins.
Day 2 – Jökulsárlón
We started the day at Fjaðrárgljúfur, a massive canyon, about 100 meters deep and about two kilometres long. We then drove to Vatnajökull National Park, the second largest in Europe covering 13% of Iceland – a vast area with glaciers, rivers, mountain peaks and active geothermal areas. Batman Begins and Interstellar were shot nearby at Svínafellsjökull glacier, inside the park. We decided to hike up to Svartifoss – the black falls – a waterfall surrounded by lava columns.
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After that we headed to Jökulsárlón, a remarkable glacial lake located next to Vatnajökull glacier, Europe’s largest glacier. Wow wow wow! The color of the water is blue-green given
that the lagoon is a mix of fresh and salt water as it opens out into the ocean. No wonder this place served as the location for two James Bond films as well as Tomb Raider. We then headed south to Stokksnes.
Day 3 – Waterfalls
We started the day hiking up to Hengifoss, an easy hike, but it unfortunately rained and I left my waterproof jacket in the camper van (it was a beautiful day, I would have never thought it would rain but I discovered that when in Iceland, always carry your jacket!). Halfway up there was a smaller waterfall, Lítlanesfoss, surrounded by basalt columns in a honeycomb formation. After driving hundreds of kilometers we ended our day relaxing at the Mývatn Nature Bath.
Day 4 and 5 – Mývatn
We spent two days exploring the Mývatn Lake area. That area has a lunar-like landscape and it was one of the highlights for us. Just so you have an idea, the Apollo 11 astronauts went to the Leirphnjukur area in the late 60’s to practice for moon landings. How cool is that? There was also the awesome Hverir Geothermal Area with sulfurous mud springs, steam vents, cracked mud – such a surreal place. We also went to the Dimmuborgir lava fields, the Power plant viewpoint (a geothermal power station with bizarre sci-fi like architecture) – 85% of Iceland’s energy is from renewable resources, half of that is geothermal alone. Stora-Viti of Krafla – Caldera; Vindbelgjarfjall (Mt. Vindbelgur), Pseudo Craters site, and the exotic Grjótagjá Spring Cave, a small lava cave with a thermal spring inside. We were told a scene of Game of Thrones was filmed here (season 3 episode ‘Kissed by Fire’).
Day 6 – Waterfalls in North Iceland
We headed to the impressive Dettifoss where we were wowed when we saw the power of the 100m wide and 45m high waterfall. We had great views from the west bank. Nearby is Selfoss – a much smaller, but equally beautiful waterfall. We then headed towards Goðafoss – definitely one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Iceland the east bank is best for photos. In Iceland you see a waterfall every hour that goes by driving, the next more astonishing than the previous! We also drove around Öxnadalur, a magnificent valley with incredible views and from there we headed to Glaumbaer Farm to see one of the few remaining traditional turf buildings in Iceland. The farmhouse consists of 13 small buildings or houses, which date from the mid 18th century to 1879 and was inhabited until 1947. Before ending the day we stopped at Glanni waterfall.
Day 7 – Snæfellsnes
We started the day driving towards the Snæfellsnes peninsula. The landscape was breathtaking. We wanted to stop every 5 minutes. Several stops later, we finally reached our final destination: Kirkjufell Mount – an incredible mountain that stands right by the sea. The best view is by the side of Kirkjufellsfoss just on the other side of the road. This is the most photographed mountain in Iceland and once you get there you will understand why – it really is just beautiful. We had dinner at The Settlement Center – great food and lovely staff.
Day 8 – Þingvellir National Park
We headed to the Þingvellir National Park where we had previously booked to go snorkelling at Silfra. Silfra is the crack between North America and Europe. We actually snorkeled exactly where the tectonic plates meet which was quite something! How cold was the water? Cold.
Really cold. Really really cold, 2 degrees centigrade in fact. But we had the proper gear and the only part of our bodies that was exposed was our lips – 30 seconds in the water our lips were numb so we decided to get over it and enjoy the amazing view. The underwater visibility at Silfra is around 130 meters, one of the best in the world. We were told that this is because the water comes from the Langjoekull glacier and it is filtered by the underground lava until it reaches Þingvellir lake. It was a remarkable experience, so much so that we didn’t complain about being cold!
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Day 9 – Geysir
We woke up really early to go to the Geysir Center. We had never seen anything like that! One of the geysers, Strokkur, erupts every 5-8 minutes. I lost count of how long we spent there. It was just fascinating! After that we headed to the Gulfoss waterfall which is 70 meters high and located in the Golden Circle.
Day 10 – The Blue Lagoon
There is no better place to end your Iceland road trip than the Blue Lagoon, the famous geothermal spa located in a lava field in Grindavik. But it came with mixed feelings – we were sad that the trip was coming to an end but at the same time we were so happy that we managed to do everything we planned! We had no issues with the camper van, food (we had fridge and stove), comfy double bed and heating system (which was perfect for the cold nights), chairs & camping table (to relax and take in the stunning landscapes). We also had unlimited Wi-Fi (for keeping the followers updated!). I must be honest – I thought that spending such a long time in a camper van together would come with some stand-offs but I can confidently report back that there were none whatsoever. There is just a different bond when you are on a road trip. It’s like you’re a team, you have different responsibilities, one drives and the other takes care of the GPS and playlist; one cooks and the other does the dishes, one plans the itinerary and the other takes care of the accounts…
In 10 days we drove around 1600km in the most beautiful landscape we have ever seen. Iceland is definitely the world’s greatest playground for adventurous travellers. And driving a camper van gave us the freedom to explore as much as we wanted. No rush or worry about time or where we would sleep or eat. We could just pull over and enjoy the land until our bodies couldn’t cope anymore… Looking back I can only recollect our laughs, the plans we are making for the next road trip (in a camper van – obviously), the songs we sung at the top of our lungs (pitch perfect – obviously #not), waterfalls, glaciers, fjords, volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, hiking, snorkelling, whale spotting, bird watching and karaoke in the car… So many beautiful memories… This was a dream trip for sure and we can’t wait to go back in the winter. If you are thinking about going to Iceland: just pack your bags, make a playlist, and go! You don’t need anything else, but the camper van of course! And… Just go!
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