ICELAND ROAD TRIP


.
This post is way, way overdue (how is it possible that our trip was 5 months ago?!), but I couldn’t let my photographs and thoughts on this incredible place go un-posted.  Settle in with a hot chocolate, because this is going to be long.
.
It had always been a dream of mine to do a road trip around the Ring Road in Iceland.  Every single photo I saw took my breath away, and I knew that I was determined to go someday.  When we started to plan our Europe trip over a year ago, there was no question that we would set aside a week or so for our road trip.
.
There’s not much I love more than researching for a trip, and luckily Iceland required a lot of planning.  I read a lot of blog posts, articles and TripAdvisor forums to narrow down the places we would stop at each night, and the landmarks/attractions we wanted to visit.  I eventually settled on this route, driving anti-clockwise around the country, stopping for a night each in Selfoss, Vik, Höfn, Egilsstaðir, Akureyri, Grundarfjörður, and 2 nights in Reykjavik at the end.  All up, we spent 8 nights there.
.

.
We landed at Keflavik Airport very late at night, picked up our hire car and started the drive.  Luckily our first stop, Selfoss, was only 45 minutes away, but we didn’t arrive until about 2.30am.  One of the fascinating things about Iceland is that in spring/summer (it was late spring when we visited), the sun only sets at about midnight, and rises again at about 3am.  Even when the sun is set, it never gets completely dark, instead appearing to be more like twilight.  It was a bizarre and other-wordly feeling, and this feeling stayed with us during the whole trip.  Iceland is like another planet, I have never been anywhere like it, and likely never will again.
.

.
On our first full day, we woke up in Selfoss after a couple of hours sleep and set off again.  First stop was Bónus, the Icelandic supermarket, to pick up some groceries.  Most of the places we would be staying were quite remote, with not much opportunity to purchase food.
.
This first day of our road trip was spent visiting most of the landmarks in the ‘Golden Circle’, such as Gulfoss waterfall, Strokkur geyser and Reynisfjara Beach.  As the Golden Circle is a popular day trip from Reykjavik, there were quite a few tourists at each spot, though this didn’t diminish the majesty of them of at all.
.

.
Gulfoss waterfall
.

.
Strokkur geyser
.

.
The incredible contrasts of Reynisfjara Beach
.

.
Basalt rock formations at Reynisfjara Beach
.
By far my favourite spot on this day was Skogafoss waterfall.  I had seen it in photos so many times, but seeing it in person was an incredible experience.  I remember standing on the wet stones in front of it, feeling the freezing spray on my face, and saying over and over “I can’t believe I’m here”.  By the time we arrived it was about 8pm (though still broad daylight!), and it was practically deserted.  It was probably one of my favourite moments of the entire trip, and possibly my whole life.
.

.
Skogafoss waterfall
.
We then set off in search of our Airbnb (a little cottage on a farm) for the night, and ended up getting lost.  It was extremely foggy and we couldn’t see a thing.  I was beginning to lose phone reception, and I was starting to panic.  We were in the middle of literal nowhere, with no end in sight.  Finally, eventually we reached the cottage.  When we woke up the next morning, the fog had lifted and we could see where we were.  Farm land stretched for kilometres all around us, and we could see how isolated we really were.  By far the best bit was discovering a goat and her two babies sleeping underneath our window – baby lambs and goats were everywhere in Iceland, they were the cutest little things!  And the horses – they are the most beautiful horses I’ve ever seen, with some amazing hair!
.


.
We set off again and headed for the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, which was an incredible sight.  We then went to the black sand beach on the other side of the road from the glacier, which had icebergs of varying sizes washing up onto the shore.  We felt a very very long way from Bondi Beach!
.




.
On the drive to our next Airbnb, we stumbled across a stream and a waterfall on the side of the road.  We stopped to take photos and fill our water bottles with the crystal clear glacier water.  The best thing about Iceland wasn’t even the incredible sights listed on travel websites, but the ones you randomly find when you’re not expecting it.   Another memorable sight was a huge cliff face with tiny houses in front of it, with waterfalls all along the cliff.  Imagine living here?!
.


.
We arrived in Höfn for the night, which was a little more built-up than our previous stop.  We were staying in a granny flat underneath the host’s house, and about 10 minutes after we got there, I had accidently locked us both out of the flat.  The host wasn’t answering her phone for hours, and we started to think that we might have to sleep in our car, in sub-10 degree weather.  Luckily I finally got onto her, and it turned out she had a spare key hidden.  What a relief!
.

.
Dyrholaey
.

.
Dettifoss waterfall
.
The following day was a long day of driving, with not many pit-stops on the way.  We were getting closer to the north of the country, where it was colder and more desolate.  This made for some pretty incredible scenery though.  In
Egilsstaðir we stayed in another tiny cabin, but at least this time we were near a little village, where we stocked up on wine and pizza.
.

.
The next day, we visited a few waterfalls and Námafjall, a lava field and mud plot.  The scenery all around us was a vivid red, and it felt like being on Mars.  While the views were incredible, the strong stench of sulphur was less so.  We arrived in Akureyri that night, Iceland’s northernmost city, which is only 100km away from the Arctic Circle.  Akureyri was a charming little city, and we stayed in tiny cottages with incredible views of the surrounding mountains.
.


.
Our second last day was another day of mostly driving, and one more night on the road at Grundarfjörður, on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in the far west of Iceland. To get there, we had to drive on dirt roads for about 3 hours, which had been turned to mud in the rain. When we finally reached the cottage, our little red car had been turned brown. We visited the little seaside village in search of food (and a hose to clean our car), but for some reason everywhere was closed. We eventually found a food truck selling hot dogs, but these were no ordinary hot dogs. We settled on their specialty, which involved garlic sauce, melted cheese and crushed Doritos. It sounds gross, but it was probably the best hot dog I’ve ever eaten in my life.
.
The following morning we started the final leg of our drive before arriving in Reykjavik for 2 nights.  Iceland’s capital is less of a city and more of a large town – there are no tall buildings, just quaint streets, residential areas and a beautiful harbour.  I was delighted to discover, after the muted tones and monochromatic landscapes of the rest of Iceland, that Reykjavik was a riot of bright colours and pastels.  The houses and buildings were painted gorgeous hues of rust red, pale blue, and bright pink, and there was lots of greenery.  We went to the top of Hallsgrimkirkja church, which has beautiful views of the city.  It was the perfect vantage point to see all the colours in their glory.
.


.
The final stop on our Iceland adventure was of course to the Blue Lagoon.  It was the perfect way to cap off our trip, it was beautiful and relaxing and it felt amazing to be submerged in hot water after a week of constantly feeling cold and a little damp.
.


.
Last minute thoughts and tips:
.
Definitely hire a car if you have time to explore.  They drive on the right hand side of the road, but it was an easy adjustment as most of the roads are practically deserted, and in mostly long stretches.
.
Stop for petrol whenever you can, as you don’t know when there might be another petrol station.
.
If hiring a car, go with a 4WD if you can.  We had a little hatchback, and while it got us everywhere we wanted to go, it struggled on some dirt roads and rocky trails where a 4WD wouldn’t.
.
Waterproof clothing is a must – it only rained on our first day, but it is a very damp place, especially if you’re visiting waterfalls.  I wore a Uniqlo down jacket every day, it kept me perfectly warm and dry.
.
If you’re road tripping around the Ring Road, pick up groceries at the start or when you can.  Some of the more remote places won’t have anywhere to buy food.  All of the Airbnbs we stayed in had a small kitchenette.
.