We started our road trip with my girlfriend Alexandra just before the Easter holidays. We had 10 days to spare and a few places we wanted to visit next to the road number 1 - also known as the Ring Road. The nature in Iceland is incredibly beautiful where all the classical elements are present in different forms. This is a country full of contrast and extreme opposites. Landscapes surprise you all the time, sometimes in vivid colours, sometimes in muted tones. You might see water as steam, liquid, ice, and snow at the same time and I've never been in a place which is as windy as this country. All together it creates an incredible and mystical country.
Saturday 12th: Reykjavik, Þingvellir National Park and Hveragerði
On Saturday 12th, after bying the basic survival kit we began to discover Iceland. We rented a small (cheap) car from Adventure Car Rental (I fully recommend them), which was a good compromise, even though a bigger car would have been easier for discovering the wildest and remotest places.
From Reykjavik we headed to Thingvellir National Park, a protected area mainly including lakes, mountains and volcanos. After a nice walk leading to the Öxarárfoss waterfall, we drove straight to Hveragerði.
We parked the car in Hveragerði and we were ready for 3km hike to the hot river. As It was already dark when we arrived, we were in a hurry to set up our tent next to the hot river. It was one of the most incredible places ever and I can't even describe the feeling when you're sitting in 42°C hot river while drinking some red wine and watching northern lights dancing above us.
Sunday 13th: Hveragerði and Rangárþing eystra
We woke up the next morning in a radically different place, the sun was shining and everything looked so bright. It was an amazing feeling to enjoy a morning bath next to snowy mountains. After few hours of relaxation and a few beers we explored the surrounding areas and we found some hot springs, boiling mud spots and a waterfall. One advice if you go there : bring a pot and try to cook pasta in the boiling part of the river !
We left the place in the afternoon while other tourist were hiking up to the place. After a grocery shopping stop in the closest Bonus (an Icelandic supermarket) we found an hostel to spend the night. After a bottle of wine and few tortilla, we fell asleep in the warm and cosy bed.
Monday 14th: Rangárþing eystra, Seljalandsfoss, skogafoss, Seljavallalaug pool, Sólheimasandur and Vik
The day after we followed the road to see Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls. Since it was cold, rainy and windy, we felt bad for one bride which was being photographed next to the waterfall in a strapless dress while the groom was sitting in a warm car.
Just after a few kilometres of driving, we found an almost-warm-enough swimming pool in the middle of the mountains, we stayed there for an hour relaxing and enjoying the view over the snowy mountains. The place was lovely and old fashioned at the same time.
We wanted to find an airplane wreckage somewhere in Sólheimasandur, but we had no idea which way we were supposed to take with the car. There wasn't any roads going next to the sea, just a huge black beach. Despite of our city car we were able to drive in the beach without getting stuck in the black sand and rocks. Surprisingly we found the wreckage randomly at the first try. It was located in the middle of this lava stone desert and the feeling was quite apocalyptic.
We headed to Vik, the southernmost village of Iceland for a pizza and we spent the night there.
Tuesday 15th: Vik, Vatnajoekull, Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon and somewhere on road number 1
Our fourth day was pretty icy ! We drove to the biggest glacier of Iceland - Vatnajökul. As we didn't have the proper outfit nor equipment to hike and get lost on the ice we simply checked the beginning of the frozen area. It was very slippery but it was definitely worth it. It looked like a huge cup of ice-cream! There's no question about if we're going back there during winter to explore the glacier areas and ice caves! Unfortunatly a hailstorm forced us to turn back to the car.
We continued the road number 1 until the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon, the perfect place to watch seals in the middle of icebergs. It was a magical place even though it was super windy.
At the end of the day, we were looking for a good spot to the spend the night in the car in order to save money. I brought the mattress of my room in Reykjavik and I put it in the car trunk so actually it was quite comfortable to sleep in the car! On the way we watch the sunset and had a cigarette break next to a group of swans. A black swan was hidden in the middle. I guess it was the first time I saw one! We finally found our sleeping spot, next to a cliff above into the ocean. It could be worse...
Wednesday 16th: Somewhere on road number 1, Fáskrúðsfjörður, Dettifoss waterfall and Mývatn
After being woken up by the sunshine, we drove to a small fisherman village called Fáskrúðsfjörður. There was a cute old church which has been turned into a hostel. ( you should try to spend an night there, it’s probably very nice!) Then we drank some coffee and eat a delicious apple-caramel pie next to the harbour to gain strength. We were finally ready to start our driving day!
After 2 hours driving we faced dead end because of the snow. Well we were lucky because the other road was open but sometimes you just don't have any options to continue. So we had to drove back and take another direction! The way to north was incredible, snow was invading the landscapes and everything looked so bright! A snow fight in the middle of nowhere was a good way to have a break.
Afterwards we drove straight to Dettifoss waterfall which is supposed to be the most powerful in Europe! The 45 meters cliff leading to canyon is really impressive, you feel powerless standing next to it.
On the way to find an hostel we crossed a geothermal area with boiling mud ponds and pots. The place was quite steamy and smelling old eggs. We finally found a creepy hotel but at least we saw northern lights before going to sleep.
Thursday 17th: Mývatn, Víti, Grjotagja and Akureyri
The next morning we stayed in the same area, there was few other places we wanted to see. First we were looking for a lake inside a volcano crater, but we couldn’t find anything because of the thick snow layer so we decided to hike to the top of the mountain Krafla to have an overview on the landscape. It was pretty hard to walk there because there was no path and the mountain was steep, we were almost climbing. Once we finally arrived to the top, we saw the crater Víti and realised that it was full of snow (we thought there would be hot water), so we just admired the view and slid the way down!
After a lunch break we were searching for a hot spring we got a little bit lost in a lava field. The contrast between the green vegetation and the black stones was beautiful. After a nice and cold walk we went back to the car and drove to the correct location. The Grjotagja hot spring is located in a dark cave which has been dug by lava. We were quite disappointed when we arrived there because it was forbidden to swim there due to the high temperature of the water. The water was limpid, the color was stunning, and actually the temperature was perfect! After few minutes hesitation we decided to break the rule. It was really worth it! And at some point a group of Icelandic men came to the cave to have an evening bath, washing hair and having a beer. It was like a local traditional spa.
After this lovely break, we drove straight to Akureyri, the second largest city of the country. We had a late dinner and a few beers in a really nice bar, but unfortunately the place was closing at midnight.
Friday 18th: Akureyri, seaside road and Ísafjörður
Friday was a driving day! We wanted to reach Ísafjörður before the evening because of Aldrei - I never went South rock festival. Road number 1 was close so we had to follow the coast to go further. The landscape was stunning, the sea and the mountains were following each other. At one point the road became really difficult and dangerous to drive because of a snow storm and the snowy ice layer on the ground. We almost couldn’t see anything, just a huge white area. Luckily someone was driving in front of us so we had something to follow and guide us. The way to Ísafjörður was pretty long so I started teaching Finnish to Alexandra.
After an amazing drive we arrived to a really cute town. We got prepared quickly and went to the festival with a few friends of mine. The festival took place in an open warehouse next to the sea. We drunk a few beers we were dancing and enjoying the music until the end. It was a great feeling to listen to the music in a snow storm! Finally we slept in the car to the save to save money.
Saturday 19th: Ísafjörður and “Aldrei Fór Ég Suður festival"
The next morning we woke up really late even though we were sleeping in the car. The snow on the car windows was protecting us from the sunlight, it probably helped us.
After a huge grocery shopping and a stop a Vinbudin (Icelandic liquor store - the only chain to buy alcohol) we found a nice and expensive hostel to spend the night. We made a super big brunch, and as we ate way too much we had to take a nap (even though we woke up 4 hours before..) to be ready for the second night of the festival!
The Iceland bands were pretty good and the atmosphere there was awsome and friendy! Elder people, children, students… all generations were gathering to enjoy the music.
Sunday 21st: Ísafjörður and Guðrúnarlaug
On Sunday, we haven’t done many things. We were pretty tired because of the weekend and we were driving back towards Reykjavik. We stopped at the oldest hot tube in Iceland. It was so cute and the changing room looked like a hobbit house. If the water was 2 or 3 degrees warmer it we would have spent hours there.
As it was already dark, we decided to find an hostel. After few fails, we found something and bargained the room for half the price. We only had pasta and there was no kitchen for the customers so we asked if we could use the kitchen of the restaurant. After few seconds of hesitation the reception girl allowed us to cook our pasta there. The chef (an British guy usually working at Harpa - the concert hall of Reykjavik) was in the kitchen and I guess he didn’t really want us there. So he gently pushed us away and told us that he’s gonna cook our pasta... A quarter later he brought us 2 plates of pasta covered with a lamb sauce and three doggy bag boxes filled with garlic and parsley flavoured pasta. We were really thankful since you don't really meet these kind of kindness that often.
Monday 22nd: Hraunfossar waterfalls, Husafell, Deildartunguhver and Reykjavik
Our last day was really lazy. We visited Hraunfossar waterfall, then we went to Husafell to see some stone sculptures. Our last stop was Deildartunguhver, a hot spring with the highest flow rate in Europe.
There's no question if we're coming back to Iceland or not. There's still a plenty of things to explore.