We recently went on vacation to Iceland! The country was epic and otherwordly, and the adventure was one to be had. We left for Iceland on the heals of our return from Hawaii, and traveling east after traveling west, definitely created a slump in our energy. We flew overnight, and when we arrived we were wiped out. Fortunately, Michael was wrapping up business meetings, so this provided a day for me and Ryan to rest and adjust to the new time zone.
After a day of recovery we were off on our Southern Iceland road trip. I based our itinerary on two popular routes: Ring Road and the Golden Circle.
- Ring Road or Route 1 is a national road in Iceland that circles the island.
- The Golden Circle is a loop in the South that covers several primary stops.
We kicked off our adventure on day one in the charming town of Reykjavik. We stopped by Hallgrimskirkja, which is a beautiful church that features a viewing platform within the steeple and it provides an incredible view of the city. Then we headed to a local cafe, C is for Cookie, in downtown Reykjavik, to grab breakfast and coffee before hitting the road. After breakfast we drove 45 minutes northeast to Thingvellir National Park, which falls on the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates come together. Here we were able to see some really cool ridges. After Thingvellir we continued east for about an hour to The Great Geysir (the namesake for all geysers), which is a highly active hot spring area featuring boiling mud pits and exploding geysers. At Geysir there's a gift shop and cafe where we grabbed lunch. About ten minutes down the road from Geysir is the incredible Gulfoss waterfall. After Gulfoss we drove south for an hour and ended our day at the lovely Hestheimar Horse Farm, which has a guesthouse and cottages, and a restaurant that serves delicious family style meals. We stayed in one of the cottages and loved it.
On day two we had breakfast at Hestheimar and then headed southeast for 40 minutes to the majestic Seljalandsfoss waterfall; it's one of Iceland's tallest waterfalls and you can even walk behind it. After Seljanlandsfoss we headed down Route 1 for 30 minutes, along the coast to the Skogafoss waterfall. After Skogafoss, we made a quick stop at the Skogar museum, which features small turf houses and offers a really interesting look into Icelandic society of the past. Then we continued down Route 1 for an hour, admiring the snowcapped mountains and epic shoreline, stopping in Vik for some shopping at the Icewear factory and lunch at Halldorskaffi. After lunch we walked down to the black sand beach to check out the Reynisdrangar sea stacks. When we were finished in Vik, we drove northeast for an hour to Fosshotel Núpar, a hotel surrounded by lava fields, where we stayed for the next two nights.
On day three we slept in a little bit and had breakfast at the hotel before driving east for an hour to the Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon. This was probably my favorite destination of the entire trip. The entire country is breathtaking—the mountains, the waterfalls, the coastline, the lava fields—but there was something so new to me about the lagoon, it was unlike anything I had ever seen, and I loved it! In the warmer months you can take a boat cruise in the lagoon, but since it was still very cold, we admired the icebergs from the shore. When we were finished at the lagoon, we continued on Route 1 for another hour to Hofn, a small fishing town also known as the lobster capital of Iceland. While there we had an incredible lobster (langoustine) lunch at Kaffi Hornid. After Hofn we headed back to the Fosshotel Núpar, where we had dinner and spent the night.
Day four was our last day in country, so we packed our bags and headed west on Route 1 toward Keflavik Airport. This was definitely the most challenging leg of our trip. Throughout our time in Iceland, we noticed that is was incredibly windy, but this day, the wind was overwhelming—we could feel it pulling the car as we drove, and eventually we drove into a massive sand storm (or ash storm). In all of my research on Iceland before our trip I never realized how much of an impact the volcanic activity would have had on the environment—but because of the volcanoes there are huge sections of land that are like a desert with volcanic ash as far as the eye can see. We finally made it through the storm, and continued on with the journey until about three-quarters of the way there we noticed that our gas was almost on empty. Somehow with the wind we had used almost a full tank of gas. We crossed our fingers and drove until we finally reached a town with a gas station. After we filled our gas we headed to the Blue Lagoon, which is a pool of geothermal saltwater. Most people visit to go in the lagoon or the spa, but we made a quick stop just to see it before heading to the airport.
Throughout our stay in Iceland, I kept thinking that this island is such an incredible example of the world at work. Snow-peaked mountains from almost every view. Lava fields and evidence of volcanic activity. Rivers and waterfalls rushing past. Beach coastlines and ocean waves crashing to shore. The extreme climate and landscape was unlike anything I had ever seen before; so pure and untouched.