THE LAND OF FIRE AND ICE
I can still remember the moment when I was 12 and my sister was 7 and she said she wanted to go to Iceland some day. I was in shock not only because I didn’t know what she was talking about, but because she knew exactly what she was talking about. Ever since that day her love for Iceland grew only stronger and as you may already know Leš and I wanted to take her there. We arranged everything without Nina knowing and showed her the tickets only a month before. You can only imagine her reaction. Priceless.
We first went to Malmo, Sweden for few days (which you can read all about in my Sweden travel post) and then from there we took Flixbus to Copenhagen and flew directly to Reykjavik. From the moment we landed we could already see that black landscape we craved so much to experience. I can only put in words how we felt but it would hardly do it justice. On the airport we rented a car in the Blue car rental company which allowed us to rent it with our debit card only! Such a great company and a lovely staff as well. There was a whole week on the road ahead of us and we decided to sleep in the car to save the money as much as we can. It was late September so it got dark pretty early which made it more hard to find a good place to sleep. We were just driving for an hour or two and I saw the big parking lot on the map so we decided to make a stop and check it out. It turned out to be a perfect place for us. We felt very safe and didn’t have any company. In the morning, we got out of car and realised we were right next to some big waterfall the whole time. Our parking was the viewpoint. You can imagine our faces. We started running like little kids to get closer. It was such an unexpected moment and an unforgettable one as well. The whole sky was pink from sunrise and everything felt very magical. Later on, we learned that the name of this waterfall was Faxi.
As for the food, we were shopping at Bonus or Kronan. They are both really cheap, even for Croatian standards. During our 10 days there we only ate ‘the car food’ but we didn’t mind at all. TIP: Somewhere towards the end of our trip we discovered that the gas stations have (free) hot/boiled water so you can also buy instant soups to mix things up a little.
Before I continue I would like to share my Iceland google map with all the places I pinned for our trip. They are of course colour coded and I used little symbols for every place I found for easier map use. Hope it helps!
Our next stop was actually intended to be our first stop - the majestic Gullfoss. It is believed to be one of the strongest waterfalls in Europe. It was quite a rainy day and there was nobody there but us. It is usually very crowded here so we embraced the rain fully and went exploring.
We couldn’t get close because the water was too strong. It was also really cold and the wind was blowing hard. I liked the weather because I feel it needed to be experienced just like that. Right next to this waterfall there is the famous Geysir. Eruptions at Geysir can hurl boiling water up to 70 metres in the air. However, eruptions may be infrequent, and have in the past stopped altogether for years at a time. Some researches show that Geysir has been active for approximately 10,000 years. I would recommend visiting early in the morning because the crowd was crazy over there!
Few years ago I read somewhere about a bit less known hot springs nearby - Hrunalaug. I saw people on the internet having a bath there so we went to check it out. When we got there we realised it was too cold to even take our clothes off so we decided not to try it out. Our hopes were up for few other hot springs spots in the following days. I would recommend coming here only during summertime because it’s a long detour and definitely not worth coming here just for pictures. I would love to come back and jump in sometimes!
What happened next was greatly unexpected - we were just driving our car heading to Skogafoss when we stumbled across Seljandafloss - another majestic waterfall and it was only our first day in Iceland. It was easy to spot it from the main road so naturally we made a stop. I feel like I am not explaining enough but words are nothing compared to the feeling of being present in front of it. I hope pictures make it a bit more clear.
This was just a side of the road waterfall so I couldn’t even imagine how the others looked like. An hour later, we found out.
The rainbow was the first thing we saw and then Skogafoss presented itself in front of us. It was maybe the most exhilarating moment of my life, at least one of. You really feel the force of nature and the notion of not even being able to compare yourself as a human really takes you over. There is nothing more humbling in the world than realising this, at least that is my personal opinion.
After spending some time in the lower area right in front of the waterfall, we decided to take the stairs to the top of it. It was a bit challenging but we did it. Only after going up there we realised how high Skogafoss really is. It also allowed us to see it from a different perspective which was cool! You can’t use your drone here so it’s a shame, but my guess is you can come here during summertime in the middle of the night (because it’s still day outside) and maybe have better conditions crowd wise if nothing! We spent some quiet time just listening the water while we were up there and then we moved on to Vik to see a black sand beach! This was all happening during our first day in Iceland. When you wake up at 5 am and you are already on the road so many things can happen in a day!
Reynisfjara is a black sand beach near popular town Vik. TIP: If you are coming to the viewpoint with car I would definitely make sure it was a 4x4 car! The road is not safe for regular cars.
Also, this part is just a viewpoint and you are not close to the beach at all. To get there, you will need to take a different road. Before that, we also went to check out second beach in the area. There are many street signs so you can’t really miss it.
The weather was very strange and it seemed like the sun was eagerly trying to break through the clouds. The wind was blowing really hard tho so we went back to car after 10 minutes. It was already time to find another place to sleep that night. Looking back now, it was definitely our worst night sleeping in the car but only because the wind was blowing so hard that our car was significantly moving side to side the whole night. Would not do it again definitely. Nevertheless, early in the morning we got up and went straight to the beach from the centre of Vik. It was our first close contact with black sand which completely blew my mind. You know my love for black is real.
Because of the weather we didn’t walk the whole beach which I regret the most. I completely forgot that this beach has those beautiful rock formation I was dying to see. Haha I need to come back for those!
The rain started pouring all over my drone just when I started flying it so naturally we stopped and went back to the car. There is a cute little shopping mall just in front of this beach so we had coffee to go and waited for the rain to stop. It didn’t. We waited a bit more but it was only getting worse. At that point we felt like we are running out of time so we decided to go and move on with our roadtrip. The best thing about Iceland is the fact you could do your research and pinpoint everything you want to see but still you won’t be prepared for what really awaits you there. Just as we were casually driving further from Vik, we saw the sudden change in the landscape and decided to fly our drone to get a better perspective.
While driving we also stumbled upon Eldraun lava field. The fields get covered with moss (a common plant in Iceland) over time so they look like massive bubbles and also feel like that as well. It is strangely satisfying to walk over them; they are both soft and hard at the same time! This particular field is the most popular one since it derived from the most horrifying volcano eruption Europe has probably seen.
Over a course of eight months, between 1783 and 1784, the Laki fissure and the adjoining Grímsvötn volcano poured out an estimated 14 cubic kilometers of basalt lava and clouds of poisonous gases that contaminated the soil, killing half of Iceland's cattle and horses, and more than three-quarter of sheep. That year, nothing grew on the fields and no more fish could be found in the sea. The resulting famine killed approximately a quarter of the island’s human population.
Anyways, that’s what you get whenever you stop the car in Iceland. There is always something around to fascinate you.
Our next stop was one of the prettiest canyons in the world nobody can pronounce -Fjaðrárgljúfur. The detour from the main road is a bit long but definitely worth the drive. The canyon is thought to be about two million years old and it was formed into how it looks like today around 9000 years ago (the last Ice age period).
After we enjoyed our time by the canyon we were back in the car heading towards Jökulsárlón - a glacier lake in the south of Iceland. The Glacier Lagoon flows through a short waterway into the Atlantic Ocean, leaving chunks of ice on a black sand beach better known as Diamond beach. Sometimes, those ice chunks can be more than a meter wide but unfortunately that wasn’t the case at the time.
There is a possibility of booking a boat tour around the lake but we didn’t do it because it was very accessible by foot and also we were on the budget. I would gladly do it the next time!
As for the wildlife here, we tried to get in close contact with Icelandic sheep but they were often scared away. On the other hand, you will easily make friends with any horse out there. They are very very calm and approachable. Make sure you have some apples with you, they will love you even more.
The symmetry in the last photo tho, haha :)
I remember being really excited about visiting our next spot - another black sand beach near a small town Hofn. I would rather let pictures to speak for themselves than trying to describe the beauty of it.
Since we decided to do a whole circle around the island it was natural to presume that the northern part of it is already covered with snow. We didn’t know at what point of our trip is that going to happen so we kind of decided to go with the flow. That day after we spent the afternoon on this beautiful beach, we drove north with the intent to visit two waterfalls in northern-east area but it was also time to find a place to sleep. We were driving and driving but nothing seemed okay enough to park the car overnight. After few hours we were already deep in the mountains and we got pretty tired of searching so we just stopped by the road and parked right there. I was actually surprised to discover it was one of the better spots we’ve had so far even though it didn’t seem like it. I think by now you understand we woke up in the morning with snow inside our car haha! There was no point in going further down the road because it felt unsafe so we turned back and continued with our trip.
What happened next was definitely the highlight of our trip! As we were driving for hours in the snow, we saw hot springs natural pool called Mývatn Nature Baths. We were a bit sceptic to go because none of us had any kind of similar experience and it is simply unimaginable to take off all your clothes when it’s -2 degrees outside. Buuut, with a lot of convincing of each other we finally decided to give it a go! The entrance fee is around 30 euros per person (which compared to Blue Lagoon is not a lot). If you pay a little extra you get a robe and a towel but we just used ours free of charge of course. First, you enter a hallway and take off your shoes, then you go into the locker room where you need to take a shower with their antibacterial shower gel and wash yourself really really well. After that, you put on your swimsuit and go through automatic doors. You then have few meters to stick out in the cold until you enter the pool. The satisfaction you feel in that moment is beyond this world. I was never before that much grateful for the sole existence of warm water haha!
The best part is there is no limit in staying so you can soak aaaaaall day long. The downside is the rotten eggs smell but you get used to it after few minutes. The smell is just sulphate from the water, nothing to worry about. Even though we didn’t go to Blue Lagoon I would recommend Myvatn over it only because it is a bit more under the radar and the crowd is not unbearable. Also the price is three times better!
We needed to find a spot for sleeping that night so we left before it got too dark. Our next destination was going to be one mountain range but the road was closed due to winter conditions so we continued our way towards our last stop - a Snæfellsjökull National Park. En route there we got pretty lucky with the sunrise.
I think the most instagrammed volcano in Iceland is definitely Snæfellsjökull - a 700000 year old stratovolcano with a glacier covering its summit. The snow started falling just as we were entering the peninsula so we were watching weather conditions change in front of our eyes. The volcano was completely dry and after few minutes it was already covered with snow. It was magnificent to experience.
From all houses and buildings, I kind of mostly wanted to see the famous black church Búðakirkja. From obvious reasons I guess. The church is also situated on the peninsula so before returning to Reykjavik it was our final stop! I was surprised the church is actually really tiny and not functioning as a church at all. Well, considering there’s no one around I suppose it is not convenient at all, but nevertheless that left me a bit confused haha.
It was time to get back to Reykjavik. I don't really have much to share from there because after seeing this crazy Icelandic nature I wasn't at all inspired in the city. I need to experience it like a local but at the time we just didn’t have any extra money so I felt I couldn’t do anything in the city. Stupid feeling but I really wish someone will prove me wrong some day :)
I also realise this wasn't a travel guide as much as it was a detailed description and timeline of our trip but I hope you enjoyed it either way and found some useful information for yourself. We left many things yet to be seen but it's always nice to have something to come back too. There is sooo much to experience in Iceland and everything depends on the season. I can't recommend more than I've mentioned here because it really depends on what you want to see. Maybe only to try to go during summer because there is just much more available experiences, let’s put it that way. Please don't hesitate to ask me anything regarding to our trip, I would be happy to help in any way I can! If you are asking yourself whether you should visit, the answer is definitely YES. Iceland might be one of the best and most special countries in the world and I would never not want to visit it! Such an inspirational and magical place.
Anyways I’ll stop now.
Stay adventurous and I wish you happy travels! :)