Eleven days around Iceland
11 days. 10 bed and breakfasts. 3400 kms of driving. 3000 photos. Best, cleanest drinking water on earth which you can drink out of the tap! Voted the friendliest country on earth. The toughest language to pronounce & speak (in our opinion!). Amazing scenery: volcanoes, lava fields, bubbling mud, waterfalls galore, fjords, mountains, glaciers, icebergs, vast gravel/rock fields which make you feel as if you are on the moon, sunsets, no darkness or no daylight. Flowers. Horses. Sheep roaming wild. The cutest birds on earth: Puffins. Out of this world experience. What else can I say? We absolutely loved Iceland and it was probably our favourite place to visit so far. Unfortunately we missed some key spots but one would need months in order to see it all. We didn’t get to do any glacier hiking, visit the famous Landmannalaugar area or see the northern lights – but that will have to be for next time. We booked a self drive trip through Icelandic Farm Holidays & we were very pleased with the service they provided, the accommodation bookings, the car & the beautiful guide book of Iceland that came with the package. If anyone is interested in doing this trip, check out ICELANDIC FARM HOLIDAYS (now called Hey Iceland).
Upon landing in Iceland the view from the plane was almost surreal. The landscape being very unique and beautiful.
The first thing we noticed were the numerous amounts of sheep.. everywhere.
And horses. They appear to be everywhere you look.
Our first stop was at Geysir hot springs.. where steam comes out of the ground and is up to 100 degrees celcius. The ground is bubbling and hot and steam is coming out everywhere.
At Gullfoss… the Golden waterfall. The upper is a drop of 11 meters and the lower is 21 meters.
Together they make Europe’s largest waterfall which plunges 32 meters into a steep sided canyon.
The famous Eyjafjallajökull (try pronouncing that, really) which erruped in 2010 and crippled all of Europe due to ash. It is 1666 meters high & has 100 square kms of glacier. We hiked up this hill & got an incredible 360 degree view of the area around us.
This is the lava field seen below us.
Seljalandsfoss – one of the most famous waterfalls of Iceland and photographed the most. It drops 200 feet and is possible to walk behind the falls. We did not do that. It was raining off and on and we were just too tired at this point. Regret it now.
Skógafoss – one of the biggest waterfalls in the country with a width of 82 feet and a drop of 200 ft.
Sólheimajökull glacier – you can take walking tours and drives but we did not have time for that. We just did a quick stop and see.
Vik. There are 3 different black beaches along this area. This is Dyrholaey (Doorway Hill). There are large rock formations sticking out from the water. The pebbles on the beach are black and so very smooth and shiny.
Then we drove around to the other beach, at the famous Gardar, where more pillars jut out of the water and where these perfectly shaped columns jut out of the rocks.
We drove along an area that had the worst devastation from Laki volcano erruption in 1783-84. 565 square kms were destroyed – the largest in the world from a one time erruption. It killed over 50% of Iceland’s livestock population, leading to a famine that killed approximately 25% of the island’s human population. This was one of the heaviest blows to the Icelandic population. The Laki eruption and its aftermath caused a drop in global temperatures, as sulfur dioxide was spewed into the Northern Hemisphere. This caused crop failures in Europe and may have caused droughts in India. The eruption has been estimated to have killed over six million people globally making the eruption the deadliest in historical times.
It was nothing but miles and miles of moss covered rock formations. I had to get out and feel it. It was like stepping on the softest carpet on earth. And so beautiful.
Jökulsárlón – a large glacial lake in southeast Iceland, on the borders of Vatnajökull National Park. WOW! Floating icebergs. So surreal.
We spent some time here just marveling at the various colors of the icebergs & watching the birds diving in the water for fish.
We didn’t have time to do a boat tour but would have loved to just so that we could get close up views.
Various scenery along our drive through Djupavogshreppur.
And finally puffins! We stopped in a small town called Egilsstaðir for the night and after we checked in I read in my tour book that puffins can be spotted at the top of the fjord, at Hofn. So I made John drive up hwy 94 and right up to the end and sure enough we found puffins. I was so happy! The holes you see are all puffin homes.
The drive back was surreal. We had the best local fish soup at Alfa Cafe, in a town called Borgarfjörður, then drove back along some incredible scenic roads which snaked back and forth through the fjord, with the setting sun.
By the time we got back to our bed and breakfast we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset and just in time to sit on our patio with a glass of wine, at midnight!
As we continued our drive, we came upon a very desert but moonlike looking place. We stopped at this random spot where there was a picnic table overlooking miles of open space. We had a picnic lunch and chilled out for a while. We were the only ones here. It totally felt like being on the moon.
Next: Dettifoss – 330 feet wide and 150 feet high with average volume of 212 tons per second – the ground shakes with the force of it. Its the most powerfull falls in Europe. But getting there was a pain in the butt – 28kms one way, along a rough washboard gravel road.
My brain was shaking after the drive. But it was worth it, not only for the falls but for the massive canyon wall and river views as well.
Close to Lake Mývatn – at Hverar & Krafla. Námafjall is a high temperature geothermal area with fumaroles and mud pots. At a depth of a 100 meters the temperature is above 200 celcius. The smell of sulphur was so strong I wanted to vomit and immediately got a headache from it. But what an amazing place.
At a beautiful crater lake where we hiked all around the perimeter.
The famous Goðafoss “the waterfall of the gods”. One of the most spectacular waterfalls of Iceland.
The town of Akureyri. Nicknamed the Capital of North Iceland. It was a very lively, bustling town with people enjoying the outdoor cafe’s & the limited summer temperatures & sunshine. It was sunny and 24 degrees today!
We continued on to Glaumber, where we found some of the famous Icelandic Turf houses – they offer superior insulation compared to buildings solely made of wood or stone.
In Grof. A turf church made from a wooden frame. It is considered to be the oldest chapel in the country and is also the smallest church in Iceland. It is the country’s oldest architecture and now preserved by the national museum.
In Siglufjörður – a small fishing town in a narrow fjord with the same name on the northern coast.
We came back to our guesthouse Hofsstadir and to the most beautiful sunset. We sat for a couple of hours taking it all in.
And when we looked behind us, there was nothing but a glorious massive full moon!
The next day we headed to the west fjords and towards a town called Hvammstangi. At every town we would stop and wander around, take in the sights, the people, the animals and 100's of photos.
This is at the most northern tip of Iceland.
Various scenery along HWY 60 & up to Dynjandisheidi.
The Dynjandi “Resounding” falls are the biggest in the western Fjords & one of the nicest in Iceland. They are actually 6 falls, with the top one alone being 300 feet high. We hiked up almost a kilometer to reach the very top falls along very steep terrain.
We continued our drive right to the end of the fjord where we stayed in Breidavik.. which was our hotel name as well as basically the only thing there. The drive to there was brutal. Rough, pot-holed gravel roads, no guard rails, sheer cliffs straight to the water on one side and loose rocks above us on the other side. Blind corners. Nerve wracking but beautiful.
I insisted on driving another 7 kms right to the end, at Rauðisandur, where there is a lighthouse and the famous cliff called Látrabjarg… where hundreds and hundreds of puffins and other birds live. It is also the westernmost point in Iceland. The cliff is 1000 feet tall at the highest point and is very dangerous as there are high winds and very loose soil and rocks.
And the famous Blue Lagoon. The milky white layer on the rocks are mineral deposits. We couldn't bypass this even though its become quite the tourist trap, but one has to do it at least once to cross it off the list. It was fantastic even though there were too many people. The naturally heated pool is supposed to be therapeutic and full of minerals. It even has a swim up bar :)
The famous Hallgrímskirkja – a Lutheran parish church in Reykjavík. What a sight to see - in all its glory.
And the pretty city of Reykjavík. I loved this city. Its vibrant. Its fun. Its colourful; both the way people dress and the colors of their homes. The people are friendly and amazing. It feels super safe. Because its summer and light almost 24 hours, people are awake and on the streets all night long and they sleep during the day. We spent a couple of days here, walking around, taking it all in, enjoying the different food choices and just people watching.
And with that, our 11 days in Iceland all too quickly came to an end. Its probably one of our most memorable trips. And off we went to Slovenia, Venice, Austria and Croatia next.