“The only trip you’ll regret is the one you didn’t take – Anonymous“
Land of Fire and Ice – Yes! Parts of Game of Thrones were shot there – with about 130 volcanoes and and around 14% of land area occupied by lakes and glaciers, is a paradise for any adventure and nature lover. Considered as one of the most beautiful place on the planet, Icelandic charm attracts people from all over the world to explore the barren wilderness with some of the most unique terrains on the planet. Before you get all excited and pack your bags, ask yourself – Are you a tourist or a traveler? If you’re a tourist, 3 days is more than sufficient for you to get the feel of Iceland. If you’re a traveler, you need at least a week. I completed my journey in 7 days, with the road trip taking 6 days. Take my word for it, its the shortest time required for a quick skim over what Iceland has to offer. This is the story of my 6 day road trip around Iceland Ring Road with Bryan, Luisa and Avara. Here we go!!
It all began in mid February 2017 when I decided to take a road trip around Iceland when I return from my vacation in India. Iceland is quite expensive for a solo traveler. So, mission 1: Find travel partners. None of my friends around the world were able to help me in this regard. Solution, look to the web. Even though it might sound like I’m advertising the Lonely Planet, I have to acknowledge their help in finding my travel buddies. Following my post in ThornTree forum under Lonely Planet, Bryan (Singapore) contacted me and we formed a team with Avara (Australia) and Luisa (Mexico). We never met each other, and communicated online and made car rental, tents and sleeping bag reservations. We agreed to meet up on June 11th in Keflavik International Airport. Pretty convenient, right! Thanks ThornTree!!
I arrived Reykjavik at 00:30 on the 10th with the Icelandair landing into the sunset. Oh yeah, in summer, the sun sets at around 11:55 pm and rises at 3:00 am. So, basically, there’s no night! I stayed at Hosteling International hostel at Reykjavik for 2 nights till I met up my road trip buddies. Bryan and I explored Reykjavik for a bit on the 10th along with Bryan’s couch-surfer friend Jiri. Finally, all 4 of us met at the airport on 11th morning and the rental company (Rent-a-Wreck) delivered our 2014 Dacia Duster 4×4 at the airport. And so, the journey officially began at 11 am on the 11th of June 2017 and we returned to Reykjavik to pick up our camping equipment. Mission 2: meet up with friends and begin the road trip. Status : Success!
The most commonly visited place in Iceland is the Golden circle which includes the famous Gullfoss waterfalls, the Haukadalur Geysers and the Þingvellir National Park. There’s a Crater lake as well, but we skipped that one and joined on to the Route 1 near Hella. The Golden circle is the most famous tourist attraction in Iceland, along with Blue Lagoon as they can be covered in a single day trip from Reykjavik. So, if you have less than 3 days, that is your cup of tea. Make sure you spend a few minutes at Strokkur geyser, to get a good eruption shot. The route 1 opens the pandoras box of stunning landscapes Iceland is famous for.
The first destination to look out for is Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Its an amazing waterfall, but what makes it special is that you can go behind the falls and enjoys a ‘behind the scenes’ view (But be ready to be drenched). There’s a camping ground next to it too. But since we wanted to save costs, we decided not to stay set up camp in camping grounds as they charge ~$15 per person per night. Instead we drove to the next falls, Skogafoss. As expected there is a camping ground right in front of it, but we decided to camp amidst the the purple flowers (Alaskan lupine) next to route 1. It is legal for camp anywhere in Iceland as long as its not a nature reserve or private property and as long as you don’t damage the flora. We were a little anxious when we set up the tent and went to sleep, but in the morning we found about 5 other groups camping near us. Oh yeah, make sure you have eye masks if you can’t sleep with the lights (remember, sun sets at 00:00).
Next morning, we used the campground to freshen up. Since food in restaurants are quite expensive, we had purchased bread, noodles, oatmeal and other quick bites from supermarket in Reykjavik before we set off. The first destination was of course the Skogafoss waterfalls. Its a good exercise to climb all the steps to the top of the falls. As for morning shower, near the falls there is a free hot spring called Seljavallalaug pool. Its 20 mins hike from the parking and its a small pool with a tiny changing room. So, make sure you get there early or else, you might find it crowded. Mýrdalsjökull glacier was our next stop. Its a pretty popular glacier hiking location, but its quite expensive and need a few hours. The glacier looked kinda dirty with black dirt smeared on it, but eluded an otherworldly charm.
Sólheimasandur black sand beach holds the famous DC-3 wreckage. You get to see the mangled remains of the US Navy DC-3 that crash landed there in 1973 (Everyone survived). However, be ready to walk 8 km round trip on flat barren land (Approx 3 hrs) to see this hauntingly attractive weather beaten wreckage of a flying machine. It might appear close, but take my word for it : Distances in Iceland are further than they appear (we learned it the hard way). Next stop, arch with the hole – Dyrholaey. The road to Dryholaey gives a glimpse of the magical beauty of Iceland. To get on top of the headland, you need a 4×4 (you can thank me later) and good driving skills. Alternatively, you can park at the bottom and walk. Your call! We had our lunch at the edge of the cliff. Heavenly!! The view is breathtaking and exhilarating. There is a light house on top as well. From the top you can see the Black sand beaches of Vik that are famous for the rock formations. As you can guess, that was our next destination. After playing around the beach for a while, we decided to drive further and find a place top camp. Further ahead we got to see the wonderland of Eldhraun lava field, that has moss covered lava covering close to 600sq.km following the Lakagígar eruption in 1783-84. And please do not step on the moss or damage it in any way as it takes close to 20-0 years to reach its current state. After the lava field, we set up camp near Hof (not Hofn) just outside farmlands (outside the fences). It was very cloudy and drizzling when we set up the camp. The grass formed good cushions under the tent.
Day 1 and 2 Map
—————————–End of Day 2 and Part 1 or Iceland Road Trip Blog!——————————-
PS: I wanted to write it as a single blog post, but it’ll be too long. So, I’ll split it into 2 or 3.