Most tourists to Iceland are content with the Southern Iceland and Area near Reykjavik. However, to get a feel for the true bonhomie of volcanic wilderness and the glaciers, you need to experience the Eastern and the rest of Iceland. The adventure part of an Icelandic road trip begins at this point. However, keep in mind that the routes get harder, and you’ll pass through lesser number of towns. But if you go during peak tourist season, you’ll be able to meet fellow drivers occasionally. And if you’re a camping/ hiking enthusiast, you better start planning a trip here. Also, make sure you download offline maps on your phone, if you’re not using a car GPS.
Once we left Hof, our first destination was a glacier lake. Afterall, its the namesake of Iceland. For the adventurer in you (with a heavy wallet), you could even try a 1 day glacier hike at Jökulsárlón Glacier or could take a boat ride in the lagoon. Unfortunately, we did neither, but savor the stunning view. Close to lagoon is the Diamond beach where you can watch small icebergs drift into the ocean. The black sand beach is littered with small chunks of glittering clear ice with a light blue hue, giving a feast to the eyes. I can assure you you’d have no doubts why the beach is called Diamond beach. Regrettably, the weather Gods weren’t quite benevolent with us that day as it was quite cloudy and gloomy. But we still kept going, through the cliffs of eastern seaboard of Iceland. After Djúpivogur, we decided to take a detour from the route 1. A wise decision indeed.
However, if you’re not very comfortable driving a manual car on steep climbs with sharp turns, I’d urge you not to attempt it. This unpaved route is quite dangerous and hard, but the view it offers its totally worth the effort. You’ll be driving through green grass covered mountains and sharp cliffs. Some 30 mins into this road, the weather became so foggy that I could hardly see anything. It was a real test of my driving skills as a second of carelessness could cause serious accidents. This route 939 is much shorter, but takes more or less the same time to drive due to the hilly road. By evening we arrived at the next big town, Egilsstaðir. As always, first things first; go to tourist info center, and access Wi-Fi! ( Come on, who can wait for a week to post about these amazing places on social media ). Before we called it a day, we decided to go further ahead. And we found another big beautiful nameless (I don’t know the name) waterfall. We then decided to go off the main road looking for a place to camp. We found a secluded meadow few kilometers off the highway and decided to set up camp. It was quite windy and foggy, but we used the car as a wind shade and set up our tents. It was quite interesting at night as we had uninvited guests “knocking” on our tents; Sheep!! About 10 km from our campsite, we found a paid campsite with a pool and showers. The owners were generous enough to allow us to use the showers for free.
Next day, we set off again, this time towards Northern Iceland. The road is quite flat and you can see mountains around you, far far away. Truly mesmerizing sight. Even when you’re going at 100 kmph, it still fells as if you’re stationary. The next big stop is Dettifoss, a majestic waterfall. A word of advice, you can see the falls from both sides. Its like Niagara falls, American side and Canadian side. If you wanna try both, be ready to drive some extra 100+ km. So, if you’re pressed for time, make a choice. We went to the “American” (or falls side) of Dettifoss after driving 30km on the gravel road called route 864. If you wanna see the falls from the front (“Canadian view”), you should take route 862 which is a few km further from route 864. This waterfall is quite famous thanks to the movie Prometheus. Yep, its the waterfall shown in the beginning of the movie.
Take the next detour as you wouldn’t wanna miss aquamarine blue Krafla crater lake and the geothermal power plant near it. the Next stop is Námafjall Hverir boiling mud pits. It truly looks extraterrestrial and with boiling black mud pits and vapor bellowing out of rocks. And its smells of strong sulfur. No worries, you’ll ignore the smell after you see how unreal the place is. This place would legitimately convince you why Iceland is aptly called the land of Fire and Ice (I wouldn’t wanna the there when there is an actual volcanic eruption, so this is as close as I get). There is also Grjótagjá cave, which has a hot (really hot) spring inside it, nearby.
There, you reach the next town, Reykjahlíð situated near the beautiful Lake Mývatn. You can drive around the lake and there are a few viewpoints near it as well. Moving further, we encountered the horseshoe shaped Goðafoss waterfalls. Not a high falls, but we were fortunate enough to see a group of daredevils kayaking down the falls. Driving further, we reached the gorgeous town of Akureyri, the second largest town in Iceland. After dinner and Wi-Fi hunt, we decided to camp north of Sauðárkrókur. On the way, we passed by a small museum (closed though) that showed old viking architecture. Camping near a farmland, we were reprimanded by an old lady driving by as asked us to find a hotel. While we were confused, a gentleman farmer assured us that its perfectly legal for us to spend a night there as long as its not a private property. He also pointed out that while farmers are not happy about it, all they can do is complain to you.
The next day, we decided to drive quite longer as we were behind schedule. We didnt stop anywhere except for a few scenic points along the way. Near Staður, we decided to take the longer route along the Western Fjords. Its a meadering road along the cliff side and its about a days drive, We took route 68, but due to lack of time, we turned to route 61 and 60 near Hólmavík. Though short, we managed to drive through think fogs along the coastal cliffs and rocky beaches. On our way we got a flat tire, and luckily our car had a full size spare tire. Next stop was the lovely Kirkjufellfoss Waterfalls with the sublime fin shaped Kirkjufell at the backdrop. Its one of the classic Icelandic photo location. We camped near Eyja- og Miklaholtshreppur, on a small road off the route 54.
This the last day of our roadtrip and our destination was Reykjavik. There was much more traffic along this route as we were closer to the capital. After passing trough the 5.7km long Hvalfjörður Tunnel (toll is 1000 Kr) we reached Reykjavik by noon. After spending the rest of the day at the city (and getting the tire fixed), we drove to the most famous (and overrated) attraction of Iceland – Blue Lagoon. This pale blue volcanic hot water (salty) spring was the most expenive part of our journey. Though relaxing, I found it quite exaggerated, unless you’re a fan of beauty products and spa. At around 11, After dropping Avara and Bryan at the Airport, I dropped Luisa at her hostel in Reykjavik and I drove to the Western tip of Reykjavik and slept in the car. The next day, Luisa and I returned our car and stayed at the airport waiting for our flights to the US. With this, came the conclusion of our epic 2277km roadtrip around Iceland. I’d would love to express my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to my fellow travel mates Bryan, Luisa and Avara. You guys were Awesome!! Cheers!! Oh and here’s the route map.
P.S.: This post is dedicated to Luisa, Bryan, and Avara for being Awesome travel companions!