Home to Vikings and contradictory to its name, Iceland is more green than white.Its a wallpaper country which has everything from massive glaciers to majestic waterfalls, beautiful black sand beaches to fiery volcanoes, contour of mountains to bulging hills, volcanic lakes to mysterious ice caves, nature so serene that you always feel soaked in the landscape.
This blog is about our road trip around the island on Ring Road starting and ending in Reykjavik.We took 6 days to drive around and tried to cover all the major highlights.
What is a Ring Road?
Ring Road is Route 1 or Þjóðvegur 1 which is a 2 lane paved national road connecting all major cities and towns in Iceland.Most of the detours from Ring road are dirt roads.Ring Road is perfect for the road trip because it covers most of the country, passes by most famous attractions and its easier to get accommodation along the route.6 days are minimum you can spend on Ring Road just to visit attractions on the road and take few detours.
Essentials needed for Iceland
- Sturdy and water resistant shoes
- Water resistant jacket
- Water resistant pants for waterfalls
- It is quite cold even in the summers especially in the evening.Be prepared for all kinds of weather.
- Cap for ears – Its super windy
- Buy most of your stuff from Reykjavik for the road trip.I remember while buying a water bottle from store, a local women walked to us and said “Actually you know there is one thing you dont have to buy in Iceland and that is water.You will get purest form of water in both toilets and rivers.Its glacier water everywhere”.
Start Point – Keflavik Airport
End Point – Akureyri
Highlights – Sightseeing spots on Ring road and Kolugljúfur waterfall
Its a 5hr 30 mins drive from Keflavik airport to Akureyri so we didn’t get much time to explore but the landscape kept us busy.There are many sightseeing spots to pull over and enjoy the beauty of raw nature.
The very first waterfall of our trip, Kolugljúfur , is a short detour from Ring Road on a dirt road. Climb down to the bottom of the fall for a spectacular view.
It was our first day, we were jet legged, tired and wanted to end our day early to get some sleep but our car broke 60 miles south of Akureyri. It was raining cats and dogs. Help reached us in an hour. He was a local mechanic who towed our car to his workshop. He served us coffee and kept us entertained by talking about the Icelandic culture while repairing our car. Everything in Iceland is super expensive. Thank god we had good insurance. One thing you should consider if going for a road trip – proper insurance.
Start Point – Akureyri
End Point – Seyðisfjörður
Highlights – Goðafoss waterfall,Lake Mývatn, Krafla crater, Hverir, hverarond sulfur springs, grjotagja cave, Myvatn Nature bath, Leirhnjukur Rjúkandi Waterfall and Dettifoss waterfall
Though First Day didn’t end with a good note but we were excited for the second day.
Goðafoss falls is one of the top 5 waterfall in the country.Its nickname is “Beauty”.
Continue to Lake Myvatn region which has abundant bird life and its incredible surrounding includes lava fields, craters and geo thermal area.There are couple of lake trails which is a good way to explore the region. Look out for Puffins near the lake.
Take a detour on private road for Grjotagja geothermal cave which is also filmed in Game Of Thrones (GOT).An intimate scene between Jon and Ygritte was shot here.
Merge on to Route 1 and soon you will enter Myvatn geo thermal region with blue fog all over the sky.This region is full of nature baths. Myvatn Nature Bath is similar to Blue Lagoon but its more peaceful and its not crazy expensive like Blue Lagoon.
Continue on Route 1 for next spot – Hverarond sulfur field which is largest sulphur spring in Iceland.The earth here is yellow in color and full of pot holes with boiling mud.This is again one of the filming location of GOT so lot of people stop here.
Take a detour from Route 1 for Leirhnjukur and Krafla crater.Both are bit of a hike but its worth it.This region is located in Iceland’s largest geo thermal station which provides thermal energy to most of the country.
If you are in the region, one thing you shouldn’t miss is Dettifoss waterfall.Its called “The Beast” and is the most powerful waterfall in Europe.Reaching here is a hassle as you need to drive 30 miles (one way) on a very bad dirt road off Ring Road.Lot of cars break down in this area.
By the time we came out of this region, it was pretty late but good thing about summers in Iceland is it never gets dark;-)
There are couple of more waterfalls right on Route 1 on the way to east coast and Rjúkandi is one of them.We ended our day in Seyðisfjörður. It was a dramatic day with lot to explore.
Start Point – Seyðisfjörður
End Point – Jokull
Seyðisfjörður,Petra’s Stone Collection, Folaldafoss , Sveinsstekksfoss , Djúpivogur , Vestrahorn
Seyðisfjörður is the town straight from fairy tale.The town is pretty dead but its worth few hours of your time if you are in the region.We spent a night in the town and it was mesmerizing. This is my favorite town so far.
It is at the innermost point of the amazingly beautiful eastern fjords.With in-numerous waterfalls it feels like each family in the town has its own waterfall. If I had more time, I would have definitely spent more time hiking around this region. This particular region is not very touristy and not many people visit the region but tourism is slowly picking up here.
Plan for today was to drive eastern fjord region.It was a long drive to Jokull but the scenery kept us busy all the time.There are lot of stops on the coast with views changing every 15 mins.
Start Point – Jokull
End Point – Vik
Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon, Diamond beach, Svínafellsjökull Glacier,Vatnajökull National Park(Svartifoss – Sjónarnípa hike,Skaftafell glacier)
Very first attraction of the day, Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon is the glacial lake on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. Lagoon is full of crystal blue icebergs floating in the water.There is a beach nearby where icebergs from lagoon drifts ashore and create most magical scene on the beach.From distance, the icebergs look like diamonds on the black sand.
As you continue on Route 1, there are numerous glaciers on the way and best part is, you can stop anywhere and explore.One of the accessible glacier is Svínafellsjökull glacier.You can hike up to the tongue of the glacier.For all GOT fans, yes, its “North Of the Wall”.
Another region to explore in the national park is Skaftafell. There is a small fees to explore the region.Depending upon the time in hand, there are many hikes in the region you can take.We did Svartifoss and Sjónarnípa hike which was challenging but with views to die for. Trail takes you through wide range of flora and fauna, beautiful Svartifoss waterfall , vast meadows and ends at a point where you get pristine views of Skaftafell glacier before descending down to visitor center.This glacier is also known as “Hollywood Glacier” because it features in lot of films.
After a full pack hiking and adventurous day, we ended our day in another outworldly town called Vik.The day was dedicated to glaciers.
Start Point – Vik
End Point – Laugarvatn
Vik, Reynisfjara black sand beach, Skogafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Gljúfrabúi, Kerið volcanic crater,Geysir and Gullfoss (Golden Circle)
Vik is a very graceful and picturesque town.We planned to spent 2 hrs around the town but ended up spending half a day there.It has a very magnetic aura to it.This is another famous GOT filming location. Things to look out for in Vik are
Reynisfjara black sand beach and basalt columns aka “The Wall at the Eastwatch-by-the-sea” in GOT is extremely busy tourist location.
Dyrhólaey is another GOT filming location.For the best views take a very narrow road to the top of the mountain and its extremely windy.
Later half of our day was dedicated to stunning waterfalls.All of them looked as pretty as pictures.
Skógafoss waterfall can be seen from road but I will highly recommend going up close and take a hike which starts at the top of the waterfall.Its a very long one day hike but first half a mile has most beautiful scenes and at least 5 waterfalls.Most of the people hike a 1 mile and come back.
Seljalandsfoss is the most dramatic waterfall and one of my favorite too.You can go behind the waterfall in a very shallow and wide cave which is quite fun but you will get very wet.
Gljúfrabúi is a hidden gem and its quite possible that you will miss it.You need to take trail left to Seljalandsfoss and pass through hole in a canyon to reach to the waterfall.Your chances of viewing waterfall depends on how deep is water in canyon.
Continue on Route 1 for Kerið crater,Geysir and Gulfoss waterfall which is part of Golden Circle.
To be frank Kerið crater was the most disappointing thing we saw in the entire trip when compared to other beauties in Iceland.Its not that its not beautiful but there are better things to see.
Geysir Hot spring area is another thermal region with Strokkur geysir which erupts every 30 mins.
Gulfoss waterfall also known as “Golden Falls” was the last waterfall of the day.The sheer force of the waterfall is tremendous and the mist it creates can be felt all the way to parking lot.It was a perfect end to the day.
Start Point – Laugarvatn
End Point – Keflavik Airport
Highlights – Part of Golden Circle Thingvellir National Park
Today was the last day and we wanted to keep it light. Thingvellir National Park was the perfect destination to spend couple of hour before heading towards airport.
Most people know Thingvellir National for scuba diving in Silfra where you can dive between 2 continents tectonic plates – Eurasia and America but to Icelandic people its a historic place because it is the home to world’s oldest parliament.
The canyon in Thingvellir National park is used as an entrance to Eyrie in GOT Season 4.
After spending magnificent 5 days in Iceland, it was time to go home.Each day in the trip was different than other. Ever changing sceneries kept us busy all the time.It was amazing to see so much diversity in landscape in such a small country.It is truly a land of fire and ice.
Bless í Bil – Bye for now