Oh wow, what an incredible country! It’s hard to explain what Iceland really feels like as it’s like no other place I have ever been. You expect the vast surreal landscapes and picturesque panoramas, however nothing you read on the internet prepares you for whats to come; Iceland feels alive, from the exploding geysers and gushing waterfalls, to the crazy and unpredictable ever changing weather, and volcanic mountains at every step- it’s mesmerising!
On day one our flight landed at Keflavik airport, and we proceeded to collect out rental car from a fun company called SadCars. I had read about them being one of the best and also the cheapest so we decided to roll with these guys. It was definitely the right decision as they were incredibly friendly and helped with our query of whether we should either rent a 2WD or 4×4. Seeing as we were not driving all the way around the ring road, and new that all the dangerous F roads were inaccessible during the winter we decided to go with a small 2 wheel drive to help keep the cost down. However after having a few hiccups with the car through the trip, if I were to go again I would definitely recommend hiring the 4×4 during the winter months.
Driving straight from the airport we headed for the Blue Lagoon. One of the 25 wonders of the world, a geothermal spa with 40 degree murky blue water, it was like something out of a dream! I wasn’t sure what quite to expect, but I had read about the rather chilling entrance into the water as the changing rooms are a few steps away. It definitely made for an entertaining run from the -2 degrees into the warm water. The water contains three ingredients- Silica, Algae and minerals, and you can find FREE silica mud to put on your face at certain swim up locations around the lagoon! We definitely made the most of it as there were different types of mud to chose from in which each had special qualities for improving the skin, and it sure does the trick!
One of the best bits to the Lagoon is the swim up bar, and as you swim closer there becomes a louder crowd gathering. Our blue lagoon package that we bought included a free drink so we grabbed that quickly and headed off to a quieter location where we could relax and take in the surroundings better. The other attractions at the lagoon are steam rooms, a waterfall (great for a back massage), saunas, cafe and restaurant. I would definitely recommend spending a whole morning or afternoon at the Lagoon as we had spent only spent three hours there and I could have easily spent longer chilling and relaxing at this amazing place.
We stayed just outside of Reykjavik city centre at The Viking Hotel- it’s the only viking themed hotel in Iceland all furnished inside with west nordic decor, and there was even a small geothermal hot tub! They served a small but well needed breakfast to kick start the day, and also let us top up our flask with coffee from the machine, knowing there wouldn’t be any Starbucks caffeine fixes en route to our destinations.
On our first full day we headed to the Golden Circle, we started by heading NE on Route 36 towards our first stop-Þingvellir National Park. It was a picturesque drive which took about half an hour, passing through snowy mountain ranges, valleys and fields roaming with Icelandic horses. This area is where the North American & Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly splitting apart from each other, and it’s here you can see the rocky terrain of the earth where the plates create deep fissures in the ground.
Our next stop on the list was Oxararfoss waterfall, however we didn’t have much luck on finding this one as some of the walking routes for it had be cornered off having been to dangerous to trek through, so unfortunately we had to skip it. We drove on to see the Geysers At Haukadalura, a geothermal area about 60km away from Þingvellir National Park. There are two famous Geysers here called Geysir and Strokkur. The original Geysir no longer erupts after an earthquake shut it down, and is now called ‘little geyser’ (the name always makes me laugh when i say it) but a second one called Strokkur constantly explodes with scalding water shooting 100 feet into the air every 10 minutes or so! There are also bubbling pools, mud pits and exploding water vents. This is the place where Iceland feels alive, and is definitely worth spending a while exploring the awesome surroundings.
The next major highlight of the Golden Circle trip was the mighty Gullfoss waterfall, where the river Hvita falls 100 feet into a crevice in the Earth. The atmosphere is dramatic as you approach, the loud sound of gushing water and thick mist makes for such an impressive scene. It gets really windy around this area so it’s best to were the extra layers, and keep hold of your gloves when taking those pictures as you don’t want to see them tumbling down into the waterfall never to be seen again…
On the way back from Gullfoss I was adamant on finding this hidden waterfall called Brurfoss. It’s very much off the tourist track, and even some of the locals don’t know it’s location. It’s unique due to the turquoise coloured water, and I had read about it online as some people had managed to find it and left pretty helpful instructions, but still not clear enough that you can find it with ease, so do prepare to wander aimlessly if you go looking for it! Due to our 2WD we couldn’t get the car down to a closer route so we had to park up by the main road which wasn’t ideal, however it made for a fun trek through knee deep snow! It was the greatest feeling once we had found it an hour or so later. As you draw nearer you hear the sound of water, then you come to a wooden bridge and there it is, in front of you, this incredible mass of turquoise water falling from the dark volcanic boulders, it was a beautiful sight and one that I won’t ever forget.
After finding this hidden gem we wandered back to the car, the last light of the day filling the sky as the clouds had just passed with a heavy falling of snow. I had my camera out on manual mode and was snapping away. I managed to get an awesome shot of the sun light speckled through the window pane of the glass. It is now one of my favourite photos and a great memory of the adventurous day spent searching for Bruarfoss waterfall.
On our third day we travelled further south and down towards the east of Iceland to discover the waterfalls-Skogafoss or Seljalandsfoss. It took around 2 hours to drive from our Reykjavik destination, so you have to be pretty excited about waterfalls if you’re prepared to drive this far to go and see them. First stop was Seljalandsfoss where you can actually follow a path that takes you behind the waterfall itself! This was awesome as you could feel the force of the water as you got closer. Prepare to get wet here as you get completely covered in spray when you stand at the back! There was also a hidden waterfall nearby where you could walk between a tiny crevice into a cave like structure where it opened out into a huge waterfall crashing down from above. The boulder in the middle was a great place to stand to get the best view and pictures of the water cascading down. Next stop was Skogafoss- 20 minutes down the main ring road you come to it, there are few signs along the way however you can’t miss it as it’s huge. This was my favourite waterfall as the walk up to it was pretty intense, the sound of water crashing down got louder and louder and completely towered over you once you got as close as you dare. Also, if you get to see Skogafoss when the sun is shining, a rainbow appears all the way over the waterfall, it transforms the place and makes it look even more magical ( although I have only seen photos of this as our day was unfortunately cloudy)!
After our waterfall hunt, we carried on a littler further to try and find the wreckage from an old airplane crash in Iceland on Sólheimasandur black sand beach. It’s one of Iceland’s most iconic & haunting photography locations. On Saturday Nov 24, 1973 a United States Navy Douglas Super DC-3 airplane was forced to land on Sólheimasandur’s black sand beach in the south of Iceland after experiencing some severe icing. Luckily the crew members survived and it has now become a popular destination for photos, especially now that Justin Bieber has used it in one of his music videos!
The crash itself was pretty hard to get too, seeing as it was 4km from the nearest road and out stranded somewhere on the beach. It was also raining and the beach was completely covered in mist so we didn’t think we could get take the car, so instead we decided to park up and walk. After half an hour of walking we realised it has been a bad decision, as other 4×4 cars were making there way down and we couldn’t see the plane crash at all. We has also begun to lose the cars headlights in the process of trying to follow them. After nearly an hour of walking a 4×4 car pulled up and a very lovely couple shouted out to us to see if we wanted a lift to the wreckage- we accepted instantly and were so happy to have almost been rescued! I can’t remember their names now but we finally got to the plane crash and what an incredible place it was…
On the final day of the trip we decided to spend the day in Reykjavik, as i wanted to check out the city and the iconic places to visit. Reykjavik is only a small city, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in character and colour. You can travel everywhere by foot and within minutes you’ll notice it’s a city that takes pride on skirting away from the norm. It doesn’t have the usual shops, bars, cafes and restaurants you find in other European cities, instead it has individual quirky places to explore the Icelandic culture. The country even got rid of McDonalds after the economic crash in 2008, as the fast food industry isn’t at all booming there.
Whilst on the subject of unhealthy food, one of the places I had read about were the Icelandic hot dogs, and believe it or not, the world’s most successful hotdog stand is not, as many would assume, in New York City, but instead, it is in the heart of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. It’s said to be packed every day, whenever the stand is open, and surprisingly it was quite hard to find at first as its tucked behind a few buildings near to the seafront. The man asks “One with everything” which means the classic dog they sell where the lamb-based hotdog is covered in ketchup, mustard, fried and raw onion and remoulade, a type of sweet mayonnaise dressing. I have never tried a New York hot dog, but this was no doubt one of the best hot dogs i have ever tasted!
One thing I loved is how Reykjavik is covered in colour; from the multicoloured rooftops and corrugated steel the houses are made from, to the graffiti that decorates downtown Reykjavik (the so called ‘Soho’ like areas of the city). Streets art is not merely tolerated in these cities but they are embraced. It’s difficult not to walk down a street without seeing something brightly coloured to catch your eye, and in this sense the art doesn’t feel disrespectful: it feels free and liberated, and creatively thought over. I decided to check these areas out, and wow, some of the graffiti pieces I came across were just amazing- My favourite being the huge mushroom piece that filled the side of a building.
I hope that you enjoyed this insight into my little Iceland adventure. From chilling at the Blue Lagoon, to chasing waterfalls and exploring Reykjavik’s colourful streets ; these are just a few of the many reasons why so many people decide to have an Icelandic adventure, and I definitely intend to go back one day!