lens and sunscreen

Road Trip in the land of Fire and Ice – Part 1

WOW! I am going to say it one more time with some effect WOOOOOOOWWW! Iceland sure knows to impress people! Electric blue glaciers, black sand beaches, magnificient waterfalls and magical Northern Lights – with copious natural wonders Iceland totally lives up to its name of “The Land of Fire and Ice”. We went on a 5 day road trip to Iceland. It is recommended to spend atleast 8-10 days if you want to see the entire country including West Fjords which we missed due to lack of time.

 

Day1_Day2 Map

Day 1-2 Itenirary

Day 1:

Reykjavik

All set with my Lipault bag!

All set with my Lipault bag!

We landed early morning at Reykjavik aiport and were shuttled to the car pick at Blue Car Rental located next to the airport. They were reasonably priced and provided prompt service at both pick up and drop off. Quick formality and we stepped in our Toyota Rav 4 all wheel drive with a GPS in one hand and a big map of Iceland in the other to commence our trip!
On the first day itself we got a glimpse of the not-so-good aspect of Icelandic weather – rainy, windy and chilly! After a good filling breakfast at one of the Bakarí, or bakery, we put on 3 layers and set off to explore Central Reykjavik. Our first stop was Hallgrímskirkja Church, a unique architecture but nothing to wow you really. We then walked by the nearby colorful streets, window shopped the local boutiques, souvenier stores and took some pictures. There are a few museums and concert hall that you could check out if you have a day to spend here.
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Central Reyjkavik street

Hallgrímskirkja church

Hallgrímskirkja church

Þingvellir National Park

Next we drove to Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO world heritage center. This park has an abundance of waterfalls and hiking trails. Lake on one side and mountains on 3 sides of the park with small waterfalls flowing in between the rifts creates a beautiful scenery. But the real attraction was snorkeling the Silfra fissure, a rift between the North American and Eurasian plates. This is once in a lifetime experience which cannot be missed. Read more about our Silfra Snorkeling experience here. From here it was a 2 hour drive to our last attraction for the day – Skogafoss.
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On our way to Skogafoss

Skógafoss Waterfall

We drove past Seljalandsfoss, another magnificient waterfall on the way. You can walk behind it to get a good view of the gushing waterfall. From there, Skógafoss is another 10 mins.
It was so chilly and windy when we reached the fall that we had to put on another layer on top of the 3 we were already wearing! There were numerous camping tents near the parking lot – hats off to the campers for braving this kind of weather! A short walk and you behold the mighty waterfall in the distance against a contrasting foreground of black volcanic stones.
As we got closer the misty wall of spray completely drenched us – glad we wore waterproof shoes and jacket. You can take the 200+ stairs abutting the fall to get a view from the top.
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Skogafoss waterfall

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Drenched and cold, we had our much needed cognac and lamb soup at a restaurant right next door with a clear view of the fall. By the time we got done with our dinner it got really dark and foggy and our drive to Vik was no less than an adventure. Driving on intertwining road in sheer darkness to our hotel which was uphill was a bit scary. We stayed in Hotel Dyrholaey, Vik – fantastic location, nice rooms and wide variety of breakfast buffet.

 

Day 2:

 

We began Day 2 with a 2.5 hr drive to to Skaftafell Park for glacier hiking. It was a beautiful  sunny day with clear blue skies, unlike gloomy day 1,  and we were finally experiencing the Icelandic landscapes in its full glory – You can take a picture with your eyes closed and not be disappointed. Ok, that was an exaggeration 🙂

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Scenic drive

Driving through this beautiful scenery unfolding in front of our eyes, we stopped at Eldhraun to experience lava moss fields. These green natural formations are velvety to the touch, walking on them literally feels like walking on a soft tempurpedic surface! We resumed our drive but such is the myriad beauty of the Icelandic landscape that it was hard not to stop few more times for a quick photo op before finally reaching Skaftafell!

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lava moss

We reached Skaftafell at 11am for 3 hour glacier hiking tour at the Vatnajökull glacier. Our guides first took us by bus to the bottom of the glacier from there we hiked a good 20 mins to get to the actual glacier. We put on our crampons and started our hike. After a few minutes we came across a small glacial cave and the guide encouraged us to go inside this small cave that literally fit only 1 persona at a time. Close to Skaftafell we found a gas station that served good burger, much needed after the hike.

Jokulsarlon Glacial lagoon

From Skaftafell we headed to one of the natural wonders of Iceland, Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon – at over 248m this is the deepest lake in Iceland. Electric blue reflections of gigantic icebergs of all shapes and sizes resting in the lake is a treat to the eyes. You can hear the occasional rumble of a cracking iceberg!

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JokulSarlon Glacial Lagoon

Right across the lagoon is a beautiful pebble strewn black beach. Chunks of ice drift  along the the sea water and few chunks washed ashore on the beach.

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Totally mesmerized by this scene we headed to our hotel – Guesthouse Hvammur in Hofn.

Today was a 50/50 chance to see the northern lights so after dinner we headed out of town and parked our car just off Route 1 in complete darkness in hope to see some lights. Sleepy and cold, we spent around 45 mins for the magic to happen. By 11:30 pm we realized tonite was not our night and in the hope that we still have 2 nights to get lucky we headed back to our hotel.
Continued for day 3 to day 5 in part 2 of the road trip

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