Iceland is an island of natural contrast. An ancient ocean gnaws at young land; water and ice carve through volcanic rock; and sprawling green-fields are shadowed by snow-capped peaks. I could not have imagined how stunning Iceland would be, nor could I have anticipated the wonder it would inspire.
It is estimated that the first land to emerge in the place we know as Iceland did so 12-14 million years ago. This new surface would continue to grow in spite of the raging ocean around it. Jagged island spires, iconic detachments of rock, and heavily weathered cliff faces are all evidence of the ongoing oceanic attempt to subdue the vernal landmass.
The struggle between rock and water can be seen inland as well. The country’s glaciers and rivers are antithetical to the volcanic rocks they inhabit. The masses of ice grind away layers of rock as the oldest ice is forced down along the slopes. Rivers of meltwater simultaneously shape steep cliffs and mountainsides at every turn. These landscaping forces eventually provide the life-sustaining freshwater streams that permeate Iceland’s lowland areas.
Sheep and shaggy Icelandic horses enjoy the resulting green-fields. The expanse of pastures separate small coastal towns and feature the occasional farm or community. Virtually all of the existing development and lack-thereof lie at the feet of towering mountain ranges. These behemoths are summer sanctuaries for persisting snow; they shine like white beacons on the horizon for travelers.
Taylor, her sister Kendall, and I saw all of this beauty as we drove and camped around Iceland’s ‘Ring Road’ or Route 1. The route more-or-less parallels Iceland’s shoreline and encircles a majority the country. We did venture off the Ring Road to explore the Snӕfellsnes Peninsula and find puffins in Borgarfjarðarhöfn. The entire trip took eight days and nearly 1,000 driving miles. Here’s how we did it:
Day One: We arrived at Keflavík Airport and took a cab to the Airbnb where we were staying. We then took the bus to Reykjavik to see Hallgrimskirkja Church, the Sun Voyager Structure, Harpa Concert hall, get hot dogs at Bajarins Beztu Pulsur, and have drinks at The Lebowski Bar.
Day Two: We picked up our Kuku Camper and went snorkeling at the continental divide at Silfra. We then drove to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and cooked dinner under a midnight sun before camping at the Hellissandur Campsite.
Day Three: We went to see Kirkjufellfoss before catching Iceland’s first World Cup game at Laki Hafnarkaffi. After a tie game, we explored around Berserkjahraun Lava Field, admired the horses at Vatnsdalur, and called it a night outside of Akureyri.
Day Four: We started the day on the North Coast by walking through Akureyri before checking out some of Europe’s most powerful waterfalls, Detifoss and Godafos. We then swam in Stóragjá and walked through the sulfur acid fields of Hverir near Lake Mytavn.
Day Five: We drove off the Ring Road to Borgarfardarhöfn to see hundreds of puffins before following the shore down to the Saxa Sea Geysir. An unplanned detour to the Gallery of Frevilli in Djúpivogur was an awesome stop before were soaked attempting to take pictures at the Hvalnes Nature Reserve Beach. We warmed up with a good, hot meal from Hafnarbúdin before bedding down at the Haukafell Campground.
Day Six: On the East Coast we saw the greatness of the Vatnajokull Glacier first at the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and Diamond Beach, but later we got to climb all over Svínafellsjökull - a tongue of this behemoth of ice. We later hiked through Vatnajökulspjódgardur National Park to Svartifoss before calling it a night in the town of Vik.
Day Seven: We woke up early to see Reynisfjara’s black sand beach and its hexagonal basalt columns. We then hiked to the abandoned Solheimasandur Plane Wreck and went chasing waterfalls at Skogafoss, Gljúfrabúi, and Gullfoss. The famous Geysir on the Golden Circle was our entertainment for a long while before making it to Selfoss for the night.
Day Eight: We started off early with a Lave Tunnel Tour of Raufarhólshellir. We then hiked to Reykjadalur for a quick dip in the hot river before our late evening reservation at The Blue Lagoon. Our last campground of the trip would be at the Hafnarfjödur site once we'd had a burger from Holtanesti.
Just like that, our trip was over. Eight days in the most spectacular and awe-inspiring countries could never be wrapped in to words. We tried our best in more specific links for each region we visited, where we stayed and ate across the country, and the tours we took. You can see all of them on our Iceland Page!