Ok… So, this is a little late to the website. And honestly, I haven’t posted anything of any substance in quite a while. Having a small toddler running around the house and a pregnant wife really cuts into those free minutes that are used to pursue these side, just for fun, projects like having a personal website where you share all the fun stuff you do.
I digress… This past summer my brothers, my father, and my sister-in-law all planned a trip to Iceland so that we could spend some time together. It all started after my last trip to Iceland. I’m pretty sure that everyone was a little jealous of my time there. Initially the plan was to hike the Laugavegur Trail, but in the process of trying to coordinate 7 schedules we missed our window to be able to reserve space in the huts. Instead we decided to rent a van and drive the ring road.
In the end we were in Iceland for 9 days and drove around the entire island. We spent most of our time on the south coast, but still made it all the way around. That said, it would have been nice to have a few more days to explore. I would try to plan for at least 2 full weeks if planning to drive the entirety of the ring road. Just because you can drive it in less time doesn’t mean you should.
Enjoy the photo journal below from the trip!
Day 1 & 2
The trip started off with everyone flying into Keflavik airport and meeting up in Reykjavik. We spent our first 1.5 days in Reykjavik waiting for everyone to arrive. We stayed at the Reykjavik Campsite which is a great little campground that is very reasonably priced that’s right in the city. My brother Pat and his wife Danielle were the last to arrive. After we picked them up we did some grocery shopping and then headed straight for the town of Hveragerði.
The evening we arrived in Hveragerði we played around in town a bit, checked out the thermal park, and grabbed a drink at one of the local watering holes. We stayed at the Hveragerði Campsite which is another great, reasonably priced, campground that has wifi, showers, bathrooms, and a covered outdoor eating and cooking area. The next morning we got up early and drove a short distance to hike into the Reykjadalur Valley. This is a pretty popular hot spring that you access with a short hike. It gets super busy so get there early to find a parking space, and so that you can secure space in a soaking pool at the spring.
After hiking in and soaking in the Reykjadalur Valley we packed into the van and started driving towards the southern highlands. On our way we hit up a couple of the stops on the Golden Circle including Gullfoss. Then we spent a long afternoon driving on some pretty rough and remote f-roads before arriving at Landmannalaugar.
Once in Landmannalaugar we setup camp, made some dinner, and soaked in the nearby hot springs. A quick note: My previous two trips have been later in the season when there is less snow and the hot spring was quite warm. On this trip though there was considerably more snow, and more snow melt feeding into the spring. Because of this it wasn’t nearly as warm as we were expecting.
The next morning we were up early. After breakfast we hiked Bláhnjúkur. This is a small summit very near Landmannalaugar that is accessible via a relatively short hike. There is a pretty significant climb up to summit, but it’s definitely worth the effort for the views.
The route up Bláhnjúkur is a loop and will take you through an old lava field, then through some of the amazing rhyolite hills that the area is famous for. This was my third time in this area and on this trip there was considerably more snow than we’ve had in the past. For the most part it wasn’t an issue, but the normal route up Bláhnjúkur was covered in snow and the alternate route was quite steep and committing. Because of this part of our group decided to turn around while the rest of us carried on. After you summit and as you’re making your way back down to camp there are some great view of the community at Landmannalaugar.
After returning from our hike we packed up and started the long drive out. Our first stop was Seljalandsfoss. This is one of the iconic waterfalls on Iceland’s southern coast. We explored here for a bit, grabbed some food, then headed down the road to Skogafoss.
Waterfalls are quite abundant in Iceland, but Skogafoss is definitely worth a stop. It’s just so big and so powerful. I’ve now visited this fall three times and every time the thing I’m most trying to capture in an image is it’s immense size and power. So far the approach I’ve found works best to communicate the experience is shooting the falls from far away with a telephoto lens while someone gets as close to the base of the falls as possible. This maximizes the size and height of the falls while minimizing the size of the person. The person provides some scale and the final images are the closest I’ve been able to come to communicating the grandness of this natural wonder.
Once we were all waterfalled out we had one more stop before it was time to find our next campsite. Fortunately, during our trip Iceland was experiencing a period where it never got dark. This made traveling around pretty easy as we never had to worry about losing the light.
Our final stop of the night was Seljavallalaug a pretty epically situated hot pool. This is another one of those iconic Iceland spots. Fortunately for us by the time we made it here it was quite late in the day and most people were on their way out. As cool and beautiful as this place is… the pool really isn’t all that warm. Also the water is quite dirty. I definitely think it’s worth checking out, but be warned. After soaking in the hot pool we headed to the town of Vik and got a spot in the campground located in town.
The next day was also pretty full and included a lot of driving. We started off with a visit to Reynisfjara beach. Then up to the lighthouse and arch at Dyrhólaey. Next up was the canyon at Fjaðrárgljúfur, and after that we stopped at Skaftafell where we did some hiking and glacier viewing. After Skaftafell our final tourist stop was Jökulsárlón.
One of the disappointments during this portion of the trip was Jökulsárlón. This is the iceberg lake that everyone takes pictures of and is the furthest point away from Reykjavik that many tourists reach. During our visit it seemed like there was less ice in the water than during my last couple of trips. The lake empties out into the ocean and in the past the beach near the outlet to the lake has been covered in ice that has been washed and shaped by the ocean. This beach is often referred to as Diamond Beach, but on our trip it was completely devoid of ice… bummer! After leaving Jökulsárlón we drove to Hofn where we camped for the night.
At this point we were only about 1/3 of the way around the ring road and over halfway through our trip. We were also now headed to a part of Iceland that I had never been and wasn’t familiar with. This meant that we didn’t know what we wanted to see/visit and didn’t have much time for exploration. I definitely wish we had had more time during this portion of our visit. Instead day 6 was the beginning of a lot of driving with brief stops here and there to see some of the obvious attractions.
Our final destination for day 6 was Myvatn. Between Hofn and Myvatn we stopped a number of times, but we also drove a lot! We took in the coastal views as we cruised the roads the ducked in and out of the eastern bays before heading inland. We stopped at Dettifoss which is the most powerful waterfall in Europe, and we stopped at the geothermal fields and hot springs just before reaching Myvatn. This was a long day of driving and unfortunately that meant most of our time was spent in the car.
This was another long car day. We started off the day exploring some hot spring caves, then stopped at Goðafoss. Eventually we made it to the small city of Akureyri where we grabbed some lunch and explored. After leaving Akureyri we spent the rest of the day in the car. We drove around the Troll Peninsula, and eventually ended up arriving very late at a small but amazing campsite.
The campsite we found by change was in Sæberg. There was a hostel on site, and only a couple of other people camping. The amazing this about this place was the large indoor community space for cooking, eating, etc… And also, the hot spring fed pool that overlooked the arctic ocean. Definitely a cool spot!
Day 8 & 9
The next day we woke up and started the final leg back to Reykjavik. We spent another night at the Reykjavik Campsite, took advantage of the sundlaug which was right next door. This is a giant thermal pool complex with water slides, lap pools, multiple hot tubs of different temps, saunas, and even a cold pool. It’s not a bad way to end a trip to Iceland as it gives you a chance to relax and soothe your sore muscles… and take a shower! These last two days were spent hanging out around Reykjavik and Keflavik saying goodbye to people as they headed home, or onto other destinations. For me I met up with my wife, son, and father-in-law in the airport and continued east to Switzerland. Stay tuned for that post soon!