The Big Blue Marvel

Iceland: An 8-day trip around the Ring Road (Part 1)

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WESTERN REGION

Arriving in Keflavik International Airport early Saturday morning (0600) allowed us to pick up our rental car from Geyser & start exploring ASAP! Our first town, Gardur, is just 15 minutes away, and we’re already enjoying beautiful Icelandic views!

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A must-stop along the road: Greet the friendly Icelandic horses!

            The Gardur Lighthouse is one of the first spots we visited (being 13 mins. away from the airport). It’s a quiet & peaceful location to hang during the day…

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             … and if you luck out, it is also the perfect spot for Northern Lights viewing at night!

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A green sky with an Aurora hidden above some clouds. The Northern Lights can sometimes be invisible to the human eye, but your camera lens (with the right exposure settings) can capture them.
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Our hotel for the night, Lighthouse Inn, is a known spot ideal for Aurora Borealis watching. This curtain of the Northern Lights was definitely not invisible to the naked eye here, I was able to capture them with my iPhone!

 

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The Aurora activity was so high that night that not even the street lights drowned them out!

Tip: Download an Aurora tracking app to help your chances of seeing the Northern Lights! These apps calculate your chances by taking in consideration solar winds and cloud coverage. I used the “Aurora Map” app and obsessively checked every hour for updates and sure enough, we had a GREAT probability of viewing them on our first night in Iceland!

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A screenshot of My Aurora app that night.

It was a magical night: the perfect ending to our first day in Iceland, which by the way, included soaking in the Blue Lagoon in Grindavik!

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The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa in the middle of beautiful Icelandic landscape such as moss and lava fields. Only 21 minutes away from the airport & the perfect way to relax after a long flight!

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Right before coating our faces with the silica masks !
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Could this place get any better? A swim-up bar! A dark beer for him, and a refreshing carrot/ginger juice for the lady! By the way, the blue bracelet is used to pay for refreshments at the bar and also serves as a locker key.

 

We’re officially on the Ring Road [1] and headed to the beautiful town of Borgarnes. A peaceful evening awaits us at the Icelandair Hotel Hamar

Tip: While planning my itinerary, I decided to keep driving-distance from hotel to hotel short enough for an easy drive, but far enough to advance around the map.

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Coffee on the patio? Yes. The sauna and hot tub were perfect for unwinding at night under the stars.

 

Is it me or do road trips make us even hungrier than usual? Let’s stop at the Settlement Center for the best vegetarian meal ever. And why not learn about Iceland’s settlement and Viking history while we’re there?

 

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A very inviting restaurant, specially in 30 degree Fahrenheit weather!
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Found in the lobby: An gentle reminder to be a considerate and responsible traveler!

 

Energized for the next spot, let’s go to the town of Grundarfjörður, where we can find Kirkjufell Mountain. Where are my Game of Thrones fans at!? Finding the “arrowhead mountain” made me feel like I was The Hound seeing the vision in the flames. Geeking-out level: 1000.

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Kirkjufell was a bit of a drive off the main ring road, but given our obsession with GOT, we had to see it!

Drive around to the parking area and hike up the trail that has been set-up to reach a different vantage point, for a view of the waterfall: Kirkjufellsfoss.

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A view of Kirkjufellsfoss. As you can see, it got dark on us quick! Iceland’s fall and winter months have fewer hours of sunlight- something important to keep in mind when planning your visit.

 

NORTH ICELAND

 

Fueled up & ready to drive to our next destination: Siglufjordhur- a fishing town in the northern coast of Iceland.

For tonights lodging I chose the Siglo Hotel because I have a thing for harbors! This hotel is located right on the water and surrounded by mountains. As we walked into the lobby to check-in, we were surprised to find a FILM CREW shooting a scene for the Icelandic show “Trapped”! What a unique experience.

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Chic & Sophisticated: It’s no wonder why they chose this place as a film set.
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What more could I ask for? A window bench with a view of the harbor… Hearing the water gently hit the boats in the morning was lovely.

 

So what do you do when you’re in the northern coast of Iceland on a cold Tuesday morning? You go whale-watching. The best time to do this is between April and October, so we just made the cut!  Whale Watching Hauganes  provided the most amazing experience: sailing on a classic oak boat & witnessing the beauty of these creatures in their natural habitat is something I will never forget.

 

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Now this is a selfie- a whalefie.
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Regatta flotation suits were provided to keep us warm & safe.
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Did I mention we tried sea-angling? Catch of the day: Cod!

As the captain cleaned, filleted, and bagged the fish for everyone, I was already thinking of a ceviche recipe for my husband!

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Tip: Eating out for every meal of the day can be expensive $$$ in Iceland, so why not stock up with some groceries? One of my favorite grocery stores was BONUS: reasonable prices and several locations around the country- perfect for quick road trip stops. Plus, shopping in a foreign supermarket, seeing all the different foods Icelanders keep stocked in their fridge, & calculating ISK to USD prices is all a part of the experience!

   Next in North Iceland…

Following the Ring Road [1] route, we are now in the Mývatn area: an area of active volcanism you don’t want to miss.

I booked Fossthotel Mývatn for tonight’s stay, due to it’s proximity to the Ring Road and nearby geological wonders.

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Fosshotel Mývatn and it’s view overlooking the lake and surrounding landscape.

Only a 7 minute drive from Fosshotel Myvatn is the small lava cave Grjótagjá.

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Entering the cave is a steep but short climb down. Let’s just say hiking boots are a must.
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Feeling like Ygritte…”When’s the last time you had a bath, Jon Snow?”
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Landscape above Grotagja cave.

For a Mars-like scenery, drive another 5 minutes down the Ring Road and you will find Hverir: a geothermal area you can’t miss. It is located right off the main road, you can actually see the hissing chimneys from afar! But please park and take some time to explore this area: Here is where you realize why Iceland is called “The Land of Fire and Ice”!

Tip: Wear boots and/or shoe covers as this place will be MUDDY!

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A reminder to be a responsible traveler. Unsafe soil and high temperatures  (80-100 degrees celsius) is enough of a warning for me…

And now lets proceed with caution…

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Taking a decent picture next to the sulphur-smelling chimney: not as easy as it looks!

                         _____________________________________

So far we have explored West and North Iceland. 533 kilometers, about 20 cups of coffee between the two of us, and countless breathtaking views.

And now we move on to the next part of this incredible journey: The Westfjords!

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The best part can be the journey, not just the destination…enjoy the little things 😉

Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Iceland: An 8-day Ring Road Trip”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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