The Big Blue Marvel

Iceland: An 8- day trip around the Ring Road (Part 2)

Scroll down to content

EAST ICELAND: THE EAST FJORDS

We are now driving along the east fjords of Iceland, along cliffs and curvy roads and the views are only getting better and better.

*Seriously: you can drive around Iceland, not have a single activity planned, and the road views themselves would be the experience of a lifetime.

The next stop along the way will be Fáskrúðsfjörður village and, yep, at this point we’ve given up on the correct pronunciation of town names! That itself was a hilarious component of our days.

Now that we have arrived in Fáskrúðsfjörður, we can settle into our hotel for the day, Fosshotel Eastfjords -located right on the fjord. This quaint and historic place was built in the early 1900’s for fishermen. One of the buildings used to be a French fisherman hospital and staying there gives you access to a small museum full of life-like (and very expressive) wax figures giving a representation of what life was like for them during war times. Don’t let the spine-chilling vibe keep you from staying here though- the serene surrounding balances it all out!

IMG_1251
A small dock a the the hotel perfect for star gazing at night and bird watching in the morning.
IMG_1230 2
Please excuse our messy table, we bearly made it to breakfast, but look at this view!

We used our morning to explore the surrounding areas, fuel up, and prepare for the next and perhaps most exciting part of our journey: reaching the largest glacier in Iceland: Vatnajökull!

SOUTH ICELAND

About the next 3 hours will be spent driving south through more of the East Fjords:

IMG_1261 2
Tip: Always pre-download an offline map of your route.  The best time to do this is, of course, is before the very beginning of your trip but its also a good idea to re-check your saved offline maps taking advantage of your hotel’s wi-fi, right before you take off for the day! Taking a screenshot of them is also a great idea- this came in handy a couple of times.

We are now in the area of Höfn, Iceland and we are getting so close! For tonight’s accomodations I’ve chosen Fosshotel Vatnajökull

IMG_1360
You can definitely spot the glacier tongues from the hotel’s own backyard.
IMG_1332 2
Sometimes I like to live on the edge and not plan my activity/tour for the day until I get there and see what kind of vibe I’m in.  I don’t recommend it, but somehow it’s always worked out for me. I guess I’ve been lucky!

So it’s decided and booked: the next day we will go on a glacier hike on one of Vatnajökull’s glacier tongues: Svínafellsjökull.

On your way to Vatnajökull you will spot something your eyes definitely can’t miss. A stunning glacial lagoon on the border of the glacier: Jökulsárlón!

You will definitely want to leave enough time in your itinerary to park and admire the beauty of this incredible place.

*Be prepared for very high winds in this area, specially if you’re traveling in the off-season (winter months). *

IMG_1445

IMG_1451 2
I wasn’t kidding about the high winds!

IMG_1447

Tip: If your itinerary allows time, schedule a boat tour of the lagoon, allowing you to get a closer look at the icebergs and possibly spot a couple of seals!

A 45-minute drive away is the Vatnajökull National Park’s visitor center. We arranged a glacier hike tour with Troll Expeditions and couldn’t be happier with our experience! Meet your guides at the visitor center and hop on a shuttle for a short drive to the glacier.

IMG_1617
We were provided with an ice ax, a helmet, and crampons for our hike. Learning to put the crampons on was an intricate step-by-step process! Learning to walking in them was even more interesting.

Tip: Wearing appropriate clothing and gear is very important for the safety and comfort of your experience. Wear hiking boots wide enough to fit the crampons and a warm hat  thin enough to allow room for your helmet. Weather proof jacket and pants are a good idea too, after all, you are literally walking on ice in a country known to have unstable weather!

IMG_1636
We are now hiking on Svínafellsjökull, famously known as a film location for Game of Thrones, Interstellar, and Batman Begins.
IMG_1898
I like to tell myself that if I tried something new, I succeeded for the day !
IMG_2016
While on this tour I learned more about the importance of these glaciers to our planet. Being in the presence of their magnificence and learning that they are disappearing made me evaluate my lifestyle and inspired me to come up with ways to be more environmentally friendly!
IMG_1886
Friendly tip: It’s COLD, so pack a coffee thermos in your bag- you’ll thank me later!
IMG_1639
Can you spot the other tour groups?

The South of Iceland has no disappointed! Even though every place I’ve seen so far on this trip has been beautiful, it’s safe to say that the best was saved for last! And now we are heading to Vik, somewhere I looked forward to since the very beginning of my planning. Just keep driving down the Ring Road to find out why…

 

IMG_1988

A field full of stones placed by every traveler  really is a sight. Placing a stone is meant to bring you good fortune on your journey, and legend has it, the tradition started with the Vikings setting into Iceland- using them as beacons to find their way.  Iceland is full of history and this piece in particular left me in awe.

As we keep driving down our route, we find ourselves stopping A LOT. Thats because of views like these. Literally right on Road 1 (Ring Road). Seriously, all you have to do is safely park on the side of the road (most landmarks like these have a small designated parking area). I can tell you that many of the places you will be amazed by might not be a part of your itinerary in the first place. That’s the beauty of this country.

IMG_4025

We now check into the Farmhouse Lodge in Skeidflotur, our lodging for the night, to get some much needed rest as we are now on our 7th day of driving around the country. Our warm and cozy 10-room hotel provided a good nights rest & a traditional Icelandic breakfast/coffee prepared us for a full day of sightseeing.

A 7-minute drive from our hotel is the famous black sand beach in Vik: Reynisfjara. This  unique volcanic beach was rated as one of the most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world, and its no wonder why! Black sand made from lava, tall hexagonal basalt columns, and an astounding basalt cave is what makes this place so different.

IMG_2149
Can you spot my husband? It’s safe to say he is impressed by this view. Legend has it these basalt sea stacks originated from two trolls dragging a ship to land, unsuccessfully becoming needles of rock when daylight broke.
IMG_2053
I recommend getting to this beach earlier in the morning. When we arrived (around 11am) there were many, many other tourists besides us and it was challenging to get a clear shot of the columns.
IMG_2080 2
The Halsanefshiller cave was featured in the movie “Noah”.
IMG_2030
Reynisfjara in Vik is known as one of the most dangerous beaches in Iceland. Please pay attention to and observe the warnings as you explore this area. Sneaker waves are constant here so one important rule to go by is “don’t give your back to the beach”.

A 30 minute drive from Vik, we find ourselves in Skógar, where we will visit Skogafoss, a powerful waterfall in South Iceland. Be prepared to get wet here. Some choose to walk behind the waterfall, if you choose to do this make sure to wear a waterproof jacket &  boots and remember to protect your camera/phone.

IMG_7764

Climbing the 370 steps up Skogafoss will provide a good leg work-out and a rewarding view like this:

IMG_2301

There are many other well-known waterfalls Iceland that we didn’t get the chance to explore because we took our time with every other location we stopped at. Gulfoss, Dettifoss, and Godafoss are all iconic in the list of waterfalls to see. Another sight we missed was the Great Geyser in the southwestern part of Iceland. It is part of the famous Golden Circle, and I will make sure to see it the next time we are in Iceland.

The 8 days we spent in Iceland were enough to allow us to complete the Ring Road, but looking back, a whole 2 weeks would’ve been excellent; allowing a couple of days in one area, before moving on to the next.

Whatever time you can allot, 2 weeks, or 1, the Ring Road Trip can be accomplished. It just takes some careful planning and organization.

We decided to spend our last night near Reykjavik, returning to the first hotel we had stayed at the first night.  We wanted to increase our chances of seeing the aurora borealis one more time and, also, this would put us close to Keflavik Airport for our return home the next day. On our last night we walked around Reyjkavik downtown and got one last feel of the charismatic city.

IMG_2379
Walking aimlessly around the city of Reykjavik was the perfect way to end our journey. The colorful cityscape and friendly people will have us going back, at least for a stop-over.
IMG_2420
P.S. If you are a fan of murals/ street art, Reykjavik is the place to find that graffiti-based gratification!

Tip: Parking is free after 6 p.m. and on Sundays in the Downtown area, unless you choose a parking garage. Some areas have modern credit-card compatible meters, but the majority (specially in the downtown area) will be old-fashioned, so its a good idea to have some coins. Plus, coins make for a good souvenir if you don’t end up using them.  😉

IMG_2384
The Nordic/Viking music added such an air of authenticity to the night. Plus, check out her cozy Icelandic wool sweater! Don’t leave without buying one of these, they can be expensive, but it’s one of those things that is pretty hard to find back home!

Feeling completely fulfilled, we drove back to our hotel to get some rest and get our luggage ready for the flight home.  We were so lucky because we DID get to see the Northern Lights (from afar) on the way to our hotel. It’s like the Aurora Borealis gave us a welcome on our first night and a goodbye (& please come again) on our last!

DCIM101GOPROGOPR3581.JPG

Returning our car the following day at Geyser and going through the Keflavik airport was a simple process. Our flight back home didn’t feel long at all, it seemed like everyone on that flight was high on the adventure they’ve just had.

IMG_4012
Flying over Greenland on our way back home.

Iceland was like a dream. From the moment we picked up our rental car, the excitement of turning the engine on, and realizing “This is it, our adventure begins now!”, to the first sighting of the Icelandic horses I had been excited to see. The little things- from how to pump gas in a different country, converting US to Icelandic Krona, to attempting to read all the warning street signs in Icelandic. To the bigger things- from learning to walk on crampons and hike on an ice glacier in freezing temperatures for the first time, to driving in the middle of a storm with 70 mph-winds behind us.

The Ring Road trip is for the adventurous. If you stick to the rules, exercise caution, and plan carefully, you will have a successful and unforgettable road trip.  Volatile weather and narrow/curvy cliff-side roads can all make this road trip a challenge, but you will be rewarded with other-worldly nature and scenery. It is a place made of wonder and nothing would make me happier than to share that experience with you. This was all made for you. You must see this part of the planet for yourself. So I’ll be looking forward to our conversation on how marvelous it all was.

The Big Blue Marvel

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: