Traveling to Iceland is an opportunity that no one should miss. We went there in the end of May earlier this year and we were truly mesmerized by the beauty of this country. Our 13 day trip was absolutely mind-blowing! From volcanic craters to crystal clear ice lagoons to black sand beaches to roaring waterfalls to being in the mountains where you will see no other soul and hear no other sound except the birds calling, Iceland will change your life. Iceland gives you goose bumps, takes you high in the mountains and melts your heart in the natural hot water springs. And that is precisely why I say everyone should at least, once in their lifetime, go to Iceland. Do not worry about it being touristy, or the weather being harsh, just get out there, start planning your trip and trust me you will not regret even once. You will take back experiences that you will cherish forever. Of course, to help you plan the trip we are writing this. So here we go! First things first, the best way to explore Iceland is to rent a car and drive around route 1, the main highway which runs around the country. We rented a super cool 4WD car with Lagoon Car Rental at the airport. We rented a 4WD because many roads in Iceland, especially in central highlands and Westfjords are unpaved. Select a car depending on the time of the year (many roads close during winters), and whether or not you decide to visit these regions. You would not need a 4WD drive if you plan to drive on route 1 only.
We started our 13 day trip in Reykjavik. Our first day was landing at the Keflavik airport, renting the car, checking-in at our hotel and exploring a bit of the capital city. Before I get there, there are some things about Iceland that you need to keep in mind. First, Iceland is an expensive country. So, watch out for whopping food prices. Best way is to self-cater, it is not only cheap but also very convenient in the remote areas. On your first night in Reykjavik, it is a good idea to stock up food from a local grocery store. Second, the weather is not at all trustworthy. It can be stormy and rainy one moment, and the very next moment can be sunny and warm. So check the weather before heading out and be prepared for varying weather. Third, check the road conditions on www.road.is. Depending on the weather, roads can be temporarily closed. It is also a good idea to check the weather on the local website, i.e., www.weather.is.
We walked around the city of Reykjavik quite a bit. Walking through the colorful neighborhood of Thingholt we visited the famous church, Hallgrímskirkja, followed by Harpa concert hall and then strolled through the nearby old harbor.
Plan for the next day was to complete the Golden Circle which takes in three popular must-see places in Iceland and is also famous because of it proximity to Reykjavik. The whole route is approximately 250 kms and can be done in a day before heading to your place of stay, which in our case was Vik. We chose Vik, because there is plenty to experience in South Iceland and Vik is the best location to explore these destinations. We stayed in Vik for 3 nights.
The three attractions (virtually connected by what is known as the Golden Circle) are indeed breathtaking. Besides the Thingvellir national park, Geysir and Gulfoss, we also included Kerið, a colorful volcanic crater lake and Skogafoss, another boisterous waterfall. We started our day at around 7 am and that is why we could add these places. If you do plan to skip these places on the same day, don’t worry, there would be plenty of time in the coming 2-3 days.
Thingvellir National Park
At the Thingvellir National Park you can see a meeting point of the continental (Eurasian and North-American) plates. Since the tectonic plates are drifting away from each other, the national park is dotted by dramatic fissures, ponds and rivers. This is also the place to see one of Iceland’s first churches, Thingvallakirkja.
Up next was the great Geysir in the vicinity of which there are many more geysers. Geysir, however, has been less and less active since 1916 but the nearby Strokkur gives a good show every 5-10 minutes. We gasped every time the water shot high above the surface of the earth. The surface around the hissing geothermal area is scarred by alluring colors and textures. With barren hills in the background, it is a perfect setting for beautiful pictures. Just watch out for the pungent smell of sulphur when in the geothermal area!
Gulfoss is a gorgeous waterfall in the canyon of Hvita river. Being a part of golden circle, the waterfall is loaded with tourists. But that didn't stop us from enjoying the iconic waterfall. We were able to hear the roar of waterfall as soon as we stepped out of our car in the parking lot. It only got prettier and louder as we walked towards it. The huge dollop of water crashing on the rocks and the mist on our face was truly a mystical experience. It is beautiful from all angles and you can stare at it for hours.
There is small fee of around 3 euros to visit the colorful crater lake, Kerid. It is absolutely worth it. We couldn’t believe the multi-colored, partially covered by green moss crater and the blue water lake. We walked all around the crater before heading down to the calm water of the lake.
After a long day of hiking in the national park, to the waterfall and on top of a volcanic crater ridge, we were headed back to Vik to call it a day. But we forgot we were in Iceland, a country full of natural wonders! We realized Skogafoss was right on our way and we took that turn to head straight to it ;) The huge, dominating 62m high waterfall is located along the former coastline. Inviting as highly as it is, the dense mist will soak you in itself, so watch out! If you are up to it, then climb the stairs next to the waterfall to get the mesmerizing top view.
The south western part of Iceland was just the beginning of our trip and we were blown away by the beauty of this amazing country. Even though the weather was not the best on many days of our trip and the sun visited only occasionally, we had an incredible trip. We will soon be posting more blogposts from our trip to Iceland and keep you guys posted. Thanks for reading and do let us know your thoughts and definitely if you are headed to Iceland or been there. Until next time, cheers!