Road trip around South Iceland
After our first trip, we have been attracted to this beauty again and again, its hard to describe what Iceland is like, if you come here expecting surreal landscapes and stunning panoramas, am sure there nothing can prepare you for what lies in store for you.
This part of the trip is aptly named the land of waterfalls and Glaciers, if you want to see one, then its right there in the next turn, no exaggeration, there are so many waterfalls all long the southern route that you can lose count of them and each one is unique in its own way.
If you want to experience the Earth in its liveliest form, then there is no other place like it, mud bubbling fumaroles, steaming mounds, water spouting hot springs and countless mountains and magnificent waterfalls at every turn, you will feel you have entered a complete new planet within a few minutes into your road trip.
And a teaser video from our trip, thanks to my dad for the video and editing.
Winters are famous for the Northern lights if you are keen on it else the best time to see and enjoy the scenic beauty would be summer between April and September when you would have maximum day light, an added advantage to your road trip. It’s a pleasure to drive the long and winding Icelandic roads and with a view as far as your eyes can see, yes you can see as far into the horizon as there are no trees in Iceland, it’s a pretty much a martian landscape lookalike.
There are lots of car hire agencies in Keflavik Airport, it’s better to prebook your car via Rentalcars.com or AutoEurope in advance to get the best deals and a good car. I mention again, a good car, I mean a 4×4 is preferred, you would definitely want to drive off track on gravel roads and cross some small rivers if your of the adventurous type like us, even if you’re not, just the sheer pleasure of driving around Icelandic roads would be more enjoyable more on a 4×4 compared to a small car.
GPS hire is also available with the car and is much handy if you hire one to make your way to the many scenic vistas abound.
Fuel stations accept credit cards and they are self-service pumps, you key in the maximum amount you wish to be charged and you start filling up and you will only be charged for the amount you fill, the max amount is just to verify your card.
Reykjavik is the capital and is not far from the attractions, so if you want to be in the city and still enjoy all the sightseeing, rent a hotel in Reykjavik and drive out to the attractions.
If you are like us prefer to be away from the hustle and bustle and love to be in the midst of an action packed farm, then there are numerous fully contained self catering cottages which would make your stay more memorable and enjoyable, you can mingle with the cows and sheeps on the farm and experience a live farm in action. One of the best things you can do to enjoy Iceland is to stay in a cottage in the middle of nowhere and just enjoy the nature and the silence of the surroundings.
On all our trips to Iceland, we have booked our cottages through Farm Holidays Iceland, they are a cool bunch of people and very prompt in setting up everything you need and book the right cottage for your needs.
Ours had a nice outdoor hot tub too, that’s the one in blue on the right, what a way to enjoy the evening with wine after a long days’ drive.
If I have convinced you enough to rent a cottage, then make sure you stock up on food and other items you would need for the of your stay in the cottage, you have major supermarkets Bonus and Haugkaup as you drive out of Keflavik, you wont find many once you are heading towards the villages.
As the name suggests Iceland, even though it’s not as icy in summer as it sounds, you might be comfortable taking some warm clothing with you and some waterproof jackets and gloves, the ice glaciers of Jokulsarlon will be cold and is better enjoyed with proper warm clothing. Icelandic weather is unpredictable to the minute.
Here is a quick video of a few key waterfalls in Iceland
Gullfoss means “Golden Falls” and is one of Iceland’s most beautiful and most powerful waterfall, it features two distinct drops in succession at right angles spanning the entire Hvítá River and it flows free and wide that could be experienced around the year and the mood and appearance are vivid in each season.
Gullfoss carries a lot of sediments that the glacial ice has carved off the earth and this makes the water a bit brownish, on a sunny day the water plunging the multiple staircase step like formation and then tunneling down the 32 meter deep crevice looks a fabulous golden colour and hence the name.
Standing at the edge of Gullfoss and wallow in the wonderful beauty of the water gushing is such an uplifting experience, we felt more energetic when leaving Gullfoss than when arriving. That’s the impact these unique nature sites such as Gullfoss and Geysir had on us.
Top Tip: Enjoy a delicious and amazing hot Soups in the Gulfoss Cafe.
Pictures speak more than words and if its a video with words, well whats more to ask, enjoy a small video about Geysir below.
This 55m deep extinct volcanic crater was formed 3000 years ago in an explosion and is now filled by a deep lake.
The caldera, like the other volcanic rock in the area, is composed of a red (and not black) volcanic rock. The caldera itself is about 55 m (180 ft) deep, 170 m (560 ft) wide, and 270 m (890 ft) across. Kerið’s caldera is one of the three most recognizable volcanic craters because at about 3,000 years old, it is only half the age of most of the surrounding volcanic features. The other two are Seyðishólar and Kerhóll.
Most of the crater is very steep with little vegetation and one side of the crater has a more gentle slope blanketed with a deep moss that can be descended more easily, but take at most care as the slopes are very slippery, we saw a woman who unfortunately skid down the slope and broke her ankle.
The lake itself is fairly shallow (7–14 metres, depending on rainfall and other factors), but due to minerals from the soil, is an opaque and strikingly vivid aquamarine.
Waterfalls and Iceland, each one is as unique as the moss that grow in the volcanic rocks around there, each waterfall is breathtaking that just words not enough to describe.
Seljalandsfoss is particularly unique because you can walk behind the waterfalls for a completely different and a beautiful view as the water cascades down in a smooth fabric of mist and spray. This is one such waterfall that you should not miss when in Iceland.
The hike up to and behind the waterfalls itself is fairly easy but care has to be taken as the rocks will slippery.
TIP: Make sure you have a good wind and water proof jacket as the spray from the waterfall will completely drench you, so if you are carrying camera gear, do have some plastic bags wrapped up around, the spray is almost like standing in a shower
Another grand waterfall that’s worth a mention, it’s a couple of kilometers away from Seljalandsfoss and its popularity is also down to its ease of access, just off Highway 1 and can even be seen from Highway 1.
A classically-shaped rectangular waterfall that drops 60m and 25m wide, the high volume of water roaring and thundering down creates a fine mist and with the sun high in the sky projects a lovely rainbow, a photographer’s dream.
Getting so close to the base of such a huge waterfall makes us feel so humble in front of mother nature
Jokulsarlon is a large glacial lagoon with icebergs floating around, it’s incredibly beautiful with its blue floating ice, black sand and the ice on the shores seem like crystals against the black sand.
A visit to the black sand beach on the other side of the ring road across the bridge is worth its visit and gives great photo opportunities.
The black sand beach is formed from a volcanic rock and is usually filled with crystal clear icebergs that are washed up from the sea, which is actually very beautiful especially when you plan to go here at dawn, sunrise or sunset.
Take the Boat Tour (http://icelagoon.com/) that takes among the ice glaciers and we even spotted two seals happily swimming around.
There are 2 tours operated here, the bigger amphibian vehicle and the smaller inflatable boats, if you prefer a closer encounter with the icebergs and seals, this is the preferred one.
Dyrhólaey a 120m high promontory means “the door hole island”, it got its name from the massive stone arch that the sea eroded from the headland, on a clear day this arch is visible from as far as Skógar and you can get beautiful views of the arch from the top of Skógafoss.
Dyrhólaey is supposed to have been created during an interglacial period late in the Ice Age by a submarine volcanic eruption. The cliffs are a beautiful assembly of basalt columns; forming arches, stairs, towers – whatever you can imagine – and they rise over a long expanse of black sand to the north and south.
A short walk uphill from the parking lot on top of the hill is an old lighthouse. I definitely recommend walking up here although it must be one of the windiest spots we had to endure. We really had to fight our way up and down hill as the wind was so strong. Once we got up there we took shelter, staying close to the lighthouse walls. The very first lighthouse was built in 1910 and the one you see today was built in 1927. There are also a sheepcote and a barn not far from the lighthouse. These were for the first lighthouse keeper. There is a toilet too which would come in handy after a cold and windy walk.
A small fishing village in the south of the island, very vibrant, its famous for the basalt columns and the black sand beach, very famous for its churches and the Icewear shop where you can witness wool garments being made in its factory floor.
If you happen to be in Iceland in the last week of August, make sure you plan to visit the jokulsarlon fireworks show, more details here – Fireworks show at Jokulsarlon
DC-3 Plane site, Adventure, Offbeat finds
In my research to get some unique and interesting spots to photography in south Iceland, I kept stumbling upon this random photographs of a crashed DC-3 Dakota world war II plane somewhere in the south of Iceland near the town of Vik, my curiosity grew more and my quest to get this plane wreck photographed grew bigger and started my research to get to this place, all I had was some random directions and Google map satellite imagery for the location.
Using the Google maps Geo Co-ordinates marker, I got the approximate co-ordinates of where the wreck is, so i can at least try to reach the place somehow if am completely lost, the black sand beach is huge and it has long coastlines and barren landscapes, so its easier to get lost.
In the winter of 1973 a military version of a DC-3 (Dakota) US Navy plane ran out of fuel, combined with bad weather, had to crash-land on the black sand beach near the town of Vik in South Iceland, luckily everyone on board survived, an attempted recovery led to the crash of a Helicopter and killing some people, with no much luck helping them, the Americans decided to abandon the mess there.
As curious as you and me, a local farmer during his morning stroll found this and to his luck he figured out the pilots had mistakenly switched to the wrong fuel tank and had a full load of fuel on the second tank, the lucky farmer had aviation grade fuel to run his tractors and all farm equipment for a year, stories say the tail was also sold off to a couple who run a hotel out of a DC-3.
The site is off Highway 1, if you are heading east, near the crossing to Sólheimarjökull between Skogafoss and the town of Vik, you would see a fenced field on the right, keep continuing on the Hwy 1, the road slopes downhill a bit, a few hundred meters after, you should see an opening in the fence, it’s a small gate like structure made of wooden poles and attached to the fence using ropes, from the main road there is a gravel ramp leading into the farm through the gate, its approx 2 Miles from this point, follow the gravel path until the farm ends, and from there its just a blind straight drive into the vast black sand beach. You wont have to cross any rivers as some have noted if you take this route.
The weather was a bit dry so we chose to drive as far as we can and then walk from there as we had a 4×4, a 2WD should be fine if the weather is dry, as with any off-road use caution and common sense when venturing out there and even with a 4×4 be careful not to drive too close to the beach unless you enjoy getting stuck in the sand.
You wont see the plane until you are a couple hundred yards away as the wreck is in a small dip in the sand behind a small mound.
Finally caught sight of the plane in the far sands.
Nearing the site, looks like a scene out of a zombie movie.
Road trip around north Iceland
Iceland has always been on my favorite place list for some time, and combine that to see the Northern Lights aka Aurora Borealis, what better way would it be to explore this fantastic country.
We booked our stay and car rentals through Nordicvisitor, if you are lost and not sure how and what to do in Iceland, I would very much recommend these guys at Nordicvisitor, everything was perfectly planned and all maps and details printed, can’t be any more perfect in planning, a double thumbs up.
Us and a Ford Kuga and some photographic gear and we set out sail to this fantasy land. Before I bore you with loads of text and pictures, here are some Geo-coordinates that might be useful if you are of the adventurous self-drive kind.
Here is a short video that we managed to create to keep you interested in reading further.
Geo-coordinates of major attractions in and around North Iceland. (Paste coordinates in Google maps search bar to see it on map)
|Godafoss Waterfall||65.68342, -17.5511|
|Mt. Hverfjall||65.6002, -16.8833|
|Tröllaskagi peninsula||66.1846, -18.9484|
|Deildartunguhver & Reykholt||64.666, -21.410|
|Hraunfossar and Barnafoss||64.7034, -20.9771|
Iceland Live Webcams here
See the Aurora activity updates here
We arrived at the capital’s Keflavik airport, a nice little airport that’s an hour away from the city centre, getting to the city was just a breeze, look for the flybus counter on the right as you come out of the baggage claim area and just before the glass doors that lead you to the Icelandic fresh air. Get the flybus plus tickets that gets you direct to the Hotel, a single journey costs 2500 NOK per head (Dec 2012) and look out for one the buses like below.
Had a fantastic day in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland and a small and vibrant city, Iceland, not as Icy as the name might suggest but was a moderate 7 degrees, but the wind made it feel more colder than 7, it was more like -1.
Clear skies for the day and some fantastic golden hour, as Iceland is near the northern poles, there is no such mid day sun, so you have sunrise and then some sunrise and some more sunrise and the sun sets, and the sunrise to sunset is just approx 4 to 5 hours, so the golden hour period for photography is much wider than the usual 15 to 30 min window.
The city is all lit up for the Xmas season with lighted Santa figures and Xmas trees abound.
We flew out of Reykjavik in the early hours in a small prop jet to the north, Akureyri, we picked up our rental car here. Only Garmin provides with a navigator that has Iceland maps and can be rented with the car rental agencies.
We drove to Myvatn, our stop for the next 2 days where the search for the Northern Lights begin. Myvatn is a small town 100Kms east of Akureyri, we stayed in our cute little self catering cottage in Vogar farm, on the way we stocked up on Yogurt, Milk and other basic items for the next 2 day stay.
There are a lot of interesting places around Myvatn, the unusual lava formations of Dimmuborgir and the Icelandic Yule Lads in Dimmuborgir, they are visible only during the 2 weeks before Xmas.
Fuming mud pots of Namafjall Hverir, a bit geology and details for the inquisitive ones.
As Iceland is on Mid-Atlantic Ridge that owes its very existence to the molten rock, or magma. Over one-third of Iceland’s 40,000 square miles is volcanically active and loaded with lava fields. Elsewhere, magma too far below the surface to create volcanoes heats the rock above, sending the heated groundwater percolating to the surface in the form of “hot springs.” Iceland is far enough north so that it should be entirely covered by ice and snow, like Greenland to the west. The heat generated by the ridge, however, keeps the country in a constant state of thaw, distinguishing it as the Land of Fire and Ice. This makes Iceland best suited for Ge0-Thermal plants as there is an abundance of natural hot water from the hot springs.
Hot water used in these stations are then diverted for use to local homes for hot water and heating, as the water rises through volcanic ash and rocks, it has a sulfurous smell to it, we were assured its safe to use for normal use and after a day in and around the area constantly fed the sulfurous fumes, we almost became immune to the smell.
Mt Hverfjall, to the east of Mývatn is a gigantic tephra crater about 140 m deep and 1,300 m diameter, a so-called Tuff Ring, created 2,500 years ago. Tephra has been carried from Hverfjall, all over the Lake Myvatn area. A landslide apparently occurred in the south part of the crater during the eruption, which accounts for the disruption of the round shape of the mountain.
The rim of the crater is only accessible by two trails, from the northwest and south. It is strictly forbidden to use other routes up or down.
As it was Christmas day, there were no flights back to the capital, so as the adventurous side of me alert, i planned the trip such i would drive back to the capital and return the car there instead of in Akureyri, it was heavy snow the day before and it was still snowing when we started, i knew its going to be a difficult drive back in such treacherous conditions, but nevertheless we were treated to driving in zero visibility in snow blizzard and icy stretches, but it was part of the fun in exploring.
We visited Godafoss on our way to Myvatn, but the light was not that great, so decided to stop again and get some more clicks, this time it was a treat with the setting sun and was able to get some decent captures in the bone chilling icy cold wind.
We safely arrived at the capital and on the way we did visit the Deildartunguhver Thermal spring, the largest hot water spring that spews out boiling water.
The last day was spent back in the capital Reykjavik and a trip to the best Nature bath – The Blue Lagoon is a must if you visit Iceland, the water comes from the nearby volcanic crusts and is at a warm 30 to 50 Degrees C and its natural volcanic salts make it a very good for skin.
In all this trip was planned as a Northern lights trip and we did everything except the northern lights, the weather was snowing and cloudy and the sun activity was pretty low too, so the quest for the Northern Lights still continues…..