July 12th 2016
Nothing recharges your desire to keep traveling like a new destination, so here we go, an eight-day journey around the island of Iceland!
Before we jump on the 1,332 kilometer Ring Road (it takes 18 hrs to drive the whole ring road, however, it is recommended to take 7 days MINIMUM), we take our first venture off course to a quite common first stop in Iceland, The Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa just outside the capital of Reykjavik.
This geothermal water comes from 2,000 meters below the surface where salt water and freshwater mix at extreme temperatures. A nearby power plant drills deep down to harness the water to create electricity and hot water for neighboring areas. On the journey to the top, the water collects silica and other minerals as it approaches the surface at a welcome 100° F. Keep in mind, the air temperature, even in summer, is not exactly warm, probably around 50°F on this particular evening. The rich in minerals like silica and sulfur and bathing in the Blue Lagoon is reputed to help some people suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis.
A bit of a touristy thing to do, but definitely recommended as you step off the plane and begin an adventure in Iceland!
A bonus which we didn’t know about….. the Blue Lagoon has a swim up bar! Score!!
So let’s backtrack a few hours to how we got to the lagoon. Planning our true adventure on the Ring Road, we decided to make it as authentic as possible, and rent a camper to take us around Iceland. Well, not just any camper, a Kuku camper! This is a popular option in the summer time.
This character will be our home for the next week, day and night! After a drive out to the lagoon, an invigorating experience in the milky blue water, and off we go to find our first resting point.
Good news for late night driving, it doesn’t get dark this time of year in Iceland. Literally! Google tells us the sunsets around 12:30 and comes up around 2:30, but that is not exactly how it happens. Imagine a sunset on the horizon for two hours, than pure daylight again. So much so that you CAN drive all day and night without your headlights on (Iceland law says you must drive with headlights on at all times). The pictures below were taken around 1:00 a.m.
We pull into our first ‘lodging’ for the night, just a few minutes from the lagoon. One thing that is very frowned upon in Iceland is ‘wild camping’. Wild camping is when you just pull on the side of the road or into a park. They do not like this because unfortunately not all travelers are responsible with their trash etc. We bought the camping card and stopped at all designated camping grounds throughout the whole trip. Sleeping day one goes like this… pull into spot in the town of Grindavik around midnight, crawl to back of the van, close the curtain to the back of the van, and sleep.
Wakey, wakey ……… which way do we go?? North or South?!
Maybe this should’ve been decided earlier, but remember, we have been traveling for almost 3 weeks now and it’s time to start exploring on the fly. We roll through Reykjavik, hoping to find our way, and finally decide to head on the northern route around the island. Our first destination is Snaefellsjokull National Park. AKA Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
At this point, we can’t wait to get on the Ring Road! But WHOA! We quickly realize the challenge of this excursion, we want to stop often… so often that on our first day’s pace, we won’t finish this drive in under a month! Here are a few snaps along the way!
A Small Icelandic town:
Bjarnarfoss Falls: We pulled over, jumped out, and hiked! Everyone knows how it feels on road trips, great to stretch your legs! A little steeper than we originally thought, but we persevere and climb to the falls.
Our first Iclandic horse sighting! Gorgeous!!
Ummmm is this real?? Just another ‘on the side of the road picture’
And we have arrived!! We hike up a crater, walk up to a lighthouse, drive through a variety of volcanic rock, see our first cave between two cliffs, and stroll up to yet another magnificent waterfall! This is a very popular photo spot and synonomous with Iceland. It’s Kirkjufell (below).
A stop for gas and a journey through some gravel (not completely paved) roads to the fishing town of Stykkisholmur. Have you seen ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’? Picture Ben Stiller cruising down the street on the skateboard, and this is our evening view. In this quaint town we take a walk up this hills along the sea to the lighthouse, peruse the marina, and grab a bite to eat before we venture to our sleepy place.
It’s about 9 pm after we finish dinner and head towards the North so we can start our day closer to what he had planned. Around 12:30am we saw all this mist spewing up and then these HUGE waterfalls. Of course we stumpled upon a famous waterfall, Godafoss. It was kinda nice to stumble on it so late because there were not that manuy people there.
We have been pulling into our camping sites at the earliest 1:00 a.m. It is so hard gauging the time when it NEVER gets DARK. On top of it there is soooo much to see it’s almost like you don’t want to sleep so you can see it all. The one thing we will say…we sleep like babies once we do land in the back of the van. The everlasting sunset that we see right before we go to bed.
Our Kuku van down by the sea awakes and travels to a gem of this journey, the local towns swimming center. Every town in Iceland has a facility, and for about $2 a person, you can get a nice warm shower! Not that the camping sites don’t have showers, but these are just a bit nicer.
One thing that you may or may not know about Iceland is their swimming pools and thier rules. Every single town in Iceland, regardless of size has a swimming pool. Because they are natural pools from the earth there are no chemicals to kill anything. Because of this, they are very strict on hygeine. It is manadatory you wash in their showers with no bathing suit and wash accordingly (see sign below).
After an amazing hot shower we head off for the day! It seems as if today we have hit the Icelandic horse jackpot. We are quite respectful of the local’s property, and are looking for the perfect opportunities to encounter these amazing creatures. It’s also quite complicated to find random places to stop on the Ring Road. It’s curvy, hilly, and bumpy with lots of cliffs. Our yearning for randomness is hard to deny, and here are a few gems from our perseverance!
We also stumbled across this adorable town!
After a day of driving, we find our way to Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest urban area, nicknamed the capital of the north. Like almost every town along the coast of this country, it is a fishing center and port. But this town actually has a populated main street with stores, cafes, and bars. On our quest to find reliable wifi, food, and a place to relax OUT of the car, we settle in at Akureyri Backpackers. A happening spot that operates as a hostel/bar/café. Perfect for our evening needs, before we journey to our new resting spot for the evening!
Up next! Part 2 of Ring Road. Northern Iceland!!!