Iceland – The Ring Road In a Camper Van – Part 2

Stunning and peaceful Iceland's East Fjords

Stunning and peaceful, Iceland’s East Fjords

It is day 4 of our road trip and we left the small fishing town of Hofn behind and continued on the Ring Road (Route 1) towards the East Fjords. We knew that today was going to be specially scenic, we have driven more than 650 km from Iceland’s Capital and we started noticing that there is hardly anyone on the road. We travelled on a virtually empty road for ages before we come across another car. We are now too far for day trippers from Reykjavik  and also this region is very sparsely populated and therefore road traffic here is very minimal.  As our little van climbs higher and higher the drama starts unfolding, and we get more and more excited to see what is around the next hairpin bend on the road  as sheer mountain side drops etched with waterfalls reveal themselves in one side of the road and the cold waters of the sea in the other. The road is good and all tarmac, but quite narrow in places, and bridges are often one lane. Some of the mountains are dark with jagged edges and deep fissures carved by the snow melting and running down the mountain side forming pretty waterfalls; we lost count of how many waterfalls we have seen. We pass through little fishing villages that feel lost in the vast openness of the landscape, small farm houses in idyllic locations by the base of a mountain or by a lake side with views that go on for ever. There was stillness and silence and we felt like we had it all to ourselves. The air was crisp and fresh but did not feel cold, the sun was shining with the occasional cloud overhead. I wanted time to stop and that moment to go on forever, and although we drove quite a lot of miles we did not feel tired at all as the beauty of our surroundings is so calming and relaxing.

We stopped at various places to take pictures or just take in the views or walk along a small trail on a cliff top, it was an overdose of beautiful and dramatic landscapes with gorgeous Autumn colours and ice capped mountains. My pictures don’t even come close to doing justice to what we experienced on the East Fjords.

Jagged edge moutains

Jagged edge peaks

Clouds dancing around a mountain peak

Clouds dancing around a brooding mountain peak

Charming fishing towns

Neskaupstadur in the distance and a fish processing plant that brought prosperity to this town

Salmon farming (?)

Salmon farming

We travelled through the highest highway pass in Iceland at 632 meters high,  via a single lane 630 meters long tunnel to visit Neskaupstadur, a little D-tour that was so worthwhile if only for the nerve wrecking cross of the mountain pass. As we entered the tunnel we noticed the headlight of a large 4X4 coming towards us, so Brian had to quickly reverse out of the tunnel – luckily we were not too far into it and managed to get out of the way of both the 4X4 car and a police car that was driving behind  it. Once at the other side of the tunnel the road drops down into the town of Neskaupstadur, which is at the end of the line. A little town that prospered during the herring boom, it has the biggest fish-processing and freezing plant in Iceland which looks out of place in this little town. After a quick look around we drove back up again for another go at the nerve wrecking tunnel.

Mountain pass tunnel

Mountain pass tunnel, 630 meters of a single lane tunnel, traffic light at the entrance was not working when we crossed

Road leading to the highest mountain pass with stunning vistas

Road leading to the highest mountain pass in Iceland with stunning vistas

We finished our 4th day at a lovely lake side camp-site in Egilsstadir and although the Camp- site looked closed and there was no warden or anyone there, the toilet facilities were open and so we made ourselves comfortable by the lovely lake to watch the sunset. We noticed large swarms of midges all around the lake and my heart sank thinking our idyllic setting is now totally spoiled by these little buzzing creatures, but as soon as the sun started setting and the air got a little cooler the midges disappeared leaving us to enjoy this peaceful lake side beauty spot…bliss!

Our Camp- Site by the lake

Our Camp- Site by the lake

Peaceful sunset by the lake

Peaceful sunset by the lake…and no midges!

Our day 4 route through the East Fjords

Our day 4 route, in green, through the East Fjords, including our little D-tour for the mountain pass tunnel on route 92

Day 5 sees us driving North towards Dettifoss, the largest waterfall in Iceland in terms of volume of water and reputed to be the most powerful in Europe. It is 100 meters (330 ft) wide and a drop of about 45 meters (150 ft) down into Jokulsargljufur Canyon. To access Dettifoss we came off Route 1 and joined the tarmac paved Route 862 that leads into the West side of the Waterfall. It is also possible to access it from the East side via a gravel road Route 864, but we did not visit the East side. There is a large car park and toilet facilities, and it was not particularly busy when we visited but in the summer months apparently it can get quite busy. From the car park it is about 15 minutes gentle down hill, there is well marked trails through what it looks like a post apocalypse landscape of dark lava and volcanic ash terrain in itself a very interesting and surreal experience. You can hear the thundering of the falls before you can see it and get very close and personal with this fabulous force of nature. Dettifoss falls from the Canyon’s edge into a gorge with such force that it projects a huge plume of spray up in the air and as the sun shines on it beautiful double rainbows are formed. I lost count of how many beautiful rainbows we saw as we stared down into this mighty roaring waterfall.

Dettifoss and a rainbow

Dettifoss and a double rainbow

Back on Route 1 we are now driving towards the Myvatn Region an area of turbulent geological activity as fierce volcanic eruptions have created and transformed this area, The volcanic zone in this area lies on the boundary of the Eurasian and American Tectonic plates, as the plates move at a rate of about 2 cm every year, volcanic lava wells up between the plates and fills up the ridge .  There are a group of lava craters also know as pseudo craters or rootless vents on the shores of Lake Myvatn and also form little islets on the Lake. The formation of lava lakes created by the pseudo craters eventually gave way to the formation of a forest of rock pillars the biggest of which is called Dimmuborgir. All geologic formations in this area are quite recent dating from the Ice Age and the glacial periods. It is a little nerve wrecking to think of what is going on underground as hot magma sits quietly and deadly waiting to burst out!

From Route 1 as we approached Myvatn an awful smell hit us and then we saw it, just in from of us the red/orange lunar-like landscape of Hverir with it’s belching mud flaps and boiling cauldrons, steaming vents and piping fumaroles that hiss a strange noise as steam jets out from the ground below. We parked the car already holding our noses, but totally mesmerized by the most strange and surreal of landscapes.

Surreal Hverir

Surreal Hverir, like giant earth blisters

Powerful stench of sulphur

Powerful stench of sulphur, hold your nose

Grey and blue boiling mud cauldrons

Grey and blue boiling and bubbling mud cauldrons

We found a lovely camp site with very good facilities and got ready to visit the Myvatn Nature Baths, Northern Iceland’s answer to the Blue Lagoon but a lot smaller and less busy. We loved spending a few hours soaking on the warm, milky and mineral rich water whilst taking in the panoramic views of its surrounding. Already late afternoon, the air was cool but the water was lovely and warm and we did not feel cold at all.

Relaxing soak at the Myvatn Nature Baths

Relaxing soak at the Myvatn Nature Baths

All this relaxing in the warm waters of the Nature Baths gave us a ravenous appetite so we found a fantastic place to eat just a stone’s throw from our camp site, called Vogafjos also known as The Cow Shed. It is located at a dairy farm, surrounded by lush countryside and you can eat a meal with either views over the lush country side or of the farmers milking the cows in the shed which is fully visible from a glass window connected to the restaurant. The food is all about the local produce and it was just divine, a great way to finish off another outstanding day of exploring Iceland.

Locally sourced ingredients for a divine meal

Locally sourced ingredients at Vogafjos

Our day 5 on Route 1 including D-tour to see Dettifoss

Our day 5 on Route 1 including D-tour to see Dettifoss

We wake up to beautiful sunshine and once again a Happy Camper van is parked right next to ours and like every morning we jokingly cursed them for ” stealing ” our van!! It went like this,” look, those b…ds they have our van!”….. originally that was the camper van we wanted, bigger and better designed than ours. I venture outside for a snoop into their van and get caught in a conversation with the lovely German couple Marie and Paul, who reported that originally they had booked the smaller van, but ended up with the larger one for the same price. They borrow my little lap top to transfer some photos from one full card to another with some space whilst Marie and I carry on chatting. They remind us of our children and we felt bad about all the early cursing, it is not their fault that all the Happy Campers van’s were booked out by the time we decided what van to go for. Often the people you meet on the road greatly enhance your travelling experience, and thank you Paul we enjoyed the chocolate from your home town.

After breakfast in the great kitchen facilities of our camp site we spent some more time in the Myvatn area and visited Dimmiborgir which means “dark castles” named after the giant jagged lava formations and we walked some of the trails among these solidified lava creations, the Autumn colours against the black volcanic rock made it all even more stunning.

Solid lava formations among the beautiful Autumnal vegetation

Solid lava formations among the beautiful Autumnal vegetation

Dimmuborgir

Dimmuborgir, from inside one of the many lava caves

We also stopped briefly at Grjotagia, a gaping fissure and cave filled with very hot water. We visited it in the morning with the sun filtering through, bathing in the cave’s hot water is not possible since the temperature of the water is about 45 degrees C and far too hot for bathing.

Massive fissure

Massive earth fissure just above the cave

Gjotagia cave, Game of Thrones fans might recognise this place

Grjotagia cave with the sun streaming in , Game of Thrones fans might recognise this place

We then got back on the road and travelled North to the fishing town of Husavik, where we wanted to do a whale watching tour. So we arrived there near lunch time and booked ourselves into the Gentle Giants tour that was due to depart at 1:30 pm from the Harbour. We boarded the boat and got all kitted out for the tour. Unfortunately we did not see the whales, although we did see some playful Harbour Porpoises and loved the beautiful scenery of snow capped peaks and small water falls coming down the mountains and falling into the sea. It was also lovely to see Husavik from the water as we approached on the way back. Because we did not spot any whales we were offered another tour for free that we could have taken early next morning, but unfortunately we did not have enough time to take them up on their generous and very fair offer.

Whale tour...but no Whales

Whale tour…but no Whales. Brian looking very fat in his flotation suit was the next best thing hahaha!

We stayed overnight at a camp site near the harbour and had dinner at this charming and homely wood chalet style fish restaurant (see picture below) right by the harbour. The sea food was delicious and so fresh as we chose to eat the catch of the day. And like everywhere else we visited in this wonderful country,  the staff were very friendly and welcoming.

Dinner was at this cute restaurant by the harbour

Dinner was at this cute wood chalet restaurant by the harbour

Husavik's main church all lit up at night

Husavik’s main church all lit up at night, it looks like it is leaning but it is just my poor photographic skills.

On our day 5 we did the shortest drive and it was nice to slow the pace a little, see below in green our route to Husavik.

Day 5 just a short drive to Husavik

Day 5 just a short drive to Husavik

Day 6 and our longest drive, with our first stop at yet another beautiful waterfall. This time Godafoss “Waterfall of the Gods”.

Godafoss

Godafoss, might not be the most powerful, but it is a beauty

Akureyri

Next we arrived at Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest city and Capital of North Iceland. Although only about 18,000 people live here, it is compact and charming, sitting prettily by the snow capped peaks and not far from the Arctic Circle. The air is fresh, the centre was lively with nice café’s and restaurants and so we decided to have our lunch at the “Akureyri Backpackers Hostel” in the heart of the town with its cool travellers vibe and fantastic coffee and snack meals. I noticed that at every place we have eaten on display they will have jugs of water and glasses, so you can just help yourself to a drink of water; I found it to be such a great custom in particular because the water is Iceland is the best I have ever tasted anywhere.

I loved how jugs of water and glasses are on display everywhere...just help yourself

I loved how jugs of water and glasses are on display everywhere…just help yourself

 

Akureyri 's landmark church

Akureyri ‘s landmark church

Akureyri

Akureyri, Capital of North Iceland is nestled among snow capped peaks

With our bellies full we carried on all the way down to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, with lots more stops at scenic and interesting places.

Emerald green water nestled in a landscape of red, green, yellow moss

Emerald green water nestled in a landscape of red, green, yellow moss

Moon like landscapes

Moon like landscapes

We arrived early evening at Borganes which is at the start of the Peninsula and started searching for a place to stay overnight. It took us some time to find an open camp site, and in fact we ended up staying in a camp site that was actually closed so the toilet facilities were locked up. We were able to use an outside sink and running water to cook our miserable dinner of pot noodles, since we were so tired and had no energy to go looking for a restaurant to eat. That was our last night in our little camper van;  our love-hate relationship with our van reached our limits of how much we were prepared to “rough it” so to speak. so we decided that the next day after exploring the beautiful Snaefellsnes Peninsula we would head towards the bright lights of Iceland’s Capital and the comforts of the lovely Hotel Hilda, nicely located in the centre of the action and within walking distance of all the attractions we wanted to see in Reykjavik.

Route of our day 6 and our longest drive

Route of our day 6 (in pink) and our longest drive. (With a big detour at the end trying unsuccessfully to find a camp-site still open this late in the year.)

Originally our plan was not to spend any time in the Capital, but I am so glad we changed our plans after my meltdown in the camper van and Brian had to take control of the situation and make the executive decision of booking us into a lovely hotel in Reykjavik. I don’t think you appreciate the comforts of a soft warm bed and a “en suite” until you don’t have it. There is only so much adventure a girl can handle and although I don’t regret for one second our camper van road trip, it was time to get back into my comfort zone. Enough of pot noodles and middle-of-the-night walks to the camp-site toilets! We would have a camper van again to explore Iceland in a heartbeat, but maybe in the future we would choose a bigger van instead.

Day 7 we managed to drive all round the beautiful Snaefellsnes Peninsula situated in Western Iceland and again an area of incredible geological activity including the Snaefellsjokull Volcano, regarded as one of the symbols of Iceland. It has a glacier at its peak and apparently it was the setting for the novel ” Journey to the Center of Earth” by Jules Verne. The area around it has been designated a National Park .

Prety fishing villages dotted around the Snaeffellsnes Peninsula

Pretty fishing villages dotted around the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, here is  the view over Stykkisholmur from the lighthouse hill. A ferry called Baldur goes from here over to the West fjords, something we did consider doing, but lacked time.

Amazing geology

Amazing geology

Perfect cone volcano

Perfect cone crater which we stopped at and walked up

Later in the afternoon we headed towards the bright lights of Iceland’s Capital and the comforts of the lovely Hotel Hilda. See below in green our route on day 7.

Our day 7 route around the Snaelfeness Peninsula and ending up in Reykjavik

Our day 7 route around the Snaelfeness Peninsula and ending up in Reykjavik by the evening, we passed through  an incredibly long underwater tunnel to reach Iceland’s Capital.

Reykjavik

With a great night’s sleep and renewed energy we spent our last full day in Iceland exploring this charming place, the world’s Northernmost capital of a sovereign state with a population of around 120,000 people. It is know as one of the cleanest and safest cities in the world and we can certainly vouch for that. We wanted to visit The National Museum of Iceland to learn more about its settlement history and cultural heritage and I also wanted to get a birds eye view of the city from the tower of the Lutheran Church Hallgrimskirkja. We walked around old and new Reykjavik, looking at modern buildings like the glistening Harpa, but also enjoyed the more traditional buildings, colourful and quirky architecture and houses made of corrugated iron. We also loved the old harbour area and exploring at night when the city light’s up and all the cool bars, restaurants and café’s come to life.

Hhallgrimskirkja

Hallgrimskirkja takes centre stage in the Capital City

Inside the Lutheran church is quite plain with some peculiar

Inside the Lutheran church is quite plain with some peculiar art and an amazing organ (and I’m not talking about the art work)

View from the church tower

View from the church tower, the houses looking like they are made of Lego. I loved how colourful they are.

Rainbow roads

Rainbow roads in a VERY clean capital city.

Playing Vikings at the National Museum

Playing Vikings at the National Museum of Iceland and learning all about its turbulent history

Fabulous food

Fabulous food

Yummy starters

Yummy sea food platter called “traditional Iceland” at the Geysir Bistro in Reykjavik (jury still out on the fermented shark though!)

We also recommend the very humble harbour restaurant called Sagreiffin or Seabaron,  serving  totally delicious lobster soup and you can also choose from a fridge full of fresh fish skewers that can be grilled for you and brought to your very humble and often shared table. This place has a very laid back and authentic vibe. The prices are also very friendly to your pocket, we ate here on a recommendation from the friendly receptionist at our hotel on our first night in the Iceland Capital. It is a gem of a place.

The lobster soup served here is a must

The lobster soup served here is a must

Day 9 and after a wholesome breakfast at our hotel we packed our bags back into our camper van and headed for the Blue Lagoon. I did not want to leave Iceland without a soak in the warm waters of this geothermal pool set amid an incredible black lava field. The water is a balmy 38 degrees C and it is mineral rich with some blue-green algae and the added benefit of smooth silica mud which is supposed to be very good for your skin. I recommend that you watch the short promotional film made by the company that run this very commercialized place in order to know what to do and expect. But basically at check in you are given a bracelet that lets you get through the gates, open you locker at the large and well organized changing rooms and you can also use it to pay for drinks etc.. at the pool bar. You have to shower before entering the pool in the open showers or in the private shower cubicles, preferably in the nude. I took my own towel, but I did hire a robe to keep me warm on the way in and on the way out of the pool, I also took my Havaiana flip flops and left them by the side of the pool until ready to come out. There are places to hang the robe by the pool, but I just left it on top of a chair and no one touched it. We loved the experience. We got hold of some silica which you can get from various boxes placed around the pool and I covered my face and Brian’s with it for few minutes before rinsing it off. My skin did feel nice and soft afterwards. Do remember to put LOTS of conditioner into your hair since the minerals in the pool water are not very kind to your hair. Conditioner and shampoo are included in you ticket price and there are big tubs of both in the changing rooms. The Pool area is quite big and we explored it well; there is a steam room, a funky cave and a waterfall which you can stand under to massage your back. We loved the whole experience and although it is a little pricey I did think it was well worth it. We also had our lunch at the Blue Lagoon Restaurant since we were very hungry and did not want to wait until we got to the Airport.

Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon, set among a volcanic lava field

Silica masks for baby soft skin

Silica masks for baby soft skin

Finishing off our adventure at the Blue Lagoon

Finishing off our adventure at the Blue Lagoon, see the Geothermal Power Plant at the back

After our lovely and relaxing soak in the Blue Lagoon and our meal at the Blue Lagoon restaurant we got back on our camper van and drove the short distance to the large Warehouse where we had picked up our camper van 9 days earlier, located very near the Airport.

No doubt we will be back again

Hope we will be back again one day

Sadly it was the end of our road trip in Iceland and what an incredible adventure we had. It is an extraordinary country that has totally  surprised and captivated us. I loved Iceland’s stunning and varied landscapes, raw nature, warm and friendly people, and I left feeling that there is so much more I want to experience that another trip to Iceland in the future is a must.

Once again apologies for the incorrect spelling of the Icelandic words and names of places also apologies that my pictures don’t do justice to this stunning Country. My next post will be on how much this road trip cost us and some essential information and tips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Categories: Uncategorized

14 Comments »

  1. I think your pictures captured Iceland quite well. In fact, it’s a very nice collection. I have this thing for reflection pictures and you’ve got some really lovely shots. It’s an inspiring set of photos as well because they give a nice snapshot of the landscapes you visited for those who have Iceland on their radar. I like to write in the sand too! 😉

  2. Me too Patti I love reflection photos, I am so glad you enjoyed them. I would love to learn how to take better pictures and I will most definetly take lessons in the near future. Thank you so much for your generous comment.

  3. Gilda I am spellbound by these blogs on this mysterious and captivating country. I am already in love with Iceland. It was delightful to read the vivid way you described your experiences and the pictures were the icing on the cake. I hope to see your blogs in a travel book one day…..

    • Val, thank you so much for your generous comment. Iceland is truly amazing and only about 3:30 hrs from the UK, yet it is so different. I would love to go back there in the winter also and see those amazing landscapes covered in snow. I am sure you and Paul would love it there😀

  4. Gilda, this post and Pt. 1 shows me that you picked the perfect way to see Iceland. Terri and I are campers as well, and I can see that many of the places you camped would be – as you say – bliss. These two posts are a wonderful summary of what Iceland has to offer, and should be required reading for anyone visiting there. Well done! ~James

  5. Hi James, having the camper gave us great flexibility but that model was a little bit too small for us… I think the next size up would be perfect. We like the design of the “Happy Campers” vans and would recommend it. I am sure you and Terry would love Iceland, maybe in a camper van?

  6. I totally agree that the people you meet while travelling enhance the trip. The geo-thermal lakes and landscape in Iceland reminds me of New Zealand. You’ve done a great job of blogging about Iceland because I now have so much wanderlust to visit and see it for myself 🙂

    • Hi Amy, I love meeting people on the road and hearing their life stories. I can’t wait to visit New Zealand, I followed your travels there and remeber well how much you and Andrew enjoyed it, I certanly think you would both fall in love with Iceland. It is amazing to find such a different landscape so close to the UK.

    • Hi Anita, the camper van was good fun and I would reccomend it, I do hope you will make it to Iceland next year. Thank you for your lovely comment😀 I hope that you and Richard are settling in well in Portugal.

  7. What fun to find a post I had not previously found Gilda! I do love the way you chose to see Iceland. We would love to visit some day and will definitely come back to your posts as a reference. The waterfalls are absolutely stunning!

  8. Sue, we absolutely loved Iceland and traveling around this amazing country in a camper van is great fun. Although I would recommend a bigger van than the one we chose. In fact I would reccomend the “Happy Campers ” vans since they have a very clever layout. But maybe you guys would want to cycle around? We did see few cyclists on Route one. The waterfalls are beautiful and plentiful. Thank you so much for your on going support and comments on the blog, I really appreciate it😄

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s