172 hours in Iceland
How did my girlfriend and I end up in Iceland is kind of an interesting story. Feel free to skip it if you are more interested in what can be done for 172 hours.
In the coffee corner of my office there was a picture of the Blue Lagoon. It was there each and every day, digging deep into my unconsciousness. One day I just though to myself how awesome would it be if I could go there. Also, the Aurora Borealis is something that had captivated my imagination so many years ago. Never even dreamed of seeing them in real life.
It was around Christmas — everybody is happily asleep at around 7AM in the morning but I am already awake. With nothing better to do I fire up the computer and check some vacation offers and stumble upon somewhat discounted tickets from London to Reykjavik. I am already sold no matter that previously I had never checked the prices of the tickets. We decide to go in March while it is still winter but the daylight is more than a couple of hours. We are going.
We landed at Keflavík around midnight, picked up our rental car and headed towards Garður where we would spend the night. The plan for the day is to checkout the lighthouse in Garður and head towards the Golden Circle. Our next accommodation is a guesthouse near Hvolsvöllur. This is some 300km and around 4 hours of driving time. Those are the stops that we had planned along the way:
- Gardur Lighthouse
- Gullfoss Falls
- Skálholt Cathedral
- Kerið Crater
Of course there were many more stops just to take in the scenery. It took us around 11 hours and 30 minutes to get to the guesthouse. While moving our stuff into the house we met Aurora. Beautiful.
After a good night sleep and an amazing breakfast with a couple of waffles we headed out again. This day the distance we wanted to cover was only around 150 km for about 2 hours of driving. We are staying in Vik for the night. The main stops this day were:
- Rutshellir Caves
- Solheimasandur Plane Wreck?
- Dyrhólaey Arch?
It took us more or less 7 hours to get to Vik without visiting Reynisfjara. We did not do it on the way to Vik because after Skógafoss we ended up in somewhat of a snowstorm so we decided to go straight to the house and chill for an hour. The benefit was that the supermarket was still open when we got to Vik at around 5PM. We did some shopping and moved our stuff into the house and an hour later we went out again to visit Reynisfjara and Seljavallalaug. Reynisfjara was really beautiful with all the white snow and all the black sand. I think we could not have asked for a better time to see it. It was quite difficult to photograph but…When we headed to Seljavallalaug it was already dark. We found the parking and started to look around for a trail but with no luck. Maybe we could have been more prepared — having the route saved etc. but we weren’t. So we decided to call it a day. We left the three stops with question marks for a better day. We got back to the house sometime after 9PM.
On our third day we are driving towards Höfn for about 280 km and more than 3 hours of driving time. We had booked ice cave tour at 10:15AM which was the first thing we needed to get to. We left the house at 7:45AM and got barely in time. The road conditions were not that great. Our stops for the day are as follows:
- Crystal Cave in Vatnajökull
Oh, day three, how I love thee. We were on the road for more than 13 hours that day but it was totally worth it. Nothing more that I can say about. Take a look for yourself.
This initial plan was to go straight towards Hvolsvöllur and check everything that we have missed the first time but plans change. We decided to go a bit further into the east fjords. I had to put on my driving pants that day because we had almost 500 km to cover for a total of 6 hours driving time. Our plan for the day:
- East Fjords
- Dyrhólaey Arch
The highlight of the day were definitely the fjords. If you are wondering where to go while drinking your coffee in the morning — check them out. Stunning. You can seen them on the cover photo. The next one is from Stokksnes. Love the contrast.
After more that 12 hours on the road we finally arrived at our guesthouse near Hvolsvöllur. Checked in, ordered a beer. The most expensive beer — ever. Paid 3000 ISK for a beer. What? Don’t order a beer before seeing the menu.
Another day, another drive. We had to make our way to the Snaefellsnes peninsula on that day. We are staying next to Ytri Tunga Beach. Close to 400 km and a 5 hour drive. We decided to take the scenic route instead of paying 1000 ISK for the tunnel to Akranes. Points of interest for the day are:
We ended up skipping Glymur waterfall because we wanted to check in earlier that day so we arrived at the farm at 6:30PM. Left our stuff in the house and decided to explore a bit further. Went to Búðakirkja and did a evening walk around the lava field next to it. So peaceful. On the way back I was running through the field like Riddick when escaping from Crematoria.
That day is dedicated to exploring the Snaefellsnes peninsula. Our destination for the night is Reykjavik. We only have about 300 km and 4 hours of driving. Our plan for the day:
- Ytri Tunga Beach
Everything is quite close at the peninsula. You just get on the main road and after 5 to 10 minutes you have reached your next stop. I missed several of the stops a couple of times because I had not figured out the scale of the map. This resulted in a super relaxed drive — we even parked in a crater. Who would have though. Also there is much more animal life on this side of the island. My favorite stops are Arnastapi and Stykkishólmur. We were lucky to be early in Stykkish and get to buy some stuff at the local Bonus supermarket.
At last. A day where I did not have to drive. Maybe just a little. We only did about 100km that day because we went to the Blue Lagoon. Apparently you need to book online— we did not know that. Anyway we managed to book for 9PM which was great since the activity for Auroras was quite high. I was almost sure that we will be in the lagoon and the Northern Lights will fire up the skies. Not. Really. Before going to the lagoon we strolled leisurely through colorful Reykjavik. We also went on a tour with Eiríkur from CityWalk. I definitely recommend it.
We spend two nights at Reykjavik and both nights the Aurora activity was pretty high. Both nights we drove out of the city but with no luck. While the south was cloudy the east and the north had totally clear skies. Wish we could have been there for the show. Next time.
When we returned the rental car the trip meter was showing almost 2500 km. We had chosen a diesel so the amount that we paid for fuel was around 250 euros.
Car rental tips
We really wondered what car to rent and what insurance to pay. We ended up with a Dacia Duster which we really liked. It had Bluetooth audio connection, heated seats, superb headlights and great mileage. We rented from Lagoon Car Rental. Very nice guys. The only additional insurance we paid for was “gravel protection”. I think this one is a must. “Sand and ash” is not really useful unless you expect a volcano to erupt or a sand storm to hit the island. “Theft protection” is a waste of money. Half of the time I was forgetting to lock the car and we did not miss anything.
If you have some questions or remarks — feel free to comment ; )