Iceland Road Trip: Day 1 & 2

Iceland Ring Road roadtrip

For those of you that know me, you’ve probably heard me go on and on about the beauty of Iceland and that it’s one of my favourite travel destinations. In late May 2013 I returned to the majestic land of fire and ice (see my previous trip recount of Iceland back in 2011). This time around, we drove around the island for four days, venturing from one scenic landscape to the next.

We caught a flight with Icelandic Air from London to Reykjavik, which is the capital of Iceland. As we boarded the flight I could hear that they were playing music from Icelandic musicians. Over the past few years I’ve had an affinity with Icelandic talent such as Sigur Ros, Leaves and Seabear. When I listen to their music (especially Sigur Ros and Seabear) I feel uplifted, hopeful and serene. Sometimes I imagine I’m there in the midst of Iceland. So as soon as I got on board and heard the music, I felt the same feelings and got excited.

When we landed, we bought a SIM card and picked up our rented car. We opted not to get a GPS as our plan was to drive around the ring road (which is a main road that circles around Iceland).

Iceland Map

This was our main driving route, I starred/saved the things that I wanted to see on Google Maps. Just a note, the mapping of Iceland on Google Maps isn’t great. There are a lot of roads missing. If you want to venture off the ring road, I would suggest buying a directory at the airport or if you’re on a budget, like we were, go to the information office outside the airport gate and get some free maps of each area.

Our first stop was Reykjavik. During our first trip to Iceland in 2011 we didn’t actually get to see much of the main city, but this time we made more of an effort to explore.

Hallgrímskirkja - church in Iceland

This is Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran church, and it was designed to resemble the basalt lava flows found in Iceland.

Hallgrímskirkja - church in Iceland

Inside Hallgrímskirkja.

Hallgrímskirkja

The organ pipes in the church that remind me of Transformers.

Fish Market - Icelandic restaurant

After exploring the town for a while, we decided to treat ourselves to a good meal because we knew that for the next few days we would be roughing it out a bit due to limited access to restaurants/food whilst on the road. We ate at The Fish Market (Fiskmarkaðurinn), an upper class restaurant in the middle of town. I felt quite out of place in my waterproof jacket and hiking pants, sitting next to people in suits and nice dresses. Nevertheless the food was delicious. I can’t remember exactly what I ordered but I think it was langoustine along with other delicious bits and bobs.

Eldborg crater - Iceland

The first stop, and a 1.5 hour drive away from Reykjavik was Eldborg crater. You can actually drive closer and hike towards the crater but we decided to give it a miss as we were pressed for time.

Icelandic horses

We stopped on the side of the road to photograph Eldborg and had our first brief encounter with some Icelandic horses.

Iceland

We drove around West Iceland but unfortunately didn’t take many photos as it was raining heavily. This is a shot I took of the North Atlantic sea before the downpour.

rain on window

The next day we headed out early, back towards Reykjavik to pick up some supplies. It’s raining again, in fact it rained for three days and we only had sunshine for one day. If you’re ever planning to head to Iceland, make sure to pack waterproof gear! I lived in my waterproof gear and fleece for the whole duration of the trip. Just a note, we headed to Iceland in late May (summer was just starting) and it was about 10 degrees.

Icelandic meat soup and rye bread

In Reykjavik we stopped off at Cafe Loki for lunch. I ordered Icelandic meat soup that came with a side of trout and cottage cheese on home made rye bread. I’ve never had rye bread before this experience, but I’m a massive fan now. It was a great meal for a cold and stormy day.

supplies

We stocked up on some snacks at Hagkaup (an Icelandic supermarket). Jackson suggested we buy banana chips as a healthier snack option. I was very against them to begin with, but after a few hours I was scoffing them down like crazy and I kept buying them at every supermarket stop. That is, until I realised that they’re not actually that healthy. I’ve been told that if you dislike a certain food and eat it consistently (I believe the number was seven times) you’ll eventually like it. In this case, it was true.

Icelandic horse

We stopped off on the side of the road to photograph and pat the Icelandic horses. Icelandic horses can be found everywhere throughout Iceland. For those of you that don’t know, Icelandic horses are my favourite animal. I first fell in love with them back in 2011. They are a stumpier version of a horse (short legs and can be mistaken for a pony), they can roll around on their backs and are really friendly.

Icelandic horse

They were really curious about my camera.

seljalandsfoss - waterfall in Iceland

Seljalandsfoss waterfall was our first, of many, waterfalls that we visited. By this time it was raining heavily and I wrapped my camera in a plastic bag to shield it from the rain. The plastic bag did little to nothing but my camera survived in the end. You can actually walk around and behind this waterfall. This shot was taken behind the waterfall.

driving road trip

The good thing about our rental car was that it had seat warming functionality. It was great for all those times we ventured off to take photos and came back soaking wet.

Skógafoss waterfall in Iceland

The next waterfall we visited was Skógafoss waterfall, which was close by to Seljalandsfoss. Skógafoss was a lot larger and more powerful. I  like photographing landscapes with people to add perspective.

Skógafoss Iceland waterfall

Another shot of Skógafoss but with a slower shutter speed to blur the motion of the flowing water.

Vik - Iceland beach

The next place we visited was, a black pebble beach near the town of Vík í Mýrdal.

Basalt Columns at Reynisdrangar Iceland

This is Reynisdrangar (basalt sea columns). I mentioned earlier that the basalt columns throughout Iceland were the inspiration for Hallgrímskirkja (the church in Reykjavik). You can really understand why after looking at the two pictures. Legend says that Reynisdrangar emerged when two trolls dragged a three-masted ship to land unsuccessfully and when daylight broke they became needles of rock.

Vík í Mýrdal beach

Vík í Mýrdal beach Iceland

The sea was really coarse that day. I was standing, probably the same distance as the man in this picture was to the shoreline, and almost got splashed by the rough waves.

church in Iceland

On our way out of the beach, we came across this church. You can find these churches with the pointed steeples and red roofs scattered throughout Iceland.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon

Our last stop for the day was Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. It is located near the Ring Road (although you have to drive through this unpaved gravel road to get there).

Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon Iceland

The canyon is about 2km long but we didn’t have enough time to see it all as we had to rush to our home stay before closing check-in time (which seemed to be a continuous trend on this trip).

Stay tuned for the next post and more photos of beautiful Iceland.

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