Iceland Road Trip – Tips on Planning

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What is Iceland for us? Iceland is for us is like entering to into another planet. It is far by the most beautiful place I have ever seen, and I am sure it will always remain no1 on my favourites list. The beautiful landscapes, magnificent mountains, amazing waterfalls and so much more. If you love being around nature, believe me you will not find a perfect setting like this.

So in this post I am going to delve into a bit of tips on planning your trip. If you are coming to Iceland just to visit Reykjavik, then planning is quite straight forward but if you are planning to drive around island then there are few things which you might want to consider or plan well ahead.

When to Visit Iceland

I have visited Iceland in Summers and Winters, and frankly I will not be able to pick my favourite time. It displays a different landscape in both the seasons, and some options for you to choose. Summers will give you the opportunity to see midnight sun as it never really gets dark and winters will show you the amazing Northern Lights. So if you have a bucket list with both of these items, I will suggest to make two trips to Iceland to see the beauty it offers.

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Iceland in Winters

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Iceland in Summers

To give you an idea on weather, here is what I read and saw for myself.

May to June – It is spring time, it will be cold, less crowd, snow still at some places and might be inaccessible as well.

July to August – Summers time, tourist season, pleasant weather and almost all of the country accessible.

September to October – Autumn time, a shoulder time with still pleasant weather and winters coming up. Few parts of the country might start to get accessible only by mountain vehicles and 4wd cars.

November to April – Winters time, snow snow snow and chance to see Northern Lights.

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What Must/Should go in a Packing List

When in Iceland, you could see a lot of variation in weather in a single day. When you went out it might be sunny, but within few hours its heavy rains, strong winds and by evening it could be again calm. So be prepared and bring layers with you to dress up accordingly.

Clothes – You must bring a a thermal vest, rain jacket & water proof trousers, along with a cap and gloves. Rest of the list I will leave for you to decide 🙂

Navigation – It is always helpful to have a Sat-Nav or Tom-Tom with you. Driving in Iceland is easy as there is no complicated road network. But it always added an advantage to your journey, for an instance to look for the nearest gas station or a grocery shop.

Road Map – If possible, get an Iceland road map. Sometimes Sat Nav will try to take you to the shortest route or fastest route via a impassable route or a route fit for only large vehicle. At those times, basic knowledge of ideas will come to great help.

Phones – Download a couple of useful apps on your phone to get to know the weather and road conditions while you are driving across Iceland.

  1. 112 – This is the official app for emergency service in Iceland. With this app, you can send an SMS to Icelandic emergency services while using the GPS location before dialing 112.
  2. Vedur – Best Icelandic weather app. It helped us a lot in planning our day in both of our visits.
  3. Iceland Road Guide – Gives you a very good ideas on the roads in Iceland.

 

Money/Credit Cards – Get some Icelandic currency as well as enable your cards for foreign transactions. If you are out of cash, one can always use a credit card even in remote parts of this island.

Camera Equipment – I am sure you will not forget it, but should go in the list anyways. Carry all your favourite lenses as well as tripod to capture the beauty of the place and bring it with you back home. A pack of extra battery may be 🙂

Where to Stay in Iceland

If you are touring around the island then you will be driving every other day to a new place. Around Reyjkavik , you will not fall short of options. But as you start moving away from the capital, options are a little lesser. But locations of most of the places is awesome. During our stay, we stayed in hotel, hostels as well as Air BnB in some of the awestruck settings.  If you want to stay close to the nature, I will advise you to book well in advance, as accommodations like the ones below does really get booked fast.

  1. Foss Hotel, Nupar Near Skaftafell
  2. Berunes Hostel
  3. Mjonaes Accomodation, Egilsstadir
  4. Akureryi Air BnB options
  5. Hvammstangi Seaside Cottage
  6. Bryggjukafi Hostel or Sima Hostel, Flateryi
  7. A seaside cottage, Talknafjordur

 

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Food/Grocery Shopping & Fuel

Like any other country, Iceland does not fall in the options of restaurants and grocery shop. But eating out everyday on a long trip might burn a hole in your pocket.If you are travelling on budget ( like us ) and having a self catered stay, I have listed out few super market names for your grocery shopping.

  1. Bonus – Cheapest Option
  2. Netto
  3. Kronan

Fuel – No problem in finding a fuel station in Iceland, they accept foreign cards as well as cash. When you are driving away from Reykjavik, be vary of the fact that sometimes the distance between fuel stations can go upto 100KM, so just keep an eye on the fuel tank and keep tanking it up.

Things To Do

Iceland is like Santa’s Christmas Sack which never falls short of options 🙂 There is something for everyone, whether you choose organised tours or self planned trip. And if you love hiking/walking, it will be a paradise for you. Nevertheless, I have mentioned few activites below:

  1. Hiking/Walking
  2. River Rafting
  3. Helicopter Tours
  4. Glacier Hike
  5. Rock Climbing
  6. Cave Tours
  7. Ice Climbing
  8. Horseback Riding
  9. ATV Tours
  10. Northern Lights in Winters

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Iceland Road Trip – 11 days Itinerary

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At this moment I am suffering from post holiday depression ( as  one of my dearest friend calls it ) after my superb and awesome 11 days road trip around the most lovely island – Iceland. I was thinking of ways to overcome this depression. Guess what! writing about it seemed like the best option for self help 🙂

So I started planning for this road trip from Nov 2016. You all must think that’s way too much early, but I had to as my 11 months old baby (who was 3.5 months then) was supposed to join us on this lifetime of a road trip. So yes I took my time to plan the routes, drive times, accommodations,  car hiring, sights, hidden gems, baby foods and much more.

I would like to share the details of my plans and itinerary with all other fellow travellers to make their next venture to Iceland a bit more convenient with some useful tips.  So next few blog posts will be dedicated to Happy Iceland Travel 🙂

Here is a print shot of the journey we travelled to give you an idea of our journey. PS: All the stops are not included  as Mr.Google will not allow me to add all places in one go. So I will break down my journey and travel plans for each day 🙂

 

You will notice that I have not included South west part of Iceland on the map, as we had visited that part of Iceland on our last trip to Iceland. I will provide the details on that as well.

PS: We rented a car and did a self drive tour around the Island. Our own tour, not through any tour company 🙂 We enrouted to south coast first, going anti-clock around the island.

PS: I will be writing separate posts for each of the places that are mentioned below.

Day 1 – Keflavik to Skaftafell/Vatnajokull National Park

When you arrive at the airport, your car will be ready for you to pick up and you must be geared up to start your epic road trip in Iceland.

1st Stop – Seljalandasfoss

2nd Stop – Skogafoss

3rd Stop – Vik Village and Black Sand Beach

4th Stop – Solheimasamdur Plane Wreck Site ( which sadly we could not visit, as it was pouring down heavily and we did not want a sick baby on the first day of our journey)

5th Stop – Quick Stop at Fjadrargljufur Canyons.

6th Stop – A peaceful night at your chosen accommodation. We stayed at Fosshotel Nupar, every room had huge windows with superb views.

Day 2 – Skaftafell/Vatnajokull National Park to Berunes

1st Stop – Walking in the national Park. You can choose to go for a long hike or a small hike, hard or easy, lots of choices available.

2nd Stop – Jokulsarlon Glacier & Diamond Beach

3rd Stop – Hofn Village

4th Stop – Vestahorn Mountains in Stokksnes

5th Stop – A peaceful night at your chosen accommodation. We stayed at a cottage (YHA International Hostelling) by the sea with mountains around.

Day 3 – Berunes to Egilsstaðir

It is a beautiful coastal drive, one of our favorite drives around the island. You will love every bit of this drive.

Stop 1 – Petra’s Stone Collection

Stop 2 – Hengifoss Waterfall

Stop 3 – Walk in the Hallormsstadur Forest

Day 4 – Egilsstadir to Seydisfjordur

Walk around the this little beautiful town. It is a home to beautiful waterfalls, so if you love hiking you will have a treat.

On return, visit Egilsstadir town and may be a dip in the thermal pool.

Day 5 – Egilsstadir to Akureyri – Lots of options to explore on this drive

Stop 1 – Dettifoss & Selfoss

Stop 2 – Viti Crater

Stop 3 – Krafla Power Station

Stop 4 – Hevrir

Stop 5 – Lake Myvatn

Stop 6 – Godafoss

Day 6 – Visit & Explore Akureyri – This will give you little break from all the driving.

Day 7 – Akureyri to Hvammstangi 

If you plan to visit west fjords during your trip, hvammstangi is a good option for a break in journey. It is a beautiful coastal town with many walks and options to check out Arctic Tern Colony.

Day 8 – Hvammstangi to Isafjordur or Flatyeri

Get ready for an awesome drive in the Fjords. A part of this journey will be on the gravel road, but landscape around you will make up for it.

Stop 1 – Non sense Museum – You read it right, I did not make something up.

Stop 2 – Old Book Store in Iceland – Worth a trip, if you love to read this is the place for you.

Day 9 – Isafjordur

Explore Isafjordur and near by villages. Go for long hikes or short walks.

Day 10 – Flateyri to Talknafjordur

Stop 1 – Pingyeri Village – Museums, Village Walks.

Stop 2 – Dyjandi Falls

Stop 3 – Swim in natural geothermal pools

Stop 4 – Latrabjarg Cliffs

Day 11 – Talknafjordur to Keflavik

Get ready for the longest drive of the trip, its time to head back to Keflavik and back home 😦

Before you go back home, visit blue lagoon to get those muscles relaxed and soak in the beauty of Iceland.

More blog posts coming up for each of the places mentioned above 🙂

South Coast Iceland – Seljalandsfoss

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Seljalandsfoss, another breath-taking waterfall in south coast of Iceland. This waterfall is very difficult to miss as you will notice it while driving along the Ring Road. It is very popular among the tourists, and is always crowded with tour buses and cars. Many Icelanders choose this location as a wedding photography venue as well or even to exchange vows.

Another main reason it is particularly very popular as it allows people to able to go behind the waterfall on a well developed trail.

During the winter months with days short, we arrived at Seljalandsfoss after sunset. It was windy, cold but a clear night. And this waterfall is lit up during the night, and it looked wonderful. You could see water flowing down like a cotton candy from the height. It was a mesmerizing moment. And of course Ash was happy, he wanted that we should reach at this waterfall once it starts to get darker. Why?

So that he could take some beautiful pictures of the falls.

Unfortunately we could not walk behind the falls this time as it was too cold and we were sure to get wet if we walked behind it because of the force of the wind. Frankly I did not want it either as I was freezing from cold, temperature was around 0 at that time.

Like many other places, I had to look for Seljalandsfoss meaning as well over the internet. What I found is, Seljalandi meant ‘Seller’ and Foss meant ‘Falls’, so we can call it Seller’s Falls. Interesting isn’t it?

South Coast Iceland – Skogafoss

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Continuing my posts on the attractions on the South Coast of Iceland.

While driving on South coast you will notice waterfalls after every few kms. So we decided to make a stop at Skogafoss , one of the most popular waterfall in Iceland and a true rival of the Gullfoss.

The meaning of the name of this waterfall is “skógur” meant “forest” and “foss” meant waterfall. That means somewhere in the old days this must be a “Forest Falls”. But it does not look like a forest at the moment, but has a lush of green all around. The tall waterfall (of 25 metres (82 feet) and a drop of 60 m (200 ft)) surrounded by green mountains makes it spectacular.

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Due to the amount of spray the waterfall consistently produces, a single or double rainbow is normally visible on sunny days. But we could not capture that as given the time of the year we visited Iceland, there were very minute chances of Sun itself 🙂

During my time in Iceland, I was very much mesmerized with the stories behind each attraction. So I would like to share an Icelandic tale behind this waterfall 🙂

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According to Icelanders, the first Viking settler in the area, buried a treasure in a cave behind the waterfall. The legend continues that locals found the chest years later, but were only able to grasp the ring on the side of the chest before it disappeared again. The ring was allegedly given to the local church. The old church door ring is now in a museum. How interesting, that chest actually disappeared.

If you did not have enough of the sight, you can choose to hike the path that climbs up the cliffs surrounding the recess containing the falls to yield top down views of not only the waterfall but also the view towards the Atlantic Ocean as well.

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Just before leaving Skogafoss, we took a small turn around the area to have a quick look at the open air museum that shows the houses during old times in Iceland. When I looked at the houses it definitely looked pretty, but then the thought of how people managed to live is such a small space and how bad it would be during rainy and snow days.

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South Coast Iceland -Black Sand Beach,Reynishverfi

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Reynishverfi beach, near the village Vik in Myrdalur on South Coast of Iceland, is very popular and the most impressive black-sand beach in Iceland. It is also a popular destination for day tours that are organized by different tour companies in the Reykjavik.

We arrived at Reynisfjara on a winter but warm afternoon 🙂 To our luck it was sunny today and as a cherry on top, there was no wind. It was cold, very cold but these added benefits just made the day. Before heading to the beach, we took a short lunch break at Strondin Bistro and Bar, where they served Icelandic Meat soup, in addition to many other options. Food was warm and tasty to keep us happy. Infact through the windows of the bar, you can enjoy the Vik side view of the beach on a rainy day or a windy day.

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But if would like to see those huge 68m high rocks into a different perspective then you should take a right-turn about 10 km before Vík. A road sign will take you in the direction of Reynishöfn where you can take a look at the Reynishverfi beach. It is a black pebble beach and has an amazing cliff of basalt columns resembling a a rocky step pyramid, which is called Gardar.

You will several caves under these basalt columns, according to Icelandic stories, a monster was supposed to have lived in one of the many caves at the bottom of the cliff for many centuries. But since a landslide more than 100 years ago, the monster seems to have disappeared.

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Looking towards the sea you can see spectaculary shaped basalt sea stacks Reynisdrangar.  This beach is a nesting area of puffins, they migrate back to Iceland in summers for breeding season.

According to another Icelandic tale, two trolls attempted to drag a ship to land but were turned to stone as daylight broke, turning them into into the Reynisdrangar stacks. But Geological experts have a different view from those who think they are the stature of trolls 🙂

It is a beautiful landscape that is formed by motlen lava and you can see the effect everywhere around you.

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Hunting for Northern Lights, Iceland

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Like many of us, I also had one item in my bucket list to see dancing Northern Lights. And I have been so lucky to see those lights dazzling and dancing for us for one night during our trip. One of the most amazing nights of my life.

The Northern Lights are one of nature’s great exhibitions: a mysterious, colourful show in sky when suddenly it gets lit up with green, red, yellow lights twisting and dancing around like disco lights. It is an indefinable thrill that can make anyone overwhelmed with humble feelings.

One of the many reason to plan Iceland trip in winter was to try our luck to see Northern Lights. They are active and mostly visible during winter months.  The lights are formed from fast-moving, electrically charged particles that emanate from the sun. These are driven towards the poles by the Earth’s magnetic field – their varying colors are a result of the different gases in the upper atmosphere. Mostly green because of the oxygen present above  us.

While in Iceland, me & ash had a duty to check the Aurora forecast after every few hours.  The day we arrived in Reykjavik, it showed the Aurora forecast as Moderate. From what I have read that Aurora lights can be a mesmerizing affair even with moderate levels. Me and ash were in Iceland only for 5 days, so we did not want to miss the chance of hunting the moderate Northern Lights as well.

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So we headed out for our first NL hunting tour [ Organised by GrayLine Tours – http://grayline.is/] , our guide drove us into the darkness, away from the city lights and we reached Borganes. After spending few good hours in the darkness and cold night, very cold, we finally left the hope of seeing NL tonight. Just when we were walking back to bus, something appeared in the sky. It brought the excitement, we waited another 15mins for that something to glow a bit darker. And the there it was our first glimpse of  NL, a very low light in the sky. It was not dazzling, but were happy to see something and returned back to our hotels.

We still kept a check on aurora forecast over the week, and to our luck one of the nights NL became active again. Again that night we headed out towards Thingvellir National Park, and to out luck NL appeared and they were just not beautiful ,dazzling and bright, but they danced  for us for 4-5 hours. We were happy as a kid, at that moment it did not matter to us that weather outside is -10 degree C, what mattered was that lights decided to appear for us and the whole sky was lit up in green. And these moments were captured once again by Ash and his love lens 🙂

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Some interesting stories/myths/beliefs about Northern Lights that was told to us by our guide;

  1. Many beliefs around the northern lights see the phenomena as a good omen.
  2. Lights were the gods of harvest and hunting.
  3. It is still believed that a child conceived under the northern lights will be blessed with good fortunes.
  4. On the contrary Icelanders believed that it would ease the pain of childbirth for pregnant women, but they also believed that pregnant women looking at the Aurora would have cross eyed children. [ I do not think so it is true, as I haven’t met anyone in Iceland who was crossed eye 🙂 ]

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Blue Lagoon, Iceland

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Iceland – Finally!!! After planning for a year, postponing and cancelling the plan many times , we made it to Iceland. And I am so glad that we finally did that. It is truly the most volatile and magical place on earth,  its vivid stories, molten lava fields, sea, geothermal pools and much more.

For next few weeks, I will be sharing my Iceland stories on my blog. I hope you will like them. I would also like to thanks my very dear blogger friend Gin (http://darwinontherocks.com/) who helped me with her suggestions on the itinerary. Her Iceland journey is fantastic.

So we landed at Keflavik airport on a cool Sunday evening, picked up a booked car at Budget/Avis Company and headed straight to Blue Lagoon.

So I did not drive during this trip, Ash did all the driving/photography  and I did my part of reading maps/directions/planning J  It was Ash’s first experience of driving in Europe on right hand side, as UK and India have left hand drive plus the added snow/ice made it even more trickier. But as good as he is at lens, he is no less on steering wheels as well, with in 30minutes he was comfortable and cruising over Icelandic roads.

Blue lagoon is not far more from airport, just 30-40 minutes drives towards Grindavik. You will see sign boards on the road with Bláa lónið, so no chance you will miss it.

At this time of the year there was not much of traffic, from what I have heard during the summer months as well it is more or less same, we reached on time at Blue Lagoon. It was surrounded by snow and snow-capped peaks.  Blue lagoon no doubt is very famous and touristy place. When we reached the parking, there were a number of tour buses and cars that were already parked out there. So we already knew, we will not have this place to ourselves (just kidding!!! 🙂 )

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When you enter the building, you will be provided with a wrist tag that you will be using to lock down your lockers, pay for drinks if you fancy one when you get into the pool, or a meal or even a fack pack or massage. You can pay all of it together while leaving the lagoon.

So when you will come out of changing rooms and head out to the pool,  I bet the first reaction will be something like – OMG, WOW, Am I really here 🙂 , I have been seeing these pictures from last year and Yey finally I am here.  Oh yes I was so delighted and joyful to be here. Initially Ash was not that interest in going to blue lagoon as he thought pictures on internet makes it look beautiful, one might not know how it will look in real. But guess what after an hour in the pool, ash was the one who was not ready to leave the pool 🙂 🙂

This pool is magnificent, with it’s blue waters & steam looks like a fairy tale place. It is truly in the lap of Mother Nature. Who will not want to have this experience once in life.

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The lagoon is a man-made lagoon which is fed by the water output of the nearby geothermal power plant and is renewed every two days. Superheated water is vented from the ground near a lava flow and used to run turbines that generate electricity. After going through the turbines, the steam and hot water passes through a heat exchanger to provide heat for a municipal water heating system. Then the water is fed into the lagoon for recreational and medicinal users to bathe in.

The warm waters are rich in minerals like silica  and sulfur and bathing in the Blue Lagoon is reputed to help some people suffering from skin diseases. The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 37–39 °C . It also operates a research and development facility to help find cures for other skin ailments using the mineral-rich water. Few pictures from our trip.

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