After spending 12 days in Iceland it deserves to be entitled as one of the most unforgettable experiences in my short nomadic life. The main purpose of this trip was to see Aurora Borealis, but unluckily ALL 12 days were cloudy. Better luck next time! Luckily, Iceland made it up for us with all the other gems this realtively new country has to offer. The journey began with 3-day self-guided tour in Reykjavik. The highlights of this tour were Aurora Reykjavik Northen lights center and the Whale watching tour on a boat. The second highlight, the boat tour, needs to be said with sarcastic tone – 2 hours of pure agony for more than 50% of the people on board. The cabin area was hosting a vomitus party and outside it was freezing, so whoever didn’t want to run the risk of getting frostbite joined the party inside. And of course – no whales.
After Reykjavik it was time to discover this amazing island. We booked a self drive tour from Road Trip Iceland, which lasted for 5 days and included a bit of everything. And we couldn’t have made a better decision! We started our tour with Golden Circle, which is one of the most popular tourist routes in southern Iceland, covering about 300 km. The main stops on this route were Þingvellir National Park, a unique place from a geological point of view and a natural wonder on an international scale, the Gullfoss waterfall, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country, and the geothermal area in Haukadalur, where we were able to explore numerous hot springs and the geysers Geysir and Strokkur. The first day was finished with adrenaline levels boosting snowmobile tour on a glacier.
On the second day we continued towards the south shore. The main activities of the day included a waterfall and hiking on the glacier. At the foot of the infamous Eyjafjallajökull glacier and volcano we stopped for the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. It is possible to walk behind the waterfall, but as it was rainy and windy and we had the hike coming up, we decided to skip it this time and leave it for a warmer season. Then we continued our journey towards Eyjafjallajökull Glacier, the ice cap that covers the caldera of the volcano, which last erupted in 2010 and became (in)famous for causing some serious disturbance to air traffic in the northen hemisphere. And hell yeah, icelanders are proud of this :). We did our glacier walk on the glacier Sólheimajökull and it was amazing. Walking in the ice tunnels wearing proper equipment gave me the feeling of Indiana Jones! While visiting Iceland – a guided glacier tour is a must! We booked ours from here. After the tour we continued our road trip towards Vik, a small town on the black beach, and visited nature reserves, the Dyrhólaey and the Reynisdrangar, nearby.
During the following two days we continued our road trip on the west coast. Western coastline offers numerous fjords, which make it possibly the most scenic part of this island. We drove around the Hvalfjörður fjord and it was absolutely stunning! We then went to Borgarnes, where we visited the Settlement Centre and later continued towards Reykholt to see the Snorralaug (Snorri’s Pool), which is a circular, stone-lined pool fed by a hot spring. The stones at the base of the pool are original (10th century), and it is believed to be the oldest handmade structure in Iceland. The next morning we continued towards Stykkishólmur to explore the countless natural wonders of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, that divides the west coast of Iceland into two large bays. On our way to the tip of the peninsula we passed a number of volcanic craters on both sides of the road, Eldborg being the largest and most beautiful shape. Closer to the tip one drives past many former fishing stations like Dritvík, Djúpalónssandur and Öndverðarnes, and small fishing towns like Hellissandur, Rif and Ólafsvík on the northen coastline of the peninsula. Before arriving in the charming village of Stykkishólmur we stopped in Bjarnarhöfn to visit a shark museum. The farmstead there is the region’s leading producer of fermented shark meat, a hákarl in icelandic and it is a traditional Icelandic dish. In the museum we were explained the butchering and the fermenting process of the Greenland shark, which, in fact, eaten fresh is poisonous. The foodies will have an opportunity to taste the hákarl, but in all honesty the meat was really pungent and had a very gooey consitency, far from the fine dining experience I had envisioned 🙂
The fifth day, which was the last day of our self drive tour, offered us a bit of everything. We drove to the south, to Reykjanes peninsula, where we had a chance to explore some of the wonders, such as lake Kleifarvatn and Krýsuvík geothermal area. After this it was time for the first and the only physical activity of the day – the ATV tour in Grindavík. I had driven an ATV many times before, but had never had an experience like that. It was so much fun to ride on a super muddy terrain that looks and feels like a lunar landscape. After an hour ‘playing in the mud’ it was time for relaxation. And what could be more better way for this than the Blue Lagoon, one of the 25 wonders of the world. Filled with mineral-rich waters, the Blue Lagoon has become known for providing soothing relief for sufferers of skin ailments, as well as for others, simply looking for a sensational bathing experience. We spent nearly two hours soaking in this 40 degree water, doing silica masks and drinking Skyr smoothies. It felt so surreal swimming in the outdoors pool when the temperature was close to -10 degrees! A little tip for ladies with long hair – unless you want to end up with Cruella’s hair, make sure you keep your hair dry. We finished our SPA experience in the bar eating sandwitches and skyr yoghurt. For those who prefer a more refined experience I would recommend LAVA Restaurant there, but make sure to book a table in advance.
The next day was spent in Reykjavik wandering around the town, doing souvenir shopping and eating traditional Icelandic dishes. And the very last day on Iceland – as the Blue Lagoon was such a lovely experience, we decided to go there one more time. While enjoying the light blue water and reflecting all that Iceland offered us during these past 11 days, I decided that Iceland is a place that also needs to be seen in summer time.