Iceland is a country that has been on my bucketlist for a while and this year my boyfriend and I decided to finally go. On the 8th of july we left for a two week roadtrip through the immense beauty of the country of ice and fire.
We arrived at Keflavik airpoirt in the afternoon and our first stop was the car rental company (we chose Lotus car rentals). Iceland is very expensive and because we wanted to keep the costs of this trip as low as possible (#budgettravelling), we had chosen the cheapest car.
The car we rented was an old, red Hyundai i10 with 179880km on the counter. I have to admit that I wasn't really at ease at first - it seemed to have difficulties on some hills - but it served us well and faithful. How many km we drove on our two week roadtrip? You can read about that in my next blogpost (day 14).
For today we planned an afternoon at Reykjavik, but when looking back, that wasn't our most brilliant idea. After getting our car, we arrived at the capital city way later than planned and we were quite tired to do much. We shopped for groceries at the Bonus supermarket (the cheapest one in Iceland) and left for our camping at Grindavik*.
Our first night camping went very well. We had no problems setting up our tent and slept well even though it was very windy and it did not get dark (in july the sun does not go down). Today we were going to see one of the main attractions of Iceland: the Golden Circle. Our first stop was Thingvellir National Park, a park that is mostly known for the fault between the Eurasian and American continent. The park was very beautiful and interesting but not that special - we did go see Silfra (a glacier lagoon above the fissure line) because on our last day in Iceland we would go snorkling over there!
The second stop was the Gulfoss waterfall, where we first met the power and beauty of the Icelandic nature. Gulfoss is beautiful and the first of many more waterfalls.
Geysir is the famous geyser that is supposed to be the biggest in the world. However... the geyser rarely errupts. Luckily there were also smaller geysers that were very fun to watch, but for me this stop wasn't very special, but that's maybe because I have been to Yellowstone and to me, that was more impressive.
The last stop for the day was Kerid, an explosion crater filled with water. To see it, you have to pay 400 crowns per person. It was really beautiful and mostly very special. You can walk around the crater (on top) but you can also go down to the water inside. We did both. Afterwards we went to our next camping, Langbrok.
SELJALANDSFOSS & SKOGAFOSS
Iceland truly is the country of waterfalls. There are so many of them and the next one is even more beautiful than the previous one and they ar all so different! Apparently Iceland has so many waterfalls because the country is quite young - literally - that means that the land still has to even out and the water has to adjust to the right levels; and that happens through waterfalls. It's something I didn't know! So, you can expect many waterfalls in my Iceland travelogue. Seljalandsfoss is special because you can walk behind the waterfall, which is an unique experience! Definitely take your raincoat though, because I can assure you that you'll get wet.
Something I can recommend you to do in general: look further than the touristic attractions. And with that I mean, look at the surroudings. We discovered many beautiful places close to the big must-sees that are mentioned in every travel guide. We wanted to add some adventure to our trip and small things like that, help. At Seljalandsfoss there's a small trail that you can follow to the the entrance of a hidden waterfall. It's a small cove in the rocks where you can walk into, which is a fun experience! You have to walk next to a small river and then you can see the waterfall in the middle of the cave. Quite special! Next to the cave you can do a short, steep climb to the top of the waterfall. It's small in comparison with Seljalandsfoss but I'm glad we found it - and a big plus: barely any tourists.
Skogafoss is once again a wonderful waterfall definitely worth a visit. You can visit the waterfall from beneath and from aboce, if you climb the stairway next to it. What I liked most though is the walk you can make behind the waterfall (from above). It is the beginning of a two-day trek to Thorsmork (where the Laugagevur trek ends).
We didn't know about the trek to Thorsmork and we started following the path to see where it would bring us. After two hours of walking we started to wonder (you always have to calculate the duration of the return) and only then did we realize we starte a 24km hike. But we were so glad we did that though! It was the most wonderful walk and every turn brought us a new overwhelming landscape. Even though you don't have time for the complete hike, take the time to do the first 3km of it! We guess we have walked the first 3,5km and what we saw was breathtaking. We didn't want to stop, but still had to return and it started getting late. In total we walked 7km and we did that in 3 hours. You can do it in less time for sure but we stopped so often to take pictures or to just sit down for a while to enjoy the view.
Note: We'll definitely return to Iceland to walk the Laugagevur and the hike we started at Skogafoss. I think it's a 6 day trek.
We ended day three in the town of Vik and camped on the campsite Vik i Myrdal. We had planned to visit the famous beach today, but it had gotten too late because of the hike. We BBQ'ed on the campsite.
Black beaches, a canyon and being ill
Day four didn't start all too well - I didn't feel very good the evening before but know I woke up with the flew. The biggest bummer when travelling is getting ill - definitely when it's an active trip.
We started the day with a visit to the black beach of Vik, where there are impressive basalt columns and rough rock formations. It's also the ideal place to spot some puffins!
By the time we arrived here, I felt really bad. But, stubborn as I am, I wanted to walk next to the canyon. It was a really short walk, but I was dying at that time and had no energy at all. The canyon was beautiful but we were a bit disappointed because we had expected more of it. Fjadrarglufur looks exactly the same as the pictures. That means that it is very nice indeed, but also that it's nothing more - normally seeing something in real life is more impressive and we didn't get that here.
On our way to the next camping spot, we stopped at Systrafoss. As the name tells you already (foss), it is another waterfall. You could climb up next to it and on top of the hill there is a lake, Systravatn. It was a nice activity, but not very special - it was a nice break in between the drive - but definitely not a must-see.
When we arrived at the Skaftafell camping, I was exhausted. Praise for my boyfriend who really took good care of me. He set up the tent by himself (so I could rest in the car for a bit), he cooked and he did the dishes so all I had to do was get in the tent, eat and go to sleep.
About the camping: Skaftafell is more expensive than the others (you can't use the campingcard* and you have to pay extra for electricity and showers) and it's definitely not the best. However it's almost impossible not to spend the night here because - for campers - there is really no other option - there is nothing else closeby.
DAYHIKE IN SKAFTAFELL NATIONAL PARK
Finally, a long hike! We were really looking forward to a more serieus trek and the Skaftafellsheidi loop is a lovely hike of around 15,5km. They say you can do the hike in 6 to 7 hours. Important side note: I felt better, but wasn't my old self yet. The long night of sleep did we good and I felt I battled through but my energy wasn't at my normal high.
We decided to start together anyway because the 15km hike (S3) started together with a shorter hike, the S6. I was going to see how I felt and if it didn't go well, we'd split up and I'd do the short hike of about 7km. To my surprise it all went really well and when we came to the beginning of the S3, I decided to go for it. However, what we didn't realize at that moment, is that we only did the M-route of both hikes because we went the wrong way (both hikes are loops, so the beginning and ending are close together). An M-route is an easy route and the S-route is the challenging route. So while thinking I did a part of an S-route and it went so well, I decided to go on...
To keep it short: it was hard for me. It went really well untill there was a relative steep climb - I had to stop from time to time to catch my breath. I honestly did not have the energy for such a climb but as stubborn as I am, I did not want to return and we continued at my speed. Luckily once on top, it went easier because the hike became quite flat and then it started descending again. We finished the hike in six hours and a half, so my even when ill my stamina is not too bad.
The hike itself is great by the way. In the middle of the trail you have the breathtaking view of the Skaftafellsjökull glacier and that is simply magnificent. As I said before, we started the hike on the 'wrong' side, but personally I liked it better this way. Definitely buy the plan of the hiking routes in the park. It's 'only' 350 crowns and you can buy it at the information centrum, it comes in handy! So if you're looking for a good dayhike: the Skaftafellsheidiloop is definitely an awesome one!
In Roadtrip Iceland Pt. II you can find more about the next days of our roadtrip! Day 6 to 10.
If you have any questions: ask me!
*We used the Camping Card in Iceland - for more information, check my post 'Tips for a roadtrip in Iceland'.
For the adventurers who laugh at the thought of camping on a campground and rather go wildcamping: it's not allowed anymore, unless you ask permission to the landowners. There are so many tourists in Iceland and wildcamping is forbidden because of the impact it has on nature. We understood that before we visited Iceland and we realized how necessary this rule was when we were there. The Icelandic nature is really suffering under the mass tourism. But more about that in another blogpost about Iceland.