Today Iceland is a quiet, sophisticated society living in happy solitude from the rest of the world. We were immensely excited to jump in our hire car Sparky the Chevrolet to explore the unique landscapes and history that make up this captivating country. If you are going to fork out the extra cash to visit here, you must do it properly. Many vacationers spend very little time here and concentrate what little they have in Reykjavik and surrounding areas. The best way to grasp the beauty of Iceland is by hiring a car and driving the Ring Road, the country’s Highway 1, which meanders through the countryside along spectacular valleys, around magnificent fjords and by enchanting villages and places with such wonderfully difficult names as Höfn, Seyðisfjörður, Húsavík, Snæfellsnes, Ólafsvík, Grundarfjörður, and Stykkishólmur.
Iceland has some of the most incredible landscapes we have ever seen, and reminded us very much of the beautiful region of Tierra Del Fuego at the bottom of the world in South America. Travelling is all about the journey admiring unique vistas along the way, for such a small island Iceland has the most diverse of landscapes; from dramatic cliffs, sheer mountains, and spectacular green valleys carved millions of years ago by colossal glaciers to tonnes of mighty volcanoes. This fiery island is teeming with over 100 volcanic monsters of which 30% are active, the most famous one you may remember, Eyjafjallajökull, (get a mouthful of that one) that caused major disruptions throughout Europe when it blew its top off back in 2010.
In fact there might even be more waterfalls than people here. If it’s not a gushing torrent of water like the epic Gullfoss or Dettifoss – the latter of which is the mightiest in the whole of Europe – it is a trickling vertical stream flowing off the glaciers into valley floors below. We probably saw hundreds of them, not only did they provide wonderful photo opportunities they gave us unlimited clean drinking water, a significant savings for us in the budget department.
If the water in Iceland is not rushing, flowing, trickling or spouting it is frozen, in either a glacier or chunks of said glacier floating in a lake like Jökulsárlón where we found giant icebergs slowly floating along the lake to the sea after breaking off from Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, the biggest glacier in Europe. Arriving here we suddenly felt like we had arrived back in Antarctica with the icy water beckoning us and the eerie silence with only the soft sound of ice moving and breaking.
Not far from Jökulsárlón Lake, on the east coast of the island, is the spectacular fjord region. A long windy road leads you by the sea shore past some of the most incredible mountains, so tall and so steep they just seem to pop out of nowhere. Quaint fishing villages like Seyðisfjörður lay protected in peaceful harbours against a backdrop of snow capped mountains and water so calm and crystal clear a mirror reflection of the land, sky and sea glitters. Postcards wouldn’t even do this region justice, it is simply breathtaking.
No matter whom you are or whatever your budget may be, everyone who visits Iceland makes their first or last stop the Blue Lagoon, the biggest hot tub we have ever seen! While it may be patronised by more tourists than locals this man made spring of mineral rich, boiling hot blue water, set amidst a lava field, is a brilliant way to end a stay in Iceland. This is the ultimate in bathing. Inside the lagoon, the warm water surrounding us, we explored its nooks and crannies, applied face masks, detoxed in the grotto style sauna and floated, floated our worries away.
Scandinavians are very liberal with their bodies and don’t mind getting naked in front of each other, which is quite an interesting and humorous experience when you get a bus load of frigid foreigners too timid to take their kit off scurrying around the locker room not knowing how to hide their bits as they shower, what to do or where to go. Finding a local and following their lead is the key to making it to the water looking like you know what you are doing. Funnily a bunch of men disappeared without there swimming trunks upon entering the change rooms, much to their wives dismay, who were waiting with them at the entrance. We never found out if these men were reunited with their trunks…
Iceland is one of those far away places we only dream of travelling too; immaculate towns, friendly people, and landscapes so beautiful, so dramatic, you have to pinch yourself “is this real”? We were so thrilled with our decision to make the one week stop over. In the end it was worth every cent of “denting” our budget.
Next stop Iain gets one step closer to his homeland as we hit the shores of ol’ blighty, England…
Click here to view our beautiful photo album of Iceland…
P.S Stay tuned in December for a video of our immense drive around Iceland!