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Iceland Roadtrip

Iceland – the land of ice and fire. This country is by far the most fascinating I have seen with very extreme geological contrasts and the most fascinating nature. Iceland is a land full of contrasts – it is home to some of the largest glaciers and some of the world’s most active volcanoes. It’s a land of light and darkness – days in the summer where there’s light almost 24 hours and in the winter where there’s only a few hours of daylight. There is so much to see in Iceland that one trip alone cannot cover everything obviously, but going there for a roadtrip is a unique way to experience the country and a popular way of traveling. There might be days with many hours of driving but the sights along the way are numerous and breathtaking and even though you might drive for hours it will never get boring.

Your route for an Iceland road trip

1. Reykjavik

We started our Iceland journey off in Reykjavik, the capital and simultaneously the largest city of Iceland. Reykjavik and the surrounding region are home to over 2/3rd of the whole countries’ population. Just as Iceland itself is full of diversities, this happens to continue to Reykjavik – a city full of striking contrasts. While they are taking good care of their national traditions, international influence can still be seen. The city has many small houses clad with corrugated iron being very iconic for Icelandic architecture; simultaneously the city houses futuristic buildings with an international style. It is a citywhere you’ll find first class facilities just minutes away from rugged, volcanic terrain. All this creates a unique culture where the traditional embraces the new. With a population of around 130.000 Reykjavik isn’t the typical capital regarding the size. The city holds only few skyscrapers, the atmosphere is relaxing and the pace is low. Don’t be fooled by the size though, the city has a pulsating vein of exuberant creativity and energy, which keeps the city alive.

The most visited attraction on Iceland - the Blue Lagoon

2. The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is equally the most visited attraction in Iceland, and for a reason. We went to Iceland at a time where Covid-19 still had a big impact on the travel industry and for our advantage at that time there were only few tourists. Even though being the most visited attraction and thereby probably being crowded at times where the travel industry is normally busy I would always go there again and for sure didn’t regret I did. The Blue Lagoon is a place of affordable luxury and relaxation in midst of the raw Icelandic lava nature. There might be confusions as whether the Blue Lagoon is of natural origin or not and I’ve been there myself wondering what it is and how it was formed. The Blue Lagoon is not one of the natural hot springs you might find other places in Iceland. The surroundings are natural as is the lava forming it; the water though is a result of the geothermal power station in close proximity to it which supplies the Blue Lagoon with the hot water vented from the ground near a lava flow.

A must-see in Iceland - the Lava Tunnel

3. The Lava Tunnel

A must-see in Iceland is the Lava Tunnel ‘Raufarholshellir’ – one of the longest and best-known lava tubes in Iceland. It is quite a unique experience and gives you a great insight into the geological history of Iceland. So, you’re probably wondering what a lava tunnel is…the lava tunnel is a path where the actual lava once flowed after the volcanic Leitahraun eruption about 5200 years ago. The tunnel is an impressive 1,3 km long though if you are opting for the standard tour which is shorter and easily accessible you won’t see the total length of it. You might also be wondering how the lava tube was formed. Well, as the lava flows it develops a hard crust which thickens and eventually forms as a roof above the still-flowing lava stream underneath. Eventually, the lava stream stops and an empty tunnel is left. It is quite an impressive sight and a special experience being witness to the mighty forces of nature.

Iceland is filled with plenty of breathtaking waterfalls like Seljalandsfoss

4. Seljalandsfoss & Gljufrabui

Iceland is filled with plenty of breathtaking waterfalls; Seljalandsfoss being one of them with a whopping 60m cascade. When the snow of the glacier melts it produces tons and tons of water resulting in uncountable waterfalls located all over Iceland. Seljalandsfoss is the only waterfall though that can be fully encircled, meaning you can actually walk behind it which makes it unique and popular to be visited. Stepping behind the waterfall gives you a whole new perspective to marvel on the beautiful Icelandic nature. This impressive waterfall belongs to one of the country’s most famous and visited waterfalls. The cliff of the cascade once marked Iceland’s coastline;now, a stretch of lowland is located between the Atlantic sea and the Seljalands River from where the water flows. There is as well another hidden gem only a few 100 metersfromSeljalandsfoss, called Gljufrabui, an exquisite waterfall hidden in the most picturesque surroundings. Make sure to see this one too!

Skogafoss - one of Iceland’s biggest and most beautiful waterfalls

5. Skogafoss

One of Iceland’s biggest and most beautiful waterfalls (well, aren’t they all beautiful anyway?) is the Skogafoss with an astonishing width of 25 meters and a drop of 60 meters. Due to the amount of spray the cascade produces you might be lucky enough to see a rainbow any time the sun emerges, the sight is most magical. The waterfall is easily accessible due to the flat land in front of it, but you might want to bring your raincoat unless you love to get drenched. Getting so close to such a huge waterfall was what I thought to be a rare experience though I would later find out that many of Iceland’s waterfalls can be experienced at close hand. Skogafoss can also be viewed from above by climbing 434 steps (did I miss a step?) which will lead you to a viewing platform above the cascade. At the top you’ll find the beginning of one the most popular hiking trails of super long 22 km. If you’re not an experienced hiker you can just take a few km along the river and enjoy the beautiful landscape.

Do not miss out on the Black Beach

6. The Black Beach

What you should not miss seeing in Iceland is their famous black sand beaches, the most famous of them being Reynisfjara on the South Coast of Iceland. Unless other places on earth, beaches in Iceland aren’t visited for sunbathing and swimming, they can get quite cold and very dangerous, too. However, they make for great photogenic scenery. Something Reynisfjara is known for is its powerful tidal sneaker waves which come unannounced and can drag you into the ocean when you turn your back towards the sea inattentively – just a little reminder. Except from being a beach with black sand, the Reynisfjara Beach is also known for its enormous basalt stacks, hexagonal-shaped basalt columns, stunning lava formations, towering cliffs and basalt caves, and oh yes, some stunning views of the stone arches in the background. This beach is widely known to be the most beautiful black sand beach in Iceland and no wonder why.

Iceland is the perfect place to go hiking

7. Skaftafell & Svartifoss

Iceland is the perfect place to go hiking and if you haven’t bought any hiking shoes yet, this is a perfect time to do so. A great place for a great hike is Skaftafell with a big selection of various hiking trails both short and easy trails and longer and more challenging trails which are well marked with different colours to indicate their difficulty (blue – easy, red – moderate and black – challenging). Scenic landscape and a good weather day makesSkaftafell an ideal destination for outdoor activities in the raw Icelandic nature whether it is to go glacier hiking, bird watching, ice climbing or just normal hiking. The Skaftafell National Park was established in 1967 which later in 2008 became a part of the Vatnajökull National Park. One of the shorter treks will lead you to another of Iceland’s beautiful waterfalls, Svartifoss. Svartifoss is around 20 meters high and surrounded by black hexagonal basalt columns which make this an exceptional view.

Jökulsarlon - a gigantic glacier lagoon

8. Jökulsarlon

Driving around Iceland in a rented car gives you a lot of freedom and the opportunity to see places you otherwise might not have. We drove from west to south to the east. On our 5th day we made our last stop for that day to be Jökulsarlon, a gigantic glacier lagoon. At Jökulsarlon you’ll have the possibility to take out in a boat to explore the lagoon on closer hand. We didn’t though but I very much hope to come back one day and explore the greatness of the lagoon and get real close to the glacier ice. It is said that the glacier lagoon is one of Iceland’s greatest wonders and it’s definitely something for the eye and soul to experience such natural wonder on first hand. The story behind the forming of the lagoon is a rather sad one. Due to the warming climate huge ice blocks break off from the glacier Breiðamerkurjökullwhich naturally result in the melted glacier water and the flowing icebergs in the lagoon. This also means that the lagoon is constantly growing whereas the glacier is getting smaller and smaller.

Vök Baths - plunging into Iceland’s purest hot water springs surrounded by the most beautiful nature

9. Vök Baths

Seeing the Blue Lagoon is basically an essential attraction on Iceland but, oh my, there are so many other hot springs to be mentioned as for example the Vök Baths in Egilsstadir. After driving around for so many hours, hiking up and down the glaciers and get overwhelmed by Iceland’s many natural wonders plunging into Iceland’s purest hot water springs surrounded by the most beautiful nature is indeed needed. Vök Baths is a new destination which opened in 2019 attracting visitors with their floating pools and the calm surroundings by the lake Urriðavatn, everything you need to relax.The baths are located in Eastern Iceland in a still mere untouched area where the weather changes as well. The air is colder and fresher with more winds to blow; this makes the contrast between the hot water and the cool air even bigger. The hot water derives from deep underneath the lake which is then directed to the floating pools on the lake and the other pools at the shore where the water reaches a temperature between 38-41 degrees Celsius.

Dettifoss is a real gem

10. Dettifoss

Going further on from Eastern Iceland to the Northeastern part you’ll find some real gems, like the Dettifoss Waterfall which is often overshadowed by its taller neighbour the Selfoss Waterfall. Dettifoss is reputed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe with an astonishing 100 meters in width and a drop of 44 meters. Standing right in front of this mighty waterfall the power of it becomes evidential and the volume of water plunging over the edge is mind-blowing. Not only is Dettifoss with its thundering waters an unforgettable sight, but it’s the whole scenery of the whirling waters cascading into the wide canyon and flowing further on into the horizon that makes this place exceptional. Getting to the waterfall you’ll have to navigate your car through some bumby, dirty roads, so renting a decent big car is recommendable but I think that the gravelly roads are just part of a roadtrip through Iceland and to get the whole experience.

Myvatn - a beautiful region with incredible geological features and a wealth of flora and fauna

11. Myvatn

Exploring Northern Iceland on our roadtrip it took us across the Lake Myvatn area, a beautiful region with incredible geological features and a wealth of flora and fauna. You can easily spend several days in this area with enough to explore around Lake Myvatn. The Myvatn area is a gigantic lake which was formed by a large basaltic lava fissure eruption 2300 years ago. With such a great diversity you’ll find anything from idyllic blue lakes, hot pools, sandy mountains, volcanic craters and colourful mud pools. What you won’t find much of though are trees and glaciers as this place is a true remnant of the geothermal activity and volcanic activities that have taken place here.At Lake Myvatn you’ll also find the so called pseudo-craters which were formed by gas explosions when the hot lava flowed over the wetlands, a must-see natural wonder. But the area is huge and covers a total of 37 km2 and is the 4th biggest natural lake in Iceland.

the next biggest city on Iceland is Akureyri

12. Akureyri

Away from the Reykjavik area you’ll find the next biggest city being Akureyri, located in Northern Iceland and hence got the name ‘the capital of the north’. Akureyri is a small big city, an absolutely charming one which I highly recommend to stop by for a couple of nights. Despite being a town of less than18.000 inhabitants it offers a rich selection of entertainment but is yet small enough to be very personal. I easily fell in love with this city being fascinated by its calm pace and cozy atmosphere. You can as well easily explore the city and its major attractions by foot like the Akureyri Museum, the Old Town, the church and the Botanic Garden which fascinated me with how lush and green it was despite being surrounded by such a rough Icelandic environment. We were even lucky enough to enjoy a day full of sunshine while walking through the colorfoul flowerbeds and grabbing a snack at the café in the garden.

Don't miss Iceland’s most famous waterfall - Gullfoss

13. Gullfoss

On a roadtrip through Iceland you should of course not miss Iceland’s most famous waterfall, Gullfoss. It is by many considered one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland, besides all the other beautiful waterfalls of course, and one of the country’s signature waterfalls. Gullfoss was one of our last destinations on our roadtrip through Iceland and the last waterfall we saw on our trip and oh, what a grand finale it was. With an unbelievable amount of water running through this waterfall it is no surprise that it would have great potential utilizing it to generate hydro-electricity. However, this potential has created somewhat of bipolarity between those who wished to exploit it and those who wanted it to be preserved. The waterfall and its environment were in 1979 finally enrolled as a nature reserve after many years of struggling. Sigridur Tomasdottirplayed an important rolein the myth surrounding the waterfall. When the speculations commenced that some investors wanted to exploit Gullfoss for the cost of electricity she took them to court and if the story is true she even threatened to throw herself in the river. Luckily, the investor’s attempt was unsuccessful and the waterfall was later sold to the state of Iceland and is now protected.

Geysir - the geothermal area surrounding the hot springs hosts plenty of bubbling mud pits

14. Geysir

Often just known as ‘Geysir’, the geothermal area surrounding the hot springs hosts plenty of bubbling mud pits, exploding geysers and boiling water wholes where the Great Geysir is only one of them. However, the Great Geysir was the first geyser to be mentioned in a printed source and was the first known geyser to modern Europeans and has hence lend its name to many other hot springs all over the world, though today it is rarely active anymore. ‘Strokkur’ however is a pool of boiling water, arguably the country’s most famous hot spring, which sends water shooting up in a 20-40 meters height. You can almost not miss it as the hot spring erupts like every five minutes. The Great Geysir though is much larger but since many years can pass between its eruptions the Strokkur is understandably more exciting to watch. This is undoubtedly one of the greatest natural attractions of Iceland and a sight you don’t want to miss.

Concluding our roadtrip on what is Iceland’s most important cultural heritage – the Thingvellir National Park

15. Thingvellir

Concluding our roadtrip on what is Iceland’s most important cultural heritage – the Thingvellir National Park. This is the place where the Althing was founded back in 930 and functioned for more than 850 years, until 1798. The Althing was the Icelandic Parliament, an open-air assembly representing the whole Iceland where they would meet to set laws. As for the Althing and other major events that have taken place at Thingvellir there is no other place which epitomizes the history of Iceland and the Icelandic nation better than Thingvellir and naturally this place has a deep historical and symbolical meaning for the Icelandic people. Besides the historical importance there is another reason for why you should visit Thingvellir. Thingvellir is situated where two tectonic plates meet or rather said where they break apart, the Eurasian and North-American plate, which is evident in the rifting of the earth’s crust. As a result of the tectonic plates drifting apart in opposite directions with 2 cm annually the rift becomes wider and wider. You can even dive between the two continents in the gorge filled with crystal clear water.


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