A few weeks ago, I took a trip to Iceland with my best friends and family. I flew out alone from San Francisco and met up with them in Reykjavik since they were all flying in from Toronto.
We started our 10 day cross-country road trip heading Eastward with Reykjavik being our final destination. Our first day was spent in the Golden Circle which is the most common tourist route for people that are visiting for a few days. We visited Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss. The Geysir is a geothermal field featuring spectacular hot springs such as the powerful Strokkur which erupts every 5-10 minutes. We also learned that any place that ended with 'foss' was a waterfall.
The real adventure really started after leaving the Golden Circle when the roads became emptier and the drives longer. We saw how defined the country is by its dramatic landscape with volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields. Throughout our trip, we would go to Netto or Bonus (grocery stores) and stock up on food so that we could make sandwiches in the car for our meals. Our daily routine went a little like this: Wake up, make breakfast, make sandwiches for the drive, drive a few hours, visit a waterfall (or three!), stop by a hot spring, visit glaciers or whatever was unique to that region of the country, and then arrive at our accommodation for the night. Each day we stayed in a different place since we were moving across the country. It was really amazing seeing the diverse terrain and landscape as we drove along Ring Road. It almost felt like we were driving through different seasons and countries. What surprised me the most about Iceland was how little ice there was, and how much sheep this island has!
On our 6th day, we were lucky enough to catch the Northern Lights. It was around 10pm and I noticed the the sky being completely clear. I definitely had a good feeling and low and behold, we were blessed with an incredible show. We didn't even have to drive anywhere to see it. We literally stepped outside our "hotel" to watch it. It was truly magical. It started out being a faint green which became brighter and brighter gradually taking over the sky. They were literally dancing in front of our eyes as it flickered and swirled above. It was actually my first time even attempting to take a photo of the sky at night so I was definitely no professional photographer.
Some of my highlights included visiting Skogafoss, Jökulsárlón Glacier, Namajfall Hverir, Grjótagjá Cave, Godafoss, and catching the Aurora Borealis in Northern Iceland near Akureyri. Jökulsárlón was our first glimpse of glaciers here. I was starting to think Iceland was mainly waterfalls and farmland! Namajfall Hverir was probably one of the coolest places ever. It felt like I took a day trip to Mars. This volcanic geothermal was a orangey-brown colour with tons of boiling mud pots that are literally bubbling and are acidic enough to break down rocks. It's also surrounded by sulfur crystals making this place smell like a thousand eggs. Out of the millions of waterfalls we visited, my favourite is probably Godafoss. It was during golden hour when we got there after exploring Namajfall and the cave. We were tired, cold, hungry but man this place was so pretty. We walked right next to the top of the falls and soaked in how beautiful everything was. That day was als the same day we saw the Northern Lights so it's pretty easy to say it was one of the best days ever.
During our trip, we also ate really delicious lobster in Hofn (a fishing town), and also tried whale steak, Arctic char, and lamb hot dogs in Reykjavik. I even got to celebrate my early 23rd birthday in Iceland with my closest friend which meant a lot to me.
For the majority of this trip, it really felt like it was just us and the gorgeous nature. It was so beautiful and untouched. In the 10 days that we were in Iceland, I was really surprised by a few things:
- There's not that much ice (not in Sept anyway)
- There'a TON of sheep everywhere, like literally everywhere.
- Together with the sheep, there is a ton of farmland
- Eat lots of Skyr. This yogurt gets an A++++ in all aspects
- Gas is really really expensive
- Geothermal hot springs everywhere and it is awesome
- The locals dress really well in Iceland
Overall, Iceland was a dream come true. I feel so grateful and lucky to have spent so many days with my best friends and family from home doing a road trip around the entire country. We saw the contrasting landscapes of Iceland change over a few hours each day from wet waterfalls to fields and fields of farmland, to lava fields and volcanic craters to a mars-like world. We picked up a backpacker from France, made some new sheep friends, relaxed in several natural hot geothermal pools, and even witnessed the most surreal northern lights show. It wasn't a glamorous trip to say the least with our lack of clothes (lol!), but it was one of those really special memorable trips. We embraced spontaneity and just explored the hell out of this country.
Go visit Iceland, just do it. :)