ICELAND ON THE ROAD: THE WILD NORTH

Visiting Iceland was a lifetime dream coming true. It has always been our top travel destination, way much earlier before it became popular. We were so intrigued by the diverse and extreme landscape it offers, by the unbelievable amount of nature, and by its so strong contrasts. Iceland it’s also known as the land of fire and ice: it’s the only place in the world where you can find a volcano that is also a glacier. And this is only one of the countless contradictions of this country.
With this said, there’s no need to tell you how excited we were when this adventure began, and how happy we were, finding out that nothing was overestimated, but everything was even better in person than on the computer screens. The shocking green of the artic moss was real, the magnificence of the nature was real, and the wilderness we expected was real too. So follow us through every single step of our Iceland on the road adventure.

DAY ONE

We arrived at Keflavik Airport at around 1.30 in the morning and went to collect our car, a KIA Sportage, at the car rental (Lagoon car rental). In this first step, we experienced the drastic climate change. Coming from the Italian boiling hot august weather, we were welcomed by the Icelandic version of summer, which was around 6 degrees at our arrival. Pretty chilly, isn’t it? Then we drove less than an hour to arrive in our hotel in Reykjavik. We went to bed at around 4 am and we were up by 7 am. We were clearly too excited to sleep.
After we checked out from our hotel, we stopped at the groceries to stock up on food for the rest of the day. With our Sportage filled with gas and food, our journey to the Icelandic wilderness could finally begin. As soon as we left Reykjavik we were literally assaulted by the most beautiful and various scenarios we’ve ever seen in our entire lives. Fiords, horses, sheep, muss fields, lakes, numberless waterfalls, rivers, and as many rainbows.
Our first destination was Akureyri, situated in the North of the island. It was a 5 hours drive but time flew so fast. We were completely stolen by the ever-changing view in the car windows. We soon discovered that in Iceland it’s pretty much impossible to drive straight to somewhere without delays. You’ll have to stop several times on the road to enjoy the view and fill your SD card with photos. And that’s what we did: we visited a tiny little empty church, stopped on a canyon and on a fiord. But the most important stop we made that day was at a gas station but it wasn’t for the car. We wanted to try out the infamous Icelandic hot dogs, and we needed an injection of coffee too.
Akureyri known as the capital of Northern Iceland, it’s the second biggest city in the country, and it’s also an important fishing centre. The town his self is not big, which makes it very cosy. There’s not much to do really, just walk down the main street, stop at a caffè to have a warm drink, climb the stairs up to the very modern and minimalistic church and then take a stroll on the harbour where you can book a whale watching tour. But keep in mind that they’re quite expensive and you’re not guaranteed you’ll actually see a whale.

DAY 2

We left the guest house and had a quick breakfast in a caffè. Then we directed to one of the most beautiful waterfall ins Iceland: Godafoss. Half an hour drive from Akureyri this waterfall is majestic: the amount of water pouring down and the wideness of the fall is unbelievable. It becomes immediately clear why it was named the Gods waterfall. Waters from the river Skjalfandafjot falls for 12 meters on a wideness of 30 meters.
We spent all morning there, chilling, taking photos, and just enjoying the amazing environment. After a quick lunch (sandwiches in our car), we headed to our second destination for the day Dettifoss.
On the road, we skirted lake Myvatn with his frayed coast and passed a sulfuric area. Then we had to leave the Ring road and drive through a very bumpy gravel road for at least 1 hours. FYI: there are two roads to get to the waterfall, each takes to opposite banks. We choose the gravel road because it gives access to the lower bank, allowing you to get closer to the waterfall. Across the unpaved road landscape was pretty much lunar, with no vegetation, and grey rocks. We felt like astronauts discovering a new planet! Once finally at the parking area, we had to walk a few minutes along a rocky path to reach the waterfall. Dettifoss was another overwhelming discovery: I’ve never imagined they could be so much water in just one place. No wonder it’s the biggest waterfall in Europe: it is 44 meters high and 100 meters wide.
Here we experienced, for the first time, the stupidity of a few tourists, who crossed the protection fences just to take photos.
On the way back to the hotel we were staying for the night we made a quick stop at the Grotagja a cave. Situated in the surroundings of Lake Myvatn, this cave has a volcanic origin. It is also a hot spring, even if it’s currently not advised to dip in because the temperature of the water is too high (more than 50 degrees). To GOT fans this place might be familiar ‘cause the scene where Jon Snow and Ygritte had their first ‘romantic encounter’ was filmed here. It was very dark in the cave but with the help of a flash, we could take a couple of photos and see what it looked like inside.

DETTIFOSS

DAY 3

After having breakfast at our hotel we drove to Hvrefjall, a volcanic crater 420 mt high. Hicking to the top took us around 20 minutes because it was a very vertical climb. Once at the summit, the wind was blowing wildly but, the view was definitely worth risking to be flown away by the wind. You could see Lake Myvatn, the sulfuric area and all the different of the landscape. On the feet of the crater, there’s a little pond with vivid green grass growing inside. That deserves a couple of photos too.
After spending most of the morning at Hvrefjall, we went to the nearby sulfuric area of Hverir. Here we adventured in the muddy martian scenery. The ground colour switched from yellow to orange tones, and there was a strong smell of rotten eggs due to the sulphur. It was such an incredible experience, it really felt like being on another planet: there was steam coming from the ground and boiling water ponds scattered all around.
Eventually, we had to say goodbye to the north of Iceland and headed to the east, more precisely to Egilsstadir where we had a cabin booked for the night. On the way there we left the Ring road to take another gravel road to the Stutlagil Canyon, where they’re some of the biggest and most beautiful basalt columns formations in Iceland. The road was kinda scary, full of turns and overhanging the valley. But the view, guys, was once again something special: thin water streams falling down from the rock wall on a side, a breathtaking waterfall on the other side of the road. Just wow! Once at the parking we realized we needed to hike on a not properly safe path but the weather was not nice at all: very windy and it was also raining. Therefore we had to desist and we still regret it today.
So we left directed to Egilsstadir, where we made a pit stop at the groceries. We then finally went to the cabin, that was located a few kilometres from the town. It was in a farm in the middle of nowhere. This place will be forever in our memory as a little paradise on Earth: although the weather was terrible (rainy and windy, what a news!) we really loved our time there. The view from the huge window was on the fields and on a waterfall, so peaceful.

Where we stayed at:

REYKJAVIK: Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura
AKUREYRY: Centrum Guesthouse
LAKE MYVATN: Hotel Laxa
EGILSSTADIR: Stóri-Bakki Country Cottage

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