Iceland Trip Log – 11 Days on the Ring Road


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Pack the bags, drop off the dog, hop on the Dartmouth Coach to Boston.  “BFG” is movie.  Not bad.  Through security, camera bag loaded with so many batteries and extra stuff gets the extra, extra look over by security.

Grab an airport dinner and a beer.  Board Icelandicair and settle into a coach seat for a five hour trip with beverage service.  Nice entertainment unit in the back of the seat but try to catch some sleep.  Maybe twenty minutes of sold sleep on the entire trip.  Ugh.  So hard to get comfortable.

Arrive.  Take the shuttle over to the car rental office – Geysir.  Wait a 10 minutes for another shuttle to their motorhome rental processing center.  5 minute ride to the industrial area.  Get a quick overview of the workings.  Ever driven a motorhome before?  No. Be sure to get the insurance.

Fiat Ducato 4
Fiat Ducato 4 – motorhome rented for Iceland trip

Check the weather every day at http://safetravel.is/  If the wind is above 15, you can’t drive.  The RV will be blown over!

First stop is the Bonus supermarket and a “breakfast” at Subway.  “American Cheese” says the polish server.  “We call that Icelandic Cheese, we say”.  She smiles, and says she calls it “Polish Cheese”.  Same bland cheese the world over.

Wife knows shift so she drive the manual rig.  Bigger than we expected but the cab is basically a Fiat van front with good viability so its good.  Grind a few gears of the brand new vehicle but finally get it and proceed through the highways of Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital and biggest city.   Roundabouts, traffic, big rigs oh my!

Iceland Day One: Pingvellir National Park

Whew finally out of the city and heading along the Golden Circle.  First stop Pingvellir National Park and the amazing tectonic plate smashing riff valley.  Upheaving plates, sheep and waterfalls.  The teenager navigator passes out for the night at about 2.  The heartier adults take in the sites and hike around.

Camp for the night at a the rustic Pingvellir campground.  Just pull in anywhere.

Iceland Day Two:  Geysir and Gullifoss

Bed by 6, wake up at 9:30!  Coffee and Kellogg’s crunchy mus-lix.  Off to the grand iconic and bus tour must see spots of Geysir (unreliable since 2000 earthquake), every five minutes Stokur and epic Gullfoss.  Parking was tough.

Somehow I missed the eruption with the GoPro. The facilities around the geysers are set up to handle bus loads of tourists. The most extensive gift shop “mall” we saw on the entire trip was here at Geysir. Bowl of soup $15. There is even a hotel across three street from the park. But if you’ve been to Yellowstone National Park you might want to skip this attraction as its not as impressive as the extensive geysir areas in Yellowstone.

Made our way around the Golden Circle checking out some other pull outs and the Kerio crater on our way to a nice campground right in the town of Selfoss.  Electric hook ups and nice showers.  Tried to walk to town to use the pool but they were closing in 10 minutes.  Darn!  Walked back and used the free showers.  Bonus tortellini and tomatoes for dinner.  Amazing Wifi.

 

Gullifoss
Gullifoss!

Iceland Day Three: Skogafoss, Cape Dyrholaey, Vik

Skogafoss was one of my favorite stops on this trip.  You get a fantastic waterfall right in the parking lot but then if you keep following the trails back past Skogafoss you can see even more waterfalls.  You can walk by 25 magnificient waterfalls if you keep going, all the way back to the glacier.  The head of Skogafoss is a volcano that last erupted in 2010.  We only made it to three or four waterfalls, but if you like, you can keep walking until you run out of energy.

One of the sights I really wanted to see on this trip that wasn’t 100% natural in nature was the sight of the crashed US Navy plane from the 1970s.  I’ve seen so many cool, moody pictures of the plane on the black sand.  Very surreal.

From reading some blog posts on the wreck site I wasn’t sure if there would be good motor-home parking and I had heard reports about having to pay for parking complete with an angry farmer holding people hostage for the parking fee.

Something must have changed because the parking lot turned out to be spacious with plenty of room for parking cars, buses and campers.  In the olden times, people could drive to the plane site but now there is about a 40 minute walk each way.   It’s a long and boring walk so don’t bother unless you have to see the plane.

Once there the plane is covered with people taking selfies so its hard to get a good shot unless you can quick or clever with your composition.  Or wait for the crowds to thin out.  But don’t wait too long or before you know it a tour of people on ATVs will show up and climb all over the plane.

Iceland Day Four: Skaftafell

Day four we left Vik and headed for our camping destination of Skaftafell, stopping at various sites (waterfalls, basalt columns, lupine fields) and pull outs along the way.

Skaftafell has a great camping ground and lots of great trails to explore including the impressive Svartifoss with its basalt columns and a cool old turf farm that you can visit and look inside the buildings.

Iceland Day Five: Jokulsarlon, Hofn, Huffelpots

Icebergs flowing in a lagoon and hot spring fed hot tubs at the edge of a farmers field.  We spent hours watching and photographing the icebergs in the lagoon and on the black sand beach.  Finding the Huffelpots, five fiberglass shallow pools of varying temperature water with a hose of cold water if you needed to cool down the hot spring fed pools down.  A primitive changing shed and outdoor shower are also there all for a 5 Kr donation.

Camping in Hofn was a fantastic facility on the water and a sort walk to town including a great discount grocery store and a neat little harbor with fishing boats and even a cool old fishing boat that you can climb up on and about.  Plus walking trails around the beach.  Wish we had more time to explore the town.

Iceland Day Six: The long driving day from Hofn to Myvatn

Wet and raining.  Very windy over night although no travel warnings for East Fjord area we traveled through on this day of the trip.  Must be beautiful if you could see through the fog and clouds.  At least today was a long driving day and the weather is suppose to improve.

Stops in include lighthouses, overlooks and rocky formations along the way including “Batman Mountain” (covered in clouds and fog) and Eystrahorn.

Four hours of actual drive time but it stretches to more than double with all of the stops for lunch, waterfalls and “short cuts” which net an amazing waterfall but too scary of a road for the RV.

So they say the Ring Road is completely drive-able and paved all the way around the island.  They lie!  The main highway after Breiodalsvik or when it takes a sharp turn away from the coast, becomes a gravel road and then proceeds to climb over a mountain complete with hairpin turns!

Wet gravel roads, fog, rain and driving a motor-home into a cloud on a top of a mountain is one nerve racking experience.  I thought we were going to die.

I have to wonder if we had continued farther along the coast perhaps to Reyoarfjordur and then turned on to 92 and joined the Ring Road it would have been better.

There was a short cut earlier that we mistakenly took and could not find a spot to turn around until we climbed a scary hill but at least our efforts were rewarded with an amazing waterfall.

The area between Egilsstadir and Myvatn shows up on my map and in guides as being non-photogenic and dull, but there were actually at least three good sized waterfalls in the beginning of this leg worth pulling the rig over.  Then the last hour or so was a bit tedious with mostly tundra like landscape an steady climb over the mountains.  Nothing like the gravel road over the top of the other mountain.

Iceland Day Seven: Myvatn Natural Baths, Dettifoss and Selfoss

On day seven we wake up in Myvatn and the Vatnajokull Nationa Park area.  Land of the most powerful waterfall in Europe – Dettifoss and the smaller but beautiful Selfoss and also the smaller version of the Blue Lagoon, Myvatn Natural Baths, a man-made but natural looking and heated mineral pools.

The water supplies for the lagoon run straight from the National Power Company´s bore hole in Bjarnarflag. The water has a temperature of about 130°C when it arrives to the huge basin beside the lagoon itself forming an impressive, man-made hot spring. Altogether, the lagoon and the basin contain around 3.5 million litres of water with a temperature of 36 – 40°C.
Nature Baths – The Green Lagoon

The lagoon itself is a man-made construction, its bottom is covered by sand and gravel. The characteristics of the water are unique in many ways. It contains a large amount of minerals, is alkaline and well suited for bathing. Due to its chemical composition, undesired bacteria and vegetation do not thrive in the lagoon making chloride or any other disinfectant redundant.

We also walked around the strangest landscape you’ll ever see at the world at Krafla.

Iceland Day Eight: Godafoss, Herring Museum, Hofsos Swimming Pool

The day started with the beautiful Godafoss waterfall.  We didn’t stay long enough to explore every trail as we needed to make mileage.  Went through a scary one way tunnel and then a series of very long two lane tunnels to get to the excellent Herring Museum in the fishing town of Siglufjorour.

Back in the car, though another short one way tunnel, over some mountain passes with a few stop for a swim in the naturally warmed pool at Hofsos which has an award winning “infinity pool” like pool and hot tubs.  9kr per for a great shower and swim and then another shower.

On and up over the mountain passes with stops for views and Icelandic horses on the way to our final stop for the night at Blonduos.

Iceland Day Nine: Snaefellsnes Peninsula

Headed out of our campsite in Blonduos to our destination of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula which was a bit of a drive but we made good time staying on the Ring Road or Rt 1 and not being tricked into taking any “short cuts” that turn out to be gravel roads that take forever.  Always consult the best maps for road descriptions.

With only a quick stop at an N1 for pit stops, drink and washing the bugs off the windshield (the front of the camper is splattered with blood spots by now) we drove all morning and arrived at the adorable town of Stykkisholmur with its interesting modern church and adorable harbor with an adorable lighthouse.

After lunch in the parking lot, we took a swim at the town pool facilities which are known for their mineral rich water that compares to the Blue Lagoon and Baden Baden in Germany.  They also have one of the tallest water slides in Iceland.  It was long but not the fastest.  You froze walking up the steps to the top but it was fun.

Refreshed, we drove on to Kirkjurfell which is the icon ionic pyramid shaped mountain that is almost synonymous with Iceland.  It was windy, crowded and touch to park the motorhome.  The parking lot was tiny for the crowd.

But I set up for the iconic shot of the waterfall in the foreground and the mountain in the distance.  We’ll see if I got it.

Then on to the campground for an early grab of a great spot with electricity and a view of the ocean.  The campground is in Hellissandur at the tip of the Snaefellsjokull National Park on the Snaefellsnes  Peninsula. Small but new and very scenic.  You can walk the lava field that is all around the campground, walk to the Maritime Museum next door, the N! station or the little town and the bird cliffs.  Just bring your umbrella for the dive bombing birds.

See “Attack of the Angry Birds”

Iceland Day Ten: Snaefellsnes Peninsula Part II

There is  so much to see on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.  We took some hikes to Dritvik beach which is in a lava field.   The beach itself is littered with rusty metal bits from a ship wreck from 1948.  Other than this ship wreckage, the beaches are very clean.  Unlike say Maine where even the most remote islands are covered with plastic rope, floats and metal lobster traps.

We also visited Helliar which has some sea arches, more volcanic cliffs, birds and the cutest little cafe right down by the rugged coast.

Next stop was the Black Church.