Iceland was an epic week, and to make it more digestible (and cut down on the length of each post) we’ve broken it up a bit. Here’s the first part, heading clockwise from Reykjavik and into the Westfjords!
We arrived in Iceland a bit late and caught the transfer coach to the BSI, the big bus terminal in Reykjavik. We were met by people from our rental car company, and driven by them to the depot, where we picked up our Snail motorhome. It was a pretty compact little unit, particularly once it had our packs in it! We did a little warm-up driving to get the hang of it, then hit the Ring Road in earnest!
Our first stop was Borganes, which is north of Reykjavik which was on the other side of a pretty significant tunnel! We made it there, stocked up on a few supplies we hadn’t brought with us, and went looking for somewhere to pull up and camp for the night. We were trying to avoid big campsites, so ended up camping out in the carpark of a waterfall trail, between Borganes and Bifrost. We set up our little camper and made dinner on the gas stove, then settled in to see how cold it was going to get. Knowing we weren’t likely to see actual dark was a weird feeling. Going to sleep in the middle of a five-hour sunset is very discombobulating!
We woke up alive, and, cheered by that outcome, proceeded to make tea and eat some breakfast. We then went for a walk to the waterfall whose car park we’d used, seeing the first (of many) Icelandic waterfall of the trip. After that, we finished packing up the van and hit the road, heading out to the top of the Snaefelles Peninsula. Our plan was to head around the peninsula from the top edge, and come back out at Borganes at the end of the day.
Here are some fun things that happened on that first day.
We started by driving up a mountain road and pulling over for photos of old bridges, vibrant flowers and watching a stormcloud crest a nearby mountain peak.
Then we spent some time following gravel roads for 50km, sometimes stuck behind big campers and sometimes stuck behind tiny Peugeots that had an aversion to going anywhere near the speed limit.
Finding a north coastal town and climbing the headland for photos of the town, lighthouse and the bottom edge of the famed Westfjords. Also, wondering how the hell some of the people we encountered were only wearing shorts.
Snaefelles Peninsula, Iceland #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
Stopping for lunch at the point where river and ocean met, a huge expanse of mountain and slate-grey sea
We found one of Iceland’s most photographed (and stately) volcanoes and, amidst the very geared up photographers, managed to get a couple of good shots.
Seeing Snaefellesjokull, a glacier-topped volcano, grow on the horizon as we drove to the blunt nose of the peninsula, which absolutely blew us away – both the fact of this enormous icy cone, and its scale. It absolutely dominates the peninsula – none of my photos could do it justice!
Finding a volcanic crater and walking up the stairs to see exactly how the lava fields surrounding us had been created, an island in a sea of black bubbly rock
Detouring south to a black-sand beach still strewn with the rusting wreckage of a ship which ran aground here, and walking the beach until the black stones became powdered ebony. Also, encountering the noisiest drone I’ve seen so far, which continually injected a loud buzzing to the serenity and natural beauty of the beach. Seriously, the guy piloting it didn’t look up once, and while I’m sympathetic to people using cool tech to get awesome shots or footage, it definitely did not go down well with everyone else who was there.
Black sand beach in Snaefelles Peninsula, Iceland #iceland #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
Driving the long, unfurled ribbon of the road from there back to Borganes, rolling around the foothills below the glacier and volcanic vents, watching the five-hour sunset begin behind us out to the west.
We ended up finding a beautiful camping spot near a river and setting up, with a drink and our gas-cooked dinner, enjoying the late evening light and the sudden quiet of being off the ring road.
We were woken by a car horn, beeped by a local who informed us curtly that where we were parked wasn’t suitable for camping and we needed to go. It wasn’t worth pushing the point that we were legally within our rights to camp there, so we packed up quickly and headed off!
We drove up to the base of the Westfjords, getting on the road that led through the south fjords and out into that country. We very quickly realised it was going to be a very hairy driving day, heading up and down mountains on gravel roads that still bypassed snow patches that were in arm’s reach! We stopped for lunch on the edge of a stunning fjord, where the mountains dropped straight into the ocean. The westfjords is the least populated part of Iceland, and you can see why. If it’s this wild in high summer, then winter must be incredible and inhospitable in equal measure.
We climbed a few more mountains and found many bays along the way, including one with a tiny floating airstrip where a small plane was practising taking off and landing again and again. Iceland really does throw amazing scenery at you wherever you go, and the glassy, sunlit ocean and grassy, steep hills, often grooved by waterfalls, made it a stunning trip.
As we came down a mountain, we drove over a small bridge that turned out to cover the crest of a huge set of waterfalls. The nine falls were topped by the largest, which dropped 100 metres down the rock face. It was a beautiful sight in both directions, spoiled only by the huge swarms of flies we found while hiking the waterfall trail. I ate more flies than I would have liked.
We then drive north, enjoying the long days, until we made it to Isafjordur.
To get to this fairly large town, you drive through a 6km tunnel that’s one lane – not for the faint-hearted! Isafjordur is a strip of land between a clear lagoon and the ocean, and was absolutely stunning. We found a cool spot in an official campsite and set ourselves up, exhausted but happy!
We’ll tell you more about crossing the north and south in the next couple of posts!
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