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Land of Fire and Ice!

ICELAND

godafoss waterfall iceland rushing water blue

The land of fire and ice!  Volcanos and glaciers—can it get any better?  I drove the Ring Road so I could see the whole country.  Before I went, I checked some travel blogs and the recommendations to be prepared were no joke!  It is a long drive all the way around and the places to get gas, food, and use the restroom were definitely few and far between.  Get gas whenever you can, carry food, and be ready to pee roadside.  Watch out for the sheep too--they like to cross the road. Iceland is amazing—such a diverse landscape and a great troll folklore. It is truly magical! This was my first big solo trip, and there were long, lonely driving stretches. At one stop, I went to a thrift store and found a Bridget Jones' Diary soundtrack on CD and bought it. I laughed while singing along to "All By Myself" in the car. Some people rent a camper van that you can sleep in. If you are a couple and used to being together all the time, I think that would be a great way to do the Ring Road Tour of Iceland.

I stayed at one hostel and other guest or farmhouses. When there were other folks to talk to, I know I talked their ear off! I am super grateful to my hostel mates who played cards with me and the Dad from Michigan who talked just as much back. I absolutely loved this country! It is in my top 5 favorite countries, and there are not a lot of places I want to visit more than once because there are so many places to see. I want to go back to experience Iceland again in another season. It was the summer of 2016, with the sun only disappearing for a couple of hours a night, so I had my sleeping mask. The weather was comfortable and cool at times.


I started in Reykjavik where I stayed in a large Hostel called HI Eco. I went to a heated pool and had my first experience of group showers where everyone is required to shower naked before entering the pool. I had not done something like that before, but I did not want to miss out on the heated pool. I wandered around the city and stocked up on food, water, toilet paper, and ziplocs before heading out on my road trip. I mostly ate from grocery stores because the restaurant food was expensive.

My first excursion was to the Golden Circle. Most everyone does the Golden Circle in the Southwest of Iceland, which includes Thingveller National Park, the Geysir Geothermal area, and the Gullfoss waterfall.


svartifoss waterfall iceland black basalt

There are an estimated 10,000 waterfalls. Godafoss was the largest and bluest waterfall I have ever seen anywhere. When people have limited time in Iceland, they usually do the Golden Circle and go South. Personally, I think missing out on the Northwest is a real miss!


A lot of the waterfalls are accessible by car. There are parking lots, tourists, and a short walk to the falls. They are still worth seeing, but I took a hike to get to a couple of them including Svartifoss. You keep going past the Hundafoss Falls to get to Svartifoss where you can see the black basalt rock columns. It felt nice to earn this site with the 3-mile hike.


troll

I headed North toward my stay in Eldborg. I booked places on Airbnb and on Booking.com, which has guesthouses, hostels, and small "hotels." There are not a ton of options, especially on the East Coast. Around this area, I went to a Viking Museum. It looked rundown from the outside but I found it interesting. I went to several museums along the way getting a lot of history of Iceland and the troll/god/giant folklore. I wish I had written down the names of the ones I liked, but you will have to explore that since I didn't! I am pretty sure the Settlement Center in Borganes was one of them.


I explored the Snaefellnes Penisula, west of Elborg, including the eerie Berserkjaraun Lava Field. And then I went out of my way to go to a food truck called Meistarinn for a special hot dog. There was a lot of talk online about the hot dogs in Iceland, and this one had cheese and beans. Hot dogs are not part of my diet generally speaking. The one from the Meistarinn food truck was good, but a plain hot dog in Iceland from any gas station is delicious and cheap.


My next stop was Guesthouse Himnasvalir in Egilsa. It was in the middle of nowhere and for a little while, I was worried I had gone the wrong way. It is surrounded by mountains and is super peaceful. There is something about an expanse of quiet that gives me that disconnected feeling I love.


When I drove into Akureyri, I decided I wanted to retire there! It's a cute port town in the North surrounded by mountains. I had a black licorice-dipped ice cream cone here, which I thought was brilliant and everyone back home thought was weird--another sign I might belong in Akureyri. I picked out the apartment building below at the top of the hill with the views of the mountains and down to the water. Downtown was filled with adorable houses and buildings.


Just past Akureyri, I stopped at the Myvatn Nature Baths. This was a great experience and different from what I have heard about and seen of the Blue Lagoon thermal baths, which are more resort-like and full of tourists. Myvatn is nestled up in the mountains, is small and quiet, and is surrounded by land that has definitely seen the effects of volcanic action. The clouds of steam rising up around the pools on an overcast day with the barren landscape felt otherworldly.


My Egilisstadir stay was a peaceful farm with a cozy guest house. I had my own room and shared a small kitchen and the bathroom with the other guests. When I arrived, the host, Magda, came walking towards me with her dog who was being followed around by two orphaned lambs. What a greeting!


Near Hofn/Setberg, I stayed at another farm. Their guest house accommodations were on the upstairs of a building on their farm. This was the spot where I could see a huge glacier in the distance, and I visited Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon. Have I mentioned I have a thing for glaciers? If I had had the money, I would have paid for a glacier hike excursion, so it is something to consider when you make a budget for this trip.

glacial ice jokulsarlon glacial lagoon











I stopped at a gas station in a tiny town near Vik on my way to check out the black sand beach. Much to my surprise, inside the gas station were a couple of locals and one of them looked like a real live Thor with brown hair-- of the Hollywood type, not the folklore one. That was a treat. I spent two nights in Hella, where our host Uxi made us the most incredible meals. He was not a big talker, but he loved to feed people. This is where I met my Dad bud from Michigan who kept me great company in the mornings, much to his college-aged daughters' embarrassment. I assured them that he was welcome company. Unfortunately, Uxi's place is now permanently closed according to the Internet.


I had researched Icelandic foods before I went and, to be honest, some did not appeal. I think it is important to try new things, but it was just hard to get behind some of it. But when I read about the purported best langoustine tails at Fjorubordid in the tiny seaside town of Stokkseyri, I put it in my plan and budget, and it was worth it! Delicious! I found foods I enjoyed that I will share in an Eats post.


My last night was in Keflavik near the airport in the attic of a charming home. The host fed me a nice breakfast before I headed back home.


Solo travel for an extended period is hard on me, but at the end of the day, if I can't get anyone to go with me, I will still take the trip! Iceland is a cannot miss and a stopover in Reykjavik is not enough because you will miss out on such a special country! There is something about island living that appeals.


P.S. I have spelled things the best I could. Icelandic has letters different from the English alphabet, so forgive me for Englishizing it! Before you go, you can watch the crime drama "Trapped" and hear the cool sounds of the Icelandic language.

 


 

 


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