Welcome to the dreamlike world of natural lava fields, powerful stunning waterfalls, nature baths and hot springs, magnificent sparkling glaciers, smoky mountains, martian landscapes, erupting hot geysers, tantalizing black sand beaches. A volcanic island in North Atlantic Ocean with almost twice in size of a state 'Himachal Pradesh' in India is astonishing because of it's much diverse and vivid landscapes.
It wasn’t that we were done with all other countries we had on our list of places to visit. Infact, what started with planning for a vacation to United Kingdom ended with Iceland.
While looking at the map, we zoomed into this tiny island between Norway and Greenland and were curious enough to check it’s details. The pictures enticed us to include this in our itinerary of UK as it only looked like a small island then. Who would have thought that such a small island would take actually a minimum of a week’s time to explore?
But, this is what made us make this vacation only about Iceland. And even with 9 days in Iceland during the summers(maximum daylight hours), we still missed a lot of amazing places and we had a hard time choosing what places to include as there are so many of incredible unique places in Iceland.
Iceland is a sparsely populated country located in the north Atlantic ocean and near the Arcrtic circle with a total population of just 3.38 lakhs. It was an unknown land for many years until Vikings ,a term for the people from Scandinavian countries what is now Norway, Denmark and Sweden discovered this mysterious island and started exploring it.
Iceland is aptly known as the ‘Land of Fire and Ice‘ owing to it’s highly volcanic nature and enormous glaciers placed side by side which create a wide contrast in its climate and landscapes. Iceland will not cease to surprise you with its scenic landscapes of all kinds ranging from rugged mountains to very green conventional type of sceneries making a strong imprint on our hearts, difficult to forget.
It was quite a challenge to plan for a travel destination like Iceland due to it’s myriad landscapes offering a lot of places which differ from each other and can’t be missed. Also, the expensive country owing to it’s geographical location imports most of the things making it capable of digging a big hole in our pockets.
Gasoline is quite expensive along with food in Iceland. There is a budget friendly grocery store Bonus which is useful to buy essential food and other necessary items.
The fairly easy part was booking the flights as we found the most economical and convenient flight of Finair from New Delhi to Iceland via Helsinki in Finland ( Round trip cost is approximately 82,000 INR for 2 people).
With a layover of around 15-16 hours, we pounced upon this chance to visit another country. As Iceland is a Scandinavian country, a schengen visa works like in the rest of the countries in Europe.
A road trip through the ring road of Iceland was what we decided would be best to do as it is a national road that encircles the island and covers most of it . The length of the ring road is approximately 1300 kms.
Just that the attractions were again too many and it was hard to decide the places to visit as the entire country has abundance of stunning attractions. We charted out a high level plan and listed down the places which were a must-see for us.
The golden circle route is a popular tourist route of 300 kms looping through southern Iceland which starts from the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik. Tough to pronounce? There are going to be more like this .I had to maintain a separate diary for Iceland with all the names of the places and their details along with their names noted down in our mobile phones before leaving. ????
So, We planned golden circle for the first day itself as it started from Reykjavik where the flight would land from Helsinki, The highlands were on our minds as soon as we found about them, and I don’t think I could have left without visiting them.
Landmannalaugar is a place in the central highlands of Iceland known for it’s fascinating and out of the world landscapes. We squeezed in Landmannalaugar (around 200 kms from Reykjavik) in the second day before starting the ring road which made our itinerary look quite taxing because of the long drives and the number of places we had to visit.
This made me nervous as our trip was nearing but there was not much we wished to do about it. And of course, I can say now that every bit of the challenge and the long tiring drive was worth what we saw and felt.
Though, We would still recommend to plan minimum 10 days in Iceland (during Summers) especially to explore Iceland’s complete Ring Road circle and the highlands.
From the 3rd day, the plan was to hit the ring road of Iceland and explore the attractions on this route. We kept the last day for Reykjavik as it is a beautiful city with some remarkable architecture sites which would prove to be a perfect end to this surreal journey. Another challenge is the weather which requires some preparations beforehand in order to be dealt with in an appropriate manner.
Time for some preparations
Contrary to it’s name, Iceland is not only about Ice at least in summers though 11% is permanently covered with Ice.
There is an Icelandic saga behind it which says that the vikings who discovered Iceland wanted to discourage people from coming here, so they named it as Iceland and Greenland which is 80% Ice was instead named the opposite. It is interesting to look at the globe and see Iceland and Greenland contradicting their names by looking the opposite,
Even in summers, the weather is a bit of a challenge as Iceland experiences all 4 seasons in one day. It is good in a way as the rain or the cold doesn’t last but it does require some serious preparations beforehand with respect to clothing and footwear.
We ensured buying everything required from rain proof jackets to gloves and headbands as mentioned in an extensive list we found on the internet.
Good hiking waterproof shoes are obviously a must which was amongst the first things we shopped for. It is very important to be dressed appropriately in order to enjoy completely in Iceland. We were always dressed in layers as it helped to peel off a layer if it used to get hot.
Our last 2 days in Iceland were quite warm and sunny, so you never know how it is going to be like :). The sun rays falling directly used to be quite strong even at 9 PM. Surprisingly, even sunglasses and sunscreen are essential to carry while travelling to Iceland in summers.
A magical journey to another world
Even the best pictures give only a faint idea of what it is like to be here in real. The road trip is full of surprises and wow moments. It is hard to keep your eye on the road with so many distractions around but there are nice parking lots on the sideways where one can stop to admire the constantly changing picturesque scenery.
The road trip is the highlight of Iceland which blew our minds out.
As soon as we landed at Reyjkavik, We were driven to the car rental office near the airport from where we picked up our rental car. A Suzuki Vitara for driving on the F-roads in the highlands with fully covered insurance ( CWD, gravel and ash protection ).
Car rental for road trip in Iceland: https://www.nordiccarrental.is/our-cars/suzuki-grand-vitara-or-similar---automatic