Traveller at heart, ambitious by mind - when I as a person thought of a travel destination Iceland was the one fulfilling it!
Sounds cool right?
To be honest although it might rip off the first line of all its glory, but it wasn’t my idea after all, brain child of a friend and brought to execution by a group of 4girls and 2guys this trip was a host of surprises.
Our journey started off with people flying in from Mumbai, Delhi and London!
From Mumbai - Travel tickets: Return Airfare - Rs. 55k - 60k
Travel Time - Approx. 22hours (including lay over)
Word of advice - Do not forget to carry your travel pillows, since post landing in Iceland you might be able to catch very less sleep.
Iceland - A land of ice and fire, inspired by GOT we could not have given a better name to the place. The entirety of the island appears so divine that at places you would wonder you are travelling in space, leaving your footprints on some other planet. No words or pictures could justify what eyes saw, would not even dare to do that actually.
The country is an island located as a tiny dot on the world map, between the European and the American continents. It has a population of 332,559 people, and most of them put up in the capital city of Reykjavik making it the most sparsely populated country in the world. We visited during summers (July 17th - July 24th 2016), actually what people refer to as summers. I say so because here I am referring to Iceland summers - throughout the wind was so strong and chilly I still wonder if it at all was summers. Opinionated may be but I felt that there is never an actual summer experienced here.
Our journey, on this land of adventures kick started from the moment we stepped outside the Airport, we had pre - booked a car from bluecarrentals.is and our car was ready for pick up at their airport office.
Word of advice - Pre - booking is highly preferred for everything when you are travelling on this Island.
It was a deep black automatic Mitsubishi Pajero, which including all the insurances cost us around Rs.1,20,000/- for 8 - 9 days. The car was a beauty and our home for the next 8 days of our road trip across the stretch of the island.
For Camping Equipment Rental: https: //www.iceland-camping-equipment.com
So here we start!
Okay, not literally it took us a while to figure out the car and its functionalities, after all it was a left hand drive automatic that we were handling for the first time.
Day 1 - Keflavik & Reykjavik
We left the airport at around 4pm and headed towards the capital city of Reykjavik, for anyone I left wondering; the airport is in Keflavik not in Reykjavik. The city of Reykjavik, is a European beauty that nestles almost the entire population of the country during winters. The same boasts of a very pretty sea front, a grand shopping mall and offices of many multinational companies like Deloitte etc.
Our first stop there post we picked up all our camping gears etc. was at Dominos, gulping down some sweet pizzas (Yes, the pizzas they offer there are sweet, so word of caution here in case you don’t want to sign up for sweet pizzas). Once our hunger was satiated, the thought of settling in dawned upon us and there on began a search of camping site in the city. We had internet in the car, so connectivity never became an issue, and we soon found a spot to camp on. Upon reaching there, it felt that the known fact of the island being sparsely populated might after all turn out to be just a myth since the campsite was full of people. Somehow we found a spot for our camps, but how to set up a camp?
All of us looked at each other, then on the instruction manual and back again at each other, no one had any idea as to what to do. So, going by the age old practice, when in doubt shout! we cried for help in front of our camping neighbours and they being the most knowledgeable people that moment, helped us.
So ? our home was up, and we all were ready to sleep!
Day 2 - Trip to the golden circle and towards Vik (South Iceland)
Our day started slow, with some cooking in the camp’s kitchen and then we left off for the trip around what Iceland refers to as it’s Golden Circle, the very first stop being the Geysir, a town after which the word “geyser” has been named. It was the first known geyser to the Europeans. The place boasts of an array of beautiful geysers, one of which (Strokkur) is active and blows up every 10 mins, the area is quite commercialised with many restaurants and a big shop that even sells original fox fur. I was so lost exploring the place that I found myself drenched post one of Strokkur's eruptions, the only good which came out of that was, by the end I could say that the visit to Geysir ticked off one item from my bucket list, which was taking a bath in geothermal water. However, it did prepare us for our next stop, the rainbow marked Gulfoss.
Gulfoss - Iceland's very own Niagara. Rainbows around the waterfall greeted us before the waterfall and we were left gobsmacked. It is an extraordinary waterfall which is often compared to the Niagara Falls of Canada. Our lunch session happened there, around 5pm - we had almost lost track of time hopping from one beautiful place to another. Thereafter we drove off to our camp site around 11pm. There was still sunlight when we spotted Seljalandsfoss, the waterfall which is famous because it is one of those rare ones that offer the experience of witnessing the fall from behind itself.
People generally chose the spot to propose their would be spouses. One such couple caught me off guard when they asked me to photoshoot for them while they were at it with a waterproof ring in hand!
It’s again one of the prime waterfalls of Iceland which should not be missed, in all it's glory - its just amazing.
Our day ended, with us reaching our new campsite at Vik. We set up our camps and then chatted with an Irish guy who claimed to have travelled across 48 countries and apparently had caught malaria when he was in India. Post some quite interesting knowledge sharing, we finally nestled ourselves in our sleeping bags inside our tents.
Day 3 - Skogafoss - DC Crash site - Black Beach(Vik) - Skaftafell (National Park)
The camp at Vik, like Reykjavik was crowded and less maintained however it was located at a picturesque location. Not wasting any time post we got up, we headed off to visit another one of the biggest waterfalls of Iceland - Skogafoss.
Did I mention? Waterfalls in Icelandic is referred to as Foss!
Oh well now you guys know!
Skogafoss for those who are lucky, puts up a show of twin rainbows around it but sadly we weren’t that lucky. Nonetheless the views it had to offer were just mind blowing, it indeed is one of the not to be missed spots of Iceland.
Post our complete exploration of the area, and a lot of photoshoot we headed off to see the DC plane crash recently made popular by none other than Mr. Shahrukh Khan who romanced Kajol standing right at the top of it in the song 'Gerua'.
Well what should I say, it was tiring but totally worthy!
To reach the site you would need to walk 8km, since cars are not allowed to be taken to the crash site. Locating the same can also go very difficult, small hint it falls on the right hand side while returning from Skogafoss to Vik, keep your eyes and mind open.
The view that treated the eyes post we completed the trek was worth the effort, a deserted flight wreck lying over black sand beach looking very picturesque. Obviously what followed was a series of photographs, and when we were finally done we realised that our stomach badly needed some attending to. We returned to Vik, where there was a restaurant named Strondin, that fed us that day with an array of amazing burgers.
Post the late lunch session we left for our next camping site, located at a distance of 140 kms from Vik. The roads to this new site, circled around Icelandic countryside and the views were marred by only a few cars, small houses, farms, volcanic rocks and sheep. The saying that sheep are the most dangerous animals of Iceland made sense to us while we drove through these roads. We took a detour from the usual route01 and experienced some dense fog on the way sporadically meeting some sheep along the way.
The long drive led us to Skaftafell, a camping site located in and as part of Vatnajokul National Park, where we camped that night. Surrounded by walls of snow covered mountains and little brooks made out of the water from mighty waterfalls the camping site was a surreal sight. Obviously, we didn’t just crawl to sleep, our midnight walk that night involved walking through the surrounding forest in quest of the source of the flowing water sound, which by the end we had to leave undiscovered as the darkness of the short Icelandic night fell on us.
Day 4 - Half completed trek to Svartifoss and Jokulsarlon
The fourth day began with an attempt to reach Svartifoss, a waterfall that flows over a rock cut mountain and requires a 2km trek uphill from the camping ground at Skaftafell. The trek route being a part of the national park provides a treat to the eyes for the nature lovers and photographers. Some unnatural thick trees mark the way that can remind you of fairy tales and at places you might feel as if you are a part of a wonderland. We however did not complete the trek since we mistook a waterfall that was to mark mid way to be the actual one. No regrets there since our next destination more than compensated for it.
Ever witnessed pristine blue and white untouched huge icebergs floating at a coin’s throw distance from yourself? I didn’t, it was my first time and trust me I was shouting at the top of my voice from inside the car even before stepping down. We even saw a seal, can you believe that?
I mean please do, since it ducked inside the water before I could capture it in my lens and I have no proof of it at all.
Coming back, the place is a commercialised area, where you can book boat rides to see the icebergs from a closer distance, and it generally keeps full, so again pre - booking is advisable since we had to miss it for not booking it in advance.
From Jokursarlon we drove for more than 400 kms at a stretch. Since the sun practically never sets and the roads are more often then not straight, you really don’t notice the distance that much. Our next destination was Lake Myvatn, where for the first time we were to camp for two days.
Day 5 - Trip to Husavik - Detifoss - Hverir Geothermal area
Whale watching! occupied our minds since the start of the day. We had to reach Husavik from Myvatn before 3 pm, i.e. where our whale watching adventure was due to set off from. Hence, wasting no further time other than the morning freshening up and breakfast we headed off straight to Husavik.
(Our mornings there usually started at 12pm, not going by the sun since there was practically no time the sun used to fully set but by our own timings since we used to sleep not before 3am).
Husavik - a small town of Iceland, where the houses were exceptionally decorated; had made way to our list for the epic adventure we were to witness, Whale Watching!
North Sailing is the cruise group we had chosen to take us to this hour long adventure mid sea to witness the whales as studied in geography and GK books before. Well here we were so lucky that we witnessed a sleeping whale that too real close, so much so our boat would have been rendered like Titanic had it decided to act agitated. An hour long mid sea venture rendered us famished, and we hopped into our first this trip, a fine dining restaurant that went by the name Gamli Bakur.
The restaurant offers great Icelandic delicacies. I am talking Icelandic sea food here, brilliance it was that went into our stomach.
Post that we headed to witness Detifoss - Europe’s most powerful waterfall. Till the time we reached there it was covered in fog but the force of the water was felt in the rocks as we approached the waterfall, nonetheless the power was felt. Returning seemed like a wise decision then, since fog went strong and we were on our way back to Myvatn until Hverir Geothermal area caught our eyes and we were compelled to stop.
The stretch of land reminded us of the movie Martian, and we felt as if we are on a different planet. It couldn’t have been earth, it just couldn’t and lest we might actually not return we left the place much too early before the scenery sinked into us.
Myvatn it was then, where we were narrated stories of the Huldufolk by the old camp warden. A must visit camp site, not just for the view but for the warden.
Day 6 - Krafla visit & Hvammstangi
Next day, saw us getting ready for Krafla, a major volcanic site known as the Krafla Fires. Volcanic craters, black landscape should be enough to describe the place. Some areas of lavafields are still steaming, and the landscape constantly evolving making the Island and mostly the place a dynamic place. You would need to climb a mountain to witness the crater in all its glory, remember to carry good trekking shoes.
Our next stop was Akureyri, when on the way we stopped at Skutustadagigar, which was a mass of land and water that offered a beautiful bird watching trail to the visitors. Godafoss (The Fall of the Gods) also fell on the way, and of course that meant we halted. Post doing all the justice to the place as much was possible we finally headed straight towards Akureyri, the second largest city in Iceland. The city boasted of traffic lights that flashed smiles and hearts when your car sped near them keeping within speed limits. It felt really nice to witness a city post our long countryside stay. We had our eloquent lunch there at a restaurant named Noa post which we decided to visit the main attraction of the town, the church. Unfortunately, the same was closed but nonetheless we caught the view from outside and soon we were back on the road heading towards our next camp site at Hvammstangi, situated on the Miðfjörður.
The camp site brought us face to face with the party folks of Iceland. The young and the reckless were putting up there which deferred our sleep time by a bit but tiredness soon made its way and we were found sleeping much before we expected.
Day 7 - Trip across Snaefellsness
With this day the thought, that the time to leave is near made its way heavily into all our minds. I was leaving first amidst all, sadness quotient was of course much higher in me than others.
The trip to Snaefellsness peninsula, from the north west part of the country started. We were nearing Reykjavik with this, and had to be back to the airport by early morning for my flight. Hence, we sped across all the sights, this peninsula had to offer. Our first spot being the triangular mountain, Kirkjuvel much too famous in every Iceland blog. Post that we visited Djupalosandor to witness the remains of the Grimsby ship wreak and something that reminded us of the gateway to hell. This Peninsula is considered as mini Iceland, since its said that it summarises all the views Iceland has to offer. It usually takes the entire day to experience all that it has to offer but since I mentioned we were in a hurry, we had our dinner at Hotel Hellnar, gulped in both good food and great views for one last time before we headed off to Keflavik airport via Reykjavik.
Something that needs a special mention here, was crossing of the long and what seemed endless underwater tunnel that connected the peninsula with the city.
Rest of the night was spent in the car near the airport, debating on topics MBAs would discuss.
Best memories were made during this trip which I shall cherish forever in my mind and hence my attempt to etch it more permanently there, with this blog. If you are planning Iceland, then my ending words this turn will certainly be don’t wait time just do it!
1. Total distance covered: 2400 kilometers
2. Speed Limits: Normal Roads – 90 kmph, Gravel Roads – 80 kmph
Signing off, right now. Let me know your views in the comments below and for any questions find me on Facebook by the name - Ishita Bhowmik.