If you have been reading endlessroaming.com you are aware that I have been blogging about previous adventures across the USA as well as currently Roaming the globe in 2019. I have based myself in Lagos Portugal for the time being, rather than write about this which I intend to get to I thought Id cover some previous adventures, starting with Iceland in 2016, fingers crossed I manage to nail the spelling of all the places I visited.
Iceland is a place that I knew little about, easily accessible from Europe I thought it would be a good time to take it in while I was traveling in 2016. Id heard that it was an amazing place to visit so I figured Id go and see what the fuss was all about. Id planned a five-day adventure across the country, being an experienced solo traveler, I figured it would be best to do this on my own than some sort of organised tour. Tip do it on your own, don’t got on a tour, as I found out there is essentially one road or the Ring Road that goes around the country, there is not much traffic and it’s a great way to do it at your own pace. You can always book day tours for the more difficult adventures when you arrive.
As I was landing at a relatively reasonable time early afternoon rather than visiting the capital of Reykjavik I thought I would venture out further towards the town of Vik which was 225km away. I started the car, put on some Icelandic music and headed out, the landscape was a lot of green hills and no trees and after a few hours later I reached my first stop, the amazing Seljalandsfoss falls. After parking the car I followed a small pathway heading towards the 65-metre waterfall, the most famous in Iceland. I followed the pathway behind the waterfall and had the rather spectacular sight of flowing water viewing the barren Iceland landscape in the distance. Be prepared to get saturated Tip think ahead unlike myself and wear a raincoat. As daylight was running out, I jumped back into the car and continued my drive to Vik.
The town itself is quite small, has a few restaurants, houses and hotels with a church overlooking the town, there was not much in the way of nightlife. I headed to one of the restaurants, had myself a meal and then went back to the hostel for a rest hoping to see the Northern Lights, unfortunately, there was cloud cover and I couldn’t see them. Tip its actually quite difficult to plan a trip to see the Northern Lights, due to cloud cover being unpredictable you can’t really anticipate it, the longer you spend in Iceland however more likely you will see them, unfortunately my five days were not enough.
As the sun sets for roughly 3 hours in the month of September, Id gone to bed quite early and was awake at the crack of dawn. I drove down to Reynisfjara beach to watch the sun come up, it was quite cold I decided to continue my drive west instead of exploring further, Id be coming back this way and would visit the beach at a more opportune time. The landscape was slowly changing from green grass to rocks and more mountains and for the most part driving near the coastline. As it was early in the morning there was little traffic and I was zoning out…. AND THEN SOMETHING SPECTACULAR, Id arrived at Glacier Lagoon. I was aware that I would be seeing this but reading about it had not prepared me for seeing this amazing sight and words cant do it justice. The weather was heating up into a nice sunny day and there I was on a crystal blue lake staring at glaciers floating on the water. It was like watching huge sky-blue ice cubes floating on a sky-blue lake. I walked the left-hand side of the lake and then down to the beach, the sand jet black and rocky with large ice blocks intermittently spread across the coast line, I found it very surreal, the first time Id been to the beach with ice cubes.
I continued my drive to the fishing village of Hofn which was 270km distance from Vik and had some lunch. The drive itself was quite spectacular, endless mountains, waterfalls and greenery with some abandoned buildings and churches scattered about in the landscape. I took a few photos and then turned back, unfortunately 5 days in Iceland would not be near enough to do the entire island, driving distance roughly 1300km so I turned around and headed back to Reynisfjara beach. On the way I stopped past Skaftafell Glacier but as I had no time I only looked at is from a distance, it was typically spectacular, a huge volcano with a river of snow running towards where I was standing. Shortly after I arrived at beach I looked at jet black sand and stared at the free standing sea stacks just off the beach head. I then explored the massive arched cave which was great for making spectacular photo opportunities of the coast line. The beach has been used for scenes from Game of Thrones, Star Trek and Star Wars and being typically Icelandic is spectacular.
I finished up and then headed to my next destination the town of Selfoss for a couple of nights, but of course on the way was another waterfall, Skogafoss. The walk to the fall from the car park is roughly a kilometre and the waterfall is roughly 60 metre in height. As you approach it water spray starts to envelope you from distance and you can get drenched when up close. I was also climbed to the top of the fall as there is a pathway to the right which takes a bit of effort but is well worth it for the view of the fall and the land below. Another waterfall completed I headed to my hostel. Selfoss is a town of 7500 people or so its claim to fame being the home of American chess champion Bobby Fischer where is grave is located. While I have a passing interest in chess, I was more interested in the great outdoors so I headed straight to the local pub for a few beers but like Vik the town was quiet so back to the hostel for another early night.
My next destination for the day was partially driving around the Golden Circle, a looped road inland that covers around 300km in distance. I entered Þingvellir national park which is made up of mountains, rivers, lakes, volcanic fissures and small towns that can be explored as indicated its very handy having a rental car for this purpose. After exploring some of the park I headed to the Geysir Hot Spring, a series of hot springs around 3km square in size with a series of geysers shooting water up into the air. The most spectacular being Strokkur spring which sprays water up to 30 metres and is boiling hot, so best not to stand to close. Nearby is Gulfoss falls, standing out 32 metres in height the water pours into a crevasse and the river flows with so much power that its like standing in the rain even though you can only look from above it. The waterfall is in two stages and forms a natural triangle, best explained in the photo attached.
Another night in Selfoss and it was then onto Reykjavik for a few nights, Id only heard good things about Icelandic hospitality so was looking forward to a few nights out after my previous early nights. Being Iceland however there were a few more places I had left to explore so after checking into my hostel I jumped back into the car and headed north to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Very different to the south coast and not as many tourists, the highlight was the coastline with a lot of strange and creepy looking rock formations and abandoned buildings which made for almost creepy experience, it was dark, windy and beautiful to explore. Located there is Kirkjufell mountain, an old volcano standing isolated which can be climed and stands tall looking over the coastline, springs, creeks and waterfalls below. Essentially everywhere you looked was a postcard moment. The trip north took about 2 hours there and 2 hours back, I stopped past a few small towns, all consisting of churches, and then headed past Kirkjufell mountain with and the Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, yet more spectacular scenery.
Reykjavik nightlife I could tell was full of potential, however I had the unfortunate experience of being in the city whilst Justin Bieber was on tour. The population of Iceland is approximately 340,000 and 20% of the population was at the stadium both nights watching Bieber whilst I stayed there. Iceland has a fantastic live music scene and some really good bands come from there, Bjork, Sigur Ross and Monsters of Men come to mind so I found it quite frustrating that the city was quieter than usual. That’s not to say I didn’t have two good nights out, I certainly did. The town centre has a vibrant and bright bar scene, plenty of beer, good food and not covers of Bieber music fortunately. One thing that I did find particularly hilarious was Icelandic locals have an Incest Dating App. As the population is low and two thirds of people live in Reykjavik the app was developed to ensure if you meet someone you like you can check if they are to closely related by connecting your phones together, whether or the potential couple agrees is up to them.
The city itself has many attractions, probably the most famous is Hallgrimskirkja Church, there are 350 Lutheran Churches in Iceland and this is the largest and overlooks the city, it is made up of basalt rock and is open to the public. The city itself is made up of various outdoor parks, buildings and has more of a village feel then a bustling city. It didn’t take me long to explore so one more trip I headed out to of town for half an hour to the most famous attraction in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon. Tip the Blue Lagoon is actually a spa, its not natural and was constructed in 1976, though obviously the thermal water comes from the springs below it. You need to purchase tickets days if not weeks in advance and if you don’t you won’t get entry to the spring. I didn’t book this in advance so instead explored around the spring which is still a worthwhile doing. The reason the water is blue is the geothermal plant that is next door providing the compounds that turn the water to the bright blue colour. It’s all perfectly healthy and is reputed to have great healing properties.
So that was my trip to Iceland, a country full of volcanoes, waterfalls, hot springs, icebergs, mountain ranges and beaches. Its an outdoor adventurers dream, however if like me you more inclined to drive than hike its an easy and comfortable place to travel. In saying that some of the photos I took did take some effort so I wasn’t sitting on my butt all of the time. There were a few things I wish Id done differently, planned more time to explore the north of the island, seen the Northern Lights, gone to the Ice Cave, see a Puffin bird up close but lastly and most of all not been in Reykjavik during a Bieber concert. There aren’t many people to meet once you leave Reykjavik, mainly other tourists, however the Icelandic people I did meet were friendly, hospitable and I really enjoyed my time there. I hope you enjoyed the read.