Iceland – Land of Ice and Fire
Tectonic plates have given rise to amazing landscapes. On one side of globe, two colliding plates gave rise to mighty Himalayas whereas on the other side, they have led to formation of amazing Iceland. ‘Amazing’ word probably undermines the untouched beauty of this place. The place is aptly named Land of Ice and Fire; as you drive through the country, you see fiery volcanoes and blue-cold glaciers and not to forget beautiful auroras!
Before our visit to this place, the notion about the country was restricted to Iceland leading to Brexit from Euro 2016 and cities with complicated names! This changed drastically in just 5 days. A plan was made, 5 guys onboard for a trip which was going to be legendary. And what better way to explore such place than on road! Well, we were amazed by what we saw, and everything exceeded the expectations we came to the country, except the names though. They were tough! Really tough!
Planning our trip
Generally, people choose Reykjavik as the base city and explore Iceland around the city. The second option is to take the ring road around the country as we did. People will have their preferences, and every corner of this country is serene and beautiful. If you stay in Reykjavik, you won’t be able to visit the far-off corners. It is important to plan your trip properly. This country has a lot to offer in terms of many spontaneous things. If you go after visiting only touristy places, one can miss out on spontaneity.
For accommodation, you have hotels, European hostels, and Airbnb, people can choose depending on their preferences. We looked for hotels on Booking.com and had surprises throughout the visit, both good and bad. Cars can be rented from a lot of companies, Sixt and Lotus are the main ones there. You can rent the car from the airport itself and drop off there.
For average Indian, food and alcohol is costly and sometimes costly is an understatement. Except for alcohol that you will drink at pubs and bars, for the rest of the trip, we stocked ourselves with alcohol purchased from duty-free shops at the airport. If you are a vegetarian, you are in for a tough time if you plan to eat outside. The picture isn’t rosy for people who eat meat either, no offense to local cuisine but some of the dishes won’t be palatable for a lot of Indians. Personally, for me, a goat’s head or rotten shark isn’t the food I am looking for when I am hungry. Even a hot dog would cost 500-600 ISK ( ~4.5 euros ), so look for alternatives to food. Fortunately, there are Bonus superstores across the country, and it’s cheaper to purchase stuff like frozen pizzas, bread, Nutella, pasta, etc. and cook on your own if you are on a budget.
The trip begins!
You should keep some time to explore the country. But we were short on it and compressed the trip to finish in time without compromising on the activities. It was tiring but worth every bit. We started from Reykjavik airport. We selected a Kia Cee’d Wagon for car rental, the best choice ever and were on our way to the main city. Reykjavik has a lot of places to see and enjoy (National Museum, Hallgrímskirkja, Flea Market and Blue Lagoon). Hence you can spend a decent amount of time there. We found our guesthouse, dumped our stuff and went for a stroll around the place with amazing views! Little did we know this was just the beginning. We picked our friend who was coming a little later, met a few others who were already there and went to bed. The guesthouse was decent, no wow factor!
Day 2 was the actual start of the trip. Leaving Reykjavik we headed to Silfra in Thingvellir National Park. Silfra is the only place where one can dive or snorkel directly in the crack between two continental plates. The underwater visibility in the Silfra fissure is over 100 meters, which creates an underwater experience that will rarely be surpassed. But everything comes at a price, and that’s high for everything in Iceland, another reason to not do it was that the water was 0-4 degrees and “Kuch toofani Karte hai” was not on our minds yet.
We left Silfra and headed for Gullfoss, a waterfall in the region. There are numerous waterfalls in the region and all of them are very pretty, but it’s the drive which surpasses everything in beauty. We were done for the day after seeing a few more things and reached Guesthouse Husid in Reykholt; it was in some remote location in a far-off place. An old cottage with a homely feel and two dogs to keep you coming, it was like coming to a dream.
The only problem till now was that clouds were following us everywhere and we couldn’t watch Aurora Borealis. Tired after the journey, we drank Jagermeisters and fell asleep to wake up late in the night, hoping sky cleared up. How wrong we were, everyone woke up at different times and saw the same scene, howling winds which can make you shit your pants and cloudy sky.
Each day was better than the previous one till now and Day 3 was no different. It started with Seljalandsfoss, another beautiful fall in the country. You can go behind the fall and admire its beauty in ultra cold conditions. After this, we left for Jokulsarlon with a small detour to see another waterfall on the road. The highlight till then was the beach, we all needed to pee and no toilet nearby we trespassed onto a property and stumbled upon a private beach. Black sand, violent waves, mountains on the other side and complete silence except for the sound of the waves was surreal.
We were eagerly waiting for Jokulsarlon, and the place didn’t disappoint. As we approached the place driving on roads hugging the sea the temperature meter on our car’s dashboard went from 10 to 5 degrees. The place was a joy to behold, Ice with a blue tinge to it, cold air and clear water. Although the lake is becoming more impressive as it increases in size, it takes its toll on the glacier, visibly demonstrating the effects of global warming. That makes the lagoon and the nearby glacier tongue even more special. You can do a glacier walk which again costs a lot of money, but we didn’t do it due to rains. We were already freezing and the idea of a walk on the glacier or doing the boat tour around the lagoon a little less appealing. But the place is a joy to behold and is a must visit place.
We left the place to go to Hotel Framtid in Djupivogur, and we were surprised by what we saw. We had booked low-cost accommodation, and it turned out really low cost, we were going to live in barrel-shaped huts. The experience though wasn’t bad, and we had a good night sleep after deciding against going for an Aurora hunt. We had not seen Aurora till now, and it didn’t seem right.is the site where you can see cloud cover and Aurora prediction. We checked the forecast and canceled our hotel in Akureyri and booked an Airbnb in Bordeyri, the best decision ever!
Hunt for Aurora Borealis
We woke up early the next day as we had a lot of distance to cover. Route 1 which is the ring road around Iceland hit a rough patch, and we lost a lot of time there. Be careful after Djupivogur as rental cars can sustain damage. The drive around these fjords is breathtaking. Waterfalls plunge over cliffs into the ocean and crags tickle the clouds. Amid it all, there is a winding road and a smattering of red-roofed farms. We visited the place Grjótagjá where Jon Snow and Ygritte sealed the deal, the place is small, but the view is astonishing, small lake within caves with view till the bottom. After visiting more waterfalls and volcanic formation, we resumed our journey to Bordeyri.
This is where the journey peaked, the Airbnb blew our minds into air *Pun Intended*. The place is called Tanaghus Guesthouse, and if you can book this place then don’t miss the chance to do so. The place is located on a corner with the sea on two sides; you wake up to birds trying to fly against the wind and enjoy the water crashing in while cooking.
We had dinner and set out for Aurora Hunt, analyzing cloud cover and Aurora prediction like we were analyzing a war situation we zeroed in on a location 100km away. We had to beat the clouds to see it, driving at 100 km/hr, misty condition, temperature hovering around 5 degrees and clouds everywhere we felt we were losing this fight. We reached the location we had shortlisted, found a godforsaken spot by the sea and kept driving on the road till someone had to pee. That proved to be the turning point, we looked up we saw two streaks of white and were debating was this an aurora or was it a cloud and *boom* it lit up! The lights were snaking around; lights lit up the sky on both sides. It was really the dance of the northern lights. It gives me goosebumps thinking about that night. It subsided, and we gave up on the wait and started our way back and lo! Someone had to pee! and what comes with pee?? Aurora! We saw the dance again. We felt this trip was complete
We came back and slept peacefully, followed by a sumptuous breakfast in the morning we left for the last leg of the journey. We left for Snæfellsjökull. The place is huge and needs a lot of time to explore, from volcanoes to beaches you can see seals on and also the mountain featured in the Game of Thrones. Keep sufficient time with you to explore as we got to know that there. We explored whatever we could and set out on our journey back to Reykjavik and were already dreaming about Blue Lagoon*not the movie*. The journey back is also scenic, but for us, trip had already ended, we had seen it all. We reached Blue Lagoon, stripped down to our lowers and went into the pool of hot blue water. It was a relaxing end to the whirlwind tour!
Note for travelers:
When you are renting a car, take all the insurances. If the car is damaged it will be costly, really costly! Also, there are speed cameras around the country, look out for those and slow down to speed limit. They have signs before camera comes