This last summer, we left the Mediterranean Sea and islands behind and travelled all the way to breezy, summery Iceland. We didn’t catch the midnight sun, as it was mid August, but we had almost 18 hours of sunlight, which was pretty marvelous. We spent 12 days both in Reykjavik and around the Ring Road in a van and it’s been an incredible experience, full of adventures and breathtaking landscapes. I am sharing here most of the places we visited, alongside a few of our favorite cafes, places to eat and shop. The truth is I loved everything about Iceland; its people, nature, wilderness, culture, vibe.
Let’s start with Reykjavik and the spots we visited during our couple of days there:
Reykjavik Roasters: this place is full of a positive vibe, beautiful relaxed interiors and great tasting coffee and pastries
Braud & Co: the most delicious, fresh pastries
Baejarins Bestu: delicious hot dogs, by this family run business for over 70 years
Sægreifinn / Sea Baron: relaxed atmosphere by the harbor to enjoy their delicious fish soup
Fischer: a gorgeous dark interior space, with a selection of curated products
On our second day, we picked up the van, got our supplies and made our way anti-clockwise to the Southwest part of the country to enjoy the fullness of sights first and then move to the more quiet areas, towards the end of our trip. We had some full days, and some a bit more relaxed and less rushed, so I decided to write this post based on places, instead of our days.
◖ Golden Circle
Our Golden Circle trip started from Thingvellir Park, a pretty amazing site full of history and breathtaking geology. Here Iceland’s first parliament formed by the early settlers and the site is situated where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet (and are actually separating by about 2 cm yearly). The place is just stunning, with the clearest water on earth, waterfalls and beautiful nature paths. Also, the camping ground was pretty nice, set up around a circle and with a beautiful view towards the national park all around.
We moved on to the Geysir geothermal area and Gulfoss spectacular waterfall. Geysir is full of steaming and bubbling hot spots and two geysers that erupt several times during the day.
Next stop was Kerið, a volcanic crater lake, with the most amazing, vivid colors. Björk performed there, in 1987, on a floating platform.
◖ Southwest Iceland
Onwards from the Golden Circle, we visited Seljavallalaug, one of the oldest pools in Iceland, built 1932 that is now maintained yearly by volunteers. The 15 min hike to get there is beautiful and even though we did not swim, its location between the mountains and close to Eyjafjallajökull volcano is so worth it.
Waterfalls are everywhere in Iceland and Glugafoss charming waterfall was a nice little stop on the Ring Road and then Seljandafoss, a waterfall that you can walk behind.
Skogafoss was my favorite of all waterfalls (and one of the most popular ones), with water falling with great power and rainbows. Mind-blowing landscape.
After Skogafoss, we visited the beach with plane wreck which was like an hour walk on a mars like landscape, all flat and black. The plane wreck itself was not as impressive as the surrounding area.
And then we visited Vik, a small village on the Ring Road with the famous black sands of Reynisfjara beach with the rock formations and the large waves overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
◖ Southeast Iceland
Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon was the perfect stop for lunch. So, we parked our van and with the stunning iceberg view we cooked and had our lunch. Certainly, one of our most memorable days. We even saw seals swimming among the icebergs. Completing the Southeast part of Iceland, we visited Höfn, a colorful fishing town.
◖ East Iceland
We drove East and made various stops on the Ring Road and a long one in Seyðisfjörður, a little village full of colorful wooden houses and a growing community of artists, to cook and eat our lunch.
This day ended in the most beautiful setting and campground, Möðrudalur, right in the middle of nowhere. We had a clear sky and an amazing moon that night.
◖ North Iceland
Moving up north, we had the best start to our day with a swim at the Mývatn Nature Baths and moved on to Húsavík for whale watching. We were so lucky to see and experience the presence of two blue whales and a few humpback ones swimming close to our boat.
Akureyri is the second largest city of Iceland, with plenty of things to do, but we decided to have our breakfast, visit the Botanical Garden and move on to the west, towards Borgarnes and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
◖ West Iceland
Our trip to the west involved Snæfellsnes Peninsula, an area full of waterfalls, glaciers, lava fileds and the point that Jules Verne described in his book, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, in 1864, where a group of scientists, entered into the crater of Snæfellsjökull glacier.
On this same day, we had a delicious soup with fresh bread, in a little village called Hellnar and also visited the famous Búðir black church.
There’s so much more to see and experience in Iceland, depending on the season and the days of your journey.
And here are a few of my reasons for loving this country:
◖ Authentic, beautiful and diverse nature. The people of Iceland respect and protect their unique environment and that makes all the difference, while visitors are constantly encouraged to help sustain the wilderness and have minimal impact on it.
◖ Since 2015, wild camping is prohibited, in order to protect the environment. I loved the fact that there is a camping spot almost everywhere and that gives you the freedom to choose where stay (although that’s mostly for summer, as many of them close in wintertime). Let alone the fact that you wake up to a different view every single day.
◖ The purest water and the fact that you can drink and access it anywhere. There’s really no need to buy bottled water. It would only produce more plastic waste.
◖ Loved their swimming pool culture and how people use them as a meeting place all over Iceland