by Janis / 0 comments

Day Nine, The Ring Road tour continues.

White water on a stream just off route one in Northern Iceland outside Akureyri against a backdrop of mountains.
Just off route one outside Akureyri

Even after nine days of touring Iceland’s route 1, the excitement doesn’t wane.

We have been spoilt with two nights in Akureyri, including the unplanned detour to the north. This means we have seen the start of this route, albeit heading west to east as we returned to Akureyri last night.

Today we’re heading west and immediately pick up Iceland's Ring Road. Straight away, we are at the feet of snow-capped mountains. It’s a crisp day today and one of the few we’ve experienced with ice on the roads.

The direct route to Laugarbakki is around 125 miles or 200 km and would take you about 2.5 hours.  However, we have a detour or two planned because, as we already know, it is all about the journey, rather than the destination on this road trip.

The pin image of our post - 'Akureyri to Laugarbakki, Iceland – Did someone say seals?'
Why not Pin it for later?

For our accommodation in Laugarbakki; we stayed at Hótel Laugarbakki.

(You can pick-up any part of our Iceland Road Trip at the bottom of this post, along with a map of our route and the 'Highlight of the Day' for each of us.)

Rolled hay bales stacked on the back of a trailer in with a snow-capped mountain in the background in Northern Iceland
Discovering the north of Iceland
It really comes as no surprise, but a fantastic job is done to keep Iceland's roads as clear as possible, particularly the main roads. However, with a snowplough the size of this, I’m not too surprised.
A tractor fitted with snow chains and three snow cutting blades in a layby on Route one in Northern Iceland.
Ready to clear a serious amount of snow

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The quiet side of Iceland

Enjoy the fresh air

We know we have plenty of time in hand, and the weather forecast is good today. So, with that in mind it allows us many opportunities, to stop and take in Iceland's incredible landscape.

Remember, when pulling to the roadside, take extreme care. For more information on driving in Iceland, we have a separate post that will provide you with handy hints n' tips to make your journey safe and enjoyable.

We continue to stop along our Iceland road trip and jump out for a stroll; this is just too good to pass by. The landscape changes so quickly when you turn another corner.

The dried grassy landscape of the Örlygsstaðir battlefield in the northwestern region of Iceland
The ever-changing landscape of Iceland
We are often met with a landscape like none we've seen before, and that's why it's imperative to take your time and explore. You won't regret it.

Where to stay in Laugarbakki

In Laugarbakki we chose to stay at the Hótel Laugarbakki, which was reasonably remote, we were hoping to see the Northern Lights.

We had a few essential requirements from each of our overnight stays in Iceland, which were:

Breakfast included or available nearby.
Scooby snacks along the way can be expensive.
Parking is a requirement, as this is a road trip after all.
Nearby cafés/eateries, or onsite restaurant for the evening.
Preferably a close-by fuel station; they can be few and far between en route.
Booking.com

The real Iceland

Meet the other side of the country

Our Icelandic journey continues weaving its way across what appears to be an almost deserted landscape; there barely seems to be anyone else on the road here. However, you do pass small farms and the occasional community.

We came across this incredible little church in Víðimýri with a tiny graveyard. The church roof and walls are covered in turf & have been lovingly restored by Iceland’s National Museum.

A green wooden lychgate in front of the wooden Víðimýrarkirkja church with its turfed roof in northwest Iceland
The entrance to the Víðimýrarkirkja church

Víðimýri church dates from 1834 and is only one of three like this that still serves as a parish church today.

It is beautiful to see this traditional way of life continuing to this day. This is not for the benefit of tourists; this is real Iceland.

The side view of the wooden Víðimýrarkirkja church with its turfed roof in northwest Iceland
Around the side of Víðimýrarkirkja

Finding the right car for your Icelandic Road Trip

Discover Iceland’s enchanting Ring Road with its rugged landscape or the waterfalls and geysers around the Golden Circle for yourself.

If you want to explore Iceland's F-Roads, you must have a 4x4, but we'd recommend one anyway for the improved driving position, and if the weather turns, you have a touch of added protection.

We recommend Rental Cars as they search multiple well-known car hire brands and discovers the deals that suit you the best.

Enjoying your Icelandic Road Trip

Take it all in

Jumping back on the road again and we're heading west. It seems that in no time, we're stopping again (Actually, it was only about 3 miles).

We arrived at the Stephan G Stephansson Monument, which has off-road parking to allow you to ascend to the stone tribute to an Icelandic poet.

The stone monument to Stephan Stephansson at Vatnsskarð pass near Varmahlið in northern Iceland
Stephan G Stephansson Monument
This is also an opportunity to take in the stunning landscape. Sure, we're driving through it, but it is good to stop and enjoy the view. It may be a while before we park up again.

If you're tempted to tour the Land of Fire and Ice and would love to discover the whole country, then take a look at this  DK Eyewitness book. This Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide is invaluable, I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into searching for more.

You can now grab the revised copy.

Exploring Iceland on your own terms

And that means the occasional bumpy route

During the planning of our Iceland road trip, we had identified an interesting rock formation we wanted to check out, and with time on our side, we decided to take the slight detour and headed north up the 716 & 717.

Our tarmac road had now turned into a very rutted gravel track. However, the scenery across the frozen lake was worth the juddering teeth.

The edge of a thawing lake at Breiðabolsstaðir against a backdrop of snowcovered mountains
At the edge of Vesturhopsvatn

The simple truth is you can do as much planning as you want, and we did a fair bit, a mix of Microsoft OneNote & Google MyMaps (You can check out our MyMap for this route, with the places of interest identified), but the world changes and the weather, especially in Iceland, can change those plans.

We were lucky, and today the weather gods were on our side.

A lone red wooden lodge at the edge of the frozen lake of Vesturhopsvatn in northwest Iceland
Remote living in Northern Iceland

As we are now on a gravel road the speed limit has dropped, but that is not what is going to limit your speed, the terrain will do that for you.

Despite our planning, we came across those Icelandic points of interest signs in the most unexpected of places. Still, we have time to investigate.

There's a place to park and a short climb of Borgarvirki, the site of an ancient fortification that was previously an erupted volcano.

The Icelandic Point of Interest sign
The Icelandic POI sign
A view from the ancient Icelandic monument of Borgarvirki to the mountains of northwest Iceland
The view from Borgarvirki
Another reason to keep the speed in check is the Icelandic Horses - they roam freely. They are also naturally curious, I wonder if they associate the car with being fed.
An inquisitive chestnut coloured Icelandic horse has wandered off from pack across a dried grassy pasture against a backdrop of snow-covered mountains in the wild of Northern Iceland
Iceland horses roaming freely
A head and shoulder shot of an Icelandic horse in the wild of Northern Iceland
Are you looking at me?

Useful tips for driving in Iceland

If you are planning a road trip around Iceland particularly over the winter months you need to be very aware of the ever-changing road and weather conditions.  During winter, parts of the Ring Road may be impassable, and you may not get to areas of the country you intended to.

Regularly check the conditions by using these useful websites and apps, believe me, they will come in handy.

We have also written a post packed with tips for driving in Iceland based on our research and experience than may be worth checking out.

Discovering more of Iceland

Take a right onto 711
We're now heading north to Hvitserkur. Once again, those kind Icelandics folks have laid on a free car park, and it's only a short walk to the shoreline.
A wide shot of the rock formation known as Hvitserkur, said to resemble a dragon drinking from the lake in Northern Iceland.
Hvitserkur

To see the intriguing 15-metre-high basalt rock formation, which, viewed from a certain angle looks like a dragon drinking from the water. Honestly, if you squint, you can see it - does it work for you?

You can also stroll down to the black beach to get a closer look if the tide is out. We didn't, the road was calling.

A close-up shot of the rock formation, surrounded by water, known as Hvitserkur, said to resemble a dragon drinking from the lake in Northern Iceland.
Close up of Hvitserkur - can you see the dragon?

A few good ideas for your Icelandic trip

Here are a few things we picked up ahead of our trip to make things a little smoother for us.  Simple stuff that may be helpful on your travels.  All from Amazon.
A good old paper map
A USB car charger
A USB rechargable tourch
A USB power bank
A water bottle

    Iceland's Wildlife

    Surely not seals as well
    Our Iceland road trip adventure was going from one high to another, not just the natural wonders of the landscape, now we were watching seals frolicking about in the sea at Illugastadhir.
    A white handpainted sign of a seal with an arrow point left to a seal sanctuary in the desolate landscape of Northern Iceland
    That's not a real seal
    We weren’t sure that this road was going to be accessible, but I’m so glad we made an effort. From where we parked (and there was only one other car there) it was just a 10-minute walk before we could see the seal’s heads bobbing up and down in the water.
    A wide shot rocky outcrop, with the sea heading out as far as the eye can see, the observant will spot a colony of seals resting on the rocks in the foreground.
    Can you spot them yet?
    There were Grey seals and Harbour seals, playing with each other and if that was too much of a struggle they just relaxed on the rocks, all the while keeping an eye on us.
    Three seals resting on the rocks and watching us in Northern Iceland
    Seals just laying around

    There were easily 30 to 40 of them. It was a fantastic sight to see them in their natural environment.

    Then, unfortunately, we saw something that infuriated us. The other group of tourists had brought a pair of drones and had taken to the air to capture their moment. However, they showed little regard for the seals and flew close to the colony. It was clear there were young pups in the group, so I can only guess it must have been distressing.

    Iceland is a great place to utilise a drone, but please, show some consideration in when using it.

    A close-up shot of the head of a lone seal frolicking about in the water in one of the inlets in Northern Iceland
    A seal splashing about in the water
    Reluctantly we headed on and journeyed south to our hotel for the night at Laugarbakki.
    A lone seal effortlessly gliding by in the water while keeping a close eye on us in the North of Iceland
    Who's watching who?

    Planning your trip to Iceland

    So you're planning a trip to the Land of Fire and Ice? There is so much to see and do in Iceland that you'll wish you were staying longer. To ensure you make the most out of your visit, head over to the official website of Visit Iceland for a little help and guidance.

    Have fun!

    Our Iceland Road Trip

    The route
    The route that we took today included a mixture of roads, smooth tarmac, gravel & extremely rutted gravel roads. We travelled along route 1, 716, 717, 711 & 72.
    In total, our journey was about 261km (162 miles) and with all the stops took us about 7 1/2 hours.

    Where we stayed in Laugarbakki

    Our stopover

    For the one night, we were based in Laugarbakki; we stayed at Hótel Laugarbakki, it was quite remote, so we were hoping to see the Northern Lights. However, they didn’t come out to play that evening.

    The hotel was comfortable and plenty of parking; however, the onsite restaurant didn’t quite live up to their website. They were only serving light meals that night, rather than their full menu.

    In search of the Northern Lights

    If you are Northern Light hunting, you need to be aware of the sunset & darkness times and the KP Index for the evening. It also requires dark and partly clear skies.

    KP Index scale ranges from 0 to 9;
    0-2: Low
    2-3: Moderate
    4-6: A big solar storm is coming
    7-9: Highly unusual

    You can monitor this via the Icelandic Met Office which is updated around 6 pm.

    Highlight of the Day

    Every trip Gary and I go on, whether it’s a mini-break near or far or a road trip we chose a ‘Highlight of the Day’, here they are for day 8.
    Janis; The scenery along the coastal route was amazing, and I love it that it is so peaceful.
    Gary; It has to be those tunnels - amazing to drive through. Along with Janis I agree, the scenery was stunning.

    Trips to try in Iceland

    Something from Get Your Guide?
    Why not check out what else is on offer through Get Your Guide.

    The Complete Icelandic Journey

    Why not take a look through our entire 12-day Iceland tour? Staring as we left Kevflavik and continued anti-clockwise around Iceland

    * This post may contain links to affiliated sites where we earn a small commission at no additional charge to you.

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