by Janis / 0 comments

Wow, there are so many!

After visiting Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik and the Golden Circle for a long weekend back in 2007. Gary and I always had an inkling that we would return. And return we did, this time exploring more of the country, so we hired a 4x4 and headed off to tour Iceland’s Ring Road.

We love reminiscing about our trips as they bring back so many memories. With Iceland words like amazing, incredible, stunning just don’t do it justice at times, seeing really is believing.

We ventured off mid-March and with me being slightly cautious (fretting) at times and like to have things planned out, it did concern me that the weather may scupper our plans.

The pin image of our post - 'Memories of our Iceland Ring Road Adventure'
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A side profile of Janis behind the wheel of our hire care as we pass through a snowy landscape
Driving Etta in Iceland

Iceland was such an unforgettable adventure for us in so many ways, and it could be for you too.

It was just the two of us on the, trip and the driving was very manageable between us.

So, grab your passport and driving licence for a taster of what you’ll see.

Our Memories

These consist of Our Highlights, Our Pleasures, Our Treasures, Things we would do differently, A funny moment, Our Disappointments & and other Points of Note. You can click on a title to jump to that section and then click on that headline to return here

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The Northern Lights

 It goes without saying that this would be at the top of our list.

For the 11 nights we were in Iceland we only saw them one evening. In hindsight, we should have been slightly more clued up on what we were looking for. We’d prep’d ourselves each day, as to where we would head of an evening.

However, persistence is the name of the game, and often the Aurora Borealis looks like clouds, but if you watch closely, you can see them pulsating in the night sky.

A band of green lights of the Northern Lights over the mountains just outside Reykjahlíð in Eastern Iceland
The Northern Lights outside Reykjahlíð
When they did come out to play, I was like a big kid as the Northern Lights was something Gary and I had wanted to see for years.
Two streaks of pale green and purple light of the Northern lights over the landscape of Reykjahlíð in Eastern Iceland
Northern Lights trailing across the sky at Reykjahlíð

We wrote a post on how to photograph the Northern Lights, full of hints and tips, along with the settings used.

There are also plenty more shots from that particular evening.


Seeing a Glacier

My next breath-taking moment on our Icelandic road trip adventure was coming face to face with a glacier. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would see such an incredible sight. Amazingly, it wasn’t too difficult to get to, although, we were pleased we had a 4X4, as the terrain was a bit uneven, to say the least.
The edge of the pale blue Skaftafellsjökull glacier where it meets a frozen cloak
The layers of ice and ash trapped within the Svínafellsjökull glacier

Waterfalls

You may already know that Iceland is renowned for its many gushing waterfalls. I feel a bit bad bulking them together as some of these natural wonders are magnificent. The crashing noise of Gullfoss as the water flows over the top is a sight & sound to behold.
The stunning Gullfoss waterfall captured in mid-March with ice still remaining around the edges. A must-see on Iceland's Golden Circle.
Gullfoss with Ice and snow

During our Icelandic road trip we visited Dettifoss and Selfoss waterfalls In the north of Iceland. These are often inaccessible during the winter months, as the roads are impassable.

However, luck was on our side, and one of the roads had been cleared. These were a little hike to get to, but certainly worth it.

The v-shaped crevice in a snow-covered landscape as the Dettifoss waterfall in Iceland drops to the river below.
The impressive Dettifoss


Geysers

Wow, another incredible sight and once again free of charge. The most active geyser at Haukadalur is Strokkur and erupts every 5-10 minutes. You don’t get a lot of warning when it’s about to erupt, so you need to be poised with your camera.
A spout of supper heated water erupting from the centre of the Strokkur geyser.
Strokkur erupting

The Black Beaches

When I say beaches, don’t rush to grab your sun-cream and bikini. These are a little different, to say the least, Reynisfjara Beach also has an amazing rock formation.

That's the joy of embarking on your own independent Icelandic road trip, you can jump in and out of your vehicle whenever you wish.

Waves breaking on the Reynisfjara Beach on a stormy day with Basalt Rock pillars in the background
The shoreline at Reynisfjara Beach

Then there’s Diamond Beach (Jökulsárlón ice beach), where parts of the glaciers break off from Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, flow out to sea and then wash back in onto the shore.

These ice cubes are little too big even for my Gin & Tonic.

Janis standing next to a lump of crystal clear ice washed up on the jet black sand of Diamond Beach
Janis with a big diamond on the beach

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.

Incredible Scenery

Touring Iceland's Ring Road and exploring its magnificent landscape and iconic scenery is undoubtedly one of the main draw for so many people while visiting Iceland. Around every single turn it’s beautiful, I don’t think you could ever take it for granted. Although you do need to be respectful, this landscape doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
A snow-dusted mountain black mountain capped by brooding clouds on a misty morning just outside Höfn, in the southeast of Iceland.
The south-east coast of Iceland

Coastal towns & fishing villages

There are some picturesque villages dotted around Iceland, and one of my favourites was Seyðisfjörður. Nestled on the eastern side of the country in the mouth of a fjord.

This is another reason to tour Iceland independently, you get to see these delightful villages.

Homes and the mountains behind reflected in a lake in Seydisfjordur, Iceland
Reflections at Seydisfjordur

Lighthouses & Coastline

I had noticed before how fascinated Gary was with lighthouses. However, on this trip around Iceland, he took it to another level. I’d lost count how many we detoured to, but it must have been close to double figures, which isn't surprising, the harsh and rocking Icelandic coastline can be brutal.
The orange Öndverðarnes lighthouse atop the jet black volcanic rock of Iceland's north west peninsula
Öndverðarnes lighthouse

Turf covered homes

We took a little detour on off Iceland's Ring Road on the way to Akureyri and journeyed via Laufás. Where there’s a charming museum which consists of an ancient manor farm and rectory. It was closed at the time, although you are free to wander around.

Don’t think I could live in one, a little bit too rustic for me!

Reconstructed ancient farmhouses covered in turf over the roofs at the Laufás museum in Iceland
The Laufás ancient farmouse just outside Grenivik

Hallgrímskirkja

Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik Church sits high on a hill and overlooks Reykjavik city below, it's quite an icon to Iceland's skyline. To witness the rooftop view across the city for around €8, you can take an elevator to the top of the spire (they’ve made it easy).
The Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavik, Iceland at dusk. In front of it stands a statue of the Viking Leifur Eiríksson.
The Hallgrímskirkja at dusk, Reykjavik
The plain white arched interior of iceland's most famous church, Hallgrímskirkja, in reykjavik
Inside the Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik
A view from the top of reykjavik's iconic Hallgrímskirkja church with a view off to the north of iceland's capital to the mountains beyond.
The view over Reykjavik

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.

Seals

We were ticking all the boxes on our Icelandic road trip, now we got to see Grey and Harbour seals frolicking in the wild at Illugastadhir. This trip was full of so many highs.
Three seals resting on the rocks and watching us in Northern Iceland
Seals just laying around

Geothermal Pools

There are a few places to see the bubbling mud pots in Iceland, we visited a site on the south-west coast at Gunnuhver. Also, one at Námafjall Hverir near Lake Myvatn. With the gases surging from the earth’s crust, you feel like you could be walking on Mars.
Steam erupting from a pile of rock at the geothermal park of Námafjall Hverir in Iceland
A fumarole at Námafjall Hverir
Although, be warned the smell of sulphur is a little strong, but this all adds to the surreal landscape

Bridge Between Continents

This a 15 metre (50 ft) footbridge that spans a rift between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. You can stroll across the bridge and step between the European and North American plates, and why wouldn’t you want to do that?
Janis posing on the Bridge Between Continents in southern Iceland
Janis on the bridge between continents, Miðlína

Icelandic Horses

During our tour of Iceland's Ring Road we spotted a few reindeer, but mostly dotted around were the very hardy Icelandic ponies. Slightly small in stature but they made up for it in toughness, they looked so cold and windswept.
A group of damp Icelandic horses huddled together on a stormy day in Iceland
Rugged Icelandic horses in the rain

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

    The Northern Lights

    Although we managed to see the exquisite site of Aurora Borealis dancing across the night sky, I wished we had been more aware of the Northern Light's phases and what we should be looking out for.

    I think we may have mistaken clouds for the faint pulsating of the Northern Lights.


    Picking your accommodation in Iceland

    When choosing where to stay in Iceland, we had a few basic requirements.
    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

    An Ice-cream in Iceland

    Enjoying an ice-cream in the middle of March, in Akureyri. To be perfectly honest there’s never a wrong time to have an ice-cream.
    Janis tucking into he tub of ice cream shop in Brynaja, Akureyri
    Enjoying a Brynja Ice-cream, Akureyri

    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.

    It's not cheap

    If you’ve decided to head to Iceland, you know it isn’t going to be cheap. However, it still comes as a shock at £9 for a small bottle of local beer.

    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!

    Most sites are free to visit

    On a positive note, the majority of the wonders of Iceland are free of charge, the geysers, waterfalls, glaciers & bubbling geothermal pools.

    In search of the Northern Lights in Iceland

    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.

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

    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

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