by Janis / 0 comments

Day Four, Iceland’s Ring Road

I’m running out of superlatives!

Our ‘to do’ list is long for today section of our Icelandic road trip, so, in the chariot and saddled up by 8:30. We head back into to Vik to catch the view across the bay and the Vik i Myrdal Church, that was a blanket of mist yesterday, although drizzle was still hanging in the air.

Today’s planned route should be a distance of around 172miles/278km. Which is predominately along the Ring Road, with regular spurs branching off to see the magnificent scenery.

For our overnight accommodation in Höfn we chose to stay at the Milk Factory (yes it was an old milk factory).

(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.)

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Off to explore more of Iceland

A cave to ourselves
No sooner we had departed Vik, and we were at our first planned stop at Hjörleifshöfði Cave (I can’t even attempt to pronounce that), just 9miles/15km along the road.
An almost black and white image of the black beach & cloudy skyline from the window of our 4x4 with the only colour from a rock formation in the side mirror
Almost an alien landscape in Iceland
We headed about 2.5km along a gravel track, parked up and continued the last km on foot, across what appeared to be a lava track. It was certainly worth the walk, and we were the only ones there.
The entrance to the Hjörleifshöfði cave formed within the harsh rock face
The outside of Hjörleifshöfði Cave
The view from the back of the Hjörleifshöfði Cave with Janis dwarfed with the gigantic entrance as she looks out to beyond
Looking out of Hjörleifshöfði Cave
It felt quite eerie being on our own there, in silence as water dripped from the cave roof on to what only can be described as lunar landscape below.

Our Advice

Go for a 4×4 for the reasonable ground clearance it affords you. You can, of course, hire a 2-wheel drive vehicle, but you are not permitted to drive on ‘F’ roads and other tracks.

Our experience was that even access to certain Points of Interest along roads a regular 2-wheel drive wouldn’t get you there. Trust us.

Rugged Iceland

Fjaðrárgljúfur Gorge
Next stop along we detour off to visit the Fjaðrárgljúfur Gorge. Slightly boggier and damper than I’d hoped, but there is nothing you can do about the weather.
Icy blue/black water meanders along the misty Fjaðrárgljúfur Gorge in Iceland
Looking along Fjaðrárgljúfur Gorge
To appreciate the gorge’s full potential, you need to head up the hill (boots are needed here), peer over the crevice and you’ll be rewarded a with a stunning view of the gorge below and the river running along the bottom of the valley.
Looking down the Fjaðrárgljúfur Gorge to the river snaking its way through
At the top of the Fjaðrárgljúfur Gorge

Where to stay in Höfn

In Höfn we chose to stay at the Milk Factory.
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

Another Waterfall in Iceland

Foss a Sidu
With the rain beginning to worsen we jump back in the car and continue our journey. Weaving our way along Iceland's Ring Road, we are keeping our eyes peeled for ‘Foss a Sidu’ a roadside waterfall. We are treated to another couple of waterfalls en-route, but we held out. Even though you couldn’t get to close, it was still beautiful.
A pair of narrow waterfalls making a significant drop to the river below, next to an Icelandic farmhouse
Foss a Sidu waterfall
Then just around the bend, we are greeted with a raging river and waterfall, we couldn’t resist jumping out again.
River rapids flowing through the Icelandic countryside next to an escarpment.
Roadside rapids

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 Iceland

The Pièce de résistance
Our Icelandic road trip continues and the next spectacle which was to emerge into our view was a glacier. I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing, as we drove closer the ice blue vision was becoming large and almost appeared to swallow up the landscape in front of it.
The pale blue ice layer of the Skaftafellsjökull glacier against a backdrop of snow-covered mountains
Our first view of the glacier, Iceland

Only a handful of occasions have I ever seen such a natural sight, so incredibly jaw-dropping.

As we continued further it crept closer, there was a viewpoint we headed along, and you were able to drive along a gravel track to the end.

However, it wasn't until we got out that Gary noticed we could drive over the top of an incline and head closer to the glacier. Needless to say, that is what we did & it was stunning.

The pale blue ice layer of the Skaftafellsjökull glacier against a backdrop of snow-covered mountains
Janis getting closer to the glacier

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

    Breathtaking Iceland

    Mountain caps
    Continuing our drive along the side of the mountains we see ice caps encroaching from between the mountain tops.
    The Skaftafellsjökull glacier flowing between two mountain ranges in southern Iceland
    Skaftafellsjökull flowing towards you
    How far will this tongue of the glacier shift within the next 1,000 years, I wonder?

    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.

    Natural Iceland

    Just when you thought it couldn’t get better.
    Back on Iceland's Ring Road and we headed closer and closer towards one of the ice cap’s tongues. Turning off onto a very bumpy gravel track (not even deterring a motorhome), we arrived at the edge of the Svínafellsjökull glacier.
    The edge of the pale blue Skaftafellsjökull glacier where it meets a frozen cloak
    The layers of ice and ash trapped within the Svínafellsjökull
    It was almost touching distance. I'll say it again, but, it was breath-taking.
    A close-up of the pale blue layers of the Skaftafellsjökull glacier
    Up close to the Svínafellsjökull glacier
    Gary and I very reluctantly left as “time waits for no man”, and diamonds were gathering for me on a black beach, or so I was told!!!
    Layered pale blue chunks of the Skaftafellsjökull glacier suspended in a frozen ice lake at the edge
    At the Svínafellsjökull glacier edge

    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!

    Experiencing Iceland

    Diamonds are Forever
    Even though the weather had turned to heavy rain it had not stopped us loving our Icelandic adventure; we were on a high after the glacier, next stop Diamond Beach.
    A lump of crystal clear ice washed up on the jet black sand of Diamond Beach with the rolling waves in the background.
    An Ice rock on Diamond Beach
    Well that put another smile on my face, although I had seen images of Jökulsárlón ice beach, I somehow really didn't expect to see the crystal-clear jewels for myself, I didn't think we would be that lucky.
    Lumps of crystal clear ice washed up on the jet black sand of Diamond Beach
    Scattered on Diamond Beach
    How wrong was I, incredible once again, however a little bit too big 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

    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.

    A full day in Iceland

    Die Another Day

    Has anyone spotted the Bond theme?

    Across the road from Jökulsárlón ice beach is Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, here is where part of James Bond’s film Die Another Day was shot.

    A chuck of ice broken off the glacier in the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, Iceland
    Ice broken off the glacier in the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon,
    As huge parts of the glacier break away into the blue waters of the lagoon, icebergs are then seen floating in the peaceful waters. The Glacier Lagoon flows through into the Atlantic Ocean and washes up the huge chunks of ice that appear on the black sandy beach.
    Several small icebergs in the glacier in the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, Iceland
    Iceberg ahead in the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon
    A short journey then onto Höfn where we refuelled and our base for the night.

    Gratis

    All the sights we visited today were free of charge.

    Our Advice

    It’s your adventure, include whatever takes your fancy. Stop as often as you like, but obviously use a layby or a car park. Don’t just stop on the side of the road, be considerate and be aware of your surroundings.

    Our Iceland Road Trip

    The route
    The route that we took today was once again pretty straightforward along the Ring Road, with a few detours and stops along the way. So, in total, our journey was about 289km (180 miles) and with all the stops took us about 8 hours.

    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.

    Where we stayed in Höfn

    Our stopover

    For the one night, we were based in Höfn; we stayed at the Milk Factory (yes it was an old milk factory).

    The hotel was comfortable, it was just on the edge of town and did not have on-site restaurant facilities, so you needed to pop into Höfn to eat or pick up supplies.

    The view across golden grassy fields to dark, snow-covered mountains and a glacier from the Milk Hotel in Höfn, Iceland
    The view from the Milk Factory, Höfn

    It is in an incredibly peaceful location, and from our room, we could see the edge of a glacier.

    We headed into the harbour town and ate at Pakkhús Restaurant, which served wonderful local produce, especially the langoustines & liquorice crème brûlée.

    Tomorrow, we are heading onto Egilsstaðir, and passing into a region of Iceland that's less popular.

    A direct route of 157 miles/253km, but some of the route will be on gravel so the speeds will reduced.

    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 4.
    Janis; The glaciers without a doubt, there’s not much that can leave me standing in absolute awe.
    Gary; Yep, it's the glacier for me too. To see the edge of a wall of ice that is flowing so slowly you can't see it, and is shaping the landscape - amazing.

    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

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