Iceland

Road Trip Through Southern Iceland

{Dan and I did this trip together this past August but I’ve just been having too much fun blogging that I wanted to upload this to my site too.}

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Our Route through Southern Iceland

The first important thing I want to note is that if anyone is planning on going to Iceland I highly recommend you give yourself AT LEAST 8 days. I only spent 6 days here and it was like a little wimpy appetizer plate from the huge buffet of beauty that Iceland has to offer.

That being said, we still had a great time and would encourage anyone to make a trip to see the jaw-dropping untouched, natural beauty on this volcanic island. WARNING: Do not forget your rain gear. 😉

Speaking of appetizers… How about some Icelandic History Nuggets to start us off:

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9th Century: Norwegian Vikings arrive; By 930, the chieftains had established a form of governance, called the Althing, making it one of the world’s oldest parliaments.
13th century: Internal conflict weakened Iceland and Norway took control of the island
14th century: Norway (along with Iceland), Sweden, & Denmark unite
16th century: Nordic states broke apart and Iceland was now ruled by Denmark
17th & 18th centuries: Period of economic hardship due to natural disasters and suppression under Danish control 
1844: Althing parliament restored
1918: After WWI Iceland becomes gained sovereignty 
1940: British peacefully occupied Iceland to protect from Nazi occupation; US takes over occupation duties
1944: Iceland declares itself an independent nation
1940’s: Iceland is founding member of UN & NATO
1950’s – 1970’s: Cod Wars with UK
2008-2011: Icelandic financial crisis
2010: Tourism industry explodes in Iceland which has helped the economy in many ways but not without side effects. You can read about it in this interesting article here

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See now wasn’t that fun?! (Can you tell I miss school/learning…)

The boom in the aforementioned tourism industry is responsible for why Iceland was on Dan and I’s radar and that leads us to our first day on the island…

Day One: Driving the Golden Circle & Exploring Reykjavik 

Dan arrived earlier than I and took care of picking up our car which we rented from SADcars (poor marketing name but it did the job w/o breaking the bank and I would recommend them) and then picked me up from the airport.

Then we drove back and spent just a few hours in the city getting coffee and visiting Hallgrímskirkja Church which was inspired by the shape lava takes when it cools and become basalt rock.

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Then we made haste and embarked on our drive around the Golden Circle.

The Golden Circle is a very popular tourist route that allows you to see many important sites in one loop out and back from Reykjavik. We hit the three most important sights on the loop.

1.Thingvellir National Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is home to where Iceland’s first Parliament “Althingi” was established in 930 A.D. (See now you’re thinking you should have paid more attention to that timeline up there ^^)

We did a nice, short, (REALLY FREAKING COLD & WET) hike through the park and even got to walk through the rift valley where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are splitting apart into open faults. HOW COOL IS THAT?!

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2. Gullfoss is a 2 drop, 32m in height waterfall that crashes down into the Hvítá river.

You know, I do not think I had ever even seen a waterfall before coming here, oh wait, that’s not true, I think I have seen them near Yellow Stone National Park, but this was still an amazing sight to behold considering the height and breath of the fall. You could sense the power of the unstoppable rushing water and it is no surprise that there were plans to harness it for electricity in the 20th century but those never materialized and now it is a permanently protected space for the public to enjoy. (No complaints!)

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3. The Great Geysir is… (you guessed it!! Gosh you are smart) a geyser that has been spouting boiling water in the air (up to 70m) for 10,000 years now! Although in the past the spouts have been infrequent, when we visited we saw about 3 in 30 minutes. But somehow I obviously still struggled to get a good photo so you’ll just have to use your imagination here.

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The Great Geysir at Rest

After driving to all these sights and stopping to walk around and take cutesy photos at each place, we drove back to Reykjavik for the night.

Reykjavik was a really pleasant, clean city, with one of the most peaceful color palettes. Just look!

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Food, well everything really, is expensive in Iceland so we made food at our hostel which had an awesome vibe and good live music playing in the bar downstairs. I would definitely stay at the Kex Hostel again.

Day Two: Galloping on Horses & Bathing in Springs

When I first proposed the idea of riding Icelandic horses to Dan I totally didn’t think he’d be up for it, but always to my delight, Dan is willing to try new things all the time.

We booked a Hot Springs Horseback Riding Tour with a company called Eldhestar that took us through fields and up and down hills that were dotted with hot springs. It was hilariously enjoyable because Dan and I were the most inexperienced horse riders in the group and we also were the only ones who decided to wear the provided BRIGHT orange jumpsuits so that we didn’t dirty the few items of clothing we brought on the trip.

Let’s just say we would have stopped traffic if there had been any. It was just marvelous.

We stopped at a hot spring that you could bathe in at the top of the mountain. Eager to get in we quickly changed into our suits and took a dip. It was a perfect temperature and such a unique experience. Well not unique because look how many other people were there.20160812_123131

At the end of the day, our butts and abs were sore, clothes were surprisingly clean, and smiles were big. What a day to remember!

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Even the horses were embarrassed to be seen with us in these outfits.

Afterward, we drove to our campsite (Hamragardar camping) which was conveniently located to an attention-grabbing huge waterfall called, Seljalandsfoss. You could even walk behind it which was a cool & misty experience!

Day Three: Hiking in Thórsmörk

We woke up and thought we’d walk a little closer to another waterfall that was just behind our campsite. That was a good decision.

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Then we took a bus fitted for river crossing and uneven terrain that drove us to Thórsmörk, which is mountain ridge in Iceland named after the Norse god Thor. It’s popular among hikers due to the rewarding views and dramatic scenery.

I certainly hadn’t seen anything similar to this terrain before. I remember loving the stark contrast between the bright green vegetation and black underground.

When we got to the top we were the only ones up there and it was a flat surface enveloped surrounded by fog. I felt like we were on the moon!IMG_8884

Eventually, we made our way back to camp and headed off by car to our next destination making little stops whenever we saw something that caught our eye on the way.

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How cute are these?!

 

There was a several mile stretch where the terrain as far as the eye could see looked like this mossy, green, bumps. I had never seen anything like it!!

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That night we couldn’t find the campsite we were looking for so we just camped in the middle of nowhere. No pictures, but it was good experience and we saved money which as many might know, is one of my favorite things to do.

Day Four: Hiking in Skaftafell & Looking at Floating Ice

I don’t think we planned on going to Skaftafell National Park but we ended up having enough time and were glad we made it there. There was more beautiful sights, waterfalls, unique rock formations, and little houses like the ones below, to explore.

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Then we kept driving farther east and arrived at the Fjallsárlón Glacial Lagoon.

Woowwww, I had definitely never seen anything like this before. (But you have, because it was my cover photo on this post).

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That afternoon we drove all the way to a campsite in Hofn which was the last stop we were making before retracing our route the next day.

We had dinner at a local pub and were excited to check out this town in the morning.

Day Five: Dreary Hofn, Black sandy beaches of Vik, & Air Bnb in Selfoss

Unfortunately, the weather was just about as miserable as could be so Hofn wasn’t happening.  Maybe next time!

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Me debating whether to jump off the edge I was that cold.

We had made it to the most eastern point we were planning on going and so we started driving back. And after about 3 hours of driving, Dan got a text from the manager at our Hofn campsite that said I had left my purse and phone at the campsite… Nice one Belle.

I was so shocked… this was so unlike me. NOT. But none-the-less I was super frustrated that I made that stupid mistake but Dan did not want to drive all the way back. So the people at the campsite said they could send it on a bus that was heading to Reykjavik the next day.

We stopped for Vik for lunch at a restaurant and I tried Icelandic cod, which reminded me of the Cod Wars in the late 20th century, when Dan’s country was encroaching on this country’s fish. How dare they.

It was a total bummer I left my phone on the other side of the island because this was one of my favorite places. I loved the stillness and simplicity of the fog lightly resting on top of the white waves and black sand. It was stepping into a black and white photograph. And I love black and white photographs.

Then we drove allll the way back to Selfoss and stayed in a perfect little Airbnb, enjoyed some wine (for me) and beer (for Dan) at a cute nearby restaurant. I remember it was that night that Dan proposed that I come to London after graduation. To which I responded, “No, I’ll need to get a job and be a mature adult, and start climbing the latter, ect, ect”. But here I am, happily in London, so glad that isn’t how things played out.

Day Six: Blue Lagoon & back to the Airport

On our final day, we were feeling as blue as Iceland’s most famous Lagoon because our trip was over and that we would have to be parting ways again soon. But we still managed to have a good time soaking in this outdoor bath and rubbing a mysterious, white, gloopy substance that dried out our skin on our faces (hey, it was free!).

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After the lagoon, it was time to go to the airport but I was feeling emotionally drained at the thought of parting with my best friend again so Dan bought me one last Icelandic hot dog on the way. He sure does know how to win me over.

And then it was all over! Our journey, well my journey, (Dan stayed a few days longer) through Southern Iceland had come to an end. Memories full of gushing waterfalls, laughing at how stupid each other looked in bright orange on top of huge horses, hills of volcanic rock covered with bright moss, cloudy skies with the occasional relief of sunshine, barren landscapes dotted with sheep, blue glacial lakes, and so much more.

Another amazing trip for the books! Or in this case, for the blog.

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2 thoughts on “Road Trip Through Southern Iceland

  1. I loved the little green bumps 😊 It looks similar to some tundra in Alaska when I lived there. Now I really want to go to Iceland, but will defintely have to go in the summer. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The little green bumps went on for miles! And the fog on the top made it seem all the more mysterioussss. Ahh, I’ve never been to Alaska but maybe I should add it to my list 🙂
      But yes, definitely check out Iceland or if you find yourself in Northern England you will find some similar terrain there as well!

      Like

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