Today's post on Iceland will be my last post from our 3-month around-the-world adventure. Can you believe it? We're done! Holy cow. I have a lot to say about that. BUT, I won't do it now. I'm planning to write a whole wrap-up post regarding my feelings on the trip, so I'll leave that alone today and instead focus on Iceland, the final country we visited.
This small country of 300,000 people located way up at a latitude of 64 degrees north is much more inviting than it sounded to me initially. When we first talked about including it in the trip, I was apprehensive, but some research and talking to friends changed that. First of all, I knew a handful of people who had already been there and loved it. Second of all, Iceland is actually pretty green, with an overall milder climate than I'd thought and some otherworldly sites.
We planned to visit Iceland at the very end of our trip because we wanted spring weather rather than winter weather. That worked...sort of. Turns out spring has just barely arrived in Iceland in the second half of May.
With 8 days to play with on our visit, we spent 2 in the capital city, Reykjavik, and 6 driving around the southern half of the country in a rental car. This is the way most people visit Iceland and having done it, I agree that it's the best way to see the country.
Honestly, our first two days in Reykjavik were stressful. We had just come off of a beautiful week bicycling on the gorgeous and relaxing Dalmatian Coast and Iceland was stark, cold, weird-looking, and extremely windy when we arrived. I was tired of traveling, I didn't like the location of our hotel, and I didn't like the wind and rain. It was the grumpiest I'd been on our whole trip. If I'd written this post that day, I'd have a very different opinion of Iceland.
But we rolled along through our time in Reykjavik and then got our rental car. Once we had wheels (and therefore some control over timing and location), things started looking up. We spent a good chunk of time at the visitors' center, learned what to see where, and headed out of town to start seeing the sights.
And that's when things got awesome.
We hit the most visited tourist sites in an area 45 minutes away called the Golden Circle first, then kept going farther from the city. The Golden Circle was nice, but not the best stuff. It consisted of a lake area, a geothermal area, and a massive waterfall. Not too shabby, but there's so much more! The farther from Reykjavik we went, the better the sites. We also got lucky because our weather got better and better throughout the week. It turns out, the sun makes everything in Iceland sparkle!
The driving we did was mostly on Route 1, Iceland's main highway which goes all the way around the outside of the island. You can't go into the interior in a regular car because of all the snow, mountains, and glaciers, so you travel around in a circle on what's called the Ring Road. The views are gorgeous and there are waterfalls, mountains, canyons, craters, and more. It's easy to stop, walk around, and take pictures. Once you've seen one spot, you get back in your car and keep going. We stayed in hotels along the way, spent two nights at our turn-around point (a 2000-person fishing village called Hofn in the Southeast of Iceland), and stayed in different hotels on the way back.
I've been thinking a lot about selecting my favorite spot on our road trip (so hard to choose!), but I've decided it is the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. I've never seen anything like it before and the colors and shapes were so beautiful. I took like a bazillion photos, but I'll limit it to a few here.
Final thing: this isn't really a blog about travel planning but I just can't finish this post without adding a few tips for anyone heading to this amazing country.
- Bring a sleep mask. In the spring and summer, the sun never really sets, so it is never dark outside. Blackout curtains in hotel rooms can be hard to find.
- Plan shorter driving distances per day than you think. You'll want to stop so much, it's easy to get behind on driving and end up pulling into a destination much later than anticipated.
- Bring waterproof clothes. And warm weather clothes. And a bathing suit.
- The food at restaurants is crazy expensive. It just is. Everywhere. (But it's also delicious).
- Get a car and get the heck out of town. The road is the soul of the country.
In conclusion: after a rocky start, I fell in love with Iceland and now I can't wait to go back and explore the rest of the country!