HOW TO CRUSH ICELAND IN NINE DAYS (part 1)
[PART 1 of 3]
As most of you know, I was just in Iceland with Bryan and our friends Dave and Grace. It had been one of my dream trips for quite some time so my excitement level was through the roof! We decided to spend 9 days driving, exploring and camping around the Ring Road (which is one road that goes around the entire country). Now before I go on and on about how INCREDIBLE of a place Iceland is, I have to start out by telling you this... Neither Grace or I have ever camped before, like ever. We camped the entire time we were in Iceland, 9 DAYS OF CAMPING people. IN ICELAND. And we ROCKED it! Go big or go home baby! It also helped that Bryan is an Eagle Scout (he likes to remind us about that) and Dave has backpacked and camped a ton of times in different countries, so we were in good hands.
TIPS FOR PLANNING
We learned a few really useful things about prepping for Iceland while we planned, and learned a bunch more when we got there. Alcohol is INSANELY EXPENSIVE in Iceland! So buy duty free at the airport. Seriously, it's not super cheap at the duty free, but at liquor stores, you won't find a bottle of ANYTHING for less than 40 bucks. (A liter of Captain Morgan is almost $70!). A lot of blogs I read told me that we HAD to get all of our groceries at the big Bonus in Reykjavik, but we learned that that's not true! There are grocery stores everywhere! As we went around the Ring Road, we probably went through two towns every day that had a decent grocery store with pretty much the same prices as Reykjavik.
RENTAL CAR AND CAMPING EQUIPMENT
We rented an "experienced" Jeep Grand Cherokee from IceRental4x4. Having 4-wheel drive is crucial so you can get to a lot of the really really cool stuff. After we got our car we drove to Reykjavik to pick up our camping equipment. We rented a little stove, pots and pans, a few tables, 4 lawn chairs and a wifi card. Bryan and I just switched to T-Mobile and had unlimited 4G data the entire time we were there, talk about a huge win! We brought with us our tents, sleeping bags, pillows and air mattresses, and all the other camping essentials.
All four of us were so excited to visit Iceland. We had heard amazing things from a ton of people, and we knew we wanted to see a lot. We went through as many blogs and guides as we could, in order to make sure we saw all the coolest things there were to see. We used Google Maps, which seems pretty obvious, but there are some awesome tools that made our trip awesome. Before we left, we searched for every destination we knew we wanted to visit, and "Starred" it on Google maps (make sure you are signed in). We started with a few dozen stars, and just made sure to hit all of them. We were super lucky to have unlimited data in Iceland thanks to T-Mobile, but if you don't you can actually save large sections of Google Maps and it will work offline like a traditional GPS. Google Maps is one reason that you may want to buy a data plan or rent a mobile hotspot. It was extremely useful to find grocery stores, gas stations, and campsites.
So on this trip, which was Grace's and my first camping trip EVER, not only did we camp every single night, but we never once woke up in the morning knowing where we were going to sleep that night. I would totally recommend this technique. There is so much to see, and you will never know what will capture your attention for hours at a time, and trying to keep a strict schedule is the last thing you want to do. Iceland is FULL of awesome campsites, and you're never more than an hour or so away from one. (In Iceland, an hour is a pretty short drive.) Almost all campsites have awesome bathrooms and showers with the famous Iceland infinite hot water, and most have a communal kitchen where you can cook out of the wind (we never used them except to do dishes). Camping is usually between $8-15 per person, per night.
DAY ONE / FIRST STOP: Reykjadalur
Reyjadalur is a 2 mile hike UP A MOUNTAIN to find this natural hot river. At this point we hadn't slept in over 30 hours, but we were so excited it didn't even matter. This place was a great first stop because it captures so much of Iceland; steam vents, insane mountains, waterfalls, a leg-melting hike, 9,999 shades of green, and a HOT RIVER YOU CAN SWIM IN!
A nice, steamy 120 degrees! (It got cooler and swimmable farther down)
After the hike, a few hours of driving, and 40 hours of being awake we decided to find a campsite to get a little shuteye, because the following day we hit up 6 of the most epic waterfalls I have ever seen.
Our campsite the first night was the campsite at Gesthus Selfoss. It was pretty nice but the least Iceland-y of all the places we stayed.
DAY TWO: WATERFALLS
The South of Iceland has some of the most incredibly beautiful waterfalls and natural attractions in the world, all packed super close together. We were fresh and ready to go, and we packed a ton into our second day, seeing six "feature" waterfalls, as well as visiting Geysir, a big, awesome geothermal area similar to Old Faithful.
STOP 1 - BRUARFOSS
Our first waterfall of the day was Bruarfoss and it was gorgeous. We saw a lot of waterfalls that were taller or bigger, but Bruarfoss was uniquely beautiful. The water was glacier runoff water and was SO blue. It was also one of the tougher ones to find. It was in an area with a lot of hiking and fishing, and there was a guest house.
STOP 2 - GEYSIR
Talk about original names! Geysir is the place with the Geysers. It's also the name of the big geyser there that only goes off when there has recently been an earthquake. On the way to the next waterfall we had to stop and see the cool stuff there real quick. We didn't stay very long because there were sooo many people. (The Geysir went off literally right after I took this photo hahaha). Across the street there is a large area to grab lunch and do a little shopping.
STOP 3 - GULLFOSS
Gullfoss was quite large and very wet, so I kept my camera under my raincoat most of the time we were there. The waterfall is HUGE! It's hard to capture from any angle because it drops super deeply into that canyon, but wow! Talk about spray. Gullfoss, like a lot of the attractions in the South that don't require a long hike, was pretty crowded. We couldn't wrap our heads around just how much water Iceland has. There are a ton of rivers this size, on top of a million other amazing natural features, and it's the size of OHIO!
STOP 4 - HAIFOSS
After Gullfoss we decided to change routes and drove a few hours off the Ring Road to find a waterfall a little less touristy. And you guys, oh my god, this waterfall BLEW MY FRICKIN MIND. My photos don't even do it justice. It was a truly jaw dropping experience. Haifoss is really a few waterfalls. It is the second-highest in Iceland, at 400 feet (122 m). Basically, three or four epic waterfalls all fall off of this crescent-shaped cliff overlooking middle freakin earth. Just standing on the edge of the cliffs across from these waterfalls was a breathtaking experience!
GUARD RAILS ARE FOR BABIES!
UMMM... RANDOM BEAUTY EVERYWHERE!
We had a long list of destinations that we knew we wanted to see, and we were hell-bent on seeing them all. That didn't stop us from slamming on the brakes and pulling off of the road 4-5 times a day to take pictures of the epic countryside as we drove through it. Some of the most fun we had were on these random stops. EVERYWHERE IS A DESTINATION!
STOP! THAT LOOKS LIKE MARS!
STOP! BUT YOU DON'T ALWAYS HAVE TO GET OUT
STOP! A WIZARD DEFINITELY LIVES THERE! OR SHEEP!
STOP! STOP! STOP! STOP! STOP! STOP!
STOP 5 - SELJALANDSFOSS
This waterfall was super cool because it is enormous, you could walk behind it, and the colors are incredible!
STOP 6 - SKOGAFOSS
This waterfall was SO SWEEEEET! You could walk right up to it, and it was big, real big, and super powerful.
If you hike to the top of the waterfall there is this cool cliff that resembles a man's face watching the waterfall.
View from the top! This was at 9pm.
STOP 7 - KVERNUFOSS
The waterfall stop was a few hundred yards from Skogafoss and one of the coolest, most enchanted, fairyland-like places I have ever seen. Skogafoss was pretty crowded, and a lot of people were camping there, but just half a mile away, we had a fantasy waterfall entirely to ourselves and it felt like a dream! Also this was at 10:30pm. Goodness I love Iceland.
Stepping over this ladder was actually quite hard after all the walking and hiking we had been doing all day, haha. Our dogs were barking!
Shots like this are what Dave was there for!
"Hey guys! The water is so shallow here that it doesn't go over my boots and my feet are still totally... nevermind"
On the second night we camped near Vik. It was rainy and we arrived late and left early, so I can't tell you much about it!
We explored, drove all over and got to experience 6 amazing waterfalls all in one day. We were out and about for 12 hours and it was the best day ever. Next check out PART 2, it includes a plane wreck, glaciers, black beaches, misty cliffs, waterfalls, icebergs and so much more! The days kept getting better and better so you don't want to miss it!!