This is my third trip to Iceland and I am finally exploring the Ring Road! I love this island and have been looking forward to driving the Ring Road for over a year! I love everything about this place - amazing outdoor activities, big landscapes, fresh food, strong coffee and the dynamic natural environment and weather keeps things exciting!
This time I have been able to stay for 52 days, 14 of which I have spent with my parents and we drove the Ring Road (and then some!) plus we set ourselves the challenge of reaching all the extreme points of mainland Iceland - which we completed!
Western Most Point
Northern Most Point
Eastern Most Town
Southern Most Point
Mom and Dad arrived on the awesome 5am WOW flight from Canada! Feeling jet lagged, we had a relaxing first day walking Reykjavik, picking up the rental van and driving around Hvalfjordur (the Whale Fjord). Highlight today was Meat Soup at Bjarteyjarsandur Farm, a family farm that raises 600 sheep and uses all local ingredients. Can you say fresh and hearty?! We camped at Borgarnes along the Ring Road.
Day 2 - Borganes to Heydalur - 306km
The best thing to do after a long flight and a night of camping is hit the pool! We swam at the local Borgarnes Swimming Pool where we enjoyed chatting with a local couple in the hot pot. We started learning about settlement at the Settlement Centre and had lunch at a local cafe. Let the driving begin! We covered 306km this afternoon, heading into the infamous Wesfjords!! Highlight today was the wild hot springs - one on the side of the road and one at Heydalur Farm where we camped. I bought (another) Icelandic sweater!
Day 3 - Heydalur to Bredavik - 325km
Today was all about touring the fjords: Ísafjarðardjúp, Álftafjörður, Seyðisfjörður, Patreksfjörður, Tálknafjörður and probably a few more I can't name! We hiked the short trails around Dynjandi Waterfall, enjoying the sunshine. We made our way out to Bredavik (Broad Bay) where we camped near the biggest white sand beach I have ever seen! Highlight today was the twisty, steep switchback gravel roads that had both Mom and Dad on the edge of their seats;)!
Day 4 - Bredavik to Hvammstangi - 349km
Látrabjarg was our mission today as it is the western most point of Iceland. We checked #1 of 4 from our Extreme Points of Iceland Challenge! Látrabjarg is also Europes biggest bird cliffs where millions of birds nest throughout the summer. Only a few left now, as many have started south or back out to sea. Driving the precarious switchback yet brought us into Rauðasandur beach which was everyones highlight of the day! We ended the day driving out of the Westfjords, stopping for the best coffee ever (at Hotel Flókalundur), eventually getting back on the Ring Road and ending in Hvammstangi.
Day 5 - Hvammstangi to Akureyri - 201km
We stayed in Hvammstangi last night so we could check out the wool factory (Kidka) where we got to see how wool items are machine made right here in Iceland. We also swam in the local pool again enjoying the hot pot, swimming lanes and no one there, making this todays highlight! We drove around the Vatnsnes Peninsula to see the Troll Sea stack and enjoyed Fish Soup at local farm restaurant. Along the Ring Road, Akureyri was our end destination today for camping, laundry and groceries.
Day 6 - Akureyri to Mývatn - 116km
Akureryi has the most northern botanical garden in the world! There were over 4000 species of plants, many of which were still in bloom. Downtown Akureryi was cute (lots of old shops) and the harbour had some very cool boats and ships from all over the world! On to Mývatn where we wandered through 2000 year old lava flows at sunset where we watched trolls emerge everywhere and was our highlight of the day. The Hverir hot springs area was also coming alive as the light got low with its steaming fumaroles and mud pots - smelly place!
Day 7 - Mývatn to Vopnafjordur - 304km
Started the day with a climb up and around Hverfjall, which is a tuff ring volcano at 1,378 feet above sea level and 1 km wide. It provided unparalleled views of the entire Mývatn area: lava flows, the big lake, rhyolite hills, hot areas, the nearby town and more making for an early highlight of the day. I was adamant about seeing Grjótagjá cave because of Game of Thrones and then we visited the Krafla Power Plant to learn about how geothermal power is made. Now it was time to head north to Raufarhöfn town and out to Hraunhafnartangi, so we could reach our #2 of 4 Extreme Points of Iceland Challenge spot and touch the Greenland sea! We also visited the Arctic Henge and then meandered south until Vopnafjörður which had our favourite campsite of the trip.
Day 8 - Vopnafjörður to Höfn - 470km
Our longest driving day as we had to detour out to Neskaupstadur to hit our eastern most town. #3 of 4 for our Extreme Points of Iceland Challenge:) The road out and back was another epic mountain switch back with a single lane tunnel with stunning views of the surrounding fjords - my highlight, but probably not Mom or Dad's! Here the Ring Road winds along the East Fjords. We drove, up, down, around until Stöðvarfjörður where we explored a local craft market and had a coffee break. We indulged in a restaurant dinner in Höfn where we spent the night.
Day 9 - Höfn to Hvolsvöllur - 352km
Today was (honestly!!) our first rain day! We stopped at Jökulsárlón (the Iceberg Lagoon) where we saw icebergs calving from the Vatnajökull and seals playing around the floating bergs. The Ring Road here was very flat (compared to the previous days) and we crossed two large sandur (an outwash plain formed by meltwater from glaciers) which are the largest in the world and named after these one here in Iceland. We walked out to Kötlutangi to reach out #4/4 Extreme Points of Iceland, making the challenge complete - highlight for sure!!
Day 10 - Hvolsvöllur to Hveragerdi - 190km
An extended Golden Circle tour was todays mission. We stumbled into the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland museum which answered many of our questions about farming practices and reclamation techniques being used to reduce wind erosion. As farmers, Mom and Dad really appreciated learning about the soil practices of Icelandic farmers and getting to chat to the local woman about farming, certainly the highlight for all. We headed over to Gullfoss and Geysir, then stopped into a local dairy farm for homemade ice-cream where we got to see Icelandic cows up close. Thingvellir National Park pulled together the history of the largest standing democratic nation in the world and we enjoyed walking the many paths around the lake.
Day 11 - Hveragerdi - Hveragerdi - 0km
After a relaxed morning of sleeping, reading and bakery delicacies, we hiked into Reykjadalur to see the hot river (a popular spot right off the Ring Road). It was perfect day to climb into the mountain for 3km and see all the views around the south. Lunch was geothermal cooked goodness at local cafe. Mom and I then swam at the local pool (the oldest one in Iceland) while Dad napped at the campground. A nice low-key, no driving day!
Day 12 - Hveragerdi to Gardur - 109km
We enjoyed round two at the bakari - European style pastries are the best! I had been itching to see the banana trees at the college, so we started there. Yes, they are real! Bananas grow in Iceland, so do many tropical plants as well as tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. Then we drove to Eyrarbakki to see an old Danish trading town and have a langoustine lunch. We explored our way along the south shore, touring through Reykjanes Geopark and standing between the two tectonic plates again.
Day 13 - Gardur to Reykjavik - 57km
A quiet night at the Gardur campsite had us rested and ready to museum hop in Reykjavik today. Arriving in Reykjavik brought our Ring Road circuit to a close. We enjoyed the Whales of Iceland exhibition where you walk through life size replicas and learn about the various whale species found in Icelandic waters. I enjoyed this immensely as many of these whales also list Newfoundland and it was great to "see" them up close. The National Museum holds a lot of stuff, the coolest display is "Woman in Blue" where they have the cheek tissue from a woman who died 1100 years ago! Read about it here. We camped at the Reykjavik Campsite with a thousand others and swam at the big pool next door before popcorn and beer for supper!
Day 14 - Reykjavik to Keflavik
As out last day, we splurged on breakfast at Cafe Haiti before visiting Hallgimskirkja and handing the downtown shop circuit where Mom and Dad each got themselves beautiful Icelandic wool sweaters. Then it was off to the KEF airport where they caught their 5pm WOW flight back to Canada.
Roadside Hot Pot
Hverir Hot Springs
Thingvellir National Park
Dimmuborgir Lava Flows
We had the best weather over the last 14 days, met so many wonderful people, saw the most beautiful places - it really was the best road trip ever! The Ring Road is a very unique venture (not for the faint of heart though) and it was made even more special because I got to share this adventure with the two most important people in my life: my Mom and Dad!