9 Days Summer Road Trip In Iceland – Part I
Songs by Of Monsters and Men were played repeatedly over the radio as we drove down the scenic road of Iceland. And as I hear it again while drafting this post, those flashbacks bring all the goose bumps once again.
We arrived on the first night at about 11pm; I was dead tired after a long day in London. Instead of catching some rest while flying with Icelandair, I watched “And Breathe Normally”, directed by female Icelandic film director Ísold Uggadóttir. It gives you a moment to look away from the cinematic Icelandic landscapes and into narratives of the social environment, touching on LGBT, asylum seeker issues unfolding in two women’s lives.
I slept my way through the 45 minutes with Flybus by Reykjavik Excursions to the BSI terminal in Reykjavik that we have booked online in advance. We bought two one-way tickets as we are returning our car at the airport on the last day. The bus also drops off passengers in other parts of the city, but we decided to save some confusion and time, and took a cab from the terminal. We have been warned that the cab fare is costly. We paid ISK2160 (around SGD26) for only a 5-10 minutes ride.
Day I: Reykjavik – Capital of Iceland
We walked for about 10 mins from our Airbnb, and stopped by at the Icelandic Phallological Museum. We visited the souvenir shop but didn’t pay extra to enter and look at the collection of penises.
Opposite the museum you’ll find a food hall – Hlemmur Matholl.
Most of the stalls were still closed when we got in so we decided to walk further down to Svarta Kaffid. A soup restaurant that sells only two soups, how easy is that.
It was either a vegetarian or a meat soup option, we went for the latter, that costs ISK1950 (SGD24). The bread bowl wasn’t soggy at all, and we literally devour the entire dish. Another option for breakfast would be Sandholt Bakery and Eatery, which I find they have pretty good reviews online. It was nearly packed when we walked in.
The street of Laugavegur, which means “Wash Road”, is one of their oldest shopping streets. Other than those highly repetitive souvenir shops, you’ll still find unique and quirky design stores, and plenty of restaurants and bars.
We turned into the street of Skólavörðustígur after exploring the entire street of Laugavegur, and walked our way down to the main landmark of the city.
The design of the church is inspired by the shapes and forms created when lava cools into basalt rock columns.
After spending some time here, we went to look for the Icelandic hotdog everyone talks about. You’ll find many other hotdog stands but we decided to go for the very-known Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur.
Turns out I am not a big fan of it as lamb meat is included in the hotdog.
If you happen to be there on the weekends, you may check out Kolaportið, an indoor flea market in the old harbor area near to the hot dog stand.
Moving on to Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre, and take a moment of serenity overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
We saw many stone cairns, mostly stacked by tourists and decided to join in. Though on a side note, this is becoming a concern for the locals. You can read from this article here.
Along this stretch of waterfront paths lies the steel sculpture – The Sun Voyager. Many other tourists surrounded it so we grabbed a selfie and left.
Our friend recommended us Grillmarkadurinn (Grill Market), where they had trio of mini burgers as starter, made with reindeer, langoustine and whale. They ordered also tenderloin of horse, and the grilled lobster with champagne sauce. Sounds yummy already. Bear in mind that you may need to place a reservation to dine in.
I had read an online recommendation earlier on Tapasbarinn’s Icelandic Gourmet Feast and we decided to give it a go. The portion was sufficient for the two of us. We spent ISK8990 (SGD110) on this meal.
|Shot of Icelandic "Brennivin" with starter dishes|
|Minke Whale with cranberry-malt sauce|
|Pan-fried blue ling with lobster sauce|
|Lobster tails baked in garlic|
|Grilled Icelandic lamb with beer-butterscotch sauce|
|Icelandic arctic char with bellpepper-salsa|
|White chocolate "Skyr" with mousse with passion coulis|
We ended the day shopping in Bonus. Remember to check out also the outlet’s opening and closing hours as they closes as early as 6:30pm. I’ve attached the link here on groceries shopping for cross-reference.
Day 2: South Iceland
There are two things we notice while driving across southern Iceland. One would be the lupine flowers, and the other is the moss blanket over Eldraun Lava Fields. Though I have read that you can easily find those flowers blooming and visible in summer throughout Iceland, I didn’t manage to see a large field and could only see them along the main roads.
The spectacular Eldraun Lava Fields on the other hand was spectacular. But out of reverence, I decided that we shouldn’t be too near in risk of stepping or harming them. Knowing that such a sight happened due to one of the most devastating eruptions for over 8 months between 1783 and 1784, one could only imagine how such violent past by a disaster has now turned into a unique, peaceful, and astounding view.
(City > Reykjadalur Hot Springs: Approx. 50 minutes)
Our hike to Reykjadalur Hot Springs was totally worth the journey. You can park your car at the parking lot or beside the main road. There’s a toilet and also a small café (opens only during summer season) at the base of the trail. They also offer horse-riding services here. Many enthusiastic hikers go for the complete hike; most of them like us just went up for the hot spring.
One-way journey takes about 45 minutes. Once you have arrived at the stream, find your comfortable temperature. We went straight to the upper stream where the water is warmer. It felt like it was burning the skin at first. But once you dip fully into it, you’ll find it extremely relaxing. Then again it depends because we had seen people dipping at where we are but couldn’t withstand the heat after a few minutes.
We enjoyed it here so much more than Blue Lagoon. Well at least the temperature of the water was up to our expectation here in nature. Except for the fact that the trail has horse manure and attracted clouds of bugs that was way, way too irritating along the journey.
(Reykjadalur Hot Springs > Kerid Crater Lake: Approx. 30 mins)
We skipped Kerid Crater Lake because of their entrance fees of ISK400. But we couldn’t skip paying ISK700 (SGD9) for the parking fees at Seljalandsfoss.
(Kerid Crater Lake > Seljalandsfoss: Approx. 1hr 10 mins)
Photographers are known to also capture the setting of the midnight sun behind Seljalandsfoss. Again, I am not all out to sacrifice my rest time to get that perfect shot at 12am.
(Seljalandsfoss > Skogafoss: Approx. 30 mins)
You’ll see a designated campsite near to Skogafoss waterfall; just imagine sleeping and waking up to the sound of the fall. There are steps leading up to an observation platform that gives you quite a magnificent view.
You can go for a one-day hike - Fimmvörðuháls hike, starting from Skogafoss. I included a link here for you too if you’re keen for a 12-hours hike or a halfway hike.
Our night stay is only 5 minutes away from Skogafoss, and we prepared self-cook dinner facing this mountain.
Day 3: South to Southeast Iceland
(Skogafoss > Dyrhólaey Lighthouse: Approx. 30 mins)
Dyrhólaey lighthouse stands on top of the cliff where you’ll find a massive arch the sea has eroded. The amazing rock formations also house an abundant birdlife. This is the only spot we get to see puffin bird from the ledge off the cliff, with the picturesque, endless black coastline of Reynisdrangar and Reynisfjara as the backdrop. The wind blew intensely strong that day and we could feel fine black sands hitting our eyes and faces.
|Gotta pay the price for a clean toilet|
(Dyrhólaey Lighthouse > Reynisfjara: Approx. 30 mins)
It started raining cats and dogs as we walked along Reynisfjara beach. Without hesitation we rushed back into the car and left. Be aware not to get too near as there have been cases where people were swept off their feet unknowingly by the sneaker waves.
Back on the road we stopped at Laufscalavarda, a lava ridge surrounded by stone cairns.
(Reynisfjara > Fjaðrárgljúfur : Approx. 1 hr)
Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon was said to have formed 9000 years ago as a result of progressive erosion by flowing waters from glaciers through the rocks. We walked along the canyon all the way to the top. You can also walk down from the parking place, standing next to big rocky massive walls.
|Hair flipping shot by accident but I kinda like it|
Continuing the ring road, you’ll find stand-alone bridges that do not join with the main road. You will eventually come across Skeiðará Bridge Monument, a twisted girder that was also remnants of the broken bridge that once formed the ring road. It was when the volcano Vatnajökull erupted in 1996, and massive flood bringing glacier shards came crashing into the bridge.
The girder now sits on Skeiðarár Sandur, a wide plain of black volcanic sand, at the feet of Skeiðarárjökull glacier.
(Fjaðrárgljúfur > Svartifoss : Approx. 1 hr)
If your body is still up for a 45 minutes hike (one way), go for Svartifoss, it means ‘The Black Waterfall’. The fall tumbles over coal black basalt columns, giving a resemblance to the pipes of a giant church organ.
|Photo taken from GuidetoIceland|
(Svartifoss > Fjallsárlón: Approx. 40 mins)
If you have time, visit the two glacier lakes of Fjallsárlón and Jökulsárlón as they are only 10-15mins apart by car. Although Fjallsárlón is significantly smaller, you can still see the icebergs up close and is just as beautiful.
(Fjallsárlón > Jökulsárlón: Approx. 15 mins)
Needless to say, the Jökulsárlón lagoon is one of Iceland’s natural wonder. From the glacier lake stretching towards the sea, you’ll see icebergs floating around and rolling over the Diamond beach. The blue and black stripes on the icebergs are created by the intrusion of seawater into vertical cracks, sediments it picked up on its journey to the sea.
(Jökulsárlón > Pakkhús Restaurant: Approx. 1 hr 10 mins)
We needed a hearty and proper meal after a day of snacking. He found Pakkhús in Höfn with a high rating and so we went there straight after dropping our luggage in our Airbnb because no reservation can be made. All the tables were occupied and we were ushered to wait at the bar. More and more people were coming in by the time we were seated and we are glad that our wait was only around 20minutes.
The entire meal costs us ISK13,230 (SGD161), the most extravagant meal throughout the trip.
|Langoustine and salmon for dinner|
Day 4: East Iceland
Before leaving Höfn, we went back to the harbor where Pakkhús is and walked in to the Gamlabúð Höfn Visitor Centre. There is an exhibition space with the documentary video of volcanic eruptions, and other interesting displays of stones, granites, as well as interactive media information board about the geographical landscape of Iceland.
(Höfn > Fardagafoss: Approx. 3 hours)
Thereafter, we embarked on a scenic coastal route to the east, from cliffs to mountain valleys. We stop occasionally along the road for a break but the entire journey easily takes up 3 hours.
We were up for a mere 30 minutes hike to the waterfall to stretch our body and legs a little.
(Fardagafoss > Seyðisfjörður: Approx. 30 mins)
Once we arrived in Seyðisfjörður after twist and turns through the mountains, we checked in to our hostel right away and used the kitchen before the other traveler starts coming in. We went out a little too late to explore the town as many shops were closed by then.
|My favourite corner in Hi Hostel|
We parked our car near the Seydisfjardarkirkja (Blue Church) and start walking around the lake. It was indeed a lovely and colorful small town, and I had wished we had a longer time there.
The site-specific sound sculpture – Tvisongur was designed by German artist Lukas Kühne, standing on a mountainside above the town. From Brimberg Fish Factory, walk across the gravel road and you need to walk 15-20 minutes up.
Local choirs have sung in this five interconnected concrete domes. Each dome is said to have its own resonance that corresponds to a tone in the Icelandic musical tradition of five-tone harmony. All I did was just randomly made sound and echoes inside the dome.
Here concludes the first 4 days of our journey in Iceland!
I will update on our Part II trip in the coming weeks.