For most of us who are stuck in a 9 to 5 job in an office, we regularly get the thousand mile stare. Our minds wanders far beyond the confinement of the office, to wild places all around the world, to mountain peaks with endless views, to deep forests where you are the hunted, to rivers softly carving its way through the landscape.
So last spring, after my eyes had wandered too often, I made up my mind. After seeing Iceland so often from an airplane window or in fascinating photos on social medias, I took the plunge late summer of 2017. It was time to see what all the fuss was about.
After I made the decision I started to do my research and soon discovered that for me, exploring Iceland would be best done in a camper van as everywhere I looked, people said „If you don‘t like the weather in Iceland, wait five minutes“. Well, that is not my idea of fun to possibly be wet and cold while exploring, for me, virgin country. Further research told me Rent.is is the company to rent a camper from. Fully equipped vans with free WiFi and the cheapest.
Most people who makes road trips around the whole island takes around 6 to 8 days but I wanted to spend more time hiking than driving. After studying Iceland on Google Earth, I came to the conclusion that I would drive straight north up to Snæfellsnes peninsula, all the way to the national park to experience the solitude on the most western point there. After Snæfellsnes, take the ferry from Stykkishólmur to Brjánslækur on the south shore of the Westfjords.
One skill one develops with the increasing number of trips is how to pack for any trip, what gear to bring, what gear needs to be replaced etc. My hiking shoes has quite a few miles in them yet and they are still 100% waterproof and totally shaped for my feet so I don‘t need to think of that which, for me, is the hardest piece of equipment to be most satisfied with.
I have been very unlucky with trekking poles lately as I had to get new ones two years in a row (too wobbly and weak) and now have brand new ones which will be very interesting to see if they are crap like the two former pairs I had or if they will do the job. Clothes always has to be the breathable stuff and since Iceland can be cold, the key is to dress in layers when needed.
So in mid August, after a painless pickup of the camper van and an effective & fast instruction of all the features in the van (thanks Mikołaj. Well done), I was on my way on my planned route.
Before I reached Reykjavik, the landscape was big and slightly eerie with the fog rolling down from the distant mountains and over the harsh lava fields. As I live in a big city, I had no wishes to explore Reykjavik at the start and craved solitude and big nature so I hit north, through the long tunnel that goes over a 100m (300ft) below sea level. I filled up the van with necessities in Borgarnes and head to the peninsula. Just north of Borgarnes, just when you are about to leave the village, you come to a roundabout and take a left there. After that it‘s more or less following the road around the peninsula.
True to the rumors, the weather kept on changing from harsh sunlight to truly dynamic cloud formations where the sun manages to penetrate here and there, continuously painting stunning pictures for me. Mind blown and the soul replenished within the first hour reaching the peninsula.
Upon reaching the westernmost point, you are in Snæfellsjökull National Park. The nature is truly mind-blowing with everything from odd cliff formations to moss covered lava fields and it was here I went on my first hike.
I first cooked a meal, settled down while putting on the suitable clothes for the moment. When ready to explore the coastline I armed myself with a bottle of water and my new trekking poles. The terrain was very demanding but I felt very secure due to the stability of the poles. Thanks Montem! I love them!
After been hiking for most of the afternoon, I went back to my van, packed up and headed to Hellissandur where I spent my first night. I had no knowledge of how good the sleeping bags that comes with the van was so I brought a camping blanket that I had vacuum packed to save space. The van was really warm so I turned off the heater, unpacked my blanket to try it out. With everything turned off, no wind at all outside, I fell into a deep sleep, pampered by my new, lovely blanket. Divine!
After a few windless days on the peninsula, I took the ferry up to the Westfjords in just astounding weather. The journey over the huge bay was just like a big meditation session. We were not sailing as much as floating silently over the bay. Just fantastic. FYI. Somewhere here Björk bought an island.
The days in the Westfjords was little too windy and rainy for me and I read that there would be no rain in the south so I just revised my itinerary and hit south despite Westfjords showing such unimaginable beauty. When I got close to the tunnel, I stopped at a rest stop where I met other fellow campers who informed and showed me an interesting way to get to the south. I was all ears. By skipping the tunnel and drive around the fjord instead of under, you‘ll get a much nicer experience and you can cut through the mountains and reach Þingvellir lake with ease.
It was sad to not get to explore Westfjords but the weather was just so much better here. I kept on driving south until I reached the Ring road where I headed east, aiming for the ice lagoon Jökulsárlón.
The drive along the south side was pretty bland until I reached the mountain range. Once more, the landscape just changed to something so big and powerful one can‘t help but drive with your mouth wide open, looking like a fool.
This must be one of the most beautiful drives in the world for with every turn, something new popped up. This is also the mountain range where you find the popular waterfalls like Seljalandsfoss, Gljúfrárfoss and Skógafoss and you see them from the road but I chose not to stop there as there were a few too many buses for me so I kept going until I came to a very flat, harsh area with a view to die for.
It‘s very easy to navigate in Iceland as they only have one road that goes around the country and many times, you just see where you are and where you are going. When getting close to Vatnajökull national park, you are welcomed by a massive wall of mountains and it becomes even bigger in your mind due to you are driving on a road that lies over a big, flat area with only black sand. Truly stunning!
When you drive by the roots of these fabulous mountains, you are getting close to the glacier lagoon.
After I passed the mountains, a heavy fog rolled in, cloaking everything in mystery. You could almost see an angry mob of Viking riding on horses, swinging their swords.
When I arrived at the lake, I parked the van so I could just watch it from the comforts of lying with my blanket under my back and listen to the ice silently passing you by, with the occasional sound of icebergs breaking off.
After the lake I turned back but stopped at the next glacier lake close by where I went on a long hike around the area. Again my new poles where sensational so that means I don‘t need to buy new ones in the nearest future. Yay.