If there ever was a country that had terrain that seemed like it is from another planet, it is Iceland and where better to celebrate your marriage turning one than in a freezing country surrounded by absolutely nothing! My husband and I landed in the capital city of Reykjavik and began a 10-day journey traversing volcanoes, lava fields, icy, and snow laden roads with air so pure and views so magical; we may have lost our hearts to another world.
A brief introduction: Iceland with its population of about 330,000 people and landscapes so surreal should be your go-to destination if you are looking for tranquility, undisturbed nature and extreme temperatures. The two most popular routes are The Golden Circle & The Ring Road. While the Golden Circle depicts a snapshot of Iceland in 300 km, the Ring Road is a mighty 1,332 km – through 90 per cent of the country. What option did we pick? OPTION 2 of course! Why? Because as Indians we have no experience driving in extreme weather conditions (snow and ice) nor are we used to shorter winter days — that’s when the little explorer side in us was unleashed. We weren’t going home without exploring every corner of this spectacular country.
If you are thinking of visiting Iceland in summer or winter, here is a day-by-day itinerary:
- Day 1: Begin in Reykjavik
Reykjavik, the northernmost capital of the world is home to ¾ of the country’s population — besides being incredibly tiny, this city has some delicious restaurants you must try out. Our favorites include Michelin star Dill, Fish Company, Kol restaurant, Messinn and our absolute favourite Tapasbarinn (The Tapas bar). Sightseeing options in the city include Hallgrímskirkja Church and exploring the city by foot only to discover swimming pools (pool culture on point), flea markets and more food!
Night spent at Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura
- Day 2: Let the adventure begin – Drive to UNESCO-listed Þingvellir National Park & Haukadalur geothermal area
Winter days in Iceland are awfully short with the sun rising at 10.30 AM and setting close to 4.30 PM— fair warning, this gives you very little daylight to work with when you have an entire country to cover!
Spend your first official day visiting the majestic Gullfoss waterfall and Iceland’s famous geothermal forces in action at the Haukadalur geothermal area, home of the great Geysir. However, here it is the Strokkur geyser that steals the show with its eruptions every 15 minutes spouting hot water in to the sky.
Night spent at Hotel Hella
- Day 3: Drive to the South coast waterfalls and beaches
Drive to Seljalandsfoss, where you can walk right behind the misty cascade, and the gorgeous 60-metre high Skógafoss just a short drive down the Ring Road. Due to it being bang in the middle of winter the pathway behind the falls were inaccessible but no worries the view from the front was equally pleasing.
Same day drive to Vik and visit the Reynisfjara beach, walk on the black volcanic sands and smoothed pebbles and catch views of the Dyrhólaey cape and Reynisdrangar Sea stacks. End the day with a stop at the deep, narrow Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon.
Night spent at Black Beach Suites #neverwantedtoleave
- Day 4: Vatnajökull glacier & floating icebergs at Diamond beach
Head to Skaftafell area of Vatnajökull National Park and explore the hiking trails, including an easy path (approx. 2-hour walk) leading to Svartifoss (“black falls”), a waterfall that tumbles over dark cliffs of columnar basalt resembling giant organ pipes.
Note: Exploring Vatnajökull glacier (for the ice cave tour) is ONLY possible in winter and via a local tour company. In case you are apprehensive about the weather or whether you want to take a glacier tour, you can always book one at “THE CAFÉ BY JÖKULSÁRLÓN “for the day provided they have an available slot. The tour takes you in a massive vehicle on dirt roads leading you to the base of the glacier from where you will enter the enchanting ice caves.
In our opinion the main attraction here is Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, where icebergs slowly drift out to sea on a mirror-like lake. This is one of Iceland’s best-known and most photographed locations with its playful seals bouncing in and out of the blue waters.
Special mention to the lovely caretakers at Hotel Smyrlabjorg without whom we would have probably retired for the night without so much as chasing the Northern Lights that presented itself just outside our room.
Night spent at Hotel Smyrlabjorg
- Day 5: Drive to Lake Myvatn early morning stopping at Dettifoss waterfall (time and weather permitting)
This day ensure you rise a little before sunrise to leave for Lake Myvatn. Driving through the East Fjords region of Iceland you will encounter charming fishing villages such as Seyðisfjörður as well as other notable sights including the majestic Mt. Búlandstindur and the Lagarfljót River, said to be inhabited by a Nessie-like monster worm. We made a lunch stop here at a little town known as Djupivogur after which you won’t find much on the road. The scenery makes a striking transformation again as you begin to drive along the coast covering mountain passes flanked by barren snow-laden lava fields. This drive was particularly long (took us 6 hours) and we reached Lake Myvatn in complete darkness making it quite risky to drive in such conditions.
Night spent at Sel Hotel Lake Myvatn
- Day 6: Exploring Lake Myvatn
Start this day with Námaskarð Pass, the Skútustaðagígar pseudo-craters, the Dimmuborgir lava formations and the Mt. Krafla volcano.
Note: In winter, the ground is almost completely covered with snow as a result the Mt. Krafla Volcano hike was not possible. Spend this day driving all around the lake, stopping to take photos of the lava fields and Mars-like terrain.
Post lunch, visit the Myvatn Nature Baths located a mere 105 km from the Arctic Circle for an afternoon of tranquility in the bubbling waters of Myvatn’s geothermal area. With its laid back and serene surroundings, we might even rate these baths higher than the Blue Lagoon solely for its lack of crowds and stunning landscape. In addition, just like any other Icealndic spa, Myvatn Nature Baths does not disappoint when it comes to being handed a beer while in the bath or soaking in the pool Jacuzzis.
Night spent at Sel Hotel Lake Myvatn
- Day 7: Drive from Lake Myvatn to Borgannes enroute visiting Godafoss
With another long drive ahead of you, it is advisable to leave just as the sun begins to creep up to arrive in time to view the semi frozen Godafoss waterfall. Set up your tripod, take countless photos (no one can take just one), admire the power of Mother Nature, forget where you came from but focus on that very moment because it is nothing like what you have ever seen before.
Night spent at Hotel Hafnarfjall
- Day 8: Drive straight to Snæfellsjökull National Park
Spend the day visiting the national park and the cascading waterfalls of Kirkjufell (situated perfectly in front of north Iceland’s highest mountain peak Kirkjufell. Take in the secluded beauty of the coastline around the national park at places like Dritvík Cove, the cliffs of Lóndrangar and Arnarstapi, the hamlet of Hellnar (excellent lunch stop) and other photo stops along the way. Head to the black volcanic beach of Djúpalónssandur for icy winds and unparalleled crater views.
Night spent at Kast Guesthouse
- Day 9: Drive to the Blue Lagoon
You cannot leave Iceland without visiting the iconic Blue Lagoon located midst typical Icelandic landscape (by now you would know what we are talking about) and known to be one of the 25 wonders of the world. Located between Keflavik (airport) and Reykjavik the Blue Lagoon promises relaxation, alcohol, variety of meals and a well deserve end to kilometres of hard driving.
Night spent at Bed & Breakfast Keflavik Airport Hotel
- Day 10: Goodbye Iceland
The best part about winter in Iceland? Almost every waterfall flows only for you (or so it seemed), every guesthouse prepares meals solely for you and every glacier sparkled in the moonlight only for you. While driving in Iceland in winter is definitely NOT for the faint-hearted, we would do it all over again without a doubt. This country prides itself on safety, warmth of the locals and rugged natural beauty; one that has managed to protect itself from disruptive tourists and unfortunate forces of nature. Iceland, we might pay you summer visit very soon.
All accommodations were booked using www.booking.com