Iceland Road Trip 2018 ✈ South Iceland
2,850 kms (1,770 miles), 8 days, and a camper van. We spent 8 days driving around Iceland, feasted our eyes with spectacular scenery at every turn, fed our soul with solitude, and indulged in so many unique experiences within such a short period of time. Iceland is definitely a unique country like no other.
After 7 hours of rest, we were ready to continue our sightseeing at 11pm. Yes, we decided to travel outside of the normal hours to experience Iceland in solitude. After filling up gas (successfully used the self-service station with our credit card), we started driving towards the first of many waterfalls on this trip. Driving at this hour = no cars AT ALL!
Arrived Seljalandsfoss Waterfall at 12.30am. We were all wrapped up as we were expecting to get sprinkled/soaked when we get close to the waterfall.
Iceland has midnight sun during the summer, that means the sun never really sets. However, it was still a month away from summer solstice and even though it didn't get entirely dark at night, it was still a lil' too dark for good photos. Fortunately, iPhone's camera is good in auto-adjusting for low light conditions.
You can actually walk behind this waterfall but the path was pretty muddy, and we didn't want to get soaked at our first stop for the night. =P
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall from different angles. Continued our journey to the next waterfall after spending 45 minutes here.
Drove 30 minutes to the next waterfall...Skogafoss. There are several other campers parked at the parking lot, but they seemed to be camping there for the night.
2am-3am is the 'darkest' time of the day so we decided to make it nap time, giving everybody some time to rest before sunrise around 3.30am.
While hubby and MiL were napping, I decided to hike up to the viewing point at the top of the waterfall. P.S. I'm trained (by my job) to function well without needing too much sleep...haha! Spot the path and viewing platform to the right of the waterfall.
The viewing platform looked pretty high up, but the hike up only took me 10 minutes, fairly easy but not bad for some thigh and butt workout at 2am...lol!
Nobody else is as crazy as I am to be hiking at 2am. Unsurprisingyly, I had the entire viewing platform to myself. The weather forecast showed that it was going to be overcast, but I was very lucky that the sky was clear to see the full moon!!
Honestly, I dislike heights as I get older, and the thundering sounds of the waterfall gushing down definitely don't make things better. I was walking extremely slowly holding on tight to the hand rails to take these photos. It's really not that scary, but I was just paranoid that nobody would know I'm up here if anything bad happens...lol!!
After spending 10 minutes taking all the photos and videos I wanted, I decided to make my way down, to take more photos of the waterfall at ground level.
Woke 'em up at 3am to see the waterfall. Bottom left photo was my attempt to recreate the scene from the movie 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty'...well sort of.
Some stone skipping fun before continuing our journey to the next destination at 3.30am.
After being awed by the two famous waterfalls, we drove towards Dýrhólaey Arch.
But...we encountered this road block when we arrived at 4am, one disadvantage of sightseeing off-hours. =.= The gates were closed and we couldn't drive any further.
According to Google Maps, we were about 2km away from the viewpoint. We could have probably walked there but we decided to give it a pass and turned around.
Since we couldn't get to the top of the mountain to see the Dýrhólaey Arch from the top, we just took some photos of the surrounding areas and did a 'profile shoot' of our van. =P
Another 30 minutes drive through some lush fields towards Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach.
Quick photo stop of the Reyniskirkja church, with a small cemetery next to it along the way to the Black sand beach. Every town has a church and they all look similar.
4.45am - Reynisfjara volcanic black sand beach and Reynisdrangar columns. Hubby was seriously reading the warning signs as this beach is known for its deadly sneaker waves and had resulted in fatalities in the past. We kept our distance from the sea, stayed in the 'dry' part of the sand, and made sure that someone was looking at the direction of the sea at all times (in case the waves sneaked up from behind). P.S. I didn't notice this when we were there, but looking at these photos (especially the bottom right one), I wouldn't advise anybody to go anywhere close to the sea by themselves.
No luck seeing Dýrhólaey Arch from above, but at least we saw it from Reynisfjara beach. It was extremely windy and the waves were wild.
It was pretty awesome to have the entire beach to ourselves! Yes, I'm anti-social like that.
Continued our journey at 5.10am and the sun is finally up!
After driving for 40 minutes, we arrived at the Laufskálavarða Lava Ridge. At first, it looked like it was just an area filled with piles of stacked stones in the middle of nowhere right by the Ring Road. According to the historical notes, these stone cairns have been accumulated throughout the years by travelers to pay tribute to a large farm destroyed in a volcano eruption in 1894. Everyone passing by it for the first time was supposed to add a stone to bring him good luck on his journey.
After another 40min of driving, we arrived Fjadrargljufur Canyon at 6.50am. The walking paths had been closed since March 2018 due to damage of the vegetation (partially attributed to the Bieber effect). As such, we had to park further away, and walked 1.5km to reach the canyon.
As you can see, the damage looked pretty bad and we didn't get to walk along the canyon. But is the 'no pooping' sign really necessary?!?!
Behaved as good tourists and only took photos from the bridge below.
Spotted this random waterfall/river by the road and had to stop for photos.
According to my itinerary, Fjadrargljufur Canyon was the last stop of the day/night and our original plan was to park and rest at a campsite. But since the weather was cold and we didn't really do much (apart from hopping on and off the camper), we decided to stay at campsites and shower on alternate days.
We started looking out for good spot to park and spend the 'day' along the route to our next destination. Found this perfect spot right by a stream with clear water from the mountains, great view of the mountains, and a porta-potty 3 minutes drive away. I've added this location to the Google Map at the end of this post.
29 May 2018 (Tues): Svartifoss - Svínafellsjökull
We slept at 9am and woke up around 4.30pm, pretty solid 7.5 hours of rest. The cold weather and the warm sleeping bags made it too comfortable to sleep. I woke up earlier and had the 'brilliant' idea of cooking and eating outside. Moved everything out of the van, started boiling the water, and of course, it started drizzling. =.= Ended up moving everything back into the van and cooked inside. That's the benefit of having a bigger camper, we ended up doing everything inside during the trip because it was too cold. Breakfast menu - Sausages, fried eggs, green beans, carrots, chocolate drink, and Starbucks coffee. All the food and drink we brought, including silverware and napkins. =P
This stream with clear water was great as we were able to get fresh drinking water (we boiled as well just in case), and wash our dishes the 'traditional' way!
Arrived Svartifoss parking lot, our first stop for the evening at 7.30pm. We're supposed to pay to park within the Vatnajökull National Park, but we didn't see anywhere or anyone to pay to. I guess that's another benefit for visiting at off-hours?
We had to hike approximately 45 min to get to the waterfall. The path was well-marked and pretty easy. The only problem we had was over-dressing as we were expecting rain.
Pass by 2 waterfalls, and cross a bridge...
Take a photo break at this viewpoint. As you can we, we're not there yet...
Finally made it!! We were lucky that it didn't rain at all during our hike...pheww!!
Now time to sit back and watch the waterfall cascade down the beautiful basalt columns.
Had the place all to ourselves again. =P Took many photos and had some snacks before hiking back to the parking lot. We spent approx. 2 hours to hike and visit this waterfall,
Vatnajökull is Europe's largest glacier outside the arctic and the Vatnajökull National Park encompasses three famous glaciers in Iceland - Svínafellsjökull, Fjallsárlón, & Jökulsárlón.
Stopped for gas near Svínafellsjökull Glacier Lake. This gas station was opened till 10pm so we took the opportunity to use the bathroom, buy some stuffs from the store. As we were traveling at night, all shops and groceries were closed so we had to plan ahead if we needed to buy something.
To get to Svínafellsjökull Glacier Lake, we had to turn off the Ring Road and got on a super bumpy gravel road for 2.5km. I was so focused helping hubby navigate through the many potholes and forgotten to take any photos of the road condition. As seen on Google street view, the road condition was already pretty bad in 2013, imagine bigger and more potholes 5 years later. We had to be extremely careful and slow with the big camper van, the last thing we want happening is a punctured tire. =P
After 25 minutes of bumpy and tensed drive, we finally made it here! This viewpoint was just a short walk from the parking lot. This glacier was the filming location for interstellar and Batman Begins. There are glacier hike tours but we've done it in Norway already.
30 May 2018 (Wed): Fjallsárlón - Jökulsárlón - Djúpivogur
Cute Hofskirkja Church in the little town of Hof.
Next stop was Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon. We got there at 1.45am and that means it's siesta time! Same as the previous night, I woke everyone up at 3.30am to continue sightseeing. This was actually my favorite glacier lagoon among the three. You can't really see the scale from the photos, but the glacier was massive.
Arrived Diamond Beach at 4am. This black volcanic sand beach with icebergs scattered on the beach originated from the famous Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon located next to it. These glittering icebergs sitting all across the black sand beach creates a magical setting you can’t really find elsewhere in the world!
Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon at 4am. Unfortunately, these photos look a lil' lackluster as the clouds were blocking the snow-capped mountains in the background.
Change in landscapes as we continued our journey towards East Iceland.
Some animals we bumped into along the Ring Route.
Quick photo stop at this view point before making it to Djúpivogur campsite at 8am. Time to rest and relax for the 'day'.
That's a wrap for South Iceland. Stay tuned as we continue our journey to East Iceland in the next post! As a token of appreciation for scrolling through this long post, here's our map to help you plan for your Iceland adventure! Click on the top right 'square' to open in Google Maps.