I know that I say this a lot, but I really liked insert name of place here and would definitely visit again and/or live there. But, seriously, no joke. Iceland will make you want to give it all up and go become a sheep farmer. At least, that’s the effect it had on me.
Taking into account that I went during the summer, which was still very chilly and sometimes downright cold, my Iceland travels really were the most breathtaking that I have ever done. The thing that really struck me as unique about Iceland was that almost anywhere the eye settled, there was almost always something interesting or impressive to see. This could be anything from the moss-covered rocks in the lava fields, the shadow-laden mountains, or the fjords that frequently decorated the landscape. If I had stopped to take pictures every time I wanted to, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.
I spent only about six days in Iceland and therefore, only saw a fraction of what I would have liked to make time for. I’ve chosen to think of it as more of a reconnaissance mission for a future trip. What follows next are a few pointers that I can give you through my trial and error method of traveling in addition to describing the extra-intriguing things that I saw during my — you guessed it — Iceland travels.
Getting Started in Iceland
My Iceland travels were such extraordinary experiences for me not just because of the destination but because of the method of traveling. In an effort to save money, I opted to rent a Jeep with a camper on top instead of paying for hostels or Airbnbs. This also had the added benefit of flexibility since camping sites were significantly cheaper and were never full. All of the camping sites I visited had hot showers, covered areas where we could cook in cases of bad weather, and were usually very scenic.
My friend and I arrived to Iceland at about 1:00 a.m. The car rental place, Northern Lights Car Rental (through a third party platform called Northbound), let us sleep in their parking lot until we were rested enough to move on. Also, they threw in an extra sleeping bag at no extra cost. We thought we could cut corners by using only one. This was a bad idea as Iceland was much colder than the Internet led me to believe. I’m never believing the Internet about climate averages ever again. I’m looking at you, Internet people, who said Malta had the best climate in the world!
Heading Out for Iceland Travels
The first thing that I noticed after setting out on that first morning west from Keflavik was the expansive lava fields. I saw what I thought was a white and black volcanic rock as far as the eye could see. Moss actually covered the white rock. The moss became very green by the end of the trip when we returned the Jeep. It rains in Iceland. A lot.
The next day we headed north to the Westfjords. It really started to sink in just how special Iceland is. We drove along the coast and I couldn’t believe how green it all was. Landforms like plateaus and mountains shone in the water and half-wild, half-domesticated shaggy sheep dotted the countryside. Houses were picturesque and belonged in paintings, not in real life. Waterfalls were plentiful as well and there was a glacier, Snæfellsjökull, that could be seen from the ocean shore.
Iceland Travels to the Westfjords
Going into the Westfjords was important to me. I found while researching that the fjords present some of the most incredible views of Iceland. Nonetheless, people don’t visit often. During winter, many fjords can’t be accessed because the roads are completely closed. In the summer it’s not so much of an issue. Nonetheless, let me just warn you now… if you plan on going into the fjords, you need to mentally fortify yourself. Besides this, rent a vehicle with 4×4 capabilities!
Terror on the Cliffs
We went during the summer when the roads were fairly decent. Nonetheless, we drove for many miles on end at extremely high altitudes. We were right along intensely steep cliffs. There were no guardrails to protect you from rolling down into the rocky coast below. Just when I thought that I was getting accustomed to driving under those unnerving conditions, I happened to look over and down to my left to see an upside down car all the way at the bottom which had crashed only minutes before. We stopped and got out to help. Miraculously enough, the two locals who had crashed survived with only a few bloody cuts. Talk about a shitty reality check.
I realized while in the Westfjords that one could spend their entire trip just exploring that section of Iceland. It is expansive and mysterious and wild. There are few roads and even fewer places to get supplies. Some of my favorite things that we saw while there were puffins. I also saw a gigantic waterfall named Dynjandi. Plus, I was able to experience a hot spring carved into solid rock located right on the beach. Talk about some serious Iceland travels!
The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is probably the most touristy thing that you can do in Iceland. The name itself tends to imply that there are amazing sights to see frequently. Don’t get me wrong. Iceland is so incredibly amazing at all times (and I’m not even being hyperbolic here). It’s pretty easy to become difficult to impress after a short amount of time (like maybe a day of driving).
There were definitely a few majorly impressive things to see on the Golden Circle path. We saw a waterfall comparable to Niagara Falls as well as a geyser park similar to Old Faithful. We saw a gorgeous crater lake. Although we chose to skip it, the Blue Lagoon gets an honorable mention. The entire Circle takes hours and hours of driving just to see a few things. Their national maximum speed limit is 90 kph (55 mph) on paved roads. On dirt roads, it’s 80 kpm (49 mph). You won’t be traveling as rapidly as you might imagine. It was when we finished with the Golden Circle that we really came upon a true hidden treasure: the town of Hveragerði.
Hveragerði South Iceland
The day that we got done with the Golden Circle, my friend and I were tired, hungry, and soaked to the bone. Even so, we passed up a camping site that was extremely close. It had no covered cooking area so we decided on a much nicer one about an hour away. Fortunately, this one did have a covered cooking area, along with free wifi, cell phone charging centers, great reviews, and hot showers.
About a few minutes away on foot, there was a place where you could get in geothermal hot tubs and relax on the cheap. There was also a small geyser park a little further up the road. There, they sold delicious bread made with geothermal water. Plus, there were even hiking trails where you could see even more geysers in their natural habitat (not in the same place as the geyser park). However, none of that could compare to the most amazing experience of my life so far.
At the end of a deceptively long, steep hike up a mountain shrouded mist and mystery was a hot, geothermal river. Yes, a terraced, hot and steamy river. Talk about crossing something off on your bucket list that you never knew was listed! I had always imagined getting to plop into a natural hot spring in the mountains. However, that vision had never included anything bigger than a large tub.
After that, not much could compare. We visited a couple of museums in order to kill time before my friend’s flight. I even tried a bit of Minke whale before mine. It was delicious by the way — but please don’t be too mad at me even though I know I probably deserve it.
Experiencing Iceland Travels
Iceland was probably the most expensive place I have visited or ever will visit but I have to say that every penny, or well, krona, was worth it. It was extremely safe and I never felt in danger. Despite us being two women out in the wilds, I never felt creeped out. I could have gone by myself and been completely fine. Actually, on several occasions when we saw hitchhikers, many were also ladies.
I learned a lot of interesting facts from reading magazines at our campsites. I learned that the Icelandic minimum wage is about 2,400 euros a month. That sounds out of this world until you learn that it is taxed at a rate of 51 percent. Woowee! All in all, I look forward to going back and exploring the Southern and Eastern sides of Iceland. If the West and North paralyzed me with wonder for six days, I can only imagine how much more there is for me to see and experience in the other directions.
P.S. Don’t walk on the moss!
28 thoughts on “Iceland Travels: A Land of Nonchalant Spectacularity ”
I’ve never been to Iceland, but my dad was in the Air Force and was stationed there when I was a baby. I remember he had a jacket with different parts of Iceland embroidered on the back of it and it was beautiful. Your photos are stunning; I especially like the one that reminds me of Niagra Falls. And, phew, what a scary experience with the other car going off the cliff, glad that they were okay and that it wasn’t you and you were able to continue on with your trip.
Thankyou! That is really cool about your Dad’s jacket. I’d love to see a picture of it. I appreciate your comment about it not being me on the cliffs. I mean, i wouldn’t want it to be anyone but I think it would have ruined everything and scarred me for life ??? mentally and probably physically too. Thanks for the compliment on the pictures. It was just with my phone. I would totally invest in a nice camera if I do go again.
Everything is so breathtakingly green! I’ve never been to Iceland, but it’s on my top ten list
It is definitely bucket list worthy!!!
Iceland looks amazing! I’d love to hike there. Such a beautiful country.
The hiking is phenomenal
Beautiful. I love landmarks and waterfalls. Iceland is going on my bucket list.
Thankyou! There are so many landmarks that I wish I had taken the time to see. There’s these little signs that indicate interesting landmarks but I didnt realize it until late into the trip.
I was looking on Iceland photos before I clicked this link and true enough, it was spectacular! Glad you enjoyed your trip and you made it safely!
Your photographs are absolutely beautiful! I can imagine my terror driving on those cliff roads even while I’m here in my comfy office chair. Your experience at the geothermal rivers sounds amazing. Finding that experience in nature is one that will not be matched.
I agree. Norway may come close. It is also on the bucket list. But even if I never get to go, if I were to never even get to travel again, just having been to Iceland makes it all worth it. That’s how much I loved it! And those cliffs were roughhhhh on my psyche lol
I have several friends who have visited Iceland that I can never get enough of seeing photos of this amazing place. Nonchalant spectacularity the perfect way to describe it . I’ve also watch some Icelandic TV — e.g., Trapped — and now I just need to figure out how to speak the language.
I will definitely have to check out trapped now! I took forever just trying to think of an accurate title. It was strange yet wonderful to be in a place where magnificence is the norm
One of these days, I’m going to get to Iceland – it really is spectacular from your photos, and they make me want to go there more than ever!
Totally worth it! You can do it!!!
I was in Iceland just 2 weeks ago for a trip around the whole country. It was the best place I’ve ever been to – agree with you on it being beyond spectacular!
I definitely want to spend more time there next time I go! Next time, if I don’t go with my boyfriend, I want to do it solo!
These pictures are breathtaking and adorable. Thank you for sharing your journey and experience with us.
Thankyou for your kind compliments. I love sharing my experience!
Ah so beautiful!!! I’m glad to stumble onto your posts because as I make pre-pre-pre-preperations to travel to a couple of destinations (Iceland included!), I did not think twice about internet people and their not always helpful weather advice!!
I’m going to use that term now: pre pre pre pre pre preparations lol! Love it! I’m glad you found my blog. Best advice I can give is to dress in layers that you can easily peel off.
Iceland is on my bucket list. So i must bookmark this page for future reads! ?
Awesome! Thanks for reading!
I knew Iceland is beautiful and I had friends visiting it but from your story it sounds even more appealing! love it!
Thankyou for your kind words!
Iceland looks and sounds like such a wonderful place to visit. The images are stunning! And your words makes me want to visit more.
Thankyou! It was stunning. I hope you get a chance to