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The other side of Iceland

glacierStepping foot on Iceland even for a few days is well worthwhile as there is much to experience even on a brief trip - but if you can scrape together 10 days or more then you can really start to feel like you are getting to know the place.

We don't like to rush things - we like to hike, to siesta, to take an excursion and chat to people along the way - so when people say you can drive around the ring road of Iceland in a week (at a push), we knew we would need at least 2 to enjoy it. But we didn't have that long...

We decided on flying across from Reykjavik after 1 sleep to Egilsstaòir on the East side. We hired a 4 wheel drive car and took our time driving hikeback on the South side, leaving 2 nights for Reykjavik at the end. This worked out really well. We had time to stop and enjoy this incredible country without too many hours at the wheel each day. And, as we enjoyed it so much, we are sure to come back one day to travel the North side.

Here was our route -

Day 1 - Faskròsfjöròur - This was under an hours drive from the airport in the Fjordlands, and much as we woke to a lovely view, I thought it a shame we hadn't made it to Borgarfjoròur Eystri instead as we heard much of the tame puffins in this little picturesque place. Instead we started our adventure in this former French fishing village and this gave us time next day to do an amazing hike up nearby Sandfell. It was a pretty tough hike, 5 hours in all with a scramble on broken rocks at the end, but we had the mountain all to ourselves and passed gorgeous waterfall streams and trod on cushioned mossy ground much of the way up.

Day 2 - After the hike we drove on to Djupivogur - the hunters house.... Adventura. Here we were greeted by our hosts in a beautiful private house right by the waters edge. They suggested a dip in the nearby natural thermal hot tub before dinner - this was a very special experience. Dinner of homecooked reindeer paté and delicious fish was complimented by interesting conversation about rural life in Iceland.

Day 3 - Another dip in the thermal hot tub before continuing our drive along the ring road with towering mountains to the right and the ocean to the left. We were distracted by big scenery photo opportunities along the way and didn't arrive to our guesthouse (Skalafell) until 8pm. But this doesn't matter in Summer in Iceland as it never gets dark. We still did the impressive Vatnajökull glacier hike that begins at the door and did the circuit walking alongside the vast mass of ice before a picnic dinner and bed.

 

waterfallwaterfDay 4 - Jökulsarlon! We were up and away early to get to the iceberg screwn lake for a boat trip, then to the Skaftafell waterfall and on to beautiful Vik for dinner. We are in the tourist zone now as within 400km of Reykyavik. The scenery has taken on a rich green shade, even the lava fields are covered in thick moss. Waterfalls regularly tumble over emerald cliffs. I was totally blown away by what I saw today. Iceland is starting to rocket up my favourite countries list!

At Vik there is a pretty settlement with a red roofed church perched on the hill, a long black beach, and puffins nesting in the cliff tops at Dyrholaey just beyond. It is the warmest place to live in Iceland and has great appeal - but the volcano Katla with its glacier top is a danger looming in the background.

vik

icebergWe were staying at a farm a little further on, close to the famous recently distruptive volcano Eyjafjallajökull. Here we had another healthy helping of real life in Iceland amongst a large family and their horses.

Day 5 - This day was spent in the local area - a ride on the lovely Icelandic horses, a lounge in the sun by a waterfall (we were being extremely lucky with the weather!), to the film of a family's experience in the aftermath of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption and ended at Seljavallalaug - a natural thermal spring bath. This bathing experience I didn't enjoy - lots of algae, people and dirty changing rooms - but it is free and in a beautiful spot. Back for dinner with the family and clean washing!

geyserDay 6 - On the road again after a stop at the Lava Centre at Hvolsvöllur which has impressive and informative visuals that keep your attention. The sun was shining on us so we took a picnic by a river en route and siesta-ed - this was a holiday afterall! Once we reached our destination - Geysir - we settled into our hostel very close to the site itself and waited for the tourist bus' to leave. It was busy here as this is on the regular Reykjavik curcuit. We first went to Gullfoss, a powerful and dramatic waterfall which was crowned by a complete rainbow for us. Then dinner at a local farm with the cow shed just behind the glass. It was only then that we went to Geysir itself - although actually this geyser it is actually mostly dormant now, but its neighbour Strokkur throws a vast gush of warm water skyward every 6 minutes approximately. At almost 10pm there were only a smattering of people so we were able to enjoy this to the max.

Day 7 - Having had almost perfect weather all week for our siteseeing, this morning was wet and grey. We went to the Secret Lagoon for a thermal bathe before driving into Reykjavik.

Top Tips! If you want to keep your budget down a bit then a campervan could be a great way to get around Iceland. 

We saw lots of Happy Campers on the road.

We didn't much fancy being in such a small place with 2 teens so opted for accommodation which comes at a price! The other advantage of a van is that you could prepare your own meals. Eating out is also very pricey - around £30 a meal. Reykjavik is cheaper than the more remote areas.

Our compromise was to carry things around in the car for sandwich making, fruit, plus pot noodles for in the room etc so that we were eating out no more than once a day. 

Water is free - we were told many times that buying bottled water is a con, and it is equal to drinking from the tap.