It seems a little far-fetched to compare any place on Earth to outer space, but that’s exactly how someone described Iceland to me. Driving through roads of barren, steaming black soil, kaleidoscope-colored rock formations and enormous mountains will really give you the sense that the exaggeration is completely spot on. And maybe this is another point of exaggeration, but my seven-day roadtrip through Iceland and the Ring Road has to rank up there with one of the coolest things I’ve done in my 25-years of life:
Day One: My boyfriend Cesar and I landed in Iceland on a day of what I considered unpredictable weather: rain, sleet, snow, hail, sun and winds that shook our rental car… all within an hour. I quickly learned that fast-changing weather is actually the norm here, so I’d better have a plan A, B and maybe even a Plan C in case a snowstorm decides to show up on a day that was supposed to be sunny.
Cesar and I (along with our friend Andy) attempted to drive north to see Hvítserkur, but a heavy snowstorm passed through and we ended up getting stuck at a rest stop for a couple hours. Like many islands, there’s only one main road in Iceland, so once there’s an accident (or in our case a couple of accidents), it holds up traffic everywhere. When conditions cleared up, we drove up an icy, long and winding road through the mountains to find Kirkjufell.
Day Two: I walked down the stairs of our hostel to read a sign that said, “Snow storm expected in south Iceland on 12 March. Be cautious of hurricane winds up to 50 mph,” and instantly felt anxious. Despite the warning, I headed out to Reykjavik, and even ended up floating around the Blue Lagoon in the middle of a snow storm because there was no way they’d be giving me back a refund.
Day Three: The waterfalls Haifoss and Gjain were on the to-see list for the third day, but as I mentioned before, Iceland’s weather really had the final say on what we could see on our daily itinerary. As the blog Unlocking Kiki notes, visiting Gjain in the summer is difficult — even with a 4WD car. On a March day, it was practically impossible and extremely unsafe to try and drive over ice and through a couple feet of snow. We had to settle on only seeing Haifoss and Seljalandsfoss for the day.
By this day, I really began to realize just how gorgeous the Icelandic countryside is. One of my most favorite visual memories of Iceland is seeing Icelandic horses looking so free and regal just galloping around the mountains and hillsides. There is a reason why you see so many great photos of Icelandic horses and it’s because they walk right on up to you and pose! This guy with the perfect emo bang came right up to us during a pit stop on our way to Vík.
Day Four: About two hours after we visited the famous Sólheimasandur plane wreck, the owners of the land where the abandoned plane is located decided to shut off access to the site. Apparently you can still visit as long as you are willing to park offsite and walk a couple miles, which I probably would have huffed and puffed about (literally and figuratively), so I’m glad I made it on time. That being said, I’m grateful I didn’t get out of climbing up Skogafoss waterfall because the view was amazing.
While shooting b roll at Dyrholaey, Cesar’s Canon 5D Mark II took a dip in the ocean when an enormous wave came out of nowhere and knocked him over. You can actually watch the video of it happening over on his Instagram, where you’ll hear me running for my life in the background. We found out his camera was unrecoverable, so that definitely put a damper on the day for all of us.
Day Five: Our fifth day in Iceland was all about visiting the places the Beibs hit up in his “I’ll Show You” music video, such as Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon (though we were smart enough to not roll down any mossy hills or swim freezing waters like he did.) The three of us also ventured out to Black Sand Beach to see Reynisdrangar, which are basalt sea stacks located under the Reynisfjall mountain. Legend has it three trolls attempted to pull a ship to shore, but when dawn broke, the early morning sunlight turned them into needles of rock.
Day Six: On this day, I felt very Nat Geo-esque visiting the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and catching some seals pushing seagulls off the glaciers, but most importantly… We saw the Northern Lights! It took a couple of hours of sitting outside in the freezing cold and pitch darkness at Jökulsárlón, but it happened! At first glance, the lights just looked like wispy smoke floating through the air, but with every minute that passed, the green became more and more visible. I always thought the phrase “seeing the Northern Lights ‘dance'” just couldn’t be true, but it turns out it is. I watched a beautiful green, white and purple streak of light travel in a wave across the sky and it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.
Day Seven: The road trip we had stretched out over the course of six days had to be driven in just a couple hours because we had to fly out of Iceland on Day Seven. You actually can drive around the entire country in just 24-hours, but with all the places we wanted to see, a day obviously wouldn’t have been enough. We said goodbye to our cute little cabin in the mountains and headed back to Reykjavik for a quick mural tour.
Iceland was one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen. I’ve got a loooong list of other countries on my bucket list, but this is one of those places I’d be willing to experience twice. A visit to Iceland in the summer is definitely something I’d be down for.
(Photos by Andy, Cesar and I)