Our 13 days long adventure along ring road and western fjords with information about hotpots and wild camping around Iceland.
DAY 1 – arrival
Iceland immediately amazed us with its midnight sun the very moment we landed in Keflavik airport. We arrived around 1am and by the time we picked our luggage and rented car it was so late that we decided not to travel very far. We just drove a bit away from the main road, found some place to park a car, built tents next to the road and quickly felt asleep.
DAY 2 – Blue lagoon, Hveragerði
When we woke up we saw black fields around covered with lichens and a steam coming from the earth somewhere far from us. The main task in the morning was to find a bottle with gas so that we could have breakfast and have some hot drink which was essential in such cold weather. Gas bottles can be found almost on every petrol station or even in Bonus supermarket, so it didnt take long and we were sipping our morning coffee.
After that we drove to Blue Lagoon – but no, we didn’t want to pay 40 EUR entrance fee in extremely touristic place, we just wanted to look around as we heard it is possible to swim nearby not going through the main entrance. We found some pools around, but the temperature wasn’t that pleasant. Maybe if it was summer and the wind was not that strong we would go for it. So we just walked around enjoying wonderful Icelandic landscapes and stunning blue colour of the water. Still worth seeing it. Later in the morning the crowded busses started to arrive and huge crowds were going to the lagoon. We would definitely have regretted if we had gone there as later we found other hotpots which can compete with it.
After this first stop we continued to Hveragerði – a paradise for outdoors activities. This area is very geoactive and there are a lot of hiking trails around. Most of the people come there just to have a bath in a hot river. The trail to this bathing place leads northwest from the city – there are signs and it takes approximately 1 hour to reach it. It is truly amazing place where you can enjoy hot bath while watching Icelandic landscapes. This was the place where we spent our second night, which we would highly recommend as at night we were there almost alone. You can build a tent next to the river and there is also small spring with fresh water which you can drink.
DAY 3 – Strokkur, Gullfoss and Seljavellir
The next morning the weather started to be not that nice. Despite that after the breakfast we decided to have another bath before we started to move. On the way back to the car we were hiking under the rain and came there totally soaked to the skin. However, this was the only day during our trip when it was raining – we were very lucky with the weather. We continued our way to Strokkur – a fountain geyser which erupts every 5-10 minutes and reaches the height of 15-20 meters or even more. That day the wind was not that strong so we saw the power of geyser. Sometimes the wind is so strong it totally blows away errupting water – you can imagine how strong it can be! Not far from Strokkur is another place worth visiting – Gullfoss. One of the amazing waterfalls in Iceland. But especially around waterfalls the weather is harsh and we started to be pretty cold.
In Iceland nothing can be better that to take a hot bath when it is so cold. During our journey we were using http://hotpoticeland.com/ in order to find a nice hot pot and a place around where to camp. At this day we were led to Seljavellir – a pool which was built in 1923 by youth movements at the foot of glacier and world famous volcano Eyjafjallajökull. The pool is quite big and nice to swim in it but the water was not hot enough just to relax and lie there enjoying the breathtaking views of the landscapes. We decided to climb a bit up and we found some small flat place for tent and we have to say that the view we had from the tent was much better than from any 5-star hotel in Iceland. Again the fresh water is plentiful around.
DAY 4 – Skogafoss
After breakfast we headed to Skogafoss – one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland. The water falls from 60 meters’ height. This place is also a starting point of hiking to Þórsmörk which later continues to Landmannalaugar – rainbow mountains. It must be amazing there but in May the F-road was still closed and the hiking trail to Landmannalaugar is usually open only in summer as there is still snow there, hikers should be well-equipped with gear. So we went on couple of hours hiking nearby to see the beautiful landscapes and waterfalls and later came back to the Skogafoss. At the foot of it there is a campground and a hostel. Usually there are lots of tourists and only in the late evening or early morning it is possible to catch some serenity. The campground is very nice and despite it is very close to the waterfall the noise is not loud. There are all facilities like shower, toilet, running water. It is paid but nobody was there, usually someone of staff arrives in the morning to collect money. We would definitely recommend this place to stay for a night especially if you want to catch some very rare moments of Skogafoss without people.
DAY 5 – Plane wreck, Vik and Fjadrargljufur
This morning we woke up early as before continuing our journey our plan was to visit an old airplane of US army that was forced to land in Sólheimasandur’s black sand beach in the south of Iceland in 1973 because of lack of fuel. It is quite easy to find this place following GPS coordinates and during the day there some cars parked nearby the ring road. It is better to arrive as early as possible because later there might be no place to park. In past it was also possible to drive up to this place but because of reckless off road driving it is no longer allowed. Still it is very easy to reach the plane by foot – the road is quite good, not demanding – it will just take around 40 minutes for one way.
After this place we drove to Vik and its famous Reynisfjara beach. Visitors should be aware of sneaky waves as they are very unpredictable and can catch people in the moment they don’t expect. The beach is prominent for its basalt columns which look very amazing. This area has a rich birdlife however we couldn’t find puffins there.
Our next destination of the day was Fjadrargljufur Canyon. We found it extremely beautiful with few tourists around which is surprising considering how close to the ring road it is situated. You can watch the canyon from the bottom next to the car park or you can take easy 20 min walk till the end of it and enjoy views from the above.
Having spent some time there and in the Vik we drove to Skaftafell National Park. This part of Iceland is not geoactive so there are no any hot pots. At the gate of the park there is a campground but it was quite pricy so we drove few more kilometres and stopped at Svínafell Camping. It is also possible to sleep inside the national park on designated place for free, but it is about 8km hike from the gate.
DAY 6 – Skaftafell and Jökulsárlón
The next morning after the breakfast we drove back to Skaftafell National Park which in 2008 became a part of the newly established Vatnajökull National Park. At the visitor centre we received recommendations and information about the trails. Still some of them were closed. We chose a loop that gave us opportunity to visit Svartifoss waterfall and original farmhouses. The hike was not demanding with the view to the glacier around, but its most walked trail in the park, so the amount of people was above the limit for us.
Later we continued to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon – one of the top destinations in Iceland. We would spend even the whole day there watching the ice floating, crashing with each other, seals swimming and diving in the cold water! This place is really something! Before continuing going on the ring road we stopped at delta to see the last drifting of the ice before it goes to the ocean.
On the way to our next hot pot we stopped at Höfn – a hairbour city which was very cosy and peaceful, cooked a dinner and continued to the hot pot Djúpavogskörin. This place is not visible from the road and we had to dedicate some time to find it and finally we saw a steam and it was the bath! Local people like this place a lot, as later in the evening more and more people were coming, but they were quickly leaving after having a bath. This place is literally a bathtub very close to the ocean and with the breathtaking views of mountains.
We were told in the information office that it is legal to camp next to the road if there is a place to park the car and if we want to camp at someones land we should always ask an owner. Nature is always fragile and should be respected. So we didn’t build a tent next to the tub but behind it where we parked a car. Ah and this place was the first one where we encountered a herd of reindeer crossing the road!
DAY 7 – Grjótagjá, Seyðisfjörður and Dettifoss
During this day we spent a lot of hours driving to our final destination of this day – Myvatn or precisely to say to Grjótagjá – a small lava cave near the lake Myvatn. The journey was quite long and the way was going through highlands, the temperature outside was below zero and snow was all around. Riding through the mountains our journey was suddenly interrupted by a herd of reindeer that was crossing the road. Maybe 40 pieces. It felt unbelievable to see them in wild nature.
There were also 2 places in our list to visit before reaching Myvatn. Seyðisfjörður and Dettifoss – the most powerful waterfall in Europe. The Seyðisfjörður is a small town inhabited only by around 700 people and it is full of typical architecture, history and creativity. It is surrounded by mountains from all sides, so be prepared to overcome some altittude to reach it.
We were quite lucky to visit Dettifoss as a week before we arrived there the road was still closed. The waterfall is not the highest in Iceland but it is the biggest in terms of volume discharge.
After enjoying Dettifoss we continued our journey towards Grjótagjá caves. After some scenes from Games of Thrones were shot there this place became famous and much more visited. This cave is situated between North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Swimming there is strictly prohibited and the cave is in private property. Camping and overnight parking is also forbidden. But we knew that there is another cave where it is possible to swim. Locals keeps this place in secret and in none of Icelandic guide it can be found. We spent probably around 30 minutes before we found it. But as we wanted to cook dinner and were a bit tired we decided to bath there the next day. Camping was prohibited so we drove a little bit further, found some parking spot next to the road and built the tents.
DAY 8 – Secret hot pot, Hverir and Grettislaug
Next morning, we went back to the cave and we can truly say that were swimming in the most magical place! Just the feeling that you are bathing between europeasian and north american platform is just surreal. We had to use the ropes to go down into the cave and inside the cave there was a ladder in order to comfortably get into the water. The temperature was very nice but after 15-20 minutes it became too hot. This was probably the top hot pot in Iceland for us!
After the bath we went hiking to Hverir – it is a large geothermal active field. This place is full of boiling hot tubs, steam coming out from the earth, sulphur smell and the ground has redish and brownish color.
The next stop we made in Akureyri – one of the nicest cities in Iceland, had a coffee, walk and continued to Grettislaug. The road north of Sauðárkrókur was not good but still passable with 2WD. After around 15 km of driving on the bad road we finally arrived. There are 2 hot pots, campground and even guesthouse, but in May it was still officially closed. Despite that it was possible to camp and take a bath there. We don’t even have to tell how amazing it is to take a hot bath in the cold weather during the midnight sun surrounded by mountains.
DAY 9 – Western fjords, Hákarlavogur – end of the world
After the breakfast we started heading to Western Fjords. We decided not to miss the opportunity to see the colonies of seals so we drove to Hvammstangi to the Icelandic Seal Center. There we got information where we can observe them and drove around 30 minutes to the place where we could spot seals. Maybe this time we were not lucky as we didn’t really see the colony of seals, we saw few of them lazy lying on the rocks quite far away from the coast.
And finally, on the 9th day we entered Western Fjords where most of the tourists don’t go. Immediately the amount of cars decreased or even disappeared. In this part of Iceland we spent lots of hours driving the car going along the fjords. But the landscapes around are breathtaking. Despite the beauty of the nature there are also lots of rubbish at the seashore which was brought by the stream from the ocean. This is very sad when you realize how people don’t care about environment.
This night we spend probably in the most remote place in Hákarlavogur. We gave it a nickname “End of the world”. To get there you have to drive on bad road for about 80km, passing abandoned fishing factory in Djupavik. The hot pot was not easy to find but we again followed GPS coordinates and steam coming up helped us to find it. GPS coordinates brought us to the airport Gjögurflugvöllur. First we were hesitating if we should enter the territory. But as long as there were no signs forbidding that we went through it and there was no single person. The signs were telling only to keep the gate closed and not to cross the runaway. The hot pot was just next to the runaway in the rocks in the middle of the sea. It is unbelievable how the hot spring can come out though the rocks surrounded by sea. This one of the most romantic places we have ever visited! The sunset and landscapes are hardly to be described.
DAY 10 – Fox Centre Súðavík and Reykjafjarðarlaug
It was a bit sad to leave such place but we had to go on and to explore other places of Western Fjords. And again lots of driving through the fjords. This experience is definitely worth of trying – mountains, untouched nature, fjords and almost no tourists.
We visited Arctic Fox Centre Súðavík and enjoyed 2 orphan foxed who live there. Unfortunately, in that area there are no hot pots so we decided to drive up to Reykjafjarðarlaug. The pool was built in 1975 and it is situated in Reykjarfjordur, the pool is big, but the water was very dirty and not enough hot. Luckily behind this pool there is a natural small sitting hot pot with the temperature around 45 degrees. There were also changing facilities and of course no people around, but us. The sunset was really something as the sun never goes down and just moving from one side to another. When we were too hot sitting in the small pool we were running into the big pool to cool down. We built tents just next to the hot pot. There is no fresh water around this hot pot, but driving through the western fjords you can see springs with fresh water every few kilometres.
DAY 11 – Latrabjarg
After the breakfast we again started driving across the fjords and we went to the most western part of Iceland –Latrabjarg. The largest bird-cliff in Iceland where we enjoyed variety of birdlife including amazing creatures – puffins. You can see them here from middle of May when they come to nest a eggs here. Beside the nesting time they spend a whole life on the ocean, so there is no surprise there are brilliant divers, but bit clumsy when they fly.
We were considering to stay overnight next to the hot pot Hellulaug which is situated near Flókalundur, but there were signs that camping is forbidden. As it was still early we decided to go further to Guðrúnarlaug. It is a small hot tub open to public and there is a changing room next to it. We built tents on the campground. As this place was already out of the Western Fjords there were some people around.
DAY 12 – Thingvellir National Park and Reykjavik
Next morning the guy who is taking care of the campround came to collect the payments. If you are really on budget and want to avoid it, wake up early. He just took out his POS out from the bag – it is just amazing how cash-free country it is. Actually during all our time in Iceland we didn’t even hold any Islandic crone in our hands.
One of our last spots to see was Thingvellir National Park. It is situated between two tectonic plates of Euroasia and North america which are getting away from each other at a rate of about 2.5cm every year, so it means Iceland is getting bigger and bigger.
After that we headed to our final destination – Reykjavik. After settling down in the only camping in the city we went to explore the capital.
We were just roaming around, slowly going to the main church. Next to it we went to the café. In our must to do was to eat national “delicacy” – fermented shark. So we ordered there 4 very small pieces – we must say it was very interesting experience and for few seconds it even felt very tasty (maybe like camembert) until it started to release ammoniac taste. According to us the city is nice and cosy but there is not much to see there, half of the day would be more than enough and it is better to spent time visiting nature places of the island. Lot of americans are coming here to party tho.
DAY 13 – Reykjavik
In the morning we went to the flee market and PEARL from where we could enjoy one of Reykjavik’s best views. We had lot of time before our flight, so we went to thermal outdoor pool Laugardalslaug. It is nice with several different pools, but after bathing for 2 weeks in middle of beautiful nature almost without people, it was nothing special for us.
We must say that our trip was not planned day by day. Before the trip we knew approximately what we would like to see and visit but we went with the flow. Initially we even thought that we wouldn’t go to Western Fjords, but it the end it was one of the best decisions on that trip. Despite the cold and strong almost never stopping wind Iceland made us fall in love with it. Hopefully we will come there again to visit some new places and our beloved ones.