Iceland : the land of fire and ice
Let’s go a little further, a little longer but still at low prices by organizing everything yourself !
Here is an exceptional island because of the variety of its landscapes and its climate – 4 seasons in one day on average … 😉 A week is a very short time to visit all of this diversity but it gives a good overview of the destination and will make you want to go back there.
We deliberately chose to explore only the west and the south because in April, there are fewer things to do in the north and we had already plenty to do.
The Reykjanes Peninsula
We started our trip near Reykjavik, in a town called Keflavik. The weather was not so good, so we decided to explore the Reykjanes Peninsula: the Krýsuvík area with the Atlantic ridge that separates the European continent from the American one and the geothermal phenomena of Seltun (eruptive fissures, flows, sludge pots). ..).
But above all, the famous Blue Lagoon that is an absolute must do. Yes, it is extremely touristy, yes you will be surrounded by dozens of Japanese people taking selfies or strolling around with their Go Pro … but this place is absolutely magical.
As long as you go there when the weather is a little gray, rainy or cloudy, you will be in a little cocoon of sweetness in these warm waters which show an incredible turquoise color.
To sleep in Keflavik, I recommend an original and cozy bed and breakfast : the 1×6 . Your hosts Yukiyo and Andi are Japanese and Swiss and they came to settle in Iceland for the sake of this country (and its music!). Their guest house is rated number 2 in the whole Iceland by Trip Advisor !!! Andi speaks an excellent french and english, even is he doesn’t think so !
The breakfast is amazing, Andi takes the utmost care of his guests! The food is great as is the coffee ! The rooms are decorated in a maritime and artistic spirit and they are all unique. Artists from all around the world bring their little stone to the decoration of the place and leave behind some of their art. Yukiyo is also an artist and makes the most awesome origami cranes. Like us, you will certainly keep them as a souvenir ! I still have them all with me in Paris !
The Golden Circle : snorkeling in Silfra
After Keflavik, we headed for the very touristy area of the Golden Circle: Geysir, Gullfoss and Thingvellir. Our first discovery, and not the least, was the snorkeling in the Silfra field break in the Thingvellir National Park. The dive is done in a tectonic fault where the water is crystal clear! The temperature is at 2 ° as the water comes directly from the glaciers. This extreme temperature therefore requires you to wear a dry suit. The underwater landscape is so beautiful that you immediately forget that the cold is biting your face so hard. The underwater landscape is lunar like and colorful and you literally dive between the European continent and the American continent! I recommend this excellent diving club – which had a charming French guide the day we were there: Dive Iceland.
After the dive, we stayed at the farm Efsti-dalur II for one night. It is on the Geysir Road and it’s an authentic Icelandic farm producing cow’s milk. We stayed in charming wooden cottages and there is a restaurant that offers the products of the farm.
There is also a very nice restaurant in the village near Laugarvatn, Lindin, whose chef is the cook of the Icelandic parliament.
The Golden Circle : Geysir, Gullfoss and Kerid
In the Golden Circle area, do not miss Geysir, Gullfoss and Kerid. The word geyser comes from the famous Geysir who gave his name to all the geysers in the world. The Strokkur is a column of boiling water that comes out of the ground every 3 to 5 minutes and can rise up to 25m height. At the exact moment when the geyser is going to explode, an incredible turquoise bubble is formed at the top of the column of water and warns of its next spurt.
Gullfoss is a succession of waterfalls with a width of 70m. The view is incredible and you can feel the power of the forces of nature.
Kerid is a volcanic crater occupied by a lake with green waters. You can walk around the crater and also get closer to the lake. The place is quite magical and you can imagine why the famous icelandic singer Bjork chose it to give a unique concert on a boat in the middle of the lake.
Iceland : the road to the south
Going further south, we stopped on the way at the magnificent 65m high Seljalandsfoss waterfall that reveals a secret : a passageway provides access behind the waterfall offering a unique view of it.
It is better to visit at the end of the afternoon to enjoy the best sunshine conditions.
A little further, we went near the volcano with an unpronounceable name that has blocked all Europe for more than a week: Eyjafjallajökull. It is actually a huge glacier that covers a volcanic massif where Eyjafjöll has erupted on March 20, 2010 and April 14, 2010.
Icelandic horses, which have the particularity to have four paces, are everywhere. They are the real Vikings as they stay outside in all weather conditions, their mane entangled by the wind, braving proudly the elements.
Almost deserted at this time of year, the main two-lane road goes all around Iceland. It is easy to stop on the side to take pictures. The driving is easy, the drivers cautious. A system of video cameras distributed throughout the island makes it possible to see the state of the roads in real time.
The traffic signs mention the reindeer that we actually saw a bit far away.
Vik : land of wonders
The village of Vik is very picturesque and offers good restaurants like halldorskaffi. It is very close to several points of interest. First, Dyrholaey and its arch that falls directly into the sea and onto an incredible black beach made of volcanic sand.
Reynisfjara beach have breathtaking landscapes and are a breeding ground for many seabirds including puffins that can be seen before 9am and after 6pm in the basalt organs of the cliff.
More secret and more difficult to find, the DC3 abandoned on the black sand beach, like the one of the aviator in the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. You have to leave from Vik towards Reykjavik by the main road. At 1,6km after crossing with 222 and 2km before the bridge over the Jokulsa, a small track goes down to the left. You have to drive on the sand track and head south following the tracks up to the wreck (about 3.8km from the road n°1) and do not forget to enter the GPS coordinates: 63 ° 27,545’N, 19 ° 21,890’W.
A good hotel in the area, the Volcano Hotel is very stylish but reasonably priced.
Skatfafell and Jokulsarlon : Ice ice baby !
In the south-east, two places are particularly to discover : the Skaftafell glacier and the glacial lake Jokulsarlon.
On the glacier, many day walks are offered by the company Mountain Guides. With crampons, you walk on the terminal tongue of the glacier in search for natural caves where you can admire the blue color of the ice. This particularly scenic glacier sees every year several film crews investing the places: Interstellar or Game of Thrones are among the latest to date.
If you prefer not to put too much effort, the glaciers of this region can also be visited by snowmobile. The family company Glacier Jeeps organizes tours from Vagnstaðir Youth Hostel. We climbed to the top of the glacier Jöklasel with a super jeep, a huge 4×4 with gigantic wheels. Given the slope, we are glad to be safe in this big vehicle. Then, we arrive in the middle of nowhere, at the top of the glacier and there are aligned several snowmobiles. While warm in your protective clothing, you will progress on the glacier in single file and observe exceptional panoramas on the coast. An experience not to be missed!
But the most magical place on this coast is Lake Jokulsarlon and the adjoining beach where the ice blocks gently escape to the sea. Nothing will prepare you for this grandiose spectacle when, following the small path from a parking lot, you will arrive at the top of a hill and you will be completely breathless when you’ll see this huge frozen lake whose ice is broken in places to form icebergs.
We spent hours photographing them under different lights, seeing in their strange shapes phantasmagorical animals.
The black volcanic sand beach beside the lake is littered with icebergs that live there their last moments before mixing their fresh water with sea salt water.
Seals and many species of seabirds enjoy the richness of the waters of the lake and elegantly complement this beautiful painting.
We stayed at Country Hotel Hali which offers rooms for every budget, with or without private bathroom and a shared kitchen to save money on Iceland’s expensive restaurants.
Some hot tips before planning your trip:
- Food is overpriced in restaurants. Choose accommodations where you can cook for yourselves.
- When signing the car rental agreement, you will be offered an option – expensive – that is an insurance for damage caused by volcanic ash clouds. Do not make the economy, take it !!! It allowed us not to pay a frightening franchise of 1500 € ! Because, you’ll have volcanic ash clouds on your car no matter what !
- In the north of the country, some spots are very tempting for next time: the whale watching in Husavik with Gentle Giants or North Sailing, the baths of Myvatn Nature Baths seemingly as good as the Blue Lagoon with a lot less crowds and for the divers the spot of Strytan that I let you discover (http://www.strytan.is /).
- Two even better spots for whale watching, coming directly from my sources in Iceland are offered by Laki Tours : Snæfellsnes for the orcas and sperm whales, May to September and Holmavic, less crowded to see the majestic humpback whales 3 times per day ! I cannot recommend Laki Tours enough as they are working hand in hand with scientists who are studying the whales and all the guides and naturalists onboard are absolute whale lovers.
- Do not spend more than half a day in Reykjavik unless you have a good reason to stay there …