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Why Iceland?

Why on earth does anyone want to travel to Iceland? It's cold, far away and only has volcanoes with unpronouncable names which cause major problems to air traffic in Europe. Frankly speaking I didn't care too much about Iceland, I could only think of Reykjavik and Eidur Gudjohnssen when I heard of this country until... Until last year, while planning our trip to Scotland (see images here: via Google Earth my hand "slipped" once and I ended up in Iceland. I started clicking at some pictures and my jaw dropped. I always preferred north to south (climate and culture-wise), natural beauty to man-made stuff, etc. What I saw on the pictures were waterfalls, beautiful mountains, valleys and volcaninc landscapes of all kinds: nature at it's best. I thought this was something totally unnique which only exists in Iceland. It's not at the other end of the world, the country is not too big... I just gotta go there.

I quickly found out that there's a budget direct flight from Vienna, the price was OK, all that was left was to find travelmates and plan the route. Google Earth and internet provided plenty of information so the basic itinerary was done in no time. It turned out to be a round trip (just have a look at the road map of Iceland and you'll understand why) with a bunch of turn offs here and there. Soon enough I found my travelmates, well, I found one and he got further two so there were four of us and much to my delight they agreed with 99% of the plan... eternal thanks, buddies!

Based on previous experience I thought it's better to organize everything by ourselves: plane ticket, itinerary, car rental, accomodation. We ended up renting a 4x4 as that seemed to me like a must when someone wants to see Iceland. There were only a couple of months waiting and we were ready to go!

Pictures and videos

Pictures from Iceland can be seen here:

In daily breakdown:
etc. 'til day8


July 26



The first day of the trip started already the day before. I took the train to the city of Mosonmagyaróvár, where my 3 other travel mates are living, a city close to the Austrian border. I spent the night at MZ’s house until 2 AM when we woke up and left for Vienna to catch our flight. We arrive on time at Keflavik Airport, picked up our car and were eager to get going. We planned to go to a supermarket to buy basic food, knowing that shops are few and far between in the country but all the big shops were closed till 11 AM… well, that left us buying bread and water at a gas station.

Our first stop was at Nesjavellir area, via road no. 435, a scenic route with huge tubes on the left side, carrying the heat from the geothermal power station, best seen from a nearby hill. Have to say even in this strong wind the smell of something like rotten eggs was striking! Next up, based on Zoli’s special request we visited a church called Ulfljotsvatnkirkja of which he took a great photo 2 years ago, but this time in the grey weather that we had it didn’t look any special. Here we had our first and luckily last major encounter with midges flying all over you. I was told that they are more common in the northeast, around Myvatn lake, but there we found none.

Road 435

Nesjavellir geothermal powerplant
Thingvellir is one of the obligatory tourist places, for geographic and historic reasons, so we went there, it was nice but nothing else. I was a bit surprised how rich and green the vegetation was here, it was really unlike the rest of the country. It was here where it started drizzling and later raining with changing intensity. By the end of the day it was raining pretty hard, we knew that southeast Iceland gets a lot of rain, but still… Luckily my brand new shoe and raincoat resisted.  Nonetheless I bought a cap as well.

Thingvellir National Park
Geysir is probably the most famous tourist sight of Iceland, of course we had a stop here. It was pretty active, I read it erupts every 8-10 minutes but when we were there it even did double eruptions within a minute or so. Despite the rain the whole area looked really cool with smoking ground and nice colors. Roads so far were really good but there was a section before Geysir where it was bumpy gravel, we were happy to have a jeep as smaller cars could only drive 30-40 km/h and we were fine overtaking them and drive 60 km/h. Our Terrano turned out to be a reliable old fellow even if 11 years could be felt all around and its 2.7 TDI engine was hardly a Ferrari even brand new.

Almost there...

Upon reaching Gulfoss the rain was probably the worse we had during 8 days. Nonetheless we made the walk down to the falls, protecting my camera with my raincoat but still it got pretty wet… didn’t want to risk it too much on the first day. To be honest we didn’t feel like doing any more sightseeing in this weather so we skipped Bruarhlod canyon and Kerid Crater Lake and drove to our accommodation, farmhouse Steinsholt in a pretty desolate place. We had dinner in a place similar to a culture house and went to bad at 10 in daylight brightness.

All in all the first day was a great appetizer but the weather let us down quite a bit. I would say the afternoon had the worst weather of the whole trip. We covered mostly what I think are obligatory tourist places in Iceland, all beautiful but not quite the most interesting ones for me.


July 27


Early morning, looking out the window there was strong wind but no rain and I even saw sunshine eastwards, a promising start! Well pretty soon I learned that the current weather does not tell you anything about the weather in 20 minutes, but anyway…

At 9 we were ready to go and had our first stop at Hjalparfoss, a Siamese twin waterfall. While peacefully taking pictures a bus arrived and tourists started to flood the place, making us leave and go to Thjoldveldisbærinn, a replika of a middle age village. The tourist followed us but luckily they mixed the exit road so we could finish before they arrived. We continued on a really bumpy road towards Gjain, a valley with dozens of waterfalls and strange rock formations. Until this point in time, including day one the sun evaded us but after reaching Haifoss (meaning high waterfall) suddenly the weather got perfect. Light wind, sunshine, but visible clouds in the background, perfect scenery for taking photos. This was why I wanted to come to Iceland – we were there all alone in the middle of nowhere, no human noise could be heard, just a beautiful sight right in front of us.

Going back southwest to Ring Road we encountered traces of civilization again but also worse weather. We skipped Seljalandsfoss as it was raining there but at Skogafoss it stopped. It is one massive waterfall with the best outlook around halfway climbing up on its right side with a rock similar to a human face serving as foreground. Next up we had Solheimajokull, a glacier tongue which melts at around 150m above sea level, it can be easily reached from the main road. You can easily walk on the glacier on the lowest part as it is pretty dirty but oing higher it get cleaner and slippery as… well, ice.


Continuing east we reached the famous rocks of Dyrhoaley at the seaside where we saw many puffins as well – first time I used my telephoto lens. The rain has now stopped but there was no sun in sight. At Reynsfjara we went straight down to the sea, UZ borrowed me his tripod, I started messing around with ND filters but got a clear signal that it’s not meant for me as a stronger wave came out further, overflowing my camera bag and leaving the tripod with the camera on it stranded in the water… luckily it didn’t fall and the bag resisted. The filter bag lying on the ground soaked but I was able to clean and dry it.
Rocks near and far

It was late late afternoon by now so we turned back westwards to reach our accommodation in Hella… in soaking rain again. Our host was Nonni, an exceptionally nice old fellow (he won’t mind me saying that) who had just jumped into the tourism sector, we kept talking while preparing our dinner.


July 28



It rained the whole night and kept doing so in the morning as well. We had a marvelous breakfast pancakes and other stuff prepared by Nonni and left just after 8am on road 26 going north. For today we planned to see one of the, if not the highlights of Iceland: Landmannalaugar and its surrounding. Weather was not with us at this point: it was drizzling with strong wind and visibility was around 200m. We turned off at F225 which is a pretty scenic route but not in this type of weather. Going east, behind the mountains the weather changed in front of our eyes in around half an hour and finally we had our first river crossing. When reaching Ljotipollur the sun was shining, we could see miles and miles away the strong wind didn’t bother us anymore.

At Landmannalaugar we had what I believe is perfect weather for this place and this was a huuuuge relief because we planned a few hours hiking here. While climbing Blahnukur mountain the scenery took my breath away. Beautiful mountains of unusual colors all around, patches of snow here and there, streams and small rivers in the valleys, rainbows… I ticked an item on my “10 places I wanna see before I die” list. We chose not to fully climb the mountain as we knew we will have a long day so we got back to the campsite which for me seemed to be way overcrowded.

Blahnukur mountain path

At this place a few weeks before our trip I changed our route compared to our original road plan. Early July a glacier melted and water of Amazonas quantity flooded Ring Road and washed away a bridge. This meant that until a temporary replacement bridge was built (in one week!) the only way to reach the eastern part of the country was a detour on mountain road F208. Originally I thought that this road is difficult to handle and didn’t want to risk it but mother nature made me think hard. We had a Terrano after all so let’s give it a try… Also contacted the road office and they told me to go ahead. We drove through breathtaking dreamlike landscapes and had to ford rivers every few minutes or so. Some of them could not even be felt while sitting in the car, some others really changed how the car gripped the road. Have to say Zoli handled them all superbly, never lost his cool.

On road F208

After crossing around 30 rivers we finally reached Eldgja, the fire canyon which is around 100m deep and several km’s long. Here we had two options: either drive p on the east side towards Gjatindur or drive into the canyon and walk. We tried the first option but very soon we faced a river wider and probably deeper than any other before. After thinking long and hard and assessing the safest route we gave it a try…The engine roof of the car was covered in water, we heard strange noises from below but made it to the other side. Just 100m later we saw that the road is actually in the river for at least 20m. No chance to judge from the outside how deep it is and which path to go so we turned back, did the deep river again, adrenaline was sky high, and drove back into the canyon. Parked the car and after about 40 minutes of walking in beautiful sunny weather along the base of the canyon we reached Ofaerufoss, a double waterfall. There was something in the air in Eldgja as even the GPS refused to work while in here.


Further dozens of kilometers later we reached Ring Road and civilization again, next stop was Fjadrargljufur canyon. It was past 7pm but Zoli still had some juice in his batteries some we entered F206 and drove up on a really bumpy rocky mountain road to Fagrifoss. Again, we were alone at this amazing place, no one else in sight, just nature and us, it felt really good. So it was again strange to have dinner in a proper place with people around us.


All in all I have to say that this day was just perfect, the weather made me really happy as climbing mountains and seeing Landmannalaugar in foggy grey weather would have been a huge disappointment.


July 29



Day 4 promised to be a long one with long distances and lots of sights to see. We made short stops and the basalt stones of Kirkjugolf and Dverghamrar and planned to go to Nuppstadur but they opened only at 10am – d’oh! Lomagnupur mountain and the perfect weather more than made up for this loss. Svartifoss was along the way, made the hike up there to this relatively small but beautiful waterfall with black basalt rocks serving as the background.

Svinafellsjokull is yet another glacier tongue close to Ring Road, we gave it a visit and saw how an organized group is glacier walking on it. As we drove east we saw more and more of  the mighty Vantnajokull, a glacier covering 8% of Iceland, the largest one in Europe. Our next stop was yet another totally amazing out of this world, ”only in Iceland” place: Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. Huge icebergs fall into a lake and travel several kilometers until reaching the sea. They have a boat here which drives around the lake, really nice but you can see almost the same from the land as well. We were really lucky with the weather as it was just perfect, don’t even want to think about how it is to sit on an open boat in rain and look at grey icebergs.

Jokulsarlon icebergs
We had around 250km to go and stopped next at Stokksnes peninsula(?) with impressive mountains right at the sea, white sea lions, a NATO radar site and an “ancient viking village” left over from a Hollywood movie set. From here on the scenery changed quite drastically, we entered the east fjords with barren and desolate mountains and rocks. We stopped for a short while at a seaside rock called Dalkur then made a shortcut on road 939 which is hardly worse than the ring Road at this place and finally arrived to Egillstadir, capital of the east with a massive 2000 inhabitants.


July 30


After leaving Egilsstadir and driving for a further 140 or so kilometers and seeing the impressive Herdubreid mountain from the road we arrived to Hrossaborg, this is where F88 road starts towards Askja. Just seeing the road sign and another one saying that the next gas station is 268km away made my heart beat faster. Then in the evening I checked the weather and it said that in Askja it is 2C and raining/snowing…

How far till Askja?

On this day we basically drove along Jokulsa a Fjollum river, up north on the east side and south on the west side. Dettifoss is said to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe and indeed it makes a lot of noise as huge amounts of water drop down almost 50m. You can walk down straight to the side of the waterfall, really nice.

Next we drove into Asbyrgi canyon which has a U shape with rocks of 100m height around. The climate and the lake at the end of the “U” is really unique and so is the flora and fauna. Going south on F862 the weather changed unfortunately to 12C and rain, the beautiful rock formations of Hljodaklettar would have been even more amazing in sunny conditions nonetheless we were making a short hike. It stopped raining just as we got back to the car. Based on what I read I thought this place would be a bit different, less people, no signs showing towards the sights, worse hiking paths.

At Hljodaklettar
Hljodaklettar basalt stones

We once again made a stop at Dettifoss, this time on the west side, with a different view and made a short walk to Selfoss as well. It was 6pm when we got close to Myvatn lake when once again the sun came out, lighting Namaskard geothermal area, making it look really amazing with the colorful hills and smoking ground with dark clouds all around. The smell was however not so nice. Our accommodation was right at Lake Myvatn in a very basic 4 person woodhouse. We “went out” eating, this was the first proper meal for us since a long time.
High tourist season :)


July 31



This morning we didn’t have to pack our stuff as we spent the day around Myvatn. First there was Leirhnjukur with its very recent lava fields dating from a 1984 eruption of Krafla volcano. We were walking among colorful mountains, smoking black lava stones and bubbling earth. Viti crater lake was not as impressive as I hoped it would be, because of the grey weather I suppose.


Grotagja is a warm water cave lake with a rift next to it, pure geology. Just like Viti, Hverfjall was not “at its best” in the cloudy weather, black on grey is not too spectacular nonetheless we climbed to the edge of the crater for a nice look. Again, Dimmuborgir with its black lava stones from 2000 years ago would have been better to visit in sunnier conditions.

We drove around Myvatn counter clockwise, stopped at Höfdi overview the whole lake. It was only 3pm so we decided to drive to Godafoss as well for a final small disappointment because of the grey weather. The waterfall itself is of course majestic but smaller than I imagined.


August 1



Today was all about driving as we had to get from Myvatn in the northeast all the way to just before Reykjavik. We were travelling along bleak mountains in relatively good weather. We passed by Akureyri, the second largest city in Iceland but all I remember is seeing the first traffic lamp in six days. It was already past noon when we reached Hvitserkur, an interesting rock formation by the sea. We climbed down to the sea for a better view.

After a couple more hours of driving, for some kilometers on a really rough road we arrived at Hraunfossar, a waterfall completely different than all the others we have seen before as the water flows down from a lava field in several streams around 100m wide and not in a single large one. The water had an unusual light blue color. Now we only had 150km left and a tunnel aunder the sea to cross to get to our final accommodation.



August 2

Fitjar-Reykjavik-Seltun-Krysuvik-Kék Laguna-Grindavik-Keflavik

track log:

We planned the last day to be a bit more relaxing, a bit more tourist friendly. So we started at 9 in Reykjavik at Hallgrimskirkja, the main church with unusual but impressive styling and minimalistic interior. I liked it anyway. Especially that the square in front of the church was dead empty. Not bad – said the photographer in me. We did the obligatory souvenir purchases on main shopping street Laugavegur, walked to the seaside to check out the Viking boat statue called Sun Voyager and goodbye Reykjavik, capital of Iceland, shockingly deserted in the middle of the summer, high tourist season.

Sun Voyager

Leaving the city behind we drove to Seltun, another geothermal area similar to Namaskard, smaller but equally impressive – and smelly. It felt like we reached the end of the world at the rocks of Krysuvik by the seaside so we got back to civilization by visiting the Blue Lagoon, a natural hot water spa next to a geothermal power plant. As the sun came out the water looked really nice with its light blue color.


Blue Lagoon

The sun kept shining so we made it to Grindavik, the southwestern end of Iceland to see a cool lighthouse and one more geothermal area called Reykjanesviti. We drove back to Kelflavik airport in the evening, dropped off the car, waited for the plane, flew 4 hours, waited, drove 50 minutes, said goodbye to my travel mates, travelled 2 hours by train took the taxi and by 10am the next day I was already at home, dead tired.



Home again...

Looking back to the trip I think it was all right-ish :) Well actually it was pretty darn good. The weather could have been better for sure. Rain was not the biggest problem but cloudy grey weather especially on day 6. I wished for sunny weather with perfect visibility but clouds in the background, that looks good on photos, but we only had this in Haifoss, Landmannalaugar and Namaskard. I don't want to complain too much as we had near perfect weather at Landmannalaugar and Jokulsarlon, two place which are not even half as good if the weather does not cooperate.

We had busy 8 days, lots of things to see, lots of miles to drive but I didn't go to Iceland for resting my behind. I think we made the best of our time there, I don't feel like I wanna go back straight away. If I do, here's what I wanna see: Askja, Kverkfjoll, Kjolur, Sprengisandur, Thorsmork, Fjallabak sydri route... And here's why it won't happen very soon 1. I don't wanna go and have bad weather, that would be frustrating 2. you need a really good 4wd and some driving experience among such conditions 3. such a car costs a lot and is hard to find 4. there is no comfortable accomodation for lazy people like me. But you never know...


Where to go?
For first timers like myself I would suggest July-August. Not because of summerly temperatures but because several highland roads open only in June-July. Without these you will only see half of Iceland or less. In later months the weather gets progerssively worse and days become shorter and shorter

What's the weather like?
You won't sweat, that's for sure. Expect 5-20 C at the most in July-August, 20 C being very warm. It has to be said that weather can change very quickly, including sunshine, rain and wind. Prepare yourself with rain and wind resistant clothes from head to toe.

Where to go?
For me Iceland is all about nature. es, there are cities and churches and nice buildings but if that's what you are looking for go somewhere else. If you make the trip to Iceland it makes sense to do more than 1 day trips from Reykjavik to overvrowded tourist locations. A long week and driving around Ring Road (Road No. 1) will show you much more and you can make detours as you like. Just open your eyes and read my blog :)

Where not to go?
Keep in mind that if you rent a normal 2wd car you are not allowed to drive on roads which have an "F" before their number roads. If you rent a 4wd with a bit more clearance you can go anywhere you like. Legally at least. Fording rivers can be tricky and any damage while doing so is not covered in your insurance. Be well informed and keep in mind that rivers can vary in depth day by day. To sum up, F roads are only for 4wd cars (jeeps) and always take good care with rivers and sandy/muddy roads (not to get stuck).

Car rental
It didn't take me long to realize we needed a 4wd for our purposes. I went through about a dozen of websites and I am happy to recommend where we ended up renting a Nissan Terrano II. They were relatively cheap and provided all the necessary insurance without extra costs. The car itself while not brand new and not in the leagur of Land Rovers and Land Cruisers, was perfectly fine for us and managed all the rough road we threw at it.

This was the one that took me the most time, finding the right accomodation for the right price, fitting into our tour schedule. But ince again Google earth and just plain old Google came to the rescue and managed to book accomodation for between 30-50 EUR/night/person which while surely not cheap compared to about anywhere else in the world was still acceptable. This gets you basic, clean double bedrooms with breakfast and shared bathroom. What I did was avoiding time and money wasting booking agencies and contacted the accomodation itself.

Money, money, money
Iceland is an expensive country, especially if you use anything where domestic human hand is involved ie. services. Going out dining is not for the faint hearted. But no problem, breakfast was included for every accomodation so we ate all there was to our liking, made some sandwhiched during the days and brought along our own food for dinner from home and prepared it in the little kitchen corners or twice we paid for dinner at the accomodation. Apart from gasoline and food we didn't pay for anything.

Useful links - road and weather conditions, webcams - a very-very good map - another map, much better than Google Maps, even show some hiking routes. - one more map, best satellite maps but not for the whole country - there are some good topics and many silly topics as well - this German guy spent like ten summers hiking all alone in desolate places where I guess not many people have gone before - amazing
Apart from these: use Google Earth, Google and Youtube.