Recently I was watching something on PBS (can’t remember what show now) and they were featuring Madrid. It occurred to me that the city wasn’t all that high up on my must-visit list in comparison to Barcelona and it was beyond time to rectify that mistake. So today we’re taking a virtual vacation to the capital of Spain …
It’s the best way to explore a country or region at your own pace. I find the most rewarding travel experiences happen when I leave the major cities. That is when you gain deeper insight into what the people, culture and landscape has to offer.
Iceland has quickly become a popular layovers option between Europe and North America. Usually travellers stick to the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon to capture the very images splashed across the glossy travel ads.
But, I wanted to see more. I wanted to do more. I wanted to embark on an adventure.
With a 4WD rental truck and 4 friends, we drove around this small, breathtakingly beautiful country. In 10 days, we travelled 3200km around Route 1, or the Ring Road, Iceland’s national highway. We saw countless waterfalls. Sat in many hot pots and hot springs. Drove through rain and snow. Over ice covered roads and moon-like landscapes. Saw glaciers, icebergs, volcanoes and geysers. Stopped to pet the horses, saw white reindeer herds and the elusive Artic fox.
Here are 10 reasons why you should book a ticket now and drive the Ring Road in Iceland:
We landed in Reykjavik and started the journey by heading north to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Here we found snow-capped mountains, sheer cliff faces and the impressive Kirkjufell (Church Mountain).
It is the home to black sand beaches, the picturesque Skarðsviti Lighthouse and this magnificent Hvítserkur Arch. We took the time to take the rocky path down to the beach to see it up close. It is truly an impressive work of art from Mother Nature herself.
Just 50km east of Northern Iceland’s largest town, Akureyri, is this force of nature. Since we were traveling early in the season, snow and ice were still prevalent. It made it all the more breathtaking and wild.
During the summer, this area is a diverse wetland and home to large blue-green lake rich in water birds and fish. But, it was only May and the sights of the Myvatn District were still hibernating under the snow-covered tundra. Lucky for us, the reindeer were not. You had to squint but they were there in the distance. So still a highlight in my books.
This was favourite stop of the whole trip. I love the colourful architecture and quietness of this isolated place. Time could just pass me by here while staring at this landscape. The baby blue coloured church reflecting in the mirror-like flat water. The snow covered mountains looming behind, cutting off this town from the rest of Iceland for most of winter.
Here nature’s ice sculptures floated from the Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier to the open ocean. Or they washed up on the shores of the black sand beach, glistening in the sun, awaiting their ultimate fate. Flocks of birds found their resting spots among the white and blue shapes. Before a few tour groups arrived, we enjoyed the area to ourselves in quiet reflection.
We walked to the top and followed the edge as it snaked along with the ravine below. It’s not for those scared of heights! But if you can overcome those fears, the views are worth it.
This is where a United States Navy Douglas Super DC-3 airplane made an emergency landing in 1973. Thus creating a dramatic spot for photography. The remote location and lack of road was no challenge for our 4WD.
The Golden Circle
Yes it is a well-trodden 300km loop full of tourists. Even in early May when the rest of the country seemed abandoned we found them all here. But we couldn’t go to Iceland and miss these highlights. After all there is a reason why it’s so popular.
Gullfoss (Golden) Waterfall is just magical. You can’t help but marvel at the beauty and strength of nature. Water plummets over a staircase of cliffs before slowing down for the rest of journey down the river.
The Strokkur Geyser unleashed its fury every 5 minutes. We watched in anticipation as the water bubbled, pulsed and gurgled increasing in intensity. Then the jet of water would release 10 feet high into the air, still taking us by surprise.
Finally Þingvellir National Park and Rift Valley. Where you can find views across the plains. And walk between two continental plates. So much is possible in Iceland.
It’s Iceland’s iconic silty mega mineral bath. The perfect spot to relax after a long road trip like ours. Despite the crowds you can find a slice of heaven.
That only scratches the surface of the unforgettable trip of a lifetime.
There is still so much to explore.
Did you know you can also scuba dive between two continental plates? Observe the puffins making their home off the volcanic shores? Go deep into an ice cave or climb a glacier? Take a boat ride to the Arctic Circle?
Iceland is relatively small island that easy to drive around. In the warmer months, the fields of brown are every shade of green imaginable. And the snow is just off in the distance. More roads are accessible in the interior. More possibilities. More natural beauty to discover.
It’s one of those places that leaves an impression on your soul and keeps calling you to return.
And one day I will.
Lillian is a Canadian engineer turned expat wife who accepted a life of change and uncertainty abroad. She created The Smalls Abroad to share her favourite photographs, stories and advice on the expat life and travel. She loves to cook and bake, learn new things, stay active through Crossfit and plan her next travel adventure.
I'm Christina. Lifelong Texan. Dog lover. Also owned by two felines. Bookworm. Photographer. Wannabe vagabond suffering from constant wanderlust. Lover of mountains, hoarder of hoodies. I've been blogging somewhere on the interwebs since 2001.
Route Bliss features advertising & affiliate links -- while links are disclosed within posts, this blog will indicate if they are included by personal choice or as part of product/service review. All reviews of products and services are that of Christina's and are not influenced by any form of compensation that may or may not have been received in exchange for review purposes.