Last year around this time one of my best friends and I decided that we wanted to go to Iceland and drive the ring road.  We both love traveling and nature, so Iceland seemed like the perfect location; beautiful, compelling, and filled with nature we wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.  We planned our trip, bought our tickets, and flew from JFK airport to Reykjavik for a two-week tour of Iceland’s ring road.

The ring road is Iceland’s main highway, and also the only consistently paved road in Iceland, and it completely circles around the country making it perfect for a road trip!  Due to the high price and low availability of hostels and inns to stay in, we decided to bring a tent and sleeping bag and stay at campsites.

An approximation of the several thousand kilometers we drove over two weeks

An approximation of the several thousand kilometers we drove over two weeks

The campsites were wonderful- clean, with fully functioning bathrooms and showers, and often equipped with kitchens, wifi, a washer and dryer, and a room with tables and chairs to hang out and chat with other campers.  By renting a car and not having to book hostels ahead of time we were able to free up our schedule a lot and be more spontaneous in our day-to-day adventures.  We also saved money by buying food from grocery stores and cooking instead of eating at restaurants or other fast food places.  Instead, we subsisted largely on a diet of cheese and crackers, cheap fruits and vegetables, pasta and potatoes that we cooked at the campsites, and a tub of skyr a day.

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Not even all of the skyr we ate in our two weeks

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A typical example of our lunch

We had a lot of fun our first few days in the Reykjavik area exploring the city the going to museums, including the Museum of Rock and Roll in Keflavik and the 871+/-2 Museum in Reykjavik, and then we headed out into the country side to see some of Iceland’s famed waterfalls and volcanic activity.

Reykjavik city center as seen from Hallgrímskirkja

Reykjavik city center as seen from Hallgrímskirkja

My favorite part of Iceland by far was seeing all of the geothermal activity, including steaming mud pots, bubbling water, geysers, and hardened lava flows.  When our plane was first touching down, my friend and I couldn’t help but stare with amazement as the ground got closer and closer, because we had never seen a landscape like this in our entire lives.  At first, we thought the lava rock was water because of its texture, and when we finally realized it was the ground it seemed like an alien planet.

Seltún geothermal area

Sultan geothermal area

That sense of amazement stayed with our entire two weeks as we drove through snowy mountains, up to lagoons filled with glowing, floating ice, past glaciers and thundering waterfalls, and down into the fjords.  The nature present in Iceland is unlike anything I’ve ever seen anywhere else, from the huge tourist attractions all the way down to the field of purple wildflowers surrounding a tiny church in the mountains.  I can only hope that one day I’ll be able to return to see more of the country, especially the interior and the west fjords.

Glacier!

Glacier!

Floating ice in Jökulssárlón

Floating ice in Jökulssárlón

Skógafoss

Skógafoss

Stykkishólmur, population 1,195

Stykkishólmur, population 1,195

Myvatn geothermal mud pots

Myvatn geothermal mud pots

Kirkjufell mountain

Kirkjufell mountain

A beach off the eastern coast

A beach off the eastern coast

My favorite flowers

My favorite flowers