Our 12th anniversary trip to Iceland - Part I
Glaciers, waterfalls, icebergs, volcanoes, lagoons, geysers, canyons, geothermal hot springs, craters, mountains, beaches, mossy fields...the list seems endless but if you bring them all together into one dreamy destination, that would be Iceland for you! We first planned our Iceland trip to celebrate our 10th anniversary in 2020 but Covid hit and we finally managed to visit Iceland for our 12th anniversary this summer. We spent 10 days driving along the Ring Road in a campervan, exploring the various unique landscapes of Iceland and staying in some amazing campgrounds across the country. We chased waterfalls and rainbows, walked up on glaciers, kayaked in glacial lagoons, explored the lava fields, canyons and geysers, sauntered along black sand beaches, relaxed in geothermal spas, savored mouthwatering food, and danced on the streets of Reykjavik. It was a lot of fun and I wanted to share our itinerary with you all.
We landed in Reykjavik around 9:30 am and picked up our campervan from Lava Car Rentals around noon. We then headed to downtown Reykjavik and religiously queued up in the line for the famous Icelandic hot dogs at Bæjarins beztu pylsur hot dog stand. It did not disappoint! I wanted to stand in line again but my husband encouraged me to check out the rest of the downtown and not be stuck there :) So we got ourselves some coffee, picked up some groceries and enjoyed strolling on the bright & colorful rainbow striped alleys in the downtown area.
We then headed to our first campground Skogar, which is 2 hours away. The drive wasn't particularly spectacular and our jetlag started to slowly kick in as well. We briefly stopped at the pretty Seljalandsfoss waterfalls on our way but decided to come back for it again due to the crowds. When we finally reached the campground, we were blown away by its location, which is just a few feet away from the beautiful Skogafoss waterfall.
It is a tourist hotspot, so it was pretty crowded with tourist buses when we reached there in the evening. It was cold and raining too at that time, so we had early dinner at the Skogafoss Bistro Bar and called it a night.
|View from the restaurant & the waterfall hiking trail|
I woke up early the next morning and had the waterfall all to myself. What a blessing it was! Experiencing a waterfall is so invigorating as it engages so many of your senses - You see the milky white froth, you hear the roaring fall, you feel the mist in the air and you get gently soaked by the water droplets. I got drenched in joy that morning as I had the chance to spend several minutes in solitude in the presence of this beautiful force of nature.
We then had some breakfast and headed out on a 7-mile round trip waterfall hike that begins right next to the Skogafoss waterfall. The scenic hike takes you along several waterfalls (20+), of different shapes and sizes, some of which are splendid with rainbows embellishing them. I didn't get a chance to sit at each one of them but I managed to sit by a couple to both absorb and revel in the beauty of the Nature.
We headed back a little early from the hike as it started drizzling. Back at the campsite, we made hot khichdi (a one-pot Indian dish containing rice, lentils, tomatoes and spices), protecting it with an umbrella, to the amusement of fellow Indian tourists who came in the tourist buses.
We then headed out to our next campground, Thakgil Campground, which was such a mystique and secluded gem. You can read more about it here. On our way, we made a brief stop at the Reynisfjara black sand beach.
We had a leisurely morning; made a good breakfast and said our goodbyes to the lovely Thakgil campground after taking hot showers. We had an exciting day ahead of us! Our first stop of the day was at Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon.
It is a beautiful canyon but coming from a state which is home to the 'Grand Canyon' (Arizona, USA), it is hard for us to be impressed by other canyons ;) Also, we did not spend a lot of time here as we wanted to be there on time for our 5-hour glacier hike at Skaftafell with Troll Expeditions that afternoon, which we were super excited about. We had climbed Matanuska Glacier in Alaska for our 2nd Anniversary with Mica Guides. It was not only the coolest thing we ever did but also one of the most memorable moments of my life. We also did a glacier walk on the Athabasca Glacier in the Icefield Parkway in Jasper. But I am always looking for another chance to spend time with one, as I find glaciers super fascinating and they are my favorite landscape. This one is named the "Falling Glacier" - it is an outlet glacier from the Vatnajokull icecap.
It's amazing how accumulated ice takes a life of its own forming crevasses, moraines, valleys and fjords. They move, calve and flow and a lot of them are quite active. And each time, they take my breath away!
I was super thrilled to be there, walking as gently as possible on the glacier, and going up as high as it is safe to do so. The weather was perfect and we seemed to be a bit overdressed. Who could tell, it was raining right before we started but luckily the Sun decided to join us for the thrilling hike. As the sun rays glistened on the dimples of the glacier, the shining blue ice looked so tempting that I couldn't resist the temptation to lick. I waited for the right moment (coz I was the first in line in our group and our guide was strict ;), and landed on my knees ready to lick, but I quickly realized that it is not safe to do so on a slippery glacier :). Though I didn't accomplish the task, I was glad I tried (please don't attempt this, you could slip - you need to be on your crampons while on the glacier, not on your knees :).
We picked up food from the Vatnajokull National Park cafeteria before the glacier hike - they were serving samosas and biryani that day to our astonishment (not sure if it's because it was August 15th, India's independence day). We planned to eat it while on the glacier, but our guide only gave us a 7-minute break and I was too excited to be there, just drinking in the moment, that I didn't want to spend any time eating :) So, the biryani had to wait till we got to our next campground - Svinafell Campground. More about that here.
We had an early start this morning as I had reservations for 'Glacier Lagoon Kayaking' with Ice guides at 9:30 am at Jökulsárlón. We reached there ahead of time and the Glacial Lagoon was so mesmerizing!
It was a beautiful morning with pleasant weather. There were many vendors in the area and it took us a few minutes to locate our guides. We got fitted into our gear and walked to a calmer side of the lagoon to begin our kayaking. Kayaking among so many icebergs of varying colors and sizes was awe inspiring. We got a chance to take a closer look at some of the icebergs, marvel at their shapes and designs, gasp as we peeked at the icebergs underneath the water and watch the playful seals from a respectable distance. The guide explained to us that freshly exposed part of the iceberg shines in a beautiful blue color. As more air bubbles form with time and exposure, all wavelengths of light are scattered before they get absorbed, and we see a white color.
Kayaking was fun as always but we could just simply sit by the lagoon and watch the icebergs for hours! And that is what we did after kayaking. As different parts of the icebergs melt differently with the sun rays and salt in the water, they occasionally tip over to maintain the balance. We got to watch a huge iceberg tip over in front of us and expose the shiny blue color - it was a moment that took our breath away! There is something about those icebergs performing a delicate balancing act on the water - like a ballet that is so graceful with an added element of surprise :)
I did not want to leave. We spent some more time enjoying a succulent lobster roll by the lagoon and eventually pulled ourselves away from it. But we had nothing to worry - our next destination was right across the road - Diamond Beach :)
If the glacial lagoon was mesmerizing, the Diamond Beach left me speechless! Who knew that cool blue icebergs in intriguing shapes strewn around on a black sand beach under the glistening sun could evoke such emotions! I was even more excited to be there, admiring the natural art that is unveiled as the sun calved the icebergs and watching them drift and eventually melt into the ocean. Watching these icebergs leave the glaciers and flow in the water to different destinations was somehow quite touching. Nature has this way of letting go so beautifully that we humans often struggle with. As they gracefully made their way to the ocean, I so wished that grace and calm would rub off on us. The whole experience felt like being in a wonderland and I would highly recommend spending some time soaking in this natural wondrous phenomenon.
This place is aptly named 'Diamond Beach', though who needs diamonds when you have precious little icebergs that you can eat ;) I finally got my chance - iceberg it is!
We had a long drive ahead of us (5+ hours), to reach our next destination - Myvatn. So we once again pulled ourselves away from here to get back onto our journey.
It was August 17th - my husband's birthday - and the plan was to experience our first hot springs/geothermal spa in Iceland at Myvtan Nature Baths. I wasn't feeling well that day, so I couldn't join my husband, but he had a blast soaking in the hot springs on a chilly morning. I had the pleasure of watching him from inside while reading my kindle.
After that, we went to Vogafjos Farm Restaurant for his birthday lunch and we thoroughly enjoyed their starter platter and geysir bread ice-cream. We then went to see the Grjótagjá cave, a small cave near Lake Myvtan featuring a natural hot spring, made popular by getting featured in a hot romantic scene in the famous HBO series 'Game of Thrones'.
Our next stop was the Hverir Mud Pools and the Krafla Volcanic Area. This remined us of our favorite Yellowstone National Park and its Sulphur springs.
We then went to the Viti Crater but quickly left as it got very cold and we didn't find much to see.
Our next stop is one of my favorite waterfalls in Iceland - Godafoss. We have seen countless waterfalls by then, but this waterfall still managed to steal my heart with its Icelandic blue color that is simply arresting!
It's so hard to capture Nature's beauty, let alone your feelings in a mere photograph, but this picture does a good job in reminding me of the peace and gratitude I felt in that moment - of being in the presence of an impressive waterfalls with a lovely shade of blue that is heavenly.
After spending quite a bit (a lot actually) of time here, we headed to Akureyri. Akureyri is a major cruise port in Iceland and we could feel the vibe as soon as we entered. The entire area was quite scenic, so we decided to stop here for dinner. We then debated if we should camp nearby and call it a day but decided to head to our next destination - Siglufjörður. I am so glad we did as the drive from Akureyri to Siglufjörður was fantastic and we were lucky to have witnessed a sunset that made my heart skip a beat!
We are halfway through this exciting and fun trip, click here to read Part II, where we experience a beautiful sunny day in Siglufjörður, attend the annual cultural festival in Reykjavik, celebrate our anniversary in Blue Lagoon and much more!