Welcome to the land of fire and ice… (and WIND!)
In the first week of March, 2015 I decided to make an unforgettable road trip around Iceland. It took my 5 days to drive around the “Ring Road” and I stayed my last two days in the capital, Reykjavik.
I rented this baby for the whole week with an amazing company called SADcars (sadcars.com). They are the cheapest car rental company in Iceland and are very friendly.
TIP: If you book your rental online ahead of time you get a 15% discount off the rental. My one week car rental was $232 CAD [Keep in mind, I rented the cheapest possible car with no add-ons]
TIP: The view of the beautiful mountain ranges is generally inland so I would suggest driving around the Ring Road in a counter-clockwise direction if you are driving SOLO, like me. If you have a passenger with the camera on during the trip try driving clockwise around the island so they can snap some awesome pictures.
My Trip Highlights:
- Geothermal Energy Exhibition
- Thingvellir National Park
- Secret Lagoon
- Skaftafell National Park
- Reyðarfjörður Aluminium Plant
- Myvatn Lake
- Dalvik Fishing Town
I started my tour of Iceland with the Golden Circle. This is a popular day trip excursion from Reykjavik and includes stops at famous Thingvellir National Park, the Geyser, Gullfoss and the Secret Lagoon!
The Geyser explodes every 3-5 minutes so don’t stress if you missed the first picture.
Gullfoss was partially frozen when I visited and it is the biggest waterfall in Iceland.
TIP: It is WINDY!!!!!!! I could only directly face the falls to take 2 pictures and had to turn around with the wind on my back.
I guess this can now be considered the “not so secret” Lagoon. Forget the expensive Blue Lagoon and experience the remote Secret Lagoon! It is just as warm, a very cheap alternative and WAY less crowded. Who likes people anyway?
The next day I continued my trip driving through Skaftafell National Park. There are many hiking trails available with guided tours that take you up the glaciers. The information center there is very helpful!
Driving a bit further along the ring road you come across Jökulsárlón! This breathtaking glacial lake is full of blue ice sculptures floating out to the ocean.
For my second night in Iceland I stayed in Reyðarfjörður and found out that the little town wedged in the East Fjords was home to a big Aluminium Plant. (www.visiticeland.com/DiscoverIceland/regions/east-iceland)
After the East Fjords the Ring Road cuts through the country rather than going along the coast. Lake Myvatn is the next great stop along the route for a few hikes and a good meal. (www.vogafjos.is) I ate at the Cowshed Cafe, probably one of 4 restaurants in the area, and ate the smoked Char caught fresh from the lake and their sweet bread they bake underground!
If you continue on the Ring Road Akureyri is the next stop and it is the second largest “city” in Iceland (I consider it a town). And just north of it is Dalvik, a really cute fishing town with a great cafe called Gisli Eirikur Helgi.
The last leg of my trip extended to the far western part of Iceland to the point of Snæfellsjökull. Along the way I stopped in a small port called Stykkishólmur for a yummy coffee break.
I ended my trip in Reykjavik and went on a free two hour walking tour of the city (citywalk.is), went shopping at the local market and ate fresh fish soup and grilled whale in the Harbour!
If you are a hosteler like me this website is all you need in Iceland: www.hostel.is
I stayed in Skogar, Reyðarfjörður, Dalvik and Saeberg; all very well maintained and perfectly homey. A lot of the hostels are full houses with many bedrooms and kitchens. In Saeberg they have two natural hot baths!
Why March? Doesn’t everyone travel to Iceland in the summer? Well, in the summer, Iceland has more tourists than their own population. It’s beautifully stunning and the weather is nice but the prices of hotels, car rentals, food and attractions is at least doubled. Also, there are no northern lights in the summer!
Was it very dark in winter? Although the sun is only above the horizon for 5 to 6 hours in the winter there are very long sun rises and sunsets which make the days feel long.
Did you see any northern lights? Don’t remind me… NO, I didn’t. Many other travelers did however! You can ask the hostel or hotel owner to wake you up when the lights are brightest and there is no cloud cover. You should become VERY familiar with this sight: en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/cloudcover/ It tells you when the night sky will be clear and at what strength the northern lights are at during the night.
What is the weather like in March? Surprisingly, in the winter Iceland is a lot warmer than Montreal for example. The weather changes every 10 minutes so make sure you are prepared for rain, snow, sunshine and a constant gale force wind. You are warned to park your cars in the direction of the wind because if you open your car door and it catches the wind, it will fly off your car. Yes, its that strong. I couldn’t even open my car door at times.
How was driving in the winter? Firstly, this site can save your life: www.vegagerdin.is/english/road-conditions-and-weather/ It shows all the road closures and where your shouldn’t be driving in Iceland. In the winter, the Ring Road is usually the only road that is plowed and drive-able. Its icy, windy and snowy with white outs every 2 minutes in a snow storm (which is common in the north east near Myvatn).