Let's get a couple of introductions out of the way before we get going, if you've read another Iceland Post, these are all the same,so feel free to skip down to the next picture, if you haven't read Part I, check it out right HERE:
- This is going to be a Multi-Post EPIC JOURNEY THROUGH ICELAND, so you can read them in order, or skip around, or don't read any of them, I'm not your mother, I'm just glad you clicked.
- If you like the pictures, there are A LOT more on our Facebook page, go like us and look at them! Again, or don't. I'm not your mother.
- There's going to be a lot of Iceland Inside Jokes throughout this, so you can go back and read them again later and you'll enjoy them on another level. This will be the Memento of blog posts.
- It's my hope that people planning a trip to Iceland can use these posts as a loose guide to getting around the Ring Road, or just cherry pick some ideas from it. At the very least, you can click from here to this Expert Vagabond post, which was extremely helpful for our first couple of days.
- We traveled to Iceland during the shoulder season (late April/Early May), which was fantastic, as the weather cooperated for most of our stay there, and it wasn't too crowded at any tourist attraction. There were many times when we didn't see another person/car for almost an hour.
- There's A LOT of driving. You're driving almost 900 miles if you simply rock the Ring Road and don't deviate, and you will deviate, because Iceland is insanely beautiful and you're there to see things and do stuff. Be ready. It's a lot of driving.
- Iceland is incredibly easy to navigate once you get out of the city (mostly because there's just not that much outside of Reykjavik), road signs are a-plenty, but we used Google Maps for a fair amount of our travels while we were in Reykjavik or on the south side of the island. How did we use Google Maps, you ask? CHECK THAT NEXT BULLET POINT, SON.
- As soon as you arrive in Iceland, go into the Duty Free store and buy the following: However much booze you'll drink for your entire stay, and a SIM Card for your phone. The 1000kr and 1GB Data card which cost 1990 krona lasted us the entire week and we used it a fair amount. Why buy booze? It's incredibly expensive and hard to find outside the airport, and we know you like to drink. DON'T LEAVE THE AIRPORT WITHOUT BOOZE, YOU WILL REGRET IT.
- If you're here for a bunch of praise for the hot dogs in Iceland, you're going to be sorely disappointed. SPOILER ALERT: THE HOT DOGS IN ICELAND ARE JUST HOT DOGS. HOT DOGS ARE PRETTY GOOD EVERYWHERE, STOP BLOWING SMOKE UP ICELAND'S HOT DOG'S BUTTS JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE SOLD IN A LOT OF PLACES. HOT DOGS BE HOT DOGS.
- If you see this symbol on a road sign, something incredible and otherworldly is coming up, pull your car over and get your camera ready. Let's go to Iceland.
When we last left off, you (our heroes) had been awake for approximately 35 straight hours and were sleeping at the Bus Hostel in Reykjavik. I'm assuming you did exactly the same thing we did the first day you were in Iceland, and have gotten your fill (mostly) of The Golden Circle. If you're truly following in our footsteps, one of you will need to grow a terrible beard. Go ahead. I'll wait. Doesn't connect between your neck beard and your mustache, but yet also has a few super long white and red hairs growing in it? AWESOME, you're ready.
We rented a Ford hatchback, which was the most expensive of the two wheel drives, and the biggest. We needed the room, because (Oh did I forget to mention?) we slept in our car for five nights of the trip. In order to make our budget for a year long trip, we needed to cut costs wherever possible, so that meant only staying one night in the hostel in Reykjavik (and even that was only $21 a bed) and going grocery shopping to eat most of our meals. Because, as I mentioned before, the food in Iceland is crazy expensive. Oh, and the gas is crazy expensive. Oh, and the lodging is crazy expensive. Oh, and the rental cars are crazy expensive. If you haven't caught the storyline, Iceland is crazy expensive. So we had to save money however we could. The car rental cost us $62 per day, and this was without the extra insurance. We have a Chase Sapphire Preferred card (LAH DEE DAH) which covered our insurance, but everything that I read involves a horror story of a $900 scratch on the bumper that the driver couldn't even see. Even our friends from Belgium (What? What friends? We'll get there, you guys, this is going to make so much sense when you read it the second time.) told us that when they returned their car, the clerk inspecting the car found a small scratch just above the wheel well and told them it may cost up to $600. So you may want to get that extra insurance just for a piece of mind.
Another option for driving the Ring Road is a Camper Van (Google Iceland Camping Vans, there's literally dozens of companies). We heard nothing but good things about these, and saw a ton of them on the road, but honestly, we did totally fine in our little hatchback with the seats pulled down and our five-degree rated sleeping bags. If you're a very attentive reader, you may even be rewarded with pictures of our sleeping situation at the end of this post. If you're lucky.
One last option for sleeping is to camp, we didn't have room to carry a tent, but we spoke to several backpackers along the road who were camping, and even though the campgrounds weren't technically open, they were always available to set up a tent on; there is plenty of grass in Iceland,
Before we left Reykjavik, we stopped at the Bonus, a discount grocery store with a jolly pig for a logo, which was super awesome, I'm a huge sucker for groceries in another language. Plus these flavors of chips exist, which are pretty much my favorite things ever:
One word of advice while grocery shopping in Iceland: BE CAREFUL WHAT KIND OF CHEESE YOU BUY. There is one brand that is significantly less expensive than the others, and I know what you're thinking, Josh, who cares about cheese brands? When one brand costs $6 for a package and all the rest cost ALMOST TWENTY DOLLARS, I care, and so will you. Unless you're LeBron James traveling to Iceland, in which case, this is probably not the right blog for you to be reading.
So now that you've loaded up at the Bonus, you're ready to hit the road. You're going to head down the Ring Road (Highway 1) to Hveragerdi, which is about an hour away. Try to resist the urge to pull over every time there is a gorgeous vista, as we're trying to fit in a lot today. I say try to resist, because most likely, on your second day in Iceland, you're pulling over CONSTANTLY. It's so beautiful here, you guys. You will never be able to capture how unbelievable the scope is, and you will end up with a lot of pictures like this:
I have nine hundred pictures that are very similar to this. Take mental pictures.
Anyway, once you make it to Hveragerdi, drive all the way through the town (about two miles) until the road stops at a parking lot most likely filled with other tourists. If you are unsure, you can stop at the Information Booth at the entrance to town for a small map. Now let's start a hike. You're going to want to take a water bottle and a couple of granola bars, as it's a pretty challenging hike, but if the weather is nice, it's a gorgeous way to spend seventy five minutes. If the weather is challenging, like it was for us (windy and cold), it will be just an OK way to spend seventy five minutes. Either way, you get to take pictures like these:
Yes, that is a hole in the ground with boiling hot water coming from the center of the earth. It's pretty awesome. Once you've walked just about as far as you're willing to walk, you'll come around a corner and see this:
That river continues around the bend for about five hundred more yards, and it sits at about ninety nine degrees! Of course we had to have a dip, but BE FOREWARNED BECAUSE WE WERE NOT. There are no changing rooms, so if you are a modest person, either get unmodest pretty quickly, or bring something to cover your bits so you don't have to change it pretty much in the middle of a field like we did. Oh, did I mention that there are a pretty fair amount of tourists already bathing in the river? But did I mention we basically just flashed a few dozen folks getting changed? I certainly must have mentioned that most of them are what appearred to be a high school youth group from England? Apparently, I did not mention those things.
FUN STORY ALERT: The leader of the youth group was a jolly older lady who looked like a female Benny Hill and greatly enjoyed it whenever any of the still-clothed teens would come back from walking around the river and had mud on their jeans (the mud went pretty deep, and if you stepped incorrectly, you could soak your pants up to the knee), so much so that she yelled "DID YOU GO DIARRHEA IN YOUR TROUSERS?" to at least ten youths throughout the hour we were there. "MARUSHKA, DID YOU SEE? ETHAN WENT DIARRHEA IN HIS TROUSERS." I'm typing all caps because she was basically yelling it at top volume in what can only be described as a Monty Python Style English accent. "ROGER! DID YOU GO DIARRHEA IN YOUR TROUSERS? WHAT HAPPENED?" It never failed to make her giggle, and it certainly caused us to yell this catchphrase at each other all throughout the island.
We spent almost an hour lounging in the water, which was literally hot tub temperature, except in the middle of a river. We then changed again (You're welcome Youth Group) and headed back down the mountain. The hike down was a lot easier than the hike up, and we were in a great mood as we had our lunch of cheese sandwiches and chips in the car.
We're back into the car and on the way to Seljalandsfoss (FYI, the Icelandic word for waterfall is Foss, so you'll see it A LOT. There are a ton of waterfalls in Iceland), which is about an hour down Route 1. This was my second favorite site in Iceland, and it absolutely lives up to the hype. We spoke to a photographer who said he spent about three hours photographing this waterfall alone, and I don't blame him. There are four waterfalls, and the first and fourth are the most spectacular.
The first one (the most famous) is obviously the most spectacular, as it drops over two hundred feet and is able to be completely circumnavigated. Stay here for as long as you like, taking pictures from all angles. If you're interested in seeing more of ours, check out our facebook Iceland album. Be sure not to ignore the last waterfall, as it can be seen from multiple angles; you can hike up it to look at it from the top:
Or you can brave the stepping stones into the cave to observe it from the bottom:
Either way, it's awesome, and a real highlight of the time in Iceland. I've also read that the lamb soup at the tiny shop at the bottom of the first waterfall is one of the best in Iceland, but sadly it was closed when we tried to go in.
When you've taken as many pictures (both mental and digital) as you can, pile it back into the car and head about twenty minutes down the road to Skogafoss, another waterfall. Unfortunately, after witnessing Seljalandsfoss, you may be unimpressed by another waterfall, which you can't even walk around:
You may also, after having hiked three hours in the blistering winds and forty degree weather, not be interested in going up the steps to go to the top of said waterfall:
No judgments here, my friend. No judgments here.
It's been a full day so far, and we're ready to get a little rest. Or, more likely, ready to have some beers, and about thirty minutes down the road, you're in luck, because here's Vik! Vik is a great stopping point, and if you only have two nights days in Iceland, a perfectly viable option is driving the Golden Circle the first day (See Part I) and driving to Vik the second day. The amount of beauty/waterfalls/hot springs/diarrheas in your trousers you can see in this fairly short jaunt along the Southern coastline is inspiring, and will definitely make you want to go back for a longer journey. The road from Reykjavik to Vik is only about two and a half hours long, but there is so much to see that it takes all day. That's how awesome it was.
We pulled it over at the Vik campground, and since we were in the shoulder season, it wasn't open yet, which meant that the showers and facilities were locked, but the campground itself was wide open. So what did we do? We went to the bathroom at the IcelandicAir Hotel next door, parked our car, and cracked open a beer. Luckily, there were about a dozen people doing the same thing, so we huddled in the abandoned office drinking some delicious Gull, passing around the random Icelandic treats we had purchased along the way, be they Kleinur Donuts or the national liquor of Iceland (It's Delicious, DO NOT DRINK OPAL OPAL IS GROSS WE ARE VERY MUCH TEAM BRENNEVIN ON GETTING IN THE MAP). It was like the common room of a hostel, only if there were no lights and everything was free.
It's time to get some rest, and you'll have a great view of the beaches and mountains from your campground while you drift off, and you'll think to yourself: I need a picture to remember this view. But your pictures won't do it justice.
COMING IN PART THREE: DRIVING ON THE MOON, THE COOLEST THING WE SAW IN ICELAND, AND A HARROWING TALE OF NEAR DEATH...