Driving along Route 1 through Iceland is an exciting way to experience the country’s many natural wonders.
Deciding on a slight detour from Vik, we backtracked west to visit one of the more popular photo destinations– the site of a US Navy plane that crashed in 1973. Fortunately, everyone on board survived the incident. The brisk morning walk from the car park to the location of the plane wasn’t short, but it was definitely well worth the time. Only a few other tourists milled about and they were soon on their way further along the black sand beach, which afforded us some of our own photo opportunities with the downed aircraft.
Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon
It would be about 2 and half hours until we reached the surreal glacial lake in the southeast on the edge of the Vatnajökull National Park. As the glacier melts, large pieces flow through the lagoon and out into the Atlantic Ocean. Some even wash up ashore in the nearby beach. I spotted a few seals playfully swimming through the lagoon as boat tours made their way through the chunks of ice. After taking in the sights, we enjoyed some savory lobster rolls and Applesin (the delicious Icelandic version of Fanta) at a nearby seafood truck.
The Land Before Time
Another hour drive up the eastern coastline and we found ourselves in Iceland’s rugged East Fjords, where formidable seaside cliffs rise from rolling black dunes to dominate the horizon. It’s pretty amazing how quickly the scenery can change from one to the next. We stopped by the Viking Cafe and paid the small entrance fee for a short excursion through the surrounding park. Opting out of visiting the viking village supposedly used for a film set, we chose instead to admire the impossibly perfect views of the cliffs further down the beach.
A Seaside Mountain Retreat
Weaving in and out of the finger-like fjords for a little over 3 hours due north brought us to the small eastern town of Reyðarfjörður. As our car emerged from a lengthy tunnel passage through the mountainside, we were greeted by an ethereal fog blanketing the town and calm waters of the fishing port, with the smell of sea and salt lingering in the air. The lovely Tærgesen Guest House would be home for the night, where we filled up on fresh, local cuisine and wine, enjoying that special kind of genuine small town hospitality that warms the soul.
Myvatn Geothermal Area
We made our way towards Lake Myvatn, about a 2 hour drive west, the following morning to check out the area’s boiling mud pots and fumaroles. Upon exiting the car, we were immediately kicked in the face with the pungent aroma of sulphuric gas drifting from the geothermal vents. Myvatn is such an alien place that it makes you forget that you’re still standing here on Planet Earth, which could actually be said of a lot of places around the country. This would be our final sightseeing stop along Route 1 before heading to Akureyri for the night, a short hour away, and continuing on to the capital the next day.
End of the Road
The drive from Akureyri back to Reykjavik took about 5 hours and was not without its share of gorgeous scenery. Because of our limited travel schedule, we unfortunately didn’t have time to check out some other excursions such as hiking in crystal ice caves or whale watching in the north. Neither did we get the chance to explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula to the northwest. That being said, I had an awesome time on our whirlwind road trip and feel incredibly grateful to experience the many different parts of this amazing country.
I’ve read that you can drive One Ring Road in 18 hours without any stops or breaks in between (although I don’t see the point). We were able to drive around most of the country in a little under 4 days. Some say a week and a half or so in a camper van is the perfect amount of time to visit all the destinations along the route. However much time you’re able to take, you’ll be treated to an endlessly and impossibly changing landscape, with the next one around the bend just as breathtaking as the last. I hope you enjoyed following along the ride.
Until next time Iceland!