Iceland, the Ringroad

iceland ringroad

I am: wildly inspired by, and overwhelmingly in awe of, the volcanic surroundings, and the otherworldly, alive horizons, of Iceland. Iceland is a magical, and surreal, place, a place where even the ground beneath you, sometimes sulphurous, and sometimes moss covered, gives birth to myths and mystery between the rising steam and raw elements that sculpt and shape the land dramatic. Iceland is a land of 1000 abandoned farmhouses, dotted with cosy fishing villages and tiny towns that nestle against jagged looming mountains, reflecting in crystal fjords and connected by lonely gravel roads that stretch ahead for countless miles.

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Early September, this year, Mike and I were lucky enough to get to travel Iceland’s ring road, over the course of a few days. Our nights were spent sleeping in the back of our rental 4×4, to cut costs, and our days were spent covering as many miles as possible. We hunted down a secret natural hot spring, hidden high up a lush and lovely valley, as suggested by a very wise friend, and played in the ethereal mists of rushing waterfalls.

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The sky lit up deep emerald green as we flew over southern Iceland, approaching Keflavik Airport. The flight crew dimmed the lights and we were treated to the most incredible cosmic dance as the sky twisted patterns above us. It was a powerfully moving, and uplifting, few moments.

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The rain and wind pummelled us as we spent our first day exploring the famous Golden Circle, in western Iceland, though the clouds of hot steam that spilled out of the earth with each of Geysir’s eruptions, and the raw power of a grey and roaring Gulfoss, distracted us from our drenched clothes and frozen fingers.

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We spent our second evening in Iceland in a quiet Reykjavik. We ate rather spicy falafel with an Icelandic friend at a delicious Turkish restaurant, and the streets were covered in chalk and lined with adorable little cafes and unique stores, windows full of paper cranes and fairy lights.

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Having driven out of Reykjavik, and parked somewhere quiet, to sleep, we awoke the next morning to a vibrant rainbow, and moss covered lava fields that glistened in the sun and rain. Our ringroad adventure had begun!

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Driving east on the ringroad, from Reykjavik, if you turn onto road 242, and follow it past Þorvaldseyri (The Iceland Erupts exhibition), all the way to Seljavellir, then park your car, and hike 15-20 minutes up the narrow valley that lies below the infamous Eyjafjallajökull, you will turn a corner and stumble upon Iceland’s oldest natural hot spring.

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Built in 1923, with no entry fee, and maintained by volunteers, Seljavallalaug is a spectacular place to unwind, to connect with your natural surroundings, and let the minerals and healing qualities of the deep green warm water refresh and rejuvenate your body.

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Every day of our Iceland trip brought forth an abundance of rainbows and waterfalls.

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There are several huge glaciers to be found in southern Iceland, and we stopped for a lunch of hummus and tomato pittas under the watchful gaze of the largest, named Vatnajökull.

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It felt as if every corner we turned, some new and awe-inspiring landscape would unfold before us, each more dramatic, majestic, than the last.

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For a brief time we left the ringroad, opting for one of Iceland’s few gravel interior roads. We climbed over a twisting mountain pass, which later levelled out into a windswept plateau, and left the east coast behind.

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North-East Iceland is volcanic, and treacherous, for the most part moon-scape and alien, boiling clouds of steam and gas escaping from the depths of the earth, shaped still by the tremendous forces of the earth’s shifting plates. We had planned to visit Askja during our visit, however the road had been closed off due to the risk of imminent eruption, and so we carried on westwards.

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Further west along the ringroad, the tiny city of Akureyri is Iceland’s second city. The traffic lights of Akureyri are heart shaped! We stopped here for a warm bowl of soup.

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One of the many abandoned farmhouses we stumbled upon, set against a treeless valley.

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Driving back south, along the east coast, some bicycle tourers approach the end of their journey.

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We made it around the entire ringroad! And as a celebration of our whistle-stop visit, we took the opportunity to visit what is perhaps Iceland’s most famous of tourist attractions, the Blue Lagoon, for a lovely afternoon enjoying the opaque pastel blue water. Eventually, the fog began to roll in, and it was time for us to head back to the airport.

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We have a bunch of great photos from our Iceland adventure in our flickr photoset

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