No mans land
If you tell friends and family about your holiday plans, you usually get envious looks. “Oh, I’d like to go there again.” Or “That sounds great.” This time it was a bit different. You want to go to Iceland? All right, but wear warm clothes. You want to sleep in the car? Definitely not, young lady!
Anyone who plans to make a roadtrip in Iceland through February can take on a headwind. Yes, it is cold up there – but not much colder than with us. And no Grandma, tourists will not attacked at night in the streets. So why not? Iceland in the winter is like a wonderland, powdered with snow and woolly white. A real winter, the possibility of polar lights and ice caves – what more could you ask for?
Flight and camper were booked quickly.
The low-cost airline sets off for the landing a few months later and the dark coast of the island is getting closer and closer. In front of the terminal it became clear: this is a real adventure.
The first impression is the most important. The first impression of Iceland, however, is not a good one: a grey cloudy sky, it´s raining and many many tourists. The plan for the next days is: off into nature!
Day 1 – The Golden Circle
It goes east. The first stop is the parking lot of the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Trail. The small café in the rustic wooden hut has already closed, but the Spartan toilets in the outdoor area have been kindly disclosed – a lucky exception. The last hikers, who returned their way to the car in the rain, are exhausted and soaked, but happy. The night we sleep all alone here, surrounded by darkness and sweat.
The cold nights on the island won’t be frosty with the heating and cuddly sleeping bags in your camper van.
Day number one begins with peanut butter bread and imported apples from the “Bónus”. Plan for today: The Golden Circle. Starting point is the 270-meter-long crater lake Kerið early in the morning at nine o´clock. From the road No. 35 you can see it more than clearly, with its red sand. As the sun slowly rises, we walk the sandy, red path along the crater and enjoy the view of the mountains surrounded by the trees. The water of the lake is deep blue.
The large geyser and its smaller neighbor Strokkur are about 45 kilometers away. There were souvenir shops, restaurants and huge parking lots built between sulfur fields and blue glittering thermal springs. Wherever you look, everywhere Selfie sticks and woolen caps decorated with the Icelandic flag. Strokkur is still active every 10-15 minutes. A water column up to 35 meters high then shoots up, driving all the visitors into the madness who could not capture the moment with a photo. For the perfect picture, not only the professional photographers will have several breaks. Whoever has his photo, triumphantly moves back to the parking lot.
Laugarvatn Fontana is our next stop: four small pools, heated by geothermal heat and temperatures up to 40 degrees, a sauna and the ice-cold lake next door. Into the lake only the few dare. American girls try to get in, with a lot of screeching and even the strongest men escapes after a few seconds with their shoulders drawn up and a painfully, frozen face. The view from the hot pot through the glass pane to the mountains is much more pleasant. As the swimming pool slowly becomes empty in the evening hours and the mood becomes quieter, we enjoy the sunset with the still remaining Icelanders.
Day 2 – Seljalandsfoss & Skógafoss
Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss are still wrapped in dense rain the next morning. Day three starts as wet as his predecessors, and it does not get any better: The Seljalandsfoss is like a little miracle, who doesnt want to explore how it looks like behind a waterfall. But the way to it is rocky, slippery and especially wet. The water now comes not only from above, also from the left and right and unexpectedly also from below. The glasses are fogged, the boots soaked, and the water-resistant all-weather jacket is exposed to an unprecedented challenge.
Behind the roaring curtain hides an almost quiet place with a view over the ever-lush green meadows of the region. The Skógarfoss is less life-giving than his brother. He falls 60 meters into the deep, down on black rocks and pebbles. There is something unexpected happening during noon: the sun flashes behind the dark clouds. A rare phenomenon. ” Icelanders are like vampires,” says Tour guide Sveinn later. “If the sun comes out, we have the feeling of burning.” Those who mastered the steep steps up to the edge of the Skógafoss will be rewarded. Not only with a wonderful view on the Skógasandur, also with a small rainbow forming in the fog of the waterfall.
Day 3 – Fjaðrárgljúfur & Jökulsárlón
The farther we come to the north, the more lonely the road becomes. On the way to Fjaðrárgljúfur, a big and beautiful canyon, we don´t see a single car.
Again we are the first at the canyon. Again, the view is indescribable. In some places we can look down into the depths of the river Fjaðrá. Up to 100 meters.
How colorful Icelandic icebergs are, can be seen at the Jökulsárlón: from icy white to crystal blue to the deepest black: The ice-breaks at the Diamond Beach are man-sized and impressive. They are scattered over the black sand like shells. In the lagoon we can still se swimming icebergs. Anyone who has enjoyed this dramatic view understands why this was the location of a James Bond movie. In front of the small Jökulsárlòn – Cafè Sveinn welcomes us: an Icelander as you imagine him, 1,90 meter tall, broad shoulders and with al long beard. His Jeep looks like an icebreaker on wheels, it is almost twice as big as us. The journey is going to Vatnajökull: Into the ice cave and then into the eternal ice.
Day 4 to 6 – From Höfn to Mývatn
The next few days we experience mostly through the window: along the Ring road we pass Höfn and Egilsstaðir until we reach the Mývatn Lake. The ride is slippery, the wind blows snow on the road and pushes the camper permanently to the right. Ed Sheeran and Robbie Williams accompany us all day on the radio. Up in the mountains, there is nothing but the wild nature of Iceland. And then there are some stupid thoughts. “Quick, undress yourself and jump out oft he car, right into the snow! Take a picture!” Youthful light-heartedness.
It is just after nine o´clock, when we finally saved the camper out of the snow. Over the night the snow has taken us captive and will not let us go now. However, Icelandic cars are reliable. From the yard of the campsite to the snow-covered main road, he makes his way with groaning tires.
After a detour to the sulfur fields of Mývatn, we reach the lava landscape of Dimmuborgir. The “dark castles” were already the location for Game of Thrones, and covered with a fresh layer of powder snow, they are particularly threatening. The bizarre stone formations are supposed to connect heaven and hell, because here Satan landed, when he was rejected by God. In reality, the four-kilometer-wide rocky landscape was shaped by the volcano system Kafla, more precisely by the eruption of the Lúdentsborgir 2000 years ago.
Our feet are the first to go down the path between the rocky cliffs. The threatening nature of this place and its association with myths are explained very quickly: With the snow everything looks the same, getting lost is not difficult. On the chair of Santa Claus I feel like a real king of Iceland with the scepter and the little oil lamp.
Later we visit the Goðafoss. It lies in snow, an almost royal sight. The water comes from fresh water inlets and glaciers and is icy blue.
In the middle of the Ice desert, eight Germans meet each other. Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it is reality. If you search on Google Maps intensively enough (which worked very well, thanks to the integrated Wi-Fi), you will find a little reference to the hot springs of Landbrotalaug. Two small pools near a large lake, surrounded by a barren landscape and the mountains on the horizon. In the larger Hot Pot, we come together: Most of us are students in the semester holidays, Marie is even studying Icelandic here. After four days without contact to other people a good change.
We spend the night on an empty campside, trying to cook noodles in the snowstorm and sleep very well..
Day 7 – Þingvellir National Park
The Þingvellir National Park has many parking lots – you shoud know which one is the right one. We chose parking number 5 as our starting point – and were not that wrong. Nearby is the viewpoint, the Þingvellir church and the Silfra cleft. The path up to the viewing point is more rapid than imagined: it is below zero degrees, the tramp path, including stairs, is frozen. We start a sliding adventure, marked with many curses and bruises. But the view rewards us for everything.
Downstairs we meet confused tourists. They are all looking for the Silfra cleft,, no one can find it. About 350 meters away from car park number 5, you will find a small tramp path, which is still quite snowy and therefore hard to spot. The cleft does not have its own parking lot or a large signpost. We only saw it because of a group of male Asians in diving suits, who are (waddling like penguins) on their way across the road towards the rocky decline. After visting the cleft, we take a small sip of the purest glacier water in the country and go on.
Day 8 – Reykjavík
Our last Day on the road and our last stop is Reykjavik: The great capital, the bubbly life of Iceland. After three days in the nature and deserted landscape of the north, the metropolis of the south seems pretty crowded. At the famous Hot Dog shop Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur the line is a few meters long, even in pouring rain. Owner Guðrún Kristmundsdóttir behind the bar is deeply relaxed: She is doing her job for decades, continued the shop of her father. Everyone has to wait until it´s their turn, no matter if you are a student from Germany or Bill Clinton. His visit in 2004 made the small shopp world famous. Now the big tourist tours take a break here on their way through the city. In the queue you can see Japanese, Canadians, Icelanders – and us.
With the best hot dog on the island in our hands, we stroll along the Skólavörðustígur, right to the Hallgrimskirkja. Last point on our to-do list: Enjoy the view over Reykjavik. From the tower of the church we see the colorful roofs pf the city, Harpa and wideness of the Atlantic ocean. We can even see the sun.
Our Road trip in Iceland 2017
Read more: Iceland – To the Westfjords & beyond
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