Although I was traveling through Iceland solo, I actually did spent a large chunk of my trip doing a fun little road trip with some girls I met online. Upon arriving in Iceland, I was able to more fully appreciate what a vast country it was, and I began contemplating the idea of seeking out some company. The night before I was to hit the road, I posted an ad on couchsurfing and figured I’d see what I got. I joined couchsurfing several years ago, but had never actually used the site until then. My good friend Tommy has always said he’s met some of the coolest folks through couch surfing, so I figured why not.
That night I got a response from two girls from Malta, Aneka and Edwina. This being my first attempt at traveling with strangers, I had instant anxiety about all the things that could go wrong. After all, we’d be spending quite a bit of time together, and once we left Reykjavik, we were pot committed. After a little bit of Facebook stalking and a brief meeting at my hotel with the girls, I figured what the heck – you only live once. So the three of us hit the road together, thus beginning the adventure of a lifetime.
Aneka is in the passenger seat next to me and Edwina’s got “photographer” and map duty in the back seat.
I actually had rented a car from the same guy I rented my last Air BnB apartment from in Reykjavik, but he was a bit flaky and when I arrived, I found out that he had actually double booked the car I reserved. Luckily for me, there was a car rental place just downstairs from my hotel, so I ended up getting this 4 wheel drive automatic Hyundai. It was the perfect vehicle for our little excursion. If you’re going to Iceland during June – August, expect to pay a lot more for your cars (and hotels and well, everything in general). For 4-wheel drive and automatic, tack on even more to that total.
I gotta start by saying that there is truly no landscape on earth that you can drive through that is more scenic and diverse than Iceland. I mean, it is just everything. This picture doesn’t really reflect that, but as you scroll down you’ll see what I mean.
We headed South East from Reykjavik because I had my heart set on visiting Jokulsarlon (the glacier lagoon) and visiting Svartifoss waterfall in Skaftafell. Plus, I heard it was a great base for ice climbing. From several miles away, we could already spot the enormous waterfall Seljalandsfoss.
I should also note that we got incredibly lucky with the weather. Every blog and article I read prior had said to expect cold, windy, and wet weather. Well I guess it was cold, wet, and windy for 45 days straight before we arrived, but the day I got there, the clouds parted and the weather was nice and sunny my entire trip. I seriously couldn’t believe our luck.
The thing about Iceland is that there are waterfalls everywhere. I don’t think I even took pictures of every single one. And we definitely would not have been able to get anywhere if we stopped to look at each of them.
See what I mean??
A lot of these pics are of rock formations and random things I found interesting on the side of the road. Most of these pics are shot with my Nikon D7000 on the fly as we were driving. I had some pretty wicked road shots on my GoPro, someone’s gonna really enjoy those one day down the road when they find it 😉
I can’t remember why we were looking at a map. It’s virtually impossible to get lost, because there’s really only one main road (“the ring road”) that runs all the way around the island. And as you can see, there isn’t much on it.
This is a cool one. Waterfall beneath a glacier. This should give you a good feel for scope. That waterfall is very likely enormous. But the glacier is just SO huge that it dwarfs the falls. Waterfall names in Iceland, btw, always end in “foss,”which presumably means waterfall. Or maybe just falls.
Another falls? Sure.
This one’s cool. They build houses straight into the landscape in Iceland. My dad would dig it. I dig it.
Although it looks like prime farming land, I think it’d be pretty hard to farm anything in Iceland, given the climate. And also the utter lack of sunlight in the winter. When I first arrived, we were getting about 20 hours of sunlight a day. By the time I left a week later it had gone down to about 15 or 16. In the winter, you’re lucky if you get 4 hours of sunlight a day.
I just love this shot. Oh btw – if you’re renting a car in Iceland, I’d think ahead. Most of the cars are older and don’t have bluetooth or auxiliary cables. Some of them don’t even have cigarette lighters, so your music options are going to be limited. I brought about 10 mix CDs with us, which worked perfectly and gave us a built-in soundtrack for our road trip. Here’s a video i shot of our musical selections.
Sorry, kind of a few pics of that beast. I even shot video of it.
The clouds and the glacier and the mood and just well, everything about this road trip was epic. And I have the video to prove it too.
You can see how a photographer would want to stop on the side of the road and do a really wicked reflection pic with the clouds and the snow-capped mountain in the background. It could have been an epic pic, seriously. But if you stopped to shoot everything you saw that would make for an epic pic, you really would never get anywhere.
These glaciers are soooooo deceptive. They really don’t look that big from the road, but I had the opportunity to do some glacier hiking and ice climbing, and when you get up close, they really are tremendous.
Oh and the sunsets in Iceland are epic too. Here’s a video Aneka shot during this sunset.
We had actually stopped to eat dinner and I kept running in and out of the restaurant to shoot the sunset. The girls must have thought I was crazy. But it was just because the sunset kept morphing and changing colors every 10 seconds.
Every time I went outside, I noticed this guy sitting outside the restaurant. He was just sitting in that chair, reading a book and drinking a beer as the sun set in front of him. Not gonna lie, I was pretty jealous of his situation. We chatted for a bit and I nearly fell off my chair when he told me that although he was from Russia, he lived in my #1 dream destination of all time. I don’t think I’m quite ready to say yet where that is, but when I do eventually get there, I’ll be sure to post some pictures here 😉
I watched a little bit more of the sunset with Evgeny before heading out so we could make the drive back to our cabins.
As me and the girls headed out, I noticed these little trails around the sunset on the right hand side. I had a haunting suspicion that the Northern Lights were going to make an appearance that night.
And more falls.
We had the road to ourselves for much of the drive. It’s kind of crazy, but there’s a HUGE hitchhiking culture in Iceland, probably because everyone there has a little bit of wanderlust spirit there. And it’s one of the safest places in the world. But even still, I’m not the type who could wait around for hours hoping that someone could pick me up. I mean, there were times where we wouldn’t pass another car for an hour or so.
We stopped at one of the only places to eat in the town of Vik and an American family stopped us outside the restaurant and told us not to order any of the traditional Icelandic meals because they were pretty skimpy and not very flavorful. “But the pizzas were actually pretty good,” they said. And so we heeded their advice. Of course, I got the Hawaiian pizza 😉
These were some random panoramics from the road. Midway through the trip, I showed Aneka one of my panorama shots and she was mind blown. She thought my iPhone had magic powers, but I assured her that her droid had the same capabilities. I don’t think she’s taken a regular photo since I showed her how to use the feature.
So supposedly, Iceland has the world’s best hot dogs. And I love hot dogs. So I was beyond excited to try one while I was there. Oddly enough (or maybe not that odd, since food is very hard to come by outside of Reykjavik), I couldn’t find a single hot dog. We finally found one at a rest stop on the drive back into town, but I was more in the mood for fish & chips, so I didn’t get one. At all. I did, however, get a shot of this fun hot dog sauce bottle which looks like it should contain ketchup, but instead has a mayo-based concoction.
And that kind of concluded the road trip. I definitely took most of our “road trip” group pictures on the GoPro, so that explains the lack of group photos of the girls, but Iceland is far more photogenic than we were, so hopefully you enjoyed these pics instead!