Crisscrossing through Iceland for six weeks by car. Bonus: three days at the Faroe Islands. So, make yourself comfortable and let me inspire you. There really is a lot to see.
It was March. Me and my partner-in-crime within a couple of online projects (E.g.: TilQuote or Spybnb) were looking for the best place to work in peace. Enchanted by the idea of being digital nomads we crossed Prague off our list and looked for places, where our incomes would be significantly higher than our expenses, following the example of Tim Ferris.
Unfortunately, none of the places we could think of were cool enough, safe enough (no, we were not scared for our lives, it was rather the stuff we carried with that might get stolen), boring enough, so that we would still work, and at the same time interesting enough for when we would like to dedicate our time to discovering new places.
Well, except for Iceland.
Preparation for the trip to Iceland
We were planning to stay at the destination for a while and except for the digital, we wanted to spend time doing the nomad. After we looked at how much it cost to rent a car for such a long time – well, Tim Ferris would cry. But then my colleague came up with quite a wicked idea and said «You know what? Maybe we could get to Iceland on our own terms? ».
Well, it didn´t seem like such a bad idea. But was there even a plausible way how to get there? And if so, wouldn´t it be too expensive?
And yes, it was quite «expensive fun», but as you can see, this article doesn´t end here, so something like that couldn´t stop us. The only way how to get from «the old continent» to Iceland is through a company called Smyril Line, based in Faroe Islands (btw. Smyril is a kind of bird – just saying, trying to sound smart). Getting a ticket was not easy either, even though we started trying around end of March. After about seventeen exchanged emails we managed to get a ticket for two people and one car (especially getting a car spot was nearly impossible as it was almost sold out). The overall price between the Danish city Hirtshals and Seydisfjordur in Iceland, including a cabin on the way there and a bed on the way back spiced up by two lunches, was 1757 EUR.
And since during the planning of the trip I was absolutely fascinated by this photo,
we could not have missed the chance to make a layover at Faroe Islands. Within our itinerary, we could only choose between a three-day and a ten-day layover. Spending ten days at Faroe Islands would be too much, so we chose to stay for three days only. In case you will have a more relaxed time schedule, I very much recommend staying for at least a week. Because it is quite likely that it will constantly rain all the three days of your stay.
Time went by quickly and our departure date was getting closer. It´s high time to have our dear loyal friend, 1994 Toyota Corolla, with 225,000 km under the belt, checked up (previously seen here and here). Being quite worried about in what state it was, I told the service guy to have it checked properly, no matter what the cost. And if anything didn´t seem quite right, we would simply rent some «Škoda Yeti» just to make sure everything went as planned. You wouldn’t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere, especially in Iceland. The service guy´s answer was firm and didn´t come as much of a surprise to me. I had heard it many times before. – «I changed the oil and pumped up the tires. Otherwise it´s perfectly fine. Safe travels and send me a postcard. »
It´s July 22nd and everything was ready to go. As many times before I posted on Facebook my favorite status «Even a journey of thousand miles starts with one push of the gas pedal».
In the city infamously known as Aussig we got a «goodbye Chinese takeaway» from the local Vietnamese and continued further north. Hours and kilometers went by, the sun started to set noticeably later than back home. At 1 am we stopped to get a very, very large coffee (nothing like Starbuck!) and a few hours later also came the first nap.
On the second day, we crossed though Denmark and we arrived at the city of Hirtshals. The longest «in-one-go» part of our journey was over. We bought some last supplies and got onboard of the ferry. Faroe anthem, ferry honk and here we go!
With Smyril line ferry boat – From Denmark to Iceland via Faroe Islands
Traveler´s fever was slowly creeping onto us so we decided to fight it with some good Danish beer. And shortly thereafter, exhausted from driving 1300 km, I fell asleep.
I woke up a few hours later and went out to have a look on the sea. And what was it I was seeing? Only a few kilometers away from us there was a coast. The south coast of Norway. South Norway. Stunning place. Brought back memories. A lot of memories.
So many memories that I chose to go back to sleep. After a pint of beer, having our own cabin I slept very well. I woke up the next day, met with my travel colleague Honza and we enjoyed a beautiful view yet again. This time it was the north most part of Scotland. Territory, which will hopefully stay in the EU for a few (hundred) years. Otherwise, I miss you all.
For the next 8 hours, we were faced with sea and sea only. The land was far behind us. Despite my Arabic brothers not being my favorite ethnic group, they are right in one thing. They say that the soul travels at the speed of a camel. Sure, the ferry went about the speed of 20 knots, so that would make one hell of a fast camel. And the camel probably wouldn´t want to go non-stop. But I guess you get my point. My point being filtered by the immediate, ubiquitous presence of the ocean.
Traveling the Faroe Islands
Thirty-two hours after we set off from the Danish coast the outlines of Faroe Islands started to emerge on the horizon.
Couple of ferry honks and it was time to start the « Old rust bucket». Those of you who have read my earlier travelogues know that the «Old rust bucket» is my 1994 Toyota Corolla.
The sun was about to go down so we hurried up to the campsite to set up our tents before it got dark. We chose a little harbor town – Tórshavn, Thor´s harbor, to be our base for the night. The distance between islands at Faroe Islands is never too large – well at least those connected by route network. And we would not be able to make it to any other places, after all we only had 3 days. We decided to make a helicopter ride a part of our itinerary – here at Faroe it is actually a part of public transport. You can book a flight here. I couldn´t wait. I have tens or even hundreds of flight-hours under my belt, both as a passenger and as a pilot of a plane, but I have never flown in a helicopter before. And also, well, what other way was there to get to an island, called Mikines, surrounded by steep cliffs and covered in sea birds.
We put up our tents and went to sleep immediately. Next morning we were woken up by rain.
During breakfast we were joined by a Czech guy who shared some advice on what to do and where to go. Considering the weather forecast we decided to have a «working day». After a 2-day-internet fasting caused by very, very slow and very, very expensive internet connection on the ferry (30h our crazy slow connection for 16 EUR) we decided to get to work. In the afternoon we agreed to make at least a short trip around «our» island – Streymoy. A sexy place, isn´t it? But as you can see, the clouds were hanging dangerously low.
Forecast for the second, but also the third day, didn´t look too good. But we had no time to waste. The destination for that day Vidareidi. And on the way we came across amazing sceneries such as these.
This picture perfectly describes Faroe Islands. Anywhere you go, it looks exactly like this.
Another thing typical for Faroe Islands, other than volcanic hills, is sheep. I have this portrait of these two guys saved under Beavis and Butt-Head on Faroe Islands.
You see these guys all over the island – just watch out so you don´t bump into them, literally.
At Vidareidi it was also the first time I got to take out my new toy – a drone. There are some countries that are not too keen on this new technological advance, but it´s not the case with Faroe and especially with Iceland – an absolute heaven for drones. You are allowed to fly anywhere you want, except for places where this is explicitly banned, such as national parks, cities and surroundings of airports.
A lovely day was darkened by suspicious red tainted horizon. Despite the sun already setting, the red color was awfully bright. WTF? I hoped that what we were seeing weren´t whales.
I was wrong.
The people of Faroe just got one large f*cking minus point. They say it´s all about traditions. To hell with that. Btw. This is also one of the reasons they don´t want to join the EU.
Time went by incredibly fast. We didn´t even get a chance to go for a proper drive around the island and we were already leaving. There was one more thing left to do at Faroe. Our journey to that place was made much easier than it was for the travelers who have done this prior to 2006, when a tunnel to island Vagár was opened. So what was left to do was visiting a little village called Gasadalur – The Valley of Geese and foremost this iconic place. This waterfall might not even have a name – but it will be on your bucket list from now on. Yes, this is the reason we came here in the first place. Look at this magnificent thing.
Unfortunately, the wind was extremely strong so I was afraid to take my drone for a spin to provide a less conventional view of the waterfall.
So this was it, I got to cross out one thing of my bucket list and it was time to get back to the harbor. Obviously we made a couple-of-hours long stop at Sørvágsvatn – the largest lake on Faroe Islands. It has the shape of a banana and area of 3,5 km2. What´s interesting is that
It lies at 40 meters above sea level and also only a few tens of meters away from the sea, which provides some very interesting views.
We arrived back to the harbor of Thor, got on board and sailed in between the narrow passes of Faroe Islands,
first towards Atlantic Ocean and later overnight to Seydisfjordur, our final destination in Iceland. Having some of the data left I decided to download Middle Men, a movie about couple of e-commerce punks. Just to kill time on the road. One Faroe «sheep» beer and we were off to bed.
Moral of the story? 3 days in Faroe Islands are not enough!
Iceland – jewel of the natural beauty of ice and fire
Icelandic CAMP Card
It was Thursday morning, the 28th of July and we were approaching Iceland after three days on board of the ferry. Within the preparation phase of this trip I had read hundreds of blogs and thousands of posts about Iceland. None of them ever mentioned Islandic Camp CARD, where for a fee of 15 900 ISK (about 100 EUR) you get 28 nights at selected camps for 2 + 4 people (2 adults plus up to 4 children). For each night that you actually spend at a camp you pay another fee of 111 ISK / night, which I guess is not too bad, right?
Anyhow we didn´t buy it yet, but kept in mind this option exists. What´s the most important was what the camps looked like and whether there would be a quiet place to hide away and work.
At around half past 8 we arrived at the islandic coast and left the safety of ferry for the tectonically not so stable volcanic grounds of Iceland. My first thought was that so far it looked exactly like Faroe Islands.
We went up the coastal hills to get to our first stop – the metropolis of eastern Iceland – Egilsstaðir. Just to clarify, considering local conditions, this village can really be considered a large city, in fact the largest city of eastern Iceland. This local metropolis has (according to data from 2011) 2257 inhabitants (and yea, I did not miss a zero at the end).
But well, that´s not too important. What was the most important information of that moment was that at 9 am the stores would open and we could finally buy a SIM card with mobile data. We chose network provider Siminn (currently there are three providers to choose from – Vodafone, Siminn, Nova). For 15 EUR we could get a starter SIM with 1 GB of data, after that each 1 GB would cost 1300 SEK (12 EUR), 50 GB only 5300 (50 EUR). We chose the latter. The only limitation was that it would expire after 30 days.
With the most critical issue resolved we headed towards the city Reyðarfjörður, where was one of the camps that accepted the CAMP Card. Our working stations were miles away from fancy, posh offices but it was exactly what we needed. Plugs and peace. We are modest people – the billions on bank accounts are expected only the year after next.
It had been a few days since we migrated some of our websites to Amazon Web Service, which became our priority for the few next days. Some setting must have been wrong because without any apparent reason we were burning through money. The websites on «neutral» settings would cost 40/USD per day, which, well, doesn´t make you day. Since we only had a couple of days left till the end of the month and we were satisfied with our working conditions we decided to stay for the next four days. Besides working I was also spending time planning our next steps. We definitely didn´t want to miss any of the waterfalls, puffins or the abandoned DC-3 plane (especially I), walk around Reykjavík, bath in the Blue Lagoon and drive around the West Fjords. We had to skip some of the interesting places inland due to the fact that «Old rust bucket» was not really up to the challenge of driving off road. For a moment, we considered renting a SUV but then we thought that Iceland has so much to offer even without that. So maybe next time.
We went on a couple of short trips in the surroundings of our camp and also for the first time tried F-rated road. F meant fjell – so a mountain road. I was also further learning how to fly my drone. I knew how to fly and I knew how to take pictures, the only thing left to do was to combine the two.
I can tell you one thing, we were completely overwhelmed by the local nature. It was so beautiful, magnificent, incredible.
On the second day I got a message from a acquaintance of mine, who stayed with us through Airbnb and when she found out we were going to Iceland we talked for hours and not only got advice on where to go but she also invited us to her place for lunch. Knowing someone somewhere close to Reykjavík was pretty cool. In the message she said that there were some big Icelandic celebrations going on at the time and that we should go to Neskaupstadur to see that. We set off on the road all excited that we were going to experience some real Icelandic culture. Well, we were a bit late, but if it was such a big event it would still be crowded by the time we got there.
Well, it was not.
OK, never mind, this was not the end of the world. We enjoyed our first trip into the surroundings and were slowly about to get back to Reyðarfjörður. In the evening, I had some time to enjoy the beautiful scenery of our camp.
Route nr. 1 – The Ring road
There is only one route around Iceland. It´s called Route Nr. 1 or Ring Road, so basically there were only two directions we could possible go. Clockwise or anticlockwise. Most of the travelers choose the anticlockwise option, but their starting point is Reykjavík, unlike ours. The point was that most of the things to see in Iceland were on the southern coast, so in order to be fresh when you get there it makes sense to travel clockwise.
We chose the opposite direction and headed towards the south coast. Not too long after we had left we came across a bunch of abandoned houses. In fact, a bunch of very photogenic abandoned houses. We stopped and went to have a look.
Honza got this idea that we should make a funny video, I was supposed to be filming the abandoned houses and he would jump scare me coming from one of them. I was so into my work that me getting scared was actually quite authentic.
We didn´t think the video was anything special, but still decided to upload it on YouTube and post it on Reddit. Well, we were very much surprised by what happened next. Within a day we got 70 000 views and we even got contacted by some people from a website called Beng, or something like that, that they would like to buy a license for the US market. An acquaintance of mine works for a television network, so I asked him how much to ask for. He said 3 000 EUR. I told the people.
They did not contact us again.
But never mind, it was fun despite that.
Our next destination was Höfn, a town we chose as a base camp for exploration of Vatnajökull, the largest european glacier.
After the long journey we needed a proper meal. I couldn´t resist the temptation of street food and ordered fish and chips for 2300 SEK. Ok, I know it was quite expensive, but what wasn´t here in Iceland? I don´t want to be mentioning prices too often so I would like to sum it up the way I explained this to a friend of mine «Once you arrive the prices will make your head spin and it won´t stop spinning until you leave». I am not surprised this country went bankrupt. One more thing I would like to add, the beer wasn´t even part of the meal, the only thing included was Icelandic PURE water.
One thing they had there was a beautiful small harbor. Since I just recently became a holder of a captain license for small vessels, I was very much enjoying this view.
Tent and camping in Iceland
And since there was no camp around were our camp card would be valid we did «wild camping» for the first time. That night we hadn´t seen much but we woke up to this the next morning.
Wild camping in Iceland is allowed for a night everywhere with the exception of cultivated (farm) land and unless you have more than 3 tents. (detailed info here) Islanders are staring to be fed up with all this – tourists are everywhere, which is hardly surprising since last year there were 1,2 million tourists (and each year 30% more arrive than the year before). So, as Elin, my islandic acquaintance said, what is typical for all the tourists are not so much the tents but rather the toilet paper left behind all over. And what makes it worse is that they all flock to the best places which makes the quantity of people unbearable. To sum it up in one sentence – The best time to visit Iceland was five years ago.
We headed toward Hoffellsjökull, a glacier shove. The route to it was far from easy, the 8 km that we had to travel of F roads took as half an hour. And even so I was still feeling like we were going too fast. Or it was actually Honza who was telling me to slow down, that we still needed that car for a few (thousands) kilometers.
But it was definitely worth it. Hoffellsjökull was something like a cousin of Jökulsárlón, the main difference being the lack of connection with the sea, which caused all the glaciers to melt. It was our first major contact with the unique islandic nature.
A car stopped next to us. The people who got out were using the funny language so familiar to me. They spoke English, but with such a strong Hebrew accent that I couldn´t resist greeting them with «shalom chaverim». We started talking and got to hear a story from the guys military service times, apparently it was my drone that revoked the memories. And of course I wouldn´t miss a chance to make a picture from the so-called series: Corolla, connecting people.
On the way back we met this awesome thing,
We stepped on the breaks with the sudden rush of inspiration: Let´s give it a spin on the glacier lake!
Unfortunately, this idea is very soon rejected due to the laws of physics. This thing weighted about half a ton, that´s ten times more than we initially assumed. There was no way we could ever move it, so we decided to go back to Höfn. We had some burgers, this time for about 1000 SEK. Turns out something went wrong with our orders, we also got fries and drinks with it. Not that we couldn´t manage that.
We are back to a place as of yesterday quite familiar to us. We set off west first thing in the morning, direction Jökulsárlón, the Glacier Lagoon. We were enjoying the comfortable ride when suddenly it was clear that something was up. Seemed like half of the population of Iceland was there. And that was no surprise. Unlike at Hoffellsjökull, here the lagoon was connected with the ocean so the icebergs were slowly leaving the lagoon (at low tide) and floating towards the Atlantic Ocean where their journey ended. Even icebergs washed up on the shore were not uncommon.
Jökulsárlón – Glacier lagoon – beauty at its best
We were enjoying a nice, although very windy day and I used the chance to take some portraits of Honza (just like Ferenc Listz, don´t you think?),
to let my drone go for a trip,
and to take some, although a bit cheesy, sunset pics. We could not have had left without that.
Since we didn´t feel like going anywhere that evening, we decided to set up our tent by the glacier lake, and so did some other tourists after most of the others left.
And exactly like us all the others woke up at 3:30 am, due to the incredible temperature drop. It took us an hour to be able to leave our sleeping bags, evacuate the tent and pack our stuff. Brrr, what the hell? Unless you have gear made for an arctic expedition, do not spend the night there. There is a reason it is called the glacier lake. I was so excited about the idea to wake up in the morning, have a cup of tea and just enjoy beauty of the view over the lake, plus without all the annoying tourists. But well, never mind.
We spent the day around the lake, or uhm, lagoon, being amazed by how far are people willing to go to get their face on a cover of a magazine.
We took a walk to the glacier when a deafening sound of the cracking ice got us by surprise.
While we walked down to the beach so we could have a look at the «sun-bathing» glaciers we got into bit of a row with a local horse rider. Icelanders are said to be kind and very open people. I can absolutely confirm that. Once shortly after our arrival to Iceland we decided to get out of the car and take a short walk. Since the concept of a side road is not very popular in Iceland, I stopped the car on the road and I turned on the warning lights to make it obvious to everyone that the car wasn´t moving. Not even seconds later a car stopped next to us, asking if we got into trouble. Apparently here in Iceland having warning lights on (especially in more remote areas) means you need help, preferably immediately.
We told them we were absolutely fine and that we had no idea this was a thing here in Iceland, that we had only arrived a few hours prior to that.
And there were more little things like that. To put it plain and simple, Icelanders are wonderful people!!!
But as people say, there is a black sheep in every flock. So this guy was the black sheep in our case.
The day was coming to its end so we decided to get on the road. We passed the fairy-tale like church Hofskirkja turf Church (just one of 6 remaining turf churches in Iceland)
and looked for a place to sleep. But first things first, time to work for a little bit.
Beautiful waterfalls of Iceland
The next day it was first of The Waterfalls, Svartifoss, that awaited us (and it will be there for you, even in 500 years). We got out of the car at a (crowded) parking lot and continued 2,5 km on foot towards the waterfall, located not entirely in the wild, but still it was quite a walk. Uphill. We left all our photo equipment including the drone in the car and went to check out the terrain. What to take shots of, from what angle, where to stand and operate the drone. The wind was quite strong but I figured that was something we had to get used to in Iceland. In less than half an hour, we arrived to the destination. I made a quick shot with my phone,…
…and well, we expected a bit more from this. Svartifoss is a must see in basically every travelogue. It was good, but good means a «C» and a «C» is just not enough.
We decided to take a short walk to another glacier before heading back to the car. It was the first time I was actually brave enough to step on it. On the way there we encountered signs saying something along the lines of «Do not enter, unless you know well what you are doing. It has happened many times that people just disappeared and no one ever found them.»
Encouraging. But seeing some other people walking on the glacier I decided to try my luck. Honza on the other hand decided to miss this once in a lifetime chance and stayed on solid ground. I embarked on a journey towards new adventures. It was a funny feeling. The ice was perfectly solid but somehow, I was still missing the feeling of safety. It just wasn´t the same as walking on solid ground. Cracks in the ice were all over, most about 5 cm wide but quite likely couple of meters deep. I could hear water somewhere deep in the ice. Ending up somewhere down there wasn´t exactly my plan for the afternoon. Ok, I walked on Europe´s largest glacier, something I can tell my future children about or use to pick up a girl in a bar, but it was enough for the day.
The wind was getting stronger and only a few seconds after we got to the car the sky became darker and a real tropical rain started – or rather an arctic rain? Anyhow after about three-hours spent at that place we got in the car and set off towards Vík and Myrdal. We weren´t that taken aback by Svartifoss so there was no reason to spend any more time there.
Southern part of Iceland – Suðurland
We arrived at a little town called Vík i Mýrdal in the evening. The camp looked good. On the way to Vík we had only seen one camp that would accept our CAMP Card, and it was basically just a field with an improvised toilet. Not really what we were looking for. On the other hand the camp we found in Vík was perfect. Large common room with plenty of plugs. The perfect camp, which could be not so much due to what it really looked like but rather the fact that I had been driving for the past two days. I was very much up for staying there for the next two days and just relaxing for a bit. And the place itself turned out to be quite interesting, for example, because it is the southernmost city of Iceland and also a local metropolis, but doesn´t have a harbor – and it has a meaning. But it does have a shopping mall. 🙂
There was a hill close to Vík, which might not even have a name, but looked great on pictures. And even more importantly, we got to meet these sexy guys.
Puffins, it´s a pleasure to meet you!
I was completely fascinated. I felt like I could spend hours just admiring them and taking pictures, which actually turned out to be quite a challenge. Puffins had one major advantage over me – they had wings.
And the cliff was damn high, just have a look.
Vík became our base camp. We were working, relaxing, going on short trips. The famous Reynisfjara black beach was nearby.
And just a bit further a very impressive Dyrhólaeyjarviti – light-house called Dyrhólaey and Kirkjufjara beach.
Islandic CAMP card had a few rules. For example, you couldn´t spend more than four consequent nights in the same camp. We spent five nights in Vík, but the receptionist guy apparently wasn´t very bothered by that. Generally, when you arrive to a camp in Iceland, you set up you tents and only later, usually twice a day, comes the person responsible for the camp and collects money (on average 1200 ISK / person), or marks one slot on your CAMP card (there is 28 of them) and charges you the fee. Bigger camps such as the one we stayed at in Vík usually also have a reception and generally you manage to find someone in there. You can either pay up front for the entire stay or pay each day separately. And when the camp has 350 people in it, no one has any clue if you have stayed for 2 or for 5 nights. There is only one thing you shoud not do under any circumstances. Do not enter the showers. Seriously, don´t even peak in, just pretend like they are not there. Your life will be better that way.
All things come to an end and so did our stay in Vík. We headed west towards 3 days on road passing through even more natural beauty. First of the sights on the list was famous abandoned plane DC-3, which was left behind on Sólheimasandur beach by American soldiers after they were forced to land there following a technical error. Up till last year it was possible to drive all the way to the wreck, but due to the number of tourist the road was closed and if you wanted to get to Dakota DC-3 nowadays you needed to walk for about 4 km from the road Nr. 1. And it´s really boring to go there.
I was unnecessarily worried about how were we going to find the wreck, where to park the car,.. I didn´t need to. The place wasn´t as crowded as Jökullsárlón but still there was no doubt that we came to the right place. In case you come off-season or at night, this wreck of a tractor can be used as guiding sign.
..and the video exploration..
We started the 45-minute walk towards the wreck. Crowds with us, crowds walking towards us.
I felt like being in a Disneyland.
and then, suddenly..
Well, the biggest «Disneyland» of the day was just ahead of us. What was next on our agenda was Skógafoss, a waterfall and also one of the main tourist attractions in Iceland. When we got there, what stroke me the most was how could all the pictures without people, that I had seen, be made? Either with a lot of Photoshop, or a day after a nuclear explosion, otherwise it would be impossible to do.
And the crowds we saw at Skogafóss were still nothing compared to Seljalandfoss. This couldn´t come as much of a surprise, Seljalandsfoss is one of the most iconic sights of Iceland and what´s more, within driving distance from the airport. It´s the waterfall where you can walk not just around it but also behind it, and enjoy the beuty of the running water from a different angle.
We were passing a volcano on our right-hand side. A volcano, that is famous all around the world – Eyjafjallajökull. After an hour of a linguistics class with Elin I finally learnt how to pronounce this unpronounceable name (truth be told, knowing Norwegian helps a lot). It is a stratovolcano, like Mount St. Helens, which famously eroded in 1980.
It would be quite a detour so we decided to only pass by. And then wait for it…. And there it was in all its magnificence.
So, another part of Iceland behind us. We continued for another 10 km along the cost to get to the place where ferry to Vestmannaeyjar departed. Tickets for us and the car cost about 13 000 ISK, but the main issue was that they were sold out for the next two days. And what weather was to come after that was a mystery.
We decided to go look for some more camps that would accept our camping card and then finally settled in a camp in the town of Stokkseyri (OK, a mini-town, 445 inhabitants). In Stokkseyri we discovered an amazing abandoned house. A ultimate urbex heaven. But magazines with 2001 dates suggested that this place had been abandoned for a while. Such a beautiful place. Too bad.
The weather was getting worse and worse and the lawn under our tents was starting to resemble a swimming pool. We also got into a fight a local man, who being drunk out of his mind believed he was very funny. He tried to be pretend to be Polish, but after testing his elementary knowledge of Polish with «train – pociag», a challenge he failed, we decided not to believe him. It was just a drunk, annoying and very intrusive Icelander. Also, considering the prices of alcohol in Iceland, he must have been a very rich drunk Icelander. But as one Czech almost-legendary punk band says – alcohol turns people into idiots.
Golden circle – Geysir, Þingvellir and Gullfoss waterfall
The few working days went by very fast and we set off towards another very iconic place – the Golden Circle. One of the camps within our CAMP Card was Skjól, it fulfilled all our work-related requirements (although by a small margin) and as a plus we could see the Geysiru Strokkur from the camp. It´s the geyser that gave name to all the others «water-spitting» things. And as another plus Gulfoss was located nearby as well. Before I got to take the following photos, it was constantly raining for full five days, so I don´t think it would be in any way interesting to talk about it, well at least for this travelogue. It was actually quite interesting, but in another way. As I said earlier, I have read hundreds of different articles and posts about Iceland, 99% of them were about a-week-long trips, and all basically said «If you don´t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes, it will change». Yea I don´ really know, but either this year was somehow extraordinary, or that´s simply not how it works in Iceland. After we arrived we had 14 days of amazing weather (except for on 5-hour-long rain storm near Svartifoss) and it had been raining for 5 days straight. Waiting 5 minutes for anything wouldn’t make any sense.
But as people say, patience pays off and to me it paid off in the form of picture like this
and this is what it looked like from up in the air
..just a minite..
But to be honest, I did expect a bit more from this place. I thought we would come to places that are a crossover of Norway and Yellowstone, but in reality, it wasn´t much like that. The entire place can be walked through in slow pace in about 5 minutes. If you are planning to come here, don´t expect too much.
As I said before, another important local sight is the Gullfoss waterfall, which is often compared to Niagara Falls in terms of its character. I have never been to Niagara Falls (yet), but Honza dismissed the claim with «forget Gullfoss, you can´t compare that Niagara».
And another short drone trip..
In the upcoming days, we made a trip to Gjáin and to waterfall Háifoss. On the way we passed by Faxi, a smaller brother of the Gullfoss waterfall. When comparing Faxi and Gullfoss in one sentence, it could go something like telling an Icelander «Sorry, Las Vegas is sold out, but you can go to Reno».
Well see for yourselves.
The amazing Háifoss Waterfall and the magical land of Gjáin
What came next took our breath away, this time for real. Once again we had to travel on F-roads, this time it literally said «Only for 4×4». Although it was only 5 km, we didn´t want to carry all our photo equipment so we decided to drive. My «old rust bucket» went all in. It seemed to be working. Well, we went about the same speed as if we had walked, but at least this way it was effortless. There were spots where Honza had to get out of the car and fix the road before we could continue. And what´s worse – it doesn´t even look that dramatic on the pictures, but still makes Czech highways look like German ones. About 2 km from our destination we found a spot where we could turn the car around and decided not to risk our luck anymore. After all, we still need our rust bucket to be functional, having all the wheels, exhaust and all that.
The first place was Gjáin in Þjórsárdalur valley, place where elves, trolls and all the other mythical creatures live. Well I guess they only come out after dark, because we didn´t see any. But I am sure they were there somewhere. One of the Iceland’s pearls of Nature..
The second place we stopped at that day was only a few kilometers away (although in these conditions that meant couple of hours). Háifoss, one of the true highlights of Iceland. And without all the annoying tourists it was true heaven on Earth.
Háifoss is 122m tall thing of beauty, and when you approach it you will find yourself approximately at the level where the river falls down into the valley, just on the other side. It takes around an hour (in a relaxed pace) to walk down to where the river hits the ground. It was a really nice walk, and after the tourist orgies that were happening at Geysir or Gullfoss, we could finally just enjoy the beautiful nature, almost all alone.
It was a wonderful way to relax.
We went back to our camp Skójl, (where I forgot to mention the guy in charge, the type that is funny for about 20 second and after that you just keep thinking «Shut the hell up»), on the way we passed another of Icelandic volcanos, this time it was volcano called Hekla. Hekla generally has quite regular intervals in between eruptions and what is making Icelanders a bit stressed right now is that Hekla has been about 6 years overdue. Hekla means covered or hooded, so when you will be passing by and will see this,
you should know that the thing you don´t see is the above mentioned volcano Hekla.
So we were back on the Golden Circle route to visit its last stop, Þingvellir, a place where around the year 930 AD the first parliament was elected. And in case you are more into the present day history, it is also the place where the 4th season of the blockbuster Netflix series Game of Thrones was filmed. Looks familiar?
Yet again my expectations were a bit higher, especially since this was the famous Golden Circle.
We passed through Reykjavík as it was on our agenda for later. First it was southwest peninsula Reykjanes.
Our next destination was camp Grindavík, a camp that only opened last year and that we had read so many great things about. And only a few km away from the Blue Lagoon, which we couldn´t wait to visit despite of its reputation of being a overcrowded tourist hell. There are hundreds of places where you can go swimming in Iceland, but there is only one Blue Lagoon.
We arrived to the camp quite late so we couldn´t check in properly. It really looked a bit different than the camps we had been to so far. Something like going from a hostel to a four-star hotel. The lawn looks about the same, but the kitchen, common room, bathroom and even the showers, it was a whole different league. Or in fact a whole different sport.
And also there were many things up for taking, things you would spend a fortune for here in Iceland. So if you are starting your trip at the nearby airport and want to save some money, make sure to stop by at this free-stuff supermarket.
Apart from seemingly endless amount of groceries, gas stoves and barbeque equipment I saw some inflatable mats and even a tent.
The next morning I went to the reception to ask what was there to do. Turned out quite a lot. A bridge between two continents, largest steam vent in Iceland called Gunnhver, peninsula of shipwrecks, lovely little churches, one of the oldest Icelandic lighthouses and of course the Blue Lagoon (just from outside restaurant only for now).
Blue Lagoon – book ahead or miss out
I told the receptionist that we were excited about Blue Lagoon after the long trip from Prague, to which he replied «have you reserved a spot? »
- «What spot? Where? »
- «Well at the Blue Lagoon? »
- «Yea we haven´t. Do we need that? »
- «Yes, you do. Let me have a look when is the nearest available time slot. Ok so tomorrow from 11 p.m. for 50 EUR. The day after also for 50 EUR, but from 10 p.m. And if you want to go on the weekend then that makes 60 EUR from 11 p.m. And look, we have another free slot from 4 p.m. for 60 EUR on Thursday. Ohh, that´s next Thursday. »
Ok, thanks, WTF! We decided to choose a local thermal bath alternative for 490 ISK / person. Theoretically we had put off the Blue Lagoon for the upcoming Thursday when we were to come back to Reykjavík, but that did not work out. Also, the Blue Lagoon in reality looks nothing like the pictures in magazines.
A beautiful picturesque Reykjavík
We really enjoyed being in Reykjanes, especially the typical volcanic landscape where when you took a walk in the evening you really felt like walking on the Moon. But it was time to move on. Next stop, Reykjavík.
I had a board game when I was little where you would travel to various places in Europe. One of these places was Reykjavík. Back then I couldn´t even imagine what would that look like. And then I was there, looking Reykjavík in all its beauty. Half of the population of Iceland living in one place. And since I didn´t have any expectations I couldn´t be really disappointed. It was a pretty little town, where the only thing that really surprised me was the modern architecture. Initially we planned to stay here for a while, maybe rent a room or a flat, but since we didn´t know in advance what dates would suit us we were left with «last-minute» prices. And since paying 20 000 ISK / night seemed like too much of a luxury. We roam the streets and of course, went into the famous Hallgrímskirkja church you can see in almost every picture of Reykjavík.
I unsuccessfully tried to get in touch with Elin and see about that lunch invitation she mentioned. Not even a text message got through. Too bad.
After a day spent in Reykjavík it was time to move north. Plan for the next day, Glymur.
The western part of Iceland – Vesturland
Glymur was a 197 meters tall waterfall, which was up till year 2011 the tallest in Iceland, but after Morsárjökull, a part of Vatnajökull glacier, started melting, the tallest waterfall became Morsárfoss, having 227 meters.
It was quite a walk to get to the Glymur waterfall, and altitude wasn´t the only thing we had to conquer. I don´t even remember how long it took to get there, but since we left early in the morning time went by really fast, and we didn´t meet many people either (obviously, American and German tourists do not want to bother with going up the hill).
The day was almost over and we are heading towards Hraunfoddar and Barnafoss waterfalls. If you ever ask where does all the water come from, well Hraunfossar very well answers that. The waterfall is about 900 meters wide, although I haven´t found anywhere what rivers connect upstream to actually make up the waterfall. Definitely one of the most magical places I have ever been to. NO KIDDING!!
And then this old guy. Ford Pick-Up from 1939 well covered with moss. But buddies at old school cars forum went crazy about it.
The guy who was driving it was some punk from the far far away Great Britain, and after I checked out the prices of these cars, he wasn´t really poor either.
Our time was getting shorter and since we decided to have at least some spare time when we get back to Seydisfjordur, we chose to skip Kirkjufellsfoss and headed straight to West Fjords. Later this turned out to be a wise choice, as the roads were unpaved and reminded us of a path going across a field, meant for horses rather than cars, which significantly decreased our speed. One of the camps was located in a town (I wouldn´t normally call this a town, but well, here in Iceland) with couple of houses together and 135 inhabitants all together. We came to the camp and it turned out to be the biggest camp we had seen so far.
On the edge of the world: Iceland’s Westfjords
The place was empty, no guests, no staff. I had to use the bathroom and as soon as I came back the receptionist was coming. A guy, about 75 years old on a four-wheeler, of the type that would better suit someone about 60 years younger. Everything looked great, there was only one small issue – this camp didn´t accept our camp card.
WTF? So this place has two camps? Yea, it really did. And while the first camp had capacity of about 500 people, and was empty, the other one had capacity of 30.
but there was about 50 of us.
We made it through the night and we continued further on West Fjords. Our destination for the day was Látrabjarg, a cliff at the end of the world inhabited by large populations of puffins. The distance between us and the said puffins was „only“ 200 km, but due to the road conditions it took way longer. And we were still on road Nr. 62, which was technically the main road. But what we discovered after turning onto Nr. 612 was a real gem.
Ship Garðar BA 64 is the oldest steel boat in Iceland. It was born in Norway under the name Globe IV in 1912 and since 1981 enriches the local nature.
We headed towards the Rauðasandur beach and all I wanted to do was just to rip off my clothes and jump into the waters of North Atlantic. The main problem with this was that it was the North Atlantic. I remember back in Lofoten Norwegians were swimming in the sea around this time. But I wasn´t Norwegian and the waters around Iceland were most likely even a bit colder than up in Lofoten. Brrr, why me? That year I spent more than two month by the sea, or even the ocean, yet I didn´t get to go for a swim even once. The weather was soo good. I should have brought a neoprene suit.
On the way back to the car we came across a biker who just left Látrabjarg, the place where we were headed. He said there was no point in going there, all the puffins had been already gone.
Alright, it might have been a beautiful cliff, but there were plenty of those. What´s more, we avoided going the extra 100 km on (for my old little rust bucket) quite impassable roads. So we slowly headed to Dynjandi, yet another waterfalls.
I had never heard about these, and the name also seemed a bit odd. But I can tell you they were way better that any waterfalls we had seen thus far. The surroundings were also a part of it. We arrived during the golden hour, so I had to quickly pull out my camera so I could make at least some good shots. Especially since the clouds were getting lower very fast and it seemed like within minutes the entire waterfall would be covered in dense fog.
Just to give you an idea of the size of the waterfall, the two little pink-blue spot on the rock under the waterfall are two people.
This video also tells you quite a lot:
We set up the camp on a meadow right under the waterfall. No one said that this wasn´t allowed. Plus we weren´t the only ones doing that. Goodnight.
Since morning we had been going around West Fjords, heading towards Ísafjörður, a place somewhere deep in no man´s land, where you would never try to look on a map. At the end of the world and only a bit away from an icy hell. Set in incredibly beautiful and charming natural wasteland.
But even there, in the middle of nowhere, there was a football field. Islanders are really into football and they have proved that during the last European Championship.
Also where someone long ago parked this Ford and it had stayed there ever since. It´s not like you need a car here.
We were enjoying the stay in «our» camp, which was located on the outskirts of the town and had all we needed. We also went for couple of hikes because it would be a sin not to do that in environment like this.
I also got an idea, since we were already in Iceland, why not to make it a bit further and go to Greenland? I checked the flights and the cheapest tickets were for around 600 EUR plus with a layover in Copenhagen. Ok, maybe next time.
We had been here for 30 days which meant we had to buy new data. We didn´t manage to use the 50 GB / month that we bought, and we didn´t even restrict ourselves too much. Since internet is absolutely crucial for our work, we bought another 10 GB for couple of Icelandic crowns. That should do it. The overall cost of internet during our stay in Iceland (61 GB/35 days) was about 10 000 ISK (85 USD/EUR)
To say a few words about the equipment for our life as digital nomads, it was basically just one 220 V plug, which I had installed for about 1500 Czech crowns into my old rust bucket before going to Norway. Then there was a power bank, which was charging a external phone, a Samsung Galaxy SII, that served as a Wi-Fi hotspot. That was it. See, how easy it is to be a digital nomad (and how noble and hype it sounds)?
Our time in Iceland was coming to its end so we set off on a almost 1000 km long trip back to the harbor, which was at the exact opposite side of the island. We made a quick stop to say hi to these guys,
made a trip to Vigur island,
The northern part of Iceland – Nordurland
passed Akureyri, the capital of whale-watching tour and arrived at our next stop, Goðafoss. A waterfall, quite romantic and if fact finally quite like the Niagara Falls. When my kids one day ask me «Daddy, what is a waterfall? » I will take their hand, get on the first flight to Iceland, come here and say «Look, kids, this is the Waterfall».
We continued to lake Mývatn and its Mývatn nature bath. It something like the Blue Lagoon of the North, and what´s really great is that we didn´t need to book anything to get in.
We spent all day there, paid around 4300 ISK. We were doing rounds – thermal water, hot water, sauna, cold shower, all that times three. An amazing way to relax.
The day after we planned to go see a «goodbye-waterfall», Detifoss. And since we weren´t really in a hurry, we made a bit of a detour through Husavík and Tjörnes. And once again I felt the urge to let everything go and just jump into the crystal clear blue water. I was glad that there was no need to rush as it turned out the road we chose between two possible ones was the one that you couldn´t really go fast on.
Dettifoss wasn´t exactly a waterfall, rather a mass of water falling into a crack in the earth, so there wasn´t much space for any beauty. Uncompromising natural force, that doesn´t really ask any questions. A piece of life, that nothing can stop and that cares about nothing. No one will ever write poetry about this waterfall. It looks the way it does and you just have to deal with it. Monstrous behemoth, The Beast. That´s it.
Back to the car. After 189 rainy kilometers we came back to Seyðisfjörður (from where we are heading back with Smyril line ferry boat). Day after in the evening we got on board of the ferry and headed back to the old continent. On the way back I got a message from Elin asking if we were still in Iceland. What she wrote made me feel sad.
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