October 2019 and it was time to embark on our 3rd, and potentially last road trip around Iceland.
We would be driving 2500km around this magnificent country and this time we would conquer the most northerly point of mainland Iceland. It nearly didn't happen due to a puncture on the day that we were heading to Artic Henge and beyond. But thanks to some frantic phone calls to a mechanic in Guernsey who could explain the complexities of changing the wheel on a Toyota Land Cruiser, we eventually made it. Once again I was reminded that doing impressions of Basil Fawlty with the branch of a tree still doesn't work!
Anyway, we made it and we have now successfully visited the most northerly, westerly, southerly & easterly points of mainland Iceland.
All of the photographs in this blog are shown in the order in which I took them. I have also included the map showing each daily journey which may come in handy if you want to plan your own trip.
Equipment used for images;
Fuji XT2 fitted with 100-400mm zoom lens
Canon 5d MkIII fitted with 24-105mm zoom lens
DJI Mavic Pro 2 drone
Day 1 - Keflavik to Reykjavic via Grindavik (76km)
Upon arrival we had a few hours to kill before checking in to our hotel in Reykjavic, so it was an opportune time to take a drive to Grindavik in the far south and give my drone a try out. This was a very volcanic area full of old shipwrecks, they are hard to capture due to their rugged location, still worth a look though.
Day 2 - Reykjavic to Vik (255km)
Our first proper day on the road and we headed south via a mountain pass. This was a bizarre start to the drive as the fog in the mountains reduced visibility to about 50 yards, concentration was essential. Eventually we popped out from the fog into immediate glorious sunshine, as they say in Iceland "if you don't like the weather then wait 30 minutes!".
On this day we visited red sand craters, waterfalls, mountains, lighthouses, black sand beaches and yet more waterfalls. An unexpected bonus was the wonderful autumn colours which we really didn't expect. This was an excellent first day although we noticed a large increase in the number of tourists compared with our first trip in 2015.
Day 3 - Vik to Hofn (302km)
Wow, what a day this was. Firstly we headed through the lava fields of the extreme south and suddenly my other half announces "look, a cat!". Mmmm, I had spotted something white but the dog like appearance and big bushy tail meant that she had spotted an artic fox. This was a massive highlight of the trip as artic foxes are small, often brown and very rarely seen in the south of the country. Thank the lord for my big zoom lens and foxy decided to show off by sitting directly in the line of the sun lighting him up perfectly for me.
From there we headed inland to a massive hidden waterfall called Fagrifoss. There are tarmac roads, there are hardcore/rough roads......... then there are '4x4 only' roads and this was the first time we had ventured so far off the main road. En route to Fagrifoss we had to drive through 3 rivers without any warning, rather nerve wracking but we did it and made it to this very remote point.
Throw in some floating ice at Jokulsarlon, dopey photographers ignoring risks of crashing waves and some crazy skies, and the day was good.
Day 4 - Hofn to Neskaupstadur (313km)
This day was going to be a very big 'tick in the Iceland box' of visiting Stokksnes and witnessing the mighty Vestrahorn Mountain. This place is a real feast for the eyes and the size and scale are hard to take in when you live on the little island of Guernsey. The location of Vestrahorn on the far south east coast also adds to the drama.
From, here, we would wind our way up the east coast taking in the stunning scenery of Eystrahorn and the surrounding area. The weather was very calm so this gave us the opportunity to get the drone up in numerous locations.
The last time we dove this route it felt as though we were the only people in Iceland as very few people ventured past Hofn. How things have changed, and the sheer number of tourists has massively increased which makes finding solitude far more challenging.
Day 5 - Neskaupstadur to Myvatn (352km)
Day 5 and the weather decided to turn against us, the wind ripped up to force 9 and the odd shower also hit us. Still, we made the most of it and started the day with another big highlight......... seeing a reindeer in the wild.
This day turned out to offer a wide range of contrasts, from wildlife to waterfalls, forests to craters, and farms to wilderness. By the time we reached the crater and lava fields in the late afternoon the wind was at full strength and walking at a 45 degree angle was the only way forward. Little did we know that this was in fact the calmest part of Iceland at the time, vehicles in the south of the country were being blown off the roads so I guess we were lucky.
Eventually we arrived in Myvatn and things started to calm down......... even if we did try to check into the wrong hotel. But good news........ the northern lights were forecast to put on a show.......... well if they did put on a show it was in a different part of Iceland! :-(
Day 6 - Myvatn to Akureyri (410km)
This was going to be the most extreme day of the trip whereby we would finally make it to the most northerly part of mainland Iceland. In theory, it shouldn't have been that extreme and we have driven in far more dangerous places within the Westfjords.
But, on this particular day, our vehicle decided it was the perfect opportunity to get a puncture. Everything had started off so well at Dettifoss waterfall, until we returned to find the bulk of the air in the top of the tyre. Ok, it was time to find the nearest garage in the extreme north of Iceland. We made it there only to find that you needed a PhD in engineering to work out how to get the spare wheel off. With a few frantic calls to a mechanic relative in Guernsey and lots of swearing, we managed to change the wheel whilst the force 8 wind tried to blow our luggage around the forecourt. All part of the fun and we survived!
Puncture aside, it was an amazing day albeit a bit rushed due to losing 2 hours of our time.
Day 7 - Akureyri to Blonduos (278km)
After a bad nights sleep courtesy of some drunken ogre shouting outside our bedroom window at 3:00am (and again at 5:00am), we got ourselves back on the road for our penultimate day. Fingers crossed, this would all go to plan and the remaining 4 tyres would hold up!
They did, and we got to explore some beautiful little towns in the far north of Iceland, including Dalvik and Siglufjordur. The wind had also calmed so the drone was airborne again :-)
Our day would end with us staying in the only available accommodation appropriately named 'The Retro Guesthouse', this basically translated into a converted shed in the garden! But it was fantastic, very peaceful, had everything we needed including complimentary booze! Maybe the northern lights would make an appearance.......... not a chance!
Day 8 - Blonduos to Keflavik (513km)
The final day and the big drive south back to the airport. I always find this a somewhat sad day and the realisation that the trip is almost over is a hard pill to swallow.
But, we were determined to see as much as possible en-route and get in as many sights as possible. The sky on this particular day was full of drama and very sinister, a reminder that nature calls the shots in Iceland and we are merely observers.
Bruarfoss was particularly attractive at this time of year with layers of different small waterfalls surrounded by autumnal foliage.
This was an amazing trip full of excitement and drama, albeit we would have happily not had the puncture drama.
I am typing this summary 12 months after returning and, like much of the planet, the economy of Iceland has since been hammered by travel limitations brought about by Covid. We genuinely feel for the wonderful people of Iceland who are friendly, welcoming and tolerant.
As and when some sense of normality does resume then I know that Iceland will be able to rebuild their economy, they have done it before and, unlike many other nations, they learn from their experiences.
If I could offer Iceland one big tip then it would be to consider how many tourists they allow back in to the country and, where possible, avoid falling back in the trap of encouraging coach loads of disrespectful 'selfie stick' waving narcissists who have no agenda other than to post a selfie on Instagram from every point of interest. Iceland is better than this, it does not need that kind of tourist and encouraging them will eventually kill off the appeal for those of us who revel in the true beauty of your country.
Much love, James.