The only word to express the following post from fellow Surf and Adventurer Matt Price is WOW!!! In the following, he reports back from his recent trip to Iceland, and the pictures will speak for themselves. Words and pictures by Matt Price. Hello Iceland, welcome to the land of fire and ice. Typically we travel as a family but this was a special trip. As a surprise for Matt’s birthday we took a solo trip to Iceland and our son stayed with our amazing supportive family. Getting There We flew the budget no frills WOW airlines to Iceland. The flight itself was ok but there is very minimal leg room, Matt is 6’3” and really didn’t fit into the space at all. We arrived in Iceland at 6:00 in the morning and went through customs easily. There is no paperwork to fill out and with a US passport you do not need a visa. Moving through the airport is very easy. The signs are both in Icelandic and English. The airport runs like a well oiled machine as a result of around two million visitors a year. We like the experience of staying in a camper van and the freedom that it provides. We rented from Camp Easy based out of Reykjavík. They set up all of the transportation for us from the airport which turned out to be really convenient after traveling for about 24 hours and barely sleeping on the plane. They were very nice to rent from and as a bonus one of their employees, Yoann, is a surfer and gave us tons of tips on where to look for surf. We were pretty tired from the flight and the time change (6 hours difference) but we wanted to acclimate to Icelandic time so we hit the grocery store nearby for supplies and headed east. We drove to Hveragerði to a hiking trail that led up the mountain and to a Smokey river. Reykjadalur was a steep climb at first but well worth it for the vistas and of course the river. There is smoke rising from the river and people lounging in their bathing suits even though the air temperature is 1* C and the wind is howling. There was a wooden walkway and a few areas where you could place your clothes and change in a semi private manner. At the top of the river the water was extremely hot but a little ways down there was a cold river that met it and cooled the water a bit. It felt blissful to step into the hot water and relax after a long day of travel. Most anyone could do this hike but if you go in the winter it could be icy, crampons are super helpful (we got ours from Camp Easy as an add on). We stayed in Selfoss that evening at a campground named Guesthaus where they sell locally made Icelandic wool sweaters, gloves and hats. There is also a communal kitchen free showers and heated bathrooms (rare) . Most other campgrounds and even restrooms we came across charged for the toilet and shower and had a shower time limit. Day 2 Iceland is very well set up for visitors. The website road.is was essential to ur travel. We used it to check the road conditions and weather conditions before we started the day. It became necessary as the weather changed and it began to snow. From Selfoss we headed to the coast to check the surf at two spots recommended by Yoann. The set up at the lighthouse which appeared to be a rocky right handed looked to have lots of potential but with a strong side shore wind was not worth a go. We checked the Surf behind a cafe at the outlet of a lake but it was also too windy. No surf so more adventure, we went to a couple icy waterfalls further down the coast. We didn’t realize just how icy it would be and didn’t wear our crampons but could have really benefited from them. The first waterfall, Seljalandsfoss was very crowded with tourists but not many people ventured to the second, Gljufrabui which hidden behind a canyon. They would both be really fun to explore when the temperatures are warmer as you can walk behind the first and climb atop a hill to view the second. Next up was Skogafoss, one of the biggest waterfalls in the country, in the town of Skogar. Legend has it that this impressive waterfall has a hidden treasure in the cave behind it. There is a trail that runs alongside the falls called Fimmvörðuháls that leads back into the mountain past 26 waterfalls and takes you through a volcanic moonscape. For the most part it is only accessible in the summer. We were really interested in hiking a bit of it but it was getting dark and we didn’t come prepared. By time we walked back down to the van to get our headlamps and hot hands it had started to rain, really rain. We camped at the base of the waterfall that night though we couldn’t hear it over the wind and rain. Showers cost 300 isk and to camp about 3100 isk which is roughly $30. Day 3 After waking up at the waterfall we had a quick breakfast in the camper and headed east down the coast towards Vik. Along the way we stopped at Reynisfjara. The black sand beach is backed by columns of basalt rock that look other worldly. The waves were huge and the ocean was turned up on this day. In the distance you can see the Reynisdrangur sea stacks which are said to be the masts of a ship trolls were stealing as they got caught in the sun and forever frozen in place. This spot was also really touristy but as a result there was a small cafe and bathrooms at the entrance to the beach. A few km east we came to Dyrhólaey a rocky plateau with a beautiful sea arch that rises out of the ocean. We took a short hike from the parking lot along the cliff to a summit which overlooked the arch and the ocean. The path was muddy and slippery and it was going back and forth between rain and snow as we walked. The beach was off limits here due to “sneaker waves and falling cliff”. As we walked back to the van there was a gorgeous rainbow sprawling across the dark sky. We checked the surf in Vik and again the wind was howling and it didn’t seem worth it for a paddle out. Heading farther east down this very picturesque portion of the ring road we were in awe of the changing landscape. Mountains rose out of the North and to the south was flat land, out washed plains from the Katla eruptions. Further down the roads we came to Eldhraun the moss covered lava fields created by another volcanic eruption of Laki in 1783. The moss can take hundreds of years to grow and the locals aren’t too keen on people walking on it, Justin Bieber. At night we camped at the campground by the Skaftafell visitors center. About a 3km walk down a dark path we found ourselves at the tongue of the Vatnajökull glaciar. It was eerie at night since we couldn’t see what was in front of us but that didn’t stop Matt from venturing all the way down to the glacier. This was the first night that we committed to check for the northern lights frequently during the night. We set our alarms and took turns through the night. As it turned out neither of us were committed enough to actually get out of the van. It seemed we wouldn’t see them that night. Day 4 We woke up to a light snow softly falling all around us dulling the sounds of nature and creating a sweet stillness in the air. With the van packed we headed further east to Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Before I continue, I have to say that these next two days were the highlight of the trip for me. There is an energy surrounding the Vatnajökull glacier that is peaceful and grounding, not to mention the beauty and uniqueness of the glacier. The glacier bay did not disappoint. The massive glittering chunks of blue ice floating in the bay peacefully would soon be sucked out to sea with the current only to rush back in as the tide changes eventually floating out to sea or depositing on the beach. It was quite icy here as well, lots of people slipping and sliding as they walked around. We wore our crampons and had no problem going up and down inclines and walking along the bay. Here you can take a bout tour of the bay though we didn’t. The beach directly across from glacier bay appropriately dubbed “Diamond Beach” was an incredible sight. Black sand littered with sparkling bits of ice that light up as the sun peeks out from behind the clouds. The wave here was actually not too bad but as soon as the tide changed it was gone. On the drive back to Skaftafell we stopped at Fjallsárlón, a second glacial lagoon. While this one was much smaller and less dramatic it was still like nothing I’ve ever seen. We took a snowy walk over a hill to rest out eyes on the glacial snout and lagoon that lies in front of it. To say I felt dwarfed would be an understatement. Side note, there is a small cafe at the parking lot of this lagoon that sells hot food and drinks. For a bowl of tomato soup and small piece of bread, Matt paid $17 usd. Needless to say we didn’t eat out much at all, the food prices were one of the main reasons for us to want to rent the van. We were quite hapy with our camp stove and the meals we were able to prepare at camp. We arrived back at Skaftafell in time to do a sunset hike into the wilderness. We hiked out from our campsite up the mountain to view the sky alight. The paths were covered in fresh snow from the morning snowfall and we could tell no one had hiked that trail all day. We crossed a few waterfalls over wooden bridges and enjoyed each others company in the solitude. Back at camp we prepared dinner and tried to get our camera right to photograph northern lights if we were lucky enough to see them. Turns out the remote I bought didn’t work and we didn’t have a low enough f stop (I think. I know nothing about photography). We did however see the northern lights. After dinner I went to wash the dishes and on the way looked up. The mountain was backlit by a green glow and based on what I knew from our hike earlier there was nothing behind it except more mountain. I got Matt out of the van to see the glow of the mountain and the lights shimmering in the sky. At which point he told me he had been seeing the northern lights every night but didn’t realize what it was (duh!!). It was less vibrant than I was expecting but still really startlingly impressive. Day 5 We again awoke to the soft sounds of snowfall and prepped for they day putting on layer upon layer and this day the addition of our waterproof pants. Because it was sleetsnowraining and we were going to an ice cave! I booked a tour with Local Guide of Iceland, when we got to the booking office it was sleeting pretty hard and soon to turn into pure rain. The office was so cozy and warm full of strangers about to embark on an adventure. We loaded up with another couple and a mother son team into a big truck with big wheels. Kind of like a mud bogger. True to form whenever we travel anywhere in the world we run into people from the Outer Banks. This time the mother of the mother son duo was born and raised on the Outer Banks, always random, always fun. Onto the ice cave, Thor, our guide told us all about how the glaciers are melting at an alarming rate then he took us on a small hike overlooking the vatnajökull glacier. Again it was a moment where I felt dwarfed by its enormity and beauty. We climbed up onto the glacier in our rain gear and small ice spikes following Thor to the caves. The first cave we cam to had water rushing down into it and a small river running through it. The light from above shone through the ice giving it a glittering blue hue. Then, Matt fell through the ice. To his knees. Thor gave him the green light to “go wherever you want” so he did and he payed for it. Soaked up to his knees in icy cold glacial melt he had to sit down to pour the water out of his shoes and wring out his socks. He was a trooper though, didn’t complain about how cold his feet really were until we got back to the warm truck. The ice caves were my favorite part of the trip. Thor took us to three more caves each unique in their own way. He also took us on a little glacier hike thought it wasn’t part of our tour, he taught us to walk on the low side of the crevasse and stay on the rocks for traction. As we were learning to jam our feet into the glacier (we weren’t wearing the right spikes for a glacier hike) the woman from the outer banks slipped rolled and started sliding towards the crevasse. It was a nerve wracking five seconds where we all froze in place wondering just how far she was going to slide then she stopped. She was thankfully not injured. We promptly hiked back towards the last ice cave then back to the van. Best Day Ever!! It was still raining once we made it back to the tour office and there was a bit of inclement weather headed that way so we wanted to book it back to the east. We checked the road conditions and started the journey in the rain which soon turned into snow. The roads were pretty icy and at some point we fishtailed all over the road but Matt was an unbelievably attentive driver and drove us safely all the way back to Guesthaus in Selfoss to camp for the evening. This time the cute cafe and check in office was decorated with twinkling white Christmas lights for the warmest welcome. This time I purchased a pair of wool mittens and took a really really long hot shower to work out the dreads that slowly worked into the back of my head. Matt cooked our dinner and we enjoyed the warmth of the communal kitchen that we had all to ourselves. Day 6 More snow the next morning. We took it slow as we drove through the mountain pass towards Reykjavík. Matt couldn’t get over how much snow there was in all directions as far as the eye could see. It was definitely stunning to watch the sun rise to the south and the sky turn rosy pink over the white snow. Then the sky turned purple and the snow started blowing. Matt again drove us safely into Reykjavík (I emphasize this because we don’t ever drive in snow and ice). We planned to go to the Blue Lagoon late in the evening and spend the day searching out surf. There wasn’t much surf but we did have a lovely walk through a snowy golf course and got to see a few light houses and seals. The Blue Lagoon was interesting, we went at night so it was dark and actually perfect conditions to see the northern lights. Though we didn’t see them while we were there, on the ride back to Reykjavík the sky started to light up. Green lights danced across the black sky and we enjoyed them as long as we could until they were drown out by the lights of the city. We stayed in the parking lot of a hostel for our last night it was close to the camper rental agency and convenient to the city. Last Day We hit up this sweet little cafe that was totally plant based for our last breakfast in Iceland and it did not disappoint. I ate a blueberry cheese cake and Matt had a chia parfait and a matcha latte. We drove to the van rental company to drop the van and start the long trip home. I absolutely loved Iceland as cold as it was (I hate the cold) it was a very memorable trip. We were quite prepared with all of our base layers and warm coats that we weren’t cold the majority of the time as long as we were moving. The camper heater kept us plenty warm during the night and the hot springs were epic! I would recommend to anyone to go and to definitely rent a camper van to have the freedom to go where you want when you want. Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.