The Essential Iceland Travel Guide, From The Ring Road To The Golden Circle

December 6, 2021

Iceland had been on my bucket list for a while. So, when a good friend of mine moved there to study I knew I had to use this opportunity to visit her and this beautiful country. Then Corona happened and I expected my plans to be ruined. Thankfully, my home country and Iceland handled it quite well so the borders were back open and travel between the countries was possible again (for a while at least). So, at the end of July last year, Corona measures implemented, my one week visit to Iceland began.

When we landed, the first odd thing I saw was that nobody was wearing a mask outside of the airport. With just over 360,000 inhabitants, the small island handled the pandemic so well that at the time things were pretty much back to normal. No mandatory mask, everything was open. Since then, rules and regulations have changed frequently, from full lockdowns in my home country to travel bans to an ease of restrictions. But compared to summer 2020, it is still more difficult to travel to Iceland than it was back then.

Reykjavik

My visit to Iceland began in the capital Reykjavik. Iceland’s biggest city is really nice and the people are super open and welcoming. We got extremely lucky with the weather, so we were able to enjoy a nice drink outside in the sun in the city center. The only COVID measure we experienced in the capital were the earlier closing times of bars and the fact that a lot less tourists were there (Lucky us, no waiting times). Even when visiting the city’s most famous landmark—the Hallgrimskirkja church or a museum in town, there were not many tourists around.Reykjavik OceanRainbow_Street_Reykjavik

Reykjavik

Road trip – Golden Circle

The next day we headed out for our two day road trip to the highlands. After a short stop at the Kerid Crater we reached the beautiful Gullfoss Waterfall, which is part of the Golden Circle Route. We then hiked up a mountain on the Landmannalaugar hiking trail on top of which I ran barefoot through the snow. (So much fun, recommend 10/10). Afterwards we drove to the Hrunalaug natural hot spring in the middle of nowhere. You can swim in 39°C while admiring the stunning Icelandic nature. Usually, you have to wait to get in because there are so many people. Thanks to Corona, we were almost by ourselves and were able to stay as long as we wanted.

Kerid Crater IcelandKerid Crater

Iceland_MountainLandmannalaugar hiking trail IcelandLandmannalaugar hiking trail

Hrunalaug IcelandHrunalaug

Gullfoss_WaterfallGullfoss Waterfall

After spending the night in a little lodge in the middle of nowhere, enjoying a nice wine in a jacuzzi, looking over the stunning Icelandic nature, we headed off to explore the moon-like highland landscape a bit more. We rarely met any people much to our delight.

Iceland_nature_RoadtripLava Landscape 

Roadtrip – Ring Road

Once we were done exploring the sights along the Golden Circle we headed down south towards the Ring Road.

There we stopped at one of the best Geysirs in Iceland as well as the Skógafoss waterfall, where we got to see a double rainbow with the beautiful waterfall and nature as a backdrop.

Iceland_Skógafoss_waterfallSkógafoss waterfall

During our trip we also stopped at the famous Sólheimasandur plane wreck, which has a beautiful yet haunting feel to it as well as the black beaches near the tiny town of Vik, where you find endless, empty black beaches, green hills and tiny villages nestled peacefully in between. Further down the Ring Road we reached Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, a now world-renown canyon. It got shut down for a while after Justin Bieber filmed a music video there in 2015 which led to a surge in visitors and hence, more damage to the canyon. When we got there, it was nearly empty. Again, because not many tourists came to Iceland at the time.

Iceland_Sólheimasandur_RoadtripSólheimasandur plane wreck

Iceland_Fjaðrárgljúfur_canyonFjaðrárgljúfur canyon

Iceland_VikBeach near Vik

Back to the start

Before we spend our last night in Reykjavik, we drove further up north to the popular Kirkjufellsfoss on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Many people say, this is one of the most beautiful peaks and waterfalls in the country and I would not disagree. This is also the place where one of the most famous photos of Iceland’s nature was taken.

Iceland_Kirkjufellsfoss_waterfallKirkjufellsfoss

I am a bit sad that my visit to Iceland was quite short. Iceland truly is a magnificent place to visit. It feels like right out of a mystic fairytale. We definitely got lucky to be able to travel there during a time without many tourists and without many COVID-restrictions. Once entry to this tiny island becomes easier again, I highly recommend going. I really want to go back during winter time even though I am not a big fan of the constant cold and darkness. But I would love to get a chance to see the northern lights while gazing at the night sky in the middle of the stunning Icelandic nature.

Iceland_nature_Roadtrip

 

 

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Photo: Rebecca Willems, Unsplash

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Rebecca Willems
A self-described queer vegan feminist, Rebecca is also trying to live a more zero-waste and minimalist life. During her undergraduate and graduate studies she put a lot of focus on sustainability, LGBTQ+ rights and gender issues across the globe. Having lived on 5 continents in many different cultures and being an avid traveler, she loves to learn about new cultures, learn languages, and try all the amazing food across the world.

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