Iceland: part 1 – ‘The North’

Iceland -the North-mountains-highway1-golden hour

A road trip that will introduce you to more attractions than a theme park. You are going to find yourself marvelling at copious amounts of waterfalls, black sand beaches, snaking rivers, fjords a plenty, and huge expanses of mountains invading the sky. And for the savvy a chance to glimpse the northern lights. After only 8 days roaming around Iceland, it really only took 1 day, it wasn’t a question that it should be on everyones hit list of places to see.

I know, every time you travel the list somehow expands. Leaving for a trip thinking you are doing yourself a favour and you come home with so many ideas of more trips, more locations, more ways  of being able to do these trips. None the less, we travel as a way to move with purpose. The purpose behind Iceland this time was adventure. A chance to see this diverse and bewildering landscape.

Your first impression is the ride from the airport to Reykjavik city. Out on the south west peninsular, the closest proximity landscape is flat, in the distance you can see the white capped mountains inviting you to come closer and discover the vast and varied terrain. Reykjavik is a sleepy little town. The city centre provides an interesting and colourful view as you walk the streets past houses and cafes. The Church in the middle of Reykjavik gives you a nice perspective of the city from above, a birds eye if you will. From here you can look over the centre of Reykjavik and north across the harbour to the mountains dusted in snow. A reminder that you need to escape the city to see the real Iceland because outside the city bounds is another world awaiting you, and damn was I excited.

Reykjavik can by all means be used as a base, however you have the option to see a larger amount of this floating volatile country. Driving yourself around Iceland also provides you with numerous options of direction and what you can see. I Heart Reykjavik has more information of how best to do both. My road trip encompassed so many experiences, some of them I would put on a hit list for anyone going to Iceland. And here they are:

Kirkjufellsfoss: This little waterfall is located just outside the township of Grundarfjörður, literally just outside town. Right next to the ocean its backdrop a huge spine mountain that stands tall next to a bay of water.

Kirkjufellsfoss - Waterfall - Iceland

Kirkjufellsfoss is commonly photographed under the northern lights and is a very recognisable place. The morning light is golden and the town in the distance lights up of a morning. the waterfall a product of rivers rushing to the oacean, not online most. From here if you continue to the far western tip of the peninsular you will come to a large nature reserve, Þjóðgarðurinn Snæfellsjökull. Which boasts extreme natural beauty and some great hiking which follows the cliffs of the rugged coastline. The hiking a good way to stretch the legs if you have had to drive from Reykjavik. Once leaving the area, we were headed north, highway 54 will take you. Potentially in need of a name change to dirt track drive, but the view didn’t disappoint. The road weaves in and out with the coast line and navigates jagged sculptures of lava fields, the ocean over one shoulder and a few random churches dotted along the way. Unfortunately there isn’t too many places to pull over on this stretch of road so improvisation is the key.

Northwest fjords: North of Reykjavik are large peninsular areas that are home to some quaint little sea side towns and coastline with unforgettable backdrops. Time provided, making it to the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve should be considered. This nature reserve is at least a day expedition and would be easier to do during summer months – weather wise. The area is car free so you have to get a ferry from Ísafjörður, more information can be found through west tours  on how to arrange ferry rides to the isolated area. The rest of this area has highways that make it driveable. If you look up the area on a map  you can see that the roads mostly follow the contours of the land and small towns with boar harbours are scattered amongst the mountains and waterways.

Hvitserkur: This rock is a 15-metre high stack. According to a folk legend, the rock is, in fact, a petrified troll who tried to steal the bell from a nearby convent. I was told it looks like an elephant. I like the locals story better. It seals - Black Sands - Iceland - Landscapeis on a small peninsular of land and a long drive from the main highway. However, aside form the rock it is
the area that made the drive worth it. The black sand beach hiding under the fog, you’re looking across a canal to more sand scattered with seals. These little guys were super inquisitive, an unexpected encounter.

Lake Myvan: I was found running around in the bottom of a gorge near a highway on the north one afternoon, after a nerve racking scramble over very loose footings this man approached me. He was a guide for the area and mentioned to me that if I like exploration I should visit Lake Mývatn. In his words ‘spend no less than a day in the area’. So a few hours drive and there we were… My friend, the guide, knew what he was talking about. The lake and its surrounding area was a hot spot for many and varied activities and landscapes. A frozen layer coated the lake with strange textures throughout with pseudo craters spread about the edges of the lake. Looking into the distance – mountains.

iceland P2-6Lake Myvatn-mountains-Iceland-snow

It is at this point that many a human take the turn back for Reykjavik. But if you are to press on and drive the whole ring that is Highway one, you will find yourself introduced to the North East.

North East Iceland was unearthly. I drove, in the absence of any other cars, along the black snake highway in almost disbelief. The white flat land spread off from the sides of the road, met with volcanic mountains in the distance. There was something so captivating in the nothingness that was the NE. Where solitude and untouched open spaces rule. Black soil capped in white snow and ice beneath a skyline of emotion and uncertainty. Pulling over the car to just get out and walk off into the snow, an ice cold breath of air filled me with excitement. I was so intoxicated by eiceland P2-7verything about this unique location. It was, in my opinion and of cause for its own reasons, the most incredible part of the whole drive. Unfortunately, when I drove through a few roads were closed thus I rarely left highway one in the section of Iceland. But nothing could take away the tract and its glory. And this view – down into the valley right on dusk… is this what love feels like?

That night was spent freezing our toes and beaks off in the car parked by the water just north of horn, a strategic move that would have us wake to quite the adventure. But that is for the next instalment… “the South”

Watch out for it here…

 

**More photos can be found here or through Instagram.

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