a slow road trip in // iceland
We’ve waxed lyrical about road trips before; explaining how much more relaxing it is to take your time from getting from A to B. When slowing down your travel and making the journey itself into your holiday, you allow yourself more time to enjoy and explore your surroundings at your own pace. This new series will suggest loose itineraries for slow road trips, beginning with what is currently considered as one of the best journeys in the world: driving around Iceland’s Ring Road.
iceland’s ring road
Taking in a spectacular array of diverse scenery, the Ring Road circumnavigates almost the entirety of Iceland’s coastline. Leaving from Reykjavik, choose to head either east or west to navigate Route 1; each direction providing a stunning trip with endless distractions to stop and admire the dramatic landscapes that unfolds in front of you. The Land of Fire and Ice delivers on both fronts, whatever season you decide to visit. Even in the mild summer months, you’ll discover ample opportunities to walk on glaciers, and the bubbling mud pools and hot pot springs will warm up even sub-zero winter days. Hire a 4-by-4 to allow the opportunity to deviate off the route and explore the treasures that you’ll discover on the minor roads, venturing into the Highlands or chasing waterfalls.
photo: travel driver race
the golden circle
Upon leaving Reykjavik (check out our Sunday Guide to plan your time in the capital), head straight for the most well-trodden route in the country, the Golden Circle. Within a casual four-hour drive you will have chance to view three of the most popular natural attractions in the vicinity of the capital. Thingvellir National Park (the valley where two tectonic plates collide), Gullfoss waterfall, and Geysir (after which all other geysers are named) are all breath-taking sights, but here you will be inundated with coach tours of tourists. Bask in the pleasure of human company, you won’t see many other people for the remainder of your trip.
photo: guide to iceland
The ideal thing about Iceland is that you can drive around at your leisure, constantly spotting landscapes, animals and geothermal wonders to stop and admire. Keep to a loose itinerary, but there’s no need to rush with so much to discover. The minimum timeframe for completing the ring road whilst taking your time to explore is ten days, but the longer you give yourself, the slower you can pace your trip.
Leaving the Golden Circle, make the small coastal town of Vik your next fixed destination. On route, seek out the US Navy crashed plane on the black sand beach off the Solheimajokull/Route 221 turnoff, and admire the basalt columns and visiting puffins at Reynisfjara beach. Vik itself is the perfect base for discovering the local scenery, especially if you wish to venture up into the Highlands to trek volcanos, walk upon glaciers or experience the colourful landscapes of Landmannalaugar with a local guide.
photo: dante vincent
Make your way to Jokulsarlon, admiring the largest ice cap outside of the Poles as you drive. Once you reach the ice lagoon, you’ll want to spend several hours here, watching the icebergs break away from the glacier, floating across the blue waters and creating spectacular natural sculptures. Try to arrive here during the last few hours of light, to witness the extraordinary sunset illuminating the ice.
After leaving the South-East, the Ring Road snakes its way up through the Eastern Fjords, offering plenty of opportunities for hiking, kayaking and exploring the tiny fishing villages that nestle at the water’s edge. Make time to stop in the bohemian town of Seyoisfjorour, home to paint-box-hued houses, tumbling waterfalls and a bustling arts, crafts and folk music scene.
photo: islande voyage
Heading north, expect to stumble upon a diverse geological landscape of bubbling mud cauldrons, roaring waterfalls, volcanic craters and colourful moon-like landscapes. The area around Myvatn Lake (especially the ethereal beauty of Hverir) demands to be explored at a slow and leisurely pace, offering ample opportunity of bewitching sights for both seasoned hikers and more relaxed tourists.
Take a detour further north to Husavik, where you can spend a couple of hours out at sea seeking out the ocean’s giants. The water in the bay here is rich in nutrients, attracting a myriad of plankton, which is turn attract eleven species of whale, including the elusive blue whale. The village also offers a selection of unusual museums to visit, including the Whale Museum, Exploration Museum and the Culture House.
photo: via reddit
Don’t be tempted to rush your way back down the west coast. Continue your slow pace and you’ll discover some of the most isolated and remote scenery in the entire country. If you have time, spend a while discovering the dramatic landscapes of the Westfjords, an area only frequented by around 14% of Iceland’s visitors.
However much time you have, ensure that you don’t miss Snaefellsnes Peninsula, where you can climb volcanos, stride across ancient lava flows, ride Icelandic ponies and step inside dramatic ice caves. Only a couple of hours drive from Reykjavik, this is the perfect place to soak up Iceland’s wild atmosphere before returning to the city.
photo: via xcitefun
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