Iceland: The Last Minute Ring Road Adventure

Arriving in Iceland, we were already aware that our Laugavegur Hut to Hut Trek was not possible. The trail follows the geothermal valley of Landmannalaugar and along the base of Eyjafjallajokull, which had been erupting for the past three months. This is a short tail about our last minute trip around Iceland via the Ring Road.

When we settled into our in Reykjavik hostel, we didn’t have a plan.

Our host recommended driving the Ring Road. That sounded fine to us. We inquired about a car rental and the conversation went like this.

What kind of car do you want?

It doesn’t matter.

How long will you be gone?

How long does it take?

Eventually, the hostel host said that he may know where we could get a car. He stepped out for a minute and came back with car keys. We rented his car and hit the road.

Pingveller National Park

Pingveller National Park was our first stop. It was amazing and beautiful and green and quiet. We spent all day hiking and looking at lichen. We made dinner at whatever time we were hungry and got back on the road.

There weren’t any hotels or restaurants. We weren’t watching the clock and we weren’t tired. It was overcast but not dusk. We found a gas station and pulled in for gas. The gas station had a sign up that said: “Closed. Will return at 8 am”.

The gas station was closed for the night. What?

We had failed to account for our latitude and the date in relation to the summer solstice. Now we were in Iceland and low on gas. Even if we had a full tank of gas, we really didn’t know where we were going anyway.

The gas station opened in the morning and that was our first night on the Ring Road in Iceland.

Iceland’s Ring Road

The next day we headed out and found a cafe in house on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The parking lot was fifty yards or so from the cafe and the walk was picturesque. From there we went on to check out the sights.

What sort of scenery did we see on the Ring Road in Iceland?

Craters. Viti was the first was saw and it was beautiful.

Viti

Icelandic horses. They don’t look like other horses.

Geysir. This is the original geyser and hiked way up on a hill to look at it from a far. This was also the biggest crowd we saw in Iceland.

One way Tunnel. We survived a long, dark, one way tunnel between Dalvik and Olafsfjordur. Depending on which direction you were driving determined if you had the right of way or if you were expected to yield by pulling into a designated M space and wait for traffic to clear. It was nerve racking and bizarre but there wasn’t much traffic.

Camping. Shortly after that we found a campground on a grassy hill. Every tent had every guyline attached. There wasn’t any wind but we certainly took note that they seem to expecting wind. It was warm and the grass was perfect. We slept on the ground next to our car. I still expected a moment of dusk but it didn’t happen. There was basically the same amount of light, day or night.

Mývatn (Midge Lake)

Vatnajokull National Park. We stuck to the Ring Road and headed south. It was substantially colder but worth wearing an extra jacket.

I have seen other glaciers but this was different. It was remarkable and stunning. The ice was shiny and clean; it felt ancient and fragile. Wow!

We woke up in the morning surrounded by fellow campers. We are the second camper from the left in the picture below. Everyone else seemed to be a bit more equipped than us. What I would have given for our Sprinter and Lil Buddy heater in Iceland that day!

Svartifoss, Skaftafell National Park

Our last minute tour of the Ring Road was a success. I am sure it has changed since 2010 but here are a few things I remember.

  • Hotels may be hard to come by and will likely not be exactly what you expect.
  • Be attentive to the time of day. We didn’t see any 24 hour services.
  • Cheese can be eaten for lunch and dinner.
  • Bring a rain jacket, a winter jacket, a hat, gloves, short sleeve shirt, and sun screen.
  • Expect to see whale and puffin meat for sale. We didn’t try it.
  • People in Iceland are tough. We saw people tubing behind a boat near Reykavik. I was wearing a winter hat.
  • The Blue Lagoon will not be exactly what you expect.
Blue Lagoon. Notice the lifeguard in a biohazard looking suit. The weather was crazy that day!

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