Iceland Travel Guide
Story and Photos by gpsEtravelguides Regional Expert Loup H Garou
Welcome to Iceland - Anything can happen!
Welcome to a travel around Iceland, one of the most diverse and beautiful countries I have ever been upon. I chose this image of a Crystalized Woman (who you can see and touch in Reykjavik) to start the journey as it truly represents the beauty, uniqueness, diversity, and the fact that you never know what you will see in Iceland! They have a saying in Iceland and I find it to be true - "You are in Iceland..where ANYTHING can happen!"
The people (who are truly outnumbered by the sheep) are just as diverse and amazing as the isle itself. From the “big" city of Reykjavik to the non existent middle of nowhere. Most of my camping was done off the road and free of charge. I think the only place I paid to pitch was in Vik and even that was by choice. You learn to carry certain types of foods (I highly recommend flat breads for making sandwiches) and all of the petrol stations serve some type of foods. Eating a bacon wrapped fried onion covered hot-dog is unavoidable.
Use the petrol stations wisely as they can be pricey for snacks and food. If you see a Bónus - STOP THERE - and I also suggest starting there for initial stock up for the road.
I would also suggest renting a 4WD vehicle but I will add that it is QUITE PRICEY to do so. My travel partner and I opted for a much more affordable Hyundai to explore the Isle and it really did the trick, but there were times I craved a 4WD drive!
For turn-by-turn voice guided GPS map directions, download the Iceland Garmin GPS map from gpsEtravelguides.com. The Iceland Garmin GPS map can also be used to record then play back GPS tracks of your travels in Iceland. These GPS tracks can be uploaded from your Garmin device then overlaid in Basecamp or Google maps. You will be able map your travels in Iceland.
Churches of Iceland
There are many a unique designs of churches in Iceland as you will see through the images. They truly take pride in their creativity. Have you ever seen a blonde mother Mary with a blonde baby Jesus you will in Iceland.
Youth of Iceland - Art - Skating - Music - Graffiti
The following images show an area where the youth of Reykjavik are allowed to hang out and be themselves - from skating, art, playing music outside, to a party now and then, this is their place and the police give them very little issue. Also a hot spot for tourists to take photos but rather then do just that, I actually sat with them and truly got to know them which they greatly appreciated. A fascinating bunch indeed.
Iceland - Geysir and Gullfoss
Welcome to the Geysir/Gullfoss area, where thermal activity and waterfalls seem to go hand in hand and the Geysir goes off every 15 minutes or so.
Iceland - Seljalandsfoss and Skógafos
As we head south from Reykjavik we truly get into some beauty - welcome to Seljalandsfoss and Skógafos. Waterfalls are everywhere in Iceland. I will add that both locations offer camping as well.
Meet our Little Car
Amazing mileage, but low clearance. I pushed it to its very limits. It served well, but again at times we so wished we had a 4WD!
Camping Vik Iceland
Camping in Vik - a fine location to stock up and take in the beauty of the shore. A very small, but cool town! Heading east on the south of the isle.
Iceland - Changing Roadside Terrain
Another fine example of the changing roadside terrain, from baron and desolate beauty. Floating icebergs to black sand, waterfalls, waterfalls, waterfalls, the occasional glacier, high mountain huts to unique, but small towns, Iceland has it all.
Iceland - Kirkjuæjarklaustur
Now heading north on the east side of the Isle we arrive in Kirkjuæjarklaustur. We had to drive a couple rough roads. I probably should not have drove here, but it well worth the choice to do so! One of my favorite places that I have ever pitched a tent! Cliffs, waterfalls, sheep, and hiking abound! This was another spot we wished we had a 4WD. The interior of Iceland requires it.
Iceland Travel Guide - Sheep not Capitalism the Culprit
As we head north on the east side of the isle, we see our very first small patch of trees, which is quite significant and something to be admired of in Iceland. The reason Iceland has so few trees, is due to much uncontrolled sheep grazing and logging in the past. Iceland is now trying to re-forest the country as much as possible through tree farms, which you will later see. This was a natural patch of trees, one of few, in other words, bring a tent rather than a hammock.
Iceland Travel Guide - Skeidararjokul
Skeidararjokul, a huge glacier not far off Rt 1. I was unable to hike it because of rains which made it quite dangerous at the time that I was there. Rains and flat light followed us through this travel, but it stopped us from very little.
Iceland Travel Guide - Breioamerkurjokull
Here, just a little more north we have Breioamerkurjokull, another glacial system (just below Jokulsarlon) which is by far one of the most popular spots on the isle - Get Here !!!
Iceland Travel Guide - Jokulsarlon
Jokulsarlon, where you can see glaciers calve drift around and eventually arrive at sea. Truly an astounding place. Birds as abundant as the sea itself!
Iceland Travel Guide - Switchbacks
Well the road goes from paved to dirt as you travel along. I elected to take a back road to our next destination and said road went from sea level to about 2,700 meters up very quickly with some funky switchbacks and again this little Hyundai was pushed! Note the emergency cabin on top - perfect location!
Iceland Travel Guide - Myvatn
Myvatn is a very interesting area from thermal terrains, volcanic craters, thermal power plant, bird watching, and hiking to one of the largest and picturesque lakes in all of Iceland. No free camping here unless you are creative.
Iceland Travel Guide - Krafta
This is Krafta Lava Field - intense to say the least!!! Rather then going off on how cool this place really is I will tell you now - GET THERE FAST - and experience it for yourself as with the increase in tourism in Iceland, sites like this will become quite roped off and limited to where you can roam, but for now, there are little to no barriers to stop you from endless wanders around the diverse and stunning ACTIVE Lava Field. I will let the photos speak for themselves.
Iceland Travel Guide - Storaviti
Iceland Travel Guide - Even the Roads are Amazing
By now you have noticed how even the road itself (most of it is RT1) is amazingly diverse from cruising down dirt Fjord-side to intense climbs. Even the Road itself is incredible.
Iceland Travel Guide - Godafoss
Godafoss - you have now seen some pattern to the names of places. Foss means falls and as I have said there are a plenty of waterfalls. If you do not see more than one waterfall a day in your travels, then you were not looking. This is another of the most popular falls in Iceland, we are now heading east in the northern portion of the isle. Did not get to see this, but white water kayakers do drop this falls. Videos are available online to see it.
Iceland Travel Guide - Akureyri
After much driving and pitching around fjords to get here, we arrive in Akureyri by sunset. This was my favorite town on the whole isle. A fjord/sea-side town with a mountain resort for a backyard. If I were to live in Iceland, this is where I would do so. If you are traveling to Iceland and do not rent a car, then take an affordable plane ride here! Not as "Big" as Reyk…but defintely a cool town!
Iceland Garmin GPS Map
Again the road offers spectacular views. We do HIGHLY recommend you do rent 4WD and Iceland Garmin GPS map to travel the isle on your own at your pace rather than doing the tourist bus travel option.
Iceland Travel Guide - Horses
Icelandic horses are a breed of their own and one of the oldest breeds upon this world. Short, stocky, strong, and long lived. Seriously they are beautiful and seem to have a much calmer demeanor than most horses I have encountered. The history of these horses is quite interesting. I do suggest you look up some info on them.
Iceland Travel Guide - Fjallfoss
We now arrive at Fjallfoss, which to me, was the most stunning waterfall of the whole trip! Pictures truly do not do justice to this! I hiked up about half way (again dealing with rains and very wet rocks) to get as close as I could, sat there for a while taking photos and enjoying the view. As soon as I stood up, I realized I had no balance. The sound of the waterfall had deafened my ears. Walking back down was a clumsy amusing challenge in that condition.
Iceland Travel Guide - Latrabjarg
Latrabjarg - GET HERE - rated by national geographic as one of the best places in the world to photograph birds, and I shall NOT disagree. Hiking cliffside, I will warn you - “beware the winds of Iceland”. They could seriously blow you right off the cliffs. The winds of Iceland did indeed fold my tent in half at times! Not kidding! Beyond that thrilling thought, this is another spectacular place - camping is free, a cafe is nearby, and the surroundings well worth every second! I will add this location is now the furthest western spot in all of Europe since Iceland became a part of the EU.
Iceland Travel Guide - Snælfellsnes
And we drive on to yet another extension of the Isle, this one again below Lartrabjarg on the Western side of the isle - Snælfellsnes. Not very populated, mostly farms and very small towns, but still unique and beautiful. It is here where the inspiration for Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth"… was truly inspired as you will soon see.
Iceland Travel Guide - Snæfellsjokull
Snæfellsjokull is truly wondrous and a major hiking spot. It is said the energies here emanating from the earth inspire peace. I shall not argue with that notion. This is the location that inspired Jules Verne to write "Journey to the Center of the Earth”.
Iceland - Viking Post Remains
The remains of a seaside viking post - very cool.
Iceland - Winds of Iceland
Again, we see another example of the “winds of Iceland" and I truly say once more do beware. In this image you can see the waterfall blowing sideways. It was very cool to see this. I will add, regarding the winds, on the road info signs of Iceland that the wind speed is included for a reason!
Iceland Travel Guide - Barnafoss
Barnafoss - another one of my favorite places on this Iceland trip. We spent HOURS here taking in the scenery, but arrived here late in the day so we pitched nearby for the eve and returned again the next morning in better light. Again a mix of lava and waterfalls are very typical here. This is a “do not miss spot" ! Go here!
Iceland - Life in Landscape
Life growing from Lava Rock.
Iceland Travel Guide - Road 550
Road 550 heading south on the west side of the isle. I was technically not permitted to take the rental car down this road, but after all the other roads I drove on that I was not supposed to, this one seemed logical as well. A great shortcut south to our next destination - Pingvellir. I highly advise driving this road.
Iceland Travel Guide - Pingvellir
We arrived in Pingvellir late in the day. We stopped at the visitor center for some Kaffi and a break from the rains that have been following us the whole travel. We elect to pitch tents on 550 and do so. I go for a late eve wander for some photos, head back, and off to sleep we go. About an hour later a truck pulls up, it is their version of forest service. They inform us we are not allowed to camp there as we are on park grounds at 11:30pm. We were not thrilled with this information as we had presumed we were not in the park boundaries and not to mention we were already quite comfy. So, not wanting to pay their camping fees and preferring more solitude, we headed to the nearest town to the east (Laugavartn) to scout out a place to pitch. This was a very good choice and worked out perfectly. Also a great thermal pool area in Laugavartn where we even got to take a shower.
Iceland Travel Guide - Pingvellir
The, next morning we head right to Pingvellir. A beautiful and quite historic location in Iceland. From Pagan practices, the creation of parliament, to the acceptance of christianity - it all happened here! This is also the largest lake in all of Iceland. Again you see lava and water living as one.
Iceland Travel Guide - Hole in the Earth
A hole in the earth and there are many of these across the Isle. Such a young isle and still changing by the day. It is advisable to be quite careful when hiking here, and when I say here, I do mean the whole isle. Holes such as these are quite common. Some holes are hidden by light overgrowth, so again, be careful.
Iceland - Coolest Thing?
People ask me this general question all the time - “What was the coolest thing about Iceland”? My answer is anything but what they would expect.
It is not a place, nor a person, nor a food, nor a view, to me… the MOST unique thing about Iceland is this - when you are walking around there in most places you go no matter the terrain, you can FEEL other people's foot steps.
The best example I can give of this, is imagine rolling down a grassy hill with your friends, or stomping on your lawn. When you did so, could you feel the vibrations they created as they rolled or stomped? Well, in Iceland, you WILL. Such a young isle and that itself is demonstrated in the active volcanics and thermals across the isle, as well as the glacial system and the varying thickness of its crust, it is quite bizarre.
Iceland Travel Guide - Opinnskogur
Here we have our next pitch site - Opinnskogur. This is a tree farm (one of not enough) of sorts and a beautiful place to hike around. Also there is some fishing here as well. Do note we did NOT make any fires this whole trip while on the road. Camped wild nearly all of the time and fires are discouraged. Bring your own back-country cooking gear is my advice.
Iceland Travel Guide - Akranes
Akranes is another very small town along the way and again a unique church. Here we finally see the viking sized blonde Mother Mary.
Iceland Travel Guide - Glymur
Glymur - the second most high waterfall (some still say it is the highest, but that fact is disputed) in Iceland. It was believed to be the highest waterfall, but it appears Reykjavikorsarfoss is now holding that claim. Glymur is definitely worth the hike to get to. A river crossing and some ropes are involved, but well worth your time to endure! Again, another amazing place - NOT to be missed!
Iceland Travel Guide - Esjan
Just outside Reykjavik now and we arrive at Esjan - a very close hiking area to Reykjavik and you can also bus there! Most of the city folk in Reykjavik use this as their quick getaway.
Iceland Travel Guide - Reykjavik
A return to Reykjavik. Pitched and volunteered at a local campground/hostel within Reykjavik. Will say this is definitely one of my favorite Cities to have near or be in. Amazing food - from a burger at a dive bar, to an exquisite meal, the food is unique, Flavorful, dynamic, and exciting! Rather then tell you some hot spots, I will let you discover them on your own while there, as that is truly part of the experience.
Iceland Travel Guide - Videy
Taking the boat ride to the Isle of Videy, you get a sweet view of Reykjavik. Videy is another very historical location. The Peace Tower created by Yoko Ono lies here, as well as some farming and a very old church! I biked around the whole isle in peace.
Iceland Travel Guide- Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach
Meet the only official beach on Iceland. It is called Nauthólsvík Geothermal Beach. On a hot day, this place is packed - boating, floating, kayaks, thermal pools, and sand imported from Morocco!
Iceland Travel Guide - Reykjavik Food
This was one of the best meals I have ever had - mink whale. It was like the best prime rib you have ever tasted without all of the fat. Along with mink, I also tried puffin, which again, was spectacular! The food in Reykjavik is quite varied and filled with pride and taste! The night scene is also intense and fun!
Iceland Travel Guide - Art
Here again, you see the uniqueness of the Icelandic people within their art and designs on their own properties, which is encouraged.
Iceland Travel Guide - Crystal Woman
And having gone full circle, we return to the Crystal Woman, another artful representation of the isle in all of her unique beauty. I hope you've enjoyed this pictured journey, there are "Things" I left out of this purposely. Surprises still await you all !!! Get there YOURSELF!
About Loup H. Garou - Traveler, Photographer, Volunteer, and Wolf Educator
The Iceland photos above were taken by Loup H. Garou while on his travels through Iceland. In the winter, Loup resides in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado where he fully enjoys the snow and teaching others to snowboard. Come summers, it is time for change and giving back. A "typical" summer for Loup is volunteering and promoting education and co-existence of wolves or he may be doing organic farming. As you can see from the Iceland photos above, his passion is also photography. The art of photography is a HUGE part of all the above. Loup likes to keep his photos in their natural state - no photoshopping. He works within the bounds of mother nature and the beauty she so naturally supplies - with no enhancements. Please enjoy and share. If you have any questions or comments about Loup's photos or travels in Iceland then please leave a comment below.
The Iceland Garmin GPS map images were added by gpsEtravelguides.com.
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