The first full day in Iceland started with confusion. Something I had neglected to consider before booking Iceland was the minimal amount of daylight – the sun made an appearance about 11am and disappeared again about 4pm. The early evenings I could deal with as it wasn’t that different to winter sunset in the UK, but sunrise at 11am? I woke up and felt like it was 5am, which meant it took much longer than intended to get ready and head out.
But, Iceland perk? Lucky Charms for breakfast, because they were cheaper than the other cereals!
Finally on the road, we had the GPS guiding us toward the southern coast and the tiny village of Vik. As someone who isn’t the biggest fan of spending time in the car, the journey wasn’t a part of the day I was looking forward to. As it turns out, I was reminded that it’s not just about the destination, but also enjoying the journey. And driving in Iceland is nothing like driving in the UK.
Once out on the open road, I felt so relaxed. We’d checked the weather forecast and road forecast to check that the roads we were going to use were ok. Aside from a tiny section of our journey, everything was showing as good to travel on. A small section was highlighted as having spots of ice, and in fact was mid snow storm as we drove through, but was still completely passable – thankfully my boyfriend is a confident driver and has a fair amount of experience driving in snow. We saw multiple snow plows going back and forth so felt quite reassured that it would be ok for us to return on later that day.Although in the car for about an hour before we made our first stop at Seljalandsfoss en route to Vik, the landscape was continuously changing and the journey flew by. We passed through a few little towns and couldn’t believe how different Iceland is to anything we’d seen before. As we pulled up to the waterfall, we were greeted with our first taste of the Iceland I’d seen so much of in the media. I’ve never seen such a huge, impressive waterfall in real life before, and even the misty rain couldn’t dampen my spirits. Leaving my DSLR in the car, we opted for the waterproof GoPro and wandered over.
As it turns out, my coat isn’t totally waterproof, and the scenery is just too stunning to be photographed on a GoPro. As I reluctantly trudged back to the car, my dear boyfriend raced ahead and grabbed me a waterproof poncho and my camera. What a gem! I win no prizes for fashion, but I was dry(ish) and I got some amazing photos, so…happy Becky!
Making the most of being here, we walked along the pathway, past Seljalandsfoss and round to another more hidden waterfall that most people don’t visit, Gljúfrabúi. I can imagine in the summer it is even more amazing, but we were still blessed enough that it wasn’t chucking it down with rain. Quick look around before going back to explore the main waterfall, by which time I was soaked despite wearing a bright yellow poncho, so took a quick walk behind the waterfall and then jumped back in the car.
25 minutes further down the road, we passed Skógafoss with the thought that we’d stop there on our way back to break up the return journey. As we neared Vik, the rain really started to fall and the wind picked up. I really wish we’d researched a south coast visit more before we’d arrived, because all we ended up doing was taking a walk along the beach and visiting the gift shop. In total, we spent about half an hour in Vik. The weather was miserable and the wind was bitingly cold. We’ll back when we visit during a summer to see what’s really on, but for now, we were back in the car and stopped off to see the church on our way out of town. Again, because the weather was miserable, we admired the views from the car before calling it quits and heading back to our apartment.
By now, the clouds were heavy and darkness was setting in. Before coming to Iceland, all the advice I’d read said don’t hire a car in the winter and don’t drive in the dark. We were now faced with both of these, and I was hoping beyond anything that the roads were all ok as we weren’t able to now check.
As the darkness quickly enveloped us, we had to skip stopping at Skógafoss because we wouldn’t have been able to see anything, and drove straight through to the small town of Hella. Stopping only to quickly answer nature’s call and stretch our legs, we were soon back on the road to Reykjavik.
Although the drive back took two and a half hours, it passed really quickly and I found it fascinating to see the Icelandic wilderness in the dark. It is so sparsely populated that we saw a house, then 10 minutes later would see another and then see nothing for another 20 minutes. I’m sure they don’t have much of a problem with neighbours out there! I’m not sure my boyfriend would agree about enjoying the journey back, as there are no street lights until you reach a town and we weren’t completely familiar with some of the street signs. We also had to stop on the way back to find a shopping centre, as genius boy had forgotten to pack his trunks for our trip to the Blue Lagoon!
Considering that I had started the day dreading spending so much time in the car just sitting, I really enjoyed the day. I hate the rain, got absolutely drenched and nearly lost half my body to frostbite, but it was still such a good day getting to see Iceland. Driving on the open road felt so free and relaxing, and we’ve already started planning a road trip around the ring road in the summer! I was really starting to like Iceland, and with a trip to the famous Blue Lagoon on the cards for the next day, things are looking good for Operation Love Iceland!