Last Updated on July 29, 2022
My Iceland road trip feels almost like a distant dream now. But the photos (and video!) show that it really happened – for a week, I road-tripped through one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever visited. If you are not sure if you want to drive the Ring Road when you travel to Iceland – have a look at my photos. I say: Driving the entire Ring Road makes for the perfect introduction to this spectacular country.
With its surreal landscapes that often made me feel like I was on a different planet, Iceland blew my mind.Otherworldly, that’s how most people describe Iceland, and to be honest, I don’t think there is a word that fits better than this: otherworldly. The only other place I’ve been to that I described as such were the otherworldly landscapes of Chile’s Atacama Desert, where I also came across volcanoes, a bizarre moonscape, rugged mountains amidst wide open barren lands, geysers and geothermal fields.Iceland is different though. First of all, it is called Iceland for a reason, so there was nothing of that desert heat that I experienced in Chile. And of course there is ice in the Land Of Ice – lots of it. The glaciers, glacier lagoons and snow-capped peaks that we often marveled at were a reminder that the stunning black sand beaches were deserted for a reason: it is too cold to swim in these Arctic waters.But thanks to its geothermal activity, the country is dotted with hot springs, and the best thing is that many of them are free to use for anyone. You also have hot springs with facilities and restaurants onsite, like the famous Blue Lagoon and the Myvatn Nature Baths (pictured below) in the north of the country.For seven days, Rease and I drove through Mars-like landscapes, through volcanic plains, often covered in bright green moss, over snow-capped mountains, alongside fjords – passing too many waterfalls to count! We drove on narrow, winding mountain roads, sometimes unpaved, so that we could feel the volcanic rocks crunching under the tires of our car.It wasn’t only the scenery that changed constantly, the weather changed equally as much. We would wake up to a rain storm and two hours later find ourselves taking our jackets off because the sun was shining so bright.Magical is another word that is often used to describe Iceland, and as we were driving along the winding roads hugging the eastern fjords, passing black sand volcanic beaches to our right and volcanoes to our left, it did feel like a magical fairy-tale land.It wasn’t all too surprising to learn about the Huldufólk, the hidden folk (or simply elves), who play a big role in Icelandic folklore and are believed to live spread out all over the country. Sometimes you will spot little elf houses, basically miniature versions of Iceland’s colorful houses, in fields or on the side of the road – and it seems absolutely possible that little elves and fairies actually live in them.I shared more details about our Iceland road trip route and the practicalities of road tripping in Iceland in separate articles (links at the end of this post), but I wanted to start with some of my favorite images and the highlights of our road trip.One of the most spectacular places I visited in Iceland was the Jökulsárlón glacial lake in the south of the island, which is filled with massive chunks of ice that have broken off the glacier, and slowly float out of the lagoon into the open sea.I don’t think there’s anything quite like this anywhere in the world – a beach littered with icebergs of all shapes and sizes, waves crashing against them. The best thing about driving the Ring Road in Iceland? The journey itself! It’s not just about the stops along the way – the drastically changing scenery never gets boring. Since Iceland is such a compact country, you can find yourself hiking on a glacier, through a lava field, and behind waterfalls – all within a few short hours.
We hiked in the majestic Ásbyrgi canyon in northern Iceland, where I wished we had more time to see the canyon from the top – a stunning sight.The northern part of Iceland was just as scenic as the south with mountains, lakes and volcanoes.
And the lunar landscapes are eerily beautiful:Seeing geysers erupt? Definitely something you don’t get to experience a lot! The geyser pictured below erupts every six minutes, and I could’ve stayed for hours watching it erupt again and again. The Hverir geothermal fields were completely different than the geyser above, with boiling mud pools and some of the most intense orange colors I’ve ever seen in nature. You can see more of these enthralling geothermal fields, mounds that are topped with sulfur-coated boulders, high-pressure steam vents that are streaming thick clouds and smelly gas into the sky, bubbling mud pools right in the beginning of my Iceland highlights video above. From there, we headed to Dimmuborgir, which are vast, oddly shaped lava fields. Look at these amazing lava formations!
Another highlight? Icelandic horses of course! While I’m not into horseback riding, I had to stop several times to pet horses on the side of the road. One of the farm houses we stayed at was actually a horse farm – something this animal lover was more than happy about. Iceland has an unusually high number of waterfalls, considering how small the country is. This is due to its location – being in the North Atlantic brings a lot of rain, and being so close to the Arctic created many glaciers. These glaciers melting, plus all the rain water, means not only lots of waterfalls, but also very powerful waterfalls – Dettifoss is in fact the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe. I wish I could include a photo of the northern lights, because the night we saw them was definitely a highlight of the trip, but in my excitement about seeing these unique green lights dancing in the sky I managed to break my tripod while setting it up. I guess that’s another excuse to go back to Iceland!
Iceland being an island means that it is blessed with thousands of miles of dramatic coastline – 3,088 miles (4,970km) to be precise. The black sand beaches (which are volcanic ash, not sand) never failed to impress. Fjallsárlón is a smaller glacier lagoon, not far from Jökulsárlón, but with less tourists! Despite braving a rain storm during our visit, it was one of the most remarkable places we stopped at.
I am finishing this post with another thing that Iceland is really good at: sunsets! On the list for my next visit? Seeing the sunset over the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. But with lakes, volcanoes, geysers and waterfalls, there’s pretty much an epic sunset guaranteed every night, no matter where in Iceland you are. If you’re planning your own Iceland road trip, check out:
Planning a trip to Iceland on a budget: Things to know before you go
For more of our epic experience driving the Ring Road, read:
- The Most Epic Iceland Road Trip, Part I
- The Most Epic Iceland Road Trip, Part II (+ tips for driving in Iceland)
- The Most Epic Iceland Road Trip, Part III: Highlights Of Northern Iceland
All images were taken on the Highlights Of Iceland self-driving tour. Icelandic Farm Holidays provides you with a rental car and an itinerary for every day, but you can decide individually how much time to spend in each suggested stop, or add additional ones. Accommodation is provided in a mix of Icelandic farm houses, B&Bs and hotels.
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