The East is a stunning part of the country that I didn’t get to explore fully. In April a lot of the north eastern roads are closed and impassable. A lot of my trip was dodging storms and high winds so my eastern adventure started with a small town of 1000 people. I hope these next few images inspire a trip of your own.
This was the start of a stunning drive around some of the most beautiful fjords. It is all amazing and the only bad thing is that there aren’t enough places to stop and take it in. I did the drive from Reyðarfjörður to Höfn in a day but there are so many more coast roads and smaller roads that you could explore for days in warmer months or if you are an expert in driving in snow. Around every corner was beautiful and serene, you just want to stop and take it all in. Towering snow capped mountains and the sun dancing on top of the water would be the most peaceful setting if it wasn’t for the strong winds that chill you to your core and does nothing for your hair. The East, like the Westfjords will be a place I have to return to, in Summer when prices go up but becomes far more accessible. I know there is so much more to this area but it’s beauty will be forever something that I remember. Never boring, always beautiful. It’s also the first time I saw reindeer just hanging out at the side of the road. Not as amazing as when I saw moose for the first time but still such cute animals. They are skittish so I couldn’t get amazing shots but it’s always fun to sit and watch them.
The east is somewhere that deserves your time. Don’t just stop at Höfn, keep going, drive and enjoy.
I was on my way to the Westfjords, a section wild beauty in the north west of Iceland, I had so many spots on my list I wanted to go to but the weather was not going to be my friend. I drove through whiteouts and ice to get to the one road that was open, where it would lead, was the Arctic Fox centre. I was determined. My determination however, means nothing to nature who had a different plan for me. When I arrived at the road I found a barrier closed across it and red flashing lights telling me my dream was dashed.
I had two choices, set up camp in an N1 petrol station outside Hólmavík. A place that could only be described as barren, a place where the truckers of Iceland were stopping before heading on. One of whom waved at me…that was my cue to leave. The second option was to drive 111 kms to anywhere that wasn’t void of humans. I eventually found a place to rest for the night, the shining beacon of wonder, with running water and food, the N1 – Staðarskáli. Again, I don’t think it’s ok to camp at petrol stations but I think it was pretty evident that lots of people needed a place to stop for the night. As I have said many times before, be more organised than me.
The next morning was the first day of Summer and it was snowing. Perfect. It was time to head east and the first stop was Akureyri. Now I think I spent maybe twenty minutes in this city but I watched a plane take off and ate a hotdog so it was pretty ok. There is a viewpoint on the other side of the fjord. Which gives you a great view of the city with the mountains in the background.
Continuing on my journey I arrived at the next waterfall, this area doesn’t look like much but just off the road is Goðafoss, a beautiful, powerful 30 meter wide pool. It was freezing, the spray was chilling and it was raining but the colour of the water still made me want to jump in.
I was cooking potatoes in the back of the car to avoid strong winds and hailstones when I saw a massive snow cloud moving fast past the window. I decided to follow it and what I found was amazing. I came upon a frozen lake, Lake Mývatn. When you are diving around in April you will see snow and beauty but for some reason this area feels like you are on a different planet.It was freezing but the wind was manageable and the snow had stopped so it was drone time. This area is disorientating from the ground, it’s a sea of lava rock covered in snow but it is awe inspiring from above. Seeing the snowy surrounds with the frozen lake was breathtaking. If my battery allowed it I would have flew all evening. There are a number of things you can see, if you are staying at a local guesthouse they will have maps will all the information you could want but two that I recommend are Grjótagjá cave, I think it should be something you experience for yourself but bring your bathing suit. The other spot that is amazing is Hverfjall, a kilometer wide volcano, in the colder months when there is still snow on the face of the volcano it is absolutely incredible! I had so much fun driving around the lake when the fluffy snow arrived it was time for me to move on.
Jarðböðin við Mývatn
When you drive a little further it’s as if you’ve left the other world and arrived back in Iceland, back to it’s geothermal land and patchy snow. Just past Lake Mývatn there is a blue lagoon of the north, the Mývatn nature baths, I didn’t go but it might be a bit easier to get into than the Blue Lagoon. You will find the turn for the Mývatn nature baths just before a similar turquoise pool, if you go past it, you’ve gone too far.
Has your ma ever made egg sandwiches? Well that is what this area smells like, the sulphuric land is bubbling and emitting a strong odour but it is well worth stopping the car to check it out. The site would be amazing for a photoshoot, with it’s barren yellow landscape and billowing steam from the earth. It’s pretty incredible!
There are certain points during a road trip where you have to take a chance and see if it goes well. There are two roads you can take to get to Dettifoss, one of them was closed and the other I feared would close soon, so I drove, kept going, through icy patches and wind I got to the car park. However that’s just the beginning. They clear the roads but they don’t clear the tourist spots. The wind was the strongest it had been in a while, rain was freeing in the air and pelting you in the face. Walking through with snow coming up to your knees, with hills and slippery stones, it might not be the best place to bring your granny but it is always worth it when you get to the final destination. Dettifoss is incredible, it’s supposed to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe and it feels like it. The sound of it’s falls still echos in my ears, coming upon this amazing sight was something that wont be forgotten any time soon. Driving in the North was beautiful, awe inspiring and so much fun but I know I didn’t spend long enough frolicking in the snow. There are so many stunning spots along the road to stop and take amazing pictures. This part of Iceland is perfect for self driving and if you can get up to the North it is so worth taking the time to enjoy it. You wont regret it.
The Western Region is just above Reykjavik and below the Westfjords. Snæfellsnes peninsula is the main point of interest with some amazing places to visit. I love it, I keep finding myself gravitating to the same places over and over again because they are just stunning.
This was my first stop on the drive around the Western region. This beautiful waterfall is powerful and peaceful however, it is quite popular with tour busses and you might find that you’re in the midst of a big group of tourists.
Driving around the Snæfellsnes peninsula should be on your list of things to do if you are going to Iceland for a week. The south is amazing but there is something about this area that is so gorgeous, if you aren’t into staying in Reykjavik longer than a day then try get here.
With the infamous black church, a small but picturesque sight. Stunning mountains, lava fields and look out points, there is so many things you can see and do. Driving around and exploring you can get the most amazing images.
This small fishing village on the south of the peninsula is absolutely beautiful and is so photogenic it’s crazy. With a stunning coastal walk, amazing rock formations and strong waves, this place is a must see.
Where to Stay?
The small yet lovely town of Grundarfjörður on the north side of the peninsula. I stayed in the Old Postoffice Gusthouse, a wonderful place to stay for a night before you set off on another adventure. The rooms are very comfortable with a clean shared bathroom. I think I paid €79 for a single room but got upgraded as it was quiet in the guesthouse and got an amazing view of Kirkjufell! If you want to know more about the mountain find it here.
Driving in April is great, it is pretty easy, mildly scary and all around unpredictable! This was fun for me, checking the weather, looking ahead into the road and figuring out a safe spot to stop and sleep. Once again, I didn’t do much prep for camp grounds and generally blagged my way through the 10 day road trip,which I urge you not to do. Luckily there was only one instance where I wanted to break down crying and flail around but thankfully it was short lived.
So how’s the weather?
It’s all around mental. I had every type of weather in the 10 days I had exploring. Rain is always going to play a part in your trip but if you have your waterproofs you’ll be fine. Snow might crop up every now and again, potentially quite heavily at times, but just keep an eye on the weather and you will be fine.
When I landed, there were going to be gale force winds in Reykjavik and in the east so what did I do? I drove five hours to Jökullsárlón, of course! This was my plan, wherever the storm went I went the other way. Unfortunately this meant I missed out on some beautiful areas but what I did see was incredible!
The south is generally where I find the easiest to navigate every time I have been in Iceland, there was rain and wind but also where I had the best weather. I had one of the nicest days at Dyrhólaey, the sun was warm and there was no breeze. I was on top of a cliff, no jacket, sitting enjoying the sun after about seven days of coats and layers. Note that it can still be cold at the main stops, this part of Skogáfoss was covered in ice and I almost went A over T a few times!
The west of Iceland is always such a beautiful place to drive around, I recommend it to anyone who goes there. The weather was generally overcast, however, it was also exceptionally windy, that strong, kicks your legs out from under you, strong! It also had a bit of ice and snow on the high roads, around the number 54. Was so easy to drive around, I encourage everyone to give it a go.
The West Fjords
The majority of the roads in the West Fjords were impassable, but the one road I wanted to go down was, for the most, part clear. That’s where I was headed. However the road that links the west to the west fjords was covered in snow, with terrible visibility. Driving in whiteouts is scary because you have no idea if you are driving on a cliff or a flat road. You can’t see anything. I eventually got out of the blizzard and calmed down. Just as I arrived at my road to the West Fjords, they closed it. Typical! This might happen at anytime in Iceland, they will close the roads and you will have to find an alternative route.
The North is stunning. I drove from sunny Akureyri to Lake Mývatn and it was like driving to another world. The landscape was covered in snow and ice. There was fresh snow falling but you can easily drive around this area as none of the snow stuck to the road. There was one section of road on the way to Dettifoss that was icy and would most likely be impassable at certain times of the year.
Unfortunately a lot of the East fjord roads were closed or icy and a storm was coming, this would mean I couldn’t stay very long but I drove on the number 1 road and it was still a stunning route. It’s not a road that you can stop frequently or a route that has a lot of tourist attractions along it. However, it’s a great drive and I urge you to definitely take the time to explore it and enjoy how beautiful it is.
What you need.
There are a few tech, websites and apps I used that were invaluable to my trip.
A wifi box – I got one from Trawire.com, you can pick it up from the N1 petrol stations and to send it back just drop it in a postbox. It cost €10 a day and well worth it.
112 Iceland app – This is an emergency services app that will give the police your exact location. If you are travelling in a remote area this can be a big help.
Veður weather – This app and the website were perfect, it has alerts, tells you where the wind/storms are moving and it was a great tool to map my route if I had to change at the last minute.
Road.is – This website will show you all of the road conditions and closures, it also has webcams of the roads so you can see for yourself what it is like. It is updated regularly and is such a useful thing to have during your trip.
Aurora forecast – If you are travelling from October to March you have a better chance of seeing the northern lights however as the first northern lights of 2017 were in August, you could just be lucky. Be prepared.
Do you need a 4×4 in April?
Probably not if you are going around the ring route however, did I use the 4 wheel drive? Yes. I found that it really steadied the car on icy roads and the whiteout was very unnerving and having it was a comfort. I wanted to go places that were less frequented and if I was in a small car it would have been a lot more challenging and probably a very uncomfortable journey. The Pajero was great, highly recommend you check it out.
So go to Iceland in April, you just miss out on the expensive rates, the throngs of tourists and you get to experience all of the weather Iceland has in one go!
Driving in Iceland is a must, seeing this amazing country at your own pace is something I will always recommend. I have used KuKu campers before, if you want to see my review click here. I wasn’t going to use them again and I also wanted a 4×4 so I went on to GoCamper. I chose the new 4×4 camper, a Mitsubishi Pajero and I have to say I love this car. It is a lot of fun to drive and it’s really spacious inside. I forgot to take a picture of the inside but there is everything you could need. Pots, pans, utensils, a little gas cooker, a cooler box and a heater. The only thing that didn’t work was the mp3 system didn’t work with Spotify, which isn’t a big deal. I spent 10 days in the car and it cost me €2490. €249 euro a day seems quite expensive and of course you can get a cheaper camper out there but for a car and accommodation, it’s not too bad. I am very happy I got the 4×4. As I was April, there were roads in the north that were icy and I was driving in whiteouts but I still felt very safe in the car. Do I recommend GoCampers? Yes, I definitely recommend the new 4×4 as it’s a great car to drive, it has lots of room, everything you could need. Also GoCampers offer a free transfer to your hotel after you drop back the car which is very helpful. I had so much fun driving around Iceland and this car made it so easy and I felt really safe. It also looks great! I would love to be back in Iceland in the Pajero, till next time.
Any city by the water is usually somewhere I like to be. There is something great about sitting by the waters edge watching the swell. Riga’s waterfront is a nice open space with some great spots along the way. First things first, take a walk down the River Daugava. The promenade feels like a new addition to the waterfront compared historic old town and the more unmanicured look throughout the city. Along this walk you get a view of the National Library, this modern, 13 story institution opened in 2014 and is incredibly important to Riga. Along with modern buildings you get to see the trains pass on the railway. I don’t know what it is with rail systems but they are quite calming to me. I can imagine this promenade in Summer is a great place to take a picnic and soak up the sun.If you are an avid reader, you will know I love viewpoints and will actively climb the hundereds of steps and peer over he nauseatingly high rail to look at the small passers by. If you want a view of the city and the river you have to go to the Institute of Science, its €5 entry and you get a stunning panoramic view of Riga. You get a great view of Old Town and the entire river. You can see all the main sites of The city, Riga castle, St Peters Church, Riga cathedral, central market and TV Tornis. The radio and television tower is the highest building in the Baltics. It too has a viewpoint so you can see Riga from a different perspective. Along the waterfront is the big Central Market. It is the biggest indoor market in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I love wandering around food markets, it gives you a great idea of the food culture of a country. Not only that but at the back of the tunnels is your classic marketing of second hand goods and clothing, it really is the place to go to wander around and spot some real tat! In each tunnel there is a different food group, the first is all smoked and fresh fish. If you don’t have sea legs the smell will be a bit overwhelming. I used to get brought to markets all the time so you get used to the smell. The second is all fresh fruit and vegetables. Everything looks amazing in this section, so much colour and variety! Potatoes and apples were in abundance. The last tunnel is bread and meat. Their favourite it seems would be rye bread, my father loves rye bread so I imagined him being very happy with the cuts of pork with a good bit of fat and the dark bread. It’s definitely somewhere you have to go when you go to Riga. It really great to see the sellers have pride in their stalls and all the different elements of food. If I was staying longer or had an AirBnB I would definitely stock up on fresh food! Riga was a really nice break away, I found it’s sad and traumatic history is still reflected in the cold aspects of the city, people aren’t overly friendly, there isn’t much modern builds and although I had some odd experiences with some people during my short time in the capital I would recommend Riga to anyone.