The Sólfar (Sun Voyager) sculpture is something I completely recommend, in Winter the light is just gorgeous, yellow and pink skies cause this whole scene to become the most beautiful spectacle.
The sculpture was made by Jón Gunnar Árnason, an Icelandic artist. It is a representation of a dream boat and is an ode to the sun. It tries to create hope, dreams, progress and freedom. There will be lots of people there trying to get their shots, so mindful when someone is taking a picture and try not to ruin it by hogging the sculpture for a long time.
The view of Mount Esja is just breathtaking and with the city behind you it is beautiful. I urge you to go at sunrise or sunset and enjoy!
Let me preface this post by saying, I have never been in a Nordic/Scandinavian country during winter and I don’t have much experience with snow at all really.
Now I thought driving in Iceland would be a lot different to how it was. This first picture is what I thought the One road would be like, wet but clear roads but oh how I was wrong! I went on the 1 road and the 49 and the 36 roads. If you are not used to driving in snow, please be careful. You concentration levels go up and journeys take longer so factor that into your plans.
The three days I was there, the weather was changeable and had strong winds. The roads for the first two days were like this photos below. All the roads where snowy and icy, all rental cars have studded winter tires which help dramatically.
I also went on a Grey Line tour, the busses are great on the snow and ice and it can take a lot of pressure and stress off your trip. A lot of people opt for Super Jeep tours (they look like a lot of fun) or bus tours. I think my Grey Line Golden Circle tour was around €65 per person. It was a full day from 10:30am – 7pm
Tips for Self Driving:
Weather changes very quickly. Pull over if you are nervous (In a safe place) and wait for it to pass.
Go slow, Icelandic people can drive fast but you don’t have to, go slow, they will over take you.
Watch the roundabouts, you can drift very easily.
Remember, a journey that takes 2 hours might take you 4 or 5. It takes two and a half hours from Reykjavik to Vik but it took us over 5 hours, with breaks and the crazy weather changes and the fact you have to concentrate more.
If you are driving around the country I recommend you have enough petrol, stop off and fill up the tank even if you don’t think you’ll need it. Just in case.
If there are high winds, loose snow can cause really bad visibility, keep calm and find the yellow post at the side of the road. It is usually because you are in between a mountain, it will pass.
This photo above is what happens when loose snow is pushed by the wind. It is terrifying in the dark! Generally if you want to travel great distances you go first thing in the morning when its dark, make smart choices, you can always turn back.
Driving in Iceland was an experience! It is scary and difficult but it is kind of fun and you do get used to it. Just remember, never go into dangerous situations, keep calm and drive carefully.
There are Icelandic horses all over the Golden Circle and on the drive to Vík so there will always be a chance for you to stop and say hello. I find these creatures fascinating. Firstly their purpose is tourism and meat. I think they have a few agricultural roles but that is not their main purpose. The breed is highly controlled, you can buy an Icelandic horse but once it has been outside of Iceland it can never return in fear of disease. Icelandic horses are tough animals because they stay outdoors all the time. They huddle together and stand with their backs against the wind and snow to keep warm. Even though the horses are standing all day everyday in the harshest of weather but are still the most friendly creatures. If you stand at the fence for even the shortest amount of time they will come over to you and enjoy the attention. I could have stood there all day.
These animals are so soft and have such a wonderful temperament. I can’t wait to have more interactions with them in the future. The breed is quite interesting because they are the only horse to have all 5 gaits. Now I don’t horse ride but that sounds like an impressive quality to have.
One thing I really want to do is a tour on one of these wonderful creatures. Now when I went in January it was a snow storm risk so that may not be enjoyable and in Summer Iceland is plagued by midges so spring or autumn are times where I would consider going.
I have fallen in love with these animals, just a little.
Wow, this waterfall is absolutely beautiful! You can see it from the road so you can’t miss it. It is amazing in January because there are icicles hanging off the rocks and it is snow covered, it is nothing like I have ever seen before.
There is a lookout platform to the right of the falls and I definitely recommend you go up and look. You can look down on to the waterfall and you can get a get view of the landscape around. I absolutely love this waterfall and I can’t wait to go back and check it out when all the snow has melted away. The scale and the power of these falls is just amazing, you have to go see it!
I was driving on the 1 road in pitch darkness until about 11 am when the sun was coming up. Along this road are lots of snow covered lava fields. It is an endless view of white but then, on the left hand side of the road I spot the first change in scenery. This beautiful falls.
You can get really close to the waterfall but the spray that comes off the water is freezing! The spray also freezes on the snow and can make it slippery. It is absolutely beautiful!
Gullfoss is amazing, I had seen pictures of the waterfall online and I thought it would be nice but I had no idea it would be this beautiful! It was -8c and bitterly cold, I couldn’t feel my hands but it was worth it. There are three viewing points top, middle and bottom levels. The top and the middle levels were open and the views from both were just amazing! Looking down the canyon on the top level was so cool to see.
There is a history to this waterfall. In the early 1900s an Icelandic man owned Gullfoss, foreign investors wanted to use the waterfall’s power to produce electricity. The man didn’t let the investors buy the waterfall but decided to rent it to them. The man’s daughter, Sigriður, was deeply angered by this and wanted the investors off the land. She hired a lawyer and pleaded her case, she was so passionate about it she threatened to throw herself into the waterfall as she couldn’t see this amazing natural beauty tainted. She didn’t win the case but the fees were never payed so Gullfoss was safe.
The waterfall was passed down to the generations in the family until in 1940 where Gullfoss was sold to the Icelandic government and was made a nature reserve in 1979. Sigriður’s passion for Gullfoss made people realise how important it is to keep the landscape of Iceland intact. This mentality is still very much important to Iceland today.
This last stop on the Golden Circle is definitely worth it, it is amazing to see in person. Images just don’t do it justice.
It can be very slippery on the boardwalks and outside the cafe so once again take care if you are travelling in winter. I recommend the lamb stew in the cafe, it is warming and filling and you can get a free refill!
I cannot recommend this wonderful location enough. It is simply beautiful and I cannot wait to go back!