During the lockdown in France a few weeks ago, I began a series of five articles about some of the most intense moments of my different trips, during which I had an amazing feeling of freedom. My goal with these articles was to share the great memories of these periods and briefly forget about the alarming reality of this pandemic while I was stuck at home. I only published three articles so far; the lockdown has now been over for more than a month and the situation is slowly going back to normal, but I still would like to release the two last ones. Here’s number four, with an adventurous couple of days in the East of Iceland in September 2018.
📷 For more pictures have a look at my gallery of photos of the East of Iceland.
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The ten days I spent in Iceland in September 2018 remain unforgettable for many reasons: the extraordinary beauty of the landscapes, the rugged power of nature, the fabulous sight of the northern lights… It was short, barely enough for a road trip around the entire country like I did, but it’s definitely one of the best trips of my life.
I began with the most touristic parts of the country. On my first day, I explored the Golden Circle, which is the nickname of a route forming a loop around Reykjavik and leading to many different attractions: Thingvellir National Park, the geyser of Strokkur, Gulfoss waterfall and Kerid Crater (have a look at my article “The Golden Circle: a perfect introduction to Iceland” for more details).
On days two, three and four, I drove along the South Coast, stopping at many other gorgeous places, such as the waterfalls of Seljalandsfoss, Gljufrabui and Skogafoss, the black beach of Reynisfjara, the canyon of Fjadrargljufur and the fantastic glacier lagoons of Fjallsarlon and Jökulsarlon (have a look at my article “Road tripping around Iceland: part I, the South Coast” for more details). It’s also during these days that I saw my first northern lights…
It was an amazing trip, but not really adventurous like you might imagine Iceland. The road was wide, there were always a lot of tourists at every spot and thanks to the blue sky of these first days, even a volcano such as the Eyjafjallajökull (picture to the right) which disrupted the entire air traffic in Europe during its last eruption in 2010 looked peaceful and harmless.
On day 5, I left Höfn, a little city South-East of the country and head towards the North. The weather was really awful: low clouds, strong wind, alternation of showers and pouring rain… but I was super happy. As I wrote in a previous article about this part of Iceland, “it was the occasion for me to realise how fierce nature can be in this part of the world, how tough it must be sometimes to live in remote villages, on a rugged and desolate coast, at the mercy of harsh elements”.
I spent the day driving along the East Fjords, from one isolated village to another: Djupivogur, Stödvarfjördur, Reydarfjördur, Neskaupstadur… Everything looked grey, apart from a few dashes of colours: the beautiful roof of a little church, painted fishing boats, one orange lighthouse in the distance…
It felt like I was the only human being. I drove past no cars, saw nobody; everyone was staying inside, waiting for the storm to pass (even if this was probably a very little storm compared to what winter must be like here). The only living creatures I saw were sheep, their thick fur protecting them from the cold.
The Route 1 (the main road that goes around entire Iceland) takes a shortcut inland, so I decided to leave it and take a smaller road following the coast. I even drove a few kilometres on an unsealed and bumpy track towards the village of Vattarnes, where I took the picture below. Doesn’t it look like an image of pure adventure to you? Aren’t you thrilled to find out what lies further, after the next turn? It was an extraordinary feeling to be there, completely on my own, with the impression of being so small and insignificant compared to the raw power of nature around me.
The rain eased in the afternoon and there was even blue sky when I went to Hengifoss, the third tallest waterfall of Iceland (128m). Don’t get fooled by the pictures below though; yes, the sky was blue above the waterfall, but there were still big foreboding grey clouds on the other side!
I reached the village of Seydisfjördur in the evening. With its famous (and very picturesque) rainbow road, it’s one of the most beautiful towns of Iceland. I particularly enjoyed my night there; the road leading to the fjord between snow-capped mountains was gorgeous and the colourful houses reflecting in the water created a stunning sight.
The next day, me and a Canadian girl I met in my hostel in Seydisfjördur decided to go to Studlagil Canyon, one of the best hidden treasures of this part of Iceland. It’s very far away from the beaten paths, and we didn’t see anybody else that day. The easiest way to reach it is via a 17 kilometre-long dirt road which leads to a couple of viewpoints above the canyon, but if you stop 4 kilometres earlier you can also hike on the other side of the river and actually go down inside the canyon. Again, the weather was quite bad with low clouds and brief showers, but walking there on our own, in the middle of nowhere, with no proper path during half of the way (we even had to climb a couple of fences!) and standing in front of these beautiful basaltic columns was amazing.
Later that day, I drove to the waterfall of Dettifoss and eventually spent the night next to Lake Myvatn; these places are really gorgeous as well, but also much more touristic. The most adventurous part of the trip was behind me, but I’ll never forget these two days exploring the wild side of Iceland!
Don’t miss my other articles about these “moments of freedom”, including this one dedicated to my visit to Wilson’s Promontory National Park in Australia.
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