On Thursday, September 4, I met Fabrice (Quebec) at the Egilsborg guesthouse. We were handed over the keys to a white Toyota Aygo for just $60 a day. We picked up Carolina (northern Sweden) from Einar's place in Breiðholt and set out on Route 1 to go counterclockwise around the Ring Road (Route 1).
We decided to take an initial detour along the Golden Circle first. This path would take us to many special sites and wonders despite having to go slightly out of the way of Route 1.
Every kilometer there was something new and beautiful to look upon. The constant spectacular views made the decision to stop and take a picture of what and when very difficult. What a dilemma, right? The first time we stopped the car to take pictures was when we first emerged from Reykjavik.
Outside the city, the land suddenly stretched out to reach mountains surrounding us. Fields were dotted with cute homes, churches, farm houses, and animals (sheep, horses, etc.). We were instantly awe struck and had to stop the car by a little bridge just to stand outside the car and take it all in. Little did we know, this was only the beginning of what we were about to see over the following days.
The Golden Circle - Þingvellir National Park
The Golden Circle includes many sights and wonders mainly in Þingvellir National Park. We were encouraged to go despite the initial detour from the Ring Road itself, going a bit north first, then southeast.
Iceland is commonly known for being a country of ice and fire because of its glaciers and volcanic activity. But Iceland is also a country of farmland, grassy fields, and rocks—lots of rocks. These stone piles or "cairns" were sporadically all over Iceland marking different sites, but at the edge of the park we saw them in this very concentrated space. They were fun to run and jump between!
Iceland sits on the mid-Atlantic ridge. It's the only place on Earth you can visit the ridge above the ocean.
We stopped at "Geysir" which is an Icelandic word meaning "gusher" that was adapted into the English word "geyser." You can watch Geysir (among other sites) live online here.
(EDIT: The geyser pictured below is called Strokkur. Geysir is the name of a second geyser at the same location which erupts much less frequently only after earthquakes.)
The scenic drive to Fljótsdalur
After Geysir we were on the hunt for a hostel for the night. I called around and found availability at a youth hostel called Fljótsdalur east of Hvolsvöllur. On the way there we went further off route from the Ring Road into back country.
We encountered amazing farm landscapes, waterfalls every 500 meters, and the backdrop of glacial mountains. The drive was so picturesque, we didn't care that the gravel road became difficult for our little car to drive down.
The Fljótsdalur Youth Hostel
We finally made it to our hostel located between three glaciers: Tindfjallajökull, Torfajökull, and Mýrdalsjökull. Out of a house sitting on top of a hill next to a waterfall and field of sheep emerged an elderly woman to greet us. She pointed further up the hill to a rustic house with a traditional turf roof.
Parking at the bottom of the hill because the rock driveway was too treacherously steep, we met her in the hostel and she showed us around. There were no travelers staying there at the time despite its rave reviews. Since the major summer tourist season was over in Iceland, this remote location was free of visitors. We had the place—and the view—to ourselves.
Our hostel host told us that to shower we had to fill buckets with hot water and use it in the shower outside.
We were surprised at this, but also very excited to have such a country experience in the middle of such beauty. Even though it would be chilly, a shower outside at this location sounded like a dream.
We went to bed on Day 1 with the moon rising over the mountains opposite our hostel.