Kenneth kept rambling about the wonders of Iceland. I honestly had a hard time imagining exactly why he loved it so much. I mean its cold and barren with no trees? This was right until I experienced it myself. Little did I know.
I completely lost my heart to the Icelandic serenity and dramatic landscapes. Trees or not.
Here’s a travel diary from 8 days on the road and my personal tips an tricks for traveling in Iceland.
We had eight full days and decided to divide them between a trip to the tourist deserted Westerfjords (north west) and the more classic route 1 (south east). We could easily have spent double the time and had to skip a few locations. Thus, if you want to have a stressfree trip I would generally recommend spending at least 7 days alone on heading one of the directions.
Direction — Westfjords
Day 1 Copenhagen → Reykjavik → Djúpavík
Day 2 full day in Djúpavík and area around
Day 3 Djúpavík → Snæfellbær
Day 4 Full day in Snæfellbær and area around → Reykjavik
Direction — Route 1
Day 5 Reykjavik →
Day 6 Geysier, waterfalls
Day 7 Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon (most eastern point on our trip), and huge glasier → til vandrehjems agtigt hotel.
Day 8 woke up in weird hotel. Trump won the selection. Justin bieber spot, black beach
Day 9 Reykjavik → Copenhagen
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heading towards westfjords in snowstorm
We landed in Reykjavik in the early afternoon. After meeting the 66 North team and picking up our rental car, we headed towards Djúpavík — our furthest destination in the Westfjords. Google map estimated a four hour drive which seemed doable. However, it turned into just under seven hours because of a massive snowstorm. We and google completely underestimated the terrain and the Icelandic weather conditions, which we later learned are famous for changing rapidly. Its very common to see everything from sun, rain, storm and snow - and thus also plentiful of magnificent rainbows - in a matter of short distances. This requires a lot of flexibility of your travel plan, why we ended up evaluating our itinerary a couple of times a day. Unknowing of the heavy snowstorm on the first night though, we ended up driving for five hours in complete darkness on snowy roads while feeling stressed to our stomachs and having nasty tunnel visions.
Car tip —
We drove this Nissan 4x4 car which got us around safely. Although its not the most fuel-efficient car, I would generally recommend to rent a bigger, and more powerful car as you will spent a lot of hours on the road unable to predict the weather and road conditions. Sometimes for long distances without any civilisation.
intimate ‘Homestay’ in seaside village Djúpavík
Djúpavík really felt like it was in the middle of nowhere, an old fishermen town with ruins of a herring factory overviewing the sea and the characteristic brownish mountain as far as you could see with no other establishments in sight. The last hour of our night drive leading us to Djupavik was a steep and narrow dirt road with the sea just on our right the whole time. We arrived tense and completely exhausted at Hotel Djúpavík around 1:00 AM in the night and was greeted by the kind hotel owner, Maggi, who had been keeping the road open for us. We quickly realized we were the only visitors staying there as they were actually closed for the season and there were therefore no other members of the hotel team but the owners. Apparently they had opened up for us when 66North called about our trip. Talking about local heroes. During our stay we ended up eating most of our meals in the small restaurant at the hotel in the presence of the two owners. A son and his mother who had such beautiful personalities and plenty of interesting stories to tell about life in Iceland and as hotel owners. A month prior to our visit a production crew filming a scene for a Justice League movie had stayed at the hotel for 1,5 months in total. Apparently lots of partying had taken place in the little hotel with stars like Ben Affleck attending (lol).
All in all, staying at this hotel felt so intimate and special — almost like a homestay. Its the kind of place where shepherd dogs belonging to the owners lol around the property and come and say hi, nothing seems to be too much trouble and you quickly get a sense of belonging. Definitely recommended for those seeking authentic travel experiences where you engage with the local people.
full day in the area around Djúpavík
After a much needed night of sleep, we went out to explore with the only plan of making it to a naturally heated pool located next to the ocean. We followed this old school paper map that Maggi gave us, and besides that, nothing else was scheduled. The best thing about traveling through Iceland is that you often decide on a main sight and head that direction, but its never just about getting from point A to B. There’s usually so much breathtaking nature to see on the way so be sure to schedule enough time to make several stops on the way to a location.
Taking that time to explore and not just going from one famous spot to another, is what made our trip in Iceland feel unique and like our own. In these highly documented days where you can basically google or make a search on Instagram and see all the most popular wonders of the world from every possible angle its really easy to get obsessed about reaching all these. Where to go, what to see and how to take a specific photo…
…That being said, I’m a massive planner and I generally think its important to make some conscious thoughts about what you wish to do in order to make things happen. However, I’m also not the kind of person who rigidly stick to the plan for the sake of it. Mainly because that true feeling of fulfillment, and core joy of traveling and discovery, is really depended on keeping your eyes open, seizing the moment and just be. At least thats how I’ve been feeling more lately. Like a crazy longing for getting carried away by the place rather than trying to curate and control the experience. Kenneth and I are trying to make a conscious effort to live and travel in this way and its been referred to it as “like life bf Instagram” (lol how have we gotten to this point?).
Krossneslaug Geothermal pool
At what felt like the end of the world this geothermal gem appeared. We almost did not make the effort of swimming in it because it was too damn cold outside the car. But we managed to pull ourselves together and stripped down in the icy air. The Krossneslaug pool and hot tub are provided with a continuous flow of hot water from natural springs, which seriously blows my mind just to think of. It sits on a black-pepple beach with the most scenic view; the wild North Atlantic Ocean. Swimming here for an hour or a little more - just the two of us - was definitely one of the most memorable experiences we collected during the trip.
Soul nourishing experiences
The more I’m thinking of the afternoon at Krossneslaug, I realize it was such a perfect soul and body nourishing moment to finish off the day with. It might also be what made me appreciate spa experiences in this profound way that I do today. Always aching to re-experience the hours we spent there. Needless to say, Kenneth and I returned to Hotel Djupavik for our last night in a state of nature high.
Driving from Djupavik to Snæfellness peninsula
Just before sunrise we left Djupavik and departed on a 280km drive south west towards our next hotel: Hotel Budir located on the Snæfellness peninsula.
On our way we came across this beautiful infinity type of road. I don’t a location point for this one, but you will find many of its kind while driving around Iceland.
One of the main sights we had marked was Kirkjufell; one of Iceland’s most famous and photographed mountain tops. Some of its popularity is due to its appearances in Games of Thrones season 7 episode 6, but also just the practical circumstance that its quite easy to reach by car. Its only 2,5 hours away from Reykjavik in good weather conditions, and located quite close to a little village, Grundarfjörður. Grundarfjörður has a few hotels, inns and a camping ground, and a handfull of restaurants. Before driving the last stretch to reach our hotel, we had an early and very cozy dinner at the old restaurant Bjargarsteinn with an exceptional view to the ocean and Kirkjufell. I believe we tried the set menu and I especially remember the local grilled fish. in.cre.di.ble.
While visiting Kirkjufell make sure to also check out the waterfall Kirkjufellfoss next to the mountain. I remember thinking it looked unreal. So beautiful and quite rare to have both this size of a waterfall with such a majestic mountain backdrop. Its very easy to reach and walk around the waterfall. But bare in mind that due to the easy access this is also a popular destination for tourbusses. Thus I would recommend travellers to come early to avoid the bigger and more invasive groups of tourists.
Spending the night at the little pearl: Hotel Búðir
We arrived in complete darkness late in the evening at Hotel Búðir located 35km from Kirkjufell. With its darkly painted walls, chesterfield furnitures, and chandeliers en masse, the atmosphere at Hotel Búðir was definitely laidback luxury and we spent a while admiring the common rooms. After unpacking our bags in our charming room and showering all the dust off from the day outside, we had built up a late evening hunger. I don’t know about you, but my appetite always sky rocket when I spend most of the day outside. I got the most creamy and soul warming lobster bisque while snuggling up in the comfy lounge area next to Kenneth, editing footage from the day, and skyping my family at home.
Arriving in the darkness of the night, it was only in the following morning that we realized how absolutely stunning the hotel’s surroundings were. The area felt remote. The ocean on one side, and a river and the mountains with snow-covered tops on the other. Búðir sits within the Búðahraun lava rock field, which is an expansive environment of torn-up earth that has grown over with grass.
Just 200 meters from the hotel you will find the rather famous Buoakirkja Church. Buoakirkja has in recent years become a very popular object for photographers due to its minimalistic feel and black color, in combination with the rough nature around it. A little anecdote is that both Hotel Búðir and the church is apparently a popular wedding location.
Beginning the Second part of the roadtrip: route 1
After seeing the church we drove towards Reykjavik to begin our second part of the trip; the scenic route 1. I was both excited to see a new part of Iceland, but I also felt like we left Westfjords and Snæfellness with so much left to see and experience. Next time I’m on Icelandic ground there’s no doubt that I will advocate for going back to the more remote Westfjords with more time on our hands.