Iceland is not, as its unfortunate name would suggest, covered in ice. Nor is it just a barren lunar landscape of congealed lava flows and windswept tundra. But you will find both those scenarios side by side on this North Atlantic island, along with fertile farmland, rolling hills, glacier-carved valleys and canyons, bubbling, steaming, geothermally active ‘hot spots’ and the vast, desertlike wasteland of the Interior and Central Highlands. Volcanic and geothermal features – geysers, thermal springs, fumaroles, lava flows, mudpots, craters, calderas and igneous plugs – figure prominently in the landscape. – Lonely Planet.
As I was researching our trip to Iceland, I was worried about the possible weather. Here is what we experienced. The daytime temperature fluctuated wildly. In sunny weather, between 15-20C; in cloudy weather 10-15C, and rainy weather 5-10C. Although It rained every day on our trip, other people mentioned this was worse than normal.
It took 45 minutes to drive from the airport to the bus station in Reykjavik. From there it took another 15 minutes for a mini-bus to drop us off at the door of our B&B Room With A View. Light rain, 10C.
Walked around Reykjavik, admiring the sculptures all over the city. Visited the Art Museum - loved the Erro paintings.Cloudy and light rain, 7-12C.
We had brief stops at the excavated homestead at Stong and Hjalparfoss waterfall, while looking at the Hekla volcano on the horizon. After a brief view of the stark interior of Iceland and the lake Frostastadvatn, we arrived in Landmannalaugar, with its famous hot springs and colourful rhyolite hills. Initially party sunny 10-15C, then rain 10C at Landmannalaugar.
We drove for 45 minutes to Iceland's #1 tourist attraction, the geothermal Blue Lagoon spa. We then drove to the Golden Circle area east of Reykjavik, stopping first at the Kerio implosion crater.
When we arrived at the Geysir geyser ares, the sun came out and it turned into a beautiful afternoon. Every 8-10 minutes the Strokkur geyser spouted up to 35m in the air. It is a short drive to Gulfoss, which is quite rightly Iceland's most famous waterfall, tumbling in a pair of broad cataracts with a perpetual rainbow in the mist. It took us about an hour to drive to Pingvellir, the site of the first Iceland parliament sitting on the rift between the North American and European plates.
We got back to Reykjavik with enough time to visit its most famous landmark, the Hallgrimskirkja church with its volcanic basalt column architecture, stark interior and its 74.5m steeple with spectacular views of Reykjavik. Initially cloudy with some light rain 10-12C, then sunny and 18-20C.
We drive from Reykjavik to Akureyri in 5.5 hours, stopping for lunch. From there it took us another 1.5 hours to drive to Reykjahlid on Lake Myvatn, stopping briefly at the horseshoe-shaped Godafoss waterfalls. Rain, often heavy, extremely heavy fog at times, 5-10C.
We drove along the shore of Lake Myvatn, with our first stop to hike for about an hour around the jumbled ‘black castles’ of oddly shaped pillars and crags of Dimmuborgir. We got out of the rain at Skutustadir for a coffee before walking around the pseudocraters, and then stopped briefly at Hofdi to look at the lava pillar formations. It took us a couple of hours to drive to Dettifoss with its dishwater-grey glacial water falling 44m with the greatest volume of any waterfall in Europe. We then drove back to Myvatn stopping at the Hverarond thermal area and then hiking to the colourful menacing sulphur-encrusted mud holes of Leirhnjukur crater. Rain, often heavy, 5-10C.
It took us seven hours to drive to the spectacular Jökulsárlón lagoon, driving down some of the Eastern Fjords and passing valley glaciers after Hofn. The Jökulsárlón lagoon deserves its reputation, crammed with beautiful floating luminous blue icebergs calved from the glacier Breidamerkurjokul. We parked just off the Ring Road to the west of Jökulsárlón, and walked a short distance to a beautiful view of Kviarjokull, another glacier snaking down from Örćfajökull. A short distance later we stopped at a Litla-Hof farm, our B&B for the night. Cloudy with Light rain 7C, then sunny 12C.
After a short drive to Skaftafell, Iceland's largest national park, we hiked for 30 minutes to Svartifoss, a lovely waterfall flanked by unusual overhanging basalt columns. The weather cleared as we hiked for 35 minutes to Sjónarnipa, with a perfect view of looking north up the Skaftafellsjökull towards Örćfajökull, and across the glacier to Hvannadalshnúkur, which at 2110m is the highest point in Iceland. A few minutes drive led us to the terminal moraine of Svinafellsjökull. Initially cloudy 10C, then sunny 18C, then cloudy and light rain 10C.
We drove to Vik and walked along the black beach to view the cluster of sea stacks at Reynisdrangur. We stopped again just after Vik at Dyrhólaey with its large rock arch and steep cliffs full of puffins. After brief stops at Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls, we arrived back in Reykjavik. Cloudy with intermittent rain. 10C.
Light rain, 5-10C.