This summer, I spent two weeks in Iceland for the second time. After my trip to Western and South Iceland in 2012, I explored the North and East this time. It was an amazing trip! I’d love to spend more time in the Icelandic East Fjords to discover this hidden gem further. And to see the Northern Lights, of course!
Here are a few pictures from my trips in 2012 and 2016. All Icelandic regions are worth travelling to. Nowadays, the Southwest is crowded with tourists though as it’s easily accessible and a few highlights can be found in the Reykjavík area (e.g. the Golden Circle with Þingvellir, the big Geysir and Gulfoss). The wild Northern coast and the scenic East Fjords are absolutely worth the journey as well, much less crowded and with a special spheric atmosphere. I mostly hitch-hiked during my 2012 trip. In 2016, I mostly took the regular public busses to get around.
2012 – West and South Iceland
Reykjavík is a small but very scenic city. You can walk easily around the city centre and the harbour. Mount Esja at the other side of the bay is lingering over the city as a natural sight. If you’ve never been to any country up in the North, the city and the country in general have a special atmosphere which is hard to describe. Icelanders are super friendly people and always happy to talk about their country and heritage (this has changed a bit in crowdy Reykjavík though). By the way, Reykjavík is a good spot to go on a whale watching tour.
The Golden Circle with Þingvellir (where the first Icelandic assembly was held during Viking times and two major tectonic plates meet), the big Geysir and Gulfoss are definitely worth the day-trip.
Western Iceland with its nice little fjords and the Snæfellsnes peninsula (I only visited the latter in 2016) are very scenic and a true delight if you want to observe the diverse Icelandic wildlife and especially birdlife. Prepare yourself for some Puffin awesomeness and sheep hanging out on the beach!
Látrabjarg in the Northwest fjords is the westernmost point in Iceland. The cliff is a paradise for observing birdlife. I obviously fell in love with all the cute Puffins there!
From Látrabjarg, I made my back to the South of Iceland with Vík as main town. If you’re lucky, you visit in better weather than I did and you might be even able to hike over the nearby and famous Dyrhólaey (in the fog in the pictures below).
Skaftafell glacier and the surroundings are perfect to hang out for a couple of days. You can hike to the glacier or visit several waterfalls. On the way back to Reykjavík, don’t forget to make a stop at famous Skógafoss (pictured below) or Seljalandsfoss. From the Skógafoss area, you can even do a long hike to the famous Eyjafjallajökull volcano, speak [ˈeɪjaˌfjatlaˌjœːkʏtl̥]. By the time I hiked in the area in 2012, the ground was still warm from the 2010 eruption!
On my way back to the capital, I stopped in Landmannalaugar shortly. It’s a hiker’s paradise with all the beautiful colours if you have the right gear for the cold and windy area. I didn’t. So I jumped into the hot pool and took the next highland bus back to the coast. This is an adventure in itself!
2016 – North and East Iceland (mainly)
This year I filled in two weeks of „free“ time to hop on a plane to Iceland to discover a few parts I hadn’t seen in 2012, mostly North and East Iceland. After staying in Reykjavík for two days, I started in Snaefellsnes, the famous peninsula in West Iceland. Then I made my way to the North with Akureyrí and the surrounding area including Myvatn, and in the East with all the beautiful fjords. On my way back to Reykjavík, I took the Southern ring road and had the chance to witness the beauty of the Jökulsárlón lagoon. What a beauty!
According to Jules Verne’s novel „Journey to the Center of the Earth“, the Snæfellsjökull volcano on Snæfellsnes peninsula is the entrance to the middle of the earth. I stayed in Rif on the Northern shore which I wouldn’t recommend during the summer months as it’s home to the biggest Artic tern area in Iceland. By the time I was there, the little ones had hatched and were walking on the roads. The grown-ups where fiercely protecting them by flying down on anything moving.
Nevertheless, I had the chance to visit scenic Olafsvík which used to be a large trading port until the start of the 20th century. This year, the Steypa photo exhibition took place in the old fish factory in Olafsvík. I help to crowdfund the project and was very glad to see the exhibition in real life. Also, the local museum about life in the area in the past is well worth a visit.
After Snæfellsnes peninsula, I headed to Akureyrí, the capital of Iceland’s North and apparently the perfect spot to see the Northern Lights during autumn and winter. The city is full of traditional Icelandic architecture and easy to explore.
From Akureyrí, I did a whale watching tour and jumped on a bus to the lovely Myvatn area. On the way there, you can stop at the Gulfoss waterfall to get some obligatory pictures.
I then continued to the East Fjords which blew my mind with their rough beauty and lonely spots everywhere. I also was lucky to have a few sunny days. All the fjords are worth a visit!
My absolute favourite was the tiny town of Djúpivogur which lies nestled on a headland and has a beautiful, wide black sand beach. Just take some time to wander around and let the beauty overwhelm you.
From Djúpivogur, I had only two days left to make my way back to Reykjavík. After a necessary overnight stop in Höfn if you don’t have your own car, I hopped on a bus the next morning which stopped at the breathtaking Jökulsárlón lagoon. Although you won’t be alone to take in the beauty of the lagoon, it’s in my opinion one of Iceland’s highlights and well worth a visit! The ice from the glacier is melting into the lagoon continuously and the water and floating ice then flow into the sea. What a fascinating scenery! Experts estimate that the glacier and thus the lagoon will be gone in about 20 years because of global warming.
I had a fantastic time in Iceland once again! Much has changed since 2012, especially Reykjavík is overrun with tourists these days but the far-off East is still as wide and open as most of the island used to be. I really fell in love with the beautiful East Fjords! I’ll go back one day during winter to see the Northern Lights (I was a bit bummed that I missed them by only three weeks this year!).
I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you’ve been to Iceland and where.
© All photo rights belong to Kathleen Fritzsche.