Ring Road In 7 Days
First Stop Hofn Iceland
South East Iceland
Goal of this trip was to get to know Iceland by doing the Ring Road, take some great photos at some targeted stops and just discover the rest. Flew out of Toronto September 4th early evening, landing in Iceland 4:30 am on the 5th with customs to clear and car rental before I hit the highway. I’m a landscape photographer so hanging around Reyjuvak wasn’t my plan, it appealed to me as much as jumping into the Blue Lagoon with I don’t know hundreds of people. Nope, I was out of there and on the road thanks to Geysir Car Rental and my budget 4 x 4 Dascia Duster. First Stop I had selected was the coastal town of Vik but I gotta tell you it’s hard not to just constantly pull over to take shots anywhere around Iceland.
One thing, the Starbucks junkie in me discovered is there are not a lot of coffee shops as you drive around, I drove by a Mister Donut by the airport saving myself for better and better never came. For perspective 4:30 am landing in Iceland was equal to 12:30 am my time and after making some stops en-route, hitting the beach at Vik and taking some shots it all hit me just outside of Vik. No worries take a side road recline the seat and nap beside a mountain for an hour or so, all good!
Enroute to Höfn, I wanted to stop at Jökulsárlón Lake, where icebergs flow from the Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier into through a narrow passage to the black volcanic pebbled beach with seals bobbing in between. Pretty cool spot. Made a stop here and returned for a second it’s a bit of a challenge to get that perfect ice shot. After a 6 hour flight and just over 500 km drive and photo shooting landscapes most of the day, you deserve a great dinner and it’s right there in Höfn on the coast at Pakkhus Restaurant. My review is pretty simple, ” it’s fricking amazing!”
From Höfn, where I spent three nights I really had three days (counting my first travel day) to photograph and I found some great off the road shots, took a great little trek to a lake by a Glacier (there are all sorts of spots you can pull over and hike off from here), checked out some waterfalls. Highlight is Stokksness (must see stop, get there real early for that rising sun, amazing). From Hofn I basically toured between the far side of Jökulsárlón and Breiðdalsvík. There is a great waterfall to shot by Djúpivogur as you come around the peninsula (the circular nets and boats you see are part of a giant fish farm (bit controversial pros and cons).
One note as you approach from the west, you will see a sign for the Jökulsárlón Lagoon, that’s not it. A nice stop no less but it’s nothing like the real thing, make sure you go to the beach (south west side of bridge for best shots). Road note to get here, almost every bridge you encounter is single lane, it works but kinda weird on the long distances between where you can’t see if anyone is there and at one bridge I saw a poor lady have to back up while being closely followed by the car that was further across the bridge than her…you gotta get there first 😉
Here’s a sample of the shots from my first three days on the Ring Road, focused on the areas around South East of Iceland:
Next Stop North East
As you move north you will find changes to the landscape, namely forested areas.
If your addicted to landscape photography...Iceland's a great fix!
Night 4 - Eiðar, Iceland
Next stop was about 200km’s from Hofn winding along the coast then branching north where there is the introduction of forested areas for a nice change to the landscape. I don’t do straight A to B so for me it turned into about 300 km’s with a cool mountain pass detour to the town of Seyðisfjörður a ferry port town to Norway, complete with a little waterfall hike enroute to Fardagafoss. I stayed at a guest house just outside of Eiðar (they offer free boat and fishing in the lake) and after I checked in decided to take the road North…to I don’t know…the end (about 120 km’s there and back or so – map here). This was so worth it as there is a great plain area below the rising mountains. As for the mountains, your going to drive right over em ;-). Nice hiking trails at the top and a crazy winding road that has nothing on the Million Dollar Highway of Colorado. This puts you into the hamlet of Bakkagerði (population 100) and it’s so worth that drive…and yah there’s some gravel (it’s a rental your driving, don’t sweat that). This really was a highlight drive and I would have liked to spend more time here and done some real hiking, I highly recommend this detour!
Next morning I was up early and off to Akureyri which is a really cool city in North Iceland (second largest). Stayed just outside of town here and the route runs through some moon like barren areas, my targeted stops were Godafoss Waterfall (drop right down beside it, best shot angle I found) and the Hverir Geothermal pools of mud. Got some great shots of Godafoss but I really found some awesome landscapes of abandoned houses from the road or just the broad landscape views as highlights to photograph.
Here’s some photo highlights from this leg of the trip, including a selfie I timed to make it to the rock by the water for the shot:
Go West Young Man
Someone told me this when I was 17, I ended up hitch hiking halfway across Canada & finished that summer picking tobacco in Tilsonburg
Nights 5 & 6
Spent the 5th night in Akureyri in North Iceland , actually just outside but got to grab a nice bite downtown and for September it was patio weather in North Iceland. In fact apart from my last day the weather I had was just awesome, a bit cool at night but nice warm up, light clouds or rain the odd time which makes for awesome photos if you catch it right. Akureyri is a fine town to visit, there’s whale watching from there as well.
I enjoyed my brief stay and was on the road by 5 am with a bit of a route mapped out, with first stop Hvitserkur, Vatnsnesvegur which is a real unique rock formation along the west coast. I also wanted to tour this area, stop at a few of the seal watching spots and just check out the scenery around the coast before I moved on to Hellissandur. There were some great spots on the way right off the road and I did catch some seals but you really have to time seals and low tide, I was a bit late. Ran into some free ranging horses here that decided they owned the road and well, they did so who was I too complain.
The real highlight of this trip was everything around the Hellissandur Peninsula, this are is amazing, even better pick any off road and park wherever and go off and hike…loved it here! The mountain passes, driving off into Snæfellsjökull National Park (note if you click this link, I don’t know what it is with park websites but they suck at highlighting whats there in photos most times), drive up a mountain road, photograph horses in the plains, waterfalls, Kirkjufell (made even more famous by it’s use as a landscape in Game of Thrones) and so much more. I hiked off into an area of volcanic rocks where centuries past oven like structures (still there) were made from the stones for drying fish from the sea. I just stood, alone, amongst these rocks and pictured the world that once was…it truly was a spiritual moment. Distance wise (as again I have a hard time just doing A to B) this trip was around 600 – 700 km’s or so but it didn’t feel like it, I made lots of stops and was for the most part captivated by my surroundings.
Spent night 6 at the Hellissandur Hotel, nice hotel and great concept. They text you codes for entrance and keys and you just key in solo as there is no reception. There s a phone if your stuck but it’s pretty much, you got your codes so your in. Newer and you get your own bathroom.
Anyway enough talk, photos speak much more than I ever could, here goes:
Back to where I had started for last night in Reykjavik
One thing you learn fast about Iceland towns and cities is they really, really, really like roundabouts. I still don’t get the double lane roundabout or why the car in inside lane has right to drive right in front of you to get off round about…that makes no sense, but it was working. I didn’t hang around the city much, most of my time was countryside but did check out the coastline surrounding Reykjanesfólkvangur .
All in all, Iceland did not by any means disappoint, it truly is an amazing place to visit and I was pleased to have covered so much of it, in such a short period of time. I’m going back again and my next trip will be focused on the West Fjords and in particular Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, which is a great place to photograph Arctic wildlife, especially foxes and better still it is only accessible by boat…so no cars get your hiking boots on!
If your at all curious about the gear I used for this trip, here goes:
Camera: Nikon D810
Lenses: Nikon 16 – 35 Landscape (this lens is to me a must have landscape lens), Nikon 300mm F4 E PF ED prime lens (lightweight, crisp and sharp prime), Nikon 24 – 120mm F4 ( a nice catch all landscape / light zoom). Lee Filters, Big Stopper and Soft Landscape Series.
I flew WOW Airlines and they were a fine airline to fly, it’s budget price so you pay for carry on and snacks but to me it works out fine and they did a great job, on time and fine to fly with, I would fly with them again. Geysir car rentals, was great and had a real efficient system to get you on your way. My Visa never worked at the gas pumps, not sure why but my Interac was fine so make sure you have two cards as there gas stations are mostly cards with no people to deal with and well…it’s a long walk from nowhere. As for phone reception, it’s awesome did some business on a mountain and speaking of business one thing about Iceland is you get to pee in the most amazing places around. I don’t usually blog but wanted to log this trip, hope it proves of value to you.
If you want to connect, I use Instagram @patrickhulley