More Beaches, Islands, Volcanoes, Glaciers, and more...
Iceland (++24hr+ BONUS++)
It's no wonder that Iceland makes on of our bonus location, since it also makes one of my favorite spots on the planet. We hit this whole itinerary within a week and still escaped the volcano by a week... more on that later.
If you're able to plan around the dates, make it near August 24th.... which is the launch of this bonus article... and Reykjavik's Culture Day! You'll see why.
In total we did this entire itinerary in about six days, staying in a different city each night. (I did come to Reykjavik several times for work, and those longer Icelandic layovers were obviously preferred, but making a vacation out of it was so worth it.) If you have more than a day and you’re up for a drive, the rest of the southwest part of the country is pretty amazing. Set your GPS and your road trip tunes while you find some spectacular sights within a few hours drive of each other. It's hard to pick which were my favorite, but hope you're able to check them all off your list!
Bridge Between Continents.
Iceland is the only place in the world (besides a very far part of East Africa) where you can actually walk between the tech-tonic plates of the earth. You’ll find a random metal bridge in the middle of what looks like nowhere, but what actually is connecting the North America and Eurasia tech-tonic plates. You can walk across and jump into the sandy crevasse underneath the bridge in between the plates. Don’t delay too long: the plates are moving at a rate of half an inch every several years, so eventually the bridge will be pulled apart?
Iceland also offers one of the only places to see the Continental Ridge. Depending on the time of year, you can see it during low tide from a lighthouse on the shore or you can even hire a few excursion companies to take you out to in on a boat and swim through the area. Bravo to those who brave the water; we stayed on land but I have to say I’m sort of tempted to try it!
A few more hours to the south of Reykjavik, you can load the ferry to take you the the Vestmannaeyjar Islands, Heimaey being the largest. Here you’ll find a small island with friendly locals who can show you where to book a Puffin-watching tour with a saxophone-playing Captain. During their hatching season, baby puffins are collected in boxes by the local children and then tossed out to sea to find their homes (it’s ok, puffins can swim and fly).
Known for it’s black sand beaches, Vik is a small town a few hours south of the ferry to Vestmannaeyer. There are a few farm houses that offer exceptional accommodations for being so remote. Most places you’ll find wifi and breakfast included. Though some smaller BnB’s are hostel-like with a shared bathroom, every place I encountered was incredibly clean and reasonably priced. If you find the cattle road off the side of the only main road, take your four-wheel drive out a few miles toward the coast and you’ll find the old abandoned DC-3 airplane. Eerily spooky and riddled with what looks like bullet holes, this old U.S. Navy plane sits crashed not far from the ocean. It wasn’t actually shot down, but when it crashed, Iceland didn’t really have the infrastructure to remove it, or anywhere really to put it…. So they just left it there. And now it’s become a tripAdvisor attraction. But it is pretty cool to see and take photos of some untouched glaciers behind a random crashed vintage airplane (especially for aviation nerds like us).
Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon
Continue your drive a few hours south of Heimaey into the Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon. If you want to truly be in awe of something and you haven’t hit it yet on your trip yet, look no further. In the summer months, it’s warm enough to stop and get out for photos in just a pull over and yoga pants, even though the background of your pics will be pure, solid ice. In the distance you’ll see Iceland’s largest glacier/volcano Vatnajökull, which we were actually allowed to hike even when the volcano was under a warning and seeing activity (we donned one more jacket for the hike in June… we also had volcano insurance for the rental car because of the warning; it blew less than a week after we left in 2014). Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll see the seals swimming in the lagoon, playing with large chunks of ice as they drift out into the North Atlantic ocean. This is where you’ll see why Iceland stays in the revolving “Top 5” favorite places on the planet.