Iceland was never a country that I considered as a desirable travel destination. In fact, like many others, it never even crossed my radar. All that changed one fateful day when I was looking at flights to Europe and came across the Icelandair website.
A plane flight to Europe with a free stop of seven days or less in Iceland?! As I came to the word free, my heart stopped. It sounded too good to be true!
Then I started wondering: What is this Iceland place all about? I was soon to find out, as I began the 7-day, 832-mile journey to circle the island following the so-called Ring Road.
Day 1: Reykjavik
When I first started researching Iceland, I read repeatedly about the comparative low population density and remoteness of the country. Thus, I pictured the capitol city, Reykjavik, as merely a small bunch of pretty houses on a green slope above the ocean. That couldn’t have been farther from the truth! Reykjavik is a thriving metropolis. Truthfully, it’s not nearly as big as most European capitols, but it was definitely more than just a little fishing village.
Downtown Reykjavik is full of many little shops and cafes, and the streets are alive with people going about their daily business. As I explored, I was able to appreciate the particularly striking paint choices used on many of Reykjavik’s buildings and houses.
Day 2: Detour to the Golden Circle
One day in the city was plenty enough for me. The real reason people come to visit Iceland is for the beautiful natural landscapes, and the most famous of these is the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is a route that encompasses three of Iceland’s major attractions: Gulfoss waterfall, the geothermal area containing Geysir and Strokkur, and Þingvellir National Park.
As much as I dislike organized tour groups, I decided to make an exception and join a 7-hour tour of the Golden Circle. I wasn’t disappointed! The beautiful waterfalls, geysers, glaciers, and mountains I glimpsed only whet my appetite to see more of this unique and amazing country.
Day 3: Reykjavik to Hrisey Island
After experiencing the city life of Reykjavik and the beautiful (though slightly touristy) Golden Circle, I was ready to see another side of Iceland. I wanted to see how Icelanders outside of Reykjavik live. So what better place than a remote island off the northern coast? Thus entered Hrisey Island.
The road north from Reykjavik is stunning to say the least. Breathtaking fjords and mountains marked the way to my final destination. At this point, I was coming to realize that seven days was not going to be nearly enough to see this country. I was left longing to stop and explore, but couldn’t due to time restrictions.
Day 4: Hrisey Island
Quaint and idyllic, Hrisey Island sits a ferry boat ride and a half hour’s drive away from Iceland’s second biggest city, Akureyri. There are few things in my life that I can truly say took my breath away, but Hrisey Island was one of them.
Situated in a fjord and surrounded by snow-capped mountains on both sides, the green grassy slopes of Hrisey Island strike an amazing contrast. The total population of the island is around 150 people, mostly fishermen and mussel farmers. The one grocery store on the island has a total of less than 5 shelves and is open only from 3:00 – 6:00 PM daily.
That night, as I watched the Aurora Borealis from a meadow, I sighed….peace at last.
Stay tuned for more adventures from this island nation…in Around Iceland’s Ring Road in 7 Days (Part Two)!