On our third day in Iceland, we left behind the clamor of Reykjavik for the open road.
The two-lane Highway 1 snakes around an island the size of Kentucky, past geysers and glaciers, mountains and rugged fjords. The land of fire and ice is stunningly white, the snow burning your eyes after hours spent watching the road fade into the horizon. Not a bad place to road-trip with two close friends: Lizzie, who grew up with me in Nebraska; and Morgan, who also studied in Paris.
The landscape was intoxicating. Only two hours were actually spent behind the wheel on our first day, but we managed to stay on the road for 10 hours. We had no dependable map and spotty cell service. Yet luck (and Iceland’s transportation layout) was on our side. Each major attraction lies just off Route 1 and is easily spotted from the car. Driving by, you can’t miss the parking lots full of tourist’s cars.
Our first stop, Seljalandsfoss has one big waterfall as well as two smaller ones on the side. We were feeling adventurous and walked about 10 minutes to the left of the main waterfall where we found a break in the mountain and another waterfall hiding behind the rocks. If you ever go, bring waterproof pants and coat to climb into the cave and see it for yourself! I had my regular hiking boots on which aren’t water proof but those were fine. You have to jump from rock to rock in a stream leading out of the cave in order to reach the waterfall.
The second stop was Skógafoss, another huge waterfall. We were lucky enough to have a beautiful sunny day, which created a rainbow coming out of the water. If you hike up the steps on the side of the waterfall you get a beautiful downward view of the water as well as a view over miles of Iceland landscape.
Morgan spotted a little red food truck just a little past the waterfall where we stopped for lunch. The truck is owned by a woman named Mia and sits in her mother’s front yard. The only thing she serves is fish and chips, which Iceland is known for.
Our third and final stop of the day was the Dyrhólaey Nature Reserve. The reserve sits at the top of a mountain and the drive up was a little treacherous for our small car to handle, but we made it up safely and were rewarded with a beautiful view over the black sand beaches. The cool thing about Iceland right now is that tourism is still fairly new, so sites like this aren’t heavily regulated. I wouldn’t be surprised if in 10 years, fences were put up all over this area to keep people away from the cliff edges. Safety is cool and all but there’s just something about being surrounded by nature that is still so untouched by human forces. The lack of regulation and the ability to see nature in its raw form is one of the things that makes Iceland so special right now.