“Guys! Look, look! No way!”
Through the barriers of my earplugs, I could hear the jumbled voices of the 5 guys sharing the hostel room with me. I lifted my eye mask to see my watch telling me it was only 6:10 am. With no curtains on our window, I quickly stood up as the light hit my eyes. I couldn’t believe it. The entire town was covered in snow. Completely white. I felt like a kid on Christmas.
I ran downstairs to the living room to get a better look. YES! Snow everywhere. People were still sleeping so I made myself some tea and just chilled in the living room to watch the snow.
After another hearty Icelandic breakfast of smoked trout, homemade cinnamon waffles and jams & jellies, we checked out of this cozy hostel. Our plan was to continue traveling northeast towards the ‘iceberg beach’ Jökulsárlón.
The hostel owner informed us that the weather was getting much worse in that area and showed us a live streaming cam of Jökulsárlón beach. Due to the snow, you couldn’t see any of the icebergs on the beach. Against our better judgment we decided to pursue the trip anyways in hopes of clearing weather.
It didn’t take long after leaving Vík to notice how much worse the weather was getting. Without 4x4 capabilities or snow chains, we were definitely gambling on the safety of this rental car. The road was quickly filling up with snow and the further we continued, the icier the road became. Albeit the dangerous driving conditions, the scenery was unreal. For miles in each direction, all you could see was pure white. The snowfall from the previous night had covered all the volcanic rock around us. We shared the narrow road with cars and semi-trucks coming in the opposite direction and each pass was a bit nerve racking.
With my hands gripping the steering wheel tightly, we kept on driving further through the blizzard like conditions. If getting stuck yesterday finding the plane wreckage was of concern, breaking down here would be pretty bad. We decided that making the 2.5-hour drive to Jökulsárlón wasn’t going to be feasible. We opted instead to find the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon along the way. Unfortunately, upon close arrival, the road leading to the canyon was covered in a foot of snow.
Driving back westwards, our trip took us to the peninsula, Dyrhólaey. If you have a GPS, it’s fairly easy to find. If not, take the Highway 1 about 15 minutes north past Vík and turn onto Highway 218. The highway takes you onto an off-road dirt path. We didn’t come this far to let gravel mountain roads turn us around. At the top of the cliff side, we arrived at the top of the world. At least it felt that way. The snow was falling along the long stretch of beach as hundreds of birds flew below us along the cliffs.
Dyrhólaey literally means ‘the hill island with the door hole,’ which is exactly what it is. The sea was rough with the wind blowing the snow up the cliffs and into our faces.
Leaving Dyrhólaey, the weather changed drastically. The snow stopped, the roads cleared up and the sun started shining. Like I mentioned, the weather here is unpredictable. Thankfully, the sun sets so late so we had plenty of time to continue exploring. A few hours drive later and we were in Thingvellir National Park, just northeast of Reykjavik. This area is along a popular tourist route called the ‘Golden Circle.’ It’s right outside Reykjavik and can be done in just half a day.
Within Thingvellir National Park, I recommend you check out the Silfra Fissure. It’s a freshwater fissure where you can dive in between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. I got a chance to go snorkeling here last year where the water temperature is roughly 34°F or 2°C. You wear a dry suit that covers your entire body except for your face. This natural water has been filtered through the earth for thousands of years and is perfectly fine to drink. I was skeptical at first but it turned out to be the best tasting water I’ve ever had. It’s also one of the most popular dive sites in the world due to the crystal clearness of the water.
Past the Silfra Fissure, we came across Geysir, an area with natural geysers that shoot boiling water a few hundred feet in the air. The wait in between spurts is about 10 minutes and can catch you off guard. The area around Geysir gives off a sulfuric smell, resembling that of rotten eggs.
Continuing around the Golden Circle, we passed groups of wild Icelandic horses running free in the open fields. We pulled over to greet a few that were grazing near the fence. Such beautiful creatures, able to withstand the variable Icelandic weather. We got a chance to pet a few of the curious ones who were most likely looking for any food we may have had.
With still a few hours of daylight left, our final stop was at the Gullfoss waterfalls. It’s probably Iceland’s most famous waterfall and for good reason. When you first get to the waterfall, it looks as though it’s millions of gallons of water just simply fall off into the earth. But when you get closer, you can see a huge crevice where the water plunges down with intense force. April is a great month to come visit these wonders as the weather is transitioning from winter to spring. Safe to say we made the most of our 3 days here in Iceland and look forward to returning.
If you’re looking for an adventure rather than a vacation, book your ticket to Iceland. Icelandair allows a free stopover for up to 7 days on the way to mainland Europe. Take advantage of it and see all that you can of this magnificent island. The local people here are very friendly and speak very good English. Children here are taught from a young age both Icelandic and English languages.
Another great thing about Iceland is that everywhere we went, including those small little villages, accepted credit cards. I didn’t even bother withdrawing any local currency during my entire stay. Aim for a credit card that doesn’t charge any international transaction fees and you’ll be golden (Try Barclays World Arrival MasterCard or Chase Sapphire).
Lastly, learn how to say, “thank you” in Icelandic (“takk”) and you’ll sound like a local. Haha yeah right! But at least you can tell your family and friends back home that you spoke Icelandic in Iceland. Get out there and make this trip happen. Iceland is waiting for you.