After getting a good night’s rest in Vík, I was on the road by eight o’clock in the morning. I continued my drive along the Ring Road or Route 1, as it’s officially called, to Iceland’s east coast where I would stop in Höfn, before turning back toward Reykjavík. I really loved all the waterfalls on the first half of my journey, but the second half was my favorite. I loved how the drive transitioned from greenery and volcanic rock to freezing lakes full of ice. The way Iceland’s terrain can dramatically change from one element to another is incredible.
Laufskálavarða & Eldhraun
Laufskálavarða is a lava ridge about half an hour east of Vik. It’s an easy stop along the Ring Road on the way from Vík to Jökulsárlón. It’s surrounded by stacked stones, or what are called cairns. Travelers crossing the desert-like plains of Mýrdalssandur for the first time created the cairns in hopes they would bring good luck to their journey.
Continue east and just over the bridge, you will see the Eldhraun lava field on your right. The field is the result of one of the most devastating volcanic eruptions of all time. The Lakagígar eruption took place between 1783 and 1784 and lava spread for over 650 kilometers. It is now disguised by green moss and is actually quite beautiful. It can be seen right off the Ring Road, but if you have time I would recommend pulling over into one of the turnouts to take in the view and get some great photos!
Nupsstadur Farm & Church
Nupsstadur Farm is a collection of small turf houses and one of Iceland’s six remaining turf churches. The church was built sometime in the 1600s. Many of Iceland’s remaining turf structures have been declared UNESCO World Heritage sites. The farm currently belongs to the National Museum of Iceland. It’s not open for tourism and vehicles are banned from driving up to it. I parked alongside the road and walked up the drive take a quick peek and get some photos. The farm is easy to pass by since it is set back from the road a little ways, so keep an eye out. It’s a fun and quick stop if you are interested in architecture and/or Icelandic history, but not a must on the list.
Fjallsárlón is a glacier lake that often gets overlooked. People tend to visit the larger, nearby Jökulsárlón. It’s really beautiful though and I would definitely recommend a quick stop. It’s also much more quiet and relaxing than Jökulsárlón. It’s a little bit off of the Ring Road but there’s lots of parking and it isn’t necessary to spend a lot of time here. Chunks of ice broken off from Vatnajökull glacier lie around the shoreline and the mountains in the background really provide some gorgeous scenery.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is located in the southeast and is currently the deepest lake in Iceland. The size of the lake has quadrupled in size since the 1970s and huge chunks of ice are constantly breaking off the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier due to global warming. I wanted to get on the water and get up close to icebergs so I chose one of the cheaper tour options offered by Glacier Lagoon, the amphibian boat tour. This tour is a large group tour that gets fairly close to the icebergs and a piece of the 1000 year old ice is even brought on board. It was a lot of fun, just make sure you dress warmly.
Diamond Beach or Jökulsárlón Beach, as it is officially called, often gets skipped over but it’s really not something you want to miss. It was one of my favorite places in Iceland and definitely up there on my list of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Icebergs that escape the lagoon are washed out to sea and find their way ashore on the black sand. It’s is nicknamed Diamond Beach because the icebergs literally look like diamonds lining the beach. It is located on the other side of the Ring Road, directly across from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, near the bridge.
Höfn is a fishing town situated near Vatnajökull glacier and although it is the southeast’s largest town, it is still considerably quite small. I wouldn’t say a stop here is a must-do, but if you find yourself in the area, there are some nice restaurants with really great seafood. I enjoyed a meal at Humarhöfnin. I had the most amazing lobster pizza there and my mouth still waters just thinking about it.
I also paid a visit to the nearby (about 20 min) Viking Cafe. The Viking Cafe serves coffee and has all sorts of delicious cakes. It is a replica Viking village that was created as a film set. A farmer lives on the land and for a small fee, you can grab a map and explore the property. I made friends with the farm dog, who tagged along the entire time. Again, not a must-do, but a fun activity if you are in the area.
At this point, I had gone as far along the Ring Road as time would allow. I turned around and started my drive back to Jökulsárlón. I stopped there and stayed the night at the Foss Hotel Glacier Lagoon, which I definitely recommend. It is fairly new and really quite affordable for how nice it was. The next morning, I once again got an early start and was on my way after saying a quick “hello” to the resident sheep.
On my way back to the city, I chose to drive an alternate route slightly off the Ring Road that would allow me to fit in some of the golden circle sights. I especially enjoyed the Secret Lagoon in Fluðir. I also chose to spend a night right outside Þingvellir National Park, so that I could spend time snorkeling Silfra the following morning. Read about these stops in more detail in my post, Days Trips from Reykjavík. Hope you enjoy Iceland as much as I did!