How long was your stay?
How did you travel?
As a family
Tell us why you traveled to this destination.
My family traveled to this destination in June 2018 because my family flew Iceland Air to Denmark, so we had a free stop in Iceland and some family friends had recommended this destination to us. In addition, Scandinavia looked beautiful and was highly reviewed, so this furthered our interest in traveling to this destination. My family is obsessed with travel and my parents have been traveling the world together since they got married, and Scandinavia has been on their list for a while.
What was your itinerary?
Day 1 – Arrived in Reykjavik
Give us all the details! Tell us where you went and what you did on your trip.
Our hotel was located in Reykjavik, so we wanted to do a day trip (with a car rental) along the southwest coast from Reykjavik to Vik along Ring Road. This is a very popular route (Route 1 actually!) that is about 120 miles and takes nearly 2.5 hours each way, in addition to the time taken to stop at attractions along the way. This was the best road trip of my life as it featured waterfalls, cotton fields, lava rock fields, mountains, glaciers, and black sand beaches. After we started our road trip around 8 or 9 am, our first stop was Flóahreppur which was a small, peaceful town that offers Iceland’s most voluminous waterfall Urriðafoss, standing between two rivers that overlook more mountains and glaciers.
While our stop at this attraction was very short, the natural beauty of the destination is very serene. Birdwatching, exploration of the cultural heritage, and cycling are other popular activities here. After Flóahreppur, we traveled further to Seljalandsfoss. This is by far the most breathtaking waterfall we encountered on our trip and is often on the cover pages of Iceland itinerary books. Seljalandsfoss is a “skinny” waterfall that comes spurting out of a smaller mountain that overlooks a luscious grass and cotton field.
On the beautiful sunny day that we visited this site, the blue sky and mountains offered us a panoramic view of this natural wonder that was surrounded by green long-grass and wildflowers. Walking up close to this waterfall, light refractions on the water vapor create countless rainbows that reflect through the air–it was incredible for pictures. After observing the waterfall from afar, my family ventured out towards the fall and walked behind it–definitely bring a raincoat for this!
Later, we followed the river that this waterfall poured into along gravel paths surrounded by the very green fields of grasses, flowers, cotton, and a clear stream. This led us to a cave with hopping stones through a stream that also has a waterfall. When we finished enjoying this site my family continued along Ring Road through the municipality of Rangárþing Eystra which was surrounded by more lush fields, luminous mountains, distant glaciers, scattered white houses, farming fields with hay rolls and wild horses, and streams.
This lead us to Skógafoss which was not too far from the last waterfall. Skógafoss is also arguably one of the most exquisite waterfalls in Iceland. However, this one is wider than the last and protrudes through an opening in the mountains covered by green grass and wildflowers. While you cannot walk behind this waterfall, there is actually a staircase that leads you to the top and gives you yet another panoramic view of the desolate and primarily flat countryside of this region. After seeing the waterfalls, our last consecutive destinations were Dyrhólaey, Reynisfjara, and Reynisdrangar which are all close in proximity.
These destinations were all along the south coast, extremely close to Vik. Dyrhólaey has a popular viewpoint that overlooks a lighthouse as well as the black sand beach. It is at this viewpoint that you have a view of the Atlantic Ocean meeting the green and black mountains with distant white glaciers beyond them. Behind this view, you can see more of the ocean as well as the stone arch that plunges into the ocean. The stone formation in the ocean (Reynisdrangar) is also visible near this viewpoint. Waves crash into the rocks and mount on top of each other at this spot, giving you insight to both the beauty and violence of the ocean in this area (it is not recommended to swim here). Puffins, which are the national bird of Iceland, also frequently visit this spot providing some nice company!
Reynisfjara Beach is the actual black sand beach that is open to visitors. Here, your feet sink into smooth black pebbles that overlook columnar basalt stacks forming a geometric cave. It was very windy here and you have to take cautionary measures if you get too close to the ocean tide, but many children like to climb the stacks and some families were even picnicking on the sand. It was an amazing experience, but dress warm because this won’t be your usual tropical Caribbean beach!
The other side of this beach was where Vik was situated. Vik is a remote seafront village with small cottages and Reyniskirkja, which is an old wooden church overlooking the countryside. At Vik, we ate in one of the cottage restaurants (sorry, I forgot the name!) where my family enjoyed fresh-caught fish, root vegetables, and grainy vegetable side dishes, all of which are very popular in Iceland.
After our stop here, we continued back home around 8:00. At 10:30 we pulled over on the side of the road that was surrounded by grassy volcanic fields to see the incredible sight of a full double rainbow. Because night was slowly coming (Scandinavia has some of the longest summer days in all of Europe), the sky was still a medium-bluish purple, acting as a canvas to make the colors of the rainbow stand out even brighter! It is one of my favorite travel memories ever. Arriving back home in Reykjavik around 11:15 pm, we saw the “midnight sun” setting and illuminating the sky with bright yellows, pinks, blues, and purples behind the silhouettes of mountains.
Would you recommend this trip to a friend?
What was the highlight of your trip?
I remember on the way home from the trip just going through the countryside and it was the most unique natural scenery I have ever seen. The vibe felt very ethereal and desolate. There’s no way I can truly describe it, but basically, there was one straight 2-lane road going through the horizon and on either side of the road there were lava fields that were full of black lava rocks covered by some patches of grass.
These fields went out a couple of miles on either side of the road until they met up with tall, wide mountains. These mountains were also black, volcanic mountains, but they too were covered with patches of grass that really made the ridges stand out. This was the view for miles–it made you feel very small and was a one-of-a-kind landscape. I’ve seen many different mountain ranges during my travels, but this part of the road was nothing like what I have seen before and it really stood out to me. At some points along this road, I would see wild horses and bikers too.
Another highlight was the double rainbow that we saw in the sky at 10:30 pm. It was the most beautiful site I’ve ever seen because we were just in this desolate “prairie” and it was still light out and the sky was a blue-purple. I’ve never seen a full rainbow like that before in my life.
If you were to take this trip again, is there anything you would add or do differently?
Along Ring Road, there are very few bathrooms. When you pass the tourist destinations, you could be traveling for miles along this desolate road with no stops. If you frequently have to use a restroom, I would recommend stopping at every rest stop you see at the beginning and end of the route (because near the middle is where there are very few stops). I remember drinking a lot of water during my lunch at a cafe near one of the waterfalls and during my dinner at Vik but choosing not to use the restrooms when I had the chance–big mistake! On the way home, we traveled for about an hour through those lava fields surrounded by mountains with no rest stop. Another suggestion I have is not necessarily unique to this particular road-trip but should really be considered in general if you are considering booking a trip to Iceland or Scandinavia: Scandinavia is extremely expensive (I have been to Iceland, Denmark, and Norway and all of the prices were generally the same) and you really need to plan out your meals! Iceland especially receives a lot of imports because it is an island and therefore everything costs more, even the fish. It was difficult finding a good meal for under $30 a person. Traveling in a family of five, it was hard to have a dinner that was less than $200 while still enjoying the native fishes and Icelandic cuisine. So this is very important to keep in mind when planning out other meals. Whenever we went to Scandinavia, to stay true to our budget, we usually had fruit or pastries for breakfast and sometimes lunch, and then dinner was where we splurged a little bit more. Lastly, dress for the weather!! My family did a lot of research before going to Iceland, but when I arrived there, I personally did not feel prepared for the weather at all! Maybe this is because I have a lower tolerance for being wet and cold, but our first afternoon in Reykjavik was extremely rainy and it was only in the 50’s (during the summer). I brought a raincoat and small umbrella, but I wish I had brought water-resistant pants and and my duck boots. My leggings and tennis shoes got soaked at the waterfalls and natural springs. I would even consider bringing a waterproof phone case or waterproof camera. Keep this in mind when you’re packing so you don’t have to end up sitting in a car with wet leggings, socks, and tennis shoes like me!
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