/ iceland

Iceland ring road detours

In this post, I want to describe some of the detours we took out of the ring road in our Iceland trip.

Landmannalaugar:

This place was not originally on our itinerary, because it was a long drive away from the ring road - and it was also super rainy and we weren't sure if our 4*4 could make it through swollen river crossings. Due to an unexpected turn of events we found ourselves free one morning, and decided to give this place a shot. We figured if the drive was too bad, we could always turn back. But we lucked out. The sun came out beautifully, and the F-road drive was in between a gorgeous valley with not a soul in sight. There were tiny rivers flowing along in the valley, which made it even more scenic. I think this was where we first witnessed the raw beauty of Iceland. As we got closer to Landmannalaugar, we started seeing the famous rhyolite mountain peaks - and it was like seeing color crayoned mountain paintings in real life. We ended up going to the geothermal hot-spring once we reached Landmannalaugar - and it was pure bliss. Just sitting in the hot water in between these mountains on the valley is experiencing nature at it's best.

A few things to note:
  • You need a 4*4 to drive there or you can take a bus or hitch-hike.
  • It is about a 3 hour one-way drive from Selfoss, the closest big-town.
  • There are a lot of beautiful hikes to do here, so plan to stay at-least one night. We regret not being able to do that.
  • The hot-spring was free to use, and open at all times - but there are no changing rooms next to it. You can always use the facilities at the campground (like shower, toilets etc) after paying 500 IKR for it.
  • This is a must-do ring road detour.

Borgarfjörður Eystri:

Now this place was tentative on our itinerary - because it was to the far east and we weren't sure what to do there besides puffin watching. We initially wanted to skip this place because we had already seen puffins in Dyrhólaey - but then again decided to go last-minute. And I'm so glad we did. The drive from Egilsstaðir to Borgarfjörður Eystri is beautiful - the scenery changes every 5 mins, and this was also the first time we drove through fjords. Borgarfjörður Eystri is a small but super cute town nestled between the fjords. It felt like an easy, slow-going place - and a welcome change from the touristy South Iceland. We went to a cafe called Alfa Cafe while we were there and had the world's best chocolate pie ever. Seriously. I can actually recommend going to this town just to eat that chocolate pie - it was that good. A quick 5 min drive from this town is the puffin-watching area. Unfortunately we didn't get to see any puffins there - but we did see a lot of Kittyhawks. The view from there was top-notch as well, so you can definitely visit this place even if the puffin watching season is over.

A few things to note:
  • It is about a 2 hour one-way drive from Egilsstaðir, the closest big-town.
  • This is a must-do ring road detour.

Tröllaskagi Peninsula:

This peninsula is in North Iceland, and the best thing about this drive were the tunnels we had to go through between the towns of Siglufjörður and Ólafsfjörður. The first of the tunnels was 4 km in length and a tad winding, and the next one was 7 km in length (and it seemed never-ending). These tunnels were narrow and only a car's width, so one car has to wait for another to pass through - which was unique. Although the drive outside of the tunnels was very scenic, I would not call it the best drives I've had in Iceland. Oh, and the towns we passed through the peninsula were more like tiny settlements, and less like towns. Very scenic. For me, there was nothing so unique about this peninsula that I'd do it all over again.

A few things to note:
  • You don't need a 4WD to get here, a 2WD will do just fine.

Strandir Coast:

I'll say there are two kinds of travellers to Iceland - those who go to Westfjords, and those who don't. You've probably already made up your mind about going or not going, and nothing I say here is going to change that. Strandir Coast is the most rugged, wild and desolate place I've seen in Iceland - and not in a bad way. This is the kind of place where humans have to adapt to exist with the forces of nature. I saw a seal sun-bathing right next to the shore, a lot of bird life and literally no humans as we were driving along these rugged fjords. The best thing about Strandir Coast was the geothermal pool at Krossneslaug - it was the first place where I saw sunset and moonlight at the same time. Truly surreal. And having the whole pool to ourselves for some time was the icing on the cake.

A few things to note:
  • If you want to get out of civilization, this place is a must-visit.
  • You need your own vehicle to drive there (A 4*4 is better). Even buses don't venture beyond Drangsnes, which is the nearest small-town (100 km away).
  • There is a beautiful camp-site at Norðurfjörður (which is like a small settlement) - about 3 km from Krossneslaug. We stayed here overnight, and I strongly recommend it.

Snæfellsnes Peninsula:

This peninsula was a mixed bag. Kirkjufell mountain and falls were pretty, and so was the Skarðsvík Beach that had gorgeous golden sand. Djúpalónssandur had the black sand beach with smooth pebbled stones and ship wrecks and the four heavy rocks that ancestral fishermen used to carry to measure their strength. There was also the coastal hike between Hellnar and Arnarstapi which was beautiful with all the sea arches and bird-cliffs. The only reason I was underwhelmed was because there were too many people. I can't say it was over-crowded (because it's Iceland, duh!) - but it being a bright sunny day - there were way too many people than the other detours. I still recommend this detour because there are things here that you won't see elsewhere in Iceland.

A few things to note:
  • You don't need a 4*4 to get here, a 2WD will do just fine.
  • There is also a mineral water hot-spring at Lýsuhólslaug which we sadly didn't get to go.

Other detours that we could've taken:

  • Seljalandsfoss
  • Laki and Fagrifoss
  • Hornstrandir
  • Westfjords (Ísafjörður, Pingeyri and Dynjandi)

Final thoughts:

We definitely want to go back to Iceland and it's the most beautiful country I've seen by far. But the next time we go, it has to be at-least for a month.

What are the detours you've taken in Iceland? Which one of them did you like the most? I'd love to hear all about it!

PS:
Our complete itinerary: http://vizaggirl.com/2016/08/23/iceland-itinerary-map/
Our day-to-day itinerary:http://vizaggirl.com/2016/08/25/iceland-day-to-day-itinery/