A seven-day tour around Iceland [Part 2]
In hindsight, I would’ve liked more time to explore Iceland. Some people say you can drive around the country in three days, an option I would strongly advise against as your itinerary would purely consist of driving, pulling over to eat and photograph during the day, and sleeping during the night. Even my seven days contained a heap of constant driving – which, luckily, I generally love to do – and that was exhausting. Most of this travelling was done in the middle period of my tour.
Skaftafell was near the top of my list of Icelandic locations, perhaps even the very top initially. Partly because of the various things to see and do in the beautiful area, but mainly because I planned to stop at the camping grounds for the night and have a shower. This was the best decision of the week. After a (frankly disappointing) walk to a dwindling glacier lake close to the visitor centre, I yearned for a more interesting kind of excursion – walking through an ice cave had always looked appealing to me, but the tours are only run in the winter season. A few hours hiking up Falljökull (a nearby glacier) - an activity I decided to participate in spontaneously, and certainly didn't regret - left me in awe and in a severe dip of energy. I set up my tent straight after dinner and met a couple of Scottish travellers camped near me, who (after I shared my gas canister) offered me a beer and invited me for an evening of conversation and cards. This put me in a great mood for the coming days.
One piece of advice I could confidently give to anyone intending to go on a similar trip to my own is this: fork out the little cash it takes to set up in camping grounds instead of camping by your lonesome. You get access to cooking/washing/community facilities and you can meet people, even if it's just small talk over a small meal. I'm so glad I found camping grounds for most of the nights after Skaftafell – although, that first one was the best.
This was the hump-day of the tour. Most of the day was driving - at least that's what it felt like. I stopped off at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon to admire the ever-shrinking lake (a beautiful yet sad sight), take a few photos, touch the cold water, and eat a majority of my muesli bars. If you're driving the ring-road (like I was), usually you notice a collective of cars and busses every so often and pull over to see what all the fuss is about. I quickly learnt not everything is worthy of stopping for - in fact I'd say there's a lot that isn't. But the shortcut to the town of Egilsstaðir (avoiding the eastern fjords) provides views certainly worthy of a few brief pauses. The painfully slippery uphill dirt road, however, stole my attention in the worst way.
I found a campsite near the town to rest my weary feet, back and buttocks, after what seemed to be an entire day of changing gears. And I went to sleep feeling ever so slightly accomplished having successfully cooked noodles earlier that day.
The nature baths at Mývatn are a cheaper (yet smaller) alternative to the Blue Lagoon near Reykjavik, and as a traveler on a budget I was inclined to visit the former. I accidentally passed one of the sights on my list (Dettifoss) but as it's another waterfall, I felt I could give it a miss instead of driving back to see it. Besides, the baths were what I was truly looking forward to. And not only was I treated with a soak in spas of different temperatures, I managed to squeeze in a proper shower there too. It was quite lovely – though I would've enjoyed it more if I had someone to chat with while bathing.
The rest of the afternoon, not unlike the previous day, was spent driving and finding a camping ground. The most interesting character I met there was a small dog with only one eye, who wondered into the hostel lounge for a pat as I was planning the next leg of my journey.