Rather than starting the ring road anti-clockwise and head north first as planned, we quickly changed our minds after seeing the weather forecast and headed south instead. And I think it was the right decision.
We stocked up in Egilsstadir with fuel, water for the caravan tank and a good grocery shopping. As soon as we left the service station, there was a hitchhiker. Kai and I had previously discussed that – where possible – we would take hitchhikers, since we had had good experiences with meeting interesting people six years ago when traveling in Botswana and Namibia. Maybe because we were a bit tired just getting off the boat and only really just starting the Iceland adventure we hesitated on picking this guy up. But then we thought, “karma!” and that’s how we ended up driving 250kms down to Höfn with Alex, a Scottish whitewater rafting instructor who was working and enjoying some months in Iceland. He was very open and friendly, and good company as we kicked off the trip.
After a rainy start, and counting how many waterfalls we saw, we reached Höfn, which is a small town with a prime view of four glaciers, or glacial tongues that come out of Europe’s largest ice cap. Vatnajökull, as it’s known, covers 11% of Iceland and 8000 square kilometres. Good place to set up camp.
The first glacier we visited was Hoffelsjökull and it was a real privilege to practically be there on our own. We saw one group of people from a distance who were doing a hike on the western side and for a few minutes a family of four who quickly came and went. And the rest of the time was just us and this stunning glacier ending in a lake with broken up icebergs. Iceland was quickly showing us what the hype is all about.
We followed the privacy and peacefulness of Hoffelsjökull for the much more touristy Jökulsárlón. This is a blue lagoon filled with larger icebergs that have broken off the Breidamerkujökull glacier tongue, and whose other main attraction is a black volcanic-sand beach. Surprisingly the icebergs actually glide slowly all the way to the sea.
Both these places were beautiful in their own way, but we quickly got a sense from the latter of what mass tourism can feel like and also of how fortunate we are to have our own 4×4 vehicle so we can actually visit the more remote tranquil spots too.