The Ring Road of Iceland

Route 1, the Ring Road, is the highway that travels around the perimeter of Iceland. It is possible to complete the drive in 24 hours, but that is without stopping to see any of the amazing stops along the way; we completed it in five days. Leaving Reykjavik on Thursday, June 8th we traveled north towards Reykholt, the home of Snorri Sturluson. A very interesting man who we all compared to Mr. Monopoly spoke about the folklore of the land and so much more than our minds could handle at nine in the morning. This was our first exposure to the extreme intellect and story-telling capabilities that so many Icelanders possess. That same day we went to Eiriksstadir, where we again met a man who was well versed in the history of the land and the settlement era, and could tell stories better than anyone I have ever met.

On Friday, we traveled to Hólar, the church where both Sæmunder Frodi and Loftur the Magician studied. It is also the northern bishop seat for Iceland, the southern being Skálholt. After that, we traveled to Siglufjördur, setting for the Ragnar Jonasson book, Snowblind. We experienced how isolated the town feels, but could only imagine the effects that a heavy winter snow could have on the town. We also met with the mayor of Siglufjördur and University of Missouri-Rolla alum, Gunnar Birgisson. After he showed off the town and the amazing engineering companies that it holds we began to see how the town was so much different than the way Jonasson portrayed it to be. Mayor Birgisson talked to us about what it is like to be a mayor and how even while working in politics his degree in geotechnical engineering is still very applicable.

Day three, we traveled to Húsavik to experience what small town Iceland was really like. We spent an hour or so there people watching and enjoying some food from the bakery before leaving for our next stop, Botnstjörn. This was a small lake, fed by waterfall, tucked way back amongst tall cliffs. Our travels then led us to Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe. The long hike to the falls was definitely worth the view. We finished our day at Jardbodin, a geothermal pool that in my opinion is way better than Blue Lagoon because it is less of a tourist attraction.

Sunday morning we woke up to go to Skútustaðagígar, home to a bunch of craters caused by steam explosions, and Hverjfall, a crater mountain created in the same manner. Hveraröndin was next on our list. A small geothermal pool where the water was black rather clear and closely resembled tar pits. There was also tall rock piles that constantly blew large amounts of steam into the air. The final stop of the day was Gunnar Gunnarsson’s house. Gunnarsson is a famous Icelandic author who was nominated for the Nobel Prize six times, and whose house was turned into a museum for not only himself, but for the monastery that was found right outside the home. This monastery, called Skriðuklaustur, was not only home to monks, but to a very large hospital. Over 300 bodies were found buried around the hospital and archeologists were able to trace most of their illnesses to create a very extensive list.

Day five consisted of going to the diamond beach and taking a tour of the glacier pool in Jökulsárlón. Diamond beach got its name for the large icebergs that flow out of the glacier pool and back up on the beach. I tested my luck with the ocean and lost. My shoes

The black sand contrasting with the glistening ice made for great photos at the diamond beach.

were wet for the rest of the day, but I saw a seal so it made up for it, I suppose. The tour of the glacier pool began by getting in an amphibious vehicle that I compared to the “ducks” in Branson. The tour was about a half hour long and we learned a lot about how these pools form and how long it takes for the ice from the glacier to reach the ocean (sometimes up to 300 years). After all the fun, we headed to Svartifoss, a waterfall tucked 1.6 kilometers into a mountain. The hike was long, but the few was worth it. We ended our day by traveling to Fjaðrárgljúfur, a huge canyon created by a river. We spent the night in Vík where we discussed our experiences as a whole so far and our readings for the end of the week.

All that leads us to this morning. We woke up in Vík and headed back to Reykjavik. We visited the Black Beach and saw some puffins up close. The waves here were much stronger than the ones at the diamond beach and no one even attempted to get near them. Then we went to a glacier that we could actually walk on, unlike one of the small stops we made the day before. The glacier was a lot different than what I expected. It was not a huge pile of ice, but rather a huge pile of ice covered in a huge amount of volcanic ash. After this we traveled to two amazing waterfalls, one of them we could walk behind. While driving from one waterfall to the other we stopped at a small building built into a cave. Our driver showed us how it was designed for keeping sheep. The cave had three levels. The bottom two levels were for feeding and keeping the sheep, and the top floor was where the shepherd lived. Our final stop of our trip on the Ring Road ended at Halldór Laxness’ house. Here we took a tour the Nobel Prize winner’s house. It was a very humble in size, but the library and artwork were beautiful.

We end our day here, back in Reykjavik at the University of Iceland. The past six days truly blew by, but I have memories I won’t soon forget. I am not sure these last few days in Reykjavik can even compare to the past week.