Solo rides, the de facto way of traveling through North Iceland

Iceland: First Impressions

Crash landing a spacecraft on Planet X.  Or a DC-3 that crashed on a rocky stretch of south Iceland in 1973
Crash landing a spacecraft on Planet X. Or a DC-3 that crashed on a rocky stretch of south Iceland in 1973

Overall

Iceland is a different planet. There are parts of Iceland that have served as various other countries on Planet Earth in a multitude of Hollywood movies. There are parts that were filmed as layers below the Earth’s surface. There are still other parts that have served as entirely new planets.

Vestrahorn, in south-eastern Iceland, when the tide is out.
Vestrahorn, in south-eastern Iceland, when the tide is out.

No trees

It doesn’t hit you instantly. Took us almost 3 days of driving around to realize that the country is devoid of trees. Reykjavik and some parts of the Golden Triangle are probably the only exceptions. A quick Google search later we had factual data – 98% of Iceland is tree-less.

That’s not to say that the country doesn’t have green in its natural palette. On the contrary, the moss that grows on the volcanic hillsides, and the color of the grass, have a blazing fluorescent green shade that you haven’t seen anywhere else.

Waterfalls, rivers, greens and volcanic rocks, south Iceland
Waterfalls, rivers, greens and volcanic rocks, south Iceland

Falls and Rivers

Just too many of them. Too many I say. And why not – this country is full of melting ice packs and glaciers, with ravines and mountain slopes that have no trees. Falls and rivers love such terrain. AFter your first few oohs and aahs, be selective.

Tourists

Tourist crowds are crazy only in the Golden Circle and in and around Reykjavik. They thin out substantially on the Southern stretch between Vik and Hof. They are almost non-existent everywhere else.

A lonely traveler cutting across the vast emptiness of South East of Iceland
A lonely traveler cutting across the vast emptiness of South East of Iceland

Colors 

Of the likes you haven’t seen anywhere else before. There is of course the Green, as described above. And the Azure of the melting glaciers of the South. The Yellows of the wilting vegetation of the West. The Reds, Purples and Browns of the volcanic East. The Grays of the Basalt columns. And the Blacks of the sand beaches. And to top it all, the shining Orange of the ever present midnight summer sun gently brushing everything in it’s soft light.

Weather

That changes on a dime. Nowhere else has the forecast been so wrong as in Iceland. There are pico-climates and pico-time-slots for that climate. If you hit rough weather, just stay put. Things might just change. Or they might not. Flip a coin.

Wind

The ever constant. You are guaranteed to have wind, and so drop in an extra layer of clothing. Always. Summer here is much worse than a San Francisco summer evening.

Puffins. 'Nuff said! Near the town of Borgarfjörður Eystri in eastern Iceland
Puffins. ‘Nuff said! Near the town of Borgarfjörður Eystri in eastern Iceland

Horses, Sheep and Puffins

Horses are everywhere and adorable. They don’t bother you.
Sheep are everywhere and adorable. But they have a habit of springing up right in front of you on the road.
Puffins are not everywhere and adorable.  You need to reach certain corners of the country to see them.

Logistically and recommendations wise, there is a lot more to discuss. But after spending about 8 days on this planet, these are the impressions that are still stuck in our heads.

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