Jessica Ward

When you drive through Iceland, especially in winter, you will experience the most surreal feeling. Nothing around you seems real and you begin to question how such a place can even exist.

Being one of the most isolated countries in the world, it’s also a photographers dream. The best way to experience the island is to ditch the tours, rent a car with your friends and just drive. Your days will be filled with waterfalls, mountains, icebergs and powerful (and deadly) seas. If you are lucky, you will visit at a time when you have the chance to view the Northern lights (use this site to monitor conditions). If so, this is a trip where you will be surviving on limited sleep and extra adrenaline but you will make memories that will last forever.

With it’s incredible natural landscapes comes natural destruction and even though Iceland may be a trip of a lifetime, it’s a holiday where you need to be very aware of the effects of mother nature. Strong winds, snow storms, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are a normal part of Icelandic life but it’s probably quite different to what you are used to experiencing. If you plan to drive around the Island, be sure to to monitor the weather conditions and check here to see what roads may be closed and what alternative route you need to take. There are days when the wind may be so strong that you won’t be able to drive to your next location, so having a backup plan is always suggested.

iceland landscape

Due to the large distances between towns, I would suggest filling up on petrol whenever you see a station. This also gives you a chance to buy one of their famous hotdogs. It is also a good idea to have at least one night’s accommodation planned. Iceland is, without a doubt, one of the most expensive countries, so to save money on food avoid eating at restaurants and buy your groceries at a supermarket called ‘Bonus’.

iceland waterfall

If you have a week or two on the island, you can drive the Ring Road (Route 1), starting and ending in Reykjavik. This drive will take you around the perimeter of the island where you can tick off all of the popular spots. If you only have a few days, you can easily do the Golden Circle which keeps you not too far from Reykjavík and you can still see some incredible landscapes.

To do the Ring Road, pick up your hire car in Reykjavik and start driving south (the trip can also be completed in the opposite direction). Within a couple of hours, you will reach your first major waterfall – Seljalandsfoss! This was my absolute favorite and if weather permits, you are able to walk behind the waterfall, which is a spectacular sight. When you leave and get on the road again, you are only about 30 minutes away from your next stop, that being Skogafoss, another incredible waterfall. The closest town to these landmarks is Vik, which is a good place to stop for the night. It also is a great location to view the Northern lights if the sky is clear so heading down to Black Beach for the best viewing spot.

waterfall in iceland

When driving from Vik to Hof, the next big town, you really get a sense of how crazy the landscape is and how quickly it changes. Throughout the entire trip, you will be making multiple stops along the way because it will be unlike anything you have seen before. Not far from Hof you will reach Jökulsárlón, the Glacier Lagoon. This was one of my favorite locations as the surrounding beaches are covered in icebergs. This area is also home to many adventure tours like walking through ice caves, climbing over glaciers and much more.

iceland icebergs

One waterfall that cannot be missed is Goðafoss. Located on the north east side of the Island, near Akureyri. I went during winter, where it was covered in snow and the waterfall was half frozen. Although I have never been so cold, I think these were the best conditions to view it. Photographing it during sunset was one of my favorite experiences of the trip.

icy landscapes in iceland

From Akureyri you can easily make the trip back down to Reykjavik. I didn’t make any big stops along the way but you really don’t need a list to tell you where to go from here. The scenery, like everywhere else, is amazing so you already will be constantly stopping to take photos. If you have time, when you are in the western side of Iceland, stop at Kirkjufell, a lovely mountain and waterfall which is a popular photography spot.

northern lights in iceland

My trip through this incredible country was intense. I was in Iceland for about 12 days and I definitely needed a few days afterwards to rest because I was exhausted by the end of it. Visiting Iceland will probably be unlike any other trip you have taken and even though my visit is over, I’m still in disbelief at how unique the country is.

 

Jessica Ward is a commercial travel photographer and writer based in Newcastle, Australia. She has spent many months exploring the world and is always eager to embark on overseas trips. Jessica documents all of her adventures on Instagram @jesswardphoto and on her website Jessica Ward Photography

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.