Iceland’s Ring Road: A Winter Drive From Skaftafell to Selfoss

Iceland has a main road that stretches all the way around the outer rim of the country. It was completed in 1974, and the last section of it featured heavily in our drive back from three nights in the middle of nowhere. The road is remarkably well-maintained and easy to travel even in the dead of winter, and you can even check the conditions in real time online.

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After our amazing trip to the ice caves and a stop-off to walk toward glaciers in the nearby national park, we had to head back toward civilisation. We began the trip in mild weather, which changed to gale force winds around the village of Vik, and calmed again on our way to the western part of the country. One of the most peculiar things about the Ring Road is that there are marked picnic areas every kilometre or so. Everywhere. Even on the sand flats, where the wind never seems to stop.

They must really love their picnics in Iceland.

Up to the glacier
Up to the glacier
Skaftafell, Iceland
Skaftafell, Iceland

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Car Advert.
Car Advert.

The drive was intense; at times the road was covered in more than two inches of ice. At times, the sun was strong and beautiful, shining off the road with moss-covered, other-worldly lava fields flying by at 80 kph.

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Russell took the opportunity to shake his fist at a giant rock. Geology. Reminding us how tiny and flash-in-the-pan-y we puny humans are since the beginning of time. The road turned even more icy shortly after this, as if the fist shaking had brought down a bit more challenge for us as we hurtled toward Vik. IMG_6724 IMG_6722 IMG_6715 IMG_6720

When we pulled up to the village, the wind was howling intermittently. We tried to get out and walk up the black sand dunes, but we were immediately turned back by the blowing sand. It was like a hurricane, but with tiny black pieces of rock being thrown everywhere. It was exhilarating.

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Picnic in the gale!

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Gale-force winds in Vik covered us in loose volcanic sand. It was black in our teeth!
Gale-force winds in Vik covered us in loose volcanic sand. It was black in our teeth!

We had opted out of the package tours that take people around the island, creating our own Russleen tour. We didn’t mis out on much of anything on our drive, including a visit to Skógafoss. This is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland, and flows heavily even in winter. It’s not particularly well-marked. There is a tiny village built up around it, and several horse farms. IMG_6808 IMG_6751

There is a stairwell-hiking path up the side of the waterfall. It’s not far, but the wind was coming and going like a breathing giant and the snow was stinging our faces.  IMG_6753 IMG_6756 IMG_6757 IMG_6758

From the top
From the top
Skogarfoss Waterfall
Skogarfoss Waterfall

The mini-hike in the howling wind and rainsnow was worth it. We vowed to come back in the summertime to do the trek that begins here and leads to some volcanic areas. When we came down, we ventured closer to the fall itself and ended up in a colossal amount of water.

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I was wearing GorTex and my slightly ripped underlayer. Russell was dressed in Death Pants (cotton jeans). He was drenched!

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So. Cold. Can’t. Face. Waterfall.

A quick change in the back of the car and we were back on our way, coming closer and closer to the ‘big city’ of Selfoss, where we would be staying the night. We pulled up to our brand-spanking-new hotel, which was geothermally heated from top to toe! It’s not uncommon for showers to smell of eggy farts in Iceland, because you are usually bathing in hot spring water. So good for the skin. So bad for the nostrils.

Geothermal heated!
Geothermal heated!

At Hotel Selfoss, we managed to glimpse the Northern Lights. We had been peeking out windows for days, with the weather not cooperating. Late at night, between snow squalls, I spotted something out our window.

Selfoss
Selfoss

“Hey, that’s a weird cloud…”

“Oh….it’s a bit green!”

“YAY”

And we tried to put on our shoes to go outside, but the Icelandic weather had changed yet again and two-inch wide snowflakes were blowing by in blizzard conditions by the time we tied our laces. But we saw them. Iceland’s little gift for us.

Next time: The City 

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