Since we’ve moved to Iceland we were dreaming of traveling across the Icelandic Interior and to discover the world that lies behind the imaginary designated line of the ring road.
We have this special map at our place in Reykjavik where we mark all the roads we have already driven and all the trails we have hiked. But it wasn’t only the need to mark another line on the map, it was always about something more. We were so curious to get to know how the landscape must look like in the place so barren and unwelcoming that allows people to enter only during 3 summer months.
This summer we finally made it and drove the gravel roads of the Icelandic Highlands. Some of our friends told us that the very interior of the island is not interesting at all, as it’s flat, lacking vegetation and the only type of landscape that you will see through the windows for hours of driving it’s just the black volcanic ash and a trail of dust left behind the jeep. The thing was that the black barren volcanic deserts are my favorite type of landscape in Iceland. It’s minimalistic, monochromatic and unique as there is no other place in the world when you can observe the contrast between black vast volcanic soils combined with white glaciers shinning in the sun.
It occurred to be even better than we imagined while drawing this route with fingers on our map of Icelandic adventures.
So, one summer midnight sun evening we took the map and started to plan our road trip for real. We decided to enter the interior from the Northern part of Iceland by the road nr 821. This meant that before we actually entered the Interior we drove nearly 400 km from Reykjavik to Akureyri and we bathed in some natural hot pools on the way.
The road 821 occurred to be the greenest road we’ve driven so far in Iceland and we gave it a name the green paw as per its shape.
The North welcomed us with a rainbow. In Nordic countries when a rainbow is ending up in the clouds is called Bifrost which in the Nordic mythology is a bridge that reaches between Midgard (Earth) and Asgard (the realm of the gods).
In Iceland, rainbows are very common as per the climate and its localization on the Atlantic Ocean. This plus the influence of the warm Gulf stream carrying warm waters from the equator, also the mixture of the warm winds from the Atlantic with cold air from the Arctic creates unstable weather conditions, with frequent and sudden changes. Sometimes in Iceland, when you are in an open space outside the city, you can observe a few types of weather at the same time.
changing local atmospheric front in the Interior
And where the rain meets the sun there are rainbows. We will tell you more about hot pools, rainbows, discovering Icelandic North and the ‘green paw’.
When we left the green paw and then the landscape started to change significantly. The kingdom of black sand deserts opened before us. The weather conditions in the middle of Iceland are so severe, with temperatures – and winds up to 60km/h that nearly no vegetation is able to survive here.
There was no sign of human activity apart from the gravel roads. While driving we were leaving behind a cloud of dust that quickly settled back on the surface as everything here was suppose to come back to its original state.
We were crossing endless deserts for hours when we finally we started to notice on the horizon the wooden silhouettes of the highlands huts. We were about to arrive at Laguafell (the blue dot on the map) and we were getting closer to the exact geographical middle of Iceland.
arriving at Laugafell
highland’s huts in Laugafell
vegetation in Laugafell
Then we left F821 and continued to F26 (map above). For the next few hours, we have been driving the longest gravel road in Icelandic Highlands that crosses the vast Sprengisandur black sand plateau.
F26 is also one of the most scenic roads in Iceland as it runs between Hofsjokull and Vatnajokull glaciers.
the road between two glaciers
We left the turn to Askja with sadness as we will have to wait another year to visit this place and not long after we noticed another huts on the horizon.
When we lost glaciers from our sides this strange and beautiful mountain arose before us and then we also experienced the first snow this season. But we’ve made it we crossed the Interior before the first snow arrived. Now we were sure that the Summer is over.
We stood there for a long time enchanted the beauty of the view not noticing the feeling of the freezing cold that was sliding down of mountains and entering our bones.
We continued to stare at the view through the windows of one of the huts where we found shelter and got warmer with a cup of coffee.
How it is that in places like this coffee is always more. A view from the huts overlooking the geothermal heating tower.
We appreciate this atmosphere of abandoned huts and touristic places. That’s one of the main pluses of traveling off-season.
When we left the huts the snow storm got us. It’s so true this Icelandic saying “you don’t like the Icelandic weather, wait 5 minutes”.
We are about to experience another change of landscape, this time Iceland in its winter version.
Nobody likes this feeling when after some days spent in nature you have to come back to civilization and pollution. Luckily we usually catch the sunset on our way back which cheer us up and marking up a new line across Iceland on our map even more.