From glaciers to lava
Editor’s note: In celebration of this week’s launch of our Commercial Host program, which empowers independent car rental agencies all over the world to share their cars on Turo, we’re highlighting some of the rich new markets that have already developed a thriving Turo presence. Today, all eyes are on Iceland, with its breathtaking Nordic moonscapes and its can’t-miss travel cachet, now with a booming Turo presence in and around Reykjavik.
Iceland was made for driving. With remote stretches of road traversing the shockingly varied landscapes, driving Iceland’s Ring Road is one of the more visually arresting road trips you’re likely to ever take. Get ready for waterfalls galore, glaciers, bucolic lakes, lava fields, and the crowning jewel of it all: the mystical Northern Lights.
After touching down in the country’s capital of Reykjavik, hit the ground running with a mini-road trip around the Golden Circle before tackling the main Ring Road. The Golden Circle will take you through Thingvellir National Park, which contains the Gullfoss Waterfall, a roaring behemoth of rushing water that will whet your appetite (get it?) for the waterfalls to come.
Spend the morning waterfall hopping. Start with Seljalandsfoss (foss means waterfall), where you should plan to get wet when you hike behind it for the best views. If you’re still feeling adventurous, venture to the Gljúfrabúi waterfall, located in a cave — worth it for the up-close view. A bit further along the Ring Road is Skógafoss, arguably one of the most impressive waterfalls of the trip.
In the afternoon, pause for a roughly two-hour hike and a photo op with the Sólheimasandur plane wreckage from a 1970s DC-3 aircraft crash (the crew all survived). Then, continue on toward Vik, stopping along the way to follow signs for Dyrhólaey, which will lead you to the rocky black sand coast, where puffins nest amongst the craggy cliffs.
Shift from waterfalls to glaciers at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, where you can hear ice cracking and see enormous ice chunks washing up to shore. Continue on the ice theme by exploring the crystal ice caves under Vatnajökull glacier (though beware that these are only accessible in the winter, and with a guide). Sunlight filters through the delicate glass tunnels created by meltwater to create a bewitching blue tint.
Head on to the fishing village of Höfn for a night’s rest. But don’t plan to spend the whole time sleeping: you’re in one of the areas where you’re most likely to catch a Northern Lights show, so be ready to be awed by the dancing, otherworldly green Aurora Borealis.
Head into the even more remote areas of Iceland as you drive inland toward Myvatn. The scenery turns starkly beautiful here, with lava fields and crater lakes that feel implausible and yet: there they are. Stop at the Viti crater to ogle the shockingly bright blue-green water that fills it. Hike the Krafla lava fields, where you’ll easily find yourself stumbling across simmering pools of mineral water and massive holes in the ground leaking steam. In contrast, Lake Myvatn itself is positively pastoral, flanked by lush greenery. Check out the waterfall Godafoss on your way to Akureyri.
Take it easy on the driving today by meandering up towards the Vatnsnes area. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to pull off and hike the black sand beaches below the cliffs, and perhaps get lucky with a seal colony sighting. Continue west through the sparsely-populated roads, and plan to book a cozy cabin for the night.
Get an early start for your last major driving day headed to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This is where you’ll find Kirkjufellsfoss, perhaps the most photographed waterfall in Iceland (for a country with around 10,000 waterfalls, that’s saying something). If you can get there early enough, it’s stunning at sunrise. Next, the Hellnar sea cliffs are a good place to spend some time taking in the dramatic crashing waves against windswept rocks.
Head back to Reykjavik for your last day and reward yourself with some relaxation at the Blue Lagoon. Be forewarned, you’ll need to make a reservation, and very early or later in the day will afford you the best chance of missing the crush of tour-bus tourists. Once there, treat yourself to a floating water massage before hitting up the in-lagoon bar to toast a road trip well-spent.