Day One: Keflavik to Skogar Hostel via Reykjanes Peninsula = non-stop drive 2.5 hours (approx. 300 km). With stops to explore sights = 8 hours!
Highlights: The Bridge Between Two Continents, Gunnuhver, Reykjanesviti, Blue Lagoon, Raufarholshellir, Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi Waterfall, Skogar and Skogafoss waterfall .
Day one of our 6 day Do-It-Yourself driving tour of south Iceland was ambitious, requiring us to “hit the ground running” after a nine hour red-eye flight & cover a lot of distance while stopping to explore many sights. Two drivers (me & my teen son), two well-studied maps, & a knapsack filled with snacks & bottled water meant we could start our adventure before shops opened.
6:45a.m. We landed in the early dark at Keflavik airport & picked up our car from Sixt rentals (booked through Expedia, cost C$355.38 for 6 days). We rented a simple automatic. Four-wheel drive wasn’t necessary for our route in mid-March, although we hit a few impressive hailstorms. Tip: we purchased car insurance online through Expedia, which was less than ½ of what Sixt quoted us on-site in Keflavik.
8:00 As dawn tinged the clouded sky pink, we headed down route 44 and 425 along the Reykjanes Peninsula and through 100 Crater Park. We stopped at The Bridge between Two Continents, (a black sandy gulf between the European & North American plates), zipped over to the steaming, multi-hued geothermal area of Gunnuhver, (so named after a witch) and glimpsed Reykjanesviti, Iceland’s oldest lighthouse circa 1878.
10:00a.m. We arrived at Blue Lagoon. It was a breezy, cool morning with intermittent hail and shoals of dark clouds glowering overhead, and once in the warm waters, it was a challenge to get out.
Tip: You must book Blue Lagoon at least 4 weeks in advance. Due to its popularity, you won’t be admitted unless you have in hand a pre-paid ticket for a specific time-slot.
12:30ish-We drove south along route 43 to Grindavik, pulled into a grocery store, bought packaged sandwiches, licorice, & drinks, & headed east along route 427. We’d planned on exploring the 11th century lava tube of Raufarholshellir (1.3 km north of the junction where Rtes 38,39 and 427 meet), but the cave was closed for extensive repairs.
1:30pm—Along Rte 1, we stopped in Selfoss to buy groceries for the week at Kronan (it has a gluten-free section). Tip: Grocery stores are scarce to non-existent for a long distance after Selfoss, and most hostels are located in lovey, isolated areas… so stock up on groceries and gas here.
3:00ish—We stopped at Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi , two impressive waterfalls located approximately 15 km from Hvosvollur. The falls are adjacent to the main Ring Road at the base of the Eyjafjallajökull Glacier. Seljalandsfoss is the famous Icelandic waterfall that you can walk behind, along a treacherously slippery path, and we got drenched doing just that. From Seljalandsfoss, we shiver-walked the short distance to Gljufrabui waterfall, then got even further soaked wading through an icy creek into the dark, narrow canyon cleft to this eerie second waterfall.
4:00pm—We continued east along Route 1 until we reached Skogar and Skogafoss waterfall. (50 kms east of Hvosvollur). We’d hoped to see the Skogar museum, but we didn’t make the 4:00pm closing time. We stayed the night at the Skogar Hostel. Skógar HI Hostel is located below Skógar waterfall, 200 m from Ring Road no. 1, approx. 200 km from Reykjavík. Tip: Iceland is crazy-popular & hostels need to be booked 5 months in advance! For dinner, we self-catered by microwave baking potatoes and frying up yummy cheese& spinach omelettes, and then… we slept!