By Facundo Rosón
There is no better way to get to know a place than by driving through it roads. It is the freedom of having a car that allows us to find those hidden places, inaccessible by any other method of transportation. Being on the road with the independence of a car means stopping when nature astonishes us or when we are amazed by a small town. It is being able to decide where and when, without schedules, without having to run from one side to another.
During 2017 we drove almost 20.000 kilometers around Europe. We visited every country, from Portugal to Poland, the UK and Iceland, 90-day motorhome included. But I must admit that the first prize goes to the last country on that list. And here are the 10 reasons why we consider Iceland to be THE BEST ROAD TRIP OF 2017.
1. ICELAND GIVES YOU A UNIQUE WELCOME
I will never forget our arrival at Keflavik Airport. I was coming from the beautiful mild weather of Madrid and as soon as the doors opened, Iceland slapped me on the face with its wind and cold rain water. One hour later I was in our SADcars campervan in the middle of what seemed to be nowhere, trying to figure out how to get to the closest petrol station because I had heard that in Iceland you need to load up on fuel every single time you find a station (that is not a myth, my reader friend).
I have to admit that my first thought was “Where the hell am I? Why did I choose to come here? Why is it raining so hard? What is this wind on my windshield?”
One hour later, I was walking around the small but amazingly beautiful Reykjavík with a short-sleeve T-shirt under a warm sunny day. It only took me two hours to understand the Icelandic saying: “If you don´t like the weather, just wait five minutes”. And I just loved that! What a fantastic way to welcome us.
2. IT IS THE BEST PLACE TO SLOW TRAVEL
Every time we see a tourist bus stopping in the town where we just arrived, it gives us the chills. Like pieces on a production line, they descend in a row with their inevitable hats and automatic cameras hanging from their necks, their shirts that rarely match their shoes and their continuous rush. They escape from their home routines and their daily stress to get into another pre-defined schedule routine and other stress caused by the need to return in time so that the bus does not leave without them.
We prefer slow traveling. That is, having an itinerary idea but being able to change it along the way, stopping where we want to stop, staying where we like to stay, and leaving if we don´t like the place. And taking the time to do so. Some people travel to Iceland for just 3 days. It´s like ordering a continental breakfast and only drinking the tea.
Iceland is the best place to slow travel because -leaving the “each-day-more-famous” area of the golden circle aside- it is not a country where you will find those masses of tourists getting off a bus. But that is not the only reason why we consider Iceland to be one of the best places for slow traveling.
In this island you are forced by nature to slow travel. Every corner is another great motive to stop and snap. A 1-hour ride can take you the whole day, as you will feel the urge to take out your camera and immortalize the moment. Furthermore, you will be in such awe that one photograph will not be enough. You will want to sit down and just enjoy the magical landscapes.
3. THERE IS NO TIME TO BLINK
You will definitely not fall asleep while driving. You will find yourself going through lush-green hill scenery and all of a sudden, after taking a sharp curve and going up a steep road, you will be surrounded by a snow caped landscape, trying to figure out at what point we traveled to another planet.
There is no time to blink while road tripping around Iceland as you won´t want to miss a thing. You will be enjoying the magical Thingvellir National Park with its waterfalls and surrounding mountains, trying to take it all in, and later on you will be thrown up to the sky by a geyser explosion and submerged under the breathtaking beauty of a glacier lagoon.
4. DRIVING IS AN EXPERIENCE IN ITSELF
As I´ve told you before, we drove almost 20.000 kilometers during our year in Europe. But no country gave us the same road experience as Iceland. We always try to take the back roads in order to enjoy the countryside. That way of driving took as to the most beautiful French towns, or the most amazing Spanish landscapes. But you always end up driving some boring high ways in order not to extend your driving hours.
Iceland has only one main road: number one. It goes all around the island. Then there are the 2 number roads, and the three number roads, and the infamous F-Roads (don´t take those without a 4-wheel drive). But even the main road (aka Ring Road) is an experience on itself. It never gets boring; it has constantly changing landscapes, weather, and colors.
We never got bored while driving in Iceland. There were even days we spent the whole time inside the campervan and we didn´t even realize it. That is why we can definitely say that a road trip around Iceland is the ultimate driving experience.
5. ICELAND MAKES YOU A BETTER DRIVER
As a Buenos Aires (Argentina) inhabitant, I always thought that if I knew how to drive around that crazy (and beautiful) city, I could drive anywhere. That was until I drove the Icelandic roads.
There are two reasons why Iceland makes you a better driver. Firstly, the road conditions. The Ring Road is almost 100% smooth and easy driving. But if you want to get more adventurous, then you should know that you will face some gravel roads, dirt roads, pot-holed roads, never-before-seen mountain roads, and a long etcetera. And you will have to be very cautious, and have your eyes wide opened. You will need to learn how to be patient and drive slowly, in order not to break your car, or something worse.
And then, there´s the weather. I can only tell you that I found myself driving through a mountain road, near a 100 meter-high cliff with no rail protection, with an 80 km/h wind hitting the side of the campervan, rethinking life itself. After that near-death experience, I understood that nothing could get harder during a road-trip. But hey, it was SO worth it. (I then learned about a webpage where you can check the wind forecast. So be sure to do so before starting to drive).
6. THE ROADS WERE BUILT FOR YOU
In other countries you will need to go through the back roads to enjoy silence and solitude. Otherwise you will be driving along some other fellow human beings.
Iceland is something out of the books. You will find yourself all alone driving even along the Ring Road. It´s going to be just you and nature. And nothing beats that sensation of being the only human around. It makes you feel free. It makes you feel small, surrounded by such an awe-inspiring landscape.
Of course that doesn´t mean doing the stupid thing that lots of tourists do: stopping the car in the middle of the road and taking a photograph of you lying down on the cement. But you will always be able to find a nice place to park your car and enjoy the silence surrounding you.
7. CHOOSE YOUR RIDE, CHOOSE YOUR ADVENTURE
We always had the same idea from the beginning of our Icelandic road trip: a campervan in order to be able to cook and sleep wherever we wanted to (and save a lot of money on lodgings and food). But Iceland is a place where depending on the vehicle you choose, you´ll get a totally different experience.
If you are more of an adventurous person you can go for a four wheel drive and immerse into the highlands. We didn´t go there so it wouldn´t be fair to talk about them. But it is said to be the real heart of the country, where nature beats harder.
8. ICELAND IS AMAZING FOR KIDS OF ALL AGES
When we went to Iceland, our son was not even two years old, and he had a blast. There were no playgrounds with slides or hammocks; there were no movie theaters to watch the latest Disney movie. But there was a big world around him, full of life, of waterfalls, mountains, horses. The world itself was his playground and, with the logical security measurements to assure his safety (after all Iceland is extremely windy and “cliffy”), he had the time of his life.
So imagine going there with an older kid: a kid that would be able to follow you on long hikes, in constant touch with the wildest nature, enjoying the midnight sun, or the northern lights, depending on the time of year you go. Iceland is a massive kids playground (if your kid is curious and not a TV zombie. But that´s up to you and how you raise him/her).
9. ICELAND IS ONE OF THE SAFEST AND CLEANEST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD
There is not much else to say about this title. There is practically no crime in Iceland and it tops the world security and life standards ranks every single year. 98% of its population knows how to read and that says a lot about its culture and education. So if you want a peaceful, nothing-to-worry-about trip, then this is the place to be.
10. THERE IS NOTHING LIKE IT
I can definitely say I have traveled the world. I have been to over 40 countries in 5 different continents. But I have never seen anything like Iceland. The landscapes are taken out of another planet for sure, and the feeling of being there, alone, with your car and your companion/s, is unexplainable.
Iceland is a country that will stay in your heart forever. You will either love it or love it. And no, that´s not a spelling mistake. There is no chance that you will not love this little island on the top of the world. There is so much beauty and uniqueness in this country that not even the strongest wind can stop your desire to keep going from end to end. If you are here it is because you are thinking of going to Iceland at some point. Do not hesitate any longer. The perfect time is now.
Thank you Facundo for a great guest post!