Day 9 | Friday 10th June
Today was long and slow, involving a lot of driving as we swept down the north-west of the Ring Road. Our drive took us along mountain passes, beside rivers and through clouds. We briefly stopped for a picnic lunch at a lovely little spot by a river, climbing up onto a huge rock to peer down at the torrent of water below.
The main stop of the day was to find a secret geothermal pool that I'd found online. Situated next to a river, only steps away from a magnificent waterfall, it sounded idyllic. The only thing was, the directions that I had were extremely vague and the pool didn't feature on any maps.
We ended up driving around aimlessly, before Dave spotted telltale plumes of steam rising from near a river. We gathered our swimming gear, took off our shoes and set off across the fields, wading through freezing cold stream only to find .... nothing! We then traipsed back through the fields, being followed by inquisitive horses.
Back on the road we eventually spotted a sign and set off again on foot. This time we found it: a beautifully isolated steaming pool, just next to an impressive cascade. Only, we were stuck on the wrong side of the river at the top of a huge waterfall. Back in the car, third time lucky, and we found the turning that crossed the river. The end was just about in sight, but we stopped briefly to sit on the cliff hovering over the falls to admire the view.
Across a tiny bridge and over a hill and we were finally there! We had our own private geothermal hotpot in a picturesque location all to ourselves! We gingerly climbed into the pool, the water almost too hot to bear, sliding over the rocks and mud. The trickle of water on the rocks separating the pool from the icy cold river was bubbling and steaming, so we avoided that side of the pool and basked in the heat at the other side. After 10-15 minutes, our skin was pink and raw, so we climbed out and relaxed on the grass by the pool.
To find Fosslaug geothermal pool and Reykjafoss (waterfall): Turn off Route 1 onto the 752 road at Varmahlíð. Drive 7km down the road, before turning left at the sign for Vindheimar. Drive across two small bridges over the river. Turn first right down a gravel road, parking your car when you reach the fence. Go through two gates, heading right. You should see a blue sign for FOSSLAUG and the spray of the waterfall in front of you to the right. Stop to admire the cascade before crossing the bridge and walking over the hill. The pool is next to the river, close to the top of the waterfall.
After our dip, we continued our drive, briefly stopping in the cloud-covered seaside town of Blondous to feed Icelandic ponies and to enjoy a hearty Polish meal at Guesthouse Kiljan. We then continued to our guesthouse for the night; a sterile place with views across the fjord. It's much colder and cloudier here, so I wrapped up warm and wandered down the lane to feed more ponies, before grabbing my notebook and sitting out on the deck, overlooking the water.
Day 10 | Saturday 11th June
That's it. The Ring Road is completed and we fly home first thing tomorrow morning.
We're currently lying on our bed in an expensive hotel in Keflavik, close to the airport. I'm feeling whimsical about our trip and thinking about all of the places that we have seen over the past ten days. I like how sparsely populated it is here, and how the landscape constantly changes but stays rural, wild, remote and dramatic. I'm not ready for crowds, queues, concrete and motorways.
Today was mainly a long drive down to the Reykjanes peninsula. The promise of getting in close proximity with seals spurred us on to drive around the entire peninsula that we awoke on, even when confronted with over friendly quizzical horses blocking our path. This was to be the biggest disappointment of the trip, as the only seals we could spot were on the other side of the windy bay and looked like little white specks.
We cracked on, stopping in Borganes for food. The cafe at the Settlement Centre does an incredible vegetarian lunch time buffet, with all the salad, soup, bread, pasta, roasted vegetables, couscous, sweet potato and feta cheese that you can eat.
We then took some time to explore the Reykjanes peninsula before returning our car and heading to the hotel. At the very south-westerly tip of the peninsula, you can find a geothermal area not too far from the Blue Lagoon. Perhaps the most obvious end to your trip is to soak in the famous lagoon, but we thought it too touristy, expensive and over-hyped, especially after our dips in secret and isolated geothermal pools. If you do want to visit, I recommend booking in advance to avoid the queues.
Instead, we visited Gunnuhver to catch our last glimpse of Iceland's geothermal wonders. It's only a small geothermal area, but the plumes of steam were the largest that I'd seen the entire trip.
Our very last stop was just around the corner. I desperately wanted to be by the sea one last time, so we parked up at Reykjanesviti. Here, just past a lighthouse, a rugged beach beckons. Waves crash violently upon the rocks and the wind howls as you look out to sea. We spent an hour or so scrambling on the rocks to get closer to the water and large pinnacles just out to sea, and climbing up cliffs to admire the views.
Iceland, you've been magnificent. I have no words to describe what a magical place you are. I will be back