When traveling to Iceland, you’ve probably heard that the capital is not the ultimate place to be. Although there are plenty of stuff to do in Reykjavik, true Iceland is experienced on road trips outside of cities.
Reykjavik offers hundreds of bus tours to dive into various natural Icelandic experiences. However, if you can drive, renting a car can be the start of the perfect trip!
West Borgarfjörður region is an amazing area to drive around, very close to Reykjavik. With magical nature and history, this is the setting of most Icelandic sagas. For a unique experience, follow this simple but great route that takes less than a day!
Driving from Reykjavik on Route 1, or the Ring Road, which encircles the country, you will first drive through Hvalfjörður tunnel, 165 meters below sea level, and then over the second longest bridge in Iceland. Finally, you arrive on a small peninsula and enter Borgarnes, a town inhabited by less than 2000 people.
Borgarnes is a great place to explore Icelandic history, as the town is one of Iceland’s earliest establishments, dating from more than 1000 years ago. Here you can find the Settlement Centre museum, which offers an amazing incursion into the popular Icelandic sagas and folklore, an illustration of the neverending strength and endurance of Icelanders in the face of hardship. Borgarnes is also home to the Centre for Puppet Arts, which hosts familiar characters from important theatrical performances in Iceland.
Continuing your trip outside of Borgarnes, next stop is Grábrók, the largest of three volcanic craters that resulted after a volcanic fissure eruption more than 3000 years ago. The crater is 170 m high and can be easily climbed on the already built wooden stairs, so leave your car nearby and start hiking!
Circling the crater on the wooden path gives you an amazing panorama of the moss-covered lava field and the lake formed after that eruption. From here, you also get a fine sight of Baula mountain, the most beautiful in Iceland, due to its almost perfect cone shape and reddish colour.
At the base of the crater you will get a glimpse of a seemingly small village, which is actually the campus of Bifröst University.
3. Glanni waterfall
Leaving Grábrók, but still in the lava field surrounding it, a sign that reads “Glanni” invites you to leave your car in the parking lot and continue your trip by foot. A walking path takes you across amazing and colorful vegetation straight to a small but impressive waterfall, said to be a home for elves and trolls.
Norðurá, the river feeding Glanni, is one of the most important in West Iceland for salmon fishing. In summer, you can actually see salmon jumping up the waterfall, supported by a few man-made steps.
4. Paradísarlaut (Paradise Hollow)
Don’t leave the lava field just yet! Walking just a few minutes in the other direction from Glanni, you will find yourself in an amazing hidden oasis.
Once here, you will hear the sound of trickling water, as it flows from under the lava and gathers in a small pond, just in the middle of the hollow. A perfect stop to recharge and have a picnic during a road trip, as the hollow can provide shelter from the wind and a magical sight. On warm summer days, dipping your toes in the cold water can be quite refreshing.
If time allows on your way back, take a detour on Road 50 to Deildartunguhver, the most powerful hot spring in Europe. The spring pumps up 180 litres/second of water that is visibly boiling and steaming.
In the past, water from Deildartunguhver was used by locals for cooking and cleaning. Recently, the hot spring warms up houses within a 65 km radius, including the towns of Borgarnes and Akranes.
Near Deildartunguhver, you can end your trip or just pause and rest in a hot bath at the geothermal resort, Krauma Spa. Here you will bathe in hot water pumped straight from Deildartunguhver and cooled with freezing water from the smallest glacier in Iceland.