Out of the tourist trap in Iceland

When you think of Iceland, immediately images of vast, lonely landscapes, majestic waterfalls and erupting geysers come into your mind. Everywhere on Instagram and Flickr you see those pictures of Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Jökulsarlon, Stokkur Geysir and of all those other insanely beautiful placeswith nobody around. I saw these pictures and I wanted to go, so I planned a journey on the ring road. Iceland is pretty expensive, so I wanted to make the most of it. Carefully I listed the places I wanted to see, using guide books to map out a good route.

Moss covererd lava rocks along the way.
Moss covererd lava rocks along the way.

Well, apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt inspired and wanted to see this with my own eyes. There were two flights from Hamburg Airport, leaving just before midnight. Not a single place was vacant on one of them. And apparently many other flights from other airports arrived at the same time, a huge crowd populated Keflavik Airport in Iceland in the middle of the night. After some waiting, I picked up the rental car and headed out to Gardur Lighthouse for a first night.

The trip seemed to be quiet, some traffic on the ring road, few people around at rest stops. I was optimistic. But then I stopped for the first spot marked on my map, the “Bridge between continents” on the Reykjanes Peninsula, spanning the Mid Atlantic Ridge in the plate boundaries of the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plate. Like out of nowhere, loads of cars with tons of people in them appeared. They were all rushing around, trying to take the perfect holiday photo. Looking back, I have to admit that I was one of them.

Somewhere in the vast lava fields of the east.
Somewhere in the vast lava fields of the east.

It would always be the same at all of those world famous and beautiful spots. Out of nowhere bus loads of people turned up, competing to find the best spot for a picture. Of course, the sights of the famous waterfalls, geothermal areas, glaciers and lagoons was beautiful, but if I was completely honest, I couldn’t quite enjoy them as much as I wanted to. This wasn’t the solitude I was looking for. I felt disappointed, betrayed and foolish. Yes, I could have guessed that I wasn’t the only one attracted by reviews praising the beauty of Iceland. I could have read articles of the tourist boom hitting Iceland. Instead, I had been blinded by this idea of epic landscapes and solitude that had been forming in my head for years.

Sunset on Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
Sunset on Snaefellsnes Peninsula.

In the end, I wasn’t disappointed though. I noticed that the famous tourist spots weren’t what I wanted – so what. I had a car and could stop anywhere. Well, almost anywhere. I couldn’t go to the highlands with this car, it simply was no offroad car. That would have been too expensive. It was in my hands to turn this trip around, and I did turn it around. I stopped taking breaks only where I had set a mark on my map. Whenever a place looked promising, I just stopped and hopped out og the car. Of course I still went to see the famous land marks, it would have been a shame to miss those. And I completely admit that they are beautiful and deserve all the praise, but this just wasn’t right for me.

A rainbow appeared after heavy showers of rain.
A rainbow appeared after heavy showers of rain.

The moments of this trip that gave me exactly what I wanted were the unexpected ones. Having a bath in naturally heated outdoor hot tubs and enjoying the mountain view. Finding a small waterfall hidden away after walking over some fields. Enjoying sunset at a deserted beach. Admiring the shadows that the setting sun cast on a rutted mountain. Seeing bright rainbows after a heavy shower. It was the little moments that added up and made this holiday just as magical as I had hoped.

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