With a population of 322.000 inhabitants and a total area of 103.000 km2, Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe. We realized that when we left Reykjavik and Reykjanes, the most populated area of Iceland. Route 1, or Ring road, connects all important places with capital city to form a full circle around the entire island. This is the favorite route for independent travelers. Most of the major attractions are located on the Ring road.
Fantastic scenery can be seen when you drive this route. Fjords are carved by mountains, horses walking around freely, dramatic landscapes and much more. Traffic is very rare, even in the period of the “tourist invasion”, compared with other European countries. Speed limit of 90 km/h allows you to relax and enjoy the unique scenery.
Icelandic horses on Route 1
One of the major attractions of Ring road is a tunnel under Hvalfjordur (fjord), which shortens the road to the north for 45 km. Tunnel is slightly less than 6 km, road toll is 1.000 ISK (7 euro). It is practically the only toll in Iceland. Otherwise, almost all attractions in Iceland are free. Based on experiences from other countries where`s the trend of charging fees for visiting natural attractions, this represents a true rarity. In the north of Iceland, Route 1 is intersected by the minor roads leading to the fjords and small settlements. These areas are known for harsh weather conditions. To protect themselves from severe cold and strong wind, Icelanders built their houses lined with turf grass. In Glaumbaer near Skagafjordur, you can see Icelandic heritage houses – Minjahusiđ, which testify to living conditions in old times and the constant struggle of man with raw nature.
Minjahusid – tradicional icelandic houses
Ring road takes us to Akureyri, the largest town in the north and the second largest in Iceland. This port city and fishing industry center, has only 18,000 inhabitants. Also, it is the starting point for exploring the wonders of nature in northern part of Iceland.
After almost thousand kilometers of driving, it`s clear that renting a car is the best solution for a tour around Iceland. It`s more flexible, even cost-effective, than visiting island by bus. Although regarded as one of the most expensive countries in Europe, it is possible to find affordable rent-a-car arrangements. Usual price of renting a small economical car for 7 days, going over 500 euro. We have found one for under 300 euro. Fantastic price considering all the circumstances.
Every journey sometimes requires serious research. Must admit, I had some problems to fit into a huge offer of Iceland attractions with a small number of days for this trip. However, one city in the north, stands out as a special place. The best place for “Whale Watching” even in the world, according to experienced travelers. It`s also named the capital of Whale Watching, name of the town is Husavik.
It may sound absurd, but with 2,250 inhabitants, Husavik is among the largest cities in the north of the country. It is also famous for “Husavik Whale Museum”, and even has an airport. Reykjavik and many other cities have an organized whale watching, but we wanted to experience it in the best possible location, right on the border of the Arctic Circle, in Husavik. There are two companies that offers Whale Watching, without significant difference, either in price or in organizing. The price is around 50 euro, but the experience is unique. You get special warm overalls to ” survive ” the cold in the open sea, on the edge of the Arctic.
Ready for Whale Watching
Whale Watching companies guarantee you whale spotting in 2-3 hours of boat ride. Still, passed a long time until the first water giant shows up. All started with dolphins, then the largest mammal appeared, the Blue Whale.
Blue whale dives into the Greenland sea
To be continued …