Updated: Jan 24, 2020
This blog post is partly sponsored.
So, if you follow along on my Instagram, you saw that I spent 48 hours in Iceland at the beginning of December. I went solo travelling as a female (which I've done before), and I loved it. Did you also see that I got it almost FOR FREE? Let me tell you how and what I did.
How to get a "free trip"
Okay, it was not like I just got free flight tickets (still waiting for that sponsorship, lol). But I was flying from Denver to Copenhagen with Iceland Air and almost no matter what I had to have a stopover in Iceland. One of them was for 8 hours and it got me thinking that it could be nice to be able to explore a bit, because Iceland has been on my bucket list for years. So I checked if I could make the layover longer - and I could! If I stayed for one night I could even save 60$ on the flight tickets! So I decided to take the jump and go for it. After all, I had heard that Iceland is the perfect country for solo travelling.
Arriving in Iceland
I landed in Iceland at 5 am, where I then got picked up at the airport by Lava Car Rental - after waiting for them for 2 HOURS! I had decided to rent a car with them to be able to see as much as I wanted and have more freedom - but I highly recommend you to find another car rental company! These guys are NOT professional and it was a really bad experience. I called Lava Car Rental when I landed, but even thought the advertise with 24 hour phone service, no one picked up for 2 hours. I had informed them of my arrival time a week before, but no one was there for me. After 2 hours I finally got through and was told "I will come in 20 minutes". It took another 40 minutes before I got picked up by one of their drivers, who took me and 4 other guests to their office just outside of the airport. Once we came to the office, they could not find me reservation. So it took me another 45 minutes before I got the keys to my car, which was a Dacia Duster (I hope I will never have to drive this model again). They did not walk through the car with me or even explained me that this one had a different manual gear than other cars. So the first time I had to put it in reverse I had absolutely no idea how to, and it took me two phone calls, a small breakdown and 15 minutes to figure it out. I put in a bakery in the GPS (I was starving) and started driving. I had only been in Iceland for 3 hours and thanks to all this mess with the car rental company, I was already tired.
Side note: the car rental company promised me a refund, but has since my visit been very slow at responding to my emails. They finally said, they would organise the refund, but never did. They have since then ignored my many emails. I REPEAT - I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU FIND A MORE PROFESSIONAL CAR RENTAL COMPANY!
Driving along the south coast of Iceland
I had decided to drive along the south coast, since I had researched a lot and most of the things I wanted to see was along the southern coast. I put Hjörleifshöfði Cave (also known as the Yoda Cave) as the destination, which was about a 3 hour and 15 minute drive. I wanted to drive further, but first I wanted to see if I would have time, since the daylight is minimal at that time of the year. When driving out from Reykjavik you have to drive over a mountain and as I drove over, a big cloud covered the whole mountain, so I could only see about 3 meters to any side! It was scary as hell! I could not see anything so I was forced to drive really really slow. So once it finally cleared up, I had been driving for 2 hours and I was not even half way. As soon as I could see my surroundings, I pulled in to the first gas station I saw and took a 20 minute break - just sitting in the car, lol.
What to see on the south coast of Iceland
From here I drove the rest of the way, before starting to drive back to Hvolsvöllur, where I was going to spend the night. Driving in Iceland is amazing - there's basically only one road, so you can't get lost - and while you're driving you just see huge waterfalls in the horizon! I was in complete awe the whole time I was driving here. Here's what I saw on my drive.
Hjörleifshöfði Cave (Yoda Cave)
This place was my first stop and it started off strong! I had read that it is not actually exactly where is says when you put it into maps, but that you need to drive bit further down - and then you won't doubt when you find it. You take a right from the highway (there's a sign), where you follow a small gravel road to the beach. You then drive on to the beach and turn left, then just drive along the cliffs till you see the cave. There will be a sign on the left towards the cave, but that's actually for a hike that goes along the small mountain with the cave. Which is weird and does not make much sense. If you just continue to drive along the cliffs you will reach the cafe. It's huge and it's absolutely amazing!
From the Yoda Cave I started driving back towards Hvolsvöllur (the way I came from), but put in Reynisfjara Beach (Black Sand Beach) on the gps. When you drive along the one highway that exists on Iceland, there will be signs along the way for all sights. I turned down where the sign towards Reynisfjara Beach and drove about 5-10 minutes down the road. There is a small beach town and by the end of the road a parking lot for visitors to the Black Sand Beach. You park there and then walk about 5 minutes on the beach to the cliffs - but keep a safe distance to the water! There is also a lot of signs warning about these killer waves, that has sneakingly killed many tourists over the years. The danger of these waves is, that even though they are some of the biggest waves I've ever seen, they still manage to sneak up on you. Every 1 in 10 waves comes up way further on the beach and surprises whoever dared to walk out too far. When I was there, I saw at least 4 tourist getting surprised with wet feet within 10 minutes. It was high tide, so unfortunately I couldn't walk along the cliffs as I had hoped, so in between cliffs I bravely ran out here to snap a few photos.
Kvernufoss hidden waterfall
This waterfall is located right next to the famous Skógafoss waterfall. I chose to go to this one first in hope that most of the many tourist buses would start leaving Skógafoss, since it was only one hour before sunset. Unfortunately it took me so long to actually find Kvernufoss waterfall, because the instructions I found was not as clear as I would've liked. So let me explain it thoroughly.
How to find Kvernufoss hidden waterfall
This waterfall is really not on the tourist route - and I only saw 3 other tourists on my hike there. To go to Kvernufoss waterfall you park at Skogar museum, which you find on the right side and not turning left to Skógarfoss. Instead of going into the museum, you walk to the right around the buildings and walk behind a building that looks like a maintenance building. There you will see a fence with a small metal ladder going over it. Cross here and follow the gas/gravel path straight ahead into the gorge. This is the trailhead. You do not need to go up at first. Follow the little stream into the gorge and you will soon be able to see the waterfall a bit in. Then get ready for a little climb. After about 10-15 minutes of half hiking half climbing, you'll reach the waterfall. It is stunning, and even though I got soaked by the mist in a matter of minutes, I stayed to take in the beauty. Since I had struggled finding the trailhead to the waterfall, it was already starting to get dark, so I had to head back. It had also started raining a lot, so I was completely soaked. Once I got back to the car, I realised I had dropped the keys! Needless to say, I was slightly panicking. There I was in the middle of nowhere, with all my belongings locked in a car I had lost the keys to and it was almost dark. I went into the museum to ask for the keys, but they hadn't seen them. They were really helpful and I went out again to look for them, while trying not to cry and panic. Luckily I found them right at the beginning of the trailhead! I could cry from happiness! By this time it was almost completely dark, so I unfortunately not have time to visit Skógafoss this time around.
Midgaard Base Camp in Hvolsvöllur
I drove back to Midgard Base Camp, which is where I spend the night. It was such a cool place with a lot of private small corners where you can chill, hang out with your friends or get some work done. The staff was incredibly nice and welcoming. They gave me a full tour of the entire place and informed me that we were only 3 guests for the night. They have both hostel rooms with bunkbeds, but also private rooms. Since we were only 3 guests, they said they would cook us individual dinner. I had what might have been the best black bean burger of my life! Midgard Base Camp has an outdoor spa and sauna, so after dinner this was where you could find me - I really needed it after a really long, cold and wet day. It was amazing to be able to warm up in here. The whole room and bathroom was newly renovated and I had an amazing nights sleep - I slept 13 hours, lol. When you wake up in the morning they offer full breakfast buffet in the higher seasons, but since we were only 3 guests we could order from the menu. I enjoyed my stay here so much, it was at the perfect location between sights, so it was so convenient to stay here. I have already told my boyfriend, that when we come back to Iceland, we will stay here for sure! They also organise tours, so maybe next time we will have to check one of those out.
The next morning, I originally wanted to drive back towards Skógafoss waterfall, since I missed it the day before and it was only a 40 minute drive from Midgard Base Camp. It was my plan to go to Skógafoss first and then drive to Seljalandsfoss on my way back, as I had to drive back to the airport. But once it was morning a big snow storm had hit and it limited the visibility a lot. I started driving towards Skógafoss, but in Iceland you really can't count on the weather and it just started getting worse. I was driving so slow and again I could not see far, so I decided to just turn when I saw the sign towards Seljalandsfoss. Seljalandsfoss is the famous waterfall, where you are able to walk behind and it did not disappoint! I spend so long time there that everything I had with me was completely soaked from the mist. I was happy that I stopped here and did not continue driving to Skógafoss, as I realised I did not have as much time as I thought before I had to rush back to the airport.
Driving to the airport in part snow storm part sunshine
When I started "rushing" back to the airport, I was really in a bigger hurry than I had calculated. On my way back it kept changing between snow storm and sunshine within 10 minutes. It was truly an experience. Every time it was sunny, it was so beautiful and nice to get a glimpse of the harsh nature, that I had not been able to see on my way out on the first day due to the cloud. Sometimes when driving around you could smell the volcanic activity and it was truly spectacular.
When I came back to Keflavik, where the airport and Lava Car Rental's office is located, it was super easy to fill up the car at a gas station, that was just around the corner from their office. It took me less than 5 minutes to return the car and then they immediately drove me back to the airport in time for my flight - thankfully this process was less painless than when I had to pick up the car (that would be hard to beat)! I'm so happy I chose to rent a car, as it really gave me all the freedom I needed to see as much as I could in my 48 hours in Iceland - but I will NEVER rent from this company again, and I again hardly recommend you to find another rental company.
Expenses for 48 hours in Iceland:
- Free layover
- 3 buns from a bakery + cheese: 13$
- Coffee and snacks: 4$
- Car rental from Lava Car Rental: 59$ for two days
- 1 night at Midgard Base Camp: 44$ for their cheapest room
Iceland was everything and more than I had imagined and I already can't wait to come back!
Until next time, you beautiful country.