I've had the opportunity to travel to and work in Iceland on several occasions, and although I was required to stay and work in Keflavik during the week, the weekends were my own and I would spend them exploring this amazing country.
Traveling around Iceland by car, particularly for people from other countries, can be an exciting and unpredictable adventure. The roads in and near the major cities are paved and well marked, but even the major roadways once you are away from populated ares are unpaved and often little traveled.
I found this out on my first trip when I had decided the first sight I needed to see was Snaefellsjokull Volcano, the volcano that inspired Jules Verne to write "Journey to the Center of the Earth". According to maps I had studied, it appeared be an easy weekend getaway. After all, Iceland is a small country and I was only going a little bit up the northwest coast. I didn't have a clue what I was in for and having not gotten to know anyone locally yet, I set out on my own without getting any helpful advice or letting anyone know of my plans (not smart).
I left early on a sunny Saturday morning, heading north to Reykjavik, Arkranes, Borgarnes, and then finally to Stykkisholmur, where I was going to spend the night. The trip started out well enough but began to change as the sunshine gave way to rain and then snow and the roadways changed from asphalt to cinders.
Looking south fron the same spot (below), really beginning to question the wisdom of proceeding as I still had a long way to go to get to the halfway point and daylight was fading fast. Traffic congestion however was not a concern.
This was the last shot I was able to take before it got completely dark, long exposure, pretty blurry, but at least that is the ocean in the distance and I was less than 20 km from my hotel (below).
I left Stykkisholmur early Sunday morning heading to the western tip of the peninsula. Heavy cloud cover persisted to the point when, according to my maps, I was right next to the volcano and I could see absolutely nothing. I continued around the western edge and then the southern side and still nothing. I had food in the car and decided to stop and eat and see if conditions improved. I waited as long as I reasonably could, it was midday and I had a least 10 hours of difficult driving ahead of me, and then finally I started back east very disappointed. As I did, I could see to the west a clear spot of blue (below) and stopped to see if it would move over me and then hopefully the volcano. It did, and out of the clouds, Snaefellsjokull appeared.
Snefellsjokull with ancient rock cairn in foreground (below).
My last glimpse of Snaefellsjokull in the distance as the cloud cover began to close in again (below).
I made it back to Keflavik, white knuckled and exhausted, at 2:30 Monday morning, in time for a little sleep and back to work again at 8:00.
Another trip took me north through the center of the country to Akureyri, a beautiful fishing port just south of the artic circle. I was better prepared for this trip but the roads were still a challenge.
On another winter expedition, this time to the east, I became stuck in a blinding snowstorm on the southern edge of the Myrdalsjokull glacier, less than 2 km where I knew I would be able to find a bed and breakfast. I walked the remaining distance and got to know the good people of Vik for the next 3 days until plows could clear the roads and a local good Samaritan pulled me out with his Range Rover.
Again, the trip had begun with beautiful weather and clear roads.
This is how close I was to Vik before becoming stuck in this very spot (below).
I beefed-up vehicles for my next trip.
Because I had been stuck in Vik and could make it no further east, I tried again on my next trip to Iceland later that summer. This time I was able to experience something completely new, again. In what I later learned is a fairly common occurrence, active volcanoes under glacial ice caps will erupt causing the snow and ice mass above them to rapidly melt, resulting in torrential flooding down the mountainside to the ocean. Everything in their path will be swept away - roads, bridges, homes and villages. On this trip, volcanic activity under the Vatnajokull glacier had washed away a good portion of the highway on its southern edge and the only way to get from one side of the island to the other without flying or traveling all the way to the north, was by truck ferry.