I did a lot of research before heading to Iceland – I combed through travel guides, I lurked blogs I found on Pinterest and stalked through Instagram tags. There were so many things Angelo and I wanted to see, including a few secret spots that I couldn't say no to. Here are my three favorites from our trip:
1. Sólheimasandur Plane Crash.
When I told people we were heading to a plane wreck – I got some surprised looks. Here's a little background info, to make it seem a little less haunted. In 1973, a U.S. Navy plane ran out of fuel and crash landed on the beach at Sólheimasandur. Everyone on the plane survived, but the remains of the plane are still on the beach. We stopped here on the way to the black sand beaches at Reynisdrangar.
If you're on Route 1, heading towards Vik, the turnoff for the plane wreck is Sólheimajökull 221. We were here in the winter, which can be a little hairy. We turned off and were immediately greeted by a sign that declared "no off-road driving!" and warned that the police would be called. The whole area was covered in snow, but we began to follow a car that pulled in at the same time. It's best to take the drive slowly – remaining steady – to dodge rocks and other potholes. In all honesty, I wouldn't make the drive if you've got a small car – but that could be different during the winter when you can actually see the road.
We drove for about ten minutes and then were greeted by the plane. You won't see it until you're right in front of it – which is crazy when you consider your drive there is pretty desolate. We parked alongside several cars, a few feet from the plane.
Angelo and I took this time to take a walk down to the beach – due to a gaggle of girls taking pictures all over the plane. Basically, as secret as this place is – expect people to be around when you go. You've probably seen pictures of it on the internet, which means thousands of other people have probably seen the same pictures. If you're itching for some perfect pictures, you could always head there early in the morning! We found that, for the most part (save one tourist and his selfie stick) most people were pretty respectful of others' space and photography needs.
On the way back to Route 1, Angelo pointed out road markers – that were completely blind to us when we came in. We followed the markers for an easier drive out and made our way onward.
2. Seljavallalaug Pool
I had seen this secret pool all over Pinterest, along with some confusing directions, and my darling Greek husband really loves me because he agreed to check it out with me. In February. While the sun was going down.
You'll need to hike to the pool – but from Route 1, you can find it by turning down Raufarfell 242. If you're heading back towards Reykjavik from Vik, the turn will be on your right. Drive down the road for a few minutes and park at the car park – right in front of a few small houses. After you get out of your car – head across the valley and past the waterfall. You might be tempted to hike up, above the waterfall, but just keep walking along the stream. The stream was pretty low when we were hiking, but waterproof shoes are always a good call. If you stay with the stream on your right, you'll reach the pool after a short hike!
I read online that the hike can take anywhere from 20-30 minutes, but Angelo and I both have experience professionally walking for a living – so we made it in about fifteen.
When you get there, there will probably be people there. We wound up there with a group of German tourists – which was fun, despite the language barrier. Shrieks of exclamation when freezing are pretty universal.
The Germans were pretty much in and out once their fully clothed companion took a photo for them, so Angelo and I had the pool to ourselves for a bit longer.
Here's the long short on Seljavallalaug: There are changing rooms, but you'll need to bring your own towels. The changing rooms are pretty sparse and bare – so be prepared to freeze if you make the decision to check this place out in the winter. The pool itself is shallow closest to the dressing rooms, and gets deeper the further you get. It also gets warmer the further in you get, thanks to hot water that is being pumped from…I'm not entirely sure where? The mountain? There are no lights, so I wouldn't recommend checking this place out after the sunset. Icelandic roads can be pretty nuts once the sun sets.
The pool is amazing – the landscape is gorgeous – the hike isn't as daunting as everyone on the internet makes it seem. Definitely expect people to be there, similar to the plane situation. Don't let that stop you though!
3. Mystery Cave
We were headed to Dyrhólaey Lighthouse, (which we didn't actually get to see due to a tour van getting stuck right on the hill in front of it, so I guess we'll just have to go back) gazing out the windows at the crazy landscape – when Angelo pointed out a teensy cave in a mountain. We ooh'd and aah'd about how awesome it was and then decided, "hey, we're in ICELAND."
We pulled over and parked, and began to hike up the side of a [teensy] mountain.
(I feel like my mother probably just read this and is sighing, heavily, while rubbing her temples. Don't worry, it was all pretty safe.)
When we made it to the top, after passing a creepy little abandoned house, we were surrounded by birds who looked as though they hadn't seen a person up close, well, ever. We sat on rocks and looked around – and the landscape was amazing. I could see the Lighthouse from all the way across what looked to be a former lagoon.
Iceland is full of amazing spots like our little cave, so take a chance and explore! But be safe. Don't be a stupid tourist. Do your research before you go jumping on floating glaciers or on independent hikes. Our little hike was safe, it wasn't icy and we were together. What I'm saying is – don't push your limits and try to hike independently on a glacier just because you can. Icelanders, who are a relatively nice group of people, will laugh at you and use you as a story to tell each other. Basically, if it seems like a bad idea – it's probably a bad idea. You're going to be out in the wild, where the closest hospitals or police are going to be a good distance away. Take chances and explore – but be sure to consider what's common sense.
These secret spots are getting less secret as the word about Iceland gets out! I encourage all of you to add them to your list of things to check out.