UNTOUCHED ICELAND: THE HIGHLANDS VIA ROUTE 35

A few weeks ago, I finally crossed something I’ve always wanted to do off my bucket list - visit Iceland. Iceland was never really on my radar until recently when I discovered its beautiful landscape through photos. I even remember when airlines would offer free layovers in Iceland to boost tourism and I never thought twice about it. Now, I would totally take advantage of that. 

I booked this trip spontaneously with my friend Annick, who I randomly met a year ago in London. We’re both relaxed but curious travellers so it was the perfect combination - a German and Canadian in Iceland. With really limited research beforehand, we booked a car because really, there’s no other way to do Iceland. I would’ve hated doing a tour because you can’t venture off to wherever catches your eye. 

We luckily got upgraded from a tiny car to a 4x4. Thinking back, I don’t know how we would’ve gotten around without a larger car. I’ll write more about my different experiences in Iceland but I wanted to share my favourite drive of them all. Every part of Iceland was absolutely stunning - don’t get me wrong. But our decision to go up north via Route 35 or the Kjölur Route was the best one we made all trip. 

We started the day at Vik and drove to the North to Akureyri via this road. I didn’t know what to expect since I hadn’t heard much about The Highlands. There is another inland route - Route F26 or Sprengisandur - but you need a proper, heavy duty 4x4 for that which we didn’t have. Apparently, you can do Route 35 with just a standard 2 wheel drive vehicle but I wouldn’t risk it…We drove 40km/hr for most of it, which was a gravel road, and we had a 4 wheel drive and lots of insurance!  

The entire drive along the 200km route from Gullfoss to the Ring Road up north was breathtaking in a sense that I’ve never seen anything like it before. The land was basically untouched and we only saw about 15 cars pass us for the 10 or so hours we spent on the road. The entire time Annick and I didn’t say anything but “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god”. We kept stopping to take photos but realised we would never get anywhere at that rate. I felt like I was on another planet and it was so nice to drive along the route, just us, and Earth in the rawest form I’ve ever seen it. 

After some time, you get to drive between two huge glaciers on either side - Langjökull and Hofsjökull. Finally, near the end of the road, there’s a side road you can take to visit Hveravellir, a geothermal area which apparently has Iceland’s best natural hot spring.

We also ended up sleeping the night in a parking lot next to the only hotel we found which was more like a shed really. Other than freezing our bums off, we got to watch sunset and sunrise between two giant glaciers - it didn’t get any better than that! 

These are just some of the millions of photos I took throughout the drive that really don’t do justice. If you’re ever thinking of going to Iceland, driving through The Highlands should be at the top of your list.