They should call it something descriptive like the “Iceland’s road to natural phenomena” but according to the sat nav, it’s referred to simply as One . Tourists though may know this humble yet well-maintained two-lane road as the Iceland Ring Road .
Yet you would have to burn some serious rubber to get all the way around the 832 miles that encircle this sub-arctic island. It passes pretty snow-capped mountains and brooding cloud-topped, eye-watering boiling sulfur mud pools, tortured lava plains, thunderous waterfalls, jagged icebergs, and dozens of glaciers.
And I drove all around it heading north from Reykjavik then returning back there heading south in a mad-cap two-day junket in a dinky Mazda MX 5 icon convertible. Call it a test drive.
First things first – Blue Lagoon
Starting in Reykjavik, Iceland’s largest city and the world’s northernmost capital, I hopped into my roadster for a 47km detour to Grindavik to the Blue Lagoon outdoor. I knew a relaxing dip into its placid bright blue mineral-rich waters and swish under its waterfall would set me up for the grueling two-day drive. As a bonus, when the sky was at its darkest I was lucky enough to see the Northern Lights with its curls of luminescent green. What a prelude for my driving bonanza!
Check out the city church – Hallgrímskirkja
I was behind the wheel early the next morning making my way through this low-rise city where the tallest building is the dramatic Hallgrímskirkja, church, the biggest in Iceland. It’s worth noting how something made completely of concrete could look so interesting; almost like a spaceship about to take off. Incidentally, the view from the top stretches the entire city and is the only place you can enjoy this.
Away from city limits – vast isolation and scenery
Stopping at traffic lights with quaint heart-shaped red lights, then turning onto One, the road opened to a shock of a wilderness hemmed by dark, brooding mountains. There were hardly any other cars around and not much sign of human life.
The road snaked through the undulating landscape and sometimes after a swerve or curve a clutch of red-roofed cottages or alone wooden church would appear. Yet with so few people around, I wondered how these houses of prayer-filled their pews.
There was plenty of nonchalant sheep though who seemed unperturbed by passing traffic. At times fields would be hosting smallish Icelandic horses – a regional breed that is sometimes as small as donkeys.
Within the nooks and crannies of the dark rugged or moss-covered hills and tors, strings of waterfalls cascaded catching the light on their way down. It’s a recurring feature that adds movement to the stillness.
Bizarre sculptures, such as a red chair (taller than a human being) or a man randomly turned up to add humor to the bleak vastness.