Lord of the ring highway: see Iceland by the windscreen | Travel

A driving holiday round Iceland’s Golden Circle and south coast provides a widescreen view of its cinematic panorama

In scorching water … the Blue Lagoon.
Photograph: Alamy

We’ve solely been on the highway for 20 minutes and already the cinematic comparisons are flowing like lava. Game of Thrones. Lord of the Rings. Spaghetti western? “No, Narnia.” Frozen! It may very well be all of them, relying on the place your gaze settles. One minute it’s all glacial rivers and snow-capped mountain ranges, flip the bend and also you’re plunged right into a desolate panorama of lava fields as black as coal mud; seconds later it’s Middle-earth, with moss-green meadows and cascading waterfalls. It’s widescreen Netflix on pace.

“The Clangers!” my youngest says definitively, because the surroundings switches immediately to lunar, steam belching from potholes within the floor.

It’s our first morning on the highway and we’re relieved that there’s actually just one we have to fear about: Route 1, an 832-mile stretch circling the island. A reluctant driver (my husband) and an abysmal map reader (me), we had been frightened earlier than we arrived in regards to the quantity of driving. Iceland could have every little thing going for it – implausible surroundings, an egalitarian society (earlier this month, it turned the primary nation within the world to make corporations show they don’t seem to be paying ladies lower than males for a similar work) and a extremely educated inhabitants – one in 10 Icelanders is a broadcast writer, they like to say. But one regrettable oversight is a public railway. No one is kind of positive why they by no means bought spherical to it – a inhabitants barely smaller than Croydon’s together with their harsh surroundings could clarify it.

Gulfoss, a waterfall in Iceland.

‘As wild and powerful as Niagara Falls’ … Gullfoss. Photograph: Alamy

We needn’t have frightened. The flat panorama and vast, empty roads on this a part of southern Iceland – the Golden Circle – make it a pleasure to circumnavigate.

Crucially, the important thing to our stress-free expertise arrives within the type of the digital travel guides we’re all given as a part of our tour bundle. Each iPad has an easy-to-use app; in a single swipe I can test our day by day itinerary, route and journey instances – a travelphobe’s fantasy. And there’s web entry for the children which, it seems, must be rationed even in these photogenic environment. Telling my eldest off for streaming Mad Men somewhat than appreciating a glacier forward of us is a working example.

Another creeping nervousness every time anybody mentions Iceland is the associated fee. In one of many world’s costliest locations, the common bottle of wine is £35 and lunch for a household of 5 may simply attain £100. Which is why I discover myself dragging a cabin case by customs bulging with bagels, triangles of processed cheese, nuts, crisps, chocolate, and duty-free gin and tonic. Although we have to shell out for night meals and the odd snack, we smugly save as much as £500 on consuming out this manner.

Strokkur Geyser, a shoot of water rising upwards out of the ground. Iceland.

‘Every six or so minutes, the sulphurous waters rise and erupt about 20m in the air’ … Strokkur geyser. Photograph: Alamy

Not that the costs appear a deterrent to many individuals. Iceland is in all places for the time being, popularised in movie and on TV, from Game of Thrones to Black Mirror. Which is more and more what attracts the crowds; in all places you look, individuals are out with their cameras. Our first cease is Gullfoss, considered one of Europe’s largest waterfalls, and as wild and highly effective as Niagara Falls. A brief drive away is Strokkur, Iceland’s best-known geyser. Every six or so minutes, the sulphurous waters (that explains the odorous odor of eggs) rise and erupt about 20m within the air.

We discover ourselves outdoors at 1am in pyjamas and snowsuits with different visitors staring up hopefully into the darkness

A spotlight on the finish of the afternoon is a go to to the Secret Lagoon within the village of Flúðir. Surrounded by scorching springs, we slowly stew in wealthy, inky water that by no means drops under 38C, watching the steam rise and the sky ripple crimson, all of the extra gratifying with an Icelandic beer on the water’s edge. It’s not precisely a secret expertise nevertheless it’s properly designed; even the altering rooms are clever Nordic cool.

Steaming scorching water is troublesome to keep away from and shortly one other immersion beckons, this time within the outside scorching tub at our lodge. Another beer, one other sundown. Hotel Ranga is a log cabin-style lodge in the course of nowhere. Maybe it’s the remoteness that offers it a contact of Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel; that and the limitless corridors with patterned flooring. The rooms are cosy, every with their very own outside whirlpool tub; a buffet breakfast is served in a glass eating room with views of Hekla volcano.

The night meals are trendy Nordic, braver carnivores can attempt smoked puffin and reindeer carpaccio however there’s a lot for vegetarians too – we persist with tasty roasted cauliflower, baked zucchini, contemporary cod and cured salmon. Ranga’s welcoming proprietor, Friðrik, purchased the lodge 16 years in the past and has doubled the variety of rooms to 52, added a star-gazing observatory with a retractable roof and, extra just lately, a northern lights room alert. Which is why we discover ourselves standing outdoors at 1am in pyjamas and snowsuits with different bleary visitors staring up hopefully into the darkness. Then it occurs. The sky appears to be like celestial, backlit by inexperienced glowing gentle. It’s a refined show, not as dramatic as I’d thought it will be, undulating jellyfish moving behind the clouds. But it’s sufficient. We fall again into mattress, euphoric.

Vík's beach with black shingle and black rocks jutting out of the sea

‘A paradise beach in monochrome’ … Vík’s black volcanic seashore. Photograph: Alamy

Next morning we’re again on Route 1, this time to Vík, a abandoned village with a shocking volcanic shoreline. It’s a paradise seashore in monochrome: brilliant daylight, crashing white waves and miles of pure black sand. The joys of driving are carrying skinny so we go for one other type of transport – the Icelandic horse. We’ve seen them all around the island and Friðrik tells us how proud Icelanders are of this pure, diminutive breed. Although, by no means name them ponies, he advises sternly. Only one sort is allowed in and it’s been that manner since they had been purchased right here by Vikings 11,000 years in the past. We cease at Vellir Farm, 30 minutes from Reykjavík, and spend an gratifying hour roaming by meadows. They’re extremely simple for novices and my six-year-old adores her cost Vega. “Is it true I’ll get thrown out of Iceland for calling her a pony?” she asks her information, nervously.

On our last night we will’t resist the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s well-known geothermal spa. It is undeniably business – vacationers cluster with selfie sticks round a floating bar – however nice enjoyable. We get there late when the temperature plunges and beams of laser gentle break by the darkness. All we will see are ghostly figures and a white fog rolling off the water. “It’s Titanic!”, says my center youngster. Iceland is probably not undiscovered and even inexpensive, however it’s a cinephile’s dream.

Way to go

Three-night fly-drive holiday with from £584, together with flights, three nights’ B&B at Hotel Ranga, automotive rental (further driver free) and iPads to be used through the journey. Horse using from £50pp and Secret Lagoon from £22pp

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