If you’ve done any research on traveling through Iceland, you know that Ring Road is an easy way to immerse yourself in Iceland’s many incredible landscapes of lava fields, grassy mountains, stunning cliffs, and rushing waterfalls.
If you’re wondering if Iceland is really as magical as the travel photos make it seem, the answer is yes.
I loved driving Ring Road, and it certainly lives up to all the hype. Even at the peak of tourist season in August it still felt like we were on our own solitary adventure. Still, I wanted to experience the less traveled path through Iceland, so I planned a 40 minute detour to spend the night in the small coastal village of Neskaupstadur in the East Fjords.
I get a bit antsy about driving near high cliffs, and I knew that we’d have to cross a mountain range to reach Neskaupstadur. I felt uneasy about it for weeks before we left, so I was more than a little nervous when my boyfriend was having trouble staying awake and asked me to drive that particular stretch of the trip. He’s always adamant about doing the driving while we’re traveling. Funny how life works out sometimes.
But I figured me driving nervous was still safer than him driving tired, so I climbed over the center console, put a steel grip on the steering wheel, said a prayer, and prepared to do a very careful 40 mph.
He quickly fell asleep and I was left alone tracing the winding pavement through incredible rolling mountains fighting the urge to wake him up every five minutes to make sure he didn’t miss any of the awesome scenery.
The drive to Neskaupstadur, the one I’d been anxious about for weeks, turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the trip. I didn’t realize how much adventure is dependent on autonomy. Being the passenger on a great adventure makes for some cool memories, but being the captain of the ship reaches down inside me and lights up some kind of fairytale heroine power that I wish I could wrangle in every day life.
I knew what was happening because I’d felt it before. Three years ago I bought a plane ticket on a whim and visited Iceland all by myself. I didn’t stay very long or travel very far, but when I remember how capable I felt forging ahead through snow and high wind to discover places I couldn’t have imagined, I feel like I could do anything. Since that cold and lonely but wildly empowering trip three years ago, it’s been my goal to approach all the areas of my life as that brave explorer.
But back to Neskaupstadur.
It turned out all my worries had been in vain. We didn’t travel over a mountain range to get to the coast, we traveled under it. There were two tunnels on the road to Neskaupstadur, Nordfjardargong and Faskrudsfjardargong, that spanned a combined distance of 8.5 miles.
Nordfjardargong replaced an older one lane tunnel and just recently opened in November 2017. The good news is it’s now an easy safe drive to Neskaupstadur. The tunnels are well lit with two lanes for traffic and periodic pulloffs with fire extinguishers and emergency phones.
The other good news is that the tunnels themselves feel like magic. As the miles pass and the overhead lights whiz by, you feel like you’re sinking farther and farther below ground before you pop out the other side into green meadows and wildflowers.
When you reach Neskaupstadur you feel like you’ve journeyed a secret passage through the center of the earth to arrive in a quaint quiet little village where starfish sprinkle the sea, pink flowers blanket the cliffs, and whales stop by to visit.
Stay tuned for my next post on what to do and where to stay in Neskaupstadur.