On a beautiful sunny day in October I was picked up by a smiley bearded man called Jón Baldur and his huge modified Land Rover Defender for a new trip that I had been invited on, Winter Adventure, offered by Ísafold travel. I instantly liked JB but how could I not when this strange man I had never seen before told me in the most sincere way, with a smile on his face, that he was very happy to meet me and accompanied that with a hug and a kiss. His great white Ísak 4×4 was almost too big for my tiny little street and I clumsily climbed into it in the most unladylike fashion. Ahead of us were two full days of off-road driving (the legal kind), plenty of snow and warm baths in geothermal rivers. My kind of adventure.
Ísafold travel has been around for 16 years and as I later found out Jón Baldur, our guide on the trip, was the one who founded it and is still the owner. They offer all kind of tours but what makes them special are self-drive tours, both scheduled and tailor made private ones, with their sister company Ísak. On these tours you get to drive your own modified 4×4 Land Rover Defender accompanied with a driver guide that is not only there to help but also teach you how to drive such a beast. Jón Baldur, who’s an automotive engineer and has modified jeeps like that himself along with giving guided tour for 30 years,was a great guide and teacher with amazing patience and high spirits no matter what happened on the tour.
From my house we went to a hotel downtown where we picked up a Scottish couple that were in Iceland to celebrate their 10th anniversary. They were going to drive their own Ísak while I would be riding with JB. Later in the day we were joined by a English family of five that had rented their own Land Rover from Ísak for their travels around Iceland but wanted to experience driving in more challenging conditions with a guide because they didn’t think they could do it on their own. We went to the Ísafold headquarters to pick up the second Ísak and the Scottish couple got a crash course in driving it.
It would be too long of a post to tell you about all the great things we did on this tour but one the first day we started off by doing some off-road driving, gushing through endless streams and enjoying the gorgeous weather and white grounds. We visited some geothermal boreholes, took a hike to Reykjadalur Valley for a little dip into the hot river there and then drove into Þórsmörk Valley with the mandatory stop at Seljalandsfoss. We crossed some pretty big rivers in Þórsmörk which was very exciting, especially for the foreign guests and the three kids. Driving around in this cool jeep convoy, communicating through the radio (roger that), was great fun.
That night we stayed at a couple of little summerhouses in Fljótshlíð and JB cooked us a delicious lamb tenderloin dinner. The Scottish couple had brought some wine from the duty free which we enjoyed with the meal and we sat there all together into the night: chatting, laughing and even singing. JB had brought his guitar with him but he’s the bass player and singer in a blues band and as he sang away I remember sitting there thinking how on earth I had got so lucky to find myself in these surroundings; somewhere in the countryside with great new people, live music and the brightest night sky I’ve seen in a long while.
The second day brought us driving around a deserted black sand beach and through some sand dunes before we made our way over to Gullfoss and Geysir. Then we went into the highlands a bit and drove past Langjökull glacier towards Þingvellir. We stopped on the way and there was no one there: no people, no cars and no animals. All we could see was snow and some electric lines and Langjökull glacier in all it’s glory. The snow muted all sound in some eerie way and you could almost hear the silence, as if it was a sound in itself. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. After Þingvellir at dusk we headed back towards Reykjavík enjoying a insane sunset the whole way home. A perfect ending to a great tour!
My thoughts on the Winter Adventure tour
I wasn’t sure about this tour before I went on it but my curiosity made me accept their offer. I thought it was rather expensive and I wasn’t sure about the whole driving on black sand beaches part as that to me sounded like something you shouldn’t do. Now however I feel completely confident recommending it. The tour costs a bit but I don’ think it’s expensive for what it is. You get a whole modified vehicle for yourself for two days and a guide who can teach you valuable things about the cars and the environment and you get to drive it in some unique places that you can’t access without them. All the meals were included and they were all great. Ísafold even makes sure you have something to snack on when that 4 o’clock craving haunts you and you just HAVE to have some chocolate.
I will say though that this tour is more about the adventures of driving in these areas than it is about traveling slowly, stopping all over the place for pictures. If that’s what you want there’s many other tours a lot cheaper than this one that would suit you better.
Although the cars were fun and the splashing rivers exciting, what made this tour really work for me was the care and warmth put into everything by the staff at Ísafold. Super nice people, great tour.
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