THE FOURTH DAY IS SPENT DRIVING THROUGH EAST ICELAND. The region is the farthest you can get in Iceland from Reykjavik, and therefore is often overlooked by tourists who go only as far as Jökulsárlón. There are much fewer people here. Here, the Ring Road weaves through towering mountains, empty spaces, and seemingly forgotten towns. The east fjords in particular features spectacularly desolate scenery.
We stop in Djúpivogur for about an hour to have a restroom break and explore a little. This small town of 460 people was established in the 16th century, making it one of Iceland’s oldest ports. Djúpivogur is mainly known as the only town in Iceland to be a member of Cittaslow, a movement that advocates slowing down the pace of living to improve overall lifestyle. It’s also the place to catch a ferry to Papey, an island where thousands of puffins breed every summer.
For lunch, we stop at Stöðvarfjörður, another charming seaside village nestled in the fjords. Like most towns in the region, this one’s backdropped by gorgeous mountains that can be scaled on multi-day treks. The miniscule town’s claim to fame, however, is Steinasafn Petru (Petra’s Stone Collection), an assuming house that contains a staggering number of rare stones and minerals from these mountains.
The rest of the afternoon becomes a blur of gray skies, steep mountain slopes, and an empty highway. Outside the towns, the surroundings become even more desolate. Looking across the vast spaces and the road that stretches for miles without any houses or other cars, it’s easy to imagine you’re on another planet. But it’s this rawness of nature that humbles you at the same time, reminding you of how insignificant we are in the grandest scheme of things. It’s simultaneously bleak and exhilarating.