We were seven days into our ten-day Ring Road Trip around Iceland when our long-awaited family trip turned upside down. That morning, after a lovely hike along the waterfalls outside the coastal town of Seyðisfjörður, we loaded up our rental car and set off for what was supposed to be the highlight of our trip: A two day visit to the majestic South.
The South of Iceland is so magnificent that most tourists simply fly into Reykjavik and head straight there. Nowhere in Iceland has such immense beauty and hypnotizing magic. Home to the mighty Vatnajökull Ice Cap encompassing 12% of Iceland’s territory, the South of Iceland is graced with endless glacial tongues dripping down to the plains, countless waterfalls, evergreen farmland and stunning seashore all wrapped up in one surreal place. It is so insanely beautiful that it takes your breath away.
I will never forget my visit 13 years ago, when my father and I first went to Iceland and set off from Reykjavik heading south along the Ring Road to Vik and ending in Skaftafell National Park. I had fallen in love with the South of Iceland and this time, thirteen years later I’d be back bringing my family to this incredible place. I knew exactly where I’d take them, what views we would see and what hikes we would do. Little did we know, our special family trip would soon turn upside down.
As we left Seyðisfjörður, we headed back along the gravel road leading us away from the coast and into a heavy layer of fog. In a sense, it felt like the bumpy road and mystical fog was a foreshadowing what was to come.
We were heading to Höfn, a fishing town of just over two thousand people in southeast Iceland where we would base our stay for the night. The town was nothing exciting however given its location it is a good launching off point to explore the incredible landscape and endless amounts of hikes nearby in the South of Iceland. The drive would take roughly four hours however as always, there were too many incredible places to stop along the way. I had read that the Eastern Fjords was geologically the oldest part of Iceland and wished that we had more time to explore its beauty. We missed several places I would have loved to visit but that seemed to always feel like the theme of our trip. Way too rushed.
The drive was beautiful and we enjoyed the vast landscape of nothing but mountains and sea. Somewhere between Seyðisfjörður and Höfn, a little outside of Fjarðabyggð we pulled over at a beautiful rest area alongside a beach. It instantly reminded me of the black Reynisfjall Sea Cliffs of Vik.
We saw a camper van parked aside and with a group of tourists eating cheese fondue on a picnic table and drinking wine. I wished like many times before that we had more time. Iceland may be small but you could easily spend months exploring its unique beauty. While I do not regret doing the Ring Road tour, I honestly think it is impossible to enjoy it in only a week. I kept finding myself wanting to spend more time at each stop along the way. Craving to go back.
Towards five o’clock, we finally approached Höfn where we would spend one night at an apartment within walking distance to town. We were ready to get there as it had been another long day of driving. We also wanted to unwind a bit as our next two days in the South of Iceland were going to be jam-packed with adventure beginning with a stop at Jökulsárlón, a hike at Skatafell National Park and then onwards to Vik.
We had pizza for dinner at a neighboring restaurant than settled back in our apartment for the night. Unfortunately we had one annoying hurdle to overcome during our trip. It was three days before our departure back to the United States and we had to take a Covid test. My husband and I had debated our options before our trip, none great, and finally decided to purchase a Covid test kit operated through our airlines. At the time, Iceland had shut down any option of getting a Covid test in a rural clinic for tourists, and the only option was to get tested in Reykjavik. This posed a complication for us as it meant we would either have to return to the capital a day or two early or else just try our luck and get a test the afternoon before flying home.
I researched the options and concluded that purchasing the Elume Covid-19 Home Kit from Delta Airlines was the best option. For the cost of roughly $50 per person, we would do a Covid test with a proctor and be done with it. Little did we know the whole thing would be quite stressful.
At 9 pm we called in online to start our first test for our two teenage kids. It took a couple of annoying steps to get everything set up but eventually we did. The first two tests was completed in a little over 45 minutes (it was supposed to be quick and easy but as I’ve learned, nothing ever is). We awaited their results and then got the green light that they came back negative as we expected since we all are vaccinated. Next, it was time for my husband and I (as we could only do two tests at a time). Once again, we had to connect our accounts, watch a brief instruction video and poke that miserable stick up our noises to get a good swab.
By this time, it was already ten and we were tired, irritated but ready to be done with this inconvenience. We waited the ten minutes or so for the results to come across and instantly my husband’s said negative. A few moments later, my result sprung up and shockingly it was positive. I nearly fainted. The horror, shock and disbelief set chills throughout my body. What in the heck were we going to do was all I could think, in a panic.
Instantly I started to cry, exhausted from the trip and frightened about what this all meant. It all seemed to make sense to me. Back in October 2020, my entire family save me had Covid and for some reason now it was my turn. I’d be stuck in Iceland, sick, alone and maybe my family wouldn’t be able to go home either. The rules said at least 10 days minimum. How on earth would we manage? My daughter had to start school in less than two weeks and when I checked online, there was not a single hotel room left in town that wouldn’t break the bank.
I was so upset and stressed out, I cried myself to sleep, alone barricaded in my tiny room as no one in the family wanted to go near me. It was horrific and a very bad way to end a wonderful trip.
Somehow I fell asleep, tossing and turning, in tears and woke up the next morning with swollen eyes and a terrible headache. I had no idea how we would continue our trip. I had tested positive for Covid.
Don’t worry sue! It was a false positive but we didn’t learn that until two days later after all that stress and fear. A crazy experience for sure. But thankfully it wasn’t Covid. We had already been through that in 2020 and it was not fun.
I am quite sure Covid was no fun, so good this latest test was a false positive
Seriously? You’re going to stop there? Nooooooo. Iceland is certainly beautiful but your story not so much.
Ha ha I wasn’t even going to write this story but now that COVID numbers are up again it felt necessary. I will try to finish the story soon!
Please don’t leave us waiting too long for the next instalment …
Ha…that is what I hoped for! I am hoping to get the rest of it written soon! 🙂 Hope you are well!
Wonderful writing, matching the incredible scenic photos of Iceland ~ my heart seriously needs to visit and like you said, spend a month+ driving and visiting along the ring road. While I can feel your angst in your writing, it also makes me laugh a bit because this is also the beauty of travel – those unbelievable events that happen. Look forward to the conclusion… 🙂
Yes very true! I look at all those trips that went wrong and the lessons I learned. It is very true that that oftentimes is half the fun and lessons and beauty of travel. In the end it was a false positive. The test is 96.4% accurate and I was that under 4% that was incorrect! The bad news is it wasn’t until 24 hours later and another test at 4 pm the night before returning home that I found that out. The relief after all that stress was amazing. It was crazy because it would have cost us over the cost of the trip if I had to stay as we found out it would have been 14 days I would have had to stay in Iceland in quarantine at a hotel. When the test came back negative I cried sighs of relief yet it gave me a lot of pause at traveling again. This was back in August too when the variants weren’t like they are. It is a crazy world out there. Yet part of me feels like we can’t live in isolation forever. It is a tough balancing act. We’ve lost three elder family members to Covid and have had countless friends sickened with it. Yet, at the same time it is hard to know what to do. Life is a crazy ride sometimes! 🙂
Oh, dear- not one I can like, Nicole, even though some of the photos are stunning.
You’ll have to wait until you hear the rest of the story Jo! More to come.
Hope you and your family are doing well. We are yet on another COVID wave her in Minnesota. The numbers are so high and we have the vaccine. It is such a crazy time.
The vaccine doesn’t prevent you catching it, just lessens thew effects, allegedly? I’m a bit surprised you chose to travel in the circumstances, hon. Hoping for a happy ever after.
I am probably going to give it all away but it was a false positive! I didn’t find out until the very end of the trip! Back then, we knew that the chance was rare as the vaccines seemed pretty effective however in today’s world, everything is up in the air! It is hard to make decisions and also live your life. When we all had Covid in 2020 (except me) we got it from our friends, the only four people we were letting us see during the pandemic. It just shows that it is complicated stuff and scary too.
I am just trying to gauge the impact of the latest government restrictions on our planned Christmas trip. We fly 23rd and return here 26th. New regs say a PCR on Day 2 and quarantine till you have the result. No idea if we can take the test Christmas Eve or Christmas Day! I’m in despair again.
It is so hard Jo. For us, our family all lives a plane ride away. Flying to Iceland was only two hours shorter than flying to see my parents on the west coast. It is really a hard time but harder for you with countries and regulations. We all are hoping to be together for Christmas this year. But everything is so unknown given the new variants. Trying times my friend.
Oh I’m so glad I read your replies to others’ comments lol. What a cliffhanger!
Great writing Nicole, and beautiful photos. I’ll get to Iceland one of these days.
Thanks Alison. I sure learned a lot out of the experience.
I was so shocked as I was reading this post. But when I read the comments, I’m relieved that it was a false positive. Glad in the end everything worked well, Nicole. I can imagine the stress you felt when the initial test result came through.
Me too! A hard lesson to learn!
Now that’s a real cliffhanger ending! Nicole, it’s a good thing this happened towards the end of your family trip around Iceland. I’ve never liked getting swabbed for Covid (who does?) and that anxious wait before seeing the results can be paralyzing. The “what if?” of testing positive abroad has been one of the main reasons I haven’t left Indonesia since the pandemic hit – another is the quarantine requirement and the extra expense that comes with it. I could theoretically return to Hong Kong to see my parents, but then I’d have to spend 21 days in a tiny hotel room and pay an exorbitant price for the unpleasant experience. Even my mom told me not to go back until border restrictions were lifted. On a brighter note, you were so lucky to get to Iceland when you did!
Wow what restrictions! 21 days quarantining! That would be very unpleasant. Hopefully someday not too far away things will be easier. Hard to know where we are going with this never-ending pandemic!