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.