Adventures amid glaciers and volcanoes: A ride in the MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 on Iceland's Ring Road 1.

Adventures amid glaciers and volcanoes: A ride in the MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 on Iceland's Ring Road 1.

24.11.2020: A round trip by car is a good way to experience the diversity of the island state's landscapes in the North Atlantic. The road network is thin and four-wheel drive is highly recommended for some excursions. The MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 can prove its

A round trip by car is a good way to experience the diversity of the island state's landscapes in the North Atlantic. The road network is thin and four-wheel drive is highly recommended for some excursions. The MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 can prove its talent as a robust all-rounder for any terrain on a tour to discover and explore fjords, lakes, glaciers, geysers and volcanoes.

Iceland is a country of contrasts on the north-western edge of Europe. The island state in the North Atlantic is as famous for its hot springs as it is for its huge ice fields. Traditional horse breeding is still as successful here as is the internationally significant aluminium production.

Tourism has also recently become increasingly important as an economic sector. The pristine natural beauty located near the Arctic Circle, the fascinating variety of the landscapes and the contrast created by active volcanoes and snow-covered glaciers attract visitors from all over the world.

A weekend trip is definitely not enough time for exploring Iceland’s main attractions. The special charm of the island is only revealed on a round trip. However, Iceland's road network is thin. Many places are only accessible via gravel roads, especially in the interior of the country.

Iceland's most important road link, Ring Road 1, is no exception. It has been developed into a multi-lane motorway around the capital city of Reykjavik, while some other sections of the Hringvegur are not even asphalted. The MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 (combined fuel consumption: 6.5 - 6.2 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 149 - 142 g/km) is the ideal all-rounder for going on an Icelandic adventure amid glaciers and volcanoes.

Its ALL4 all-wheel drive system distributes the power of its 131 kW/178 hp 4-cylinder petrol engine with MINI TwinPower Turbo technology between the front and rear wheels as required on any surface and in any driving situation. 16.5 centimetres of ground clearance ensure sufficient clearance even on rough surfaces. A storage volume of between 450 and 1,390 litres is available under the tailgate of the five-seater so that the luggage required for a longer tour can be easily accommodated.

Ring Road 1 runs along Iceland's coast for 1,350 kilometres, sometimes right on the coast and sometimes a bit further inland. The starting point is the ferry pier in Seyðisfjörður, where the MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 sets foot on Icelandic soil for the first time.

On the way south, the road follows the coastline, which features many fjords, for about 200 kilometres. Soon Vatnajökull comes into view. With a surface area of more than 8,000 square kilometres, it is the largest glacier in Europe. Vatnajökull is located at the centre of the national park of the same name, which also includes picturesque river landscapes, waterfalls and active volcanoes.

Further along the route, detours into the interior lead over unpaved roads, across gravel deserts and through seemingly unreal landscapes of cooled lava rock. Near the village of Selfoss, it’s worth leaving Ring 1 and heading north for about 60 kilometres to see a spectacular natural spectacle. The two-tier Gullfoss waterfall together with the neighbouring geysers forms the "Golden Ring", which is one of Iceland's greatest sights.

After returning to the Hringvegur, we soon reach the island’s capital. More than 60 percent of the 350,000 Icelanders live here and in the neighbouring region. Reykjavik is a modern metropolis with a lively art and music scene as well as two special landmarks. The Perlan geothermal power plant, together with restaurants and leisure facilities, is located under a large glass dome and uses hot water from deeper layers of the earth to heat not only the city's residential buildings but also the pavements of the main shopping streets.

A similarly spectacular example of Iceland's modern architecture is Hallgrímskirkja, built on a hill in the centre of the city. It was designed in the 1930s, but was not completed until around 50 years later. The concrete pillars on the front side, reminiscent of basalt columns, are particularly striking. A viewing platform on the 74.5 metre high church tower allows visitors to look far beyond the city limits into Iceland's natural landscape.

On the northern section of Ring Road 1 the landscape is also characterised by the contrast between the icy glacier surfaces and the hot springs, whose water rises from the volcanic interior of the earth. Iceland lies on the so-called Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The North American and Eurasian plates meet directly under the island. That is the reason why hot thermal water and molten rock rise to the surface and keep changing the island’s landscape.

The MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 makes full use of its four-wheel drive on a detour to the Vestfirðir peninsula, which features many rugged fjords. The craggy coastal landscape of this arctic region in the extreme northwest of Iceland is mostly only accessible via unpaved gravel roads. The path to the fishing village of Reykhólar, located in the far west, leads past massive mountain formations of volcanic origin. After the strenuous tour we relax in one of the natural pools, which are widely used in this region and are pleasantly warm in all seasons.

Just like its breathtaking natural beauty, the island’s history as a base for trade and fishing can be seen in almost every village along Ring Road 1. In Sauðárkrókur it’s worth stopping to refuel at the Verzlun H. Júlíusson general shop, which still exudes the charm of the early 20th century. The small town has a fishing port and is also considered to be the main Icelandic horse breeding centre. Nowhere else on the island will you find more horse breeding farms than in the region around Sauðárkrókur.

Iceland's varied nature has more surprises in store even after having travelled more than 1,000 kilometres on Ring Road 1 and having gone on numerous trips across unpaved terrain. Near Reykjahlið, the bluish shimmering geothermal water in Jarðböð Cave really invites you to take a dip. Going for a walk on the steaming sulphur gas fields of the surrounding area is also a great thrill. And Europe's mightiest waterfall also awaits in Iceland’s north. The water masses of the Dettifoss waterfull plunge about 100 metres into a gorge of about the same depth.

The magnificent landscape and the many ways you can experience nature at its most pristine, make Iceland such an exceptionally alluring destination. And in spite of the sporty temperament of the MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4, the beauty of the island simply makes you want to "slow down". Only on the way back to Seyðisfjörður's pier, however, travellers should not trundle along but should rather get a move on in order to board the ferry on time. Because the ferry that connects Iceland with the rest of Europe leaves port only once a week.

Matthias Bode,  photos MINI


24.11.2020 / MaP

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