Our summer adventure in Iceland
Travelling to Iceland was a dream we both had for a while and that could finally come true in June 2016. We knew that we wish to travel around the island in a campervan, however travelling without booking any hotels was a completely new experience for both of us. Firstly, we weren’t sure about how it would be to sleep inside the car. But the desire to live an adventure was stronger and we decided that we had to go!
The experience was so amazing and very rewarding! Inside the campervan, we had everything we need for cooking and sleeping. Besides, the country has great campsites, some of them in wonderful sceneries. Another great advantage of travelling in a campervan is that you don’t need to follow a rigid schedule and you have the freedom to explore each place on your own pace.
We produced the map below to locate the sights we visited and the daily itinerary we did in our campervan. You can control the information displayed on the map by turning on / off the different layers. Take your time to explore, to see our pictures and enjoy it
By the time of the trip, we were just starting an artistic project called The Canvas Project, which gives life to figures from famous paintings by placing them in a new context. The adventure in Iceland was a fantastic opportunity to seek inspiration and take photos to be used in the development of the project. To make this CamperStories more fun, in addition to the common travel photos, we decided to include some of the Canvas Project’s images.
DAY 1 - Exploring Reykjavik on foot
Our flight arrived at the Keflavik airport on the morning of 14th June. We took a bus just outside the airport terminal towards the BSÍ Bus Terminal in Reykjavik (you can book it in advance on the Flybus website). From there, it was just a small walk to the Hallgrimskirkja Church, where we started to explore Reykjavik. That day the Icelandic football team was playing against Portugal for the Eurocup. The Icelandic team played great, the city's squares were filled with happiness and the vibrant atmosphere was contagious. It was a pleasant introduction to the Icelandic culture.
In Reykjavik, we tried what was considered by The Guardian newspaper as the best hot dog in all Europe, in a food truck called Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (which literally translates as “the best hot dog in town”). Indeed, it was awesome!
As we travelled during the summer, we had a lot of time to visit many places before it started getting darker. So we thought one day was enough to know the main sights of Reykjavik.
Since we booked the campervan for the following morning, we spent the first night in a nice place named Norðurey Guesthouse.
• Hallgrimskirkja Church: One of the city’s main landmarks and you can see its tower from almost everywhere in Reykjavik.
• Laugavegur Street: Nice street to walk along with interesting buildings, lots of shops and restaurants.
• Harpa Concert Hall: Unique contemporary architecture.
• Arnarhóll square: Next to the Harpa Concert Hall.
• Tjörnin: Small lake located next to the City Hall.
• Ingólfur Square: This square was crowded with people watching the football match.
• Austurvöllur: Important square located in front of the Parliament of Iceland and surrounded by nice buildings and cafés.
• Reykjavik Old Harbour: Until recently used as a harbour, today it became a hot spot for tourists with museums and restaurants. If you want to go on a puffin or whale watching trips, that is the place where many of the boats depart.
Don’t forget to check all locations on our map above!
DAY 2 - Reykjavik to Skógafoss
Early in the morning, we were picked up by the Rent.is team to go to their office and meet our new mate/home in this adventure: our Campervan!!
Because of the weather forecast, we decided to start the Ring Road trip on the counter-clockwise, avoiding some rain areas that we would have faced on the clockwise. This way we left the Golden Circle attractions to the final days in Iceland.
Despite having just a few stops along the way to Vik (the final destination we planned for this day), the sights were so terrific that we spent more time than planned exploring them. That’s when we had a proof that our choice to rent a campervan was the best. We firstly thought about sleeping in Vik that day, but in the end, we decided to rest that night before reaching it, on a beautiful campsite just by the Skógafoss waterfall. It was a nice choice!
• Seljalandsfoss: Gorgeous waterfall just off the Ring Road. A very cool thing about it is that you can walk behind the waterfall through a small cave. Also, take your time to explore the surroundings, where you can find a hidden waterfall.
• Seljavallalaug: A not so well known swimming pool, but one that you can’t miss. It’s located in a beautiful narrow valley and it’s free to use! That is where we spent a lot of time this day and near where we prepared our dinner among the fields of Lupin flowers.
• Skógafoss: Beautiful waterfall with great opportunities for pictures and a cool place to spend the night. It’s worth climbing the 467 steps to see it from the top (yeah, we counted!).
DAY 3 - Skógafoss to Höfn
There is plenty to see along the route between Skógafoss and Höfn. The range of landmarks is also very wide, from littles churches to an amazing glacier lake. To avoid the peak hours in the tourist attractions, our strategy was waking up not so early and enjoy the day until late at night. This way, when we arrived at the famous Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon at around 1 am, there was no one else there. We had the entire place to ourselves!! Because it was almost summer solstice, believe us, it never really gets too dark. After another amazing day, we arrived at Camping Höfn to rest.
• Reynisfjara - Black sand beach: It was considered by the American journal Islands Magazine as one of the ten most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world. In fact, the beach is very impressive due to its black volcanic sand and the amazing basalt sea stacks, known as the “Troll Rocks”.
• Reyniskirkja church: A nice little church in the path to the black sand beach.
• Vík church: Vík is the southernmost village in Iceland and its church, located high on a hill among Lupin flowers, features a beautiful coast view.
• Skeiðará Bridge Monument: This monument made of twisted girders is all that remained of a bridge that was destroyed due to volcanic heat and glacial floods. It’s an amazing place to take pictures because of the immensity of the surroundings, which makes you feel like you are alone in the world. Nice place to have dinner too
• Svartifoss: This beautiful waterfall is surrounded by dark lava columns and it’s one of the most popular sights in Skaftafell National Park.
• Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: This is a must stop on the way to Höfn! The big icebergs floating on the glacial lake, the seals swimming, the chunks of ice sitting on black sand… everything is incredibly beautiful!
DAY 4 - Höfn to Mývatn
Iceland is not a regular country. Travelling around it means you can see many breath-taking landscapes that you have not planned or even heard about. In day 4, it happened all the time.
We consider the road as an amazing attraction itself. It hides some secrets (and we are not only talking about the trolls). You can suddenly be surprised by incredible waterfalls, huge fluorescent blue lakes with boiling water, or even a big red chair. You can also take a different route and end up in the top of a mountain, in the middle of the clouds, surrounded by snow, while you have the chance to appreciate a beautiful rainbow. Yes, it all happened
In the end of this unforgettable day, we slept at Vogar Camping.
• Big red chair: If you left Camping Höfn and is heading east on the Ring road, the big red chair will appear after around 15 minutes by car. The exact location is marked on our map!
• Beautiful East Iceland coast view: If you have time, don’t miss the stops indicated along the road to take a rest and enjoy the view.
• Town of Djúpivogur: This small town is located at the mouth of Berufjörður fjord and the scenic beauty of the surroundings offers great opportunities for pictures.
• Berufjörður Waterfall: This waterfall was the first of many surprises waiting for us on the route 939, which was one of the few times that we went off of the Ring Road on our trip. We left Djúpivogur towards another town (Seyðisfjörður) and then the GPS took us high in the mountains among the clouds. It’s hard to describe the feeling of driving through such a wonderful place!! (Check our itinerary and the sights we visited on our map)
• Monument to Þorbjörn Arnoddsson: Stop here to appreciate the fantastic landscape view of the surroundings!
• Gufufoss: Located in the Eastern fjords, this is one of the waterfalls that suddenly “appeared” on our way, along the road leading to the town of Seyðisfjörður.
• Town of Seyðisfjörður: This little paradise in the eastern region of Iceland is made of coloured wooden houses and surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
• Blue Lake: We were welcomed to the Mývatn area by this amazing fluorescent blue lake with boiling water. It was our first impression of this region and we got very excited about our next day.
DAY 5 – The Mývatn area
You will see that Iceland is a whole new world. Sometimes it feels like Mars (ok, we have never been there, but for sure that is the feeling). We felt like this many times during the trip, but particularly in the Mývatn area, which is highly volcanic. The colors of the land, the geothermal water that comes from great depths, the mud pools, the geodesic constructions in the middle of nowhere… it's really out of this planet!
We started day 5 in great style: relaxing at the Mývatn Nature Baths, a place that is sometimes called the Blue Lagoon of the North (but much less expensive). Besides of all the sights we planned to visit, we would have a long way to drive as we decided to sleep at Reykjavík that night, so it was a good choice to start the day relaxing.
In Reykjavík, we slept at the Reykjavík Campsite, which has great facilities but was a bit crowded.
• Mývatn Nature Baths: Its warm geothermal water is full of minerals that are said to be good for the skin (in fact, we really felt our skin softer after the swimming).
• Cool power plant buildings: We really don’t know exactly the function of the strange geodesic constructions that seems to be part of the power plant. But anyway, they look amazing in this lunar-like landscape.
• Hverarönd: This geothermal area in the north of Iceland is part of the Krafla volcano system. It is a very interesting place, full of colourful sulphurous mud springs, hot water pools, cracked dry mud and steam vents.
• Víti Crater: This huge explosion crater (diameter is around 300 meters) was formed in the 18th century by a massive eruption of the Krafla volcano, that lasted for 5 years.
• Goðafoss: The Goðafoss (translated as the Waterfall of the gods) is a dazzling waterfall in the glacial river Skjálfandafljót. It falls from a height of 12 meters over a width of 30 meters and the beauty of the rock formation makes it one of the greatest natural wonders in Iceland.
• Akureyri: Despite being a small city, Akureyri is Iceland’s second largest urban area.
• Hvalfjarðargöng: This underwater tunnel surprised us in the way to Reykjavík.
DAY 6 – The Golden Circle
For this day and the next one, we planned to visit the Golden Circle attractions and other sights in the surroundings. This was a great way to say goodbye to such a beautiful country (ok, that is a lie; there is no easy way to say goodbye to Iceland!). Despite having just two days left, there was plenty to experience yet. So, let’s talk about the sights.
• Þingvellir National Park: This park is one of the Golden Circle’s landmark and it holds great historical importance. The Icelandic democratic parliament, Althingi, was formed by the Vikings on this site in 930 AD. Besides being the oldest parliamentary site in the world, the park has beautiful natural landscapes with rivers and waterfalls.
• Geysers field - Geysir: This geothermal area, located in Haukadalur valley, is full of incredible hot springs and multicolored mud pots. It is one of the amazing Golden Circle’s attractions and it has two famous geysers: the Geysir and the Strokkur (which erupts every few minutes).
• Gullfoss: The Gullfoss (translated as the Golden Falls) is a breath-taking waterfall located in the canyon of the Hvitá river. The water falls from a height of 32 meters in two stages into a rugged canyon, which walls reach up to 70 meters high.
That day we found the Skjól Camping “in the middle of nowhere” (it’s actually the “location” according to its website, but you can check the address on our map as usual).
DAY 7 – Sights near Reykjavik / Reykjanes peninsula
We started our last day in Iceland going to the oldest natural pool of the country: the Secret Lagoon. By this time of the trip, we thought that we have already seen the highlights, but as usual, Iceland always has surprises waiting for you.
That night we decided to sleep in a camping near the airport: the Tjaldsvæði Campsite (our favourite camping of the trip - too bad it was our last night). In the way towards the campsite, we stopped for a great hot dog (Iceland really has the best hot dogs!).
• Secret Lagoon: Besides of the very relaxing hot water, there are several geothermal spots and even a little Geysir, which you can see from inside the pool. We received a discount to enter the place as we stayed a night at Skjól Camping.
• “Desert” beach: From the Secret Lagoon towards the Reykjanes peninsula, we stopped at a beach to appreciate the Ölfusá river. As there was no other tourist, we had all the beach for us to enjoy the view and take pictures.
• Strandarkirkja Church: This is a Lutheran parish church considered by the locals as the “miracle church”, which is believed to have divine powers because of a story about a group of sailors that were rescued by an angel in this area during the 12th century.
• Blue Lagoon: This is probably the most famous geothermal pool in Iceland, and as so very touristic and crowded. We actually didn’t enter the Blue Lagoon, because the tickets were sold out (and we also thought they were expensive compared to other lagoons). So we just knew the surroundings and took pictures of the mossy lava rocks.
• Gunnuhver Hot Springs: This highly active geothermal area has an intriguing ghost story behind its name. There you can find the biggest mud pool in Iceland boiling vigorously, the Gunnuhver, which is 20 meters wide.
• Reykjanesviti Lighthouse: This iconic structure is the Iceland’s oldest lighthouse and it’s located on Reykjanes peninsula.
• Cliffs at Reykjanes: On the coast of Reykjanes peninsula, just a few minutes from the lighthouse, you can see beautiful cliffs and a great auk sculpture in memorial to this extinct species of bird.
• Reykjanes Power Station: This power station is located in an area where tectonic plates are separating from each other, which results in a geothermal steam of high temperature that is used to generate electricity on large scale.
DAY 8 – It’s time to say goodbye
We had our last breakfast with Skýr (a delicious Icelandic style yogurt) and then we returned our “camperfriend” at the airport. We have had many amazing days and it was certainly one of the best trips we had in our lives! This is for sure an experience everyone should have!!
See you soon, Iceland!
Our road trip around the Ring road and Golden circle
Read more: The Ring road counter clockwise
Happy Camping! #CamperStories
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