Iceland is one of those countries that has always been on my bucket list, there’s something attractive about it’s rugged, bleak beauty, about the isolation, and the never ending sky. So, after some coercion, my boyfriend and I were booked onto the 3-hour flight from the UK.

Before I go on, there is something that you should know about me; I love to have a plan. To me, flying somewhere with no idea about where you will stay or what you will see brings about the kind of worries that other people may experience when told that they are about to sky dive, so it goes without saying that I was, whilst extremely excited, also very concerned about this undertaking.

Nevertheless, with only the flights and camper van hire booked, off we went to Iceland.

The Waterfall in Þingvellir

The clearness of the air is the first thing to hit you when you get off the plane; you can already see the vast open spaces that characterize a lot of the volcanic island, and once we had picked up our cozy little Kangoo camper van I was already feeling a lot less anxious, but that’s because I wasn’t the one driving.

I’ve never driven on the right (well, wrong to me) side of the road, let alone in a diesel minivan, and I’m very grateful that Matt, my partner, had the first shift.  After stalling the thing multiple times in the car park of the Viking museum I was convinced that we would have to call the entire thing off. How were we going to drive around the entire country if I couldn’t drive? Once again, my worries had run way ahead of me – it’s not that difficult to drive on the wrong side of the road, and even the bouncy pedals of a diesel quickly felt normal to me. The first mountain, well, minor obstacle, was overcome.

Öxará River ThingvellirWe spent our first night in a campsite in Þingvellir National Park (whilst wild camping is legal in Iceland, it is not permitted in the national parks). (Editor’s note: Changed camper laws)The awesome landscape was breath taking; the idea that we were stood between the two North American and Eurasian tectonic plates was just incredible that even the rain couldn’t put us off going for a long walk. Our first day and night in Iceland could definitely be described as a success.

On a side note, compared to the rest of Europe, food in Iceland is very expensive. I would definitely recommend making the most of your on board facilities and cook your own dinner (a big shop at Bónus also won’t go amiss).

The first night completed, we drove on along our planned route. Driving in Iceland is a lot more fun than my usual commute down the M4. The roads are (mostly) wonderfully smooth and empty, and there’s always interesting landscapes to take in. True to form, I was extremely worried about where we would spend the night, this being our first night of wild camping. Again, I shouldn’t have been so concerned – there are a lot of stopping points by the side of the road and you can happily stay overnight in those which don’t have signs telling you otherwise.

Van Life on the Ring roadThat night was probably the worst night weather-wise of the trip; the rain was pouring and it was extremely windy, so much so that I was genuinely concerned that we may be blown away, yet our faithful little camper van had heating in the back and we were happy and cozy all night.

After becoming comfortable with the idea of wild camping, and realising that we weren’t going to get woken up in the middle of the night by an angry policeman telling us to not spend the night (in fact all the Icelandic people that we met were truly delightful), even my anxieties had disappeared. The country is so wonderful and welcoming that we did not want to leave.

Waterfalls of Iceland East Iceland waterfall

I’m not going to list every day and night that we spent in Iceland here as I don’t want to bore you to death, but I can definitely say that 9 days are no where near enough to explore all the amazing things that Iceland had to offer.

We had to cut out a couple of the detours from our route, and sadly missed out on the Bird Cliffs. But now is not the time to dwell on what we did not have time to see; I want to tell you more about the incredible things that we did see, and give you a small idea of the wonders that Iceland has to offer.

If I had to choose two places to recommend to a fellow traveler it would have to be Jökulsárlón and Lake Mývatn.

The Blue ice in Jökulsárlón Fjallsárlón Glacial lake

The glacial lake that is Jökulsárlón is where I first set eyes on an iceberg; I wasn’t prepared for how blue the immense blocks of ice would be, and how incredible they would look in contrast with the black sand. Even with a number of tourists on its banks, the lagoon had a peaceful tranquility to it, aided by a thick fog that hung low over the surroundings, we stayed and took in the atmosphere for a very long time. There is the option to take a boat out into the lake and immerse yourself in the frozen landscape, which is something that unfortunately we did not get to experience, but I’m sure that it would only have added to the awe we felt.

The geothermal spring Mývatn Nature baths

Lake Mývatn is a stark contrast to Jökulsárlón, where Jökulsárlón is a land of ice, Lake Mývatn is a land of fire (and the stench of sulphur). It has a beautiful volcanic landscape dotted with bubbling hot mud pools and hot springs – I am told that the pseudo craters here are some of the best in the world, having not experienced any other pseudo craters before I cannot verify this but I was highly impressed, though I must admit that we had to research what a pseudo crater was. I was particularly taken with the awesome colors that could be found around the lake; the electric blue of the hot springs with their power plant, the ocher tones of the mud pools, and the black of the volcano summit. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Sulfur pits in Hverir Hverir suphur pits

The biggest thing that I took from my time at Iceland was to let go of my worries and see where the day took you; don’t plan everything because otherwise you won’t get the chance to see the wonderful things off the beaten track; from hot tubs under the gaze of the glacier, to sheep scattered waterfall country, don’t be afraid to take a detour.

Whale watching Húsavík

 

Read more: Camper Van Harry on the Ring road

Happy Camping!  #CamperStories

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