An Iceland essay
I challenge anyone to try and describe Iceland in a sentence. Really, go ahead, try. I challenge anyone who has been. It’s impossible.
I mean, do you talk about the day you both spent scaling ancient glaciers? Or perhaps it’s best to describe the time you ran around on black as coal beaches, watching the shore exchange sea foam and sun, basalt stones glittering like diamonds? Or instead, maybe it’s better to explain how you can pull off the road pretty much anywhere to be greeted by some of the friendliest horses you’ll ever meet?
All of that’s true but you haven’t told the whole truth of Iceland, because you haven’t even touched upon hiking to the breathtaking waterfalls, or slipping into an off-the-grids hot springs or that one day you spent watching all the whales feeding in Húsavik.
When we came back home, people asked me what Iceland was like and I was speechless, not because I had nothing to say but because there was SO much. In fact, so much that I felt it wasn’t being fair to the beauty of Iceland to try and sum everything up with a few sentences.
So I started sharing photos, all of this in hopes that by posting, people could begin to get a little bit of an idea of the soul-enriching quality of being there. Then we made a video because within the first day of driving we realized that about every 10 minutes, the scenery would change into some crazy new topography and we began to think that no one back home might believe us. And in my pathetic attempt to define Iceland, that’s often how I would try, by saying, “you drive and around every corner is a whole new world.”
See more: CamperStories photos
Instead of sharing a comprehensive list of the areas that most people hit (which I recommend every single one of them), we will cover some of our surprise visits to less know areas, extra tips for traveling, a “best of” foodie list and even a bonus mixtape, because…road trip.
I may not be able to tell the truth of Iceland in one sentence accurately, but I can say this unequivocally; Iceland is an awe-inspiring place where your eyes grow weary from trying not to miss anything and how easily it becomes to be overwhelmed and humbled by nature. In this sacred space you can forge a relationship with the natural world in a way that allows you to touch it, walk around and connect with it and hopefully, if you’re lucky, get lost in it, fulfilling any wanderlust desires you may have.
And so I challenge you young-at-heart adventurers, GO NOW to the land of fire and ice and a place of so much more…and may it leave you speechless.
• Baejarins Beztu Pylsur – Worlds best hot dog-even though you can get them at gas stations, they taste best at the kiosks
Best Vegan Eats:
• Kaffi Vinyl – In Reykjavik
Best Quick Eats:
• Hjá Höllu – Grindavik. We also bought a few loaves of amazing bread for the week
• Lebowski’s – Fun atmosphere, great shakes
• Gamli Baukur – Definitely try the stew
Best Fancy Eats:
• Grillmarkaðurinn – My husband says this was the best meal he had in Iceland
• Lava – Great way to start a trip-blue lagoon and a fancy meal
• Dill – Make sure to make reservations before you arrive in Iceland
• The Laundromat Cafe – Great place to do laundry and grab a hearty breakfast
• Vogafjós – All dairy products are made in-house. Watch the cows get milked while you eat!
• Bergsson Mathús – Great breakfast plates
• Bernhöftsbakari – Oldest bakery-tons of pastries-try the cake diamond donuts
• Best Advice – We got waterproof shoes, I lived in them
• Campsite Closures – Websites give closure dates for campsites at mid-September but we found that most are open as long as it’s good weather. I would recommend calling to confirm what campsites are open before you leave
• Laundry – It’s hard to find places to do laundry and that became a bit of an issue since things often get muddy or wet. We used The Laundromat in Reykjavik and the campsite in Lake Mývatn.
Read more: Campsites in Iceland open all year around
• Stay Dry – The best way to dry things out is to use the curtain line and heater in the back of the van. It works really well for towels and swimsuits.
• Organization – We learned early that you have to have everything organized. Rain and mud happen, so you have to be prepared with clean outfits and bathroom gear. Get a game plan for your stuff.
• Upgrade – We recommend going with a camper van rental rental with more head room. It makes it easier (especially if you are tall) to move around. There may be days that are mostly rain and being able to move around easily inside the van definitely helps.
• Gas Up – We didn’t have trouble finding gas stations even though we were warned about it. The best gas station to purchase gas cards from is N1. There are just more of them, which beats out discounts and free coffee the other gas stations advertise.
• Be Flexible – One of our greatest decisions we made was to flip our trip. Our first day we looked ahead at weather and instead of going south to north, we went north to south to avoid the rain. The flexibility allowed us to stay in the sunshine and avoid massive amounts of rain throughout our whole trip.
• Map It – Print out a hard map. Most likely, there will be a point or two on the trip where you lose service. Having a map definitely helps.
Hot Springs Tips:
• Hot Hot Hot – Some of the hot springs can run cooler than expected(at least what we expected). We found the more commercial hot springs were hotter than the off-the-beaten-path hot springs.
The town might not seem like much but we had good luck in Hofsós. It was on my radar to begin with because of the swimming pool. It’s not your average swimming pool; it’s a pool and hot tub combo that overlook the ocean and it’s simply stunning. They have a spacious locker room, perfect for getting caught up on all things hygiene, which is a blessing after an extended time in any vehicle. The front desk is stocked with ice cream treats, which can also be a complete pick-me-up after a long day of driving. There’s not tons to do around Hofsós (we did see a puffin/seal tour farther south) but we drove around some of the most beautiful coastline, because after all, it was a road trip. A good restaurant to dine at with a great view is Veitingastofan Sólvik.
Sigh. Oh Hveragerði. We used the phrase “amateur hour” to describe how we approached this hike. The day we picked up the camper van, we were so excited to get started on our trip that we made all the novice mistakes. We were warned it was a bit of a hike but pretty much ignored that warning. We wore tons of layers, no rain gear and both sported horrible choices of footwear for hiking. And even though we knew it would most likely sprinkle rain, twenty minutes into the hike, it was a complete downpour. But we trotted on, the trail becoming slick and dangerous at times with mud.
Despite all the hassle, once we arrived at the river, it was completely worth it. It should be noted that the cooler pools are closest as you arrive and if you’re looking for warmer water, head onwards. Although considered a locals hangout, there was a good amount of travelers there. Hiking back to our van, we made our biggest mistake and learned the most valuable lesson of our trip. Always be prepared for bad weather.
Read more: What to pack for camping in Iceland
We hadn’t made up our bed yet and had our belongings spread out all over the van. We came back from the hike, in muddy clothes and in the middle of a complete downpour. So to avoid contaminating the whole van we had to pretty much strip down on the side of the road and jump in. Don’t let our mishaps make you think it wasn’t worth it, it really is a worthwhile hike n soak for the adventurous and sure-footed. Just plan it as a day activity, bring a six pack and a picnic lunch and make a day of it. Oh, and if you can do it in the sunshine, all the better.
When we made the decision to head to Iceland, I started looking for amazing experiences. I came across The Buubble in Reykholt and booked the only option that showed up on their scheduler. I was willing to gamble with the slim chance on seeing northern lights on our one day stay there. Truly, we had such a good little stay in the area, I would recommend it to anyone. We arrived in the afternoon and went to Friðheimar Farm for lunch. It’s a tomato farm that has a buffet of fresh herbs, baked-onsite breads, and the best tomato soup you’ll ever eat. There’s horses to pet on property but we also took a drive around to meet some of the friendliest horses we saw on the trip. Another great hot spring is in this area is the Secret Lagoon.
We enjoyed the lodging at The Buubble, both our “bubble tent” and the brand new mini-lodge was comfortable and warm. I’m also happy to report that the gamble was worth it, we were woken up to the northern lights at 3am in the morning. To experience something like that is truly indescribable and we were in total awe. We couldn’t have planned it any better and it was our favorite experience of the trip.
Our video from the road
Thanks to the free WiFi, we listened to our playlist only containing Icelandic music on Spotify while driving the Ring road!
Happy Camping! #CamperStories
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