An Icelandic Celebration
Alex and I got engaged on June 17 of this year (which was, coincidentally, Icelandic Independence day) and we knew immediately that we had to head off to Iceland to celebrate. You see, not only is it the hip vacation spot that we’ve been talking about visiting for quite some time, it’s also where most of Alex’s family lives. His dad, who was born in Reykjavik, originally moved to the US to be with Alex’s mom (the two met at an Icelandic disco, can it get anymore romantic?) who was living there after her parents immigrated from the city some years before.
We wanted to celebrate our engagement with his side of the family (especially those who won’t be able to make it to the actual wedding), so we booked our tickets and started planning. I, who had never been to Iceland before, desperately wanted to see as much of the country as possible. Alex, who has been a number of times, was adamant that the best way to do that would be on our own, by car rather than by tour bus or group. And seeing as we had to start saving for a wedding, nothing seemed like a better idea than camping. After a quick google search, voila! We found Camper Van Iceland and were all booked and ready.
Day one of our driving trip was a bit of a doozy. First, we went in circles for a while before finally ending up on the correct direction of the ring road (shouldn’t have been hard to navigate considering the WiFi the camper van provided us… but somehow I got a little confused). Then about two hours into the trip I realized I forgot my one and only rain coat at his Aunt’s house back in Reykjavik… But the longer we drove the less we worried about the mundane things (like a warm jacket) and the more we began to relax and take in the scenery (and just to clarify, I did happen to at least have a knit sweater- a lopapeysa made by Alex’s grandma, nonetheless- to make up for the missing jacket).
For food Alex made sure to stock up on his favorite Icelandic snacks at a Bónus before we left the city. We drank plenty of kókómjólk (chocolate milk). munched on harðfiskur (dried fish). and had the amazing lamb hot dogs (affordable and delicious) for dinner quite a number of nights (thank goodness for that gas stove in the camper van!). One of my favorite things to eat, though, were the sweet blackberries and blueberries that grew all over the country. Anytime we stopped I made sure to pick some!
We did try to go out for a meal every once in awhile (even though our camper van cooking setup made it so easy). We had lobster pizza in Höfn, the catch of the day in Húsavik, and (I feel like I might regret giving away this little gem…) the absolute best Icelandic pancakes and hot chocolate at an adorable turf house in the Highlands called Sænautasel. The food was definitely pricier than I was used to, but it was always well worth it.
Though every new area we visited was beautiful in its own way, I think Alex and I would both agree that the Snæfellsnes Peninsula was the most remarkable. We started our drive by going East, so Snæfellsnes was actually the very last stop on our trip- and it was truly a great way to end our adventure! The Peninsula, which was not far from Reykjavik, was full of hikes and lush land- but the whole region was peppered with sheer cliffs and lava and overall created a truly stunning effect. I think the only other place that rivaled Snæfellsnes in beauty was the swimming pool in Hofsós (it’s got an infinity edge that looks out over the ocean!). Okay… I think Alex might also argue that the Westman Islands were another strong rival to the Hofsós pool… I mean, we did get to take a ferry out and climb a volcano when we were there!
Having a camper van allowed us the opportunity to do exactly what we wanted, when we wanted. Instead of having to skip sites in order to make it to a specific hotel at night, we took our time and stopped at the closest camp grounds when we were ready to take a break for the evening. One of the best parts about the camping was getting to pull out the provided chairs and sit together outside, talking about all the amazing things we had done that day (with a beer in hand, of course). On one particularly frosty and clear night, as we sat there long after the sun had set, we were even lucky enough to see the Northern Lights dance across the sky (I know!!!).
The drive around the Ring road was stunning and ever changing. We were blessed with perfect weather (maybe Odin realized I forgot my coat?) and days full of adventure. I think the trip ended up being more than just a vacation- being surrounded by so many stunning sites and getting to hike in untouched nature was humbling and refreshing at the same time. It allowed us to reflect on our own lives back in Los Angeles and discuss what we wanted from our future (like maybe sitting in rush hour traffic all the time isn’t the best thing for one’s health?). We were so sad to leave at the end of our trip, but I know this isn’t the last time we’ll visit.
In fact, now that we’re home Alex and I can’t stop talking about when we’re going to go back on our next trip. We are both avid travelers, but I think this is the first time we’ve been so in love with a place. The best part about going back? We have pretty much all of the Highlands still left to explore!
Thank you all for your time!
Read more: Campering around South Iceland
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