A Camper trip around Niceland
Everyone told us that they call Iceland “Nice”land — which we thought was pretty cheesy before we left for our trip. But while we were there, we found out they were totally right! My husband and I took off over the week of the 4th of July to spend 8 days in the land of fire and ice. The people all across this country were lovely, and even if they were a little grumpy they were still pretty nice (especially compared to Bostonians, where we are from!). Even the bugs were nice — there were lots of them, but they didn’t bite!! We also met some awesome fellow travelers, who were all in great spirits and definitely helped make this one of the most memorable trips of our lives!
Day 1: Silfra in Thingvellir National Park & the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
We spent a few days in Reykjavik before getting our camper rental, and totally fell in love with the city. After we got it, we set off for Silfra in Thingvellir, where we got to snorkel between the tectonic plates! After you got over the fact that you were literally suction-cupped in to your dry suit, and that the water was only about 34*F (1.1ºC), it was absolutely an amazing experience. The GoPro videos are spectacular!
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That night, we started out toward the Snæfellsnes peninsula, which is pretty rugged and not nearly as populated as the other parts of the west coast. We camped that night at a farm in Eldborg, which was basically the best ever — I could not get over how friendly and generous people were, to offer up their land for travelers, and to maintain a great, clean, fully supplied space! We fell asleep around 11 p.m. after being totally confused as to what time it was, and slept in until about 9.
Day 2: Snæfellsjökull & Stykkishólmur
When we woke up (after some struggles with boiling water and not knowing how much instant coffee to use….pro tip: don’t use more than a spoonful!) we kept driving out along the southern part of the peninsula, admiring the coast and mountains, and all the sheep! We drove past some people who were parked, and wanted to see what the deal was….we ended up finding an amazing canyon that we could hike up into, and explored for a while there.
There were so many birds! Then we went and found the visitor’s center for the Snæfellsjökull National Park, where I proceeded to interrogate the poor woman with all of my questions about geology (yes, I’m a nerd and proud of it!) She showed us some good hikes to do, so we set off to find the trail head.
We ended up at the base of a volcanic crater, and fully intended to hike up and around it. We somehow managed to find ourselves on the wrong side of a river, so decided to explore the area on that side instead. We played in the snow and soaked up the summer sun and the views, and had a blast!
That night, we ended up in the lovely town of Stykkishólmur. We found the local swimming pool, and soaked off the hike in there! Then, we camped on a golf course at the edge of town – after catching the France vs. Portugal game of the Euro Cup!
Day 3: Dynjandi Waterfall to Þingeyri
Day 3 was our longest day of driving. We took off from Stykkishólmur and headed toward the fjords. The landscape truly changed by the minute along this route – everywhere you looked there was a new glacier, or mountain, or farm, or fjord or lava formation….it was mind-boggling! Once we got there, the fjords were gorgeous. The driving – not so much. We were fine, but the switchbacks, combined with the dirt and gravel and the rain, made me a little anxious. Each turn was another spectacular view though.
We eventually made it to Dynjandi waterfall, where we could hike up and in the falls. It was amazing! I have never had the chance to be so close to so much natural power. It was truly breathtaking. Then we kept venturing north to the little, tiny town of Þingeyri, where we camped at the local swimming pool (after soaking off that day’s hike too, of course!)
Day 4 – Ísafjörður and Heydalur
We woke up to very, very cold rain and decided to spend the day exploring civilization instead of heading out into the hills. This town is absolutely adorable, and we had a very pleasant time poking our heads into the little shops, warming up with delicious coffee and Kleinur (little donuts), trying puffin for lunch, and reading more about the history of the fjords. It was a low-key day, but we needed it!!
We decided to make a little more progress that night, so we kept driving a ways to stay in Heydalur on the grounds of an old, old hotel. With the rain and the wind right on the water, it was a stark, wind-swept place to be — it felt as if we were miles and miles and miles away from any other human being!
Day 5 – Hólmavík & the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft
After a windy, rainy night we woke up to glorious weather and a sunrise on the glacier across the fjord – a totally glorious sight. We headed out soon after, with a destination of the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft! We had heard much about it, and it did not disappoint — it was amazing what people believed they could do with some chants and spells. It really put a lot of things we had learned about Icelandic culture into perspective — not least of which, that most people are related to one another! It was crazy!
As we had to leave the next day, we headed back down the western coast and decided to look for one last hike to do. I am SO glad we did. We ended up at Reykjadalur trail head, where we ventured about 3 km into the hills to find a hot river! We jumped right in, with several of our fellow bathers, and soaked in what was a totally weird, amazing experience to wrap up a completely amazing trip!
We loved the camper, which was equipped with everything we could need — our one suggestion would be to add a clothes line, since nothing we owned was ever really dry on this trip (because of rain, or the fact that we went swimming in hot pools every day!). The nearly 24-hour sunlight took some getting used to, for sure, but we were basically too exhausted every day from exploring to really care! We loved finding trolls and Elf Stones all along the roads, and admiring the gorgeous landscapes that changed with almost every turn! Iceland is truly “Nice” and we would recommend that any and everyone go explore!!!
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