Evening by ÞingvellirMy company shuts down for the week between Christmas and New Years so each year since I was hired, I have an adventure. Last year was Vermont and the year before was London and Bath, UK.

This year I decided on Iceland and after researching lodging, I opted for the economy and flexibility of a camper van.

I arrived early Christmas Eve morning after a short overnight flight from NYC. I stocked up on wine in Duty Free and missed my pick up at the airport. No problem, they sent someone back for me and I was off on my way in a short time. Trust me, pay attention during your orientation to your van. It may come in handy during your trip.

Blue Lagoon appointmentDespite the Christmas holiday, I was able to find a supermarket open near the airport to stock up on supplies. After marveling at the slightly different foods available in Iceland and unpacking my purchases in the van, I made it on time for my appointment at Blue Lagoon.

After a luxurious soak and quick lunch, I checked out the sights in the Reykjanes Peninsula with the shortened daylight hours available. The camper van came in handy when jet lag unexpectedly hit me. I was able to pull over in a picnic stop for a quick 15 minute nap. After a refreshing nap, My evening was spent in Reykjavik where the campsite was allowing winter campers to use the showers and kitchens of the hostel next door.

I rose early the next day with a packed schedule of Þingvellir National Park, Geysir hot spring and Gullfoss. The parking lots were packed and sights were crowded even on Christmas Day. I watched the Strokkur geysir erupt several times and eventually got a hot coffee from the gift shop to have with my favorite camping lunch, peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I ended the day with a visit to the Secret Lagoon. I enjoyed this lagoon much more than Blue Lagoon because it felt much less touristy.

Þingvellir Northern LightsI ended up camping at the Úthlíð campsite because I was too exhausted to drive to the next open campsite. Shower facilities were available and luckily the weather cooperated to cook a small hot meal. I wasn’t expecting to see the Northern Lights as the forecast was calling for clouds but I was rewarded around 1 am when the clouds cleared. I was treated to the most magical sight I have ever seen. There were several ribbons of pale green haze dancing across the sky. I stood outside photographing and marveling at the lights for over an hour. I have finally taken a photograph that was more beautiful than what I could see with my naked eye.

Hike to ReykjadalurThe rest of my week was spent exploring further east along the Ring Road. The highlight of mine day was a hike to Reykjadalur. It was a challenging hike because in the winter you must control your pace so you don’t sweat, not to mention the ice and snow on the trail. Crampons came in handy! I had a blast relaxing in the hot spring at the end of the hike and dreaded getting out. I have never gotten dried off and dressed so fast in my life. It was so cold, you could hear and feel the water freezing on your skin as you got out of the stream!

I camped at the Hamragarðar campsite, cooking facilities but no showers but I was again blessed with the sight of the Northern Lights over the Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfuráfoss waterfalls. It was wonderful to hear the falls so near and I can see why it is considered one of Iceland’s most beautiful campgrounds. The trip had been going perfect, including the weather so I was expecting something to go wrong and at 3am it happened. My heater stopped working, Campers listen to your check in representatives tips. I had accidentally switched on the refrigerator when I turned on the heat. Using both WILL drain the battery. Luckily the battery recharges while the camper is running so I didn’t have anymore problems.

Reynisfjara Black sand beachI visited the Skógafoss waterfall where I saw one of many wedding photo shoots. Lunch was eaten while I hiked out to the Sólheimasandur airplane wreck. It’s amazing how intact the plane hull still is after all these years. It was a nice spot to rest with some hot tea, a thermos is a must when in Iceland over the winter. Sunset found me at the Reynishverfi Basalt Columns and Vik black sand beach. I visited the Vik swimming pool for a nice relaxing soak and hot shower.

It was getting late so I grabbed a quick dinner at the local grill. I had to drive to the Skaftafell campsite, where I ended up on a 45 minute detour due to the Ring Road be closed for an accident. Be careful driving out there! I’m glad I decided to eat before heading east. I did manage to see the Northern lights again and the glacier made a beautiful background for photos.

Reykjavik BonfireMy fifth day in Iceland found me embarking on an Ice Cave tour. A group of 7 of us rode in a monster 4×4 truck near the base of the Vatnajökull glacier. We strapped on crampons and hiked 45 minutes to the mouth of our first cave. There were a couple of other groups but our guides were able to manage with only one group in the caves at a time. Iceland is a land of fairy tales and the ice caves are no exception. It was magical to see the light filtered through the blue ice and the acoustics were perfect for singing. The ice caves were on the far edge of the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon so we were treated with an unusual viewpoint of the lagoon.

I would have loved to spend more time exploring Skaftafell or the Vatnajökull glacier but I had 3rd row tickets to see Sigor Rós in concert at Harpa Opera Hall so I needed to make my way back to Reykjavik. I found myself rushing to Vik after a soak in at the swimming pool in Kirkjubæjarklaustur to make the 9pm closing of the grill. A hot meal was much needed after a day of ice caving.

I spent the remainder of my holiday exploring Reykjavik, seeing Sigur Rós and celebrating New Years Eve. Reykjavik has been my favorite place to spend NYE. The bonfires, fireworks and friendship were an amazing way to ring in the new year, end my trip in Iceland and set the tone for a happy new year in 2018.


Read more: Ross & Hayley’s Icelandic adventure

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