Hi, I’m Brandon and I live in San Jose, California. This is my girlfriend Maca, who lives in Madrid, Spain. We have been together for just over a year and have been in an amazing long distance relationship. For our one year anniversary, we wanted to travel somewhere special for about a week to spend time together and celebrate. However, deciding a place to travel to was difficult because we each only had about a week of vacation. After naming a few cities, Maca said “Iceland?!”. On Facetime, we looked at each other with mouths open wide and started looking for pictures and videos and searched for flights. After seeing numerous Iceland landmarks and waterfalls on Instagram, we decided we’d be the envy of all of our friends and booked a 7 day trip to Iceland at the end of May.
After a few days of research, it was somewhat unfortunate to find out that the Northern Lights most likely would not be visible in May because the sun sets past 11PM and rises before 5AM. It just doesn’t get dark enough during this time of the year! However, visiting in the Spring/Summer was a whole new experience in itself. Our daily conversations including Maca asking, “What time is it? 5PM?” “No honey… it’s actually 10PM!” “WHAAAAAAAT?!”
Before you go to Iceland here are a few important tips that helped us:
Download Google Maps (The absolute #1 most important thing to do!)
- Download Google Maps
- Search for Iceland
- Go to Menu >> Offline maps >> download an offline map: Custom map
- Download about 8 offline maps with each map covering about 1/6th of Iceland. The custom maps should overlap.
- By downloading multiple maps of Iceland, it will allow you to use GPS without internet or WiFi. Your location will still be located (blue dot) and you can navigate to bookmarks while you’re on airplane mode.
- Create Lists to bookmark landmarks you are interested in visiting. Feel free to start with our personal list of Iceland landmarks, waterfalls, Bónus supermarkets and campsites
Download Spotify Premium, Pandora One or Apple Music apps and save music (playlists/albums/songs) to your phone for Offline listening.
Bring from home
- AUX cord (To connect your phone to car speakers)
- Phone charger
- Car phone charger/adapter (charge via cigarette lighter)
- Cell phone power bank
- Playing Cards
Once you arrive in Iceland, get your check-in luggage but DO NOT leave the area. I repeat, DO NOT leave the baggage claim area just yet! Why you may ask? Two words – Duty Free. If you enjoy soda, candy, beer, wine, or liquor, go to the Duty Free shop located right next to the baggage claim as you go down the escalator. This is an absolute must especially if you plan on drinking alcohol during your trip! The price of alcohol outside of Duty Free can be 1.5 to 3 times more expensive. Maca and I both enjoy drinking beer and wine so we bought a variety of 78 beers and 5 bottles of wine.
We started planning our trip a month before, checking all the landmarks we wanted to see or places we wanted to visit. Get ready to see a beautiful country full of waterfalls and nature and experience daylight most hours of the day if you are going in the spring and summer.
Day 1: Once we got out of the airport, we took a shuttle to a rental office to get our Camper van. First stop, Bónus supermarket, the most popular and cheapest supermarkets in Iceland. We stocked up on food for the next 7 days and bought fruits (bananas, blueberries, cherries), vegetables (lettuce, tomatoes, onions, garlic), sandwich ingredients (bread, cheese, deli meat, chicken breast), snacks (chips, crackers) and pasta ingredients (ground beef, spaghetti, pasta sauce). Make sure you can fit all the refrigerated items in your camper van cooler! We then drove to downtown to eat at Icelandic Street Food for traditional lamb soup and local beer. Our first landmark was Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River which was a windy but easy/moderate 4-mile round trip hike which led to a thermal river with natural hot springs flowing into it. It was definitely worth the hike and experience. We definitely recommend you bring swimsuits and a towel. (Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River.mov) We ended our night making frozen teriyaki sticks in the back of our camper van and slept in Selfoss campsite.
Day 2: Woke up and made breakfast in the campsite kitchen and drove to Þingvellir National Park. We took a short hike through a small canyon which led to Tröllafoss waterfall and an iconic white church. It was raining but we then drove to Geysir which has numerous geysers erupting every 7-15 minutes. So amazing to see this natural wonder! We ended our night in Hamragarðar Campground which was by far our favorite campground of the trip because of the nearby waterfall!
Day 3: We woke up in this beautiful campsite and took a walk inside the waterfall that is right in front of it and went to see the other waterfalls nearby. After, we drove to our next landmark: the outdoor hidden pool Seljavallalaug. The pool is easy to find and had natural hot spring water flowing into it. We then headed to the DC-3 airplane crash in Sólheimasandur. We hiked for 3 hours (round trip) and took a few pictures there! We then went to a beautiful black sand beach with intriguing rocks columns.
Day 4: On my birthday, May 22nd, 2018, we drove from Fagrifoss to Diamond Beach next to Jökulsárlón. It was a gloomy, rainy, and windy day. Maca and I made our way to the north side of Diamond Beach where we saw huge waves crashing down on the shore and glistening ice sculptures parked on the black sand. These crystal clear “diamonds” varied in size from palm-sized to taller than me.
After setting up the camera to take a picture, I held Maca close, looked her in her eyes, and confessed my love to her. We both were immensely happy and at that moment I knelt down on one knee and asked Maca, “Will you marry me?” She said YES!!! We hugged and kissed for the first time being engaged. Another tourist witnessed the entire scene and took pictures during the proposal. What a memorable birthday and engagement day for both of us.
Day 5: We woke up to beautiful weather at our campsite and enjoyed breakfast outdoors before driving four hours to Dettifoss, one of the largest waterfall in Europe. After, we were unable to drive up north because of road closures so instead we drove to Akureyri (the second biggest city in Iceland). The road and views were absolutely amazing and we cooked in the back of our camper van.
Day 6: Our first stops in the morning was Krafla volcano and Grjótagjá Cave (famous Game of Thrones filming cave). After 5 days we wanted to feel the thermal waters and decided to go to Mývatn Natural Bath which is a popular man-made hot spring location. We unwinded by staying in the warm waters and drank a few beers. What a wonderful place to relax!
Day 7: On our last day, we went to see Kirkjufellsfoss (the most photographed waterfall in Iceland) which took us five hours to get there. We then drove to Arnarstapi, a small fishing village, and took pictures at the Arnarstapi Sea Arch. That night we slept in a nice campsite in Akranes where we met some Icelandic people who told us more about their life and culture.
Day 8: Maca and I both woke up not accepting the fact that we had to return our beloved camper van. We both were enjoying and getting so attached to the camper van lifestyle that we didn’t want to return back to reality! But at last, we drove her one last time and returned our camper van back to Keflavik.
It really was such a blessing to be able to experience Iceland in this fashion. We will not forget the exciting places our Camper van took us and will always remember this trip with a smile on our face and a ring on her hand. Please don’t hesitate to drive and live in a camper van. We highly recommend doing it and wish you a memorable time. There is no other way to explore Iceland. This was definitely a one of a kind experience that can’t be beat!
Maca & Brandon
Read more: Iceland in love
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