Camper Van Tour of Iceland
Umbrella Thoughts about our Rent.is camper van tour of Iceland: Iceland is a country like no other: 15 active volcanoes, 10,000 waterfalls, 800 hot springs, 11,500 square kilometers of glaciers, 10,000,000 puffins, exploding geysers, and the midnight sun.
Absolutely amazing country!
We comfortably drove more than 2000 miles over the course of 10 days in our diesel Renault Kangoo Camper van. WE LOVED IT!
There are grocery stores, bakeries, gas stations everywhere. The Ring road isn’t as desolate as we thought it might be. The part from Seyðisfjörður to Lake Mývatn had the fewest amenities, but everywhere else there’s quite often a place to stop, eat, and grocery shop.
Lupine everywhere in bloom at this time of year – mid June. Absolutely gorgeous mixed in with the yellow dandelions all over the roadside. Angelica is the white flower amongst the Lupine sometimes.
Internet is great just about everywhere. WiFi in the camper van is supercool. We need a better map! The one we used shows campgrounds in a general area, but often the local signs aren’t sufficient to get you to the exact location. Local maps seem to show more precise locations of campgrounds, pools, etc. Good maps are available at all the Tourist Information Centers As a knitter, I feel SUPER validated in Iceland! Hand work of all varieties is proudly displayed and so many souvenirs are hand knits. Extremely high quality felting, crocheting, knitting, artistic and beautiful work being done here….. “We have very long winters here.”
Day 1 – Getting & prepping the camper trip
After landing in Iceland, we had an effortless pickup of our Renault Kangoo Campervan. Let the adventure begin!
Bought groceries at Bónus, realizing that with the cold weather predicted, the small stove and utensils in this camper van we probably won’t do much cooking. Turns out there are adequate places to eat while on the road everywhere, and we brought enough snacks that no one will starve. The best part of our first day in Iceland? Absolutely AWESOME fish and chips purchased at a food truck in the parking lot of the Bónus in Keflavik.
Drove to a nice campsite near Þorlákshöfn, with a VERY nice pool/weight room/basketball court. Our first taste of Iceland’s pools, and they quickly become an addiction. They’re a perfect way for campers to use Iceland’s geothermal wonderfulness to wash off the daily grunge.
And then we experienced the midnight sun: O.M.G. beautiful when the night never really comes. We quickly learn how easy it is to stay up WAY too late, not realizing the day has slipped away but the sun still shines. Just stunning light for photos in the middle of the night.
Day 2 – Golden Circle Day
Drove through Selfoss up to the Secret Lagoon. Gorgeous place, but SUPER loaded with tourists. Very cool greenhouses next door with bright lights to simulate sunlight. They use the geothermal heat to heat the greenhouses. Again – great fish and chips from a food truck in the parking lot. Are we seeing a trend here??
On to Gullfoss: I’m going to run out of adjectives here soon……
Amazingly beautiful waterfall and absolutely inundated with tourists. Tour busses, people, totally crowded everywhere.
Next was Þingvellir – the valley between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. The plates are drifting apart at a rate of approximately .75″/year. HOW COOL IS THAT????
Westward toward Vik, beautiful sunset in our rear view mirror. Seljalandsfoss waterfall, straight out of nowhere along Highway 1. Stunning! Camped right at the base of Skógafoss waterfall. The base of an incredible waterfall…….amazing spot to spend a night.
Day 3 – Vik to Stafafell
The perfect day to have a bluebird day with no rain. Fabulous grocery store in Vik – very nicely stocked with fresh things, and all staples. Good coffee! Visited the Black Sand Beach at Reynisdrangur. Absolutely stunning area, but again – so many tourist busses.
Super cool and ever changing landscape at every turn. The pseudo craters near Kirkjubæjarklaustur were a marvel. Waterfall, after waterfall, after waterfall……
Laufskálavarða: What an amazing thing to stumble upon. Among the lava fields, is a cairn park. Thousands of cairns in a small park along the road. Adding a rock to any cairn brings you good luck for your journey. Big highlight for this cairn maker!
Then onto the GIANT Vatnajökull National Park. This park, which is primarily glacial with volcanoes underneath, is 14% of the total land mass of Iceland. The fingers of this glacier are massive, and go on for miles peeking down to the shore and road.
Skaftafell: Hiked to Svartifos – very nice short hike with gorgeous views of the falls along the way. THE GLACIAL LAGOON!!! How many times can one person say “Oh My GOD this is cool!!” HUGE iceburgs floating in a lake formed when its passage to sea was blocked by land movements in the 20th century. This lake is 820ft deep – the deepest lake in Iceland. There were many viewing places, and they just got better as we traveled east. AMAZING!!!
Dinner was at Hali Country Hotel (hali.is) – excellent lamb and Arctic Char! Farm to table type restaurant and a wonderful dining experience. Spent a lovely 45 minutes at the swimming pool in Höfn. We landed for the night at Stafafell campground. A bit primitive, but when all you need is a WC, it was OK for us. Camping there for the most part is setup in a field, or even a gravel parking lot. Amazing views, but not a lot of privacy anywhere.
Day 4 – Stafafell to Seyðisfjörður
Cloudy, drizzly, day. A good day to drive north along the eastern shores. The ever changing landscape brought us fjords all day today.
Stunning mountains, melting glaciers, waterfall after waterfall after waterfall – AGAIN, quaint fishing villages at the end of every fjord, lush GREEN everywhere, SHEEP everywhere, the GORGEOUS Lupine everywhere.
Petra’s Mineral Collection in Stöðvarfjörður: Worth every penny of our entire trip for me. This woman collected rocks around her home in Iceland her entire live. Coming into this trip I “assumed” that Iceland would be predominantly Basalt. Turns out this woman’s mineral collection is superior to any I’ve seen anywhere. And it’s at her house. And 99% of it was collected in Iceland. She died a few years ago, and her family is running it now. Incredibly well maintained, and a beautiful way to keep her memory alive. $15 admission fee, and I gave them an additional donation upon exit.
I TOTALLY expected it to be cheesy, but apparently the Icelanders don’t do cheesey touristy things very often (YAY). It was a fabulous experience and I learned a ton: 150 different species of minerals have been found in Iceland. I’ve never seen a more amazing collection of minerals, rocks, and meticulously maintained gardens.
Route 93 to Seyðisfjörður shouldn’t be missed! The river that follows the road is a constant source of gorgeous waterfalls. The town itself is surrounded by sheer mountains, with waterfall after waterfall after waterfall. Very cute town.
Day 5 – Seyðisfjörður to Mývatn
And yet another amazing topography change: it felt like we were driving on the moon all the way to Mývatn. It would have been FAR more interesting, and less nervous, if we had gotten gas in Egilsstaðir….. But no. The car dinged low fuel a LONG way from a gas station, but our little Kangoo surprised us with how far we went on a seemingly empty tank. It was snowing, blowing, the coldest day yet, and one of us might have been hitch hiking. AMAZING volcanic landscape all around this entire area.
Krafta Volcano. Geothermal plant on the way.
Dettifoss Waterfall – SERIOUSLY?? The most powerful waterfall in all of Europe is in the middle of an absolutely flat valley-esque area where you’d have no idea something this majestic was nearby. No visitor center, no signs, just a big parking lot and an 80 yard path to the unbelievable falls. 45M high, 100M wide, 193m2 of water every second.
Selfoss was almost as spectacular, and just up the river from Dettifoss. It was a very cold and blowy day, so we didn’t linger. But O.M.G – the moon-ish landscape for miles on every side, and the out-of-nowhere incredible falls.
The Jarðböðin Nature Baths were an absolutely delightful place to spend a few hours Friday night. Blue water just like the Blue Lagoon, but WAY fewer people, and far less $$$. Stunning views of the moon-like terrain around Lake Mývatn. And it never gets dark……they’re open until midnight, and when darkness never comes, tiredness is slow in coming as well.
Stayed at the campground just north of Reykjahlið. Relatively expensive ($40 for two), but very nice facilities.
Day 6 – Lake Mývatn to Siglufjörður
Visited Husavik: Whale Museum was worth the time and $. Very pretty little fishing village.
South to Goðafoss. Incredibly beautiful horseshoe shaped waterfall, visible for miles as you drive east on Highway 1. Stunning in many ways! On to Akureyri, Dalvik, Ólafsfjörður, and Siglufjörður. LONG tunnels cut a bunch of coastal driving off this fjord.
Spent the next two nights in an overflow campground above Siglufjörður at BY FAR the best campsite yet. We’re the only ones at this campsite, with views that are out of this world.
Day 7 – Siglyfjörður all day – a well deserved day of not driving much
Toured the Herring Era Museum – Interesting and well worth a visit. Had lunch at the Harbor House Cafe – FABULOUS herring sampler, and local shrimp cocktail. Great local beer and Skyr cake – YUMMY!!!
Hiked up the Lupine filled hillside overlooking town – gorgeous hike. Back to Harbor House Cafe for a traditional Sunday Icelandic meal: slow roasted lamb, pickled cabbage, rosemary roasted potatoes, peas, and a wonderful Italian red wine. Absolutely delightful day!
Day 8 – Varmaland
Yet another rainy day, and a great day for it. Not much going on today – just driving south toward Varmaland.
Day 9 – Varmaland to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula to Grindavik
Snæfellsnes was gorgeous: volcanoes with cold magma dripping over the edge to hike up, glacier at the end, small tidy clean fishing villages, Caves to hike into…..just gorgeous from start to finish!
Day 10 Returning the Camper
Sadly we had to return our Renault “Love Nest.” It was our best friend for 10 days, and we’ve fallen in love with camper van camping. And Iceland. We can’t come back soon enough!
Read more: Observations from the Ring road
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