Campering around South Iceland
After a day wandering Reykjavik we woke up bright and early on Saturday morning to go pick up our Kangoo camper van and extend our wandering to the Icelandic countryside. We were shown the various gadgets and boxes of kit within the van and then left Reykjavik with a vague understanding of how to operate our transformer of a van and headed on into the misty wilderness.
There were quite a few other people also heading into the misty wilderness, and we found most of them at the Þingvellir National Park. We wandered the weird split in the earth created by tectonic plates moving apart and got our camera rather wet taking shots of the stunning waterfall. As it was fairly busy we moved on and found a quiet spot off the road where we brewed a coffee and ate our delicious cinnamon rolls from a bakery in Reykjavik.
We then headed on to the weird and wonderful area around the original Geysir, after which all other geysers are named! We wandered past various steaming and smoking holes towards the main event, an extremely impressive sight of water being spouted 40m in the air at regular intervals. Possibly made even better by a Japanese tourist face-timing the event with her son back in Japan – not a bad spot for a video call.
From there and after a good value (for Iceland) lunch of fresh bread and liver sausage we found our way to Gullfoss, an unbelievably impressive double-waterfall which thunders down with breathtaking ferocity – you couldn’t stop imagining what would happen if you happened to fall in. Luckily we didn’t fall in, so after admiring a 8×8 wheel monster coach we got back into our more homely Kangoo and set off towards the south coast.
After a fun drive through a mix of gravel and tarmac roads, which the Kangoo handled with aplomb, we stopped at a town where Iceland’s supply of mushrooms are grown with thanks to geothermal heat. Unfortunately we didn’t see any mushrooms, but we did stop in the geothermal pool where we spent a very relaxing and sleep inducing hour warming up in the hot springs. A lovely spot and much quieter than everything we’ve heard about the Blue Lagoon (although we didn’t have time to validate this!). It was rather surreal sitting among the sulfurous smelling steam with massed greenhouses in the background and not something we’ll forget quickly.
From there we checked our handy campsite guide that we picked up for free from a Reykjavik tourist information center and picked Þakgil, which offered a “glimpse into the interior of Iceland”, something we couldn’t turn down despite it being a few hour’s drive away. But what a drive it turned into! By this point the weather had become very British with thick drizzle, but it was still very atmospheric seeing the various cliffs and features looming out of the mist even if we couldn’t appreciate the full views.
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Just beyond the town of Vik we turned off the road and entered an extreme world of malformed rocks, rivers that looked like they were running uphill and breathtaking views off down tantalizing valleys and river beds. We pressed a button on the Kangoo with a picture of a car on a hill next to a tree. I have no idea what this button did, but I hoped it helped its offroading abilities, as by this point we were far off the smooth tarmacked surface! After about 40 minutes of winding along the road listening to the Foo Fighters on the stereo we arrived at the end of the road and at Þakgil campsite.
It was in the cleft of several adjoining valleys, up which you could imagine trolls lived in the olden days. There were only another handful of camper vans, as well as a scattering of sleeping huts, and we had an area to ourselves. We happily set up camp, pulling out the various bits and pieces in the boxes in the Kangoo. It was a great setup, and all we needed to do was fill up the water tank, unpack our food and we were ready to cook in the middle of nowhere with the gear included within the Kangoo. Oh, we also had to open the wine, but luckily I had brought a Swiss army knife. So in our waterproofs at the fold up table we prepared dinner in the drizzle, quite an odd site I would imagine, and after finishing all our food we climbed into our very cosy bed. A very pleasant sleep followed, possibly helped by a bottle of wine each, and enough space for me even though I am 1.82m which was a pleasant surprise!
After attempting to wake up for sunrise at 6.30am (massive failure, as there was so much drizzle you couldn’t see the sky) we got up properly and sadly packed up the Kangoo, knowing that it was our last day in Iceland. Not wanting to miss out we drove back down the beautiful track to the main road and headed for breakfast at the black beaches outside Vik. Unfortunately that meant finding a fair few other tourists as well, but we managed to find a little back road where we could get our cooker out and brew some coffee without being observed by anyone.
The beach itself was stunning, with columns of rock rearing up out of the beach into high cliffs, among which Puffins and seabirds were nesting and would regularly throw themselves off the cliff, do a lap or two and then land back again. A great spot to bring binoculars and watch some of these amazing creatures in their own habitat. I resisted the urge to try and take a Puffin home.
From there it was a sprint back to Reykjavik airport where we had conveniently arranged to drop the Kangoo off. On the way we passed a huge waterfall so pulled off quickly to have a look before hitting the road again. Not a bad way to finish the trip and after saying a sad farewell to the Kangoo we have now resolved that the future lies in Kangoo camper vans… and are hatching plans to make one ourselves.
We’ll be back Iceland, maybe this time in our own camper!
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