Hi There! We are Pudji & Diederik: A newly engaged couple from the Netherlands. Some say that taking some quality time after your engagement is quite important to remember what your engagement is all about. And for us, going to an adventurous place to experience unforgettable nature beauty is our thing! Here is our story exploring Iceland for our engagement-moon getaway!
Day 1 – Our Icelandic road trip – it’s gonna be VanTastic!
Dutch winters get cold but Icelandic winter get cold as ice, we noticed as soon as we disembarked from the airplane. We picked up our camper van after we landed. Everything was already arranged, so we drive off and it’s time for car karaoke! Since it’s getting dark on this last day of the year, we are driving towards Reykjavik where we could see the celebratory fireworks already. A less decent driver than us would break the speed limit to get there but of course we would never… It was a nice drive. The roads and navigation were easy to handle, the only challenge was to see where the lane started and finished because it got a bit grey and snowy.
After a 45 minute drive, we finally arrived at the guest house. We prepared ourselves for the NYE by first stuffing ourselves eating a home-cooked dinner (KFC was closed due to the holiday) and some relaxation.
Around 22:45, we started to walk down town where the big church is. You could already feel the ambiance and enthusiasm of the people in Reykjavik for the count down.
In the meantime, fireworks are already filling up the sky and we believed that there is more to come close to the 0 hour. We gathered in front of the church to join the crowd and waited for the church bells to ring, cheering for the new year.
The year transition was welcomed with joy and laughter, and we decided to continue our night by finding a bar to drink a cocktail or two. Cheers to the new year 2018!
Day 2 – Dirty sauce and Full moon
The sun comes up late in Iceland, around 10.00 or so. After wrapping up our stuff from the guest house it’s feeding time, we mean lunch, at the Dirty Burgers…… This restaurant lives up to its name with a sauce called the dirty sauce. Think about Mayo and Mustard blended together. The sauce was nice (and dirty) but for those of you who concern about calories (or ørkas as the locals call them) may be better served by having the complimentary ketchup or BBQ sauce.
Fun fact: on that same square you got a Parisian cafe, an english pub and the American bar, so something from everybody. Also there’s an Indian restaurant that’s called Gandhi (known for going on hunger strikes… ironic).
We continued our journey to a small village called Hveragerði. We parked the car at the local campsite and explored the village by walking through the icy pavements. We managed not to fall, mostly… It was -7 degrees and 16.00 hour, but the sun was already down and ready for its long sleep.
That presents us with the opportunity to chase the Northern light. We found a trail to lead us up the mountain plateau call Kambar overseeing the town. The trick is to have a vantage point with the least amount of light pollution. We got a bit lost but managed to find our way up. Only to realize it was full moon on a bright night, so no avocado burrito (whoops, auto correct should work on its Latin, don’t blame us 😉 ). No werewolves either, so overall a nice hike!
Day 3 – Wheeling into Winter Wonderland
Our first night sleep into the camper van left us ready to face the harsh wind and icy roads. Not without first getting soup and coffee for breakfast though, plus picking up some chocolate (Euroshopper, yay!). With our chairs heated and paired devices playing our own tunes the drive is a fun and relatively fast one. Our destination: the Golden Circle.
Þingvellir is an impressive formation of cliffs and waterfalls. We enjoyed shooting photos and videos of the panoramic sights. Learning that it was a place of law-making back in the viking days sheds another light on the place especially when you find out about all the ways you could get executed. All that unpleasantness was quickly forgotten upon seeing the amaaaaazing frozen waterfall. Definitely worth dying for, thanks Vikings we get it now… ☺
We still had some daylight when we made the drive up to Geysir. Pizza and fish soup was a welcome snack before finding a place to rest our heads. We first landed on an abandoned camp site, but after a few calls found out about Skjól. This place welcomed us with a hot shower and nachos while some American travellers played guitar. The live map of the Northern light first promised us a glimpse at that very location, but it turned out too good to be true. We played a game of darts instead, and had a peaceful night sleep.
Day 4 – Memoirs of a Geysir
So one thing we haven’t talked about is the fact that a lot of campsites are out of operation during the low season. Funnily enough they have no physical barriers to entree so if you’re feeling lucky you can stay there. On day 2 we ended up staying somewhere for free because everything was locked down (of course you got to get creative in terms of using facilities).
Next to Geysir is one of those abandoned sites. We decided not to stay there and went to Skjól but for breakfast we sneaked back in and prepared a lovely meal: omelet, rendang (spicy Indonesian stew) and rice. It tasted good and we felt like total badasses!!
It was freezing severely so we quickly packed up and went to the tourist centre across the street for a coffee and checked an informative video on how Geysers work. Much like a water cooker as it turns out, with the hot magma at the earth’s core as source of heat but without a lit to stop the water stream from spraying. However, it takes quite few minutes for the Great Geyser spray its water. So why don’t we just sit in a frozen bench and ‘chill’!
And spraying the Great Geyser did, indeed.
We found ourselves on the receiving end of the first outburst, and when the initial excitement faded we felt the little rocks raining down on us. The second time we saw it coming, and we even managed to capture it on camera ☺.
That wasn’t all for the day, we tracked down some old viking maps that contained a hint of an old mythical song describing a hidden place called the Secret lagoon. Or maybe the guy behind the bar gave us a flyer and told us we’d get a discount. Either way, a hot spring always was part of the plan so after the geyser shower it made sense. It does not make much sense to jump into an open air puddle of water in the middle of icy icy Iceland but that is exactly what we did.
This day was coming to a close so we wanted to grab some food. We ended up at Mika, a family restaurant oriented at seafood with local ingredients. The risotto with mushrooms and grilled chicken as well as the pasta beef cheek (slow cooked and marinated) were exceptionally delicious dishes. Also, the chocolate cake with ice cream was amazing, reminding us of our engagement dinner. Threat yourself and go go go to Mika (we are open to endorsement deals – call us ☺)
Day 5 – Holy moly did we drive or did the wind carry us?
After a relaxed morning program, with pizza for breakfast, we heard about cruising on a glacier with a snowmobile. That should be fun, we thought, but we kept it in our back pocket for now. Because we took up the ambitious goal to drive down to the south coast to a town called Vik (Reykjavik’s little brother?).
Just a few days before the roads leading there were closed due to stormy conditions. Now, maybe us and the good people of Iceland have different definitions of stormy, because to us it seemed to have never left… We got tucked and pulled back and forth by aggressive winds nonstop, growing in intensity with every minute closer to the shore. Our van kept us warm (seat heating yay!) and safe so it’s all good.
On our way to the beach, we stumbled on a beautiful and massive waterfall, Skógafoss. We parked our car, took a couple of shots and spent a few minutes enjoying the beauty of the waterfall from below. It does get cold and wet but we got our ultimate engagement-moon picture!
We then continued our way to Vik, the capital town of South Iceland. It was around 17.00 but it was already pretty dark. We rushed ourselves to the beach, chasing the sunset for photo stock purpose. The wind blew hard but the temperature was actually a bit higher in Vik.
After taking several photographs, we went to a local restaurant nearby the beach. When we got in just two tables were taken, but seeing a lot of tourists had the same idea the place got crowded and when we left almost ten people were waiting to be seated. Good business tip: starting a diner down there (prices have been tripling, even to the surprise of native Icelandic entrepreneurs). We found a good spot to get comfortable watching a movie in our mobile home cinema (thanks, Netflix!) and called it a night.
Day 6 – Gliding across the glacier
We woke up pretty early today but full of excitement because today is the time for some adrenaline pump! We are going snowmobiling woohoo!! We signed ourselves up to a tour company called Arcanum. And we had to be at their basecamp at 9.30 for some prepping.
When we get there, we saw this massive monster truck that will take you to the peak of the mountain. The truck looked as if we are traveling to the moon. After being excited climbing up the mountain with the monster truck we were welcomed by an array of snow mobiles at the top of the glacier. The instructors then explained us how to drive it. Diederik is going to be the pilot today and Pudji will be the copilot helping balancing the snowmobile.
We strolled around ourselves through some part of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. It was very exhilarating as we had to work together through the slopes and slides, balancing ourselves for each other’s safety. The trip was getting even more special because we got the chance to see the sunrise on the top of the mountain. It was so beautiful, and you instantly would think how great nature is.
The trip itself takes about an hour, but the time flies so fast and it’s over before you know it. It was an amazing experience and we are absolutely glad for doing it! Arcanum is very professional and trustworthy. The crew was friendly, informative and hospitable. So anytime you would like to go for snowmobiling around Vik, we recommend this tour!
After having a cool experience snowmobiling we decided to go back to the Black Sand Beach to take some more pictures. We went to the south side of the beach where the caves are. The beach is quite rocky because it is a volcanic beach, we strolled around the beach and we didn’t realize that the time was almost 4 PM so that means sunset time and a cue to go back to Reykjavik to chase aurora.
Day 6/7 – I met you in a dream
19.00 — After a long drive from Vik, we finally arrived at Reykjavik. We checked the aurora radar and it says that the light will pass above the city at anytime. Great! Still we feared that we would not see it around Reykjavik because of the light pollution so we decided to move down to Keflavik because perhaps it might be darker.
After reading some reviews on Tripadvisor on where is the best place to see the Northern light in Keflavik, we concluded to see it nearby the Hotel Berg which was located nearby the harbor. We figured there would be some restaurants nearby the hotel and it could be good deal for us to kill some time. So we said: let’s go!
We went to Kaffihús Restaurant and there we discovered a very exotic Icelandic dish: The Minke whale steak. Our reactions differ (as usual), one of us was quite excited and dares to try, but the other showed a highly sympathetic emotion. But in any case, the menu was ordered so one of us had whale for dinner and it was delicious!
Because the night is still young so we continued our quest for finding our mystery light, the Aurora Borealis. Alas, when we stepped out from the restaurant we felt a snow flake fell on our nose. This can’t be good, since we need a clear sky to see the light. But we keep being optimistic so we drove around while finding a camping site for our stay. At the end, we visited several places such as the Viking Village, the Grotta Light house, and the Harbour. However, wherever we go, there is no sign that Aurora is showing up. We started to get desperate and starting to accept that it will never show up on our last day in Iceland as the snow keeps falling down hard.
Feeling gloomy and slightly cold, we decided to just wrap up our night. We parked our car somewhere nearby the airport and reminiscing our cool adventure in Iceland. We thought tomorrow morning, we will be back to Netherlands. It will be our first day in the country of the new year. With mixed feelings we are ready to go home. It’s time for us to sleep and hopefully meet the Aurora light in our dreams.
Day 7 – Wakey wakey
Bzzzz…bzzzz.. our alarm clock starts the day, while we rather snooze some more. It’s time to return the camper and finalize our holiday. So we drove up to the Rent.is office where they provided a smooth experience and quick transport service to the airport. We said good bye to the ice winter of Iceland, to the beautiful snowy mountains, to the frozen waterfall that gave us beautiful memories. Iceland trip was not only about its beauty, but allowed us to see different things and to be brave encountering such extreme weather. We become stronger and closer. Thank you Iceland, you’ll be missed. 🙂
Pudji & Diederik
Read more: The Northern Lights & Bad Luck!
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