Our epic adventure in Iceland
Three years ago our paths were lucky enough to meet in Mombasa, Kenya. I was conducting research on entrepreneurship (from Canada) and she was volunteering at a local children’s home (from Denmark). We hit it off right away and have been together ever since!
We now live in Canada together and planned to visit family in Denmark this July. We decided (at no extra cost!) to have a 5-day layover in beautiful Iceland! What better way to celebrate our three-year anniversary than going on another crazy adventure together.
After looking for hotels and car rentals we quickly realized that costs were adding up quick! We then stumbled upon the opportunity to get a campervan that would not only fully suit our needs, but also be at a price we could afford! This was the best and most cost effective way to explore Iceland.
Below is an outline of our awesome adventure. Make sure to check out the link above of our destinations in case you wish to visit some of the same things. Additionally, all locations have underlined links if you wish to find out further information.
Day 1: Blue Lagoon & Beautiful Reykjavik
On our first day we headed straight from the airport to the Blue Lagoon on a shuttle bus for a dip in the warm blue waters. We purchased tickets in advance (from the website) to avoid any lines, and brought our own towels to avoid the extra costs. Although it was costly (50 Euro), we had a fantastic experience that was very relaxing. Make sure to get a silica mud mask, have a waterfall massage, and take a seat in the natural steam room.
After the blue lagoon we took a quick nap (to help with the time difference) and decided to do a walking tour of Reykjavik. Below are some of the places we visited in day 1 with quick descriptions:
Iceland destinations for day 1:
• Sólfarið (The Sun Voyager): A sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason. Sun Voyager is a dreamboat, an ode to the sun.
• Harpa: A concert hall and conference centre in Reykjavík. Harpa was designed by the Danish firm Henning Larsen Architects in co-operation with Danish-Icelandic artist Ólafur Eliasson.
• Vikin Maritime Museum: Maritime museum in a former fish factory with historic ships & exhibits on local fishing industry.
• Austurvöllur: A public square and popular gathering place for the citizens of Reykjavík, especially during good weather due to the prevalence of cafés on Vallarstræti and Pósthússtræti.
• Tjörnin: A small lake in Reykjavik located in the city centre next to city hall and several museums.
• Hallgrimskirkja: Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran parish church. At 73 meters, it is the largest church in Iceland and the sixth tallest architectural structure in Iceland.
After an exhausting day (of nearly 25,000 steps) we headed off to bed at our hotel and did the final planning for our campervan journey ahead.
Day 2: South Coast- Part 1
After a good night’s rest we were picked up from the hotel to get our camper van. The process was very easy and we were on the road in less than an hour. We recommend to get the full insurance (just in case) and to take pictures to ensure no accidental charges after check out.
We realized after the first day that eating out can be very expensive. Therefore we headed to the closest Bonus and stocked up on food for the next four days. Keep in mind that most campervans have fridges and grills so there are endless possibilities for meals and snacks! After we stocked up with food we hit the road (on a very rainy day).
We usually traveled from 11am-3am and slept the mornings away since; 1. We had not yet adjusted to the time difference; 2. Iceland has bright summer nights and; 3. Tourists usually departed in the late afternoon.
Destinations for day 2:
• Skógafoss Waterfall: A waterfall situated on the Skógá River in the south of Iceland at the cliffs of the former coastline.
• Reynisdrangar: Basalt sea stacks located under the mountain Reynisfjall near the village Vík, which is famous for a black sand beach that was once ranked as one of the ten most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world.
• Eldhraun Lava Field: Hardened Lava covered in brilliant Green moss. This place was a great area to take some cool pictures.
• Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon: A large glacial lake in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park.
After a long day of driving and exploration we settled to rest around 3am at a spot overlooking the glacier Lagoon. It was such a great sight to wake up too, and it often felt like we were on a boat as we looked through the windshield.
Day 3: South Coast- Part 2
Destinations for day 3:
• Svínafellsjökull: This is a tongue of the mighty Vatnajökull Glacier. It was very cool to see this up so close. We loved this area so much we went to two locations (about 5 km apart) to take pictures and make a big lunch.
• Svartifoss waterfall: A waterfall in Skaftafell (Vatnajökull National Park) and is one of the most popular sights in the park. It is surrounded by dark lava columns, which gave rise to its name. It was a bit of a hike to get there, but well worth it!
• Foss á Siðu: This is another waterfall along the drive. We stopped to take picture from the road and did not go to see it up close.
• Kirkjugólf: A decent size section of columnar basalt, eroded and shaped by glaciers and waves. Columnar basalt is formed when lava flow gets cooled and contraction forces build up. Cracks then form horizontally and the extensive fracture network that develops results in the six sided formation of the columns.
• Seljavallalaug: A protected 25-metre outdoor pool that is one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland (built in 1923). Although it was a bit green, it was still a fantastic experience (and substituted for a shower).
• Hekla: A stratovolcano with a height of 1,491 m. Hekla is one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes; over 20 eruptions have occurred in and around the volcano since 874.
After another long day we headed to bed with a great view of magnificent Hekla around 4am. Scientists say it could erupt any minute, and we loved the thrill! We highly recommend taking highway 26 off of route 1, unless you like extremely bumpy roads.
Day 4: The Golden Circle
Destinations for day 4:
• Gullfoss Falls: A waterfall located in the canyon of the Hvítá River. Gullfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. We traveled here around 2pm and there were way too many tourists to really get the full joy out of it.
• Geysir: A geyser that was the first described in a printed source and the first known to modern Europeans. We really enjoyed our time here as tourists started to clear after our late lunch.
• Silfra: A rift that is part of the divergent tectonic boundary between the North American and Eurasian plates. At this location we saw brilliant blue, crystal clear water that was perfect for scuba diving and snorkeling (if you are willing to pay). If you go later in the evening expect to be swarmed by flies, unless you are constantly running!
• Hvalfjarðagöng Tunnel: A very cool tunnel that is 5,770 meters long and reaches a depth of 165 meters below sea level. This tunnel shortens the distance from Reykjavík to the western and northern parts of the island by 45 kilometers. This tunnel costs about 8 Euros, and they do take Visa!
• Eldborg volcanic caldera: A beautifully-formed crater rising 60m above the surrounding lava.The spatter cone is the largest crater along a short volcanic rift, 200 m in diameter and 50 m deep. Its last eruption was about 5000-6000 years ago.
• Landbrotalaug Hot Pot: This is a small hot tub with perfect temperature surrounded by a beautiful view.
After another long day of traveling the Landbrotalaug Hot Pot was the perfect location to have a few drinks and settle in for the night around 3am. If you are lucky (and go late), you can maybe have this place to yourself. This was by far the highlight of our trip!
Day 5: Snæfellsnes
Destinations for day 5:
• Gerðuberg Basalt Columns: An impressive wall of beautiful basalt columns, forming geometric patterns in the cliffs.
• Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge: A deep ravine that cuts into the east side of Botnsfjall Mountain that can easily be seen from the road. Hiking to the gorge takes about 30 minutes, and it is totally worth the effort to keep climbing further!
• Hellnar: An ancient fishing village and cluster of old houses/buildings situated close to Arnarstapi. Here you can take gorgeous pictures of the coastline.
• Lóndrangar: A pair of rock pinnacles. They are volcanic plugs of basalt that have been cut out from softer surrounding rock by erosion.
• Vatnshellir Cave: Take a tour of an 8000 year old lava tube and learn about how it was formed. You can book the 45 minute tour when you arrive at the location.
• Kirkjufell Mountain: A 463m high mountain on the north coast. This is said to be the most photographed mountain in Iceland!
• Laki Cafe: I highly recommend heading to the Laki Cafe for great food and service. We had pizza, beer, and ribs that totally hit the spot!
• Berserkjahraun: A very cool lava field that is great to take some beautiful pictures. All you need to do is pull off to the side of the road and explore. This was a great way to wind down a perfect adventure.
All good things come to an end…
In the end we traveled an unforgettable 1600 km and managed to squeeze so many things into a 5-day trek. Getting a camper van was the best way to see Iceland on our own schedule, in such a short period of time. From volcanoes to glaciers, there is just so much to see. We will have these experiences for a lifetime and I assure you, we will be back again!
Here are some extra Travel Tips:
• Bring your own Towel to the Blue Lagoon
• Take some quick pictures of the van from the beginning to note any damages
• Shop at a Bonus grocery to save money
• Shift your schedule and go to bed late to avoid tourists
• Don’t forget to turn off the fridge or heater at night (no one wants a drained battery)
• Make sure to cover the windows with a dark blanket/towel to help you sleep at night
• Download Google maps offline just in case the wifi cuts out
• Don’t try uncooked whale….yuck!
• Make sure to dress warm (even in the summer)
• Don’t worry about taking out cash, credit cards are accepted everywhere
• Bring an extra battery for your camera or car charger
• Make sure to stay on the main roads and decent gravel roads; if you are in doubt just turn around (insurance does not cover damage to the bottom)
• Bring a raincoat, sturdy umbrella, and good hiking boots/running shoes
• Don’t just camp on the side of the road, find some amazing spots!
Check out our Iceland route here:
Read more: Gerard’s fairytale adventure in Iceland
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