Exploring Iceland in a VW Camper – Day 10
Saturday 16th of September, 2017
We woke up and left our campground in Akranes to head back to Reykjavik, completing our Ring road trip around the country. On our way back to Reykjavik we drove through the Hvalfjörður tunnel which cuts across the fjord and shortens the commute from about an hour to approximately seven minutes. We were impressed with the tunnel and it going underneath the water!
Since we didn’t really sample Icelandic cuisine on our trip (the majority of our meals were freeze dried camping meals), we decided to splurge and go on the Wake Up Reykjavik Food Tour. The tour started at 10:00am and consisted of visiting five restaurants all within walking distance in Reykjavik. The first restaurant we went to was Julia & Julia where we sampled Skýr with cream and sugar, coffee, and finished it off with a warm chocolate chip cookie. Our kind of breakfast!
The second stop on the food tour was at Ostabúðin Delicatessen (cheese shop and restaurant). It was at this location that we tried Icelandic versions of Gouda, Brie, and Blue cheeses, as well as Icelandic cured horse, lamb, and smoked goose. We really liked the brie cheese and the cured horse was very flavorful with fresh rosemary and thyme. We felt really bad for eating horse but wanted to try everything. The goose was better though!
On our way to the third restaurant, we passed by a prison that was closed a few years ago. Our guide said that when they closed the prison, the new prison wasn’t opened yet so they released the prisoners and asked that they return when the new prison was constructed. We were first surprised that the prison was located in the city right next to businesses with no added security fences or guard posts and that they let everyone go and asked that they would return! We also walked by the Hallgrimskirkja church. Our guide said visitors are welcome to tour the church, and on some days, can listen to the organist practicing.
The third restaurant on our tour was Café Loki, which is a family owned restaurant known for their traditional homemade dishes. Our tour guide said that historically rye bread was baked underground near geothermal or volcanic activity, and that rye bread is a staple in Icelandic cuisine. We sampled warm rye bread with two different toppings -smashed fish, potatoes, and onions, and smoked salmon. The rye bread was soft, warm, and sweet – not at all like the rye bread we are used to eating back home. To top off our meal, we ate rye bread ice cream with whipped cream and rhubarb syrup.
After we left Café Loki, we walked around the city a bit. Our tour guide pointed out that someone in the city was decorating street signs with small action figures, so as we walked through the city we kept an eye out for the different action figures and took a picture of a couple of them- it was very entertaining!
Our fourth restaurant was to sample “the best hot dog in town.” Our tour guide took us to the Bæjarins beztu hot dog stand. This hot dog stand has been open since the 1930s and was voted the best hot dog stand in Europe in 2006. We ordered our hot dogs with “the works,” or in Icelandic “eina með öllu,” which included a lamb hot dog, raw onions, fried onions, ketchup, sweet mustard, and a sweet mayonnaise-sweet relish. Given the long line in front of the hot dog stand we thought we were going to wait a long time for our hot dog. Boy were we surprised! They had their process down and assembled our hot dogs very quickly!
The last restaurant in our tour was Kopar Restaurant which was right on the harbor. We sampled freshly baked bread with violet butter and topped with licorice salt. Then we ate a cup of Rock Crab Soup. The soup was rich and creamy and had chunks of fresh rock crab, shrimp, spinach, bean sprouts, and mushrooms. Our tour guide said a good way to determine if a restaurant makes good, quality food is to look at their bread and butter. If the bread is freshly baked and the butter is fresh and whipped, then most likely, you will eat a quality meal. This was definitely true at Kopar Restaurant! We left the food tour full and satisfied and made our way back to return the camper van.
The staff at the camper van rental facility were very helpful and easy to work with. Before we left they explained how everything worked in the van and upon arrival were very nice and happy to hear we had a fun and safe adventure around their country. We had so much fun on this vacation and will recommend that people visit Iceland. For fun, we made up our top 10 list for items van campers should think about when planning their trip (in no particular order):
- Bring cigarette to USB converters – many of them! We were always charging our phones, cameras, batteries, and WiFi device.
- Bring an aux audio cable for your music. We found the audio to work better for us through the aux rather than the USB port.
- Plan your trip by plotting all of the locations you want to visit on Google Maps. Then download Google Maps in offline mode. You can click on a point of interest in your map and Google will provide the driving directions. This was also helpful when we didn’t have great service, and was easier than paper maps.
- Bring something to mount your phone if you are going to use it as a GPS. We forgot to bring something and it was a pain trying to keep it propped up.
- Bring snacks for the car. When you get on some of the extended drives, it’s good to have something to munch on.
- If you go along the northeast and north side of Iceland, get gas whenever you stop. Gas stations were more spread out in this area compared to the south side.
- Stay organized! Our ten day trip in a camper van could have been less enjoyable if we didn’t use all of the available storage in the van (drawers under the bench/bed), as well as compartments on the sides of the van and front seats. We stored all of our freeze dried food and extra snacks in the drawers under the bench/bed. The compartments next to the front seats were used to store our travel books, maps, and electronic equipment.
- When in doubt of a road or situation, don’t drive down it. There were some areas that we didn’t try driving the van on because we were worried about damaging the vehicle.
- Get up and see things early in the morning and take a nap during the day. The fact you don’t have to setup and tear down camp puts you at an advantage to get to destinations before everyone else. Additionally, naps in a van are much quieter than a tent!
- Bring a deck of cards, Mad-Libs, or other “conversation starter games.” The cards were good for us when we wanted to just stay inside or if it was raining hard and the other games were good during some of our longer stretches where the passenger could keep the driver a little more awake with guided conversations!
Read more: Hiking & Björk spotting in iconic Iceland
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