Frazzled Parents Escape to Iceland!
by Maren & Bryan, California, USA
It was almost our 10th wedding anniversary, so we decided to hop on a plane, leave the three kids with Grandma, and have an adventure. We threw a dart at the map (also known as Google Flights) and booked a week long trip to Iceland–then left three weeks later!
Renting the Camper van was the way to go, it required very little in the way of planning for this last minute trip, and brought a lot of bang for the buck when on the adventure front. Hey, what could be better on the rare, kid-free reenactment of a honeymoon than living in a van?
Reykjavik introduced us to Brauð & Co, don’t miss the cinnamon roll when you pass through. A quaint city with lots of charm, it was perfect for walking and exploring. The Settlement Center was incredible and piqued our interest in Viking culture.
The first couple of days in Reykjavik and the southwest of Iceland made us feel as if our van was the coziest place on Earth, as the cold temperatures and sideways rain pelted us from all sides. It was a welcome respite as we camped in the city and then explored the Golden Circle. A chance to feed Icelandic horses “candy” due to the generosity of a lovely rancher made for a picture-perfect moment for me (while missing my puppy at home). The horses were kind and gentle, but don’t climb in their pen—this is still private property after all.
The waterfall at Seljalandsfoss was truly magical, being able to walk behind it into a moss-covered grotto was a big highlight. We were there at 8:45 pm and it was still plenty light to climb around, part of the fun in Iceland in the spring is the many hours of daylight.
Perhaps our favorite day was waking up to this giant waterfall at Skógar, the view from the back doors of the van couldn’t be beat. The campground was somewhat rudimentary, but being able to check “see rainbow in waterfall spray” off the bucket list at 8 am was worth it! That day we saw more waterfalls than we could count, as well as the gorgeous beach at Reynisfjara.
It was just a tiny bit windy at Dýrhólaey that day. We didn’t see puffins but we did get this awesome video:
Traveling around the island on the Ring Road in seven days meant we moved fast, but without our normal three-kid entourage we found it quite relaxing. A morning hike in Skaftafell lead us to waterfalls and a beautiful turf-roof farm, which had been painstakingly restored. A stop to have vegan sausages at Havarti in the East Fjords was well worth it, the food was some of the best we had on the trip. A kind family runs the tiny cafe, and often has live music during the summer.
The tiny village of Seyðisfjörður was enchanting, set around a tiny lake and full of homes from the turn of the century. A walking historic tour of the town takes an hour and a half, nearly every home or building has a story!
As we headed around the north and west sides of the island, the landscape was drier, but otherworldly at times. The smell of sulfur alerted us to the presence of a geothermal power plant, flanked on either side by a volcanic crater and bubbling cauldrons of mud set into the ground. Walking around on that natural minefield was interesting but also a little unnerving. We were waiting to step into the freshest mud pit when the ground collapsed under our feet. Thankfully, this was not an actual risk, just imagined!
Every chance we got, we popped into a local swimming pool. Those places are just what you need at the end of a long day of hiking. A relaxing soak in a geothermal hot pot will get you ready for a night in the camper and lots of adventure the next day. Also, the showers were more than a small benefit, especially when living out of a van!
A stop in Akureryri landed us at the campground with the most amenities, including a built in “adventure course.” After a stop at another swimming pool and a bit of time driving around the city, we moved on to our next adventure…seeing lambs.
A tour of a working Icelandic sheep farm was an eye-opening (and smelly) experience. I have never felt so inexperienced as I did talking to a 9 year old who has already delivered a stuck lamb when the ewe was in labor. These kids and families work hard, and it shows. Bjarteyjarsandur farm will have nearly 1,000 sheep when the lambing season is over, and we got the chance to hold some little ones who were only several days old.
Why in the world would anyone choose to live in a van on vacation? I had the same question myself, but I came to find out so many advantages to touring Iceland this way.It gave us a lot of flexibility in itinerary, regularly pulling into a campground at 10 pm when we were done for the day. The built in cooler and heater allowed us to not only keep food cold, but also keep ourselves warm. With our food, our map, our hiking shoes, and lots of jackets we would wake up in gorgeous scenery and head out for a day of the great outdoors and even kinder people. We saved a ton of time not having to pack up our belongings every day and check in and out of hotels. All in all, it was a fantastic way to see a country that truly caters to camping and outdoor enthusiasts. I admit, I’m not much of a camper myself, but even I appreciated the positives of van living.
The last night in Reykjavik we bid farewell to our trip, our trusty camper van, and the trip of a lifetime. We headed home to recommend this beautiful place to all who would listen!
Read more: A Yompey around Iceland
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