Going on a road trip in Iceland
Planning a trip to Iceland? Read our blog first!
Have you ever gone on a vacation with people you actually hardly know? We went on this adventure with each other, three students (Michel, Danique and Vivian) from the Netherlands. Since August the three of us study in Denmark and we hadn’t met before. After only a month we knew that we would realize our dream together: going on a road trip in Iceland!
We read a lot about Iceland, watched a lot of pictures and videos and we asked people around us who have been in Iceland if they had any tips on what to see.
But still none of us would ever expect this island to be this amazing! Before our trip we made a detailed plan on what to see and when and we would recommend this to anyone planning a visit. Our schedule made it possible to see as much of the country as we’d like in a short time.
Our first day adventure
The days were getting closer and everything was ready for our trip. The only thing we still had to wait for was the day of departure, what a day that was! We had to drive an hour from our hometown in Denmark to the airport and from the airport we caught the first plane early in the morning to Copenhagen. The trip went very well, the flight lasted only 30 minutes.
We prepared everything for our trip and counted down the days until our road trip. The only thing we had to wait for was the day of departure and what a day that turned out to be! Early in the morning we drove an hour to the airport in Northern Denmark to catch our short flight to Copenhagen.
Once in Copenhagen our adventure came closer, it took only 2.5 hours to reach our dream destination! Unfortunately it went a little differently than expected; the emergency door of our plane broke and had to be made on site. We had a considerable delay, but we knew Iceland would be worth it!
Once in Iceland we bought a bus ticket to Reykjavik, where we would pick up our camper van at the office of Rent.is. After a long journey and another hour in the bus to the office we finally arrived. The friendly desk clerk looked very surprised to see us, she expected no one around at this hour, which wasn’t weird because of our slight delay. But it turned out that we were at the wrong office; never let the guy arrange the practical matters!. We had to pick up our van actually at Keflavik airport where we just came from. The desk clerk told us that our bus couldn’t come to this office until late in the afternoon, as it was very busy at the other office. Luckily she was able to arrange another car so we could drive back to the airport and pick up our van at the airport office. This saved quite some time for our adventure and they gave us the trust to just borrow their car, what a service!
The van, everything you need – Renault Trafic 3
At our arrival at the airport office they welcomed us in a very friendly way. Everything was explained to us, the lady from Rent.is took her time for us and made sure we knew how to use all the facilities.
While planning our trip we agreed on renting a camper van quite early in the process. It sounded to us like THE way to explore Iceland. It saves you a lot of time looking for places to sleep when you’re taking your bed with you! The only downside is that it isn’t possible to drive on the F-roads (check the F-roads of Iceland on this website). We were afraid we would miss sights because of that, but that’s absolutely not true! We only had to skip one waterfall visit and went to another see another one instead.
Almost every night we stopped somewhere when it was already pretty dark, in October this will be around 7 o’clock, therefore we weren’t able to explore the area we were sleeping in right away. Every morning when we woke up, we were in a whole new fairy-tale world with a very different landscape than the day before. It’s possible to go to a campsite each night, Rent.is offers camping tickets for a very good price, but we have deliberately chosen to follow our own path and camp wherever we’d like.
Read more: Where to camp in Iceland
These pictures are the reason why you definitely want to stop while driving.
We did a lot of research on different rental companies where we wanted to book the van. Eventually we decided pretty quickly that we wanted to rent a camper at Rent.is. Not only does the website looked attractive, the booking process was easy, the video looked good and everything was clearly explained on the website. It was also one of the only companies that offer a camper van for three people!
Making lunch while driving was a big challenge for Danique and Vivian,
of course Michel was driving all the time, but they fed him all the time!
The expectations we had got through the website and other blogs on there were completely fulfilled in reality! The van looked very good on both the outside and inside. We had chosen a van to explore the island and decided to prepare and eat all our meals in here as well. This was not only very cozy, but Rent.is also supplies everything you need to cook, there’s even a refrigerator!
Read more: What’s included in your camper rental
The bed was very nice and was easy to build from seating to bed. We were with two girls and a boy and there was more than enough space to sleep comfortably. In the van, you will find sleeping bags and there were even three fleece blankets that made it even cozier and warmer! The van is very well heated, so there’s no need to be cold. The first night we didn’t leave the heater on, because we were scared the battery of the van would be empty by the time we would wake up. We woke up as cold as ice(land)! The next night we decided to leave the heating on, which turned out to be no problem at all, so don’t worry!
Romantically getting rid of our bad breath
We had enough space to sleep, we just wanted to hug each other before sleeping! (and for the picture)
Every morning it was difficult to get up as the van was nice and warm and we had to get back out into the cold, but each time was worth it. We wanted to see so many things every day that sleeping in until 12 was not an option. Each morning we woke up in a beautiful landscape, with no other tourists to been seen anywhere. It was lovely to have our own house with us and to have the freedom to live wherever you wish and drive or stop whenever you want.
The trip through the land of Ice and Fire (and a lot of wind)
We deliberately chose to go to spots without a lot of tourists. For example we haven’t been to Blue Lagoon, but instead have taken a dive in Seljavallalaug (Yes, the Icelandic language is almost impossible to pronounce for us!). This wonderfully situated pool is surrounded by mountains and waterfalls, the water is warm and the walk there is absolutely gorgeous! We noticed that it was very busy at the Golden Circle, but we were lucky because we arrived early so there were no tour buses yet. If you have sights on your list from the Golden Circle, try to be there early in the morning or later in the day so you can explore the area without tour buses coming in all the time. We were also all alone at Geysir because we went there at the end of the day. It was very magical to explore this place just with the three of us. It happened often to us that we were all alone at a sight.
Read more: Waterfalls in Iceland
We can recommend taking a look at Hjálparfoss, this beautiful waterfall is in our opinion one of the best. But we think the most beautiful one we saw is near Skógafoss, called Kvernufoss. From the main road it’s about 15 minutes to the waterfall and you walk through a meadow and through a valley. We were there all alone and had to do our best to find the path, but the waterfall and the surroundings are truly breathtaking. Then we went to the famous crashed plane which takes about a 15 minute drive from Kvernufoss to the car park. From there it is quite a long walk of 4km to go there, but definitely worth it. The white plane with the black beaches are the perfect photo location. It can be a bit hard to find, but as more and more people go there it becomes easier.
You can also use the GPS in the van, the coordinates of the plane are 63.459523 – 19.364618, the ones to the parking lot are 63.4912391 – 19.3632810, you’ll find it!
The crashed plane is hard to find but definitely worth to visit for some nice pictures!
Seljavallalaug, the wonderful situated pool is surrounded by mountains and waterfalls.
After the first few days we found out we needed more food than expected. Supermarkets can be hard to find in Iceland, especially cheap ones (go to BONUS!). To find one we used an interactive map, which, conveniently enough, also showed the opening hours. The free WiFi in the van worked perfectly, so don’t worry about using internet to find places like these while traveling to buy food.
The van was very fuel-efficient which was a huge bonus, because it saves a lot of money and you don’t need to worry about refueling the diesel very often. There are enough gas stations on the way, no matter if you’re near a city or in the middle of nowhere. Our strategy was to fill the tank each time it was half full, so we were sure of getting to our destination and further if needed. Just like for the supermarkets, we used an interactive map for finding the gas stations.
This is Kvernufoss, the most beautiful waterfall we visited on our tour!
It doesn’t matter how long you’re driving through Iceland, wherever you’ve been and whatever you’ve seen before, every time the landscape is completely different. On our trip we visited quite a few waterfalls, of course we also visited the famous waterfalls, but each one was a fantastic new experience. They’re all different and has its own charm. Besides the two waterfalls we mentioned earlier, Hraunfossar and Goðafoss are two waterfalls you shouldn’t miss. These are a bit more crowded, but worth it! We visited Kirkjufell, Dettifoss, Selfoss, Svartifoss and less touristic waterfalls. Hengifoss is one we think everyone should visit. It’s an uphill hiking trail of about an hour, but on your way towards the waterfall you’ll have great views. One of those views is Litlanesfoss, a pretty little waterfall that has the famous basalt columns and is in our opinion even better than Hengifoss itself.
Do you want a perfect Google look a like picture? Just stand behind the waterfall and take those pictures!
Glacier lagoon / Diamond Beach
This place is one of the finest parts of Iceland; everywhere you look you can see big pieces of ice that fell down from the nearby glacier. It’s only a 5 minute walk from this huge lake to the other side of the road, where Diamond beach is. You’ll immediately see why they called it this way. The black beach is studded with diamonds of ice, large and small. We had never seen such a beautiful place before, each diamond different from the other. Despite it being quite a cold day, it couldn’t have been any better visiting this beautiful location. On your journey through Iceland, you should really see it.
Krafla and Hverir
In this area of Iceland you will discover a whole different landscape than you saw before, the sulfur springs, steaming mounds and the crater Krafla. It’s a beautiful part of Iceland and it was amazing to feel so much activity in the ground right below your feet. Everywhere we looked it was covered in lava rocks, with steam or smoke coming from underneath the stones. Be prepared though; especially at Hverir the smell of rotten eggs can be pretty disgusting!
As you can see Vivian had a really hard time being there with the smell of rotten eggs.
When we went to see the famous craters of lake Mývatn we drove from the Krafla mountain to the left side of the lake (editor’s note: The southeast side). Pretty soon you will see the craters in the lake, you’ll see a parking spot on the right side of the road, there is almost nobody and it looks like an enclosed area (it’s called Kálfaströnd). You can walk through the forest and then choose whether you want to hike; to the top of the hill and take a look over the lake and see the craters, but you also can choose to go to the edge of the lake. The lake is so clear that you can see the bottom from every point of view. It is a beautiful photo location, all the rocks in the surrounding reflect beautifully in the water.
Reynisfjara (or Reynisdrangar?) and Dýrhólaey
A huge tourist attraction is Reynisfjara and we can see why. It has huge basalt columns with such straight lines that they seem unreal and man-made. Even better is reading the story about the pillars in the water. Definitely check this out when you go here! We have also made a quick stop at Dýrhólaey, which shows a pretty good view. It’s not the most beautiful sight we’ve seen on our trip, but it’s worth the stop while you’re in the area.
Cave with ferns
On the road from Seljalandsfoss to the outdoor swimming pool Seljavallalaug we had the possibility to visit a cave hidden on the side of the mountain with a wooden fence in front of it. If it wasn’t for another car parked there we would not have found it. Try to find it and just stop here for five minutes. The cave is so breathtaking beautiful. Everywhere you look you can spot small green ferns, it’s like a cave from a fairy tale.
We’ve made a lot of pictures of the inside of the cave but we’re
not going to show them now, you have to see it by yourself!
The capital city, Reykjavik
Though Reykjavik is the capital city, it’s not the reason people visit Iceland. It is, however, nice to spend a weekend or even just a day there. The town looks very cozy with lots of colored houses, cute hip cafes and friendly people. After seeing the hotspots we had a late lunch at Reykjavik Chips which we can definitely recommend! Of course, the Netherlands and fries go hand in hand, so eating some with lots of different sauces was THE way to end our road trip. Fully satisfied we went of to Cafe Babalú, near Hallgrimskirkja. This very nice cafe has stolen our hearts. It feels and looks like a living room and the coffee with free refills and other drinks are delicious! Quick tip; Reykjavik is mostly paid parking, but behind the Hallgrims-church there’s an indoor swimming pool which has free parking!
The end of our trip, yours is starting now?!
We’ve shown you a small selection of our wonderful trip through Iceland, but photos and a story aren’t enough to get the feeling you get when you are in Iceland by yourself. What we mean to say is; just go there!
Iceland, you were truly beautiful!
We hope our experience can help you find your way in Iceland yourself, so we’ve written down a few tips and tricks below!
Tips and tricks for an even better experience of Iceland:
Weather Signs along the roadside are signs for every new area you enter. They are there to specify the temperature and show a rating for the weather. Under 20 is fine, but over 20 is a (more) dangerous weather indication. At first we didn’t know this, so we eventually discovered that we had ended up in a storm and the roads were all closed after we already passed the sign of the new area. It was an exciting experience, but just be careful and take them seriously.
We have used this travel guide a lot, for example for finding the cheapest supermarket or practical information on places we wanted to see. It also has a lot of history in there which makes your journey through Iceland even more interesting!
Read more: Travel apps for Iceland
We already mentioned it before in this story but we used interactive maps for petrol stations, supermarkets, and also for the roads around Iceland. This way we could find out exactly how we could drive to the next destination without getting stuck in the middle of nowhere and without driving on F-roads, but we also had the possibility to see how long we had to drive to the next supermarket. As you’ll know by now the WiFi on-board the van really comes in handy for this and you’ve got a perfect signal almost everywhere in the country, so you can use it whenever you want.
Paying in Iceland
Credit card is a must-have in Iceland; you can pay by using cash, but there not a lot of cash machines. Just make sure you’ve got your card and you’re safe.
Clothes to keep you warm
We went to Iceland in October and it was already quite cold, with a lot of wind. So keep that in mind and just take some warm clothes with you. When you have your camper van you don’t have to worry anymore about your luggage, so just everything you can fit into your suitcase to Iceland. A raincoat is not a bad purchase (actually it’s never a bad purchase, only when it’s very ugly but as longs as it works it’s a good purchase!), not just for rain, but around the waterfalls you can get pretty wet sometimes.
Read more: Packlist for camping in Iceland
Charger to use with the cigarette lighter in the car.
We already read that there was an USB charger in the van that we could use to charge our phones, but unfortunately we had not thought of charging our camera batteries. When we would have a stop in a restaurant we made sure to charge them.
Prepaid fuel card
In some blogs you can read about a prepaid card for refueling; we chose not to use it. We can imagine it can be convenient to use one, but we didn’t want to be tied to finding a specific gas station in order to be able to use the card. It’s not necessary in our opinion, but do what you think works best!
The only thing we want to mention on this is that you have to be careful. Don’t destroy the nature and take care of your garbage. Don’t climb fences that are there to protect you so you don’t fall off a cliff. Only drive the roads that your van can handle; you don’t have a four-wheel drive, just don’t pretend like you do and drive on the F-roads anyway. Last but not least, don’t park anywhere that’s not meant for parking. According to the Icelandic law, you can park the van almost everywhere to get a nice rest, but only do that in places where your not ruining nature and only at places when it’s allowed.
Just one more thing! Be careful on the one lane bridges, read about them on this page: Be safe in Iceland
Backpackers café (Hafnarstræti 98, 600 Akureyri, Iceland) You have to visit this place when your nearby, cheap drinks and food and the staff is really friendly. We charged all of our batteries over there and ordered some (refillable) drinks.
Reykjavik chips (Vitastígur 10, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland) “Where fries are twice as nice” Just go there and eat some really good fries for lunch, dinner or breakfast!
Cafe Babalú (Skólavörðustígur 22, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland) Everyone who is visiting Reykjavik must visit this Cafe!
Tripline You can use this website to plan your trip very detailed, just have a look when your planning your amazing trip to Iceland.
Rent.is Just book your van at this place! Good service and friendly staff, nice vehicle and the best way to discover Iceland.
Lot’s of love from Michel, Vivian and Danique from the Netherlands (and for now also from Denmark)
Happy Camping! #CamperStories
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