Iceland – A Bucket list trip
HOW IT STARTED
After a few trips to exotic destinations, my boyfriend and I felt it was time for something different. Iceland had always been on our bucket lists and we had talked about it for years. As two students, we needed a budget friendly way to explore the whole island and thought what better way than in a camper van? We found the top rated camper van, booked it and started to plan. We counted down the days and we couldn’t contain our excitement when the day finally arrived – we were going to ICELAND!
DAY 1 – Snæfellsnes
We arrived in Iceland in the morning and collected our camper using the airport shuttle to the Keflavik Airport office. The staff were really helpful and we were introduced to our van and set off within no time! It was a little strange at first as neither of us had driven a van before, let along drive on the opposite side of the road! But we got the hang of it quickly and our journey began, heading clockwise around the island.
Our first stop was Glýmur, the second tallest waterfall in Iceland. It involved a bit of a hike but the walk was worth the view – after this we had big expectation for rest of the trip. We then headed into the Snæfellsnes peninsula – a beautiful part of the island. The plan was to get to Kirkjufell before sunset as we are both big Game of Thrones fans. We just about made it in time and cooked out first meal overlooking the mountain reflecting on the lake. We then did a bit of a drive to get to our first camp site of the trip, which was the Búðardalur camping ground – we highly recommend this camp site as they had warm, clean showers and is open all year round. The journey to this site lead us to our first glimpse of the Northern Lights – incredible!
DAY 2 – Húsavík
After a great night sleep, we woke up early, made some breakfast and hit the road again. The ultimate plan for day 2 was to end up in Húsavik, as we had a whale watching tour booked on day 3. So we drove across northern Iceland, stopping at Hvítserkur, a 15m high sea stack that is meant to look like an animal drinking from the sea. We got some great pictures and had a late lunch by the beautiful view, then set of again. We found lots of picturesque little towns to explore, roadside waterfalls and viewpoints to check out on the way. We eventually arrived at a campsite about 15minutes from Húsavik as we needed to get there early in the morning.
DAY 3 – Whale Tour & The Diamond Circle
We woke up early and arrived at Húsavik, ready for our whale watching boat trip at 9.30am. We were really looking forward to this, especially as it was a birthday present for me from Jad. It was booked with Northern Sailing and we had the best time. We saw a total of 9 Humpback whales, some really close to the boat, so we got an amazing view of the whales playing and diving. The crew were really helpful and knowledgeable, and we even got some complementary hot chocolate and cinnamon buns on the boat, which were delicious.
We arrived back at the harbor at around midday, so we still had the rest of the day to explore. We decided to visit Goðafoss next, one of my favorite waterfalls of the entire trip! It was starting to get cold, but with it being October it wasn’t frozen yet. We then drove to Grjótagjá, a natural hot spring cave with crystal clear hot steamy water – for the Game of Thrones fans, you’ll recognize this cave from a scene with Jon Snow and Ygritte in season three. Unfortunately the water is too hot to bathe in, but it is definitely still worth the trip. It was starting to get dark by then, so we decided to find a camping site near Mývatn Lake and get the stove out to make dinner there.
DAY 4 – Waterfalls
We had a bit of a lie in this morning as the camper van was so warm and comfortable. We eventually got ready and had breakfast, then headed to Viti in Krafla. This is a huge crater, about 300m in diameter, formed by a volcanic eruption, with an aqua blue lake inside it. There is a tarmacked road leading to the bottom of the crater, so we could then walk up to the top of the crater and peer over the edge to overlook the lake. The wind was so strong at the top that you had to lean into it to stop yourself from blowing away! From here, it was a short drive to our next destination which was in the North Vatnajökull National park. Here, we visited Selfoss and Dettifoss – Europe’s most powerful waterfall. Dettifoss wasn’t a very tall waterfall, but it was very wide and you could hear the roar of the water well before you could see it.
We cooked some lunch here by the camper, before heading South to our next campsite in Djúpivogur. Unfortunately we had to skip out a lot of the East because there was a lot in the South that we wanted to see.
DAY 5 – East Iceland & Jökulsárlón
It rained all night last night – luckily the first bit of rain of the trip – but we had a great night sleep and the camper kept us warm. Our first stop of the day was Stokksnes; a short detour from Route 1 but is definitely worth the trip. There was a Viking film set overlooking the Gothic Vestrahorn mountain and black sandy beaches. It was 800Kr to enter, but there is plenty to see. There is also a little café to buy hot drinks and snacks.
After we had explored the film set, we went to the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lake. This was definitely a trip highlight – we had never seen anything like it! On one side of the road you could see the clear blue glaciers floating in the reflective lake, which lead into the sea. On the other side of the road, there were black sandy beaches, littered with crystal clear fragments of ice, broken from the glacier – you have to visit this place if you’re going to Iceland! To finish off the day, we went to Skaftafell to see the Svartifoss waterfall. This is a one of a kind waterfall surrounded by basalt columns – we thought this was really cool!
DAY 6 – South Iceland
We stayed in Vik last night, ready to see some black sand beaches and explore the south today. We took a walk along one of the beaches when we woke up and spotted a seal swimming in the sea – so decided to get the drone out. Then we went to Reynisfjara for another walk to see the beaches and the basalt columns. We climbed up the columns and wondered into the magical caves with the stacks towering above us. In the distance we could see the Reynisdrangar sea stacks – legend says these were masts of a ship that trolls were stealing when they got caught out in the sun! Nearby was the American airplane wreckage from 1973. It was a 4k walk but the pictures you can get will definitely impress your friends!
After a quick bite for lunch, we headed to Skógafoss and Seljalandfoss, two famous waterfalls in southern Iceland and both featured in Justin Beiber’s music videos for his album Purpose. Seljalandsfoss was our favorite because you can actually walk behind it – make sure you’re wearing your waterproofs, we got soaked!
DAY 7 – The Golden Circle
Last night we camped in Úthlíð Cottages, a nice little spot for the night. We had been keeping an eye out at the Aurora forecast for the whole trip, and we struck gold last night! Just before going to sleep, the inside of the camper van turned green. We popped our heads out and witnessed one of the 7 natural wonders of the world in full force! We watched for about half an hour as the lights danced across the sky – we couldn’t ask for more!
In the morning, the wonder continued as we visited the hot spring Geysir and Gullfoss. Gullfoss was incredible, with lots of different view points so you could get some really nice shots, although there was a lot of spray so again make sure you’ve got your waterproofs!
To end this fantastic day, we had a beautiful drive through Þingvellir as we made our way to The Blue Lagoon. This was the perfect way to relax and wind down after 7 days camping. We got the “comfort” package, which meant a free drink from the swim up bar and an extra algae mask – our skin felt amazing!
DAY 8 – Reykjadalur & Reykjavík
After the Blue lagoon, we traveled back on ourselves to a campsite nearer where we wanted to start today. Because it was our last day and it was quite cold, we fancied another dip in a hot spring. We went to Hveragerði where we parked up and began walking through a Mars like landscape to the Reykjadalur hot river. There weren’t many people around so we almost had the river to ourselves. Being in the water was great – getting out of the water into -2o°C to get changed was a challenge! We soon warmed up on the walk back to the camper van. It was then time to head back to Reykjavik and hand our camper back. We were so sad to finally hand back the keys, it had been an amazing journey, clocking up around 2500km!
We spent the last evening exploring Reykjavik and eating the local cuisine. Our flight was the next morning, so we had the rest of the night to look back on our trip and what we had seen. We can wholeheartedly say that this was the best way to Travel Iceland. If you’re planning to go to Iceland, then rent a camper van. You will not regret it. The vans at rent.is/ are everything you could ask for – fully kitted out, comfortable and warm! We’d love to come back to see more of what Iceland has to offer, as we have only just scratched the surface!
Jad & Jess
Read more: A Week in Iceland – October
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