Hi, we are Ilan and Lilach and this is our Icelandic adventure. If you don’t feel like reading, you can just watch this:
Ilan as you may or may not know is the editor of the travel section on Mako (on of Israel most successful content websites) and I am an industrial designer that is really good in eating and traveling well. We live in Tel-Aviv with our dog Tommy and we’ve been traveling together since 2009, in fact we’ve met while traveling in south America, and just kept going since, we got married on 2016 (maybe one of the reasons was so we could go on a massive honeymoon…). Together and apart we’ve visited 30 countries and counting. So it is safe to say, that Iceland was not our first trip together but it sure was very different from the rest.
Last fall we’ve realized my lifetime dream of visiting Japan. It was an amazing trip inside 2 weeks that ended too quickly and by the time we got home we had to get use to the fact that once you’re dreams come true you feel drained and a bit depressed and you have to find the next dream so you won’t wallow in it. Ilan was next on the bucket list- “let’s do my dream next, let’s fly to Iceland” he said, “what’s in Iceland?” I asked, “I don’t know exactly, but we’ll book the tickets and find out there”. We did. Three weeks after returning from Japan we bought 2 tickets (for a year later) and waited. Since our strategy for Iceland was different from others trip we’ve had in the past i.e. not to plan it at all, we had a year of waiting for the unknown, fantasizing on what we do and what it would be like, but we did not check or booked anything, just our rented camper car from rent.is and a hotel for the first night (before we got the car). Ilan’s fantasy for this trip was to be free, free of pre-planned schedules, free of having to see everything and do everything, free of expectation, I was a bit worried, as the planner/over thinker that I am, I like to be prepared or at least know something about the country we’ll visit, but since this was Ilan’s dream vacation I sucked it and did not research at all.
Read more: Weird facts about Iceland
So the year passed (slowwwwwly) and on September 5th it was time to go, kissed the dog goodbye and hoped on WOW air flight to Reykjavik. We’ve spent one night in the capital touring it’s cute streets and few tourist attractions, we also took a fantastic food tour there that we highly recommend for its delicious food and interesting information. With our tummies full we waited in anticipation to pick up the camper and really get started.
Our plan for Iceland was to get a camper-car, circle the island and see what may come. The car had everything we need in it (comfy bed, heating, water and cooking gear) and so our adventure begins, we’ve circle the island counter clockwise, starting at Þingvellir national park and the Golden Circle, driving south to Vik, east, north and finished on the west. Our non-planing plan was to check what’s around us using Google maps and exploring roadside attractions. Ilan was the driver and I was in charge on navigation, music and snacks. Everyday around 5 pm I searched for nearby campsites (we learned at the camper rental that you can’t just park anywhere for the night, as opposed to our preconceived notions) we chose one and parked for the night. All of the campsite we stayed in had pretty good facilities which enhanced our camping experience. Cooking outdoors was really fun, hot showers that help you defrost made the hole difference and we felt really lucky to sleep in our comfy warm car instead of a freezing wet tent. 🙂
We drove around for 8 days, average of 275 km per day, spent every night in a different location. The scenic views all over the country were incredible and varied, that just driving was an amazing experience on its own. We stopped in every place that we thought would be interesting (of course took many side-roads off road number 1) an average of 5 interest stops each day, so you could imagine the length that this article could reach… to spare our readers these are some highlights:
Iceland is well known for its many thermal springs, combined with the cold air outside is an awesome combo, we’ve looked Google maps for hot-springs all through our trip and visited 3 small ones and the Blue lagoon (of course) our favorite one was a few km outside of Djúpivogur on the east fjords, there was no road sign marking it, so in the advise of our buddy Google we took a gravel road of the number 1 and reached this incredible stop. On the rocky shore, few hundred meters from the freezing ocean, stood a metal tub full of steamy water, a nice close rack beside it and nothing else in sight, even the road disappeared thanks to the low hills around the tub. As we got there we saw 2 people leaving and had the place all to our self! the advantage of traveling with the camper is to always have your swimsuit and towel handy and a changing room. The hot water took some time to get used to but once we did it was the most relaxing thing, the cold air around you while you soak in warm waters is the best, after we got all wrinkled we decided it was time to go, it was great timing cause while we got out we saw 3 cars arriving.
One of our wishes for this trip was to see the Northern lights, we knew the chances are slim, but we wanted it so badly we set our alarm clocks to midnight for a few nights trying to witness the spectacle of aurora. Each time we did, it was too cloudy and we couldn’t see a thing. We were almost ready to give up, and face the fact that this is a rare phenomenon, until we stopped at this rustic campsite on the west shore, it was right on the beach and the owner mentioned we should stay up late tonight cause there are no clouds and high visibility chances. Her prediction was true and around 11 pm when it was dark enough we stood out in the cold, watching at the massive sky, full of stars and saw the Northern lights in all their glory, it was unbelievable, the sky were amazing and it was truly a night we won’t forget.
Another great adventure came as a surprise. We were looking for a campsite around Vatnajökull national park, there weren’t a lot of options around and it was getting rainy and dark. We chose from Google maps an option that was recommended but without a lot of information about it, it was of the main road, we took a bat and drove. The road leading to the destination was gravel and due to the rain it started to have puddles in it, at some point we had to cross a water stream and than our trusty Google friend said we’ve reached our destination, hmmm did we? No we didn’t, but we spotted a tent sign a few meters back and follow the road lead to it, without knowing what we’ll encounter.
Finally we reached Haukafell campground, a wet patch of grass with clean toilets and sinks but with no one there. It was foggy so we couldn’t see anything past the little toilet hut and some sheep that were curious to see who had arrived. Feeling a bit confused and a bit anxious we started our dinner prep, suddenly another car appeared, we had company, and were a bit more relaxed we are not the only ones there. The surprise came in the morning, we woke up to a sunny day, our surroundings was the mountains waterfalls and glacier of the national park and 6 other cars had arrived during the night. This campground was pretty incredible, so close to the reserve, and to think we were nervous about it at night.
Arriving at the evening Waking up
We could not sum up Iceland in so little words, but as for a more practical approach here are 5 tips:
- Travel in a camper car, this is the best way to experience nature and enjoy the luxury of a good mattress.
- Eat gas station hot-dogs, though they sound shady they are so tasty and most likely the cheapest food you can find, I mean that in a good way.
- Look for the Northern lights on cloudless nights and hopefully you’ll get lucky too.
- Start everyday in a hot spring! Iceland has plenty of those, just google “hot spring” and drive to the closest one. No doubt it’s the best way to unfreeze your body and start the day fresh.
- When grocery shopping look for the fresh product discounts. The food in Iceland is expensive so finding goods that expire the next day usually will cost less and are still very good. We got 700 gram of fresh salmon 50% off, it was only 900 Krónur and it was delicious!
On our last day, when it was time to return the camper we felt sad, sad this great adventure was over and sad to leave our home. True, it was only 8 nights we spent in it, but we got attached to our cozy camper. The sensation of having a fully equipped car and no expectations, the freedom to go anywhere, stay anywhere not having to reach a deadline or destination was truly realized on this trip and exceed our dreams and desires. We’ll definitely do it again, hope the next trip could live up to this one’s standards.
Read more: My first big journey to Iceland
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