Our one week trip to Iceland
For a long time we (Yvonne/Mother and Helena/Daughter) had been dreaming to visit Iceland – the country of fire and ice, the country of magic and the country of the singer Björk. End of April 2017 we realized that dream with a one week road trip with a camper van in the south of Iceland. We really have been exited to spend this trip together. On Saturday before our trip, when Yvonne, who arrived earlier in Iceland was already Reykjavik, we decided spontaneously to rent a camper van
to explore the Icelandic landscapes, wildlife, and people. We thought that with a camper van we would be free to decide where to go, where to stay, and save money by cooking our own meals.
Day 1 : Tuesday 25.4.2017
We took the camper van in Reykjavik at noon time.
We started driving in direction of the waterfall Gullfoss. We loved the traffic in Iceland: It is so incredible relaxing, no rush no traffic jam! You just have to be careful not to go beyond the speed limit of 90 km/h. We met a poor guy who had to pay 500 Euro when he was stopped by police, because he was too fast (urrgghhh). The weather was foggy with gentle rainfall. It was so meditative to drive through this spacious hilly landscape with beautiful lakes.
Then the ground suddenly changed. You could see gigantic cracks in the earth. We have arrived in Þingvellir, Iceland´s natural wonder, where the tectonic plates meet and you can witness the rifting. After another short drive suddenly we were wrapped in smoothers that were been blown from a field beside the street.
This was the geothermal field where you can find the impressing geysir Strokkur. We stopped and visited the bubbling hot springs
, colorful hot pools, mysterious blue openings into the Earth´s womb, incredibly beautiful land in red, green, brown and yellow shades. It was so special to breathe and smell all the different kinds of air and steam coming out of the depth of the Earth and feel it on your skin.
Finally we arrived at the waterfall Gullfoss
. This waterfall is really breathtakingly beautiful! We were there in the evening, it was really, really cold, but this is no problem if you are dressed warm and waterproof.
This was the right time because there were only a few other visitors. We were lucky to enjoy the different viewpoints in calmness.
We felt so refreshed that we felt like driving another distance. As we wanted to spend the next day in Hveragerði, we made it to that little town and found a nice little campsite there. We cooked a yummy carrot-pumpkin-coconut-soup, nestled down in our sleeping bags and had nice dreams.
Day 2: Wednesday 26.4.2017
After our first night sleeping in the camper van and a windy porridge-breakfast we needed to warm up. A friend had told us, that close to Hveragerði, we could find a natural warm river to bath in. Although it sounded nice, we did not know what the river is called or how to find it.
So we just started to walk. After a two hour hike through a beautiful landscape with geothermal hot springs
, we still didn’t know where the river was. Then we met an Italian guy named Mauro who was also looking for the river. Finally we found it together. Here are the directions:
You have to leave Hveragerði heading south, then follow the street “Reykjadalur” for three kilometers. At the “Hot river café” you will see the official “Hot river walk.” The path is well marked and you will meet other hikers.
After a 1 hour hike through a very active geothermal region along the hot river, waterfalls and breathtaking views, you will find the part of the river, where bathing is possible. It’s funny to wear a bathing suit and relax in warm flowing water, while being surrounded by snow-topped mountains and freezing hikers. We stayed for about two hours in the blissful warm water. Afterwards you feel like born again.
After walking back to the campsite, wishing farewell to Mauro and cooking a simple dinner on the gas stove, we decided to bravely continue down south on the “Ring road
”- It was already 8 p.m. Fortunately we found a campsite in Hella and even though it was closed, the owner allowed us to spend the night there. It had no sanitary facilities but it was for free. Happy and tired from the hike we quickly fell asleep.
Day 3: Thursday 27.4.2017
The next morning we left early. It had heavy rain and it was very stormy. Brrr! You could only see the immediate surroundings. The clouds were hanging so low that you had the feeling the sky was within reach. When we saw a beautiful waterfall, Seljalandfoss, we made a short stop. However, when we noticed the crowd of tourists, we decided to stay in the warm camper van. We surrendered to our relaxed mood. While continuing on the Ring Road we saw smaller waterfalls that looked very funny: The water was rising to the sky instead of falling because of the strong winds. Spectacular!!
Then we passed another extraordinary waterfall: The powerful waters seemed like they were flowing out of a giant heart.
But we still felt unprepared to expose ourselves to the cold and wetness outside.
The Skógar Museum seemed the perfect place to hang around during this kind of weather and to explore the daily life of the resilient people who used to live on this beautiful island with its climatic and geographical challenges. A nice cup of good coffee was a refreshing break before continuing our exploration of the museum.
We especially liked the heartwarming atmosphere in the little historical church with the very unusual picture of Mary breastfeeding and keeping eye contact with baby Jesus. We learned a lot of about handcrafts, arts and the actual happenings of the private lives of the past inhabitants.
At the tourist shop there we bought playing cards which show 54 bird species that are breeding in Iceland. We wanted to learn about Iceland´s beautiful birds and chose the concept learning by playing.
When we left the museum- tatatataaa- the sun was shining! We went to the Skógafoss and beheld a mesmerizing rainbow. It was such a good feeling to be in the right place at the right time.
Then we headed to Vik- with lots of rain and snow. Upon arrival we enjoyed the black beach
and the tremendous waves in the sunshine. 🙂
We hiked the beach and had fun making artwork with white stones on the black beach. In the evening we visited the bird paradise, Dýrhólaey. The evening light against the gorgeous backdrop seemed unreal, dreamlike, as if we were moving through photo-wallpaper
Enthused by these precious impressions, we continued our drive along the Ring Road. Beyond Vik, traffic was so sparse it felt as if we had reached the end of the world. The land was eaten by lava-flow and there was no sign of human civilization. Finally we came to Kirkjubæjarklaustur – and found a camping site
. Best of all, it was well-equipped with a cozy, warm kitchen, clean showers and bathrooms, and run by a pleasant host.
Day 4: Friday 28.04.2017
After enjoying the warm kitchen and having a long breakfast, we started to drive to our most easterly travel destination: the wonderful glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón
. It`s a lagoon filled with huge chunks of ice. The icebergs have different shapes like mythical creatures and their color varied between luminous-blue, white and ash-grey. Swarms of arctic terns and other birds surrounded this scenario.
Its spectacular and a great tourist attraction, even on a rainy day, such it was, when we were there. After some meters walking around the lagoon and marvel, we even had to marvel more. Just in front of us were a group of seals, playing in the water. We started to watch them and after a while we caught also their attention. You couldn’t say anymore who was observer and who was the observed.
After this adventure, we allowed these impressions with a cup of coffee to sink. Also after the walk in the rain, we have been totally soaked with water and needed to warm us up.
A bit tired and impressed by the stormy weather, which let our camper shake while driving, we decided to just watch the Skaftafell glacier from the car and started our way back. At Dýrhólaey we got an impression how powerful the sea can be under such weather conditions: The breakers reached even the top of the peninsula.
Again late in the evening, but encouraged by our success in the past, we started to search for a place to sleep. After we passed two camping options, but chose not to stay there because they didn’t seem to be that comfortable, we found a beautiful campsite close to Seljalandsfoss, with warm kitchen – which was helpful, because when we arrived, it started hailing strongly
Day 5: Saturday 29.4.2017
In the morning, it was still rainy and we were happy to be allowed to use the small kitchen for breakfast. A lot of other tourists were around. They booked adventure tours in the campsite’s tourist information or just visiting the impressing waterfalls. We walked to the Secret Waterfall, Gljúfrábúi, which is just behind the campsite. It is so close that you can hear it. You cannot see it because of a big rock hiding it from plain sight. Owing to the heavy rain at night the ground was very muddy.
You can see a small part of the waterfall through a crevice and you can walk through the gorge to see it in its full beauty – but you either need Wellingtons or you risk wet feet walking through it. Another possibility is to climb the rock. Helena did so, but you need climbing skills and it was really dangerous on this day because of the wet and slippery rocks. My mother´s heart was really scared for me. But the view was outstanding as she told me. Then we did the 5 minutes-walk to the Seljalandsfoss. This is a breathtakingly beautiful waterfall. And it is very extraordinary because you can walk behind it and see it from behind, watching through it into the light outside. It is a touristically very busy place but we just took the time to slow down, to stand and listen and watch. We imagined the other people as ants that move busily around. If you watch the falling waters attentively you can see faces and forms coming and going as if the waterfall tells stories.
Back at the camper van Helena proposed to return to Hveragerði. When we were there on Wednesday we missed visiting the greenhouses, which are popular because they are geothermically heated and they grow most of Iceland´s vegetable and fruits there. There is even a restaurant/café in one of them. So we decided to do this and it was really beautiful and cosy there. We had a nice cup of cappuccino and deepened our knowledge about Icelandic birds by playing cards.
Then we decided to spend our last night in the camper van at Grindavik which is close to Keflavik where we had to return the camper van
the next morning. Also there should be a nice warm swimming pool
. We wanted to drive the route via Selfoss and then along the shore. This was very beautiful with breathtaking sights and almost no traffic and civilization.
Halfway, we stopped and walked a short distance on the beach. We enjoyed the gorgeous landscape, watched a seal, marveled at the flotsam and were very respectful to the strong breakwater. When we arrived at Grindavik, the campsite and the swimming pool were closed. And we were late again! We found an open campsite in Sandgerði. They had no kitchen so we cooked in the wind and cold. Our mood was a little bit down, but we were rewarded with a most beautiful sunset. Though we were tired we walked towards the setting sun with all these incredible colors and could see the last setting red end into the sea.
Day 6: Sunday 31.04.2017
Our last day in Iceland. We had to say goodbye to our camper, who gave us a place to sleep and protection of the Icelandic sometimes harsh weather condition during the last week and enabled us to discover this beautiful country and see everyday new places.
Thanks to the kind owner of our hotel in Keflavik, where we stayed the last night before we took our flight back to Germany, we got the chance, to be picked up for free at the airport, where we returned the camper. At the hotel we cooked a delicious meal out of our remains and took a walk to the harbor of Keflavik, where we noticed happily that we are now semi-professional Icelandic bird experts, thanks to our bird card game, which we bought at Skógar Museum.
Thank you Iceland for you beauty! We hope to see you again!
By Yvonne and Helena
Safe travels! #CamperStories
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