We are a couple from Southern Oregon who lives for the outdoors and spend our free time on last minute trips, always documenting our adventures. This winter, we became enamored with the beauty of Iceland and within a few weeks we booked our flight! We wanted to see it all, or at least as much as we could in our 9 day trip. This desire would ultimately lead us to the camper van. We agreed this would allow us to travel in our natural fashion, making spontaneous decisions and seeing as much as we could without any time restraints or commitments. We booked with RENT.is, roughly planned our route and stops on the Ring Road, packed as many layers as possible and we were off!
Day 1 – Reykjavik & The Golden Circle
We landed in Reykjavik at 06:00 (23:00 our time!) just in time to start the day. Our home for the next 9 days is a Nissan camper van. It comes with WiFi, a heater, and everything you would need for a great time on the road. We are too excited to start our journey to feel the effects of no sleep..yet 🙂 Our first stop is Harpa, the famous opera concert hall. It is a beautiful glass building with tessellating hexagon and coffin shaped panels. The sun starts to break through the fog on our way to Hallgrimskirka; we found the view from the bell tower to be a great way to familiarize ourselves with town. The lifting fog revealed all sorts of colorful buildings and street art that gave the town such unique charm.
We filled our van at the gas station and headed to the Golden Circle. Getting out of town, we quickly discovered that we wanted to pull over and stop everywhere! The beauty of this country is captivating. We stop in þingvellir national park, the site of Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries. As we continued on route, we visited with the notorious Icelandic horses, they are extremely friendly and hungry (mind your pockets they might try to take a nibble).
We were blown away by Geysir. Every few minutes or so water shoots high into the sky with only a thin rope separating the crowd from the pool. We headed to Gullfoss to take a quick look around as night approached. Jet-lag set in as we drove back to Selfoss. The dark winding roads and heated seats in our van had us ready for sleep as we pulled into Gesthús Campground.
Iceland tip from day 1: When refueling your van in Iceland: Remember that Diesel is the black hose and Gasoline is the green hose! Coming from America, this caught us off guard as it is opposite of what we are used to.
Day 2 – 17 Waterfalls
We left Selfoss in the morning and embarked on the ring road in a counter-clockwise direction. Our jaws dropped as we rounded a bend on the highway to see the spectacular Seljalandsfoss. A few miles further down Highway 1, we departed onto a short gravel road to Seljavallalaug, a hot spring pool built in 1923. A beautiful walk up a river valley will lead you to the hot springs. While soaking in the pool, we counted seventeen waterfalls that poured from the mountains around us. We continued to our next stop, Skógafoss. The rising full moon peeked through the clouds behind us while we soaked in the expansive view from the top of the falls.
At 22:00, we pulled into Vik and found the perfect place to camp. Feeling spoiled to be the only ones enjoying the beautiful view of town, we made dinner and relished in the comfort of our toasty warm WiFi enabled camper van.
Iceland tip Day 2: Learn from Shane’s mistake and check the price before you buy craft beer, at $16 a bottle that is $96 a six pack!
Day 3 – Vatnajökull & Hot Pots
Happy Easter! We woke up early, hoping to catch sunrise, but instead look out to gray skies as we make our coffee. Snow starts to blanket the ground as we drive down through Vik and walked along the black sand beach. The contrast of the black sand and white snow is spectacular. We set out to Vatnajökull National Park to hike Svartifoss, the black falls. The basalt columns create a natural amphitheater around the falls. We see our first glacier at Vatnajökull! We continue east towards Jökulsárlón, a glacial lagoon with icebergs. In the quiet stillness you can hear the sound of the icebergs cracking or moving; almost echoing in the valley. From the Lagoon, we walked along Diamond Beach. The ice is so brilliantly clear against the black sand.
We ended our evening at Hoffell Hot Pots. These 5 pools in the middle of a field operate under the honor system and are actually on private property. A must-see if you are traveling through this area! We drove a few minutes south to Höfn and camped by the Harbor.
Iceland Travel Tip Day 3: Iceland basically shuts down for Easter and several days proceeding and following. Make sure to get the essentials before this weekend!
Howling snow rocked the van as we woke up in Höfn. We loaded up on groceries at Nettó, topped off our water container in the bathroom and filled the van with diesel. Checking the web cams, it looked like we were good to continue on our way North. We planned to drive a longer leg of our journey on this day through the East Fjords and North to Hverir. It was amazing to see the landscape change so much in just one day of driving. From the rugged coastlines of the East Fjords to the alpine passes and tundra landscape in the north, it really felt like we saw so much of the country.
We chased the sun across the snowy plains and arrived at Hverir just in time for sunset. It felt like we were on another planet, standing just feet from bubbling pools of mud and steaming fumaroles emitting sulfuric gas. The numbing windchill had us huddling around the steam vents to warm our hands and camera batteries. We were intending to find Grjótagjá Cave, but by a happy accident we pulled up to Mývatn Nature Baths and spent the evening soaking up to our nose in the lagoon while the hair on our head iced over. After taking advantage of a shower, we camped nearby as more snow fell overnight.
Iceland Tip Day 4: Some hot springs and campgrounds cost money to enter but they are usually amazing and have showers to take advantage of. A win-win!
Day 5 – North Iceland
We woke up near the Grjótagjá Cave and headed west towards Akureyri. The landscape was very barren as we passed by Lake Mývatn. Almost as if an oasis, we saw the massive Gullfoss waterfall thundering in the distance. Getting out of our camper van, we quickly realized there was no such thing as too many layers. Within seconds, a sheet of ice covered our camera lens! Although beautiful, we were happy to be back in our heated van and off to Akureyri, the capital of the north.
We spent the afternoon in Cafe Berlin, for some much needed re-charge time, both for us and our batteries. Before leaving town we filled up on gas and supplies. We stopped multiple times during the evening, hoping the clear skies would lend themselves to the rare appearance of the Aurora Borealis. Unfortunately it wasn’t in the stars for us on this night and we ended up camping close to our destination for the next morning.
Iceland Travel Tip Day 5: Windchill is no joke, pack wind proof layers and scarves to cover your face.
Day 6 – Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Started the morning walking on the frozen beach at Hvitserkur (if you look closely you can see the dragon taking a drink). While walking the beach we were being watched by pod of seals. Our next destination was the Snæfellsness Peninsula. We stopped at Kirkjufell with plans to return for sunset in a few hours. While the sun began to set, we walked along the beach at Brimilsvellir and found it to be covered with beautiful shells and agate encrusted rocks. Kirkjufell was magnificent in a pink and orange sky and we ended the evening driving around the far end of the Peninsula to an ocean overlook in Hellnar. We were in a solid routine of making dinner late at night in the comfort of our van. While cleaning the dishes after dinner, we were blown away to look up and see the splendor of the Aurora Borealis dancing in green and pink streams across the sky. It was a huge check off of both our bucket lists.
Iceland Travel Tip Day 6: Wash your dishes at the end of the night, you could see a show courtesy of the Northern Lights.
Day 7 – Around Snæfellsjökull
Woke up on the ocean in Hellnar, watching the seagulls fly in and out of the arches that covered the rugged coastline. We enjoyed the sunny morning along the ocean and then drove to Búðakirkja, an black wooden church dating back to the 19th century. We relaxed here until the sunset and then drove north over the mountain pass on 54 to Grundarfjörđur. Pulling into the parking lot for Kirkjufell, we found a line of photographers and spectators eagerly awaiting a chance to see the Aurora grace the skies again that night. Once we had successfully captured the shot we hoped for, we went back to the beach from the previous day and slept here as the aurora continued to put on a show.
Iceland Travel Tip Day 7: Be strategic with parking- waking up to a good view is the best way to start your morning.
Day 8 – Reykjanes
Our trip was coming full circle as we drove back to Reykjavik and took advantage of the fun shops, bakeries and bars the city had to offer. We had booked the Blue Lagoon at the beginning of our trip as a way to end our journey. The Blue Lagoon lived up to its reputation and was well worth the cost. The facilities were state-of-the-art and the lagoon was bigger than either of us had imagined. We left relaxed and reflected happily on our time here in Iceland. We spent the night below the Garðskagi lighthouses.
Iceland Travel Tip Day 8: The Blue Lagoon is pricey but worth it!
Day 9 – Going home
Waking up on our last morning in Iceland was bittersweet. After such an amazing trip, it was going to be hard to leave it behind. We spent the morning cleaning up our van and packing up all our gear. We returned to Rent.is and said goodbye to our home for the last nine days! It was such a great experience all around. We are incredibly grateful that Rent.is allowed us to see all that Iceland has to offer from the comfort of a camper-van! Highly Recommended!
Iceland Travel Tip Day 9: Give yourself more time than you think for the last day pack up.
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