Other-worldly adventure in southern Iceland
We are Matthew and Meghan Bryant from Queensland, Australia visiting Iceland for six days. We hired a camper van and drove around southern Iceland in May 2018.
Our 15,000 km journey here actually started two years ago when my husband saw a video of three friends camper vanning around the country – when he finished watching it, he told me that would be us one day and it went straight to the top of his bucket list, so here we are.
Choosing to only spend six days in a country as spectacular as Iceland may seem like a short amount of time, but we are on a six-week trip around Europe trying to cram as many countries in as possible and Iceland is the place we are spending the most time. It’s also where we chose to spend our 10 year anniversary. When you’ve been together for a decade you think you’ve got no more “firsts” to experience – but sleeping in the back of a van together in the middle of a completely foreign and beautiful country is something new, exciting and something we will remember for the rest of our lives.
If you are wary about spending time in a camper van in freezing cold weather, exploring a foreign country with no guides, don’t worry I felt a little like that at first, but that was until I arrived in Iceland, picked up our van and realized the country and its beauty is nothing like anything I’d ever seen before.
We arrived at Keflavik Airport in the late afternoon and soon after landing we picked up our van. We chose the Renault Kangoo camper van, which is perfect for two people. Being from what is known as the “Sunshine State” in Australia we are used to hot, mildly hot and very hot weather so it made me shiver just thinking it would get down to four degrees at night. But I needn’t fear because the van had a crazy warm heater that kept us warm whenever we had the van parked. It also came with a stove, table and chairs, cutlery, the comfiest bed we have slept in overseas and WiFi. So basically, everything you need.
First stop was the grocery store – Matt wanted to make sure we had a full-on camper van experience, so he wanted to cook every day. Since it was quite late by the time we finished our shop we decided to park up at the Húsbílastæðið Camper Resort in Reykjavik. It had great facilities so we were able to have showers and use the bathroom there to get ourselves feeling a bit fresher after our flight.
Something else that we weren’t familiar with is so much daylight, this time of year it’s dark at 6 pm where we live but here it didn’t get dark until after 11 pm. But as the beds were so comfy and we were so tired, we passed out.
The second day was the only day we had an activity booked – and it was a day at the Blue Lagoon. I had been excited about this since the moment we booked (and I do suggest you do pre-book).
We drove 45 minutes to where the Blue Lagoon is located. It was freezing cold and raining on the way there, and that morning it begun to lightly snow. But our weather app told us today would be sunny, so we were holding out hope. We also had hopes that the weather would turn around because when we picked up our van the man who checked us in told us something that couldn’t be more accurate – “If you don’t like the weather here in Iceland, just wait five minutes.” And, he was right, the moment we arrived at Blue Lagoon the sky opened up and it was blue sky, perfect for spending the day outdoors in a lagoon.
It is hard to describe how incredibly amazing the Blue Lagoon is. For one it makes for great Instagram photos, with its milky blue water and steam contrasting with the surrounding mini mountains.
As I mentioned it was cold, so I was in my swimmers, standing at the doors looking out into the steaming lagoon and I knew I only had to walk about 10 meters until I was in the water – but I braced myself anyway and did a little half run into the water. The contrast from hot to cold made my feet feel like they were on fire but after a moment of dipping my body in the water I was toasty warm. We spent three hours in the water, drinking at the swim up bar and putting face masks on each other. I’ve been to many pools, beaches and spas in my lifetime but this was definitely the best experience yet. We just lazed around taking in the surroundings in the sunshine.
That night we parked at the Grindavik camp grounds and made the most of the sunshine, cooking outside and then relaxing the back of the van.
We had a few sites we wanted to see today and made it to Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Skógafoss waterfall, Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach and its cave. It’s mind-blowing that you can see so much in one day, but that is the beauty of having a camper van, you can go wherever you like and everything was relatively close.
It was a rainy day but it came and went, giving us opportunities to get out of the car and explore. First stop was the Seljalandsfoss waterfall and wow it was beautiful – not only the waterfall but its location among the mountainous terrain. We bought some hot chocolates at the café below and wandered around the waterfall snapping photos.
Next stop was the Skógafoss waterfall, it’s only a short drive from the other and while it may not be as large, it was still equally as beautiful.
We noticed a camp site right next to the waterfalls and booked in there for the night so we had somewhere to cook our lunch. After eating, it was on to Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach and the beach’s cave. It was crazy seeing black sand, not rocks but actual black sand. The waves are ferocious at that beach and the whole thing had an eerie but can’t-help-but-love-it feel about it. The cave is also located on the beach itself so we enjoyed a good hour exploring both.
Driving part of the Golden Circle route was the goal for our second last day. Although there are numerous websites telling you the route to go, somehow we got lost, but that’s okay because there is always something to see here. For example, on our way to Strokkur Geyser we came across snowy mountains and as it never snows where we live, we wanted to see if there was a way to the snow.
We were in luck, there was a road that took us part way up the mountain among the snow – and I would have to say it is the most majestic places I’ve been in my entire life. We pulled over to a patch of snow part way up the mountain and tossed it around and Matt even made a snow angel. As we went to leave, it began snowing which made it all the more magical.
Then it was on to Þingvellir National Park, where we really just drove around, but of course we did stop to take photos of the stunning lake. We then made it the Strokkur Geyser. We read that it is the most active in the country and erupts every seven minutes which we were hoping was true – and we were happy to see it erupt three times in about 15 minutes.
Our last stop for the day was the Kerið Crater Lake, a crater with bright blue water surrounded by red rocks and green moss – making for a breathtaking view.
Happy 10 years to Matt and I. Today, we woke up celebrating a decade together and I couldn’t think of a more perfect place. Lying snug in the back of the van together, listening to the rain on the roof. Ah, bliss.
We were scheduled to drop off the van today but due to an error with our travel agent back in Australia we actually got the van for one more day (yay!). Even though we already had a hotel booked for our final night in Reykjavik, having our own vehicle for another 24 hours meant total freedom.
So, we went off to the Bridge between two Continents. We were able to stand on the bridge that divides the tectonic plates of Europe and North America. Yes, even on an island like Iceland you can be in two continents at once!
We also headed about half an hour our of Reykjavik to these other snowy mountains we had seen the day before – they were covered in snow so we parked our van and played around a bit. With so many beautiful sites to see, it may seem odd that we chose to simply play in snow but to us it is very foreign and quite exciting.
Rise and shine! We had a 6 am flight, so we were awake and driving to drop our van off about 3:30 am.
Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to our van and Iceland. But as soon as we dropped it off we were already planning our next adventure here. Next time we will stay a little longer, see a little more and maybe even try and do it with a group of friends.
Iceland is like nowhere I have ever been. The terrain can change in a matter of kilometers, going from rocks as far as the eye can see, city and small villages to lakes, beaches and snowy mountains. Matt kept referring to it as another planet and it really did feel as if we were somewhere out of this world. It’s incredibly unique and stunningly beautiful and we’d recommend it to anyone!
Until next time Iceland…
Read more: 15 days around Iceland
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