To say we fell in love over the Northern Lights is less of an exaggeration than you might think. Okay, it’s still a slight exaggeration… we fell in love over a shared sense of adventure, of belief in the unknown, in a desire to see the world. And yes, Iceland specifically. When I met my husband over a year ago, we spoke of the Aurora Borealis sometime within our first few dates. At the time of our meeting, life was propelling us forward in different directions. To say that Iceland was the catalyst for us finding our way back to one another is an exaggeration… but perhaps it played a role nonetheless.
Two weeks ago, we flew to Iceland to celebrate my birthday. Before I began writing today, I browsed the CamperStories of others. Other couples, families, friends. The stories are beautiful and well-written and brimming with information about where to travel in Iceland, what to bring on your trip, and what discoveries await. Truth be told, that was my original intention in writing as well. But I’ve decided to go in a different direction. Instead of specifics, I will be vague. I won’t say where we went, although there are likely obvious clues, and I won’t say that anyone ought to follow our path (literally). The beauty of Iceland is the sights, yes. However, what lingers for me, shortly after returning to Colorado, is the space in between. Between the hikes and hot springs and waterfalls. The beautiful pastures, the endless coastline, and the times on the road with nothing in sight except mountains and sea. There is no one path to follow.
James and I share a love of being on the road, and Iceland has “infinite” “road” to offer. Infinite in quotes because well, Iceland is the size of Delaware, so not infinite, and road in quotes because some roads are more like gravel paths. We started the Camper Van portion of our trip approximately three days after landing in the country. (Now, I will name drop for a moment: in Reykjavik, we indulged in fresh sandwiches at Sandholt, delectable pastries at Brauð & Co., and creamy goodness in the form of ice cream cones at Valdis. In this case, I DO suggest you follow our path, if only to experience the wonder of the delicious – and expensive – food that the city offers.) But the real indulgence began when we picked up our Camper Van.
We had no plan. Planning is an inherent part of life; however, when it comes to travel, we believe less is more. We knew not where we’d sleep until an hour or two before dusk. We drove and explored with open eyes, full bellies, and excitement streaming through our veins. There were waterfalls that we didn’t know existed until we came around the bend. I’m sure they all technically have names, but we found ones that weren’t on any map we saw. When we paid the obligatory visit to geothermal baths, they weren’t the blue one we had anticipated soaking in. Instead, we found beautiful pools on the cusp of a lake in a small village, and we warmed our bodies in the luscious water while gazing out at the lake, blanketed with fog as the night rolled in.
One day we drove to a site that is famous for a National Geographic picture that captures a mountain on the peninsula with stunning lights floating in the background. It was beautiful, yes, but no more beautiful than any other sight we saw. We weren’t better off for having chosen one sight over another. It is ALL a feast for the eyes and a breath of fresh air for the soul. Was it amazing to feel the force of the most powerful waterfall in Europe? Absolutely, but the magic of blue cascading waters flowing forcefully over lava rock was something that drew my breath away at EVERY waterfall.
The point of all this vague writing? There is beauty EVERYWHERE in Iceland. It matters less where you go, and more how you choose to take it in. Whether you’re looking for solitude, moss-covered lava fields, volcanoes to climb, or black sand beaches to wander: Iceland is there, ready and waiting. If you want a stricter itinerary, there is a plethora of options. (On our next trip to Iceland, we plan on driving around the whole country. However, because weather was a limiting factor on our late October to early November trip, we chose to travel on the West coast as well as explore the Southwest.) If you enjoy the open road and no set destination, all you need is to wake up in your Camper, find a gas station with coffee (or use the wonderful provided gear to boil your own water and brew your own cup), and hit the road (or gravel path).
Having a camper in Iceland provided us the freedom to choose our own adventure. Although I won’t say that one needs to do X, Y, or Z to make the most out of a trip to Iceland, I will say that our Camper Van was an essential part of exploring (and sleeping, as we had less than eight hours of sun a day!). James and I both loved the freedom that the Van provided. On our next trip to the country, we’ve decided that we’ll only swing through Reykjavik for a meal or two, and instead spend the rest of our time in our Camper Van, driving through the country. In a world that is increasingly crowded and built up (literally), there’s nothing like resetting one’s system by visiting a (relatively uninhabited) place with endless natural beauty and a possible adventure around every corner.
To close, I WILL share a few specific recommendations… find a dairy farm and marvel at how different fresh ice cream tastes. Eat some Icelandic fish stew. Find a greenhouse that’s also a restaurant and choose to participate in the tomato soup and fresh bread buffet. Find a night where the forecast is clear and scout out a dark place to watch the Northern Lights. Although it may be an exaggeration to say that my husband and I fell in love at the thought of Iceland, it’s not an exaggeration to write that Iceland is a place where any adventure is possible. My final recommendation: RENT A CAMPER VAN and hit the open road, with or without an agenda and allow yourself to soak in the beauty of Iceland.