Our Destination Iceland
ADVENTURE MODE: ON
“Ladies and gentlemen, as we start our descent to Keflavik Airport, please
make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position…”
This is it. What has started as a spontaneous idea for a summer trip only five days prior to our departure will now become reality. Our destination: Iceland. Our goal: a complete tour of the Ring Road in a Camper van. Our time to do it: 6 days. Impossible? We beg to differ.
As the cabin crew’s announcement continues in the background, I lean forward to peek out of my window and finally – after hours of flying over water – an enormous landscape comes into sight that takes my breath away. This is Iceland. Let the adventure begin.
To be clear: this is our first camping trip ever. Seriously. I’ve never set foot on a camping ground before, have never slept in a tent – let alone a camper van – so we had no idea what this trip had in store for us. (You might wonder what kind of weirdo I am, but hey – there’s a first time for everything, eh?) But the prospect of the endless freedom and flexibility that a camper van offers was just too good to pass up on. So we were very excited to pick up our vehicle at the Reykjavik office and head into the wild, rugged nature that this country has to offer. After a thorough introduction to our new home on wheels we were ready to hit the road.
Now as you can imagine the bucket list of a first time visitor to Iceland is endless and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to be bored by a chronological listing of all the sights we went to (and there were A LOT). So let’s go straight to the good stuff and let us tell you about our absolute highlights, lessons we learned and fun experiences along the road.
THE FREEDOM OF THE ROAD
Iceland dazzled me. I hardly ever spent this much time in a car, pressing my nose up on the glass – lost for words that describe this beautiful place. The decision to rent a van was definitely the best choice we made for this trip. It allowed us to pick and choose the most beautiful places of this country and visit them in our own pace, at our own terms. And how could we not fall in love with the stunning vistas this island has to offer? In Iceland you don’t need much to have the trip of a lifetime – all you need is a car, your best friend, a good playlist and lots of snacks to keep you happy.
Even though we tried to keep our daily amount of time spent behind the wheel at a minimum, time flies by when you can enjoy a place like this while driving. And even though it’s tempting to stay comfortably on the Ring Road to see all the most important sights, it’s the detours that make all the difference. Exploring small towns that are off the beaten track like Seyðisfjörður or Stykkishólmur, or taking a detour travelling the Tröllaskagi or Snæfellsnes peninsula was definitely worth the while.
CHOOSE YOUR WATERFALLS WISELY
Coming to Iceland we knew there would be many waterfalls around, but we weren’t quite prepared for how many there actually were. As we visited them one by one, we realized that after a while they all started to look similar to us. It was a waterfall overkill. So we decided reduce our waterfall visits to the ones that really stood out to us, which was an excellent decision that we would recommend to anyone visiting Iceland. (Plus: we still need something to see when we come back, right?)
Our personal highlight: the immense force and size of Dettifoss. You’ll get hypnotized (and soaking wet) as you watch massive amounts of water falling off the edge of a cliff – an experience we wouldn’t want to miss from our trip. Also, the walk from the parking lot is an experience for itself: the rock formations that surrounded us made us feel like we stumbled in a sci-fi movie or landed on Mars. That’s probably what Ridley Scott thought, when he decided to shoot the opening scene for Prometheus here.
RELAXING LIKE A LOCAL
Apart from Iceland’s beautiful nature we were most excited about the geothermal waters that you can bathe in and this was definitely something we intended to do a lot. We found numerous idyllic pictures of natural pools as well as the Blue Lagoon online, but we figured that these would probably be hard to come by – plus: they’ll most likely be swamped with tourists. So we decided to do things differently and dive into the local habit of visiting a “Sundlaug” – a public pool that almost every town in Iceland is equipped with. We first visited one in Egilsstaðir where we soaked ourselves in the heavenly warm waters of their two hotpots (one 39°, one 41°), all while sitting in the midst of locals catching up and keeping up with their social contacts – it doesn’t get more authentic than this.
We liked it so much that we decided we’d do this every day from now on and we kept our promise. We found some very nice places along the road, our favorite being the Sundlaugin at Hofsós: A super modern facility that is only a couple of years old, located on a cliff overlooking the Fjord and offering a great panoramic view of the landscape. A definite must if you travel north!
But if you’re really into the nature bath aspect of it all and you’d be interested in visiting a place like the Blue Lagoon, I’d definitely recommend the Mývatn Nature Baths where we had a great time – partly because we decided to purchase a ticket that includes a drink of our choice to be consumed in the pool. Trust me, there’s nothing like chillin’ in hot waters while enjoying a nice glass of wine or beer in the evening sun.
DON´T EVEN THINK ABOUT SKIPPING SNÆFELLSNES
Did you know that the peninsula Snæfellsnes is also called “Little Iceland”? And it’s true: After travelling the country and its beautiful landscapes for almost a week, Snæfellsnes managed to combine all the things we fell in love with on a small area. We had one entire day to drive around the peninsula which gave us the chance to marvel at waterfalls, take a walk on a black beach, stand on top of rocky cliffs, having lunch in a beautiful national park with views of a glacier and – not to forget – visit the famous Kirkjufell mountain.
Since this was our first camping trip ever we definitely learned a lot of new things about this way of travelling (mostly good stuff – don’t worry). One of the most valuable lessons we learned is that camping deeply connects you with your surroundings in a way that you’d normally miss out on when staying in hotels. You feel a lot closer to the rugged, untouched nature and weather conditions that surround you, but also to the people that share this experience with you. One night our camping stove decided to stop working in the midst of cooking our dinner and almost immediately we got help from a nice family providing us with their stove and therefore saving our meal. It is easy to make new connections when everything feels like a joint effort. That is definitely something that made our trip so much more special.
GO HAVE AN ICELANDIC FEAST AT LEAST ONCE
We saved a lot of money during our trip by preparing our own meals whenever we could. For us however, an essential part of every trip is to experience the local cuisine – because what better way is there to explore a country’s culture? And frankly, by preparing food out of a can all week long, we were missing out on that. So on one of our last evenings we treated us with a good meal at a local restaurant. We found the perfect restaurant in Borgarnes called “Englendingavik”, where we could get a real taste of Iceland – including dried fish, herring in a blueberry sauce, a delicious Icelandic stew and of course Skýr for dessert. Add an Einstök Pale Ale on top of that and you’ll see why this was one of our favorite evenings in Iceland!
Being back in our hometown and digging through the thousands of photos that we took, we couldn’t be more happy with our trip and everything we experienced.
Iceland – we’ll be back.
Our trip around Iceland
There are more pictures in our map above. Click on the place markers!
Read more: Our Icelandic CamperStory
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