Our Icelandic Honeymoon
Hi everyone! We are Liv and Josh from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. We just got married in February of 2018 and we have just recently set out on a year abroad to explore new sights, meet new people, and experience a new way of life. The first stop on our globetrotting journey – Iceland – and let us tell you, we couldn’t be happier with how the first leg of our adventure began.
We arrived in Iceland in late May and stayed for 10 days. Given that Iceland was our first stop, we considered this trip our honeymoon and we felt like travelling by camper van was such a romantic way to see the country, not to mention giving us the ability to spend some quality time together and test out how our relationship holds under such close quarters!
Let me tell you, the camper van (Minnie Winnie as we called her) did not disappoint! What a fun, cozy and convenient way to travel and see all that Iceland has to offer. We did a lot of driving (almost 3,200 km), some of the drives more treacherous than others (coming out of the Westfjords, the drive to Red Sand Beach, to name a few) so it was awesome to be able to pull over and relax for a bit after a long or arduous drive. Below we’ve put together some of our top campervanning tips.
Tips for campervanning:
- Use spare shoelaces or string to rig up a clothes line and the powerful heater to keep your clothes dry and your stuff smelling fresh.
- Bring a deck of cards or other small travel-sized board games to keep you entertained.
- Have a good travel buddy to help you navigate the roads.
- Bring your own food, or buy it at Bónus, and take advantage of the cooking equipment the vans come with.
- When you arrive at the Keflavik airport, stop at the duty free shop and pick up a few bottles of wine. They have a great selection and you save on the taxes.
- If travelling in the summer, bring a sleep mask. When we visited in May, the sun was up for over 20 hours a day, so it never really got dark outside or in our van.
- Always drive with your lights on; the weather can turn quickly and you need to be visible to other drivers at all times (editor’s note: Required by law).
- Keep your gas tank above ¼ tank, especially if you plan to travel the Westfjords.
- Many of the gas stations are unmanned, and as such, only take credit card. For some reason, our main credit card (Visa) never worked at any of the gas stations, though it worked elsewhere. It was helpful having a backup credit card (Mastercard) in these instances as we would not have gotten far without it!
So what did we do in Iceland? If we would have done nothing else other than drive around Ring Road, we’d still have left the country feeling satisfied. That being said, we did so much more than drive! We’ve broken down our trip highlights by region, so that if you are only planning to visit certain regions you take a quick look to find some key spots to check out.
The capital area
On our first and last day we spent some time walking around central Reykjavik. Our flight arrived at 5:00 am on a Thursday and we were walking around downtown by about 7:00 am. It was a ghost town, of course. The city redeemed itself on Sunday afternoon; the same streets had a vibrancy and energy that was really unique to Reykjavik with lots of people strolling around, cute shops to check out, buskers playing music, and great restaurants at every turn. Also, free parking on Sunday is of course a bonus for our fellow budget travelers!
We didn’t spend too much time exploring the west but on our drive up to the western fjords we stopped at a hidden hot spring near Eldborgarhraun. It was cold and a bit rainy so it made getting into the warm water even better (although getting out was hard!). We found one small pool that fit about 3 individuals and joined a fellow traveler and poet as he relaxed in the spring.
Our time in the Westfjords was relatively short and filled with long (read – really long) drives through lots of gravel roads, wind, rain, and even a bit of snow. Our main highlights here included visiting red sand beach and the beautiful Látrabarg cliffs where we were able to spot 2 puffins! Another highlight was when we spontaneously pulled over on the side of the road and found a beautiful hike to the Unnamed Waterfall. It started off as just a river but then built from waterfall to waterfall as we kept walking the path. Definitely worth checking out if you can find it! This was likely one of our most favorite waterfalls that we saw in Iceland.
Our favorite part of Iceland was the north and the Mývatn area. If we had more time we would have definitely used it here. If you like hiking and beautiful nature-related activities, this is the place for you. We found a great campsite in Vogar and used that as our base for a few days. Our highlights included:
- Hiking to the top of Vindbelgjarfjall – beautiful 360 views of the lake and mountains
- Exploring the Dimmuborgir lava fields (do the “difficult” hike through the middle – it’s not very hard but worth the views!)
- Visiting Grjótagjá (Game of Thrones caves)
- Checking out the active geothermal area by Námafjall Hverir (if you have a sensitive nose you might want to bring a nose plug!)
- Exploring the waterfalls of Dettifoss and Selfoss
- Hiking around the Ásbyrgi cliffs (we did hike V3 and V4 around Hljóðaklettar and Rauðhólar and this was our most favorite hike of the trip)
The Mývatn nature baths (Jarðböðin) was also a huge highlight, and half the price as Blue Lagoon, and a lot less crowded. Also, when travelling by camper van it’s nice to visit hot pools with shower facilities so that you can get warm and also get clean 😉
Read more: The Diamond Circle
We also really enjoyed the area around Akureyri and found there were a lot of beautiful hikes and things to see around this town.
One of our most favorite hikes/waterfall experiences was the journey to Aldeyarfoss. What a great spot and so remote! We didn’t have 4 wheel drive so we drove as far as we thought we could go and walked about 3 km to the falls site. It’s an absolutely stunning waterfall and there’s lots to explore around it. We were the only ones there and it was really nice to pull out our Z-seats and take in the view.
We were on a mission to get south as we only had 2.5 days left and knew there was a lot more to see, so we powered straight through the east and didn’t really stop other than at the Bónus in Egilsstaðir to stock up on supplies (the Skýr yogurt is the best!).
The south for us was the area most populated with tourists and it was quite different than what we were used to compared to the rest of our trip (before the south, there were many instances where we’d be on a hike or a drive and not see anyone, which was kind of cool!). By this point, we were also a bit waterfalled-out so while Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss were beautiful, we didn’t spend too much time here. We did, however, love the glacier lagoon and diamond beach and spent several hours there. It was mainly cloudy but when the sun peaked out through the clouds a few times the views of the glaciers were absolutely breathtaking.
We also enjoyed the short hike around Fjaðrárgljúfur which is an ancient massive river canyon. The black sand beach around Vik was also great but so windy that it was tricky to actually lift our heads and look around! The walk to the abandoned plane is cool, but if you don’t like walking it may not be worth it (about a 7 km walk; took us about 40 minutes each way).
We also saw the sights in the Golden Circle (Geysir, Gullfoss and Þingvellir) but the absolute highlight of the south by far is the hike to the Reykjadalur hot river. The climb is steep but short and absolutely worth it to be able to take a dip in a hot river surrounded by nature. Highly advisable to get there early – we arrived about 8 am and there were about 7 cars in the parking lot; when we returned around 11:30 am there were easily 40 cars parked and more streaming into the lot. This was a wonderful last adventure to end our trip.
Overall, Iceland is an amazing paradise for nature lovers, adventure seekers, hiking enthusiasts, or really anyone looking to find peace, beauty, and some of the most amazing views you will ever see. The adventure awaits for you in Iceland – go explore!
Liv + Josh
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