Rookies on the Ring Road

Rookies on the road – that might be a decent description for our road trip through Iceland and here comes why: it was the very first time we – Sarah & Katharina – went on an adventure of that kind and for both of us it was a dream coming true. We prepared only a little for our 8-day trip in order to leave space in our minds for the unexpected and compare our imagination with reality in the end.

However, if you are beginners like we were and in doubt, if you could manage to go on a road trip of that kind, please don’t let your skepticism hold you back! There is no doubt that everyone who can drive a car and is adventurous can do this trip easily – and at any time you’ll be overwhelmed by beautiful scenery created nature.

A fun anecdote: starting off our trip at the airport in Copenhagen we were wondering why the people that came out of the plane that just arrived from Reykjavik had all these dirty clothes on and seemed not to care about it at all – this anecdote will continue at the end of this text 🙂

The camping van

The Nissan NV200 was the camper we decided for and this decision was one of the best ones we ever had in our lives – this genius car literally saved our asses! Not only because it’s definitely affordable when you travel on a budget like we did, it also allows you to travel completely independent. No restrictions regarding time and pace whatsoever. As well it comes with all these very useful things that make travelling on a budget even a little luxurious: a portable 4G router that is especially useful for unlimited use of Google maps and all your favourite music, USB ports to keep all your batteries charged in order to take memorable pictures, a heating system for the possible cold nights even in summer, a refrigerator to keep all your goodies fresh, a gas stove and kitchenware that will help you prepare delicious meals and an essential water tank. Not to mention a table and chairs for a chilled dinner/breakfast at any camping spot in the middle of nowhere and a cozy mattress with warm sleeping bags – all in all very comfortable, secure and independent in particular.

Trip diary

Here comes finally the highlights of our trip and in case you’re wondering why it seems like we went higgledy-piggledy through the country it’s because Iceland’s nature is unpredictable. From Reykjavik, we went south until Lake Mývatn in the north-east and back. Because of heavy rain, we left out a couple of spots at the beginning that we would catch up with on the way back in order to get the most out of the trip weather-wise.

Day 1:

Getting started makes your trip extremely convenient: Once arrived at the airport in Reykjavik we got picked up and transported to the rental office, got our camper and off we went! First to get some groceries for the coming days and then to the first camping site direction south.

Ready for a camper trip

Day 2:

Appreciating a foggy day at the Black Beach, a hike to the plane wreck and a swim in the geothermal pool Seljavallalaug

The Airplane wreck Plane wreck Iceland Reynisfjara beach

Black Beach Iceland Cairns on Basalt columns

Obviously, we wanted to see as much as possible on our trip but also didn’t want to stress out and really enjoy every single place as much and as long as possible. However, on the second day, we managed to see three magnificent places: the surreal Black Beach, the science fiction like scenery around the plane wreck at Sólheimasandur and eventually let the day end with a swim at the hidden and magical Seljavallalaug geothermal pool – what a perfect day! We have never appreciated heavy fog as much as on that day, no words can describe the dreaminess we experienced – pictures might describe our feelings better than any words 🙂

Seljavallalaug pool Seljavallalaug Seljavallalaug area

Day 3:

Skaftafell Nationalpark – glacier Skaftafellsjökull and waterfall Svartifoss

Skaftafell Skaftafell glacier

Waking up at Skógafoss camping site with a breathtaking view – is there a better way to start another beautiful rainy day in Iceland? After breakfast, we went straight to Skaftafell National park to spend the day hiking two different trails. One leads to incredible glacier tongue Skaftafellsjökull which is coming from Iceland’s largest ice cap – an epic scenery with vast amounts of ice. The other route guides you all the way uphill to waterfall Svartifoss – a mysterious and almost elegant waterfall with columnar shaped black stones. Another truly overwhelming day!


Day 4:

Magical breakfast in Höfn, beautiful east coast ride until geothermal field in Námafjall

After all the rain and 3 days of grey Icelandic sky, we woke up at the camping site in Höfn and couldn’t believe our eyes: pure sunshine and a magical view of beautiful clouds that separated the mountains and the ocean. That view called for an extra long breakfast 🙂

Breakfast in Höfn Geothermal steam Námafjall hot springs Námafjall

On that day our mission was to go all the way to Lake Mývatn, a five hour long beautiful drive from Höfn. The drive along the coast is a memorable route with sights of the ocean, mountains, vast fields and a lot of wild sheep 🙂 Just in the middle of nowhere we couldn’t believe our eyes for the second time that day: we arrived at the hot spring field in Námafjall – no words for a couple of minutes. Hot steam bubbling mud holes surrounded by a dry orange-brownish field – an epic scenery not from this world. Even though the smell is hideous this place is one of a kind!

Driving to East Iceland Driving East from Lake Mývatn

Day 5:

Experiencing Iceland’s unpredictable nature, visiting Viking Village and Icelandic horses, magical dinner in Svinafell

Unfortunately, the fifth day of our trip started slightly disappointing. The road to the waterfall Dettifoss was a disaster and would have been impossible to drive with our van (even though it was not marked as a F-road) so that we decided to turn back for safety reasons. Also, the beautiful crater lake in Hrossaborg wasn’t manageable for us (clearly marked as F-road). However, we think it is important to respect the nature and don’t take risks when the ground is shaky.

Camper van evenings Sunset by Svinafell

Driving all the way back south we stopped by at Viking Village which was built as a film set but was never used in the end. You get a glimpse of how it could have been living in Iceland as a Viking way back in time. Also, we said hi to some Icelandic horses and found a beautiful camping site in Svinafell between the ocean and mountains with a beautiful night sky that served as a compensation 🙂

Icelandic horse Svinafell Camping

Viking Village Iceland Icelandic Viking Village Viking Village

Day 6:

Zodiac boot tour at Jökulárlón, Diamond Beach, standing in a rainbow at Skógafoss

Zodiac boat tour Zodiac boat tour Jökulsárlón Jökulsárlón boat trip

The next day called for a Zodiac boat tour through the Glacier Lagoon at Jökulsárlón – what mind-blowing experience! Once we put on our floating suits we got very close to the glacier and our guide provided us with interesting information about the ice in the lagoon. It was amazing to sail around wild seals and the gigantic chunks of ice that constantly break from the big glacier tongue – though a warning sign of global warming! However, it’s a natural spectacle to see this happening with your own eyes. The Diamond Beach is located just by the lagoon – an enormous scenery where you can walk in between the ice chunks, climb on them and enjoy their multifaceted beauty.

Jökulsárlón Ice Black sand beach with ice Diamond beach Iceberg Diamond Beach

Later at waterfall Skógafoss we walked all the way up to watch the gigantic water masses falling down as well, which is even more fun, we put on all our waterproof equipment and went as close as possible to where the water is falling on the ground and were literally standing in a rainbow – a feeling of being more than alive!

Skógafoss Falls Skógafoss waterfall

Day 7:

Golden Circle tour: Geysir, Gullfoss, Þingvellir National park & detour to Kerið

The Golden Circle tour is probably where tourists go to at the beginning of their trip, we did it in the end. The power of the Geysir is immense. It comes and goes whenever it feels like, it’s almost funny – if the Geysir would be a person it would probably make fun of all the people standing around it prepared with their cameras to catch the impossible perfect shot of the eruption – haha 🙂

Geysir Gullfoss Selfie Gullfoss falls

Gullfoss felt like waterfall number 73194 we saw in Iceland and it was still not boring at all! It is especially amazing how the gigantic amount of water and the dangerous power of it make such a peaceful and harmonic atmosphere – we could have stayed and watched it forever 🙂

Kerið Crater Lake Kerið Kerið

Þingvellir National Park is truly picture-perfect scenery. For us, the experience standing between the continuously moving tectonic plates was a milestone in our lives!
Crater lake Kerið is the perfect detour when you finished the Golden Circle tour and still have energy – we certainly did! The lake inside a collapsed volcano is vividly coloured, vast vegetation is clashing with the red sand and the azure blue water – a magnificent interaction of nature’s expression 🙂


Day 8:

Blue Lagoon & Reykjavik

In the end, all the adrenaline makes you happy but tired. As well, you might not get a proper shower every day on a road trip. That’s why we decided to spend our last day at the Blue Lagoon – as a reward for our discipline and a treat after all the days on the road. Sure, it is not cheap to go there (speaking of a budget trip) but sometimes you just have to reward yourself 🙂 The lagoon’s light blue geothermal water surrounded by heavy rocks is a feast for the eyes and a true relaxation for the body and mind.

Blue Lagoon Hot Spring The Blue Lagoon

A bit of what you fancy does you good, that’s why we decided to have a proper dinner in Reykjavik after the visit in the Blue Lagoon. The capital of Iceland is very sweet, the people are friendly and the atmosphere is very chilled 🙂

Reykjavik break Hallgrímskirkja Church

Day 9:

Camper drop off

Ending the road trip is just as easy as starting – you return the van to the office and you get transported to the airport – time to say goodbye to Iceland…

Iceland Camping Iceland Campsite Camping Lunch Selfdrive Iceland


Driving along the ring road through geothermal wonderland Iceland where rough and fragile beauty is created by nature was a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s fascinating how much energy you get from waking up to the most incredible views right at your van’s back door: poetic scenery of harsh nature against pure silence, beautiful lights and magical colours – it makes you feel alive and we couldn’t get enough of it! Pointing out a highlight is impossible, whenever we thought this must be the coolest place on earth the next one was just as impressive. The trip described in three words: adventurous – magical – energetic 🙂

Iceland Adventure Camper van nights

Coming back to our little anecdote from the beginning: in the end, we were the dirty ones arriving back home at the airport, all messed up but incredibly happy with the best travel experience ever!
We can’t wait to go back 🙂

Driving around Iceland On the road in Iceland

Sarah & Katharina


Read more: Climate change in Iceland

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