‘Round the Icelandic Countryside with Chippie
After a long flight delay, we landed at Keflavik at 2:30 am. Since it was the middle of June, we were enjoying the white nights of the Iceland summer and getting ready for our Iceland road trip adventure ahead of us.
On most of our traveling adventures, we tend to give our rental cars a nickname. Before we even got our car, we were inspired to call our Camper Van “Chippie” because we had read that it was a good idea to get the additional ‘chip’ insurance due to the road conditions around Iceland.
On a Thursday afternoon in mid-June, we set out with Chippie and headed south. We loved the idea of having the freedom to explore as we went, and not having a destination every day. Chippie, a WV Caddy Camper, was a great car and handled so well on the Icelandic roads.
After we rambled out of Keflavik and Reykjavik, we made our first stop at Seljalandsfoss waterfall. We zipped up our rain jackets and headed behind the waterfall. Enjoying the lovely day and a break in the rain, we did a quick hike down the path to the hidden, but amazing, Gljúfurábúi waterfall. Even at this early stage, we noticed the diverse botanical growth by the path and beautiful purple flowers along the road.
Continuing our tour of waterfalls, we made our way to Skógafoss waterfall. We hiked up the hill and enjoyed watching the sheep and adorable lambs grazing near the path. The view couldn’t have been better. A sparkling water fall flowing into a picturesque, but quaint village at the foot.
After our day of walking and touring, we looked through the guide book and our printout of campsites and decided to head to Vík. After parking the camper, we had braved a short, but wet walk, into town to enjoy dinner, then a beer at the local brewpub, Smiðjan Brugghús. There is nothing like having a pint after a day of driving when the camper is parked for the night. We also got great advice from the bartender who said, “Sometimes, you just need to turn off where there seems to be nothing, and there will be something incredible to see.”
After our pints, we headed back to our home for the night. With some quick maneuvering, we set up the camper van with our essential curtains for privacy and bit of light blocking. After a quick setup, we headed into the cooking room. What a great campsite! Due to the heavy rain, everyone was gathered in the main building cooking and socializing. So much of the fun of camping is meeting other people who are on similar adventures from different parts of the world.
After a good night of sleep and a breakfast retrieved from our camper cooler, we set out for Reynisfjara. The basalt columns set against the black sand beach were enrapturing. Chippie was parked safely in the lot, but we were on high alert for Sneaker Waves. We needed to keep safe for the rest of the trip. As we left the beach, we were able to stop at the local church along the same road for a quick picture.
The great thing about not being on a tour bus is the freedom to stop when the mood strikes. Our biggest surprise was when we stopped to switch drivers. We saw a sign for a picnic table and turned down the road to get off the highway. Although the initial view didn’t seem like much, Chippie lead us to a place with a path that ended at a small glacial lagoon called Kviamyrarkambur. Since it was not one of the bigger stops, we were by ourselves and able to enjoy the amazing beauty of the glacier and lagoon … and decided to snap a selfie to remember the moment.
After our stop, we headed to Vatnajökulsþjóðgarður National Park, and hiked to the waterfall in Skaftafell. We took the time to enjoy the dry weather and hike up to the Svartifoss waterfall. The basalt columns along the face of the waterfall reminded me of a stand of trees. Set next to the waterfall, the valley was awash with such amazing natural beauty. We also learned it is a good idea to take a photo of your license plate so you have it for parking registration and also to remember what camper belongs to you. When you are in a big lot of similar cars, it is a little harder to identify.
The remainder of our day now seems packed with activities. At the time, it seemed like we had a very leisurely day. Driving down the road, we spotted Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon. We immediately pulled over to watch the glacial flow and take in the amazing beauty of the glaciers floating in the lagoon.
After spending the afternoon watching the glacial flow, we decided to head toward Höfn. There was a campsite on the edge of town that would allow us to walk into town for dinner and get in some World Cup Football viewing. I decided to have a Vatnajökull beer that night… the “Frozen in Time” slogan seemed appropriate after our day at the Glacier.
We had decided to book a boat trip at Jökulsárlón Glacier lagoon for the next day because we had enjoyed our afternoon there. When we got back to Chippie after dinner, we used our WiFi to book tickets for the next day’s tour. There is nothing like snuggling up in your warm camper and planning more adventures.
Back on the road the next day, we headed back to Jökulsárlón. Unfortunately, the lagoon has some large Glaciers let loose the night before, so we couldn’t do the boat trip. We decided to just enjoy all the glaciers that has washed ashore including the ones big enough to use as an impromptu seat. After walking to the beach and playing among the beached icebergs, we decided to go back to Chippie and make a picnic at this gorgeous spot.
Unlike a lot of travelers who head to the Golden Circle first, we decided to save it for last. To get ourselves closer, we decided to stay in Hella for the evening at a campground near the river. On the way to Hella, we stopped at Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon. Always impressed by the incredible flow of water, it was laid out between the tall canyon walls and flowed with its impressive deep, clear water. Something about the sound of water driving through the canyon was so peaceful and refreshing after a few days of driving.
We had a relaxing meal and a comfortable night in Chippie, and prepared for the next day of our road trip. Looking through the guide book, and checking maps with the wifi, my husband planned our journey for the next day. Needing some coffee in the morning, we made a quick trip to the bakery, and might have picked up some yummy goodies for the road.
We had planned the day to hit three major attractions in the Golden Circle: Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area and Gullfoss waterfall . . . but in the reverse order. At this point, we had seen so many different water falls, my expectations were not high that I would be impressed with Gullfoss. I have also seen Niagara Falls in the US/ Canada and Krimml Waterfalls in Austria.
WOW. Gullfoss was a totally different experience from either of those. Walking along the waterfall, you could watch as the water poured over from multiple angles and fell into the canyon. It was a like a mist factory. I have complete respect for the power of water, and seeing this waterfall reminded me why.
As a sort of confessions, we had put a lot of thought into the things we wanted to see the next day and maybe not so much effort into the detail of what we were seeing. We had come to expect something amazing and beautiful at any stop we made. That being said, we were not aware that the “Geysir’ at the Geothermal Park, wasn’t the one that was very active. After waiting for a while, we heard the most active geyser is called Strokkur. Maybe not the biggest Geysir in the park, but it was impressive.
On our drive into Þingvellir National Park, let’s just say Chippie earned his name. At one point, we stopped and checked the GPS. I thought there was no way you would have to drive through sheep on a gravel road to get to a national park. Oh Iceland, you proved me wrong. We pulled over on the side of the road, and just as we were checking the GPS, a tour bus passed us by.
It was worth the drive because Þingvellir was such a great combination of things to experience. Tectonic plates, parliamentary history, Öxarárfoss waterfall, the Prime Minister’s summer house, Iceland’s largest lake and a picturesque Þingvallakirkja church. Although it is a heavily trafficked tourist area, we lucked out an enjoyed blue skies and a sunny day to ramble through all the great sites the park offered.
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That evening, we headed to a spot that would be a shorter distance from where we had to return Chippie. We stayed in Hveragerði for the night. Besides the proximity to returning the car, the community had a geothermal pool where we could relax after our adventures. Just up the hill from the central campsite, we pulled Chippie into his spot for the night and headed up the hill. The geothermal spas, pools and steam room were so relaxing. It also introduced us to the local tradition in Iceland.
Like other nights on our trip, we opted to head into town to enjoy the local culture and cuisine. Since it wasn’t quite dinner time, we went to Ölverk Pizza & Brewery. Since Ölverk uses geothermal energy to brew its beer, we considered the brewery to be an ‘educational’ destination. We thoroughly explored the craftmanship of the brewer with a sample of the house beers. After dinner, we walked through town. Of course, no place in Iceland would be complete without its own waterfall, and Hveragerði was not different.
Enjoying the endless light, we went back to the campsite and set up our table and chairs outside of Chippie. Since the sky was so clear, we could see the sun go down. On previous nights, it was overcast, so we only just assumed the sun dipped to the horizon.
The next morning, we ate the remaining bits of food from the cooler, and headed back to Keflavik. We pulled into the car rental agency to return Chippie as we had left, in the soft rain of the Icelandic summer.
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