The Campers:

Sharon: The animal-lover, first-time camper, is gifted when it comes to talking to random people.

Kathy: The 7-month preggo, is often used by the other two campers to play the pregnancy card.

Jonas: The driver, also the guy responsible for the pregnancy.

Total dates: 2018.09.17 – 2018.09.22 (6 days / 5 nights)

The Camper: Renault Trafic 3 (You can find the details here)

Camper’s tip:

  1. Sign up for all insurance possible. It’s worth the money. Besides the included Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), we got the premium package which includes Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW), Gravel Protection (GP), Theft Protection (TP), and Sand and ash Protection (SAAP).
  2. If you traveling during winter (all the other months besides June – August), make sure you check if the campsites are open. It is worth checking because in two cases, I called in advance to learn that the sites were closed, but the friendly person who answered directed us to another site which was open.

September camping van Iceland Fall camping

The three of us are relatively petite and the camper was the perfect, cosy size for us, especially when it got a bit chilly at night. Make sure to check if the extra independent heater is working or not when you pick up the camper, because you will need it at night. We were lucky that everything worked perfectly, but we have met other campers on the road who weren’t as lucky and fell ill after two days of camping in the cold.

As a reference for the size, the model, Sharon, is 150 cm and can move around swiftly between the two car doors to avoid wearing hiking boots most of the time.

Choosing the right camper van

The camper comes with 3 pillows, 3 sleeping bags, and the sleeping area is 160×200 cm when you transform the table into sleeping area. All the basics for cooking are also included, but we never really had the need to turn on the fridge, because you can just leave the things to be cooled in a box outside at night and is much more effective than the small cooler.

Day One: 2018.09.17

Main Activity: Pick-up at our Airbnb near Keflavik Airport.

Camping site: Gata Free Camping (Google Maps)

Highlight of the day: Driving by the free camping site and finding it awesome. (For Sharon: touched her first dog in Iceland)

Gata Free Camping site Gata camping grounds

Since the pick-up time was at 16:00, we spent the first day exploring Reykjavik and were tired by the time we hit the road. The first stop was to drop by the supermarket and pick up water and some snacks before heading directly to the camping site.

The Gata Free Camping site is located next to a farm and has a small shack for cooking (it is not the most spacious kitchen, but it is sufficient to boil water and make use of the staples which other campers have left behind. The toilet is very clean and cosy (it is heated so I hid there while brushing my teeth) and in case you need to shower, you can pay a small fee and pick up the keys from the local residents there.

Day Two: 2018.09.18

Main Activity: 1 hour hike up Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River + bathing in it.

Seljalandsfoss (Link)

Camping Site: Vik Camping Site

Highlight of the day: Hands down the hot spring thermal river.

Camper’s tip: Pick up a few empty cardboard cartons when you do grocery shopping. They’re good to collect empty bottles and to put your muddy hiking boots in. We would also put milk and beers in a carton and leave it outside to chill during the night. Also bring a rain poncho for Seljalandsfoss as you are able to walk behind the falls!

Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River Reykjardalur Thermal Area

After waking up we made our way east towards the city Selfoss. We then made our way up north a bit in the direction of Hveragerði for a quick lunch and had originally planned to go to the Geothermal park. However, the staff at the tourist center next to the Bónus supermarket told us to to the outdoor thermal river instead. It should be a one hour hike and you end up bathing in an outdoor thermal river. This was definitely one of the best parts of the trip. Putting on your swimming suit before starting the hike makes things easier, and it helps to bring a towel to cover up when you change out of your wet clothes. The banks of the river have wooden platforms and steps for you to walk and leave your stuff on, but the river ground itself is not paved and in natural form. We ended up spending 2 hours in the water until the sun wasn’t shining on us anymore. It was still warm in the water but getting out took more courage – once again, having a towel helps! We would also recommend bringing a hat to cover your head while bathing.

After drying up we made our way to Seljalandsfoss and (surprise) to get wet again. Luckily, Sharon had prepared ponchos for us and we were therefore better prepared than many other visitors – it was also cheaper than buying them on spot. Walking behind the waterfall was really nice because there seemed to always be a rainbow present.

After spending an hour there we then left and kept on heading east to the Vik Camping Site. It cost 1750 ISK per person but to our disappointment, the shower was out of service (and cost 200 ISK for 5 minutes of hot water) and the toilets were not as nice as the ones from yesterday. Plus points for this site was the big indoor cooking and resting area where you could cook and sit down to use internet.

Day Three: 2018.09.19

Main Activity: 40 mins hike to Skaftafell, the waterfall that inspired the church in Reykjavik and walk on the beach of Jökulsárlón, the glacier lagoon.

Camping Site: Kirkjubæjarklaustur Camping

Highlight of the day: Drinking whisky out of a piece of chiseled ice from the glacier (minus the preggo)

Camper’s tip: The restaurant at the gas station near Skafafell “Veitingasala” – splurge and get the lamb chops which are amazing and reasonably-priced for Icelandic standards. The three of us shared two portions.

Svartifoss falls

The short hike to Skaftafell was really easy (and this comes from the preggo) and the waterfall was also impressive, although the awe came more from the rocks rather than the water. On the way back we took the path on the other side of the river (the left bank when facing the waterfall) and hiked up a bit more (the sign indicated something like 200m) to a flat area with stunning view, and faced some of the strongest winds ever – we could barely stand up.

Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon

After fueling up at Veitingasala and making use of the clean WC utiliies, we kept on heading east to the glacier lagoon. It was stunning. The shades of sapphire blue and the various shapes of ice in its natural form kept us wowing as we walked along the banks.

Of course, the more important mission for the visit was to search for a small block of ice drink Whisky from. Due to the quest of finding the perfect piece, we were forced to walk back and forth a few times before settling for a nice, clean piece that would fit in our Tupperware. Bring your own Swiss army knife!

Kirkjubæjarklaustur Campsite

We settled in at the camping site Kirkjubæjarklaustur (there are two in total – one is open all year and the other is only open in the summer) where there is a nice cosy kitchen with stoves, pots & pans, water boilers, etc. The utilities here were really nice and clean and cost only 1500 ISK per person (compared to day two it was a good bargain!)

Day Four: 2018.09.20

Main Activity: A walk on Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach and sun tanning on the basalt columns like seals and watch the permanent rainbow by Skógafoss

Camping Site: Skjöl Campgrounds

Highlight of the day: Showering and floating around in the Secret Lagoon

Camper’s tip: Go to this campsite BEFORE you go to the Old Lagoon Hot spring, because this campsite gives you a 20% discount voucher for the hotspring. Greatest fail we had on this trip. Also,
pack in a few clothing hangers. They come in handy after bathing.

Reynisfjara black sand beach Skógafoss Rainbow

We have heard that one has a high chance of seeing seals at the Reynisfjara Beach during this time. Although we only saw one in the water, the stone beach itself was beautiful to walk on. We also decided to take matters into our own hands and imitated seals while sitting on the rocks.

At this point we were pretty waterfall-saturated, but Skógafoss seemed to be a must on the to-do list. So on our way back we dropped by and had to admit that it was worth it. There is basically a
permanent rainbow painted in front of the waterfall, and no matter how you took the pictures, it was almost always Instagramable. There is a stairway on the right leading up to the top of the falls.

Secret Lagoon - Iceland Basalt Columns south Iceland

Note that at this point, the last shower involving shampoo was before we picked up the camper, and the closest thing we came to showering in between was the thermal river on day 2 – definitely a new milestone for our friendship. So the only reasonable thing to do was to hit the “Secret” Lagoon, which, by the way, we found on Google, so the word “secret” isn’t exactly what distinguishes the lagoon.

What makes it so special is more of the its history (the oldest public thermal bath since 1891) and the fact that is located next to geysers. Everyone needs to shower before entering the pool (at this point we were desperate to oblige) and then jump in the pool. It is nice to order a beer or wine to relax and watch the geysers spit out water and steam while simmering in it.

Skjöl Campgrounds is located at a really nice restaurant/bar with really nice staff. Even though there is no kitchen, the guy at the bar was nice enough to provide us with all the hot water we wanted. As mentioned, try going there before you visit the Secret Lagoon, because you can get a 20% discount – that should be enough to get you a drink.

Day Five: 2018.09.21

Main Activity: Visit to the Geysir, a 4km walk to Brúarfoss and the scenic drive along Þingvellir National Park and then along the fjord to Akranes

Camping Site: Akranes Campsite

Highlight of the day: Watch the Northern lights with the camp cat at the campsite

Camper’s tip: Watch the Northern Lights forecast and stay awake. The activity is strongest at 11-12 at night.

Brúarfoss falls September Northern Lights

We started the day with a visit to the Geysir but were not entirely impressed. The walk to Brúarfoss was flat and relaxing, and on the way back we even ran into a few ponies grazing freely on the path – needless to say, Sharon was on the spot stroking and speaking to them as if they were long-lost friends. The waterfall was also nice, but as mentioned, we had seen quite a share of them already. We took another route when heading back west in the direction of Reykjavik.

We drove along the Þingvellir National Park and made various stops along the lake. We then went along the shores of the fjord and then ended up in Akranes, a small city with a lighthouse. When calling the campsite to check if they were open, the guy who answered told us to make sure we arrived before 10, because they have been seeing polar lights for the past few days and this evening seemed promising as well. Luckily enough, we really go to see them between 11:00 PM and midnight, marking the perfect end to our trip. The campsite itself was quaint and cosy with very clean toilets. Even though there was no indoor kitchen, we let our stove stand outside to cook with staying warm in the laundry room.

Day Six: 2018.09.22

Main Activity: Drive back to Reykjavík, returning camper and airport drop-off

Highlight of the day: Return the rental camper hassle-free!

Akranes Campgrounds Hallgrimskirkja Church Reykjavik

After 6 amazing waterfalls, 36 roundabouts, and hundreds of sheep. We covered the total distance of 1202 km!

We tanked a total of 110 liters, but this includes the amount which we used for the engine heater at night. Fuel in Iceland is not cheap, and in total it cost us 25,110 ISK. But it was worth every cent,
considering we did not freeze at night and covered a good total distance.

Map of our route:

South Iceland Camping Trip map

Thank you, Iceland. You have amazed us with your beauty. Until next time!

September Aurora Borealis


Read more: Icelandic escape

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