The Cousin Camper
5 days, 3 girls, 1 camper van, and a whole lot of places we can’t pronounce! This is the story of three cousins: (from left to right) Maureen, MaryKate, and Deirdre on our very own pilgrimage from Plymouth, MA to the land of fire and ice. After a sleepless red eye flight, we touched down in KEF Monday morning ready for an espresso shot and to hit the ground running.
Our first day was spent exploring the charming city of Reykjavik. As we strolled down the scenic waterfront, we stopped to admire the Sun Voyager (and get a pic for the ‘gram of course) before heading up the street in search of Hallgrímskirkja. The towering church was pretty easy to find as it perches over the entire city with Leifur Eiríksson standing out front to greet us, or at least a 50-ton statue of him.
As lunchtime rolled around, we had no doubt in our minds where we were headed: to get the best hot dogs in the world. From the moment we started planning this trip, we knew Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur was a must and now we’re begging you, please ask us about our wieners (they were pretty great).
After a chilly morning of wandering through the colorful streets of the city, we were ready for a little R&R and a geothermal spa was just the place for it. With our mud masks on and drinks in hand, we enjoyed a lovely afternoon wading in the Blue Lagoon.
Tuesday was the big day: the day we got Dirty Dan the Camper van. He was clean as a whistle but the name just stuck. We loaded up our bags and took off for the Golden Circle, starting with Þingvellir National Park. We cruised through the park but unfortunately did not have enough time to stop, daylight is limited here in October and we had a long list of sites to see.
Next on the itinerary came Strokkur Geyser. We were stoked to see it erupt just minutes after we arrived and wandered through the geothermal park in awe as we witnessed some of the most amazing natural hot springs in the world.
From the geysers it was off to the one and only Gullfoss. As the most powerful waterfall in the world, we figured it was worth chasing. Sadly, we forgot to keep a waterfall count when we set off on our adventure but we figured that we saw about 500 waterfalls in total (just a rough estimate).
As the sun began to set, we veered off the Golden Circle and took a little detour to catch a glimpse of Kerið Crater. This massive caldera was created from a volcano that collapsed after it emptied its magma chamber when it erupted.
While its nearly impossible to pick a favorite foss here in Iceland, Seljalandsfoss could top all the rest in our book. If you’re going south on the Ring Road Seljalandsfoss comes into view from quite a distance, but the closer you get the better. Following the gravel path all the way around the gushing cascade and taking in the breathtaking view from behind the waterfall is well worth getting a little wet (or a lot, still worth it).
A little further down the road came Skógafoss, another picturesque view with an interesting twist: somewhere behind the waterfall is said to be a buried treasure from the first Vikings who inhabited the area. Some locals made an attempt to retrieve the treasure but were only able to get a grip on a ring that broke off of the chest as it disappeared once again. This ring is now on display at the Skógasafn museum but if you’re adventurous enough, you might try to find the rest of the treasure yourself.
A bucket list item for this trip was definitely seeing the DC-4 plane wreck. We had read before hand that it was a bit of walk to get to (4km one way to be exact) but we did not expect it to be the most treacherous walk of the trip. It was a test of will power to push through the gale force winds to a destination we weren’t sure we would even reach; it is not until the last 5 minutes of this 45 minute trek that the plane, or at least what’s left of it, finally comes into view. Exploring the wreckage and taking some chilling pictures with the debris was a unique experience that made the brutal walk a little less painful. Reynissandur Beach was our last stop for the day; the impressive basalt rock formations tower over the black sand and make for a breathtaking panoramic view!
Wednesday was the first night we spent in Dirty Dan, and man was it an experience. How long do you think it takes 3 girls to figure out how to lay down the back seat? A lot longer than you would expect… But once we got that sorted and popped the roof, we were ready for the ultimate slumber party. Everything we needed for a good nights sleep was there: pillows, sleeping bags, a mattress, etc. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t as accommodating with gale force winds and pounding rain threatening to wash us into the ocean. Luckily Dirty Dan stood strong and we were back on the road within 5 minutes of waking up!
The Diamond Beach was our first destination for the day and it was spectacular. If you start at the Glacier Lagoon and follow the river under the bridge and across the street to the beach, you can get the complete experience of witnessing how the “diamonds” are formed. We were blown away at the process and loved strolling down the beach through these precious gems; as you know, diamonds are a girl’s best friend!
Our final day (*insert sad face*) was spent exploring the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. We were all about staying hydrated throughout this trip so we figured we would test out some natural mineral water first; when they said it has a strong iron taste, they weren’t lying.
As we continued down the road, we saw a herd of horses and pulled over to take some pictures. They were pretty far in from the road so we decided to hop over the fence and get a little closer; at first we weren’t sure how they would react, but the horses turned out to be the best friends we made in Iceland! They came right over to us and loved being pet, it honestly seemed like they were fighting for our attention, nudging each other out of the way. When we went to leave, they followed us all the way to the fence; we were ready to load them all up into Dirty Dan and take them with us, they were that cute.
One of the most underrated stops we made on our road trip was at the Rauðafeldsgjá Gorge. From the outside, it just looks like a crack in the rolling mountains but if you’re brave enough to venture inside (and willing to get pretty wet) then you’re in for a treat! We followed the river over rocks and around curves all the way to its source: a gushing waterfall deep in the canyon. It was a bit of physical walk with some maneuvering and rock climbing involved but it was a great adventure. Pro tip: Bring extra shoes and socks if you plan on going into the gorge, you’ll thank yourself later (we sure did).
As we made our way through the peninsula, we also stopped at Saxhóll crater for a magnificent view of the lava fields from the top of an old volcano and Kirkjufell, known as one of the most stunning mountains in the world for its near-perfect cylinder shape.
When Saturday morning rolled around, we just weren’t ready to say goodbye to Dirty Dan. When we went to return it at 10 am, we asked for a few more hours with our beloved camper van and they said go for it! We had just enough time for one last adventure so we headed to the Bridge Between Two Continents; it’s only 15 minutes from the airport and a great way to end our trip. We stood on the bridge that connects the North American and Eurasia continental plates, how many people can say that?
Overall, we had the most amazing experience touring around Iceland in our camper van. Dirty Dan was everything we could have asked for and more! So if you’re asking yourself if renting a camper van to explore this natural oasis is right for you, let us tell you, it sure is!
Read more: It’s bath time around Iceland
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