The Idiot’s Guide to Iceland
Three Perth Men Underestimate the Icelandic Climate
Picture this, three 22-year-old Australians planning a trip to Iceland 2 months before the departure date. It’s 30 degrees, the air conditioning is running and we’re all wearing shorts what more could go wrong?
You might be asking – why Iceland? That was an easy one: the scenery, Arctic sky, snow and an undeniable story that would be told after the adventure. We all knew we wanted to do something crazy, something a little different and what better way than to camper van around Iceland in the heart of its Winter.
The preparation was easy. Long johns, Gloves, Passport; check, check, check & we’re good to go. How wrong we could have been. About a week before leaving; Jordan asked: “How are we going to go to the toilet and shower boys”. “Easy as” I replied, “Just bring a towel, there’s plenty of campsites open that we can go to”. Sounds good right? Nope – we were soon to find out how wrong we were.
If there was one thing we researched extensively it was the cheapest way to get to Iceland. You might as well think of us as PhD or Masters students and that was our thesis. If only we applied that research to anything but the flights. Like every PhD student we burnt out after we booked the flights – but I digress.
Our monster one-way flight to Iceland was about to begin. Easy as, Perth to Bali, Bali to Jakarta, Jakarta to Amsterdam, and finally Amsterdam to Iceland.
Now the star of the show was Iceland, so I don’t want to bore you with the flight details. But to be short: it was long, hard and I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
We arrived in Iceland late afternoon – It was dark and cold, but we only had one thing on our minds; duty free alcohol. If there’s one thing you need to know, Iceland’s alcohol is beyond expensive – even by Australian standards. A single bottle of Jaeger will set you back $50, while in the USA it’s only $15.
Tip of the day 1# Even better quick tip, do not leave your hard earned bottle of Jägermeister in the Airbnb’s freezer the night before you pick up your camper van. If anyone finds it, enjoy it for us, and know that we still think about it to this day.
For our first night in Iceland, we decided to relax before our big road trip was about to begin. We decided to eat a nice home cooked meal.
Bonus Tip: Buy your groceries from BÓNUS to save some of your hard earned money
Picking up the vehicle
Before picking up our van, Eleanor at Rent.is was by far a life saver. Driving in a different country can be super nerve wracking. However, Eleanor answered all of our rookie Australian questions and made us feel one hundred percent comfortable. She gave us campsite, insurance, and driving advice. So, if Eleanor is reading this, thank you for your Icelandic wisdom. As soon as we picked up our van, we knew we were in for an extremely good time.
Our suitcases were in, the aux cord was plugged, and we began our road trip around Iceland ready to explore the ice caves, winding roads, mountains, and breathtaking waterfalls. Living in Australia we almost never saw snow and had no experience driving in snow – lucky for us the roads were dry and the weather was good.
We couldn’t have been more wrong – with all 0 minutes of our snow driving experience, we got caught in a snowstorm. But with our trusty Rent.is van, who we called Dan, we felt as safe as safe can be. Our plan was to go around the Ring road – first to Þingvellir national park, Geysir, Gullfoss falls and finally drive to Seljalandsfoss and setup camp.
We began Day Two by waking up to a beautiful sunrise. One-hundred percent joking; it was pitch black and freezing. However, we were exceptionally keen to tick off Icelandic waters and a visit to the Black Sand Beach off our bucket-lists. As the day went on we finally had a glimpse of the sun. It was incredible to see it for the first time in a few days. We all had a vision to take a picture of the ocean waves breaking on the black sand. Picture this, we pulled up to Black Sand Beach and it starts pouring down. Devastating right? We look at each other and say, “we will only ever be here once”, and started running to the beach.
The wind was exceptionally strong, the snow was freezing, but we had the biggest smiles on our faces. This is what adventure feels like. Not sitting on a beach chair next to a pool, being out in the open in a place that almost seemed like a different world was the adventure. We ran back to our van, blasted the heat and was just amazed at the climate change. Being from Australia, we are so used to running to our cars and turning on the air conditioning the full way, but now we are doing the exact opposite. The van’s heating felt like heaven, and the pure adrenaline was kicking in. This is the type of holiday we were after. We ended the day with boiling hot noodles that tasted like heaven. Shoutout to our van for have all the equipment to taste our chicken noodles.
Tip of the Day 2# Do not be scared to adventure off your route. If you see something interesting in the distance, drive there. The camper is your home; you can take it almost anywhere. Looking back on these will create a sense of happiness and a desire to travel more.
Day 3 was a much deserved “relax day”. We embraced the winding roads and just drove around. We made hot drinks all day thanks to our travel stove and the WiFi in the van meant we could upload photos from our trip to our social media. Mainly to record and showcase our travels, and partly to make people jealous. The number one message we received from our photos was just “whoa”; that seems like a common word that describes Iceland well. People wanted to post our photos on their social media and couldn’t believe we were actually camping in Iceland.
As it was during the winter, a lot of campsites were not open. Which was a bit of a bummer. But luckily for us, rent.is camper van made a little dirt road feel like a hotel. Where ever we pulled over, we were able to have a comfortable sleep under the stars.
Tip of the Day 3# Take at least 20 to 40 photos and videos every day. Take photos of your bed setup, where you are camping, videos of you driving, and dancing in the van.
Read more: All year campsites
We woke up yet again to complete darkness ready to journey to our much-awaited ice cave tour in our trusty camper van. The road trip to our destination was filled with pure excitement, good music, and warmth thanks to our trusty van heater. This all changed when we got to the ice caves on our tour as we realized yet again how harsh the Icelandic winds can be. By the end of the tour, our toes were numb thanks to our ill-equipped choice of boots and we couldn’t wait to get back into the warmth of the van. Another lesson on the importance of planning for holiday climates well learnt.
Our journey on the road back from the ice caves was filled with scenic views usually only reserved for desktop screensavers. We traveled past frozen blue lakes surrounded by sand that almost looked as surfable as the pristine beaches back home. A spontaneous decision to stop over at what look liked a small hill with a decent vantage point lead us to a spectacular view of a frozen glacier gorge hidden in plain sight. We were also lucky enough to catch a clear view of the sun setting, and the mixture of golden, pink and purple hues from the combination of the sun and clouds was a real sight to behold. We were yet again reminded of the true beauty of this unique country.
Tip of the Day 4# Not sure if you knew this, but Iceland is cold! Bring layers and layers of clothes.
Our final full day in this beautiful country was the warmest we had been this whole trip. The majority of the day was spent at the Blue lagoon geothermal pool, which was a great way to finish the trip. The combination of the cold open air, as well as the warmth of the crystal blue pool water, was truly heaven.
Our journey back to Keflavik late that afternoon was filled with a welcome surprise as we were suddenly driving through a mild snowstorm as darkness had set in. We were so taken by surprise that we forgot to record the brief encounter as our dependable camper van moved on unphased. We arrived in the city where we stopped off at KFC for a little taste of home before finding a nice quiet spot along the water to set up the camper for the night. We had as enjoyable of a sleep in the camper as one possibly could from a few hours before we had to pack up and head to the van drop off location before our flight out.
Unfortunately, being still half asleep as we packed up our things, one of us forgot our wallet in the van, which was later recovered by Hilmar who provided us with a very entertaining drive to the airport. As we were no longer in the country when it was recovered, the decision was made to dispose of the wallet and its contents. At least we were slightly comforted by the fact that a bit of us will forever be Iceland.
Tip of the Day 5#
Brag. Tell friends of your adventure and make them jealous.
Read more: Southern Iceland in 7 days
Happy Camping! #CamperStories
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