The Ring road in a VW Caddy Camper
A 9 day Ring Road trip through the eyes of CC the Caddy Camper
In this blog post you’ll find details of all the stops on our 9 day Ring Road trip with CC, our VW Caddy Camper. You may not see pictures of every breathtaking sight however, because at this point you’ve surely seen a hundred pictures of Skógafoss, so all the pictures here feature our beloved CC or are taken from her point of view. CC has poor night vision thought and can’t fly so you’ll get some bonus shots from us of the Northern Lights and a bird’s eye view tour of the Highlands. Enjoy!
My husband David and I landed at 5 am in Keflavik on Thursday Sept 21st and picked up CC. Rather than waiting around in Reykjavik until the grocery store opened at 11, we went straight to our first stop on the Golden Circle, Þingvellir National Park. Here you can walk down to Silfra, the fissure between the continents of North America and Europe, and watch brave souls snorkel or scuba in the freezing water. We stopped at the BÓNUS grocery story in Selfoss to get groceries for our trip and then headed to Kerið crater. A nice trail lets you walk around the top and also the bottom.
Then we found Brúarfoss waterfall. This is one of the lesser-known waterfalls on the Golden Circle, definitely off the beaten path, but one of our favorites from the entire trip. The water is an amazing color blue – so glad we persisted when our GPS couldn’t locate it exactly! Geysir and Strokkur geysirs were up next. Honestly we felt we could have skipped these and not missed much. Gullfoss waterfall though was immense and so cool to see in person.
We spent a couple hours soaking and relaxing in the Gamla Laugin (aka Secret Lagoon). We found that campsite showers used cash money, which we did not have, so we took our showers at hot springs and city pools. Just bring your shampoo/soap and a change of clothes in to the locker room with you and you can get cleaned up after you are done relaxing, all for the price of entry (plus most had hair dryers!)
We spent the first night at Brautarholt campsite. It was a long evening trying to get settled into the camper van, figure out where to store everything, getting dinner prepped and getting the camper converted for bed. Key packing tip – don’t bring suitcases, bring duffel bags without any bars so that you can unpack all clothing and such into the bags in the back windows and then ball up the bag to shove under the seat so you don’t have to move bags around every day.
On Day 2 we visited Seljalandsfoss, which is a huge waterfall you can walk behind. Word to the wise, it rains all the time and in a second’s notice in Iceland so come prepared with waterproof everything. We would have been absolutely miserable without waterproof pants you can wear over sweats or jeans, a waterproof rain coat, and waterproof boots. Walking behind the fall is like walking into a shower but such a cool view! Do not skip its lesser known neighbor, Gljúfrabúi. David referred to this as the Goonie’s waterfall – you have to walk through a crack in the side of the hill and then the fall is inside this cave of sorts with a large rock you can stand on in front of it. Again, prepare to be absolutely soaked!
We also visited Skógafoss (take the stairs to see the view from the top), Dýrhólaey Cliffs, Reynisfjara black sand beach with a basalt column cave and beautiful rock formations out in the water, and drove through the Eldhraun lava field. We wish we had had time for Kvernufoss hidden fall (another one you can walk behind) but alas we did not.
Our final stop was Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon. A nice ½ mile hike each way in and out is a great bit of exercise and we were rewarded with a surprise waterfall at the end and a nice big viewing platform. We stayed on the side of the road leading back out to the Ring Road that night in a little pull out area.
TONS of rain and wind all night also brought an email saying that our Glacier Hike we had booked for the morning of Day 3 was cancelled! BUMMER. So, we let the sound of the pelting rain lull us back to sleep for several more hours. After a late start, we planned to hike to Svartifoss in Skaftafell National Park but we caught a glimpse of a glacier as we rounded the bend and decided to go check it out. After an impromptu 2 hour glacier-adjacent hike next to Svinafellsjökull glacier, we ran out of time for Svartifoss and I am bummed we missed it. But we ended up with an epic glacier story.
Then we made our way to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach, both of which were incredible. A couple hours spent here for photography and then we were on our way to Höfn. We went to the Sundlaug Hornafjarðar City Pool here to relax in the hot tub and then get cleaned up for our first meal out during our trip. We had the best lobster ever at Humarhöfnin Veitingahus.
Food and alcohol is insanely expensive in Iceland so we chose our eating out opportunities very specifically and sparingly. We only ate out for one breakfast, two lunches, and two dinners over 9.5 days of our trip. We did go out for local beers three times and fancy coffees one morning but otherwise had gas station coffees and meals from the grocery store and our trusty camp stove and refrigerated cooler. We did indulge in a trip to the Duty Free store before leaving the airport our first day so we had some Bailey’s for our morning coffees and whiskey with our camp stove dinners.
Gotta live a little, right? 😉 We stayed that night on the roadside off the Ring Road on the way to Stokksnes.
Days 4, 5, and 6 took us to East and Northeast Iceland and the geothermal area. These days ended up with a very different order of activities and route than we originally planned when preparing our trip. The only other activity we had pre-booked besides the glacier hike was a three hour propeller plane tour of the Highlands, departing from Akureyri.
When our glacier hike got cancelled we looked ahead to the weather forecast for the day our plane tour was scheduled (Day 7) and it looked horrible with 90% chance of rain. The morning of Day 5 looked great however and they let us move up our reservation by two days. So our mission on Day 4 was to make it the 6 hours to Akureyri, skipping some spots on the Eastern shore we had hoped to see and bypassing the geothermal area to return a couple days later. We started Day 4 in Stokksnes which usually features beautiful cliffs but that morning they were covered in fog. There’s also an old movie set of a Viking village but that was disappointing as well and all in all we would skip Stokksnes next time unless the weather is clear and skip the village altogether.
“…is the road Ben Stiller skateboards on in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty…”
We did make time for a stop in Seyðisfjörður and had lunch at a cute grill and bar called Kaffi Lara to celebrate our 6 year wedding anniversary. The steep and windy road going down into Seyðisfjörður is the road Ben Stiller skateboards on in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It’s a super cute little coastal town for an afternoon stop. We ended up camping that night at a little vista point parking lot next to the small lake Ljósavatn. It was here that we saw the Northern Lights for the first time!! David was pumped to try his hand at astro-photography and photographing the Northern Lights, and we splurged before our trip on a nice camera and lens and spent some time watching tutorials and practicing at a park outside of Nashville.
For the Northern Light shots he used the Sony A6000 mirrorless camera with a Rokinon ultra wide-angle manual focus lens. And, of course, a tripod, which is absolutely necessary to eliminate blur during the long shutter speed needed to capture those killer colors and infinite stars. Something I did not expect about the Northern Lights was that some nights you could tell they were there because there was a wispy white appearance like clouds but you could not appreciate the color to them with the naked eye – that was only visible in the photo on the camera screen afterward. We spent hours outside in the cold getting some awesome shots of the Lights!
Day 5 we headed into Akureyri for our plane ride. We ended up with a little extra time and the chance to visit the cutest little Christmas garden and store called Jólagarðurinn. It has the world’s largest Advent calendar in the white tower behind the store (who knew!) with beautiful views of the hillside. We did the “Askja Highland Ultimate” 8-seater propeller plane tour with Circle Air, and it was one of our most favorite activities of the trip. We flew over the mountains around Akureyri into the Askja Highlands, around Lake Viti and Öskjuvatn, and past the head of Dyngjujökull glacier. We landed on a sand landing strip in front of the beautiful and formidable Herðubreið Mountain. The landing strip was built by NASA to train Apollo mission astronauts for moon landings, because they thought the terrain would simulate the expected terrain of the moon. Then we flew over Lake Mývatn and saw the pseudo-craters from above, as well as Viti crater, Hverfjall tuff ring volcano, and Goðafoss waterfall, before flying over the fjord back into Akureyri.
Getting a bird’s eye view of the highlands was incredible and I highly recommend taking a trip with Circle Air. While it is certainly a big money item, it was one of the most exciting parts of our trip and well worth every penny. Also, compared to other helicopter tours I price checked, especially those leaving from the Reykjavik area, it was actually quite a fair price as far as dollars per minute of flying time goes. DO IT.
We ended our day with a drive up to Ásbyrgi Canyon. The campground here was beautiful and we had just enough time to hike the Eyjan “island” trail to the end of the peninsula that juts into the canyon center and watch the sunset from the tip. This was the second night we saw the Northern Lights and also got some great shots of the Big Dipper and the Milky Way!!
Day 6 we circled back around through the Northeastern Geothermal area. We made a stop at Dettifoss, considered Europe’s most powerful waterfall. Then we visited the Námafjall mud pits and Grjótagjá cave (both super smelly and could skip both if pressed for time). We did make time for the Mývatn Nature Baths and our third shower of the trip. We chose not to go to the Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik. Friends had said it was overpriced, hard to get in to sometimes reservation scheduling wise, that the scenery around the Lagoon was not nice and that they felt herded like cattle in and out.
“…Beware, those going east have the right of way…”
Mývatn Nature Baths are touted as the “Blue Lagoon of the North” and advertised as more laid back, and I’m glad we chose to go here instead. Our favorite part was actually the hot tub and the cedar sauna. After our soak, we stopped by for a ground’s eye view of Goðafoss and then headed up to the town of Siglufjörður. We had heard that driving through the mountain tunnels alone make the trip to Siglufjörður worth it and they were pretty cool. One was one-lane! Beware, those going east have the right of way but there are pull-outs for passing all along the side of the tunnel for those driving west bound. We hoped to visit Segull 67 brewery in Siglufjörður but it was closed, so we got some Segull 67 beer at the bar in Torgið restaurant.
We backtracked through just one tunnel to camp at a picnic area in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights again but were told by a policeman who later pulled up that we could not stay there. I’m still unclear on the rules, if you just can’t stay overnight in picnic areas specifically or if you are not supposed to camp in roadside pullouts in general (as we had done prior nights) but we moved to the campground in Siglufjörður and stayed in campgrounds for the remaining nights.
On day 7 we needed to get from Siglufjörður to Stykkishólmur and chose to do a couple of detours that made for a long day of driving. We went up to Hvitserkur rock formation – super neat to see it standing out in the water all alone. If the tide is out you can walk all the way out to it. Even if the tide is in, we recommend walking down to the beach and getting some pictures of it at eye level, not just standing on the viewing platform on the hillside. We also did a little loop up into what I called the “wrist” of the Western Fjords (anyone else think the Western Fjords look like a hand?!).
It was neat to see just a bit of what is referred to as the best of untouched Icelandic nature. Get gas when you see a station on this more remote stretch of the drive (and note that you must have a card that has a PIN to get gas at the pump, at least in our experience). We ended the day at the campsite in Stykkishólmur. Our propane ran out and the one gas station in town only sold one size of canister that did not fit our stove so this was our worst night dinner-wise. We hit the hay to prep for…
Day 8 on the Snæfellsnes peninsula! We started the day with a short hike up Mt Helgafell which we would not recommend, especially on a rainy day. Luckily the weather cleared a bit for our favorite stop of the day at Kirkjufellsfoss in front of Kirkjufell Mountain. We spent some time with the very friendly Icelandic horses here and got some beautiful pictures of this uniquely shaped mountain. We stopped at Skardsvik Golden Beach (just a regular beach! It’s just not black 😉 ) and walked the many stairs to the top of Saxhóll Crater.
Then we did a guided tour of Vatnshellir Lava Tube Cave. This was super cool as we actually got to walk inside 3 separate lava tube caves. They do tours on the hour and you can buy tickets 20 minutes or so prior to the tour you want to take at the little office just next to the cave entrance. We snuck in a view of Lónsdrangar cliffs and then stopped in the towns of Hellnar and Arnastapi. Both have large, beautiful, rocky ocean arches you can walk on top of for an awesome picture. We also did the 20 minute hike up to Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge. After realizing that without getting significantly wet, dirty, and maybe a little injured we wouldn’t be able see much of the small fall that is inside the gorge, we wish we had driven up to the Snæfellsjökull glacier instead. If you do the Gljúfrábúi cave waterfall (which you must!), then skip the gorge.
Tried to see the Landbrotalaug Hot Pot (tiny hot spring with room for just 3-4 people) but there were too many other people there waiting. We went to the city pool in Borgarnes instead and had a blast on the water slides, the 3 hot tubs, and the sauna, and of course the coveted shower at the end. At the Borgarnes campsite was the third night we saw the Northern Lights and the best yet! They were so bright and active this time you could appreciate the color with the naked eye!
Day 9 we drove the final hour into Reykjavik through the Hvalfjörður tunnel and spent the last day exploring the capital city. We made up for all of our grocery store meals by eating out all 3 meals this day and visiting 2 bars. Woo hoo! We started with waffles and Swiss Mochas at Mokka Kaffi, the city’s oldest coffee shop. Then we did a two-hour walking tour with City Walk Reykjavik. We highly recommend this activity, it’s such a fun and unique way to get your bearings in a new city and see a lot of the highlights in the main downtown area in a short time. Our guide was super knowledgeable and funny, and our group asked a lot of great questions so we learned a ton too! It is technically free, but they ask that you donate whatever you think it was worth at the end in whatever currency you have! If you are going to do it, do it as your first Reykjavik activity because at the end they send you a link to a personalized website where your guide has listed all of his/her favorite things to do in Reykjavik (restaurants, bars, clubs, museums, shopping)! An invaluable resource straight from a local!
We ended up choosing hot dogs at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur (try a lamb hot dog with the crumbled fried onions!), a walk through The Settlement Exhibition (where you can learn about Iceland’s first settlers), MicroBar (get a 10-beer flight of all local craft brews), Skúli Craft Bar (where maybe you can accidentally crash a corporate party like we did and get free drinks!), and finally an incredible dinner at the Fish Market. Every friend who had visited Iceland had recommended this place to us and it did not disappoint! We chose the 9-course chef’s tasting menu and added a 10th course (gluttons! Could not pass up the lobster bisque!). We were there for over 3 hours and enjoyed ourselves so much!! We left fat and happy and settled in for one final night in the Reykjavik campground.
The final morning we had just enough time for a quick coffee at Café Babalú and then had to pack up, return the van, and head to the airport to catch our flight home. We had an incredible trip and made memories we will cherish for the rest of our lives. Rent.is helped make that possible! I had spent HOURS online researching camper van styles, prices, amenities, and accessories, and I am confident we got the BEST deal and the best product that you could ever want for your very own Ring Road trip around Iceland.
Cheers to your very own trip of a lifetime,
Holly & David, Nashville, TN
Read more: 10 Days around Iceland – A beautiful trip
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