Top 5 Places to visit in Iceland
Our Top 5 Places to Visit by Campervan in Iceland
So you’re thinking about driving around Iceland. Good news: you really can’t do this wrong. Traveling around the Ring Road (Route 1) in a Campervan is going to be a good idea even if you don’t do a ton of planning. Even if you don’t plan every meal, camp at all the best spots, or hike every mountain that catches your eye, you’re still going to have a good time. In fact, if you do nothing more than just hop in a Campervan and drive the Ring Road, you’ll easily see a dozen or more of the coolest things you’ve ever seen — gurgling pots of steaming sulfuric water at Hverarönd, breathtaking waterfalls, enormous craters looming up from the flat earth, ridiculous geysers bursting forth, and mile after mile of gorgeous, unmatched natural beauty. However, the Campervan allows you a bit more flexibility in your exploring and you’ll inevitably discover a few unique spots away from the maddening crowds. Here are a few of our favorites!
If you take the detour towards Snæfellsnes National Park, on the western edge of the country just north of Reykjavik, this naturally fed hot pot is an awesome little excursion off the beaten path. We got there mid-day in July and had the place all to ourselves. It’s not hard to find — as you travel from Reykjavik towards Snæfellsnes on Route 54, you will pass Eldborg Crater (on your left). There is literally one main road, so you won’t get lost. After you’ve passed the crater, you’ll see an abandoned farm house on the left and a sign that says Skáld. There’s a road/driveway right before the farm. Turn left onto that road. You’ll follow the road up and around, past the farm and back into the middle of a field. Once you get a few minutes back into the middle of nowhere, you will see a small parking lot. If you’re lucky, you will be the only car there. Follow the path to the left out to the main pool, which is pipe-fed by geothermal heated water. Have a soak and enjoy yourself — we did!
This very remote, very beautiful peninsula is a few hours’ detour before you get into Akureyri (the second largest “city” in Iceland after Reykjavik), but it’s worth it. Make sure you approach it along the Route 75 bridge, where the crossing is narrowest. The views are staggering, the roads are fun to drive, and the little towns are full of great surprises (charming coffee houses, handmade crafts, and more). Go for a hike in Siglufjörður (Sigli to the locals), buy an Icelandic sweater in Hófsós, and have lunch at the resort at Lónkot. And beware of the trolls.
Our time on this peninsula was the highlight of our trip, and not only because of the stunning glacial drive in and the quaint, bucolic town and brightly colored houses. We happened to arrive in the midst of the EU sponsored art festival, Lunga. Against the backdrop of the most beautiful fjord we’d ever visited, we were exposed to a range of art and music that was truly international. From German folk songs to electronica, it was an amazing experience.
We stayed the night at the campgrounds in Seyðisfjörður, and the next day we went kayaking with local kayak guide, Hlýnur Oddsson. Make sure you take a peek around his shop and get to know him a little bit before you go out — he’s an interesting dude. Seyðisfjörður is also home to some tasty restaurants — great bar food at Kaffi Lára El Grillo Bar, fresh sushi and Asian offerings at Norð Austur, and most importantly, kickass coffee and breakfast at the Skaftfell Bistro. When you’re finished with your breakfast at the Bistro, head upstairs to the second floor for an outsider gallery showcasing all kinds of art.
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Skaftafell National Park
If you’re looking for an amazing day hike, look no further than Skaftafell National Park. We arrived at Skaftafell after visiting Jökulsárlón, the Glacier Lagoon. We started off at the Visitor’s Center, and followed the Skaftafellsheiði trail– a full list of trails is available online. It was definitely worth it to pack a picnic lunch, plenty of water, and make a day of it. Our hike lasted around 4-6 hours, but it felt like we could have spent twice that long breathing in the crisp glacial air and basking in amazing views that surrounded us.
I know, I know — you went to Iceland for the hot pots. And as you see above, we found some great natural ones. And you have to go to Mývatn or the Blue Lagoon just to say you’ve done it (we chose Mývatn, it was awesome). But a pro tip we discovered along the way is that Icelandic swimming pools are much cooler than American swimming pools, and every town has one. If you want an authentic Icelandic experience, visit one of these.
While most Icelanders that you’ll run into during your travels will work in the tourism industry and act unfailingly professional and accommodating, the swimming pools are a good chance to meet some locals in their natural habitat. These swimming pools are replete with hot tubs of ascending geothermal heat along with saunas, water slides, kiddie pools, and lanes for swimming laps. It’s easy to imagine how important these pools are during the bitter cold and eternal darkness of the long winter months. Don’t skip them if you visit in the winter.
The main tourist stops along the Ring Road are awesome. Visit as many of them as you have time for, but don’t beat yourself up if you pass one or two. Something just as cool is probably coming up around the next bend.
Enjoy yourself, enjoy the Campervan, and enjoy the country. It’s the best!
Read more: Putting the ring on a Ring road adventure
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