Top tips for a Roadtrip in Iceland
Luke & Matt’s Top Tips for Road-Tripping Iceland
Hi. We’re Luke and Matt and we have just returned home after a week driving round Iceland in a Rent.is camper. It was awesome, and to help any fellow travelers out, here are our top tips based on our experience. We hope you find it useful.
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Tip 1: Get off to a good start
The 4×4 pulled into the hotel car park and out jumped a local. He jogged over. “Are you guys waiting to pick up a car?” Of course we were, we couldn’t wait to get started. We hop into the 4×4 and set off back to the office. Upon arrival we follow our guide into the rental office, where he takes a call. He hangs up: “Er, I’ve picked up the wrong people, sorry.”
Like I say, get off to a good start (and check you’re in the right car). In all seriousness, the exchange point at the correct place was as smooth as you like and we were off and away in no time on our trip of a lifetime, with the following (color-coded, I might add) map to guide us:
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Tip 2: Choose a good camper
Chilling in some other-worldly terrain
I’m not just saying this, the 2-bed camper van Matt & I stayed in was awesome. Being November there were a few things we were concerned about temperature-wise (Matt didn’t help himself by forgetting a woolly hat), but the van was more than up to the challenge:
1. Fully-functioning Wi-Fi. Perfect for researching your current location and checking the weather forecast (which changes every 2 minutes)
2. An immense heater which runs all night — you do not need to be worried about the cold!
3. Bluetooth music player — we drove A LOT and there is nothing better than having endless music from your iPad to accompany you on the road. In fact, Matt & I took to exploring different genres each day, culminating in our very own Iceland Spotify playlist (it’s great). Here is us enjoying the playlist:
4. Driving around in a camper like this allows you to pull up in out-of-the-way spots close to incredible waterfalls (watch out to avoid the official car parks which don’t allow overnight stays!) and really gives you the freedom to explore this incredible country in the most unique way.
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Tip 3: Keep your costs down with the camping stove
Iceland is well-known to be quite expensive. Thankfully with your rent.is camper van you get a camping stove, utensils, a table and chairs, meaning you can have your meals out in the wilderness and not in a restaurant.
Read more: What’s included in your camper hire
We may have struggled to move our hands in the wind and the rain, but there is nothing more satisfying than settling down to a bowl of 49k. Beef Noodles that you cooked yourself outside the back of the van. Here is me and Matt settling down to it on the first night:
Pasta & Sausages for dinner
Here we are doing the same thing by a river and feeling very pleased with ourselves.
When you do have to inevitably spend money, fear not; everywhere takes card — I would take some Kroner with you to be safe, but I got by without taking any local currency with me for the entire week!
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Tip 4: The sights we recommend the most
As a photographer, the landscape scenes were the main reason I wanted to go to Iceland in the first place, and it didn’t disappoint! There are a number of sights that are familiar along the more popular routes, but that does not make them any less mind-blowing. Here are some of my best recommendations with snaps:
1. Waterfalls. Sometimes you can’t go more than 5 minutes without seeing a waterfall in Iceland. All are special, but not all waterfalls were created equal…
Gullfoss in the early morning
The view from behind Seljalandsfoss
2. Jökulsárlón , the Glacier Lagoon; for me this was the highlight of the trip — from the sky-blue lagoon with the glacier in the distance, through to the jet-black beach with countless icebergs:
Iceberg on the beach at Glacier Lagoon
I spent so much time taking photos on the beach Matt went for a lie-down.
3. Kirkjufell mountain and its waterfalls are simply stunning:
Kirkjufell and its waterfall
4. The unplanned spots — get out of your camper and explore! A couple of my favourite spots we stumbled upon when we decided to wander along a riverbank or up a hill which wasn’t an ‘official’ location:
5. Icelandic churches look great and make for a great photo:
6. Go looking for Björk:
She wasn’t there
7. Just enjoy the emptiness:
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Tip 5: Plan, Plan, Plan
1. In November, you are looking at sunrise around 9am and sunset around 4:30pm, and you really notice the short daylight hours when you are driving from one spot to the next. As such, you want to make every second count. Have your breakfast before it gets light for example and hit the road early!
2. With extended night-times, I’d recommend planning what to spend your evenings doing. We opted for sipping whisky whilst watching Game of Thrones most evenings (a winning combination).
3. Know where you will head for your morning cup of coffee and toilet stop. We bought breakfast most mornings from a nearby cafe which sets you up nicely for whatever you have in store that day. Just don’t spill coffee all down your jeans.
This was coffee, honest.
4. Be prepared to change your plan according to the weather forecast! I recommend checking the weather forecasts every couple of hours. We spent one whole day just driving to our furthest destination (Glacier Lagoon) without stopping as it rained for a full 24 hours.
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Tip 6: Photography Advice
I’m no professional, but a few things to note about Iceland, and travelling there in the winter months to any other photographers out there considering going:
1. For us, it rained around 50% of the time — be prepared for that. But rain can mean rainbows.
2. When you get direct sunlight, whatever the time of day, the light is amazing, given the sun is permanently low in the sky:
3. The weather is incredibly changeable. If you experience good conditions suddenly on the road, get out of your car and take advantage of it while you can before it changes again!
4. Don’t leave your rucksack with two lenses in on a beach for over an hour in the rain when it’s pitch black (glad I didn’t…)
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Everyone has to do their trip in their own way, and I hope this blog helps others to plan their own trips! Ultimately it is very difficult to go wrong in such a varied country as Iceland, and with a rent.is camper, you can be your own boss and change your plan depending on whatever the weather feels like that day.
Whatever you do, I insist you buy a buff to replace your scarf — they are the best invention ever.
Read more: Finding Solitude in Iceland
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