Wild, Wild Country
We have done a number of camping trips across the US. But, trying out a camper van was at the top of our to do list. While looking for options, it was easier to find vans with a manual transmission. But, we have never driven one before. After researching a bit, we decided to settle on automatic transmission to avoid the hassle. In retrospect, this turned out to be the best for us. It helped us be spontaneous & not think twice anywhere while driving through the country roads.
When trying to decide on a time to travel, we decided to do the trip on the last week of May. We did this for a couple of reasons. One, it was the week following Memorial Day. So, it was easier to take the week off. Second, May is a good shoulder season. June is the official start of summer. While summer has a promise of better weather, it also means a bigger crowd. We wanted to try our luck with the weather to escape the crowd. The first couple of days were wet and the rest was all great. On our way back (June 1st week), we revisited some of the places and noticed significantly higher crowd. We also realized that the waterfalls had more water and lagoons had huge icebergs as it was not too hot yet.
We started our trip from San Francisco with a vague idea of things to do and a whole lot of excitement about the camper van. When we picked up the van, we were a little disappointed that we didn’t get the Rent.is themed van. 🙁 We got a Volkswagen Caddy Camper which was super comfortable and spacious for the two of us. We stocked up with some basic cooking ingredients from a Bónus store near the airport. By the time we reached Reykjavik, our jet-lag hit us. We pulled into a gas station for a quick nap in our new found home on wheels!
Here are a few things to keep in mind the first day of your trip.
- Never overload with groceries from the first Bónus store. Only stock up for 3 days at a time.
- Don’t overstock with gas canisters. Some campgrounds have electric cooking stoves.
- Pay attention to the explanation on “How to use the portable gas stove!” during your check in. We spent some time trying to figure it out as we did not pay attention. It was raining during our pick up.
- When you land and if you are hungry there is a Domino’s right next to the Bónus. They only take 10 mins to prepare your pizza. Go shop and pick up the pizza when you are done shopping.
- If you are confused on whether to start the loop from South or North, follow the wind prediction, not the temperature/rain prediction. Ask the folks at the rental pick up and they can help you with this.
We both loved the sheer number of waterfalls throughout the drive around the island and each one was unique in someway or the other. The cute little lambs and friendly horses makes it even more fun. The first couple of days, we were in a hurry to get our day started on time. We would be tired in a few hours due to the lack of proper lunch. We tried to compensate by snacking on random stuff. We quickly realized that spending a few hours in the morning to prepare food for the day will help us retain energy throughout the day. Being vegetarians, we were not sure how expensive/available food would be. So, we decided to make our own. Soon, we started enjoying cooking outdoors especially right in front of beautiful lagoons, mountains & waterfalls. If you decide not to cook, most places has at least one vegetarian option.
Planning the day was relatively easy as well. Rent.is has a number of blogs that includes the map of the places to visit for each region which helped a ton. The rental also includes a WiFi hotspot. There was network connectivity 90% of the time making it super easy. We had a phone with Project Fi that worked as well. (Fun fact: 100% of Iceland population has internet connectivity!! Wow!!)
After a long day, it was refreshing to take a dip in the public pools. Most public pools were open until 8pm and costs less than 10 USD/person. We also visited the Laugarvatn Fontana at the end of our trip. We were trying to decide between the Laugarvatn Fontana and The Blue Lagoon for experiencing a natural geothermal pool. We picked Laugarvatn as it was less crowded & cheaper.
Iceland is truly a wild country and is filled with beautiful landscapes & endless scenery. Here are our top picks.
- Gljúfrábúi Waterfall
- Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
- Reynisfjara Beach – Black Sand Beach @ Vik
- Svartifoss & glacier
- Drive along east/north fjords as it is less crowded
Here is the list of campgrounds we used everyday from Day 1 to 9 in order. All campgrounds were nice and had warm showers and clean restrooms. Most campgrounds were around 15 USD/person.
- Laugarvatn campground
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfalls parking lot
- Skaftarhreppur campground
- Jökulsárlón Lagoon parking lot
- Egilsstaðir campground
- Dalvik campground
- Búðardalur campground
- Mosfellsdalur campground
- Back to Laugarvatn campground (We did this to take a dip at the geothermal pool – Laugarvatn Fontana)
Note: Not all parking lots allow camping. We chose allowed lots that had stunning views that we could not resist.
Here are some quick tips to plan your trip.
- If you forgot to set up a pin for your credit card, use your debit card. This applies mainly for gas stations.
- Everyone speaks English. Don’t worry.
- If you decide to cook, you get most ingredients. It’s also cheaper compared to restaurants.
- If you stick to the Ring Road, you ll find a small town with a campground and a swimming pool every 2 hours at least.
- The weather is unpredictable. Our first 2 days were a little wet and the rest was sunny. We loved it both.
- Bring your own electronics. It is expensive.
- Drive to your first destination for the next morning and sleep right next to it. Things get pretty crowded in the morning. Even better, use the midnight sun to avoid the crowd and to see the beautiful sunset and moon rise.
- Bring cash to pay for some campgrounds and showers that needs coins to pay.
Read more: Changed camper laws
Things we shopped:
- Veggies that are easy to cook: spinach, carrots, green peppers, onions, garlic, Cilantro, sprouts, avocado
- Carbs: rice, pasta, tortilla, noodles, bread
- Sauces & the rest: pasta sauce, thai curry sauce & coconut milk, bread spreads/cheese, salt, spices
- Snacks: dates/chocolates/biscuits/fruits. Skýr-drink and yogurt box (Although Skýr is a type of cheese 😉 ) A must try!
- Useful things to take: reusable cloth bags for shopping/storing, poncho, USB extension cord, power extension cord.
Most important of all, be spontaneous & have fun! We plan to revisit Iceland during winter to experience the Northern lights. Talking to the locals we learnt that the Northern lights will start around the end of August. Can’t wait to come back to experience it. 🙂
Read more: Discovering Iceland
Happy Camping! #CamperStories
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