We found the following links very helpful for our pre-trip planning and information:
- Google Flights helped us find good roundtrip airfare by looking over a period of a few months and selected the lowest-priced option.
- AirBnB is what we used for two nights in Reykjavik.
- KuKu Campers is the campervan company we rented with (disclosure: they discounted our reservation as a sponsorship for the above video I made).
- We DID NOT get a CampCard but WISH we did so highly recommend it if you're camping in a tent or campervan for sure... we stayed at a campsite almost every night due to the proximity to a bathroom and showers.
- Some blogs/websites we appreciate were theExpert Vagabond, I Heart Reykjavik, TripAdvisor, Mr. and Ms. Adventure, andYoung Adventuress.
- The book we used throughout the entire trip was the Lonely Planet Iceland Travel Guide. This informed many of our Points of Interest and decisions below, and gave plenty of history, operating hours, and backstory to the things we were able to see.
We flew in to Reykjavik from NYC (originating in Orlando, FL where we live) and landed at 8:30am. After landing we headed straight to the blue lagoon with our pre-booked "premium ticket package" that is highly recommended across everything we read. The lines at the Blue Lagoon were pretty long, even for the "premium ticket" holders so we definitely recommend not going on the cheap if possible because it will translate to much longer wait times.
After we had our fill of relaxation and first taste of Icelandic cuisine it was off to the KuKu Campers main office to pick up our ride. When we arrived we were kindly introduced to our home for the next week, Shania:
After picking Shania up we stopped into a nearby BÓNUS and picked up some much needed supplies... cream cheese, bagels, lots of water and some delicious snacks (Side note: if you go to Iceland you MUST try Ris Buff... it's one of the best things we have ever eaten) before starting our journey.
We originally were going to do the Golden Circle on day one however, after our overnight Delta flight decided to leave their cabin lights on the entire time and serve chicken salad sandwiches at 3am, we were pretty tired and chose to begin the Ring Road and save it for our final day. For us (and if you're following along on the map above) this meant hitting up Seljalandsfoss waterfall.
After Seljalandsfoss we headed to the next major waterfall on the Ring Road, Skogafoss.
As the sun came up on our second day we found ourselves heading to Vik's black sand beach on the small peninsula of Dyrhólaey. This area included beautiful basalt columns and, of course, stunning black sand
After gawking like the tourists we were for quite a while it was time to head over to the Brunnhóll Dairy Farm for some home-made dandelion ice cream (which was out of this world delicious). We continued on to Höfn where we tried the Steak Sandwich and a Langoustine Baguette at Hafnarbúðin (an old-school feeling Icelandic diner). After we had filled our bellies we continued on through djúpavogshreppur to the little town of Stokksnes which provided much needed facilities, some great street art, and a spot to rest for free!
Our third day had us determined to hit Dettifoss, the waterfall located within Vatnajökull National Park in the Northeast of Iceland. When you are driving to this waterfall there are two road options: one paved, and one unpaved. It's important to note that, thus far, even "paved" roads have horrifically torn up dirt and gravel filled unpaved areas, so we opted for the longer but paved route to this site.
After we got back and had some dinner we took the one-hour trek down to theBjarg campsite in Reykjahlíð and watched the midnight sun setting before enjoying a hot shower, using the restrooms, and then passing out.
The next morning we continued on our journey to Grjótagjá, the very same rock grotto where a scene from Game of Thrones was filmed. It was surreal to see the ground torn in two at this geological fissure, and the cave was beautiful inside. Word of caution: watch where you step inside the cave... as you will find throughout Iceland there aren't many warnings or areas that are roped off, and there were definitely slippery and precarious spots, as well as pointy rocks at head-level.
The campsite here had great facilities, no showers, but was overall a solid respite from the road. There was also no charge to stay here, which was nice as well.
At this point in the trip we were definitely pro's when it came to Iceland. We had tasted the delicious hotdogs which each gas station serves, realized that all stores/pools open very late and close very early (I'm talking open at 11am and close at 5pm), learned that Olis gas stations typically had free wifi, and praised the magic of sleeping masks (very helpful when it's never dark and you're living out of a van). We were on the cusp of the Snæfellsnes peninsula, host to a wide variety of sights and scenery so we began the day hiking up to the Sugandisey lighthouse in Stykkisholmur. The lighthouse was a squat little thing but it had a lot of character and provided some incredible views! We were also able to stop at the lovely little red church in Helgafell which, though pretty and highly lauded, was a little bit underwhelming for the amount of recommendations we found for it online.
I had an opportunity to fly the Vandal Flag (the University of Idaho is where I got my masters degree and it holds a place near and dear to my heart) on the next stretch of the journey from Stykkisholmur to Bjarnarhöfn. We also had the opportunity to soak up some of more breathtaking scenery on our stretch to Snæfellsjökull National Park.
We woke up among the sprawling natural beauty of Þingvellir and began to plan our day accordingly... we wanted to explore the park in the morning and then check out the golden circle throughout the afternoon. The day began walking around the park, exploring the tectonic continental divide, taking in the reflective shallow waters, and learning about Lögberg (the law rock).
(click here to see an interesting short little video of Geysir erupting on my instagram)
Our seventh day led us to bring Shania back to her home, check out some outlet shopping, and then check-in to our AirBnB in Reykjavik. There were many outlets near the KuKu Campers home base including 66°NORTH, ICEWear, and a few others. We ate lunch at a MetroBurger (which is basically McDonalds with chalkboard menus) and our stomachs regretted it immediately.
After lunch it was time to check in to our AirBnB in downtown Reykjavik. We ended up working with a very kind and communicative fellow named Kristján who rented us his 1Br/1Ba with a spectacular view of the water:
The final day we spent in Iceland was dedicated to exploring Reykjavik, and boy did we! We started at the highly lauded and Björk-favorite Grái Kötturinn (grey cat) cafe where I had "The Truck" which seemed like it consisted of a little bit of everything served in this restaurant. After filling up on coffee and breakfast it was time to head downtown to the Icelandic Phallological Museum. This turned out to be pretty disappointing, basic, and cobbled together... it was definitely a novelty which I would not recommend if you aren't spending a lot of time in the city.
After that we headed across the river to the National Museum of Iceland which was located on the University of Iceland's campus. The museum was very informative and interesting... remember earlier when I mentioned the thing about churches and farmers? This was where we learned it. The National Museum is a must-stop if you are in the city and interested in history at all... it takes you through each decade meticulously, and provides a lot of background on the things you will see or have seen in the country. The University of Iceland also has a nice campus which was fun to explore! Do note that this is pretty far off the "beaten path" and middle of the city... you're looking at a 20-30 minute walk from downtown if you choose to hoof it out there.
Our next stop was the C is for Cookie cafe where we enjoyed some pastries, street art, and a coffee before continuing on.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post on our trip!
12 final points and summary of tips and takeaways on this trip:
- We read over and over again that you can't (shouldn't?) do the Ring Road in less than seven days. We did, without rushing, and it was completely fine. If you plan your route, are flexible, and identify things you MUST see ahead of time you can do it.
- This trip can definitely be expensive. Ashley and I got out at a decent rate but don't forget that gasoline, food, and almost everything else is a bit more expensive in Iceland, and it adds up. It's not impossible to do on a budget, but we definitely maxed out what we wanted to spend by the end of the trip.
- Take (calculate) risks. Some of the best times that we had were climbing a little too far out on windy cliffs, getting a gopro video up-close and personal with a waterfall, bouldering down into the basin of Goðafoss, petting wild horses in a farmers field, and sinking in to 100°+ water in a geothermal river. Iceland is wild and unforgiving, and the real fun is out in the nature.
- The operating hours for businesses are not very conducive to your trip. They open very late in the morning and close very early. Know what they are ahead of time and plan to stock up, buy souvenirs, and visit the attractions you're interested in.
- Get an international data plan for your cell phone. You never know what you might need to look up and, for $30, it's worth it to have when needed.
- Bring a little cash. All of the guides indicated that you don't need it at all, and we didn't, except for the $20 to get into the Icelandic Phallological Museum and the Bjarg campsite. you don't need much, but have some just in case.
- Spend the money to go Whale Watching. You're in Iceland. When will you ever get that chance again? On the same note, spend the money on a wool product that makes sense for you. We live in Florida so sweaters weren't the thing I was looking for, but a blanket worked out perfectly.
- There are plenty of gas stations everywhere. Many guides warned to "fill up every time you see one!" but we did not find that to be true and were never more than 30 minutes from a station.
- Buy the rock insurance no your vehicle. Even if you don't plan to go off-road it's important to note that there are parts of the main road, the ring road, that are COMPLETELY UNPAVED and covered with rocks.
- Bring warm clothes. I am cold blooded, grew up in the north, and was happy that I had long-sleeve clothes with me (and we were there in July). It's not horrifyingly bad and I did wear shorts for one of the days, but you definitely want to be prepared for the weather there.
- You don't tip in Iceland. It's simply not a thing.
- The water kind of smells like farts. It's the sulfur. Not a lot of guides talk about this but you should probably know that when you turn that shower head on and smell rotten eggs it's ok and the water is clean and it's all going to be ok. Just prepare yourself.