The land of fire and ice has always intrigued me since I met an Icelandic man in Kendal and he showed me photos of his home country. Big mountains, glaciers and natural hot tubs; looked too good to be true. Cheap flights appeared on easyJet so the decision was simple, let’s go!
Accommodation is pretty expensive in Iceland, even for dorm rooms in a hostel. We wanted something more private with the freedom to move on whenever we fancied. We decided to rent a campervan as it’s a great way to travel around the island, being able to move around at your own pace without having the tent faff. There are hundreds of campervan rental companies. However, Iceland is expecting 2 million tourists this year so booking a campervan a month before leaving was not easy but I eventually found the perfect one.
You can rent that campervan here. I definitely recommend it. We bought a lot of food (and gin!) from the UK as the supermarkets are pricey. The cheapest Icelandic supermarket, Bónus, allowed us to stock up on fresh vegetables, tofu, skyr and halloumi. It actually contained a lot of health foods but for about quadruple the price of the UK. For example, a packet of halloumi was nearly £5. Even the locally produced Icelandic skyr yoghurt was £2 for 500ml. Skyr is delicious and they have a variety of flavours like banana, coconut and peach. It is full of protein, so it’s good for us veggies.
Having not really planned any set route, we firstly drove north of Reykjavík to the Golden Circle to see the classic Icelandic sites. Þingvellir National Park, a steaming hot Geysir and the brilliant waterfall, Gulfoss. After a packed morning we chilled out in Laugarvatn’s local swimming baths. It has a heated outdoor pool and three hot tubs at different temperatures. Nearly every town in Iceland has a geothermal heated swimming pool and it’s probably the cheapest activity to do whilst in Iceland. It’s about £4 and you can stay for as long as you like. They’re generally full of locals as many tourists opt for the more expensive swimming options like Fontana and Blue Lagoon. We swam in the local swimming pools at Laugarvatn, Kirkjubæjarklaustur, Borgarnes and Reykjavík. It’s also a good way of showering whilst camping too! You must shower completely naked before entering the swimming pools otherwise the locals will not be happy.
We drove south from the Golden Circle to the hot spring town of Hveragerði. We wanted to experience natural hot pots and Hveragerði is a great place to do this due to its high geothermal activity. We hiked 3km up into the Reykjadalur valley following the River Varma and passing bubbling hot pots boiling over 100°C. We found a secluded spot further up the river and hopped into the steaming water. It was bliss! Even the smell of strong sulphur couldn’t put you off this thermal wonder.
We joined the well travelled Ring Road and headed south east towards Skaftafell National Park. The scenery was breathtaking, each area having a completely different landscape. You can be looking out to rough seas and black sands, sea bird infested cliffs, epic waterfalls then suddenly out of nowhere appears the seriously amazing Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Even though I had read about it and had seen photos, it still excited me as I have never seen anything like it before.
After seeing a lot of what Iceland’s Ring Road has to offer, we decided to head back towards Reykjavík, then north on empty roads to the town of Borgarnes on the cusp of the Snæfellsness peninsula. A glacier protrudes right at the end of this spectacular peninsula with cute coastal villages looming beneath it. We walked from Hellnar to Arnarstapi, enjoying the excellent views of rough seas crashing against basalt columns.
Iceland is truly an awesome country with so many natural wonders and epic landscapes. Tourism is booming and it’s good to remember to be an ethical traveller and leave no trace whilst camping. It is important to treat this wild and wonderful country with the respect it deserves to preserve it’s raw beauty.