I was idly perusing Google Flights on a cold evening, as one does, and found an amazing price for a roundtrip to Reykjavik, Iceland over Memorial Day weekend. An unexpired Schengen visa and a couple days PTO were urging me to hit book, and who am I to withstand them? As simple as that, we were off to Iceland!
One of the reasons it took me so long to write about this trip was that I didn’t know where to start. Epic doesn’t begin to describe Iceland and its otherworldly landscape. Added to that, we met such charming people and had such amazing experiences that it was hard to process for a while. But I think it is time.
Two of our dear friends joined us for this trip, so we decided to adventure it up a bit by renting camper vans. I mean, as if the geothermal pools, the volcanic land, the numerous glaciers, awe-inspiring waterfalls, the ice covered black beaches weren’t enough. We rented two different styles of camper vans, so I can give you the low down on everything you might expect or encounter. My husband and I rented a Mink Camper, which is a teardrop camper that attaches to the back of your car. Our friends rented a traditional camper van from Cozy Campers which has a bed that folds into a bench and a sink. I have a whole section below with all the information you need to choose and rent your camper van!
But first, I’d love to guide you through an amazing four / five day itinerary for the south coast of Iceland. I made it before we visited, and perfected it during our trip so that it would help all of you!
Table of Contents
- The South Coast Itinerary
- A Google Map You Can Save
- Camper Van Basics and Logistics
- Which type of Camper?
- Wifi Information
- Driving Information
- When to Visit
- Camping FAQs
- Understanding Overcrowding in Iceland
- My Next Iceland Trip
The South Coast Itinerary
There is so much to explore in Iceland! We were there for four days which is definitely not enough. However, my philosophy is to make the most of the vacation days you have, rather than bemoaning the lack of them and staying at home. I digress. While four days is definitely not long enough to explore even a quarter of Iceland’s majesty, it is a good amount of time to get an initial taste of the South Coast. In late spring, we got almost 20 hours of sunlight per day! Hence, we could really maximize our days.
This is by no means an easy itinerary. It involves over 650 miles of driving in four days, with at most six hours of sleep per night. For us, it was totally worth it! Feel free to add an extra day and do this more slowly, or cut some of it.
Day 1 – Blue Lagoon, Waterfalls, Dyrholay Lookout
|Stops||Blue Lagoon (pick up camper sometime before or after), Seljalandsfoss & Gljufrabui, Skogafoss, Dyrholay|
|End||Vik Camping Ground|
You’ve heard all about it, you’ve seen a thousand pictures. You’ve also no doubt heard that it is not a natural hot spring, that it formed from a man made run off from a geothermal plant. You may have also heard that it is commercial and touristy. All of the above are true, and yet, I say you must visit the Blue Lagoon. It is one of the most wondrous ways to recover from a plane ride.
Another awesome benefit of heading to the Blue Lagoon straight from the airport is that it is much closer to Keflavik Airport than Reykjavik. We picked up the Mink Camper before the Blue Lagoon, so it was a bit of a detour. The Blue Lagoon offers shuttle pick up from the airport, so you could choose to do that instead and then head to pick up the camper.
Our flight timings worked out so that we got to the Blue Lagoon early in the morning, soon after it opened. This was great, because it was not crowded and the showers were very clean!
Once you have detoxed at the Blue Lagoon, head to the nearest grocery store. I have marked the Bonus we went to on the map below. Get your groceries for the next few days (recommend making a list on your plane ride there) and start your adventure!
The rest of this day is reserved for three amazing waterfalls! Foss in Icelandic means waterfall, so it is safe to assume that anything ending in foss is a waterfall. And you will see plenty of them, big and small!
Sejalandsfoss is famous as the waterfall you can walk behind. Imagine looking at a waterfall from within rather than without, ensconsed between an ancient rock face and a relentless force of water. Well, if you go to Sejalandsfoss, you have to imagine it no longer. I have been, and can attest that it is an overwhelming feeling.
As usual, I advise you to wait out the tour buses if you happen to catch them there. Hopefully, you will arrive here later in the day, when the tour busses have already left, and you can converse with Sejalandsfoss in peace.
This waterfall whose name I cannot pronounce was my favorite out of all the foss we saw in Iceland. When we reached Sejalandsfoss, there were a few people waiting for pictures and we wanted to avoid the crowds. So we kept walking toward another waterfall we saw. Once we got there, lo and behold, it was hidden behind a small slit in the cliffs. A secret waterfall! There was no one here, everyone was concentrated around the popular tourist destination. We scrambled in through the slit (thank goodness for our waterproof shoes) and marveled at the majestic force of the water. See a video on my Iceland Instagram stories highlights!
Skogafoss, on the road to Vik, is one of Iceland’s biggest and most powerful waterfalls. We didn’t actually stop there, just admired it, and the rainbows it produced, from the road. I recommend a quick stop to admire it from the ground. If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, take the Skogafoss stairs to view the astounding falls from the top!
Finish off at the outlook Dyrholaey. Here, you will find some of the most stunning views of the South Coast of Iceland, including the famous Black Sand Beach. If you are lucky, you might also see some puffins!
Once you get your fill of the stunning views, take yourself to Vik Campground. We found a cute picnic spot on one of the cliffs between Dyrholaey and Vik, in case you want to stop for a snack!
The campsite is near the beach in the little town of Vik. Not the most remote location to camp, but it is clean, has a common room where you can cook if it gets cold, and has showers!
Day 2 – Black Sand Beach, Glacier Lagoon, Diamond Beach, Svartifoss Waterfall Hike
|Start||Vik Camping Ground|
|Stops||Reynisfjara Beach, Eldhraun Lava Field, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Diamond Beach, Hofskirkja, Svartifoss hike|
One of the main reasons for camping at Vik is to visit the popular Reynisfjara beach early in the morning. This beach gets very crowded, so the earlier (or later) you visit the better! I recommend heading there even before you eat your breakfast, then coming back to the campsite and cooking / showering etc.
I was much more fascinated by the basalt columns on the beach rather than the black sand itself. They made me flash back to Game of Thrones, and at that moment, I could relate to Iceland being the land of Ice & Fire.
The black sand volcanic sand was so otherworldly! Be careful at Reynisfjara – many people have lost their lives here. The waves look sweet enough in my picture below, but they can whip you out forever into an ice cold sea.
Once you have your fill of Reynisfjara, head back to the campsite to freshen up (yes they have showers!) for more adventures. This is going to be a long driving day, but you will forget that you are driving on Planet Earth!
Set your destination as Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, but add a couple of stops on the way. We stopped at Systrakaffi for lunch. We had heard that Icelandic restaurants are very expensive, but honestly, this was comparable to eating in NYC. The camembert cheese was delicious as was the local arctic char! If you don’t eat in the tiny town Kirkjubæjarklaustur, make sure you have enough food to last you for the day. The next place you can get some food would directly be Hof or Jökulsárlón Glacier cafe.
The drive to Jökulsárlón is truly otherworldly. The most fairy-tale esque moments are while driving through Eldhraun, fields of lava covered with moss. Even the name harkens to the Lord of the Rings, I truly felt like I was somewhere in Middle Earth. Eldhraun was formed after one of the largest eruptions on Earth after the Ice Age ended, an eruption that brought rains of ash on Europe and caused widespread famine. Eldhraun no longer hints of its smoldering beginning, but waits, peaceful and beautiful.
Before you can decide if Eldhraun was real or an illusion, the landscape changes and the road seems to drive straight into the largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull! It is totally mesmerizing.
When you finally get close to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, pull over before actually hitting the glacier lagoon parking lot. You can witness the lagoon without the chatter of other tourists, and commune peacefully with the floating ice.
This is history in a blue lagoon! The Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is dotted with icebergs from the nearby glaciers. The ice is over a thousand years old – imagine how much of the world has been absorbed into it! If you wait long enough, you might see some ice chip off from a nearby glacier and gracefully join its counterparts in the lagoon.
As I mentioned before, there is a cafe nearby if you want to warm up with some hot chocolate. You could also take a boat trip on the lagoon! Make sure to bundle up well.
Next up is my favorite spot in Iceland. And since you’ve seen all the gorgeous sights we saw so far, having a favorite must mean this place was extra extra special. It is named Breiðamerkursandur but referred to simply as Diamond Beach. It lies just across from the Glacier Lagoon.
I had such a transcendental experience at the Diamond Beach that I wrote a few lines about it that evening.
One of the most meditative experiences of my life was on this magical black beach studded with ice. It was bitterly cold, my fingers were frozen and my companions had gone back to warm up in the car. I was the only one on this black stretch of volcanic sand, watching the waves gush in and deposit rough pieces of ice. I was mesmerized for I had never seen anything like it before. We had traveled for five and a half hours on a plane, ten or so hours in a car, to discover a totally otherworldly Planet Earth.
At the very same moment, I could feel the enormity of our gorgeous planet, and the insignificance of myself. And I let go of my fears and insecurities and just surrendered to this wild gem of nature. In that moment, I fell in love with our planet as I had never before. A true Diamond in the rough.– Tanmaya Godbole, May 27th 2019
If you can tear yourself away from the magical Diamond Beach, it is time to head back west.
A quick stop at Hofskirkja, a church that basically looks like it grew out of the ground. It was so cute! I can imagine an idyllic world where kids (hobbits) would grow up and go to school in such buildings, running wild the rest of their days.
Buildings in Iceland had thatched roofs like this until concrete took over in the 19th century. This was the last church with a thatched roof built in Iceland, in 1884.
Now, because you are in Iceland, it is time for another waterfall. This one is especially unique though, because the water falls over basalt columns, sort of like the ones you saw in Reynisfjara. It is located in the giant Vatnajökull National Park, aka the land of ice and fire.
This foss is called Svartifoss, and it takes a short hike to get there. I highly recommend it, it is a good way to stretch your legs and get the blood flowing after all that driving.
The good news is that all your driving for the day is done! You can camp near by at Skaftafell Camping, which has the added benefit of glacier views.
Phew, Day 2 was exhausting, and totally unlike anything else you’ve seen in your life! If you are like me, it will take you some time to actually process what you saw, and marvel at experiencing one wonderful sight after another – all within 24 hours! Don’t worry, you are probably in the best location possible to reflect. Sitting under the pink midnight sky, the imposing Vatnajökull glacier behind you, a warm cup of tea in your hand and good friends beside you. What more do you need?
Day 3 – Westman Islands Puffins, Kerid Crater, Laugarvatn Fontana
|Stops||Westman Island, Kerid Crater, Laugarvatn Fontana|
Day 3 was one of the strangest days for us, but probably the one we look back on most fondly. I hope you don’t have any mis-adventures, but if you do, know that they become wonderful memories!
The highlight of this day should be some black and white little things with colorful beaks. Millions of puffins reside and breed on the Westman Islands between mid-April and mid-August. In order to get to the Westman Islands, you need to take a ferry from Landeyjahöfn. Book your tickets in advance if you want to bring your car on the ferry (I recommend leaving your camper behind at the parking lot). We did not book in advance, so couldn’t bring our car, thus leading to our misadventures. However, don’t worry if you can’t buy tickets online, they sell tickets at the harbor and there seem to be plenty for people, just not for cars. Make sure to show up at least 30 minutes before departure. Here is the ferry schedule.
You are essentially doubling back the way you drove yesterday, but I guarantee you will see more irresistible sights that you somehow missed before.
If I forgot to mention this before, know that the spring water in Iceland is very safe to drink. It is actually what you pay for in $5 bottles at home.
I fell a little bit in love with Icelandic villages. Basically, a village is just a clump of houses near a waterfall.
Once you get to Landeyjahofn and buy your ferry tickets, get ready for a gorgeous ride in the North Atlantic! It is a pretty quick ride, about 40 minutes. The entry into Heimay, the only inhabited island in the Westman Islands is stunning! Great cliffs etched with the homes of birds, a calm sea, and fresh breeze will greet you.
Start off with feeding your stomach once you get to Heimaey (the city on the only inhabited island of the Westman Islands). I recommend Gott, a cute little family-owned place about a 5 min walk from the harbor serving up delicious food. A welcome change after cooking your meals at camp!
Then, think about the puffins! We thought we could easily walk to the puffin lookout, so set out on a 5.3 km (3.2 mile) trek over the island, walking through the windiest place in Europe to boot. While it is a fond and fun memory to look back on, I would not recommend doing this. We got to the lookout and saw…one puffin! Whereas some people who took a tour right before us said they saw hundreds. For this activity, I highly recommend booking a nature tour (suggestions here and here). The guides will know where to go based on the time and weather conditions.
The windiest place in Europe, Stórhöfði, is a fun stop for sure – but not when you are irritated from what seems like an endless walk. I can confirm that it was truly windy, we were terrified of getting blown off the cliff.
I complain about the walk, but most of the times we saw such cute little sights of daily life. Little kids biking home from school, some helping and some ignoring a little girl who fell off her bike, beautiful Icelandic horses grazing with their backs to a stunning view, cute little homes that looked like doll’s houses, an actual doll’s house with an Icelandic flag flying proudly…you get the gist.
The puffin lookout is a cute little cabin at the edge of a cliff, with large windows that I suspect are for spotting…puffins. We spotted hundreds of sheep, grazing precariously on the cliffs, and one little puffin, far off in the distance. It was definitely nice to get some warmth there though, if only there was some mulled wine….
In order to preserve our sanity and our friendships, we splurged on a taxi to get back to town. We went straight to Brother’s Brewery, to decompress with some gorgeous Icelandic beer. We had such a lovely time chatting with Johaan (one of the founders) and his wife, hearing their stories about beer, Iceland, volcanic eruptions and Heimaey. Some of my favorite fun facts were that water they use comes from a glacier formed more than two thousand years and that it is so pure that they have to insert some impurities into it to make tasty beer.
Johaan also told us about the volcanic eruption in Heimaey in the 1970s which displaced his family along with most of the island. He showed us how the street right outside the brewery was covered in ash. It was a somber tale, but the spirit of hope and friendship in the heroic tales during and after the eruption was heartwarming. The volcanic cone formed by the eruption was named Eldfell (so Lord of the Ringsy!). You can actually hike Eldfell, but if you do, I recommend staying overnight in the Westman Islands.
We went to the Westman Islands to see puffins, but came back with treasured stories of life in Iceland. As a traveler, these are the moments that warm my heart, the moments when I feel justified in spending so much time, money and energy on travel. I simply love discovering the world, and that includes discovering delightful bits of every day life in regions totally different from my own. More than the differences, it amazes me how many similarities there are between us humans.Tanmaya Godbole
Once you are back, it is time to restock on your groceries for dinner and then make your way to Iceland’s infamous Golden Circle. This is not, as you might think, a circle of gold, but a popular tourist route close enough to Reykjavik, filled with lots of gems. Since you are headed there late in the evening, don’t worry about the tourists.
I suggest doing a quick stop at Kerið Crater. Kerið is a volcanic crater, formed three thousand years ago. As volcanic craters go, it is quite young, so the slopes are red instead of black. Take a walk around the entire crater, and then walk down into the crater itself. It might be a young crater, but it felt ancient to me!
Camping for three nights, driving hundreds of miles a day, and taking quick lukewarm showers can get a little draining. The best cure? Laugarvatn Fontana, a hot spring spa located right on the Golden Circle, very close to tonight’s campsite! After our adventures, we couldn’t think of a single better way to end our day. It was…perfect! Laugarvatn Fontana is set on Laugarvatn lake, and you can dip into different pools of different temperatures before dipping into the freezing lake. I am sorry to report that none of us took the plunge, but we did try the water of the lake through an outdoor shower. It was freezing. We were there till it closed at 10 pm, they were too polite to kick us out. They also have a buffet, so if you are smart, eat something there before they close.
Last stop of the day is Geysir Campground. If you are anything like us, you will complain about making dinner in the subzero temperatures, cheer up as you sit in the Cozy Camper drinking some wine and recounting your adventures, and then with a smile on your face, fall into a deep sleep.
Day 4 – Geysir, Gullfoss, quick stop in Reykjavik
|Stops||Geysir Hot Springs, Gullfoss, Thingvellir National Park, Reykjavik|
|End||Reykjavik or Keflavik Airport|
Quick note about the Geysir campsite – it is a bit small, but we had plenty of room when we visited. The common area also seems very old and outdated, but the bathrooms were sparkling clean! They do have a shower, but it has to be accessed through their office so is only open during office hours.
The Geysir Geothermal Area is located in the Golden Circle in Iceland. Geysir is a now dormant geyser (the name geyser originated from Geysir!) which shot out as high as 270 feet of water in its heyday. These days you can observe the reliable Stokkur, which shoots out every few minutes. Get your cameras ready!
Since we camped right next door, we took a walk in the geothermal park early in the morning. I suggest doing the same, because we saw it packed with tourists when we left our campsite around 9 am.
This was one of the most otherworldly walks I’ve been on. It was a frosty morning, a few degrees below freezing, and we were out on this ancient land that seemed to shoot out steam every few minutes. I have never been to Yosemite, so to me this was mind blowing!
Take the long way up the little hill back to your campsite, because this is where I finally sighted the lovely purple bloom in Iceland. If you visit in the summer, this will probably be more ubiquitous, but for us, this was a lovely surprise!
Head back to camp, freshen up and get some coffee at the hotel across the street. Sorry, this is the Golden Circle, so there are convenient hotels. My friend who
is obsessed with loves showers was a bit upset to see that he had to camp right next to a hotel (when he could have been in a luxurious room showering instead) – but don’t despair! Camping did save you a lot of money and got you closer to nature. Win-Win!
Once you are fully caffeinated to tackle the day, head to Gullfoss, Iceland’s version of Niagara Falls, only better. There is not much I can say about Gullfoss. Yes it is awesome, it is powerful, it is wonderous. It is also not my version of Iceland because it feels more like a theme park packed with tour busses. Oh well, it is definitely a sight you should see once. Marvel at its magnificence and don’t spend too much time there.
Time for lunch! Head to Fridheimar, a tomato heaven! You have to book in advance, so check out their website. They even serve tomato beer!
Once you are done, I recommend returning your Mink Camper and then heading to Reykjavik. Parking in Reykjavik will be a lot easier without the camper attached to your car!
We didn’t have much time in Reykjavik, but I was enchanted with what I saw! The architecture is very interesting, and the people very friendly. An excellent cortado at Reykjavik Roasters cemented my liking toward the city.
If you like woolen things, I recommend visiting the Handknitting Association of Iceland. My friend is an avid knitter, and she looked like she’d won the lottery when we visited!
If you’ve read any of my Italian blog posts, you know that I have a penchant for climbing up old buildings in Europe for a small fee. The fee to climb (elevator) up the gorgeous Hallgrimskirkja is not small, since it is in Iceland, but it was well worth it for me! I genuinely recommend you do it, especially if you don’t have much time in Reykjavik. The lovely city views will definitely help you prioritize a return visit!
For us, this was sadly the end of our first Icelandic adventure! We headed to the airport, where Iceland Air gave us a free business class upgrade (just in case I needed another reason to love Iceland!) It is a quick flight back to New York City, but what a completely different world!
If you don’t have access to a space ship just yet, I recommend you head to Iceland for a taste of unearthliness.
Day 5 (Optional) – Explore Reykjavik
I wish we had more time in Reykjavik. It is a really cool city, and deserves at least a whole day to explore. If you can spare a vacation day, I recommend staying overnight in Reykjavik and flying out in the evening of Day 5. I loved tosomeplacenew’s guide to free activities in Reykjavik!
A Google Map For Your Trip
Here is a handy map with everything I mentioned in the itinerary. The locations in the legend are arranged in order. You can save this map directly to your own Google Maps, find out how here.
Camper Van Basics and Logistics
I 100% recommend renting a camper van for your Icelandic adventure! For one, you feel closer to nature, without having to freeze in a tent. For another, you can choose to stop whenever you want, which means you can keep your itinerary pretty flexible! I recommend marking all the available campsites on your Google Maps so you always have options on where to stop for the night.
Which Type of Camper Should You Rent?
This is totally up to you! Here’s a breakdown on the Pros and Cons of each, you can take it from there. I think it is a very personal choice, as it depends on your priorities and even the season in which you visit.
|Mink Camper||Traditional Camper|
|Driving||You can choose a car to attach the camper too, so driving is amazing. We chose an SUV||You have to drive the camper which is not the most pleasant ride in the world|
|Parking||Parking is harder because you have a very long vehicle. That being said, we could park everywhere we went in Iceland (outside Reykjavik)||Parking is quite easy|
|Sleeping||Sleeping is very cosy, the queen size bed is extremely comfortable||Sleeping is like sleeping on a futon – not a proper mattress|
|Cooking||The kitchen opens at the back, so cooking is out in the open. We found it hard to keep a flame going and it got very cold one night||Cooking is easier because the kitchen can be accessed from inside the camper|
|Sink||There is no sink or running water supply in the Mink||There is a sink in the van, you need to refill the supply every few days|
|Storage||If you consider storage space in the car it is similar||Similar but keeping the bags in the same living space is a bit annoying|
|Heating||Has heating separate from the engine||Has heating, but the camper engine needs to be charged. Hence, you must have driven the camper that day, which is usually not an issue|
|Charging||Has USB ports for charging||Similar to charging in a car|
|Getting Dressed||Is a bit tough because you cannot stand in the Mink Camper. You could use the campsite or your car if you cannot manage to dress sitting down||Is easy because you can stand up in the camper van|
|Instagrammable?||Very||Not as much|
I loved that Mink Campers and Cozy Campers are both local companies owned by Icelandic people. I highly recommend both companies depending on the type of camper you choose.
Both types of campers included bedding, blankets, pillows, basic kitchenware, gas for cooking, cleaning equipment and towels. Take stock of what you have before you hit a grocery store.
Before the price of the camper van shocks you, keep in mind a few things!
- This is the price of a rental car + hotels
- Iceland is very expensive
- Gas is also very expensive, so the cost does not end here
Mink Campers Information
I thoroughly enjoyed our little Mink Camper and would definitely rent it again for our next Icelandic adventure!
You can book your Mink Camper directly through their website. I found their customer service chat very helpful. Mink Campers upgraded us last minute to an SUV, which was actually super convenient! We could pick up and drop off the SUV from the Rental Car Center at the airport. We had to go to their location in Hafnarfjordur (which is NOT Reykjavik) to pick up the Mink Camper itself.
When you pick up your Mink Camper, pay attention to how to attach and detach the camper from your car. Also, if you haven’t driven a tear drop camper before, it might take a little while to get used to the longer length of your car! Turning is quite exciting initially. Don’t worry, we got used to it in no time!
Cozy Campers Information
You can book your Cozy Camper through their website. Cozy Campers offers free pick up and drop off from Reykjavik. If you wish to pick up your camper straight from the airport, note that will take a while since you need to get to Reykjavik first! The best way to do this is to take the Flybus.
If a Cozy Camper is not available, we heard good things about Happy Campers as well.
I highly recommend buying a wifi hotspot while in Iceland. Mink Campers allows you to add on unlimited wifi for 10 per day. Wifi Hotspots are also available for rent at the airport.
We have a T-Mobile cell phone plan with 2G coverage outside of the US, but this was spotty at best. Get the wifi!
We brought an International Drivers License (easily obtainable at any AAA location near you). However, we did not need this while in Iceland. Just showing our US Drivers License was good enough.
Make sure not to speed in Iceland as the rules are very strict.
When to Visit
We visited Iceland at the end of May, late Spring. If you want a camper van adventure, I highly recommend visiting at this time or in the fall, mid-September. The weather won’t be too extreme to camp, and most campsites will be open. You will also get about 20 hours of daylight to maximize your short time in Iceland!
Summers in Iceland are very popular with tourists, so I suggest avoiding the months of June – September.
Winter would be a miserable time to travel with a camper van, but is a stunning time to visit Iceland for other sorts of adventures!
FAQs about Camping
Q1. Where did we shower?
A1. We looked for campsites with shower facilities! Be warned that showers cost a little extra and you may not have guaranteed hot water. We also took advantage of the (free!) showers at Blue Lagoon and Laugarvatn Fontana. This itinerary is purposely designed to allow you at least one shower a day!
Q2. How did we cook and eat?
A2. We cooked in our camper vans! The Cozy Campers also comes with a detachable stove, so one freezing night we took it into the camp common room. We planned and bought all our groceries at Bonus / Kronan grocery store on the way. Bonus is the cheapest, but I personally preferred Kronan. Kronan also had some nice ready to eat sandwiches, bread etc.
We also ate at a couple of restaurants (mentioned above) for lunch.
Q3. Can you pull up your camper van and sleep anywhere?
A3. No. This is now against the law in Iceland. Make sure to bookmark campsites and stay there overnight. Note that not all campsites are open year round, however most of them open by May 1st.
Q4. What did we pack? What did we buy in Iceland?
A4. We packed our clothes (bring layers!), toiletries, towels and a moka pot + ground coffee. I also packed a roll of toilet paper, but did not need to use it. The bathrooms at the campsites we stayed at were exceptionally clean and well stocked.
The biggest tip I can give you is to pack waterproof shoes (I love these Teva shoes) and waterproof pants. A windbreaker would also go a long way in keeping you happy.
We bought all our groceries in Iceland. The camper van came with everything else we would need.
If you want to bring a bottle of wine or beer along, buy it at duty free after you arrive at Keflavik airport. Alcohol is very expensive in Iceland.
Q5. Could we do the same itinerary with a tent instead of a camper van?
A5. Definitely! However, if you are staying in a tent, you will need to do a lot more planning and prep about what you want to bring to Iceland. Nights in late spring can get very cold, so prepare for that as well!
Q6. I hate camping. Are there hotels?
A6. In this part of Iceland, yes! For this whole itinerary, you could just rent a car and stay in hotels along the way. Obviously, I highly recommend you treat this as a road trip and stay in different places every night. Doubling back to reach your hotel does not make much sense.
Understanding Overcrowding in Iceland
The tourism board of Iceland stepped in to revive a fledging economy in 2008, and put Iceland on millions of bucket lists. Sadly, in 2019, over tourism and over crowding in Iceland is no secret. The media is full of articles about the Golden Circle being chock full of tour buses. The stunning Fjadrárgljúfur Canyon actually had to be closed to the public because a Justin Bieber song brought it more popularity than it could handle.
We spoke to some Icelandic people about the tourism boom. Their answers surprised us. The infamous Wow Air had shut down right before we visited, and we were wondering if the Icelandic economy had taken a hit. Contrary to our assumptions, the locals we spoke to were actually happy about it! They said that these low cost airlines brought tourists who wouldn’t spend a penny in Iceland, while disrespecting nature. It actually cost the government money to clean up after these tourists, like the Fjadrárgljúfur episode.
Icelandic locals in the tourism industry rely on tourists who will spend money in Iceland. Rent your campers from local companies like Mink or Cozy Campers. Visit some local restaurants and shops. Hire a local tour guide, if you prefer guided tours. You visit Iceland expecting wonderful, magical moments. Learn to give back some as well.
How to Beat the Crowds
- Travel in the Off-Season (Late Spring, Mid Fall)
- Visit popular places at odd times. This is especially easy in late Spring / Summer since there is over 20 hours of daylight!
- Go to the less popular places
- Camp vs. Hotels
The thing is that the magic of Iceland is its raw natural beauty, the thrill and the feeling of insignificance it brings you. It is impossible to feel this when having to jostle hundreds of other warm bodies to look at yet another waterfall. So do yourself a favor and do not book a tour to visit Iceland. Also do yourself a favor and don’t do something foolhardy in Iceland. When it comes to man vs. nature, nature almost always wins. Also, please don’t destroy any ancient natural wonders in order to get views on your latest TikTok video.
My Next Iceland Trip
I’m itching to go back to Iceland. It was truly the most magical land I’ve visited, and I felt like stories of Elves and Faerie folk were playing out in front of my eyes.
Next time, I would love to visit the Westfjords and the North, a land more remote and rugged than the South. The new Arctic Coast Way, opened last summer complete with its own website. It looks like an absolutely gorgeous road trip and I cannot wait!
I also want to explore the Snaefellsnes Penninsula, which is said to be a mini Iceland! If you have two-three more days to spare, you could easily tack this on to a South Coast trip.
Witnessing the Northern Lights is high up on my bucket list, but I’m scared of being trapped in Iceland in deep snow without even getting a glimpse of the lights. Early Spring or Late Fall seems like a happy medium.
So, when are you booking your tickets to Iceland? Save this post for your planning needs! And for more information and in the moment videos, look through my Instagram Story Highlights from Iceland.