One can try to plan for an epic camping adventure around Iceland but the way we spontaneously planned every night of what we wanted to see made this the most memorable camping experience yet! Our favorite camping couple that we travel with already set their Iceland trip in place and we were lucky enough to be invited by them to share this amazing experience!
Iceland has always been on our bucket list but never in my life did I think we would explore this pristine and beautiful island! Everyone knows Iceland is very picturesque so this blog is more of a spontaneous Iceland camping guide with fewer words and more pictures.
We landed in the wee hours of the morning to a very cold and windy beginning but we were all too excited to care. Once we received our rental camper van for the week from Go Iceland, we headed straight for a grocery store. First let me explain how awesome this camper van was! It is called a Volkswagen California Beach which is not sold in the US unfortunately. The van sleeps four people where the back seats fold out flat and the roof pops up with a tent top that also sleeps two people. The front seats flip around so four people can converse, play games and eat meals at the movable table-top.
The California Beach camper van also includes a fridge (which looks like a cooler), a large box filled with cooking utensils and equipment. There were also four sleeping bags, four pillows and four blankets included to keep you warm on some very cold nights. The van is diesel and has a built-in heater which runs off the diesel while van is turned off so this kept us pretty toasty most of the evening. Needless to say this was the ultimate four-wheel drive camper van I have ever seen and we were with a great couple who lived well and loved it as much as we did!
After we got our groceries we just started driving on Ring Road which is Iceland’s full road around the island. Believe it or not, we noticed a brewery sign in the middle of nowhere so, of course, we were going to stop, as all four of us our craft beer lovers!
The Brewery was called Steðji and they produced a ton of beers. As we walked down the path towards the large looking warehouse a man greeted us with a smile and we asked to try a flight of them all. We sat on the cut out wooden benches and the man brought over two flights which we all shared as he described them all. The one beer that stood out the most was the stout brewed with whale testicles in sheep dung…yes you read that correctly! At first I thought he was kidding but we tried this crazy ingredient brew and it actually tasted sweet and good….”when in Iceland!”
After some yummy Iceland beers, we headed down Ring Road towards our first campsite which was in a small town called Hvammstangi, Iceland. Very small ghost-like town which seemed like everything closed down very early so we set up camp and cooked our first meal with our camping kitchen equipment.
We were surrounded by a view of the sea and a mountainous ice wall that looked like we were in the Game of Thrones! They had a communal bathroom and an eating area to stay in the warmth. That night was the first night we saw the amazing Iceland sky which was so dark that every star stood out like shiny diamonds!
Next morning after our first breakfast of Skyr (Iceland’s delicious yogurt) we set back out onto Ring Road. The road leaving this campsite heading north are rough gravel so we said goodbye to smooth tar road for a while. All was worth it though when you witness the sea on your left and the snowy mountains on your right. This beautiful country/seaside filled with Nordic horses and sheep were so calming.
Our first attraction was Hvítserkur which is a tall basalt sea stack in the middle of the sea. For you to walk up as close as possible to it you need to go at very low tide. An adventurous climb down a small waterfall towards the black sand beach we were able to experience this majestic land structure up close and personal. Some say it takes shape like a dragon drinking water but I say it is more of part of the castle that broke off.
The second attraction on the same day was in Hofsós, Iceland. This small seaside town with more beautiful mountains had an outdoor natural geothermal infinity pool! We got our first shower of the trip and jumped in the warm deep pool. They were closing at dusk so we only had an hour to enjoy the beautiful view and natural warm water. Swimming towards the deep end it looked like you could swim right out to the sea which was very beautifully designed.
After we were all showered and feeling clean we headed to our second campsite called Guesthouse Skeið. This place was definitely out there but boy was it worth it! Driving through the middle of this mountain valley which is apparently a large ski area filled with farmland. The owner was absolutely wonderful, nice and accommodating. They always take reservations first according to their website but we couldn’t call so even just showing up she took us in.
There is a separate apartment for families and then a communal area with bunk beds, a kitchen, two bathrooms, a laundry facility and living room area where we ate dinner, drank wine and played games! It was a very windy night but we were able to park our van right behind the building and block all the wind. Waking up to a snowy mountain valley was a view that will always stay in my mind.
Our third attraction and my most favorite was The Beer Spa! This amazing place was only thirty minutes away from our campsite. I made reservations back in July on their website for 5 pm but we traveled faster on Ring Road than expected. We took the chance and asked if they could take us in earlier than our reserved time which they did so it was a very convenient and relaxing start to our day!
We started out with a shower, which is a law in Iceland before you get in their public baths than headed straight towards the outside hot tub area. The hot tubs were filled with natural hot spring water and were made to look like those old style wooden tubs. We were able to enjoy a half hour in there with more amazing views of the sea and mountains while our baths were being prepared.
Summoned by the nice staff we put on our warm long robes and headed to our private couple baths. The beautiful large bath was filled with natural spring water, hops and yeast. We did not actually sit in a beer because there was no alcohol which is what they call a “young beer” before it is fermented into an alcoholic beverage. The best part was the tap sitting right next to the tub for you to fill up on your own and enjoy a craft beer whilst soaking in the warm curious liquid.
After our half hour couples bath, we were then led upstairs to a dark relaxation room where we laid down in comfortable beds, wrapped in warm sheets and covered by wool blankets. Listening to calming music and letting our skin soak in the healthy hops that made our skin very soft and smooth. This was a spa experience like no other! Once we showered again and put on new fresh clothes we headed right to their restaurant and order more beer with delicious food!
We then headed to our fourth attraction Goðafoss waterfall! I had to say this was the best Monday I have ever had when it included a beer spa and a major waterfall. This majestic waterfall has a great hiking area all around it to see the beauty from multiple views. There is a separate waterfall in the middle of Goðafoss and two small ones going down the river. There is a little shop right near the waterfall with food, bathrooms, and souvenirs.
We headed to our third campsite which was not memorable but it was dark and we needed to park. We had to stay in a parking lot as their campsites were closed down due to construction but they had very warm full bathrooms. Nothing very scenic to show for it and I do not remember the town name but it was close to Goðafoss.
The next morning we started out again towards our fifth attraction, Grjótagjá Cave which is a small lava cave near Lake Mývatn. It is actually the cave in a scene from Game of Thrones and since we are all fans we had to explore it. There are two openings that you can climb down into. The cave was warm and mysterious and dipping your hand into the very blue, clear water felt very surreal. There are paths going towards the top of the lava cave where you can climb up and jump over the amazing crack in the earth.
Setting off to our next scenic and sixth attraction was Hverir Geothermal park, not very far from the cave. This place was like you were walking on another world! There were so many earthly colors that you stopped caring about the sulfur rotten egg smell from the bubbling and steaming pools. Very muddy pathways that you definitely need boots and need to clean off later. Small orangy-red rock masses let out large amounts of steam coming from the volcanic mountain towards the top. I have never been so interested in volcanic energy until witnessing this amazing place.
Our third stop that day but seventh attraction so far was Dettifoss which is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. This massive amount of water had such a powerful sound and presence standing as close to it as possible. The trek down to Dettifoss is fun as well even though there was snow everywhere it was warm and adventurous.
After three major hiking attractions for the day, we headed to our fourth campsite in Djúpivogur, Iceland. We stayed in a parking lot with full bathrooms and kitchen area. They also had small cabins you can rent. There are two places to eat within walking distance and in a very scenic harbor town. We ate at this great hotel where we dined on delicious Icelandic fish stew, beer, and pizzas.
Waking up the next morning to lovely sunshine we headed off to our eighth attraction in Hornafjörður, Iceland where there is the amazing Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. This lagoon is right off Ring Road and is a must stop to hike around or take glacier boat trips. The massive glacier is seen in the far corner which leads out to large lagoon full of broken off glaciers over time. Beautiful icy blue water than leads right out into an inlet towards the sea. Definitely my second favorite attraction on the trip.
Our next and ninth attraction was Svartifoss waterfall is in Vatnajökull National Park. You can hear the powerful waterfall from the parking area but must hike up a very steep vertical path to see it. The tough hike up was very worth it as the waterfall is in a hidden valley followed with a long river to view as you climb. Once you are up close and personal to Svartifoss the rocky lava structure looked like an earthly chandelier. Words are hard to describe this picturesque waterfall!
After a long half day walk around the lagoon and then that vertical hike we headed to our fifth campsite in Kirkjubæjarklaustur, Iceland. My favorite campsite the whole trip with a waterfall view! Nicely mapped out campsites with full bathrooms and warm showers. This campground also has cabins to rent if traveling by car only. There is literally a liquor store, grocery store and restaurant all within walking distance which was super convenient since we had to add to our food and drink supply. The restaurant was also great and super busy! This is where we had our first Arctic Char which is a famous Icelandic dish. Arctic Char looks like salmon and tastes delicious!
Waking up with a view of the tall but thin waterfall we headed to our tenth attraction Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in Vik. This black sand beach was lined with massive basalt stacks and the sound of roaring Atlantic Ocean waves. The large rock formations cascading out of the ocean not only was an amazing view but an epic backdrop.
Not wanting to leave that beautiful beach we headed to our eleventh attraction Iceland’s Famous Sólheimasandur Plane Crash. I didn’t mention this was the windiest day, I mean hurricane windy where it was hard to even walk. Well by the time we got to this attraction the wind was like this and it was raining but we were there and committed to seeing our attractions. We started walking down the gravel path towards the beach but it was foggy as well and we could not see an end in sight. There were no signs about the attraction except for a gate that said no cars. After maybe a mile walk out which was an hour of hurricane winds, stinging rain and sometimes hail we decided it wasn’t worth it anymore and started to head back to the van. We were all in full waterproof gear we still got soaked. Later to find out the walk to get from parking lot to airplane was 2.5 miles and if we had known or researched a little better we would not have gone in those weather conditions. I am not saying do not do it but maybe go in the summer or on a very nice weathered day.
After having some lunch and drying off as much as possible we headed to our twelfth attraction Seljalandsfoss waterfall which is famous for having a trail that leads under the waterfall! The wind was still blowing but the rain had subsided enough for us to enjoy the epic climb behind the waterfall. To see and hear this amazing cascading effect was truly majestic especially since waterfalls are my favorite earthly formations.
With all the walking, wind and rain we were so beat. Our bodies physically felt like we had been in a boxing ring which is why we decided to head to our thirteenth attraction, the Secret Lagoon. Similar to the Blue Lagoon but smaller, fewer people and a natural smooth rocky bottom was an experience I had been wanting to have since I learned about natural spring pools. We had a nice hot shower where they have full locker rooms and restrooms than headed out to the lagoon with a nice tall beer to enjoy while soothing our muscles in the natural warm water. Floating around to find little hot spots with an added bonus of the beautiful pink and purple sky as the sun was setting. An absolute must stop to experience Iceland’s natural wonders in the southeast part of the island.
Our sixth campsite, Skjòl Campgrounds, was nearby the Secret Lagoon where we had full bathrooms with a bar and great pizza to end the day! The campground is very open with an amazing starry sky view. The bar was very cozy and warm where the beer was flowing and the pizza was tasty and crispy! A really great campsite that is centered right in the middle of the next two big attractions we had on our list for the next day.
Waking up feeling like the start of getting a cold from all the wind and cold rain from the day before we still had three more major attractions to see before ending our seven-day camping trip around the island. Our fourteenth attraction was Gullfoss waterfall which is a part of the Golden Circle of Iceland. Amazing panoramic views are amongst the surface where they have an area for you to hike and get as close as possible to this iconic waterfall. There is a large shop right on the cliff full of souvenirs and treats.
The fifteenth attraction Geysir was very close by and a must see! Geysir which is what all geysers are named after. There are multiple boiling mud pits that are active and go off every few minutes which is super suspenseful! One of the geyser’s spouts up to 100 feet high and is roped off enough for you to be close enough for great pictures.
Our last and sixteenth attraction off Ring Road was Kerið volcanic crater located in Iceland’s southwestern volcanic zone. It’s a 180 feet deep, 560 feet wide and approximately 3000 years old. As we hiked down the pathway there are amazing colors of red, green, earthy brown whilst the crater water is a beautiful deep blue. There is a small fee to get past the gate and see but it is very worth it!
Day Eight to Ten
We then headed back to Reykjavik where we started and where Ring Road connects. For the next 3 nights, we stayed at an Airbnb that we reserved at the beginning of the summer. Our apartment for the weekend was quaint and perfectly located in the center of town near all the restaurants and shopping. We ate like kings at different restaurants! We had Thai food, Icelandic feasts with Reindeer Carpaccio and tapas that consisted of puffin and whale meat which is a must try! The beer and drinks were delicious as well when we spent afternoons at places like BrewDog and Mikkeller & Friends having Belgian liquid treats.
The apartment also included a four-person natural spring water hot tub that you fill up and empty every time you get in so no chemicals are necessary. Every night we sat in there on the private back patio and gazed at the night sky hoping to get a glimpse of the Northern Lights we had been searching for every night. Unfortunately, we left Iceland without being able to experience the majestic Northern Lights but we will just have to go back which is not a problem!
Thank you for reading our small impromptu camping guide around Ring Road and if anyone reading this is planning on going and have any questions please comment below. Or if those reading this have been and want to leave their experiences in the comments please do as we loved learning as much as possible about this country!