The Land of Ice and Fire, Iceland is a country of many contrasts. It is home to immense raw landscapes and unspoilt nature including glaciers, volcanoes, waterfalls and more. A trip to Iceland requires some prior preparation. We opted for camping as it is cheaper – the accomodation in Iceland is either expensive (at least double comparing to a European capital) or limited (advance booking is required, plus there are only few bigger cities). It also gives you more flexibility. So if you also prefer to visit Iceland on a camper mode, here are some essentials that you need to bring with you or think of before leaving:
CAMPING GEAR FOR ICELAND
- Resistant tent for 2
- Mattress and air pump
- 0 degree sleeping bag
- Trekking boots
- Warm and waterproof clothes (the weather is extremely changing)
- Camping kit for food preparation including a gas stove (like Primus). Gas bottles can be found on the camping as a lot of tourists leave them before departure.
CAMPING TIPS FOR ICELAND
- For car rental, choose rather a 4×4 jeep as passenger cars are not allowed to drive in the highland (roads marked as F-roads). It will allow you to discover the “real” Iceland with unspoilt nature! The price for a week rental is 1000€ or more depending on the model. We had a Dacia Duster that broke down after few days (details in the Part II post) so we got a replacement with a Rav 4 which was bigger so we could actually sleep in it.
- Bring some food provisions that can also be bought on arrival as you can find yourself in the middle of nowhere… How cool is that 🙂 I recommend Bonus supermarket as the prices are relatively cheaper.
ITINERARY FOR SOUTH OF ICELAND
Our road trip begins in the Southern Iceland. For the proposed itinerary you will need 6 days or more.
Golden circle: Pingvellir, Geysir, Gullfoss
We began our trip with the most visited spots in Iceland – the Golden Circle. Pingvellir is a National Park but also an important historical site as the first Northern Europe’s Parliament was established in 930. Geysir is the highly active Hot Spring Area with boiling mud pits, exploding geysers and the lively Strokkur which spouts water 30 meters into the air every few minutes. This is probably one of the few spots where you can see such a tall active geyser. We finished the circle with the Gullfoss waterfall that drops through three levels and it’s humming sound is impressive!
Sólheimassandur plane, Puffins in Dyrhólaey
To see the Sólheimassandur plane wreck, you will have to park your car on the parking between Skogar and Dyrhólaey and walk 4km one way. I assure you it’s worth the effort and the scenery is full of mystery. The DC US Navy plane landed there in emergency in 1973 and fortunately everyone survived.
Seeing the colony of puffins on Dyrhólaey cliffs was actually the highlight of my day if not of the trip! They are so adorable and just look at the contrast of their red becks with beautiful black sand beach. It is recommended to go there in the evening when the puffins are back from the sea and to admire the splendid sunset (between 6 – 10 P.M.) or in the morning between 7 – 10 A.M before they go to catch fish again. Best period for puffins observation is end of April until early September.
Night on Pakgil Camping
If there is a camping not to miss, it is with no doubt Pakgil Camping. Situated in the middle of mountains, the views on the 15km road that leads to the camping are breathtaking! Advice: avoid going there at night like we did (I lost the time count while admiring the puffins and the sun only goes down around 11 p.m.) as the road seems scary in the dark! Beware as we had no hot water in the shower – the option is to find a swimming pool back in town such as the one in Vik.
Vík í Mýrdal, Basalt Columns in Reynisfjara, Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss and Haifoss
After a quick stop in Vík í Mýrdal, we headed to see the black sand beach and basalt columns on Reynisfjara beach. Then we did a sequence of waterfalls : Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Haifoss and other smaller falls that we saw on the road. Due to the amount of spray the waterfalls consistently produce, a single or double rainbow is normally visible on sunny days. Iceland is with no doubt the country of waterfalls. You can actually walk behind the Seljalandsfoss – raincoat obliged!
Explanation of how to get to Haifoss: after driving on n°1 main road from Selfoss, we took the road 30, then 32. After a bit more than 42km there is a road that turns to the left indicating Laxargllufur. Then you just have to continue straight on a quite bumpy road until you arrive on the parking. This 122m high waterfall is an absolute wonder!
The road F225 to Landmannalaugar
After that we went down and took the F225 only accessible by 4×4 which is relatively easy but has some fords that you will have to cross. The F225 road that leads to Landmannalaugar National Park is the most beautiful road we have taken in Iceland! We spent a couple of hours on it as we were doing a lot of stops to contemplate this immense and unspoilt nature! The landscape is so diverse it changes every few kilometers! At some point we turned left on the road heading to Hekla volcano that we could climb (I saw only after that it was on 1491m attitude) and walk around its crater! It literally felt like walking on another planet. It was one of the coolest walks in Iceland! And it actually wasn’t on our itinerary, sometimes spontaneous decisions turn out to be the best ones 🙂
Landmannalaugar 6-hour trek
There is a huge (and only) camping in Landmannalaugar which is the starting point for several treks. We opted for the shorter circle walk. Our “good” neighbor suggested taking the path that he indicated on the map and told us it would only take us 2 hours to do the tour. Persuaded that we would be back shortly and have breakfast after a morning walk, the itinerary turned out to be more than a 6-hour walk! It was difficult as we didn’t take any food or water, but the beauty and colors of Landmannalaugar Mountains made us forget the pain.
Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, Sakftafell, Svartifoss, Svínafellsjökull Glacier hike in Vatnajökull
We started the day admiring Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon that is approximately 2km long. Once we arrived to Skaftafell, we had a half an hour walk up hill to see the Svartifoss waterfall. Then we decided to take an excursion to walk on the second biggest glacier in Europe – Vatnajökull, precisely on Svínafellsjökull glacier tongue. The agency gave us all the necessary equipment and there were two alpinists assisting our group for the whole duration (4 hours). We were told that the scenes for “Interstellar” were shot there which only made the walk even more exciting 🙂
Sunset at Fjallsárlón, Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, Tasting a langoustine in Höfn
Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon is a must-do! It developed into a lake after the glacier started receding from the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The lake has grown since then at varying rates because of melting of the glaciers. It is considered as one of the natural wonders of Iceland with its beautiful floating icebergs. We went there at sunset and the colours were spectacular. Just before Jökulsárlón there is a smaller less famous iceberg lagoon – Fjallsárlón that we found very charming.
On our way to the western fjords, we made a stop in a portuar town Höfn to taste an authentic langoustine and a local Skyr cake – finger licking good! We went to Pakkhus restaurant that was excellent!
If you wish to continue the ring road trip in Iceland, you can keep reading the itinerary from Westfjords to Reykjavik.
You can also opt for my MAPS.ME guide with the complete itinerary that works as an offline mobile phone GPS. All you need to do is to pre-download the map of Iceland on free MAPS.ME app to be able to use it offline once you are there. You can dowload my guide from this mobile phone link that includes all the points of interest for South Iceland with the description and picture for each spot.
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