As you guys already probably know from my Instagram full of travel photos, Cole and I just got back from an 11 day trip to Iceland. We booked our tickets on a whim- a huuuuge whim. We had literally just booked our month long trip to Southeast Asia a few days prior when a travel deal popped up for $600 roundtrip tickets to Iceland. It’s been on our bucket list for a while now, so we couldn’t pass it up (and I’m so glad we didn’t)! We already miss spending our days chasing waterfalls and rainbows, hunting for the next hidden hot pool and catching beautiful sunsets. Oh, and the whole part where there was a ton of Northern Lights happening while we were there wasn’t bad either!
We spent a couple days in Reykjavík when we first arrived and while it’s a cute city, that was more than enough for us. Iceland is super expensive and we weren’t there to spend a ton of money, so we were definitely itching to get out of Reykjavik ASAP.
We did a free walking tour of the city, which is something we did in basically every city we went to when we backpacked Europe years ago. These tours are a great way to learn a bit about the history of a city and see some cool stuff while not breaking the bank. You leave them a tip at the end of the tour, so it’s a super inexpensive and enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.
On the second day in Reykjavík, we went on a seriously awesome guided hike with GoEcco. They’ve got a five star rating on Tripadvisor and I totally understand why! Our guide, Kristina, was great to spend an afternoon/evening with and was full of knowledge and great conversation. She led us through a very active geothermal area and we ended up at this amazing hot river, Reykjadalur, where we basked in the river for a couple of hours with beers in hand. I’m going to do a full review of this experience because it was SO good, so all I’ll say right now is that this is a must do when you visit Iceland!
On day three, we were off on our road trip- the whole reason we came to Iceland! We ended up renting our camper van from Campervan Iceland because a) they were the least expensive (we paid roughly $1300CAD with the full insurance option for an 8 day rental) and b) their least expensive van option came with wifi and a heater (one in the back of the van that you can run at night because it gets SO cold), while competitors didn’t offer either of these things in their cheapest van options. I’m so glad we went with them because we ended up having everything we needed in that van, it had lots of space and storage, and it was super comfy. Highly, highly recommend!
We spent eight days traveling around the Ring Road (which is essentially the road that loops all around Iceland) with not much more of a plan then to stop at anything that piqued our interest. We decided to start by heading north, because the aurora forecasts looked super promising, and oh man… they definitely delivered. We saw the Northern Lights at least five times during this trip, so based off that, I’d definitely say to go to Iceland in October if this is on your bucket list.
Our first stop (or several stops, haha) on our road trip was a detour to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. It’s a few hours out of the way of the Ring Road, but it was the most beautiful introduction to Iceland’s scenery! There is plenty to see on this detour and I definitely recommend it if you have the time. We cut out most of the Golden Circle in favor of doing this instead, and I have no regrets at all. We stopped at a couple of the Golden Circle highlights that were already on our way and they were PACKED with tourists and you had to pay for parking. There’s way better stuff to see than a bunch of tourists posing for selfies, haha.
We then made our way to the north of Iceland, which was our favorite part of the whole country. First, we discovered a hot pool called Fosslaug. Iceland has little hot pools (basically an outdoor hot tub created by geothermal activity) hidden all over it and we loved finding them. It was a bit of a mission to get to this one because there isn’t really any signage or instructions, but it was totally worth it once we did find it! On one side of the hot pool is a rushing river and on the other is a huge, beautiful waterfall called Reykjafoss.
Our favorite spot in the north of Iceland was the whole Lake Mývatn area. There are bubbling mud pools (Hverir), a giant volcano crater (Hverfell) that you can hike the whole way around, lava fields (Dimmuborgir) with a bunch of paths that wind you through a ton of really cool lava formations, and more. It is well worth spending some time here! We stayed at Hlid Camping which was definitely one of the best campgrounds we went to during our trip. We caught the most incredible sunset there!
We continued to make our way around Iceland and eventually ended up on the south coast, which is a real gem. There are seemingly endless amounts of waterfalls, gorgeous black sand beaches and the unreal Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. You honestly have to stop the camper van every twenty minutes because there’s something that you don’t want to miss! Our favorite spot on the south coast was the glacier lagoon and the whole Skaftafell area.
We had originally booked a glacier hike with one of the guiding companies in the Skaftafell area, but it got cancelled due to bad weather and unfortunately we didn’t have the time to reschedule it. Because of the high winds and bad weather preventing us from making a safe trip back to Reykjavik, we ended up having to stay two nights at the Skaftafell Visitor Center campground, but there’s so much to see and do in the area that it was totally fine by us. There are a few different hiking trails that take you to glaciers and waterfalls and cool viewpoints, so we were able to happily kill some time there.
The next day, we wrapped up our road trip with a hike to the Reykjadalur hot river one last time. We couldn’t leave the country without experiencing that again and it was the perfect way to end an amazing trip!
We really can’t imagine having traveled Iceland any other way than in a camper van. I was a bit worried about doing a road trip during this time of year because I’d heard that it could be sketchy to drive, but we had no issues with weather (other than when we had to bunker down in Skaftafell for an extra night, but that was fine) and there were plenty of campgrounds open.
We saved a TON of money by doing the whole camper van thing, too. Iceland is extremely expensive, so the fact that we could cook our own food and only pay roughly $30 per night for a campground rather than the possible hundreds per day we would’ve been shelling out for a hotel and restaurants was game changing. Our van was also super fuel efficient- we only had to fill up maybe four times during our whole trip.
And while you’d think that so much time spent in a van together might have driven us crazy… it seems it had the opposite effect. We’re officially engaged! Cole proposed under the Northern Lights on the first night of our road trip (and didn’t ask for the ring back by the end of it, hahaha). It was the most perfect way to start our Iceland adventure!