(first I must say this, I suppose: all images are mine. Please do not “steal” without permission and credit)
The Epic Ring Road of Iceland!!
These posts are mostly geared toward the logistics of our trip, since I found this sort of info incredibly helpful while planning.
Most blogs say you probably shouldn’t attempt the ring road unless you have at least 5-7 days in Iceland (just based off my research before I went). Well, it can be done in less time, if you’re a fan of driving longer hours, which we are. My boyfriend and I went in early October, so we were blessed with some beautiful sunny days and some beautiful rainy days as well. The daylight hours are shorter than in the summer, but we still saw plenty of amazing sights before we had to fly off to our next adventure.
We had 4 days and 4 nights. We used Wowair for our flights (wowair.com) which is an amazing airline for cheap travel. Be sure to pack light, though, there are hefty overage fees if your bag is over 44 lbs. Also, bring your own entertainment if you’re on a budget (they do have iPads you can rent out for a small fee). We were really happy with the price of the ticket to “stop-over” in Iceland for a few days before flying into London for the rest of our trip. Wowair is incredibly cheeky, too. Look at these funny little additions:
Here’s a map of our trip. We flew in 4:30a Oct. 6th and flew out 6a Oct. 10th (4 nights total).
So! We left LAX around 11:45a and got into Keflavik around 4:30a the next day. We grabbed some food at the airport and hung out until our Happy Campers shuttle arrived around 8:00a (happycampers.is). We rented the Happy 1 for 3 nights and it was a great way to combine a rental vehicle and accommodation into one. The camper van had a stove, a little sink with water, pots, pans, utensils, a small cooler, and a retractable bed with bedding. It was pretty rad. We went early October, so we rented sleeping bags. It was diesel as well, so we filled up on fuel maybe once the entire trip. Pretty amazing.
Oh, here’s a photo of the info the airport literally tells you to take a photo of. So I did:
We originally planned to take our time in the south part of Iceland, but the day we flew in, it was crazy windy and there were some pretty sketchy weather reports for where we had planned to go. I grew up in extreme weather, but it’s not exactly something you want to deal with on your vacation if you don’t have to. So, our helper at Happy Campers suggested we go north, and after we told him that road-trips were our thing, he said in full confidence that we should take the ring road the entire way (especially once you get to a certain point, there’s no point in turning around). So, off we went!
First stop: the grocery store. We wanted to make the most of our time and money, so we decided to cook our meals in the camper van. We got several packages of fresh meat (which we couldn’t understand the Icelandic on the packaging, so I wish I could tell you what it was, but it was damn good, all of it). We also got things to make fast meals with, some snacks, etc.
We checked out Reykjavik for an hour or so. Enough time to see the Cathedral, go to the look-out on top, walk around town, grab a hot chai, and then head out.
We aren’t spa people and generally avoid anything too touristy, so we didn’t go to Blue Lagoon. Maybe next time. There were other things we wanted to see more since we had a short few days in Iceland. So we drove north and took a detour to the west to Kirkjufell, which was also super windy but definitely amazing and well-worth it. The scenery to Kirkjufell was some of the most surreal I’ve ever seen (and the rain and wind added to the effect).
Something you will see when you get there: the light on this island is insanely beautiful. Doesn’t matter what time of day, it’s gorgeously diffused. A photographer’s dream, as cliche as it sounds.
From Kirkjufell, we went back the way we came, then continued north east.
We met some friendly horses & saw some amazing waterfalls (pictured is Goðafoss). You’ll also see how much of a happy camper TJ is (har har).
The first night, we stayed at the Gladheimar (Blönduós) campground right off the road, which was really convenient. If I remember right, it was about $20.
If you rent a camper van, you’re now restricted to staying at designated campgrounds (a few years back, you could park wherever and sleep, but this started encroaching upon the locals’ land, which yeah, who wants to wake up to a camper taking a piss on your private property?). Happy Campers had given us a map and plenty of information on the campgrounds that were open during the winter months:
I also found this blog when I was planning the trip about camping in Iceland and found it really helpful: https://www.bemytravelmuse.com/iceland-ring-road-camping/
SO, second day, we continued east toward Mývatn, stopping along the road anytime we saw something we wanted to hike out toward. Waterfalls become a typical site, and eventually you’ll stop wanting to take photos of every single one you pass. It’s quite easy to see how Iceland’s people are so self-sustainable with natural energy sources.
Dimmuborgir, also nicknamed “The Dark Fortress” is a site that my boyfriend TJ had found through Atlas Obscura (http://www.atlasobscura.com). It was one of the coolest places we saw. Once we got on a trail away from a few larger groups, we were on our own. Photos of the place simply don’t do it justice. To be there within the formations and the landscape is something you can’t capture. If you want to know more about Dimmuborgir, of course, Google is amazing. There’s also this quick guide:
Hmmmm, I do wish I’d known about the Grjótagjá geothermal spring while we were there, but it’s one more reason to go back.
From Mývatn, we continued headed east and decided to venture out to a campground that seemed more off the beaten track than the Blönduós campground (we will admit: we do avoid people while vacationing to remote areas. We live in LA; it’s nice to get away from the crowds). Here’s the sunset along the way:
So, we departed from the 1 down a partially dirt road (931) in the dark and arrived at the pretty amazingly scenic Végarður campsite (refer to the Happy Campers map to see where this is; it’s at the south end of a lake on the east side of Iceland). It was late in the evening, no one was there when we arrived, no other campers, and we couldn’t get ahold of anyone by telephone. We didn’t need the facilities, so we just parked our van in a designated spot and spent the night. This was the first night we saw the northern lights faintly. It was quiet and beautiful at this little spot and in the morning, we cooked our breakfast, then headed out again.
If you’d like to read PART 2 of our Iceland adventures, click here: https://wordpress.com/post/ladyemilytravels.wordpress.com/219
Lastly, here’s a map of where we stayed (three campgrounds, one airbnb near the airport):