Iceland a Winter Wonderland
When you travel to Iceland from the faraway Australia, you don’t really know what to expect. All we
really knew about the country was that it was named Iceland because the Vikings wanted others to
think that it was a land covered in ice and discourage others from making the trip to Iceland. Other
than that, we knew fairly little and we soon discovered that even our initial assumption was wrong.
We picked up our camper van on New Year’s Eve. It had been warmed up for us and we were glad to get into the campervan and hit the road to Reykjavik. It was more luxurious than we had expected or in comparison to any of the vans we had travelled in before. Although the back only consisted of a bed and an excellent heater, we were more than happy to rough-it for the next 10 days. Arriving in Reykjavik, we look up at the sky and the first thing we get to witness is the Northern Lights. We would spend the rest of our 10 days hunting for them only to learn that sometimes they are there but you only see them as a green glow in the sky. That postcard image everyone thinks about when they think of Northern lights is definitely not the only way to experience this amazing phenomenon.
New Year’s Day consisted of a hunt for a breakfast and then a hunt for a supermarket. Not much is open on the 1st of January but it was lovely exploring Reykjavik early in the morning before everyone else woke from the previous night’s celebrations. All the while we were itching to get on the road. We decided to head North. The driving conditions were constantly changing. The saying really is true: if you don’t like the weather in Iceland, wait 10 minutes and it’ll be completely different.
Iceland is a country that surprised us the whole way around the ring road. We understood that travelling so far north in winter would mean few daylight hours but it still took us a couple of days to get used to the lack of light. The only plan we had made was to travel the full ring road in 10 days. Everything we had read made us assume that we would have plenty of time. By day 3 we weren’t so sure.
Day 3 in the van was tough. We both struggled with the lack of light and felt that we hadn’t seen anything other than either side of the ring road and the inside of the van. It was a little discouraging. The lack of light wasn’t the only struggle. Cooking in such cold conditions is a serious challenge (and it wasn’t even as cold as it normally is this time of year). We learned the hard way that gas bottles don’t work well when the outside temperature is below zero. Standing with your hands wrapped around a freezing gas canister really isn’t the ideal way to cook. But you do what you must to eat or have a cup of coffee.
It being winter, nearly every campground is closed. So in Akureyri we decided to make use of the swimming pool so we could have a shower and just get out of the van for a while. The pools are all outside which is an odd concept when it’s around 0 degrees, but they are all heated and it feels amazing getting into the warm water when it’s so cold outside.
Read more: All year around campgrounds in Iceland
Everything is clean and you are expected to shower thoroughly before getting in the water. May seem kind of strange at first but when you think about it it’s hygienic and a nice thought that we are all clean before jumping into a communal pool. The pool in Akureyri was one of many that we visited along the way. It’s a great way to hang with the locals and soak away any of the day’s worries.
On day 4 everything changed for us. We pulled into the town of Egilsstaðir. Needing to refill our jerry
can we found it hard to find a tap. All we wanted was to fill our water and find a solution to our
inability to make real coffee in the van. The lack of coffee was soon remedied with a simple filter
coffee kit. We left the kit in the van and hope that other travellers will get much use out of it.
Now we had coffee, we needed water… In Egilsstaðir there is a campground, which although closed in winter, have all their facilities open for use with an honesty box. We have never been more grateful. We could fill up our water, charge our phones and sit inside a warm common area while we ate our lunch and drank our first home brew coffee. We felt recharged and ready to tackle the rest of the ringroad!
We needed a plan. Iceland was more expensive than we had anticipated so we needed to prioritise. It quickly came down to a list of 3 must-do tours (along with many other free things): ice cave tour, Silfra snorkel, and the Blue lagoon.
The ice cave tour and the Silfra snorkel tour were spectacular and we were grateful that we managed to do both last minute. The blue lagoon was a different story. We had this planned for our last day but little did we know that it would be booked out.
Read more: Travel apps for Iceland
Plan B was necessary. Grateful to have internet access in the van, we did a bit of research and found Laugarvatn Fontana, a spa built on natural hot springs. Most definitely the best way to spend our last day in Iceland. We got there first thing and pretty much had the place to ourselves watching the sunrise over the lake. We did also get into the freezing lake and even treated ourselves to the buffet with the locally smoked trout and traditional Icelandic rye bread.
After doing just over 2000km in our trusty camper it was time to head home. Although we had our
struggles, by the time we made it full circle we felt the urge to do the whole thing again.
PS Iceland was named Iceland because when a Norseman known as Hrafna-Flóki saw Icebergs
floating in the fjord, became disenchanted and returned to Norway.
Read more: The Autumn travel guide to Iceland
Happy Camping! #CamperStories
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