Iceland on a budget
My girlfriend and I are from Belgium and we love to travel. Since we met each other in Japan five years ago, we try to do it as much as possible and Iceland has always been one of those dreamy destinations. But we were a bit scared that it would be above our budget. But then we found very cheap tickets with Wow air, so we decided to go for it. After exploring all the possibilities, we choose to rent the Nissan N200 Camper on Rent.is for 6 days and it turned out to be a great experience!
Driving around Iceland with camper van is really comfortable, flexible and very economical. These camper vans have all the equipment you need, even a fridge!!, therefore we didn’t have to check-in any luggage with Wow air (saving us even more money). Plus, you can drive as long as you want and look for a campsite whenever you feel like. This way you can drive on to your next destination when it’s getting dark and visit the attraction in the morning. Just be aware to stay at an official campground in any of the national parks! (Here you can find some more info about where you can camp).
First Day – The Golden Circle
We started our trip at the airport and went straight towards the Golden Circle. Since you have all the necessary cooking equipment in the van, we made a quick stop at Bónus. Surprising the prices are quite reasonable, even beers!! After visiting Kerið and Geysir, it got dark and we parked our van at Gullfoss falls. The night was clear and the forecast indicated an active aurora (Great website to check the Aurora forecast), so we were hoping to see the Northern lights. It was quite cold and windy and waiting outside is not always that pleasant, but with this camper van you can just relax in the back of the van with the heater on, just leave the curtains open so you can spot any aurora activity.
Luck was on our side on our first night, after sunset the sky started flickering, so we jumped out of the van to see the spectacle. It lasted for several hours and got very intense at certain moments. We were able to take some beautiful pictures, even with our small compact cameras. You don’t need a big professional camera, just google which settings to use.
Second Day – Gullfoss, Skógafoss & Seljalandsfoss
After a great night with some beautiful Northern lights, we felt like the holiday was already a success. In the morning we visited the Gullfoss falls, which were spectacular and since we parked at the entrance, we were there almost by ourselves. I’ve seen many waterfalls around the world, but the ones in Iceland are something else!
Later on that day we also visited the equally stunning Háifoss Waterfall, this one is a bit of a drive and the last kilometers are a bit bumpy (drive carefully), but certainly worth the effort! Then we followed the Ring road south where we stopped at the Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss Waterfalls.
Third Day – The Airplane & Black sand beach
We started at Sólheimajökull, where you can get up close to a glacier. If you book a tour you can also climb it. There we met two Dutch photographers who told us that the Ring road was closed after the glacier lagoon, because of some flooding. This puts a damper on our plan, as our plan was to drive around the entire ring road, so we were a bit disappointed. But because of all the amazing views and our first night northern lights experience, our spirits were still high. Since we were cruising around in our camper van, we can be flexible with our plans because we didn’t have any schedule or hotel reservations to stick to. So we decided to continue our way toward the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and decide afterwards what to do next.
On our way there we stopped at the plane wreck site, I have to say we didn’t expect the walk from the parking lot to the site would be that far. The path leading there seems to be never ending, as we’ve already committed ourselves so we’ve continued until the end. Honestly, we were not that impressed considered how long we have to walk to get there. We attached a picture of the wreck plane, so you don’t have to or you can judge it for yourself whether the 8km there and back is worth your while.
After the plane wreck site, we’ve stopped at the Kirkjufjara beach, which is well known for the black beach. I have to say we were always lucky with the weather as it seems to always rained when we were in the van but as soon as we reach our destination the rain seems to stop. We managed to capture this beautiful picture of the rainbow at the Kirkjufjara beach. There were also many sights nearby that can be explored and having the van made it very easy to pick and choose which sights to see.
We then proceeded to Svartifoss Waterfall and making it our last stop for the day, the road leading to there is so beautiful. There were so many moss covered lava rock landscapes, which is pretty unique as we have never seen this anywhere else in the world. There is an observatory deck, where you can safely look over the moss covered landscape without damaging them, you have to do your part as responsible tourists. Once the moss is damaged it could wither and die or takes over a decade to recover.
There was a comfortable trail to the Svartifoss, but before we got there we’ve reached the Skaftafell first. This meant two waterfalls very close by to one another. Of course the highlight was the Svatifoss, which is pretty unique due to the black rock forming. As we’ve got there quite late in the evening, we’ve got to enjoy the waterfall by ourselves without other people around. This made our experience even more special and made Iceland more of a top contender for one of our favorite countries.
Fourth Day – Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Ice, ice baby…. On day four it’s all about ice, ice lagoon and ice beach. We have camped near the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, so we started from there. There is a possibility to do a boat tour that goes around the glacier, but there is also a walking trail. As we started it our day early, the boat tours were not started yet, so we opted for the walking trail. Although, before the trail we wanted to checked out the ice beach.
The ice beach was so cool (no punt intended), the contrast between the black sand, the clear/bluish ice blocks scattered across the beach together with the early morning sun ray made the view spectacular.
After that, we took a leisure walk along the trail that goes around the glacier lagoon, the full trail takes about 5 hours. We decided not to do the whole thing, just walk along the lagoon, while we were there we saw a black object bobbing in and out of the water. It turned out to be a seal, which to our surprise and excitement as we didn’t expect to see one.
After the lagoon we did a long drive back north, with a quick stop at Seljavallalaug, where you can have swim in an old outside pool with natural warm water. We drove all the way to Þingvellir National Park, where we stayed at the park’s campsite. And we got lucky again that night, because the Northern lights were clearing up the sky again!
Fifth Day – Þingvellir National Park & Snæfellsnes
As we had to turned around, we’ve started our fifth day at the Þingvellir National Park which is one of the most important sites in Iceland. We spent the morning explored the Öxaráfoss, the parliament and the Þingvellir church. The parliament and the church held historic significance to the Icelandic people.
The latter half of the day spent exploring the West Peninsular, as we were unable to do the whole loop of Iceland we then decide to make our way to Gatklettur and the Stone Bridge. We were blessed with the weather, all morning and most the afternoon, although funnily once we crossed over to the Snæfellsjökull National Park, as we wanted to check out the Djúpalónssandur and Skarðsvík Beach. As soon as we entered the national park area it suddenly got windy and rainy. Talk about a very local weather, as you guess on our way out there was no longer wind and rain.
Sixth Day – Hraunfossar & Barnafoss
Our last full day, we’ve decided to head back in to Reykjavik direction. We began the day at the Hraunfossar and Barnafoss. The Barnafoss was unique to the other waterfalls that we have seen previously in Iceland. As the water is neither powerful nor high but nevertheless, it was still beautiful.
As it was our last full day with the van and we wanted to make the most of the equipment, so we decided to cook our lunch at one of many picnic areas. As the van came pretty well equipped with all necessary tools for a comfortable cooking experience, therefore we were able to keep our costs low.
After our lunch we then headed toward Reykjadalur hot spring thermal river, which includes 3km trek to the thermal river. This was a nice relaxing end to our holiday, where we got to soak our bodies into the thermal river. We started at the end of the river first, where the water was a bit luke warm, then we worked up our courage to the beginning of the river where the water was very hot. Although, you need to make sure that you don’t stay in the hot water for too long as I my girlfriend a little bit dizzy.
Seventh Day – Around Reykjavík
Our last day with the van, as we didn’t have to return it until the afternoon we decided to stayed longer in bed and explore sites near Reykjavik. After visiting the geothermal fields of Krýsuvík, we headed back to Reykjavik.
Returning the van to the Reykjavik office was straight forward, the lady quickly looked over the van and said that we were good to go. After that, the lady was kindly given the direction for the bus to Reykjavík center. There we visited the city and had our first and only local restaurant meal before we took the public bus back to the airport.
Read more: Exploring Iceland in a VW Camper – Day 8
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