Around Iceland's Ring Road
Each year my husband and I pick one or two places to travel to internationally to check off our list. Places like New Zealand, Japan, Germany and Italy sit high on that list, however Iceland for us was at the top. We booked flights 7-months early, and found a great deal on direct flights from Portland, Oregon (PDX) to Keflavik, Iceland (KEF) through Icelandair using our Alaskan Airline miles. From the beginning, we knew we wanted to drive the entire island in a camper van. It would give us the opportunity and flexibility to see all of Iceland, on our time, and our terms. We ended up booking a camper van through Happy Campers because something about the cheerful nature of the website, the camper set-up, their rave reviews, and energy of spreading happiness was what drew us to book with them. I wanted to share a video highlighting our 6-day counter-clockwise Icelandic ring road trip from Aug. 30th to Sept. 4th, our full itinerary, and tips on camper van life.
Day 1 & 2 in Southern Iceland: We jumped off a 7-hour direct flight from Portland, Oregon to Iceland, and picked up our Happy Campers van at 8:00am, grabbed some groceries from Kronan, which is highly recommended over the Bonus grocery store, and started our 6-day journey on the infamous Ring Road. Before we go too far…you are probably wondering, “how long is the Ring Road in Iceland?” The Ring Road circumnavigates the entire island. It is approximately 827 miles long, and takes around 10 to 12-hours to complete if you drive non-stop. On the first leg of our camper van journey, we saw glacier lagoons, icebergs, cascading waterfalls and sprawling volcanic landscapes. We heard from some locals that this Summer has been one of rainiest and coldest in over 15 years, and we experience it first hand. It was nice to have a warm camper van for once to hunker down in for once, and not a tent. Having a heating system at night was pretty nice. On the first night, we felt bad for all the tent campers because 20 to 30 winds howled all night with intermittent downpours. Despite all the rain, I can now see why Iceland is a photographers dream. The first couple days in Iceland were spectacular, and the views just kept getting better.
Svinafellsjokull Glacier in Vatnajökull National Park
Viking Cafe in Hofn
Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Jokulsarlon Diamond Beach
Day 2 & 3 Southern/Southeastern Iceland: The next leg of the journey brings us to the Eastern and Northeastern part of Iceland in the Myvatn region. The ever-changing landscapes evolve from glaciers and mountainside waterfalls to geothermal badlands filled with grand canyons walls. The powerful waterfalls in this region made us feel small, and the volcanic bedrock made us feel like we were walking on another planet. The winds were crazy in this region. Some of the strongest I have felt, behind backpacking in Patagonia. I was pretty sure Tim had to grab my backpack a couples time on the Viti Crater, so I didn’t get blown away. On night 2, we event caught a glimpse of the Northern Lights around 2:30am, it was faint, but a spectacular sight, and one experience I can now check-off my list. We have heard from many, on cold clear nights, the Northern region can put on a extraordinary aurora borealis show. Hopefully the next time I see the Norther lights, it is vibrant enough to capture in a photo to share.
Viti Maar Crater, Myvatn
Hverir Geothermal Area
Day 3 & 4 Northwestern Iceland: We made it to the Northwestern part of Iceland and made our way to Snaefellsjoekull National Park and Kirkjufell Mountain. Just when we thought we have seen it all, we were blown away by the extraordinary and changing terrain of the fjords. Now I see why Game of Thrones chose many of their filming locations here on Iceland. We saw black rocky beaches with sea stacks towering the coastlines, and canyon walls traversing through volcanic landscapes. On the 4th day, it was the grand celebration of my husbands’ birthday. We cheersed to another year filled with grand adventures, and celebrated my husbands’ birthday with a delicious birthday seafood filled dinner at Hraun. Hands down one of the best meals we have had traveling. Highly recommend Hraun’s mussels, fish & chips, and a glass of Hansa Borg Bryggerier IPA to end a long day of hiking and traveling.
Lóndrangar Rock Pinncales
Hraun Restaurant, Olafsvik
Day 5 & 6: We completed our “Ring Road” trip around Iceland a day sooner than anticipated. But luckily, we planned ahead of time to drive a section of the Golden Road, which is a fairly popular road southern Iceland that covers over 300 kilometer from Reykjavík into the southern uplands of Iceland. This route brought us to Thingvellir National Park, a historic site that was once Iceland's parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries. This area consists of an awe-inspiring rift valley created by the separation of two tectonic plates that created rocky cliffs and fissures such as the Almannagjá fault. This magical area once served as the perfect backdrop for Game of Thrones. We saw more stunning waterfalls and enjoyed geothermal“geysirs”. On our last evening, and after a successful drive around the entire island of Iceland in our Happy Campers van, we treated ourselves to a lovely evening soak in a natural hot bath that was Iceland first established “hot pot”, Secret Lagoon in Fludir. Our trip ended with a final drive in Reykjanesfólkvangur, a nature reserve with old lava flows, crater lakes, and geothermic fields. It truly was a neat experience living out of a camper van for the first time, and would highly recommend it for places with temperamental weather. Next time we return, we hope to rent a 4x4 to explore the Icelandic highlands. Thank you Iceland for a fantastic trip, now more adventures lie ahead ✨
Thingvellir National Park
Strokkur Geyser Haukadalur Valley
Secret Lagoon in Fludir
Reykjanesfólkvangur Nature Reserve
Quick tips for camper van life in Iceland:
Bring a sleeping bag for extra comfort and warmth. We used blankets provided by Happy Campers as a layer underneath for extra cushion.
Travel with a duffel bag since hard framed suitcases are hard to store in tight spaces in a camper van.
We used Happy Campers google camp map to find our campsites each night. Since we didn’t have an exact town we wanted to stay in each night, it was helpful to have different options. Campsites in Iceland are readily available, so don’t worry about them filling up. They range anywhere from $14 to $28 per person a night.
Many campsites have hot showers and hot pots (what Iceland calls “hot baths”), so no need to stay in a hotel or a guest house to freshen up.
We rarely used cash in Iceland, but we quickly found out our credit cards (without international fees, of course) have better exchange rates for U.S. dollars.
We enjoyed the variety of groceries from Kronan, and stocked up for 3-days of food at one-time due to space in the fridge. Food in Iceland is expensive, but you are able to bring up to 3kg (6 lbs) of food into Iceland, however no raw eggs, meat or milk.
Normally we aren’t a big fan of having wi-fi on trips, but the Happy Campers wi-fi option was helpful for google mapping campsites, routes and restaurants, and of course to share photos with our family and friends along the way.
Hope you enjoyed reading about Anchor and Pine’s Happy Campers Ring Road trip around Iceland. Next time we return, we hope to rent a 4x4 to explore the Icelandic highlands. Thank you Iceland for a fantastic trip, now more adventures lie ahead ✨