Hi everyone! I’m excited to kick off my series on Iceland! Iceland was my first road trip style vacation. For this trip, I spent two weeks living in a campervan and driving the entire outer ring of the country! As usual, for Part 1 I will give you some of the planning and logistical details that went into making this trip a reality. Then in the following parts, I’ll give you an inside look at the Iceland campervan experience!
Two Weeks in a Campervan? No way!
The idea to visit Iceland came from my travel partner Zandt. Now Zandt is a big outdoorsman. He loves camping, hiking – generally anything that gets you out in the wilderness and away from people. I’m a little different – I love the outdoors but I also love my creature comforts – hot showers and plumbing are great things! So when Zandt came to me and pitched the idea of seeing Iceland via campervan my first thought was heck no! I need a hot shower and a bed please! Two weeks is a long time!
Needless to say, there was a lot I didn’t know about Iceland and campervan trips. Zandt was quick to inform me he had done a lot of research on Iceland campervan trips and it wasn’t that bad at all. For one, there are campsites throughout Iceland. These are not just pull-offs, but actual campsites with facilities – hot showers, electric, all the niceties. Secondly, the campervan options are NICE. Pull out beds, tiny kitchens – everything you need!
I was still a little suspicious, so I started to do my own research. I was an experienced traveler but totally new to the world of road trips and campervans. So, I spent a lot of time looking up different rental companies in Iceland. I found out a few things – mainly that Zandt was right. The campervans are nice, the campsites are readily available, and – the campervans aren’t cheap!
Iceland campervan trips are popular, which creates demand. On top of this, Iceland is not a cheap destination anyway. Since I’m not rich, I did a lot of comparative research to pick the right campervan company. We decided on Snail Motorhome Rental. They were an established company with great reviews. They may not have the slickest, newest vans, but they had everything we were looking for! Reliable with a great track record – works for me!
Pro-tip: For campervan trips – especially in Iceland, consider and compare many options. You have a lot of choices from size (2 person van? 6 person van?) to abilities (4×4?). Read lots of reviews! There’s nothing worse than being stranded in a remote area. It’s not a one size fits all decision.
A Van but no Plan
After settling on the idea of an Iceland campervan trip and selecting our campervan, we realized we didn’t have an actual plan! We knew from some basic googling that Iceland has one major road that can be used to travel the entire outer ring of the country. This is the Ring Road and it is about 1,322 kilometers long (821 miles).
Given our time allowance – 12 days, 2 of which were flying days – we knew we had time to travel the Ring Road. But we weren’t sure where we wanted to stop and if we wanted to venture off the main road at all. I got down to researching.
Iceland is a country of natural wonders. From black sand beaches to glaciers and wild bird cliffs – there is so much to see and experience! I learned that most of the population is centered in Reykjavik, the capital. Reykjavik is along the southwest of Iceland. Once you leave Reykjavik, you will find much smaller and less frequent towns along the east, north, and west. I realized our trip was going to be pretty isolated and most of our adventures would be around nature not cities.
Because our campervan would allow us to stop and sleep basically anywhere, with campsites being easy to find, I decided we only needed a loose plan. This is different from self-drive vacations in other areas that dictate more stringent planning like Namibia. It was fine to drive at night in Iceland and there weren’t any animals that might eat you if you stopped in the wrong place. Because of when we were traveling, July, the idea of the night was a loose one – thanks to the midnight sun much of our time would be lit anyway.
Pro-tip: Think about your destination and your trip goals. Some trips need more fine-tuned planning than others to make sure you are safe and comfortable. Others can be more spontaneous. Make sure you understand what type your trip is and why.
The Loose Shape of a Plan
To me, a loose plan meant I would have a general idea of what region we should be in when. It wasn’t as important to me to know exactly what campsite or town we would stop at each night, but more important to know we were moving along at a fairly consistent pace. I didn’t want us to end up having to drive 14 hours or something crazy our last day just to get back to the airport on time.
I started to divide up the regions. We had 10 whole days in Iceland, starting in Reykjavik. I knew from researching on sites like Wikipedia and TripAdvisor that the southern part of Iceland held the black sand beaches and glaciers, while the east had waterfalls and a few small towns. The north held the volcanic Myvatn lake and the second-largest city in Iceland, Akureyri. The west was probably the most remote bit, with the northwest fjords housing the famous bird cliffs.
I decided we would move counterclockwise from Reykjavik – east, north, west then circling back to the capital. Zandt and I had both done some research about activities and sights to see throughout Iceland and we felt this direction prioritized our goals. I used excel to start filling in a loose timetable. I focused on major destinations and interests along the way.
You’ll probably notice a few things. There are plenty of gaps – this is where I left us room to drive our trip as we saw fit. See a cool waterfall and want to check it out – go for it! Also, you’ll probably notice weird descriptions like “drive to Egg place”. This is a perfect look into my early planning phases – I had read that there was a town on the East coast that had giant egg sculptures. So I made a quick note in our schedule/plan so I could look it up later for more details. (The town is Djúpivogur, and it was one of my favorite stops! More on that in Part 2).
Pro-tip: Your early plans don’t have to perfect – think of it like a first draft you can iterate on. Sketch in your ideas and see how well the puzzle pieces fit together. From there you can refine any rough pieces.
Ready for Iceland
With our van and a loose itinerary, we were just about ready for our trip. Flights were the last detail to secure – and as usual, I tapped into credit card rewards to book these. Both Zandt and I are fans of the credit card reward points approach for making travel more affordable. We ended up booking our flights for the night of the fourth of July which is a lot of fun. Oddly enough this was my second time flying on the fourth – I also flew to Ireland with my mom on the 4th years prior!
With flights, van, and a schedule – I concluded the planning of our Iceland campervan trip. Check out Part 2 next!