Camping Iceland in 12 Days (Days 1 – 5)

Stunning scenery around every corner, friendly locals, and never-ending adventure…this is Camping Iceland! We were so excited planning this trip and making our “to do” list. So much to choose from but only 12 days. Our route would be the Golden Circle then driving Ring Road counter clockwise and camping each night.

As we planned, we had some concerns such as Iceland being a very expensive island to visit, the rain, wind and cold, and terrible roads. Of course, these are valid concerns but instead of worrying we prepared for everything the best we could.

Our planning complete and bags packed…off we go!

Daily Cost

Two 6″ Sandwiches: $12
Washer/Dryer: $14
Groceries: $30
Campground: $30

Day 1 – Keflavik to Hveragerði

Itinerary: Hveragerði Hot Spring River

We landed at 7am, grabbed our checked bags and caught the first rental car bus to Sixt Rent a Car. We rented a Renault Clio which was enough for 4 people and 2 bags. Our logic, we are two people so we should have room for 4-5 bags. We fit but our back seat and trunk were packed.

Welcome

Next up, the discount grocery store Bónus! We read this was the cheapest grocery store on the island so to reduce costs, this is where our food will be coming from. Just 10 minutes from the airport – we found one. So far so good until we realized they didn’t open until 10a.

Our first destination – Hveragerði Hot Spring River. Reaching the parking lot for the trail head is easy. There will be LOTS of cars in the parking lot but the river has plenty of space so don’t be discouraged. Just park and go! It was raining so out comes the rain gear. The hike took us about 90 minutes one-way but we took breaks and enjoyed the scenery. We were prepared for rain but got a lot wetter than expected. Once we reached the boardwalk, we found the further up the river we walked, the hotter the water became. The rain would stop and it was beautiful, then came the fog & rain and visibility became poor. This continued for the several hours as we soaked and we loved it! For some strange reason, we didn’t take a camera so no photos but trust us, its’ a fantastic place and we highly recommend it!

Laundry Sign
Who Dries a Pet?

We camped at the Hveragerði Campground. Since we somehow got everything wet on our hike, we bought a $7 coin to use the dryer. We put everything in, inserted the expensive coin and seconds after pushing the ‘start’ button, we realized we put everything in the WASHER. NOOOOO!!! Of course there is no way to stop it. Once completed, we purchased another $7 coin and finally dried everything. By the way, don’t put pets in the dryer!

One note, we were told this summer is colder than normal. The temperature at night was around 40° F and colder than we expected but we added a layer and were fine. Just thought it was worth noting.

Daily Cost

Two Burgers & Fries: $35
Kerið Crater: $8
Campground: $38

Day 2 – Hveragerði to Geysir

Itinerary: Kerið Crater, Bruarfoss & Geysir Hot Spring Area

Kerið Crater
Kerið Crater

Kerið Crater is a volcanic crater lake located in the Grímsnes area. Cost is 400 króna per person or approx $3.50. The caldera itself is approximately 180 feet deep, 560 feet wide, and 890 feet across.

Bruarfalls and the falls downstream are relatively small compared to others in Iceland but they are beautiful and blue. The hike is also fun and a designated parking area has been established making it easy to find than it used to be.

Hlauptungufoss
Magnificent Hlauptungufoss
Hlauptungufoss
Hlauptungufoss Below Bruarfoss
Hlauptungufoss
Blue Water of Hlauptungufoss
Bruarfoss
Scenic Bruarfoss

Icelandic Horse are everywhere and they are photogenic.

Horse
Horse & Moss
Horse
Icelandic Horse

Geysir is a hot spring in the geothermal area of Haukadalur Valley. Strokkur shoots water 100 feet into the air every few minutes as you can see in the photo.

Camping Iceland Geysir
Geysir Campsite
Geysir Hot Spring Area
Geysir Hot Spring Area
Daily Cost

Two Burgers & Fries: $35
Campground: $36

Day 3 – Geysir to Seljalandsfoss

Itinerary: Gullfoss, Brúarhlöð Canyon, Hrunalaug Hot Spring, Seljalandsfoss & Gljúfrafoss

Gullfoss is a large and very powerful waterfall located on the Hvítá river which is fed by the Langjökull glacier. We read the water flows approximately 2,825 cubic feet per second during winter and 4,944 cubic feet per second during summer. The highest measurement was 70,629 cubic feet per second. That’s incredible!

Gullfoss
The Power of Gullfoss
Gullfoss
The River Below Gullfoss
Brúarhlöð Canyon
Brúarhlöð Canyon

Brúarhlöð is a narrow canyon in the Hvitá River. We noticed it as we crossed a bridge and decided to stop. The water is surrounded by unique rock formation. The signs say it is a popular white-water rafting area.

Icelandic Horse and Sheep.

Horse
Horse
Sheep
Sheep
Hrunalaug Hot Spring
Hrunalaug Hot Spring

Hrunalaug Hot Spring is a very small yet cozy hot spring. When we arrived there were about 10 people already in it but everyone was friendly and we all just soaked and talked. There is a small grass covered hut next to it if you need to change.

Seljalandsfoss
Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss is a unique because you can walk behind it and down to the water. It’s a must do but you will get wet. The waterfall drops 197 feet.

Gljúfrafoss is a short 10 minute walk to the left of Seljalandsfoss. You will want to check it out and keep that rain gear on!

Gljúfrafoss
Gljúfrafoss
Gljúfrafoss
Gljúfrafoss Looking Out
Daily Cost

Groceries: $46
Campground: $39

Day 4 – Seljalandsfoss to Vik

Itinerary: Seljavallalaug Pool, Skógafoss & Sólheimajökull Glacier

Seljavallalaug is one of the oldest swimmings pools in Iceland built in 1923. It’s 82 feet long and still visited by lots of tourists. Interesting fact, the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull filled the pool with ash. In the summer of 2011, a group of volunteers gathered to clean it.

Seljavallalaug Pool
Hike to Seljavallalaug Pool
Seljavallalaug Pool
Seljavallalaug Pool – Built in 1923
Skógafoss
Skógafoss

Skógafoss is one of the largest waterfalls in the country at 49 feet wide and drops 200 feet. We talked to a few backpackers hiking out of this area and when asked where they came from they said Landmannalaugar. They were just finishing the 35 mile Laugavegur trail! This needs to be added to the “to do” list for next time!

Sólheimajökull Glacier Sign
Sólheimajökull Glacier Sign

Sólheimajökull Glacier is five miles long and a little over a mile wide. We drove a gravel road, parked then hiked maybe 15 minutes to get to this. It’s definitely fun to explore but pay attention to the sign and always be careful.

The area we explored seemed safe but we didn’t climb up the glacier where the tour groups went. We didn’t have gear so felt it would be safest to explore only so far.

Sólheimajökull Glacier
Sólheimajökull Glacier
Sólheimajökull Glacier Cave
Sólheimajökull Glacier Cave
Camping Iceland Vik
Vik Campsite
Daily Cost

Gas: $30
Campground: Free

Day 5 – Vik to just east of Diamond Beach

Itinerary: Vík Black Beach, Dyrhólaey, Reynisfjara, Laufskálavarða, Skaftáreldahraun, Svínafellsjökull Glacier, Hofskirkja Church, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon & Diamond Beach

Vík is a small town in south Iceland. In the morning, we walked to the beach and just soaked in the scenery. Lots and lots of birds and Puffins flying around and we expected black sand but there are lots of black pebbles too.

Vík Black Pebble Beach
Vík Black Pebble Beach
Vík Black Beach Pebbles
Vík Black Beach Pebbles
Puffins Spotted at the Beach
Puffins Spotted at the Beach

Dyrhólaey peninsula has a large rock arch and a good place to spot puffins. We saw many nesting on the hillside.

Dyrhólaey Arch
Dyrhólaey Arch
Puffin
Puffin

Reynisfjara beach is definitely a place to visit. We almost skipped it and glad we didn’t because it’s a big black sand and pebble beach and has a wall of basalt columns that you can climb. The famous Reynisdrangar rock formations are just standing off the shore as well.

Reynisdrangar Rock Formations
Reynisdrangar Rock Formations
Basalt Columns
Basalt Columns
Reynisfjara Beach
Reynisfjara Beach

Obviously people in Iceland have a different style than I do. I thought a thermal long sleeved orange shirt under a short sleeve green t-shirt with uncombed hair was the “in” thing. Go figure…

Laufskálavarða
Laufskálavarða

Laufskálavarða is an interesting place. Legend says travellers crossing the desert of Mýrdalssandur for the first time would pile stones up to make a cairn, which was supposed to bring them good fortune on the journey. Right on the Rind Road so stop, take some photos and walk around.

Skaftáreldahraun
Skaftáreldahraun

Skaftáreldahraun is a huge lava flow that occurred over 250 years ago when an enormous eruption took place creating the third largest lava flow on Earth since the Ice Age. The lava flow is now covered with a thick moss that gives off a grey color when dry, but beautiful green after a rain.

Typical Scenery on Ring Road
Typical Scenery on Ring Road

Svínafellsjökull Glacier is an amazing site and the largest ice cap in Europe.

Svínafellsjökull Glacier
Svínafellsjökull Glacier
Svínafellsjökull Glacier
Svínafellsjökull Glacier
Hofskirkja Church
Hofskirkja Church

Hofskirkja church is a beautiful turf church built in 1884.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is another must visit. Icebergs slowly float toward the ocean and break apart. Chunks of the ice wash up on the black sand beach aka Diamond Beach.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Diamond Beach
Diamond Beach – 8″ Tall Ice

That’s it for the first five days.

Lessons Learned:

  • Discount Grocery Bónus isn’t open before 10a – check their website for hours
  • Gas – to purchase at a pump, your credit / debit card MUST have a PIN
  • Gas – without a PIN, you can purchase a pre-paid gas card in the station and they are easy to use but are unfortunately not re-usable
  • Speeding – don’t do it; speeding tickets are expensive and they use speed cameras; just follow the set limits and enjoy the view
  • Sheep – they often stand on the sides of the road and sheep are fast; slow down and don’t hit them
  • Rain Gear – carry it everywhere since rain can fall anytime
  • Roads – we had a small 2 wheel drive car and normal and gravel roads were fine; unless you have a 4 wheel drive stay off the F roads

If you'd like to continue reading, please read Camping Iceland in 12 Days (Day 6 - 12)

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