Modern farming and the far East

Modern farming and the far East

To start off, two basic facts. First, Iceland is a fairly big island. At a little over 100 thousand square kilometers it’s larger than for instance Hungary, Austria, The Czech Republic and South Korea. In practical terms this makes driving around the island a considerable (Route 1, the Ring Road, is 1,332 km or 828 mi). Even reaching the places that are furthest away from Reykjavík–parts of the Western fjords, the Eastern fjords and the Northeast–can take up to 8 hours of solid driving. Fact number two is that making the trip to Iceland’s further reaches can be incredibly rewarding, both in terms of getting away from the more popular stops around Reykjavík and more importantly for a chance to discover something more unique.

 

Ring Road

Vestrahorn mountains

We believe that our mini campers are ideal to make longer trips as our customers can travel at their own pace and without worrying about booking accommodation, catching buses etc. The area we want to describe this time is around Berufjörður in the east, with an emphasis on the modern style farm Karlsstaðir.

Karlsstaðir in Berufjörður is around 550 kilometers (a 6hrs 45mins drive) away from Reykjavík so we would advise that you take a few days for the visit. It’s no fun to see the entire southern side of Iceland through a car window so we recommend taking two days for driving each way. There are a great many stops along the way, some of which we’ve written about earlier (see here:

http://blog.icelandminicampers.is/2016/01/27/hiking-in-the-southeast-and-icelands-other-big-writer/).

What makes the farm Karlsstaðir so special is its modern take on farming. Musicians Svavar Pétur and Berglind (who play together as Prins Póló and Skakkamanage) bought the farm a few years ago and made drastic improvements in production. Instead of the traditional Icelandic farming methods of rearing sheep and cows and growing grass to feed them over winter the farm at Karlsstaðir now focus on making organic food such as vegan sausages and chips from turnips and kale. Karlstaðir also has artist residencies and a café/restaurant that doubles as a concert venue during the summer months (from April 1st to the 1 October 1st) and on special occasions (more info here: https://www.facebook.com/hahavari/ or here: http://www.havari.is). The ever-industrious farmers at Karlsstaðir plan to open a campsite next summer but in the vicinity there are several campsites, such as in the neighboring towns of Djúpivogur and Breiðdalsvík (more info here: http://www.east.is/en/where-to-stay/camping).

From the beautiful mountain peaks behind Karlsstaðir farm to the pyramid shaped Búlandstindur, the general area is home to some of the most stunning mountain views Iceland has on offer. Other activities would include visiting the quaint small villages for cafés and museums, such as the wonderful open-air stone and mineral collection in Stöðvarfjörður (see here: http://www.steinapetra.is). Also, keep an eye out for reindeer in the mountains and seals slumbering on the shore. For more ideas and info see here: http://www.east.is/en

 

Stöðvarfjörður

As in most other parts of Iceland, swimming pools are abundant in the Eastern fjords, which also serves to make the region ideal for motor home exploration. Since some of these areas are quite remote, there are still some gravel roads in the area which require extra careful driving so we recommend you drive slower and brake from time to time to test road grip.

 

Vestrahorn mountains in winter

Above all, make lots of stops, take it easy and have fun!

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Bíldudalur: Sea monsters and sculptures at the edge of the world.

As regular readers of our Travel suggestions blog may have noticed, we at Iceland Mini Campers have a special fondness for the Western part of Iceland. We have already talked about Snæfellsnes (see Snæfellsnes, parts 1 and 2) as well as the area around Drangsnes (see here) but we still feel that these regions–their history, culture and scenery–could supply the material for at least a hundred blog posts. Be that as it may, now we want to discuss a place that might well serve to combine a trip to Snæfellsnes and from there on to the Western fjords, a journey that’s absolutely tailor made for the mini camper traveler.

 
Bíldudalur is a small and cosy fishing village on the southern side of Iceland’s Westfjords peninsula. The town and its surrounding area is rich in history and culture and its spectacular scenery has inspired prominent Icelandic artists such as Guðmundur Pétursson Thorsteinsson, better known as Muggur who made one of Iceland’s best loved children’s books Dimmalimm. The area around Bíldudalur also provided the setting for the Icelandic saga Gísla saga Súrssonar, which inspired the gory Viking drama film “Outlaw: The Saga of Gisli” in 1981. (*Spoiler alert* When Gísli was wounded in a battle, he famously tucked his own innards in with his belt so that he could continue fighting.)
From Reykjavík there are two possible routes to Bíldudalur. One is just a straight drive which takes around 5 hours, the other is driving to Stykkishólmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula and taking the ferry Baldur (see here: http://seatours.is/ferry-baldur) which accommodates camper vans at an affordable price. From Stykkishólmur the ferry sails to Brjánslækur, which is only an hour away from Bíldudalur. We would recommend this option since that way your motor home journey can be combined with a tour around the beautiful Snæfellsnes. What’s more, the ferry goes straight across Breiðafjörður and offers some unique sightseeing along the way, such as countless strangely shaped islands and cliffs, a rich fauna of seabirds and the largest island, Flatey, which is inhabited all year round.

Museums

Bíldudalur has some very interesting museums such as The Icelandic sea monster museum (Skrímslasetrið), which is focused on the many sea monsters that have been sighted in the area, such as the Fjörulalli (e. “shore-laddie”) and some truly hideous mermen. Bíldudalur also has a quaint little museum which documents Icelandic music, with an emphasis on the 50s, 60s and 70s, and has many vinyl albums on display. The most interesting museum is located in the nearby Selárdalur, where there is a museum dedicated to the industrious sculptor Samúel Jónsson. Samúel made fantastic Naïve-art structures and sculptures such as a church, a great many paintings and his own peculiar rendering of the Alhambra lion fountain is Spain. The drive to Selárdalur takes around 45 minutes but comes highly recommended.
Due to the small population of Bíldudalur there is only a single restaurant in town, a friendly diner that doubles as a grocery store. Try dishes made from regional produce, such as fresh fish and local lamb. For more restaurant options the neighboring town Tálknafjörður is only 15 minutes away. Bíldudalur has many activities on offer, such as sea-angling and guided tours (one that’s focused on the setting of the before mentioned Gísla saga). Enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery of the surrounding Arnarfjörður, and have coffee with the locals at the town’s only coffee shop/grocery store/restaurant. You will find that Bíldudalur offers a genuine insight into life at the edge of the world.
The general area is perfect for mini camper exploration since there are different swimming pools and campsites strewn freely across the region. Once you’ve reached Bíldudalur, a wealth of destinations in the Westfjords are suddenly within easy reach (see here: http://www.westfjords.is/).

Dynjandi waterfall, West Fjords, Iceland

Dynjandi waterfall, West Fjords Iceland

As a trip to the Western fjords requires a fair bit of driving (or a combination of driving and sailing), for best results we recommend that you plan your trip so that you have ample time to make stops, take in the scenery and enjoy what’s on offer. For a simple tool to gauge distances between places, the Vegvísir website is very handy (see here: http://www.vegvisir.is/en/). We would also like to emphasize that this region is pretty close to the Arctic Circle so bring lots of warm clothes and dress in layers, even if it’s supposed to be summer. The locals are also very helpful when it comes to general advice or recommendations.
Most importantly, explore, make lots of stops and drive safely.
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Some low season advice and map of all year campsites.

Reduced prices

There are many good reasons to plan your minicamper journey in Iceland  during the off-peak season. First off all, we at Iceland Mini Campers offer reduced prices on our campers after September 1st. Second, the fall season often has relatively mild temperatures (in any case, our campers come equipped with electrical heaters and blankets to keep you nice and warm). Last but not least, even though it doesn’t have any tall forests, Iceland has some really beautiful fall foliage.

All year

For the fall mini camper traveller, there are some things to keep in mind. There is an increasing number of services that are open well into winter, and even all year round. . Here is a list of campsites that are open beyond the summer season http://tjalda.is/en/winter-opening/ and map of selected open all year places.

 

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These sites have different facilities but in most cases they provide at least electricity, bathrooms and showers at a modest price. We recommend that all of our customers plan their mini camper trips around those campsites, both for comforts sake and especially since camping without permission has been made illegal in Iceland (see more info here: http://www.ferdamalastofa.is/en/moya/news/may-i-camp-anywhere). For those who want to camp at other places, all that the landowners want is to be asked permission beforehand.

Swimming pools, service stations and restaurants around the country are in most cases open all year but it is sensible to plan ahead. That said, the weather can be fickle at any time during the year so we would advise visitors to keep an eye out for weather forecasts (see here: http://en.vedur.is/), bring lots of warm clothes, and dress in layers.

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Mini camper in the fog.

Drive safely and have fun!

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Campsites.

Mini Camper & Campsites.

There are two things that make Iceland the ideal place to explore in a mini camper: first, wherever in Iceland you may find yourself, there is always a swimming pool close by and second, there are great many campsites around the country and these have a wide range of services on offer, usually bathrooms and electricity but often also showers, Wi-Fi, hiking routes and laundry facilities.

Swimming pools and campsites come at very affordable prices with swimming pools at 4-6 euros and campsites at around 8-10 euros. Here is a map of campsites in Iceland and check out our Travel suggestions blog for our own recommendations.
We believe that the mini camper traveller does not have to compromise when it comes to sleeping comfortably, eating proper meals (our campers are fully furnished for those purposes) and most importantly, having access to bathrooms as well as bathing- and washing facilities.
 
Miðfjarðarvegur, Laugarbakki, Islandia
Skjolborg, Islandia
Skeiða- og Hrunamannavegur, Islandia

Heiðarbær

65.88419063714062, -17.330578565597534

Campsite


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Hvammstangi, Kirkjuhvammur

Kirkjuhvammsvegur, Hvammstangi, Islandia

Á Eyrunum, Lýsudal

Snæfellsnesvegur, Islandia

Campsite


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Akranes

Akranes, Islandia

Campsite


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Akureyri

Akureyri, Islandia

Hamrar Campsite


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Árnes

Árnes, Islandia

Campsite


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Bíldudalur

Bíldudalur, Islandia

Bolungarvík

Grundarhóll, Bolungarvík, Islandia

Bolungarvik

Bolungarvík, Islandia

Campsite


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Búðardalur

Vestfjarðavegur, Búðardalur, Islandia

Drangsnesvegur, Islandia

Drangsnes, Islandia

Campsite


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Eldborg

Eldborg, Islandia

Campsite


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Eskifjörður

Eskifjörður, Islandia

Campsite


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Fáskrúðsfjörður

Fáskrúðsfjörður, Islandia

Campsite


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Flokalundur

Flókalundur, Islandia

Campsite


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Grettislaug, Reykhólum

Skólabraut, Reykhólar, Islandia

Grindavik

Grindavík, Islandia

Campsite


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Hallkelsstaðahlíð

Heydalsvegur, Islandia

Campsite.


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Hellissandur

Hellissandur, Islandia

Campsite


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Höfn

Höfn, Islandia

Campsite


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Hólmavík

Hólmavík, Islandia

Husabakki Hostel

65.92381798639951,-18.567880243062973

Campsite


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Iceland Mini Campers

Einivellir, Hafnarfjörður, Islandia

Mini Camper Van Rental in Iceland


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Kirkjubær

Kirkjubær, Islandia

Campsite


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Langaholt

Langaholt, Snæfellsnesvegur, Islandia

Campsite


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Laugar, sælingsdal

Sælingsdalsvegur, Islandia

Norðfjörður

Norðfjörður, Islandia

Campsite


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Ólafsfjörður

Ólafsfjörður, Islandia

Campsite


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Patreksfjörður

Bíldudalsvegur, Patreksfjörður, Islandia

Reyðarfjörður

Reyðarfjörður, Islandia

Campsite


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Sandgerði

Sandgerði, Islandia

Campsite


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Sauðárkrókur

Sauðárkrókur, Islandia

Campsite


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Seyðisfjörður

Seyðisfjörður, Islandia

Campsite


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Siglufjörður

Siglufjörður, Islandia

Campsite


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Skaftafell

Skaftafell, Islandia

Stokkseyri

Stokkseyri, Islandia

Campsite


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Stöðvarfjörður

Stöðvarfjörður, Islandia

Campsite


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Stykkishólmur

Aðalgata, Stykkishólmur, Islandia

Campsite


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Súðavík

Túngata, Súðavík, Islandia

Tálknafjörður

Tálknafjörður, Islandia

Campsite


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Thakgil

Thakgil, Islandia

Tungudalur, Ísafirði

Skógarbraut, Ísafjörður, Islandia

Úlfljótsvatn

Úlfljótsvatn, Islandia

Campsite


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Varmaland

Varmalandsvegur, Islandia

campsite


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Varmaland

Varmalandsvegur, Islandia

Campsite


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Varmaland

Varmalandsvegur, Islandia

Vik

Vík í Mýrdal, Islandia

Campsite


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Þingeyri

Þingeyri, Islandia

Campsite


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Þorlákshöfn

Þorlákshöfn, Islandia

Campsite


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Þórshöfn

Þórshöfn, Islandia

Campsite


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Facilities and infrastructure

Facilities and infrastructure

In the past few years, Iceland has experienced an incredible growth in tourism. This development has largely been driven by word-of-mouth marketing, since an overwhelming majority of visitors are happy with their visit and pass stories and pictures on to their friends and families (the Eyjafjallajökull eruption also didn’t hurt). The growth in tourism is also mostly experienced in positive terms by the locals since it has helped the economy through difficult times and continues to diversify the job sector through all sorts of interesting small enterprises.

However, the boom in tourism has exposed some serious flaws in the country’s infrastructure and decision-making processes. In short, the government and municipalities have been slow to react to the increased number of visitors and this is most noticeable in the lack of certain basic amenities such as bathroom facilities around the country, and this is especially troublesome around the more popular locations. This state of affairs then directs passers-by towards various guesthouses, shops and restaurants for services such as bathrooms, running water and Wi-Fi, much to the dismay of operators who find themselves providing a free public service at their own cost.

We at Iceland Mini Campers are aware of these issues and therefore we want to offer a simple solution to our customers.

We believe that the mini camper traveller does not have to compromise when it comes to sleeping comfortably, eating proper meals (our campers are fully furnished for those purposes) and most importantly, having access to bathrooms as well as bathing- and washing facilities. For these, there is an abundance of campsites around the country, which provide a host of services such as showers, laundry facilities and WI-FI (these amenities differ between campsites) at affordable prices (see complete list here: http://tjalda.is/en/). Our travel suggestions blog usually includes recommendations for campsites and we are working on adding a map of all the campsites in Iceland on our website.

As for the geothermal swimming pools, they are simply put one of the most wonderful aspects of life in Iceland, and usually include showers, a pool and some hot pots with an entrance fee of 4-6 Euros (see here: http://www.swimminginiceland.com/). These swimming pools are strewn all across the country (the Westfjords alone have 17) and help to make Iceland ideal for motor home journeys.

To conclude, our project involves offering the most cost-efficient way to explore Iceland: a mode of travel that affords visitors more freedom and a more intimate experience than the traditional combinations of hotels, guesthouses and guided tours. Moreover, our travel suggestions blog helps our clients put together their own travel itinerary, with an emphasis on our favorite locations and the wealth of destinations Iceland has to offer that are still mostly unaffected by mass tourism. In light of the frustrations surrounding infrastructure and facilities along Iceland’s highways, we want to recommend to our customers that they make use of Iceland’s many campsites and swimming pools and show both patience and consideration when it comes to various other service providers along the way.

Above all, drive safely and have fun!

ICM

Reykjanes: The best and the worst of Iceland’s best/worst kept secret.

Reykjanes: The best and the worst of Iceland’s best/worst kept secret.

The Reykjanes peninsula is a place of many paradoxes. It has some of Iceland’s most beautiful landscapes, such as the sprawling moss-covered lava fields and the Eldvörp crater formation, it also has some complete eyesores, such as the depressing old US naval base and the huge Straumsvík aluminum smelting plants. The paradox also extends to the fact that while the majority of people who visit Iceland see some portions of the peninsula (most while driving between Keflavík Airport and Reykjavík or visiting the Blue Lagoon), many tour guides still mention Reykjanes as Iceland’s best kept secret. In any case, a drive around Reykjanes is an excellent way to get the most out of a short visit.  We at Iceland Mini Campers would like to make a few suggestions for interesting destinations and activities  ideal for a short mini camper  journey. Since a portion of the Reykjanes road system consists of gravel roads we recommend that you drive carefully (at a sensible speed and apply brakes every now and then to test road grip) and consider getting added gravel coverage. For a small fee we can also provide navigators for our motorhomes.

Route 42

Route 42

Geothermal fields.

You can start your tour of Reykjanes at our office and drop off point in Eskivellir, which is located in Hafnarfjörður at the base of the Reykjanes peninsula (we can of course also bring your mini camper to the Keflavík airport). Make your way onto route 42 which should bring you right past lake Kleifarvatn which, if you like fishing, is rumored to harbor some big ones (see here for permits: http://veidikortid.is/en/). A few minutes after you pass Kleifarvatn you should see Krýsuvík on the right hand side.

Kleifarvatn. The biggest lake in Reykjanes.

Kleifarvatn. The biggest lake in Reykjanes.

The Krýsuvík area has several geothermal fields with mud pots full of bubbling clay, hot springs and soil in every color of the rainbow. The area has wooden pathways so it can be enjoyed quite safely.

Geothermal area

Geothermal area

Moving along on route 42 you should make a right turn at the next crossing and continue on route 427 towards Grindavík. Driving along the seaside there are a couple of interesting stops, such as the Selatangar ruins (just watch out for local ghost Tumi), colorful mountain Festarfjall and the hiking routes around Hópsnes. Grindavík is a quaint little fishing town, mostly known for its salted cod production. For those curious to try this local delicacy there are some quite nice seafood restaurants in town, such as Bryggjan and Salthúsið.

From Grindavík you can either make your way towards the Blue Lagoon on route 426 or continue towards the tip of the peninsula on route 425, which is what we would propose. It is in fact getting harder to recommend the Blue Lagoon even though it continues to be wildly popular among visitors. Its popularity is indeed one of the reasons it should maybe be avoided since it can often get quite crowded and sometimes demands standing in long lines on the parking lot. As for alternative geothermal swimming pools there is one in almost every town on Reykjanes (see here: http://www.swimminginiceland.com/reykjanes) with admission at less than a quarter of Blue Lagoon prices.

European and American tectonic plates.

So, route 425 should bring you to the area around the Reykjanesviti lighthouse, which is surrounded by interesting sites, rich birdlife and various geothermal phenomena. First off there is the Gunnuhver hot spring, named after the ghost Gunna, and then there are the amazing cliff formations that can be seen from the shore, most prominently the picturesque Karl cliff, which rises some 51 meters from the sea. A short distance passed Reykjanesviti you will find Miðlína, the line that divides the European and American tectonic plates, and from there you can get to Hafnir, Sandgerði and Garður, some of Reykjanes’ small fishing villages and to finish the round trip of Reykjanes it is easiest to drive back to Reykjavík via route 41, which connects the Keflavík airport and Reykjavík.

There are several campsites on the Reykjanes peninsula which are ideal for mini campers and two that we would especially like to recommend: the one near the Garðsskagaviti lighthouse (situated on Garðsskagi, close to the village Garður) and, for added amenities such as laundry and internet, the newly renovated campsite in Grindavík (for more information see here: http://tjalda.is/en/camping-sites/sudurnes-peninsula/).

We have barely scraped the surface of all the interesting places to visit and things to do in in the area. So, if you are interested in hiking, golf, or cave exploration you should definitely find something to your taste on Reykjanes (see here for more information: http://www.visitreykjanes.is/). So, we would like to emphasize as always that you drive slowly with lots of stops and make your own discoveries.

Have fun!

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Hiking in the Southeast and Iceland’s other big writer.

Hiking in the Southeast and Iceland’s other big writer.

As in previous posts, we at Iceland Mini Campers want to recommend to you some of our favorite destinations in Iceland with an emphasis on areas that are accessible and well suited for a mini camper visit.

Today we will be looking at locations in the Southeast, right on the Þjóðvegur 1 (the highway 1 ring road). The drive to this general area takes around 4 hours (see here) but we assure you that these places are well worth the trip and would in fact make for a perfect 3-4 day motorhome excursion. Also, if you plan to make the round trip around Iceland you will be passing these places so we recommend you put aside a couple of days for a proper stop.

Vatnajökull National Park.

First of all, make your way eastbound out of Reykjavík, past Hveragerði, Selfoss and several other small towns, straight to Skaftafell, which is part of the Vatnajökull National Park. It has a visitors’ center and excellent camping facilities and a few must-see phenomena. The best way to reach those is through some of the marked hiking routes around the area and these take you to different areas and are have different levels of difficulty, the easiest ones lasting around 2 hours (for a round trip) while the more challenging ones last up to 8-10 hours (more information here). The locations easiest to reach include the beautiful Svartifoss waterfall and Sjónarnípa, which gives you a view of Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe. We would recommend that you make sensible preparations if you plan to go hiking in this area and ask for advice at the visitors’ center if the weather seems dubious. That said, the weather can also be quite pleasant in Skaftafell since the surrounding mountains and glaciers provide cover from wind. Other beautiful locations in Skaftafell are Sjónarsker, Skaftafellsjökull and Bæjarstaðaskógur.

 

Skaftafell

Svartifoss Waterfall.

From Skaftafell it is easy to reach a couple of other interesting destinations. First of all, the Svínafell mountain is only 9 kilometers away. Aside from the beauty of the mountain itself (people who live there say that you never get bored of looking at it) and its surroundings there are camping grounds and a variety of activities and services on offer there too. (see here). Second of all, Hali in Suðursveit is also fairly close by which houses a peculiar museum based on the life and works of writer Þórbergur Þórðarson, who is often cited as Iceland’s other big author, along with Nobel Laureate Halldór Laxness. Þórbergur however did not enjoy any of Laxness’ international success and only a select few of his works are available in English translations. It has been said that Þórbergur Þórðarson’s works were “too Icelandic” for foreign markets but that theory doesn’t really hold water (considering, for instance, the success of Sigur Rós, Iceland itself as a tourist location and the aforementioned Halldór Laxness). The Hali museum has a restaurant that specializes in local Arctic Char dishes and is quite worth a visit (see here).

Glacier Lagoon.

Finally, since we are covering the Southeast of Iceland, we have to mention the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Since it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland, it might by one of the most “touristy” destinations we at Iceland Mini Campers have covered but in this case the hype is all justified.

Drifting ice.

Drifting ice.

The lagoon itself provides some very beautiful scenery with bits of glacier bobbing about in clear blue water, making the same klook-klook sounds as ice cubes in a drink, which gives the whole place a tranquil, weird atmosphere. There is also a good chance of there being some seals frolicking in the water or resting on nearby shores.

Ice

 

As in previous posts we want to conclude by emphasizing that you drive safely and give yourselves lots of time to make many stops. We’ve only really scratched the surface regarding all the places in this area that are worth a visit and we therefore just recommend that you keep your eyes open and endeavor to make your own discoveries. Also, keep in mind Þórbergur Þórðarson’s words:

“The majority of the misery in the world comes from a lack of imagination”.

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Þjórsárdalur and the nicest picnic spot in the universe.

Þjórsárdalur and the nicest picnic spot in the universe

Like in the previous posts, we at Iceland Mini Campers will continue describing our favorite destinations in Iceland so that you can start planning your visit. And as usual we will place an emphasis on areas that are both accessible and well suited for a mini camper visit. We are also interested in sharing some of Iceland’s well-kept secrets with you since it is a fact that Iceland has literally hundreds of destinations that are at least as worthy of a visit as Gullfoss, Geysir and the Blue Lagoon.

Today we will talk about the beautiful Þjórsárdalur area, which has a reconstructed Viking farm, some of Iceland’s most attractive waterfalls and, in our humble opinion, the nicest picnic spot there is. Also, to make things even more exciting, Þjórsárdalur is quite close to one very picturesque volcano, Hekla, which might erupt at literally any minute now. The whole Þjórsárdalur area contains a wide array of hiking trails, scenic views and interesting spots but this time we will limit ourselves to three of them. For other suggestions please refer to the Þjórsá visitor center at Árnes (see here).

 Hekla

Hekla

The Þjórsárdalur area is quite close to Reykjavík at a distance of around 130 kilometers, which amounts to a solid 90-minute drive. Most places in the area are fairly easily accessible by mini camper but once you reach the area itself there are some gravel roads so we would advise you to consider getting some extended insurance coverage if you are renting one of our motorhomes and perhaps a GPS navigator as well. The area can be reached from the ring road (highway 1) as well as via Þingvellir-Laugarvatn-Flúðir if you want to combine a visit to Þjórsárdalur with a Golden Circle Tour. Since some of the Þjórsárdalur area is quite far inland it is also advisable to plan ahead and look into the condition of roads before setting off, for instance by talking to a tourist info center or checking with The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration at http://www.road.is/.

Hjálparfoss

Hjálparfoss waterfall.

Once you find yourself on route 32, the Þjórsárdalsvegur, you will come across a sign that points to Hjálparfoss. Hjálparfoss is in fact two waterfalls that combine into one, and for added effect it is framed by some very peculiar rock formations called trap-rock. The name Hjálparfoss means waterfall of help (help is hjálp and waterfall is foss in Icelandic). Apparently the waterfall was given this name since it was a welcome stop for those traveling across the country on horseback since Hjálparfoss has clear spring water, as opposed to the foul smelling brown glacial rivers that are predominant in the area, and a nice clearing with plenty of grass for horses.

 Þjóðveldisbærinn Stöng

Þjóðveldisbærinn Stöng

Close by Hjálparfoss on route 32, you can find route 327, Stangarvegur, which leads to the Viking farm Stöng. Stöng is a turf farm built on the excavated foundations of an older farm that was buried in lava in the year 1104, in one of Hekla’s heftiest eruptions. The Stöng farm offers guided tours and an exhibition of arts, crafts and the history of Gaukur Trandilsson, the former inhabitant of Stöng, about whom an Icelandic saga was written (but sadly is now lost). More information can be found here: http://www.thjodveldisbaer.is/en.

Gjáin í Þjórsárdal

Gjáin í Þjórsárdal

From Stöng you can drive a short distance to Gjáin, which is quite a remarkable place. The gravel road between Stöng and Gjáin can be a little rough but in that case it is well possible to walk to Gjáin, which should take around 20 minutes. Gjáin is a small valley with green grass, a blue stream, a beautiful waterfall and strange tousled rock formations. Gjáin meets the visitor like an oasis that stands in stark contrast to the barren rocky landscapes that surround it. The calming sounds of trickling water, the scenery and the peaceful air of Gjáin makes it, again in our humble opinion, the best picnic spot in the universe for the travel weary mini camper driver. It should also come in handy that our campers come furnished with a gas heater and all the equipment you need to make hot chocolate, which is the perfect drink for your picnic at Gjáin.

For an overnight stay in the area we recommend the camping grounds at Sandártunga, Árnes or Brautarholt. There are also farms in the area that offer horseback riding and assorted services and activities. The general area also has several bars, café’s, restaurants and, of course, a few swimming pools. So our advice is the same as usual. Drive slowly and safely, make many stops, and enjoy.

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Háifoss – þjórsárdalur

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The Snæfellsnes ring route, part 2

The Snæfellsnes, part 2.

In our last blog post we started discussing the Snæfellsnes peninsula as an ideal destination for your 2-3 day mini camper trip. We suggested some interesting spots to visit along the southern side of Snæfellsnes and left off at Arnarstapi and Hellnar, which are close to the westernmost tip of the peninsula. In the following post we will continue around the Snæfellsjökull glacier and make our way along the northern side of Snæfellsnes and point out some interesting destinations along the way. As for maps, road conditions and other specifics please refer to the websites vegvisir.is, road.is and vegasja.vegagerdin.is. Moreover, we at Iceland mini campers can equip your rental motorhome with a GPS navigator for a small fee.

Rock, stones and fishing.

Dritvik.Vesturland.

Dritvik. Vesturland.

So, lets get down to business. The first interesting stop is Dritvík, from where open fishing boats would set sail by the hundreds back in the days. Dritvík has some really peculiar rock formations and four rocks that were used to decide what sort of cut the sailors would get from the day’s fishing. Since the boats were both propelled by oars and the fishing lines pulled by hand, the strength of each individual sailor was of the essence. The stones are Fullsterkur (Full-strong), Hálfsterkur (Half-strong), Hálfdrættingur (Half-dragger) and Amlóði (Lightweight). Try for yourself and see how you would have fared as a pre-industrial Icelandic fisherman.

Djúpalónssandur Vesturland

Djúpalónssandur Vesturland

Next stop is Öndverðarnes, which has an old picturesque lighthouse and some really impressive seaside cliffs and some angry surf beneath. Keep an eye out for seals, killer whales or even the white-tailed sea eagle, which is very rare but nests at a few locations in Snæfellsnes. Near Öndverðarnes you will also find Skarðsvík, which is a small white-sanded beach–a real sweet spot.

Öndverðarnes lighthouse and killer whale.

Öndverðarnes lighthouse and killer whale.

Ólafsvík, Grundarfjörður and Stykkishólmur

On the northern side of Snæfellsnes you will find three large towns, with population numbers ranging from 800 to 1000 inhabitants (very large towns indeed!), these are Ólafsvík, Grundarfjörður and Stykkishólmur and are all worth a visit and provide all sorts of services and entertainment. All of these towns have quite nice swimming pools and quite nice camping sites.

Stykkishólmur

Stykkishólmur

Whalewatching tours are also on offer in the towns of Ólafsvík and Grundarfjörður. These are take you around Breiðafjörður bay which has a spectacular seascape of countless islands and skerries and an abundance of all sorts of sea birds. Stykkishólmur also harbors a ferry called Baldur that takes both passengers and their cars across the Breiðafjörður bay and to the southern side of the Westfjords (see here http://seatours.is/). The ferry also stops in the small island of Flatey which is well worth a visit.

Kirkjufell

Kirkjufell

Sharks and horses.

The final absolute must-visit place on the northern side of Snæfellsnes is Bjarnarhöfn, where shark is processed. Bjarnarhöfn has a small museum of its history as a shark fishing and processing station and guided tours of the grounds are provided by larger-than-life character Hildibrandur who also provides samples of his shark. The taste is, well, unforgettable.

Beyond the places we have talked about there is an abundance of activities on offer on Snæfellsnes. First of all, there are a number of farms that offer horseback riding tours, just look out for this sign:

These come highly recommended on either the north or the south side of Snæfellsnes. Also, if you like fishing Snæfellsnes has a lot to offer. Many farms have some small lake or stream that usually contains some type of trout (brown trout, sea run trout or arctic char being the most common) so keep your eyes peeled for this sign here:

Road sign

Usually the fishing permits are quite cheap and some of the lakes are included in the Veiðikortið fishing permit, which is grants access to 35 lakes around Iceland (see here http://veidikortid.is/en/?lang=en). The trout is perfect for barbecued or seared on a pan and can be cooked to perfection with the cooking equipment in your Iceland Mini Camper.

To conclude, there are some gravel roads in the area so you are advised to drive slowly. Also, this far up north you are advised to bring lots of warm clothes regardless of the season. Most importantly, drive safely, make meny stops and have lots of fun!

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The Snæfellsnes ring route: a microcosmic Iceland. Part 1

The Snæfellsnes ring route: a microcosmic Iceland. Part 1

In the past installments, we at Iceland Mini Campers have shared with you some of our favorite destinations in Iceland with an emphasis on motorhome friendly areas and the road less traveled. Now we will continue in the same vein and describe one of the most beautiful and most interesting parts of Iceland: the Snæfellsnes peninsula.

Snæfellsnes peninsula.

Snæfellsnes peninsula.

If you ever find yourself in Iceland with 2-3 days to spare, a mini camper trip around Snæfellsnes is truly an excellent idea. The glacier itself is probably best know from Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and is reportedly a source of great spiritual and cosmic energy. Moreover, it is said that on this single peninsula you can find most types of geographical formations that exist in Iceland. Simply put, by driving around Snæfellsnes you will be able to experience most types of landscape Iceland has to offer and plenty of interesting places to discover along the way.

Snæfellsjökull

Snæfellsjökull

Snæfellsjökull

The very picturesque Snæfellsjökull, from which Snæfellsnes takes its name, is often visible from Reykjavík on clear days and driving to the roots of the glacier takes a little over two hours. First of all, make your way northbound on highway 1 or the Vesturlandsvegur (for more information refer to vegvisir.is, vegagerdin.is and vegasja.vegagerdin.is). Shortly after you’ve passed the small town of Borgarnes you turn left onto highway 54. Along this road there are many interesting stops but there are a couple that we really need to mention.

Snæfellsnes peninsula.

Snæfellsnes peninsula.

First off, the Eldborg crater is quite impressive and beautifully shaped and has a number of hiking paths around it. We recommend the short walk to the top edge of the crater which should provide some excellent photo opportunities.

Second, the Gerðuberg cliff and its surroundings are well worth a stop. Gerðuberg is a very symmetrical cliff made out of trap-rock basalt columns. Gerðuberg has inspired a number of buildings in Iceland, such as the University of Iceland’s main building. However, before arriving at Gerðuberg you can make a right at highway 55 and a left at Syðri-Rauðamelur. Drive along that road for circa 6 kilometers and you will find the natural hot pool Rauðamelslaug, which has a temperature of around 40°C which makes it perfect for bathing. (As often is the case with well kept secrets it can be a bit difficult to spot but the coordinates are Lat: 64.87010000, Long: -22.28368333).

When you continue on highway 54 out onto the Snæfellsnes peninsula our best advice is to keep your eyes peeled for this sign here:

Road sign

It simply means interesting place and Snæfellsnes has quite a lot of them. As you make your way further out onto the peninsula there are a few that deserve special mention. The first one would be the farm Ölkelda, which has a natural mineral water spring, and last time we knew they offer cups for free so that you can try a sip of the wholesome drink. If you want to go all-in and bathe in mineral water as well that can be done at Lýsuhóll, which you will find a little further down the road.

Further still, highway 54 splits and allows you to take a left on route 574. That road will take you around the Snæfellsjökull glacier and has at least three stops that are an absolute must. The first is Rauðafeldsgjá, a narrow gorge or a cleft on the right hand side. You can walk into it and enjoy it’s eerie atmosphere with moss covered walls and seabirds hovering above. Next stops are Arnarstapi and Hellnar. We recommend that you stop at Arnarstapi and take a look at the weird rock formations there and then walk to Hellnar, which only takes about 10-15 minutes.

Arnarstapi landmark in West Iceland.

Arnarstapi landmark in West Iceland.

The area has a lot to offer, stunning scenic views of tousled cliffs, the impossibly clear ocean and the quaint little houses. The camping grounds at Arnarstapi are, in our honest opinion, the most beautifully situated in all of Iceland and perfect overnight stop for a mini camper journey. Barbecue on the beach, look out for seals and, if you’re not afraid to get wet, go for a swim!

Next week we’ll continue to list some of our favorites.

Drive safely!

IMC

Snæfellsnes peninsula.

Snæfellsnes mountains.

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