Living off the lakes

Living off the lakes

Recently there has been some controversy regarding travelers making attempts at a hunter-gatherer lifestyle while staying in Iceland, often with mixed results. A large camper rental company encouraged its customers to try and “live off the land” for as long as they could and some highly questionable behavior of other visitors was placed in this context both by the media and the outraged native public. One group of tourists was fined a large sum after having hunted and killed a lamb while others were caught inadvertently poaching in one of the country’s most expensive salmon rivers.

First of all, we want to make clear that we would never recommend living solely off the land in Iceland. We need only to look at the nation’s history to see that simply “living off the land” is easier said than done. Despite the fact that Iceland covers an area greater than for instance Hungary, Portugal or South Korea, the land was never able to sustain more than 50.000 people during its first thousand years, from settlement in the 9th century and until the 19th century, only surpassing the 80.000 people mark in the beginning of the 20th century. Iceland is certainly rich in many resources, but we can all agree that bountiful wild fruit and game are definitely not the country’s strong suit. However, it is worth pointing out that while living completely off the land may be difficult, there is a simple and inexpensive way for mini camper travelers to provide themselves at least one ingredient towards a delicious meal.

                We have often mentioned that what makes Iceland ideal for exploration in a motor home is the numerous campsites and swimming pools spread freely around the country. A close third, in our humble opinion, would be the great number of rivers and lakes that are teeming with arctic char, brown trout and even the odd salmon. While fishing in rivers can be very expensive, especially where there’s even a small chance of catching salmon, lake fishing is mostly very reasonably priced. What the mini camper traveler can do is simply drive around with an eye open for this sign:

This sign is posted by the many farms that sell access to rivers, streams and lakes on their land and in most cases prices are fair, normally between 1500-2500 ISK for a daily permit. The farmers selling the permits are often very knowledgeable about the lakes or streams on their land, and are usually eager to provide information about where, when and how to catch something in their waters.

 Another course of action would be to buy the Veiðikortið (Eng. The fishing card, see here: http://veidikortid.is/index.php?lang=en) which grants (mostly) unrestricted access to 35 lakes around Iceland. Veiðikortið costs 6900 ISK and is valid for the full calendar year although the best time for lake fishing is usually from April through September, depending on the lakes (the Veiðikortið website provides more information about each lake’s peak season, optimal time of day, best bait etc.). As for the fishing tackle needed, the lakes mostly have trout, typically from 0.5-2.0 kilos, so catching them doesn’t require anything more than a small fishing rod which can either be bought in here Iceland or brought from abroad (in which case all fishing gear must be disinfected beforehand). What makes the Veiðikortið fishing card especially suitable for mini camper travelers is the fact that the lakes are spread around every region of Iceland and many of these offer free camping grounds for cardholders (amenities vary) so that it is easy to plan one’s journey in such a way that each day can end with some afternoon fishing and a lakeside dinner. With a bit of patience and luck you might even catch yourself the main ingredient for Iceland Mini Campers’ s own recipe, designed especially by ICM’s chef for cooking on a mini camper stove.

 

IMC’s Super Special Lakeside Fried Trout

Ingredients:

A few fillets of freshly caught trout (depending on availability)

A leek

Almond flakes

A lemon

 

Method:

Slice the leek and fry it lightly with the almond flakes in a skillet and put aside when done. Fry the fillets with the skin facing down, flip them once before they are cooked through and be careful not to overcook. Add fried leek and almond flakes and cook everything together for the last minute or so. Serve with a squeeze of lemon and some couscous, potatoes, fresh salad, nice bread and butter or whatever else you can think of.  

Bon appetite!

Drive safely and enjoy!

IMC

Some tips and tricks for making your Mini Camper trip go smoother.

Some tips and tricks for making your Mini Camper trip go smoother.

Our customers, the dynamic duo Mel and Vin who run the website https://www.melvinout.com/, recently wrote an article about their Mini Camper trip around Iceland (see here: https://www.melvinout.com/single-post/2017/06/11/10-Tips-for-Traveling-Iceland-in-a-Campervan). All in all, their experience was positive but, as Mel puts it “There were days where I felt like I was experiencing the most incredible thing in the world and others where I felt lucky to be alive.“ Their list is very helpful and we wanted to respond to some of these issues as well in the hope of offering up some solutions and hands-on advice.

The price and availability of things, including alcohol

At the moment, Iceland is experiencing an economic boom that is partly driven by the huge increase in tourism in the past few years. One of the results is that the value of our currency, the króna, has risen sharply, especially in the last couple of years. For visitors, this simply means that everything is more expensive and, for a destination that has never been especially cheap, this sometimes makes for some shocking numbers. For instance a common price for a large beer in a bar is now around 1000-1100 krónur, equal to around 9 EUR or 10 dollars, which most will agree is pretty high. As Mel and Vin point out, the best solution is to shop at the Iceland’s alcohol monopoly, the ÁTVR or “Vínbúðin” which has stores in most towns around the country (see store locator and opening hours here: http://www.vinbudin.is/english/home/opnunartimar.aspx). As I mentioned above this is a state-run alcohol monopoly which means that no other store is allowed to sell alcoholic beverages, including beer. Which brings us to the next issue.

                The “beer” sold in supermarkets and convenience stores is not actually beer but a very light alternative with a maximum alcohol percentage of 2.25%. In order to get passed laws that make it illegal to advertise alcohol, breweries in Iceland often manufacture low-alcohol alternatives that are almost identical to the real thing and sold in shops as seemingly perfectly normal cans of Viking, Carlsberg or whatever. To add to the confusion, Iceland‘s low-alcohol beer is usually marketed and sold as “Pilsner” which means regular lager beer pretty much everywhere else in the world. Recently stores have been criticized for trying to cash in on this misunderstanding, not batting an eye when tourists check out with case-loads of beer, on their way to party hard with what is essentially non-alcoholic beer and produces little or no effect under normal circumstances. So, as Mel and Vin advise, if you want to have a drink after a long day of travel use the Vínbúðin or better yet, stock up at the duty free store when entering the country. That said, we of course recommend taking it easy with alcohol and remember that drinking and driving is a very serious offence in Iceland.

  Mel and Vin also mention being shocked by restaurant prices and describe how they were put off the whole idea after sharing a pricey portion of fish and chips. Restaurant prices in in Reykjavík can be pretty steep but the influx of visitors has also had the positive effect of there being all kinds of different restaurants and cafés catering to different price ranges. A good idea would be to do a little research beforehand, like searching for cheap eats on Tripadvisor.com or checking out the “Best of 2017” lists in Reykjavík Grapevine magazine (see here: https://grapevine.is/tag/best-of-reykjavik-2017/) which lists everything from best brunch or late-night bite to the best place to “get lovey-dovey” with a date. In general one would do well to watch out for tourist traps that try to overcharge for food, drink and services as there always seems to be a few rotten apples trying to take advantage of foreign visitors. In the end, Mal and Vin mostly shopped for groceries and this, together with traveling in a Mini Camper, is probably the most cost efficient mode of traveling around Iceland. If the grocery stores seem underwhelming, keep an eye out for local produce at various farmers’ markets or visit the food section in Reykjavík’s Kolaportið weekend flea market.

Being wet and dry at the appropriate times

I think we can safely assume that almost nobody visits Iceland for its nice weather. Mel and Vin describe having problems with first becoming drenched but then having a hard time getting dry again while on the road. As for the ever changing weather situation in general Icelanders often say that if you don’t like the weather, you should wait ten minutes. A better solution, suggested by Mel and Vin would be dressing in layers which is sound advice. A waterproof shell, a base layer and warm sweater should do the trick for almost every season, as well as keeping a hat and mittens close just in case. If your clothes do get wet during your camping trip and the weather is too wet to dry them outside, there are several campsites around Iceland that offer a tumble dryer or a drying room (campsites are searchable by facilities here: https://en.camping.info/iceland/campsites). Also, to conclude this point, local tourist information offices are usually happy to help.

                As for the shower situation, there is a simple and wonderful answer for that. Iceland has around 170 geothermally heated swimming pools around the country, with at least one in most towns, however small. A trip to the swimming pool comes at a reasonable price, includes showers and complimentary soap (showering is mandatory to keep the pools’ chlorine levels down), and usually offers a selection of hot pots and often even a steam bath too. Guests are expected to bring their own bathing suit and towel, but these are also available to rent at most places (a list of swimming pools, searchable by region, can be found here: http://sundlaugar.is/?lang=en).

Seljavellir one of the most beautiful swimming pool in Iceland.

We have often said that it is the swimming pools, along with the frequency of campsites, which make Iceland ideal for a Mini Camper trip. Wherever you are in Iceland, you are usually not far away from the next swimming pool, which often means soaking in a hot pot, chatting with the locals and admiring the view.

Being careful and taking it slow

Mel’s travel diary describes some scary scenes from being on the road, navigating winding gravel roads, often coupled with sharp gusts of wind, sometimes even along steep cliffs. We agree that the roads in Iceland can be scary, especially at remote locations where proper upkeep tends to get neglected. What we can advise here is to driver slower than usual and, if you get a chance, consult this very useful website, http://www.road.is/, which is run by the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA). The website has the most current information on roads and weather conditions, as well as a wealth of information on driving safely in Iceland.

                In conclusion we will quote Mel and Vin’s article once more where they hit upon the matter with a needlepoint (rem acu tetigisti, as the Romans used to say). Thanks for your insights Mel and Vin, we hope you will be returning soon!

“For many, a trip to Iceland means hustling along from one site to the next. Iceland can still be enjoyed this way – the popular sites are incredible and there’s a reason people flock to them – but it’s a place begging to be thoroughly explored. Our fondest memories from Iceland are when we went off the beaten trail and stumbled upon unexpected beauty. Whether it was the site of a dog herding sheep down a mountain, going out of the way to find a natural hot spring to relax in for the evening, or just pulling over on the side of the road to enjoy a stunning sunset, Iceland is about exploration and discovery. Take your time and enjoy the ride.“

IMC.

Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri: Ghosts and very good seafood

Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri: Ghosts and very good seafood

In recent posts we have covered some far away places in Iceland, such as the Eastfjords, Westfjords and the south-east corner of our lovely little island. And while the mini camper traveller would usually do well to get a little further away from Reykjavík, there are still plenty of interesting places the are close by.  We have already mentioned some of those, such as some interesting places along the Reykjanes peninsula and the Golden Circle route. This time around we want to talk about two small fishing villages that are both close by, around 45 minutes drive, and well worth a visit either for a part of the day or to spend the night.

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Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri are two villages that are quite close to one another and share a similar architecture, small colorful houses, turf structures and garden ornaments; as well as being located at a beautiful seaside. Both towns are small, even by Icelandic standards, with around 600 people in Eyrarbakki and 400 in Stokkseyri, but historically they were once quite significant ports for merchants and fishermen. For example Eyrarbakki was once considered to be the natural choice for Iceland‘s capital becuse of its standing as main port and trading center for the entire Southern side of Iceland but that was not to be. Eyrarbakki‘s other significant claim to fame is the settler Bjarni Herjólfsson who set sail from Eyrarbakki towards Greenland in the year 985 but sailed passed it and accidentally discovered the eastern edges of the North-American continent in 986. According to Greenlanders Saga, Bjarni was unimpressed by what he saw and refused to stop and investigate. Bjarni‘s account then paved the way for another explorer, Leif “the Lucky“ Eiríksson, who is usually credited for being the first Western “discoverer“ of America, some 500 years before Christopher Columbus.

Today, both Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri have museums that document some interesting aspects of their past, from the heritage and maritime museum in Eyrarbakki (see here: http://www.husid.com/english/) to Þuríðarbúð in Stokkseyri, which is dedicated to Þuríður Einarsdóttir, a famous fisherwoman who wore men‘s clothing and sailed open fishingboats from Stokkseyri for 50 years, mostly as captain. The most interesting museum is the Ghost Center in Stokkseyri (see here: https://www.facebook.com/Ghost-Centre-of-Iceland-126222207413810/) which documents Iceland‘s gruesome ghost story heritage. As one can imagine, a country that has through the years often been cold, dark, wet, windy, and scarcely populated, Iceland has been an excellent breeding ground for horrific ghosts and even more horrific ghost stories.

Even if the mini camper traveler isn‘t interested in the rich history of these little villages there still remains one very good reason to visit. The proximity to the sea and the abundant marine life just off the coast makes it ideal for good seafood and both these villages have some really excellent restaurants serving locally caught/reared produce. In Eyrarbakki a restaurant named Rauða húsið, or the Red house (see here: http://raudahusid.is/en/home/), prides itself on both its seafood and lamb dishes, and in Stokkseyri the Fjöruborðið restaurant (see here: http://www.fjorubordid.is/english/), serves mounds of langoustine as well as a famous langoustine soup. These two restaurants aren‘t exactly on the cheap side but then again it seems that in Iceland these days nothing is.

Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri are well suited to accommodate a mini campers since their campgrounds have excellent facilities (see here: http://tjalda.is/en/?s=eyrarbakki). For other interesting places we recommend the Knarrarósviti lighthouse close to Stokkseyri, a 26m high structure built in functionalist/art nouveau style. It nearly goes without saying that there‘s a nice swimming pool with all the trimmings in the area (located in Stokkseyri), but additional activities could include taking in the vigorous sea bird life or fishing for sea trout in the Ölfusá river (licences available from the Eyrarbakki gas station). All in all, whether you plan to stay for afternoon or a couple of days even, these charming little villages are well worth a stop.

Drive safely and have fun!

IMC

 

 

 

 

 

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!

IMC

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.
IMC

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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.

iceland mini campers

Mini camper in the fog.

Drive safely and have fun!

IMC

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

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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

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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

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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

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Sandgerði

Sandgerði, Islandia

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Sauðárkrókur

Sauðárkrókur, Islandia

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Seyðisfjörður

Seyðisfjörður, Islandia

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Siglufjörður

Siglufjörður, Islandia

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Skaftafell

Skaftafell, Islandia

Stokkseyri

Stokkseyri, Islandia

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Stöðvarfjörður

Stöðvarfjörður, Islandia

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Stykkishólmur

Aðalgata, Stykkishólmur, Islandia

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Súðavík

Túngata, Súðavík, Islandia

Tálknafjörður

Tálknafjörður, Islandia

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Thakgil

Thakgil, Islandia

Tungudalur, Ísafirði

Skógarbraut, Ísafjörður, Islandia

Úlfljótsvatn

Úlfljótsvatn, Islandia

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Varmaland

Varmalandsvegur, Islandia

campsite


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Varmaland

Varmalandsvegur, Islandia

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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

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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!

IMC

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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”.

IMC.

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