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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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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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!

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Snæfellsnes peninsula.

Snæfellsnes mountains.

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Sorcery, seafood and the world’s smallest Icelandic fishing village.

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Sorcery, seafood and the world’s smallest Icelandic fishing village

While the last post suggested lesser-known sweet spots along the popular Golden Circle route, the following segment will continue in the same vein and introduce some of our favorite locations. 

Iceland is often presented as divided into four regions–the north, the south, the east and the west–and these four regions each have their special landscapes and attractive locations. However, there is also a fifth quarter, a bonus round if you will, which is the Westfjords. Because of its distance from Reykjavík, the Westfjords region is largely overlooked by mainstream tourism. However, it is also secluded, sparsely populated and contains some of the most exciting views and locations Iceland has to offer. Covering everything the Westfjords have to offer could easily take up several hundred pages but for this occasion we at Iceland Mini Campers would like to suggest a trip to the most accessible place in the Westfjords and one that’s perfectly suited for a 2-4 day getaway in a motorhome. (For more general and practical information about the Westfjords see here).

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West Iceland

The best way to get to the Westfjords is to drive straight to Hólmavík. The journey should take a little under three hours of driving but we would of course encourage campervan travelers to take it slow and keep their eyes peeled for interesting stops along the way. Once in Hólmavík there are at least three activities that we must recommend:

First, check out the seafood that is on offer. The local stores often sell locally caught fresh fish, mussels, prawns and other delicacies. These are also usually on offer at the two local restaurator Café Riis and Kaffi Galdur.

Second, visit the local witchcraft and sorcery museum (see here), which has on display a replica of the bone chilling “necropants” which were worn only by the most ruthless sorcerers in the past. The Westfjords and the area around Hólmavík in particular has an interesting history of magic and sorcery. To this day people are advised not to make enemies in this region because of this fact so we suggest that visitors tread lightly and treat the locals with utmost courtesy.

Third, Hólmavík has, in our humble opinion, the thickest, warmest, and prettiest hand knitted woolen sweaters in Iceland. Be sure to visit the town’s little arts and crafts store for a closer look.

Once you have reached Hólmavík the rest of the Westfjords are at your fingertips but for now we would like to suggest share one of our favorite spots in Iceland, the small town of Drangsnes, which is only a 25 minutes drive from Hólmavík. (see here) Drangsnes is the smallest fishing village in Iceland with around 60 inhabitants and has a some really interesting attractions to offer. There is a restaurant there and boat tours that include fishing and sightseeing around the surrounding islands. The area is chock-full of all sorts of life; fish, whale and seabirds, which serves to explain why there has been a town thriving at that remote spot for hundreds of years. Another interesting benefit is the town’s three outside hot pots located at the shoreline. In 1996 the township of Drangsnes tried to drill for cold water but instead stumbled upon a geothermal spring. Because of this Drangsnes has all the hot water it could possibly use and more. Therefore the three hot pots were installed and at a short distance a small house with showers and changing facilities, all free of charge. At night you can soak in the hot pots and watch the locals waddle over in their bathrobes for a late night dip. The town also has a very nice swimming pool and an excellent camping site for the tired but happy campervan traveller.

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Westfjords road.

To conclude, it is worth stressing that if one is to venture further into the Westfjords there are a few practical things to keep in mind. Beyond Hólmavík there are many gravel roads where one must drive extra carefully (and perhaps consider getting extra insurance coverage). It is at least advised to drive considerably slower (no faster that 75 km/h) and try the brakes every now and then to get a feel for the grip of the tires.

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Puffin.

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Westfjords road.

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Sunset in the Westfjords.

Moreover, there are long stretches of road without shops, restaurants and gasoline- or service stations so it is advised to plan ahead. Finally, no matter the season it can get cold up there in the Northwest so the motorhome traveller should come prepared.

Have a safe trip!

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The Golden Circle: The alternative stops

The Golden Circle: The alternative stops

The Golden Circle tour, with its mandatory stops at Þingvellir, Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir hot spring area, is by far the most popular excursion for anyone visiting Iceland. These destinations are only a little over an hour’s drive away from Reykjavík and therefore make for the perfect short sightseeing tour. As a result, theses places tend to get a bit too crowded and a bit too “tourist-y” if you will. However, in the general area around Þingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir there are many other very interesting places to visit that are fortunately mostly overlooked by the big bus companies. So without further ado, Iceland Mini Campers-our motorhome rental company-proudly presents The Golden Circle Alternative Stops, with or without the more mainstream stops.

Þingvellir – National Park

When heading from Reykjavík it is best to take the highway 1 main road straight out of Reykjavík and through the neighboring village of Mosfellsbær, then take a right turn at highway 36 or Þingvallavegur (all these roads should be clearly marked but for better information such as roadmaps, distances and gasoline costs etc., refer to the websites vegvisir.is, vegagerdin.is and vegasja.vegagerdin.is). Highway 36 takes you straight through the Þingvellir national park and has some beautiful scenery along the way such as lake Þingvallavatn and the surrounding mountains.

Þingvellir National Park - Iceland

Þingvellir National Park

After passing through the Þingvellir area you should take a left at highway 365. If you stay on this road you will see a sign pointing left towards the Laugarvatnshellar caves. These are two sandstone caves that were people used to live until 1922. Interestingly enough, the last people who lived there had two children while living in the caves, one of whom is alive and well and reportedly has her own Facebook page. That in itself says a lot about the fast development of Iceland in the past century or so: being born in a cave and being on Facebook can happen within the space of a single lifetime. After Laugarvatnshellar take a left at highway 37 which takes you the small village of Laugarvatn. There you can find a swimming pool, some shops with local design and produce and a couple of restaurants. If you proceed towards Geysir there are a number of interesting places in the surrounding area. First of all is the farm Efstidalur, which is on the left hand side 15 minutes after passing Laugarvatn village. This cow farm has set up a restaurant on top of its barn and makes delicious ice-cream (more info here).

Geysir.

Strokkur Geysir - Waiting for the eruption. Click to zoom.

Strokkur Geysir – Waiting for the eruption.

Further down highway 35 (highway 37 changes to 35 between Laugarvatn and Geysir) you will reach the Geysir hot spring area. A little further on the left hand you find Haukadalsskógur, a beautiful forest with many marked hiking paths of various distances and a facility for barbecuing.

Gullfoss waterfall.

If you continue on highway 35 (past the road to Gullfoss) you will end up in the small village of Reykholt, which has an excellent swimming pool with a waterslide and hot pots. In this general area there are many greenhouses that produce a wide range of vegetables and berries. Often these are sold in little boxes by the roadside. Some greenhouses welcome visitors such as the tomato growers at Friðheimar, which offer delicious tomato soup and a wide range of juices, jams and sauces made from tomatoes. Nearby you can also find the waterfall Faxi which has camping facilities right next to it (information and coordinates here).

Gulfoss in the winter time.

Gulfoss in the winter time.

Gulfoss in the summer time.

Gulfoss waterfall and a rainbow in the summer time.

The closest village to Reykholt is Flúðir which has a grocery store and a very good Ethiopian restaurant, called Minilik. To finish the Golden Circle, people typically drive through the Grímsnes and stop at the picturesque Kerið crater (see here) and to the small town of Selfoss and from there back to Reykjavík via highway 1. The route from Selfoss to Reykjavík takes circa 45 minutes and offers a view of mossy lava fields and other strange landscapes. Along these places mentioned above there is a wide selection of places to camp, with or without service (these can be explored better here).

To conclude, this general area offers great many locations, shops and stops not mentioned here above so our advice is to drive slowly, have plenty of time and make discoveries on your own.

Have a safe trip!

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