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!

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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

Happy holidays!

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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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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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