Iceland Camping Trip for 15 days
The ring road is a good way to get full experience of the country and is the second most popular route – following the South Coast including the Golden Circle. People do choose to take the ring road clockwise or counter clockwise, usually this is determined by the weather forecast for the first days of the journey. Here we are a suggestion for a tour the counter clockwise tour, starting from Reykjavik. The timing is pretty difficult to estimate as it varies on you as a traveler, because there might be interesting places to stop for either a hike or a photo opportunity, so here we estimate this with few stops in between the main spots we are visiting.
The drive from Reykjavik to Thingvellir taking the scenic Nesjavalla road will take you close to one hour drive, it is a beautiful drive through one of the active volcanic areas close to the city, Hengill volcano area. You will be can take longer If you will be driving through lava fields when approaching the Lake Þingvallavatn in the Thingvellir national park. The route is then through the bushy coast of the lake towards the main spectator facilities overlooking the tectonic plates and the whole national park. At this place, called Hakið, is a small shop shop and there you also find a good WC facilities. Be aware that you will have to pay for the parking. Here you can decide to just enjoy the view or take a short walk down the Almannagjá route to fully understand the power of nature, you can easily decide the length of the walk by yourself.
Following the stop at Thingvellir National Park your route is along the other side of the lake and then following the road to Laugarvatn a small town on your way towards Geysir the erupting hot spring. At Laugarvatn you find the Fontana spa and also a nice public pool. In the town few restaurants are to be found and a gas station. The drive from Laugarvatn town to Geysir will take you around 20 minutes and be prepared that you will not be alone there! Geysir is the most known name of an erupting hot spring ( the word Geyser in the English language is derived from the name of this hot spring ) but it is not active any more. You can of course view it but the erupting one is Strokkur that erupts about every 10-13 minutes. It is fantastic to stay there and see the slowly formation of the bubble that then explodes into the air. It is worth the buys feeling of the place to enjoy this unique peace of wonder. At the area is a relatively large tourist center with restaurant, gift shop and gas station.
Gullfoss waterfall (meaning golden waterfall) is a short drive from Geysir area and is the final destination of the Golden Circle route. It will take you about 20 minutes drive and this area is also quite busy most of the time. This will however not ruin your experience of looking at the waterfall as the are is designed for many people and you enjoy Gullfoss from a distance. There is a walkway to get up close to the waterfall where you can feel the power it as well as the mist distributed from it. But please be careful of not falling in.
Depending on how long you stop at the Golden Circle sights and how much you stop on other spots on this route the next step of the first day is to be determined. But if we give us that you have used six hours for this then you have time to visit the green houses of Friðheimar and explore indoors tomato growing facilities there. It is a good demonstration of modern green food production using the latest technology mixed with the basic nature of the bees used to pollen the plants.
A good way to end the first day is to plan to camp at Flúðir and before preparing dinner and maybe taka a nice walk around the area before heading to bed you can relax in the Secret lagoon in the warm water.
After a good rest at Flúðir campsite and a breakfast then the drive to Seljalandsfoss is about one hour. Seljalandsfoss is not the biggest waterfall in Iceland but it is easily accessible and you can walk behind it to experience a waterfall from this unique viewpoint. Be dressed in raincoats or similar clothing as you will be exposed to the mist from the waterfall as you get very up close to it. If you feel like hiking and enjoying the view then a little bit further ( to the left when facing the waterfall ) is a road leading up to the mountain above and on the route to the top you will have a good view of the area and see the waterfall falling of the mountain top. Skógarfoss, another waterfall is in a 30 minutes drive and on the way it is a good idea to stop at Þorvaldeyri farm where you can take a look at Eyjafjallajökull the glacier that interrupted international flight in 2010 leaving thousands of travelers stranded both in Europe and other areas. If you are up for a short swim or just want to have a look then Seljalandslaug is on this route and it will only take a short drive from the main road and a short walk to visit this old warm water swimming pool build by the farmers in the area in the early part of last century. It demonstrates ingenuity of these poor farmers how they managed to use the mountain side to function as big part of the structure. If you plan to bathe there please be advised that the exchange of clothing are is primitive. Skógarfoss is larger and more powerful than Seljalandsfoss and here you can also get quite up close to it and you can also take the walk up one side of it and follow the path even further up the mountain and even make a good hiking event out of it. The area of Skógar has a museum, restaurants and other services. The museum gives a good insight of the farmers life back in the days and it makes one wander how they did even survive at all.
Heading towards the Black Beaches of South Iceland is the next destination and on the way a stop at the plain wreckage is an option. The old plane is has been there for decades after a emergency landing. This old DC3 plain gained popularity after Justin Bieber used it in one of his music videos and on Instagram during his visit to Iceland. Only 10 minutes drive from Skógar you will see a parking lot on your righthand side and from there a good 30 minutes walk to the plain. This is not a wonder of the world spot but many visitors choose to stop and explore. It will take you about half an hour to drive to the Dyrholaey black sand beach or just a little further to the Reynisfjara black sand beach. Both of these beaches stretches out with a long black sand beach facing the strong power of the Atlantic ocean. It is actually very nice to spend some time there walking the beach under the sound of the ocean, just be careful of the waves as the are unpredictable and can be dangerous, a good rule is to never turn your back against the ocean when close to the waterfront. At Reynisfjara black sand beach is a restaurant and WC.
Vík the small town is just 20 minutes drive from Reynisfjara and this town serves like the main support for tourists on the south coast as there is some distance to then next service. Here you can choose to fill your groceries supply and even the gas tank of your campervan. Not far away from Vik the road into Þakgil a beautiful canyon where you can enjoy the nature and hike around. This is a beautiful retreat and a total silence is not something you can find many places in the modern world but Þakgil is one of those places. After this stop a just a little over one hours drive to wards the small town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur is a nice ride through the fields of black sand desert that is now becoming greener by the years as a result of a project of binding the sand into vegetation. At Kirkjubæjarklaustur it is a good idea to visit the “church floor” a platform of basalt rock columns. After stretching your legs a bit it is time to head further east towards Skaftafell national park where it is recommended to spend night number two. It is another one hour drive but you will have a nice view on the way, a mix of farm land and desert feeling landscape, crossing some glacier rivers (make notice of the dirty kind of color of it ). Skaftafell is a huge campsite with all service needed.
At Skaftafell you will find tour operators in the small huts right in front of the main service building, offering tours on the glacier. A glacier tour is highly recommended as this is once in a lifetime experience and you will need a guided tour as going on your own is way to dangerous. Many other hiking routes are available there as well with or without a guide and the information center at Skaftafell will give you detailed information. We actually recommend that you stay full day there exploring and spend another night at the campsite.
It will take you about one hour to drive form Skaftafell towards the Diamond Beach and the glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón. Here you will spend one to two hours easily by walking amongst the melting icebergs on the beach and at the lagoon where you see and hear the big icebergs that are drifting towards the ocean. It is mind blowing to thing about that the blue colored ice in the iceberg was snow falling 500 years ago! Seals are commonly playing around in the lagoon and on the beach and is quite funny to see them looking at the tourists with their curious eyes, almost as the humans are the ones being exhibited. Tour operators offer sailing tour amongst the icebergs and this is highly recommended as this is the only place on the planet Earth where you can so easily access such a unique nature experience, it is worth every penny.
With those great memories just made at the lagoon it is time to head further east towards the fishing village of Höfn, Iceland’s lobster capital. What Icelanders call lobster others call langoustine is caught in the waters right outside of Höfn. If you are up for fresh lobster this is the place to treat yourself as you will find many restaurants offering all kinds off lobster dishes ranging from lobster soup to pizza with lobster.
If you decide to stop at Höfn, go wild in the lobster and stay the night then there is a very good campsite located there. If you however have appetite for driving a little bit further then a drive towards the small fishing village of Djúpivogur is recommended. This is a scenic route that takes you through a tunnel and then a road in the mountain overlooking the ocean, quite amazing route with beaches to stop for a walk if interested.
From Djúpivogur or Höfn you can choose two different routes towards Egilsstaðir, our next overnight stay. The fjords, one after another driving through small fishing villages is one and the other is the mountain road called Öxi. Both are scenic routes but quite different. Both gives great photogenic stopping opportunities. If you take the coastal route make sure to stop at the rock museum at Stöðvarfjörður town and to take a look at the old French hospital and other interesting items in the town of Fáskrúðsfjörður memorizing the times when French fishermen where prominent on the east coast fishing shores. When you reach Egilsstaðir you can choose to camp in town or drive to the campsite at Atlavík by the lake.
After a good breakfast a drive towards Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe is about 1,5 hours. There you can stop and be amazed by the endless stream and power of the waterfall. Following the waterfall experience we recommend to drive towards the area of Hljóðaklettar to have a hike in the unbelievable lava formation and the glacier river canyon. Further north Ásbyrgi is a special place and by many considered the most romantic spot in Iceland with the midnight sun during the summertime. There is also a fantastic hiking route on the edge of the cliffs and do not forget to walk into the end of the forest area to enjoy the pond. There is a good campsite and facilities at Ásbyrgi.
This day you head from Ásbyrgi towards the town of Húsavík, the whale watching capital of Iceland. You should definitely treat yourself to a boat tour to see the whales and the wild bird life. You will not regret it. Mývatn is you next destination and it will take you about one hour to drive there from Húsavík. You should definitely enjoy this are known not just for the beautiful lake but also extraordinary lava formation and make sure to hike the crater Hverfell like the astronauts did before the first visit to the moon. This area is considered to be most like the lunar landscape of the moon on planet earth. Make sure to visit the great visitor center at Myvatn for more ideas – there are plenty.
We recommend you continue to enjoy Myvatn area for this day and then when close to evening to drive towards the town of Akureyri where a swim and relaxation and a stroll through town and perhaps a treat in one of the restaurants to be found there is a good idea. The campsite is very well located downtown so you can even leave your car and have a wine or beer and just walk home.
The coastal route via the town of Dalvík, Ólafsfjörður and Siglufjörður taking you through four different tunnels gives you the opportunity to experience the fishing town feeling of the north coast and for sure interesting from historical point of view, specially the herring era museum at Siglufjörður. We recommend you head towards the Westfjords for your next campsite but on the way make sure to visit the Hofsós swimming pool, a modern architecture where swimming in the pool is just like swimming in the ocean. Your next stop will be the town of Hólmavík where you can experience the era of the witch hunting in the museums and sites. You can then either decide to camp at Hólmavík or continue your trip towards Reykjanes for spending the night.
The drive towards Ísafjörður takes you throght the small town of Súðavík and when you drive there through make sure to stop at Ragga Garður a special place. This small town was tragically hit by avalanche in 1995 and you still can see the affect as they moved the whole village to a safer place. Þingeyri town is a good choice of camping for the next night and this small fishing town is in the beautiful fjord Dýrafjörður. For sight seeing you can drive up to the top of the village mountain and just a short walk to the top.
Would be the drive towards the southern part of the Westfjords visiting towns like Bíldudalur and from there you should drive to Selárdalur to visit the unique statues made by hand with concrete by the artist Samuel in the mid 1900’s. Bíldudalur also has the museum of sea monsters and the local museum of music, a special place. On your way towards Patreksfjörður you will visit the waterfall Dynjandi, a nice area for walking around and enjoying the waterfall and then beach as well. We recommend you visit the hot pots at Tálknafjörður before heading to Rauðisandur where you should definitely stay for the night.
A visit to the Látrabjarg cliffs where you will see the birdlife, including the Puffin, and exceptional view over the ocean. Watch out and fallow all the rules as we do not want you be falling off the cliffs. From here a quite long but beautiful drive ( you can also take the ferry ) towards Stykkishólmur town on the Snæfellsnes peninsula is a good destination for the next overnight and the campsite is in town. If you are interested then a boat tour on the bay in between the islands where you can taste a fresh clams just right out of the ocean is a good idea.
Enjoy the peninsula with stop at the most photographed mountain in Iceland – Kirkjufell and the beach at Dritvík. Even drive towards the glacier where a spectacular view to both south and north overlooking the countless islands of Breiðafjörður bay. Rauðafellsgjá is also a interesting place to stop and walk in the narrow crack is an experience. The campsite at Arnarstapi is a good one with all the service you need. It is a good way to spend the evening to hike the cliff route between Arnarstapi and Hellnar enjoying the sea view and the bird life.
This day will take you towards the west part of Borgarfjörður and on you way you can visit the natural spring water well where you basically can drink carbonated water right from the ground, Rauðamels Ölkelda it is called. Then the route lies toward Reykholt an historical place that takes you back to the times of when the Saga’s was written. From there you can then drive towards the waterfall complex of Hraunfossar and even further to Húsafell where you can visit the sculpturer and view his unique art in stones around the river. Into the glacier is ones in a lifetime experience where you can visit the inside of Langjökull glacier in the manmade glacier caves. The campsite at Húsafell is nice and there is also a swimming pool and hot pots for relaxing.
Head towards Reykjavik the capital for enjoying a day in the city. You can camp in the city and walk from there to downtown for museums, restaurants and other site of interest.
This is a quite extensive tour that gives you a good view of the country but of course you can stay much longer at each are and dive deeper into the nature by hiking etc.
Someone say that you will enjoy Iceland the most by being outside and this is so true, but be sure to plan for bad weather and let the good weather coma as a surprise – if it comes.