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7/23/22 – 7/31/22

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A trip to Iceland has always been on our radar since Iceland Air started relatively inexpensive direct flights from Denver to Reykjavik. Back in February as we were talking about summer vacations, we found flights for around $600 and jumped on them. Since food and hotels are expensive there, we decided to rent a small camper van so we could eat/sleep/drive/live out of it for the week. GoCampers had just what we needed, so we booked it, and then just had to wait. Time flew by, school ended, it was summer, Miles had surgery on both knees, and we decided to buy/sell houses and move!

Saturday, 7/23/22. One week after moving it was time to go! It almost didn’t seem real until we were packing the night before, the dog sitter came over, and we were at DIA. The flight departed at 4:40pm and after 6hrs and 40mins in the air, we would land in Reykjavik at 6am. The goal was to get some sleep on the plane (but that seldom happens) and hit the ground running to help adjust to the 6 hour time change.

Sunday, 7/24/22. Our theme of the day was “holy crap, we’re in Iceland!” The GoCampers shuttle wasn’t until 8am so we took our time getting through customs, got our luggage, got some cash, tried to read the funny signs, and filled up with coffee. Itineraries for 7 nights in a van in Iceland were easy to find, but this one from GoCampers was awesome and we followed it almost to a tee. Our shuttle took us the 45mins to their office and we got our Renault Traveler GoLite Camper 3-pax after some waiting around the office. We also rented camp chairs, a table, and a small bbq grill since we figured we wouldn’t want to cook everything on the 1-burner stove. Having this, along with our JetBoil, was a great combination. First stop was the grocery store around the corner. Miles had fun drifting with the carts since all four wheels turn. We stocked up on food and snacks for the first couple of days, stopped at the Jolli burger (note to self, get it without sauce) drive-thru across the street and hit the road! We discovered that about every 100 yards is a round-about and there are sheep everywhere. Our first stop along the “Golden Circle” was at Thingvellir National Park about 40mins away. Here two tectonic plates (the Northern American and Eurasian plates) are slowly moving apart, it was pretty cool to walk between them and remembering geology classes from PSU. We hiked around taking in the awesome views and eventually got to Oxararfoss waterfall. Back at the van we continued east, deciding to skip Geysir and head right to Gullfoss, one of Iceland’s largest waterfalls (over 10,000 waterfalls in Iceland). Jean and Miles napped along the way, fortunately I was feeling plenty awake. In the parking lot there were a few monster trucks with tires taller than people that are meant for driving on the glaciers, holy crap they’re huge! We suited up in rain coats and pants (this became another theme) and walked down the short path to the viewing spots. WOW! Totally blown away by the size and amount of water flowing over it’s two layers. Completely amazing, especially with the giant rainbow in the spray! Our next stop was Seljalandsfoss waterfall about 90mins away, we parked, paid, and suited up. This one pours right off of the cliffs almost 200’ to the ground, and you can walk behind it! The roar of the water was almost deafening and you’re soaked as you get close and walk around. It was so cool being behind the flow, Miles even walked up close and almost got knocked off of his feet. Gljufrabui waterfall was just up the path, but it’s hidden and you have to walk through the stream between large boulders to get to the base. Soaked once again! Back at the van we had snacks and coffee in the back before heading just down the road to Skogafoss waterfall. Lush green cliffs and random waterfalls were all along the road. Skogafoss is around 200’ also but much wider. So amazing! We hiked up the path to the top for a different view. Back at the van and a detour to Dyrholaey beach for staring out into the North Atlantic Ocean with sea stacks all along the beaches. Holy crap we’re in Iceland! We even spotted some puffins in the water and cliffs. Such goofy little birds. Fortunately it was a short drive to our first night’s camp in Vik since it was around 9pm and we were thoroughly exhausted. The camps are so convenient with bathrooms, showers, electric and cooking space (if needed), and only $25 - $40/night. We parked, grilled hot dogs and brats, converted the back of the van to beds, and promptly fell right asleep.

Monday, 7/25/22. At this time of year the sun never really “sets”, it just dips below the horizon for a couple of hours and is still light out. I woke up around 6am, made some coffee, and looked at the plan for the day. We brought our own lightweight sleeping bags and this worked out great since it was chilly at night, we were also glad to have several layers of clothes since the temperature changes as much as in Colorado though hovered around 50 degrees. I woke up Jean and Miles around 8am and we did our duties (Miles always converted the bed while Jean and I cooked, cleaned, and arranged luggage). Hitting the road around 10am we continued east and the landscape changed almost immediately to barren volcanic rock fields and mostly dry cliffs. Our first stop was Fjaoragljufur Canyon with it’s steep walls and winding canyon, of course there was a waterfall at one end too. It rained a bit, but this happened often. Heading towards Skaftafell National Park we could often see the glaciers up the valleys and the terrain looked like it was stripped bare by receding glaciers. We stopped for our first of many world famous gas station hot dogs! At the park we checked out the displays then hiked to Svartifoss waterfall. Another spectacular scene, but this waterfall is surrounded with basalt columns from previous volcanic activity. So cool! We snacked in the van again then continued rounding the southeast corner of the country. Next was Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. I was thinking we would see some icebergs, but I did not expect to come around a corner to a bridge with hundreds of gigantic icebergs floats everywhere!!! WOWWWW!!! We parked and went right to the viewpoint and beach, simply amazing. Hard to describe, we were just simply blown away by the thousands of years old ice and the many shades of blue. Small boats and kayaks were around some of them, a few seals were playing in the area, and some smaller chunks of ice were floating up to the shore. In the distance you could see the edge of the glacier that they were calving from and mountains surrounded by glaciers further back. We even saw a giant iceberg split up and crash into the lagoon. They slowly move through the lagoon then pick up speed as they float out to sea. They disappear as they’re crashed by waves but several wash up on the black sand Diamond Beach. We walked around there and just marveled at Mother Nature’s work. A short drive down the road was our second night’s camp, in the town of Hofn. We were up on the hill overlooking the muddy bay, made pasta, played some cards in the van listening to music. Instead of round-abouts, today’s driving theme was one lane bridges. Another spectacular day.

Tuesday, 7/26/22. Another bright night, another morning of coffee and oatmeal in the van. Today we would be driving north, up the east coast and in/out of fjords all day. We walked through Hofn to an ocean viewpoint then a short drive to Stokksnes peninsula and the Viking Village shadowed by the Vestrahorn mountains. The fog danced around the summits for dramatic views while we walked to the Viking Village that was created for a movie that was never filmed. It was cool, and gave a view into a previous life on Iceland. We walked down to the lighthouse where seals covered a small island and Jean spotted humpback whales. Not just one, but a mom and calf playing right at the base of the cliff we were watching from! So fun to watch them flipping and rolling around. Driving along the eastern coast was another day of completely different scenery, dotted with fishing villages, tall cliffs, and rocky beaches. We were hoping for more gas station hot dogs but settled for cups of soup in a parking lot instead. As we left the coast we went through a 6km long tunnel! We stopped at the grocery store in Egilsstadir then shared a pizza before going up and over the mountain pass to Seyoisfjordur, our night’s camp. It was a slow and foggy drive and similar to Independence Pass. The camp in Seyoisfjordur was pretty packed already but we found a spot and walked into town known for a famous rainbow sidewalk with a picturesque church at the end. A little more rain, trivia in the van, and the nearby club music made getting to sleep difficult.

Wednesday, 7/27/22. The same morning routine then we walked through town since the fog had lifted. Waterfalls all around high on the cliffs, of course. Driving back up and over the pass we could actually see the beautiful landscape this time with several lakes and waterfalls. We gassed up and got breakfast hot dogs (wrapped in bacon) in Egilsstadir then headed northwest climbing slowly into volcanic and barren country along with a quick stop at Rjukandi waterfall. Extinct volcanoes dotted the distance but of course there were sheep wherever there was grass to be eaten, these things rule the country! We turned onto 862 to get to the western side of Dettifoss waterfall, Europe’s most powerful waterfall. It was windy and rainy when we got there, but as usual we suited up in rain gear and headed out. Quite the popular place. It was a short hike through old lava flows and basalt columns before being blown away, once again, by the sheer size and power of Dettifoss. Amazing! We went to the several different viewpoints, getting soaked at each, then went upstream to Selfoss waterfall which has several flows. Lunch in the van then our next stop was Hverir, the Mars-like geothermal area very similar to the mud pots and hot pools in Yellowstone. Just down the hill was Myvatn Nature Baths hot springs. The water resembled Disney Star Wars blue milk and it felt so great to soak and float around with mountainous and lake views all around from the infinity edge. There was even a swim up beer/soda bar. A short distance further was the town of Reykjahlid and camp Bjarg, our home for the night on the eastern shore of Lake Myvatn. We grilled outside then laughed and played Mexican Train in the van.

Thursday, 7/28/22. We woke up to a sunny and beautiful morning overlooking the islands dotting the lake. After our morning routine we drove along the southern and western sides of Lake Myvatn stopping several times to take in the views and a short hike around all of the volcanic terrain. About 90 minutes north to the coastal town of Husavik where we had noon reservations for a whale watch and puffin tour! We were a little early so we went to the dock, gingerbread church, and of course got a gas station hot dog. The dock was amazing with all of the boats and snowcapped peaks across the fjord. At 11:30am we checked in with Husavik Adventures and got suited up with thick overalls, heavy rain jackets, and rubber boots. We choose this company because they have smaller 12-person RIB boats that get you to the whale sightings extremely quick. Flying through the water and getting sprayed occasionally, it wasn’t long until a humpback whale was sighted. It would breach a few times, and then dive below with its tail high in the air. They come up north to eat since the fish are plentiful and go south to give birth. We got close to, and watched, 4 or 5 different whales, it would be easy to do this all day. In this area is also Puffin Island, home to approximately 150,000 puffins! They are dopey at flying but can dive up to 60 meters and catch up to 50 fish per dive. Such a great tour! After two hours we were back in Husavik, ate lunch at the van, and toured through the Whale Museum. They had nice displays and several whale skeletons. Back on the road heading south we next stopped at the Godafoss waterfall after about 35mins. This one was massive and horseshoe shaped like Niagara Falls. More tunnels then we reached the town of Akureyri at the tip of a fjord. We drove up to Harmar camp, but there was a long line so we went into town for dinner. It was expensive, as expected, but our burgers and salmon tasted delicious. We stopped at the grocery store then up to camp, there was still a line and it took a while to register and get in. This place was quite popular and crowded with bike tracks, paddleboats, and obstacles courses. It was interesting to see that most of the campers had plastic porches on them.

Friday, 7/29/22. Since we woke to a steady cold rain, we now understood what all of the plastic porches were for! We got ready quick and headed north out of town to drive along the edge of the Trollaskagi Peninsula. If we weren’t driving through a tunnel, we were driving along the edge of the wild and rugged coast between fishing villages. Plenty of stops and great views. We stopped at Hofsos to swim in the infinite pool overlooking the coast. Never imagined that we would be swimming in northern Iceland looking out towards the Greenland Sea! Miles requested that we stopped at a Viking Battle museum that had a virtual battle, very similar to the Oculus. Another N1 stop for hot dogs, burgers, and a monster plate of fries. More picturesque stops along the way to another coastal village, and our camp for the night, in Hvammstangi. Only a couple other cars here and good entertainment watching our neighbors trying to set up their tents in the wind while we listened to music and played Mexican Train.

Saturday, 7/30/22. Today was our day to head back to civilization. But first we drove 30mins north to a large seal colony near Illugastadhir. It was hysterical watching them laying on rocks and awkwardly moving on land, they are definitely better swimmers! We decided to skip one last waterfall but hiked around a couple smaller cinder cones. Close to Borgarnes we went through a long tunnel under a fjord. Instead of staying in the busy Reykjavik campground in the middle of town, Jean found a camp in the small fishing town of Grindavik down near Blue Lagoon. This was actually easier since we had reservations at the Blue Lagoon at 6pm! We bummed around camp then it was 10 minutes to Blue Lagoon. Man, was this cool! Check in was easy, a quick shower, then into the pools where water is pumped up from geothermal sea water 6,000 feet below. The place is huge, but despite lots of people it doesn’t feel crowded. We got the silica for our faces and got a drink then just slowly waded around the milky blue water checking out the different areas. So wild to actually be here. After a couple hours we were complete prunes and it was time to go. It was nice to only have a short drive to camp where we grilled burgers and easily fell asleep.

Sunday, 7/31/22. Since it was our last morning we all put on clean clothes (well, Miles and I did, Jean put on clean clothes every day) and got everything packed up. We drove the 30mins to Reykjavik, parked along the waterfront and first walked to the Sun Voyager statue. Next was up to the impressive Hallgrimskirkja church then along the touristy streets. Back to the van and to the GoCampers office. We unloaded our stuff, did a quick cleaning, got checked out, and then took their shuttle to the airport. With a couple hours to kill we got some chocolate and small bottles of vodka, and ate burgers and fish and chips. The customs line was long, the concourse was slow and crowded, and at the gate there was one slow bus shuttling passengers to the plane. Surprisingly enough we only took off a little late. We tried to stay awake for the entire flight since we would land in Denver at 7pm. It was spectacular flying over Greenland and seeing all of the glaciers and mountains. Miles and Jean giggled to episodes of The Office and I rewatched Lord of the Rings. Luggage was slow, I25 was down to one lane, but we made it home at 9:45pm and Willow went absolutely insane.

Such an amazing trip to such a magical country that exceeded all of our expectations! The itinerary and van were perfect, and it worked out great that we brought our own sleeping bags, coffee/sugar packets, and the JetBoil. We saved a ton of money on food and hotels. I can’t think of a single thing that we would’ve done differently.

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