By far the best way to explore Iceland is by camper. And given that we we're here during winter, a 4x4 campervan. The company we chose for this trip was Cozy Campers. Their vans are modern, have 4x4 options, and the layout on the inside is the best we’ve seen compared to all the other campers we’ve used around the world. The country is relatively small, and you will want to be driving from one spot to the next with lots of flexibility because there is so much to see. We were in Iceland for seven days, and unfortunately were caught in the middle of a snowstorm. Because of this, our original plan changed, but here is what we did in that time frame.
We landed in Keflavik airport in the morning and from there we had to take a bus shuttle to Reykjavik. It takes about 45min or so, but is the cheapest option compared to a taxi (unless you have multiple people to split the car with). From there we were picked up by someone from Cozy Campers and taken to their establishment. After picking up our campers, we stopped at a grocery store, picked up food for the the following days and began making our drive south.
We visited Seljalandsfoss, Kvernufoss, Skogafoss, and Gljufrafoss. Due to the shorter days in winter, this was the extent of our sightseeing for day one (all of the falls are quite close to one another).
Tip during winter: bring micro spikes! These came in so handy when walking on icy patches or steep slopes, especially Kvernufoss (pictured below).
Unfortunately the nice weather we had the first day didn’t carry over haha. We began our drive that morning to Reynisfjara (Black Sand Beach) and it was kinda scary.
The winds were strong and it was hailing as well. Visibility out of the car close to zero, so we had to drive incredibly slow. Once we arrived we set up shop in the camper for a while because the conditions were terrible and wouldn’t have seen anything at the beach. In the meantime, we made breakfast, enjoyed some coffee, and relaxed.
Eventually, we started to see the shore and the neighboring mountain, so we took it as a sign to go explore. Despite the continued harsh winds, we were still able to enjoy the place and take some great photos. After that we headed to Jokulsarlon (Diamond Beach). The weather was better there, but still no sun. Regardless, seeing the big blocks of ice wedged in the river and at the shoreline was amazing.
^ Glacier Lagoon which is right near Diamond Beach*
This is when the snowstorm began! Luckily we had stayed with the owners of an Ice Cave Exploring company, Heading North, the night before, and we went out adventuring with them. The advantage of going in winter is the accessibility of the ice caves. The conditions were rough, but they had the right cars and gear and we went for it. I don’t remember the name of the location, but it’s only accessible for a couple of weeks during the year because you have to walk on a frozen lake to get there! Such a cool experience. Even though we had plans to go to a second location, the roads were too inaccessible, and we decided to head back to the house. We stayed in, cooked dinner, played some games, and went to sleep.
Because of the conditions, we didn’t go far, and ended up doing a second day with Heading North. This time around we were able to explore Sapphire Cave and walk on top of the glacier. The winds were still crazy and we had to be roped in with harnesses.
We were able to visit two more caves and each was unique and awesome. The journey was long and once back at our car, we were dead. The wind was picking up and creating trouble on the roads, and that night we ended up spending it in a cabin. The wind literally shook it all night long. Day 5: A day spent inside. The roads were closed again, visibility was zero, and the winds continued. Because of that we ended up staying in the cabin and catching up on computer work. Day 6:
Woke up for sunrise not expecting much and drove to Stokksnes Beach. Once there we were blasted by crazy winds and hail (such a familiar feeling at this point) . However, the mountains were visible and we were able to take some photos of this beautiful place. It even cleared up for a while! Not expected at all, but seeing the sun was a nice change of pace haha. And then we got hit again by the hail. We took this as a sign to leave and we began our drive back east. When we were passing Diamond Beach we saw another glimpse of the sun and decided to stop again for some more photos under different conditions. From there we continued on to the waterfalls once more and settled for the night.
After a relaxed morning, we began our drive northwest to Kirkjufell. Even though it was kind of out of the way, it was a place we really wanted to visit and this was the one window we had. We arrived about an hour before sunset and with the skies partly clear, we were able to take some photos, cook, and enjoy the scenery. Around 7pm we began our drive back south. We got caught in another snowstorm, but luckily this only lasted for the first hour and a half of the drive. And then we saw something we didn’t expect on this trip: the Northern Lights!
It was brief, but enough to be wowed by them given it was the first time I ever saw them. We pulled off the road and sat there in a dark spot watching them glow haha. We finished the night with some burritos in our van.
It being our last day, we only had time for one more location. We went to the Blue Lagoon for the first slot (8am) so that we could avoid crowds. We were the first one in the hot springs and it was the perfect way to end the trip. After all the crazy weather, we had a morning that started with snowfall, but cleared to a perfect sunrise while we were relaxing in the water. After spending a couple of hours there, we got back in the camper, drove to the city, returned our home on wheels, and then spent some time at a cafe before heading to the airport.
All in all it was an amazing experience. You never know what weather you’re going to get in Iceland. You just have to be ready for it and make the best of the situation. If you plan to do a trip like ours I suggest making it a longer one. For one, the weather will probably have you postponing parts of the itinerary at some point, and being in a camper will give you the flexibility to repeat places or head to others that are under better conditions. Have fun and let me know if you have any questions!