"The Land of Fire and Ice"
In 2015, we had a 24 hour stopover in Iceland on our way to Canada. We rented a 4x4 and headed off to explore the golden circle under the midnight sun. It was a photographers dream, constant sunset colours for hours on end. We first stopped off at the blue lagoon which cost 30 euros each. Prices since then have more than doubled (the cheapest price I could find was 60 euros after 8 pm). A day slot would set you back 75 euros which includes the use of a towel and a premium option of 100 euros per person where you get the option to book a table at their restaurant. Iceland’s tourism has boomed over the last couple of years, creating a massive demand for it’s iconic attractions whilst trying to preserve this dramatic and beautiful landscape that we all came for in the first place. The increased pressure this has put on limiting tourists and restrictions in some areas comes as a reminder of the challenges from tourism that come at a cost and that we should always remember to leave the environment as we found it.
After smothering ourselves in pure white silica mud, well-known for it’s skin care qualities including skin renewal and deep cleansing properties we explored the lagoon for the hot-spots of warm water. We were blown away by the beauty of the midnight sun and we vowed to return someday and make it a longer trip!
Fast forward 3 years to when that vow was kept to return to the island of Fire and Ice. It was our dream to explore the island by a camper van and CampEasy Iceland made it a dream come true. We took the Easy Big camper on an adventure of a lifetime and it was epic.
Our flight was delayed by a day, which pushed our plans back giving us less time than planned and we couldn’t pick up the camper till the next day. We now only had 4 and a half days to explore this country as much as we could. When we arrived at Keflavik airport we travelled to the BMI bus terminal in the capital Reykavik where we stayed the night.
CampEasy were awesome enough to send a driver to pick us up from our hotel. We then waited in their very comfortable office watching videos of previous travellers on the TV which really got us excited to get going before a team member helped us get everything ready for the van and handed us the keys. CampEasy have this amazing idea in their office, it is a corner where on returning people can leave any food and other items (spices, washing up liquid etc) that they no longer need and new campers can pick these up. It saved us a fair bit of money because we were able to get all the pasta, rice and other essentials that we needed for free! It was such a fantastic idea, we loved it and also a great way to reduce waste.
Our first stop was the Bonus supermarket (drunk looking pig) to get the other items of food that we needed. We had brought some dry foods with us from the UK as it was cheaper. These were things like soup sachets, noodles, hot chocolate sachets, porridge sachets etc. Bonus seemed to be the best value for money.
The weather was beautiful and sunny and we were heading to the first of two waterfalls, Selijalandfoss. In comparison to 2015, the were so many more tourists, we aren’t fans of big crowds and only made a quick stop. Most car parks you have to pay and for this one we had to pay 700 Icelandic Krona. The sheer size and volume of water was incredible, we got a bit wet from waterfall spray!!
Skogafoss was the next waterfall and is famously featured in the movie Walter Mitty (one of our favourites). Flying the drone over the top of the waterfall was insane experience. The sheer volume of water coming over into the pool kept fogging up my lense. I must have wiped my lens so many times before the wind changed direction slightly to capture the moment. Being mesmorised by Skogafoss we had lost track of time and had one more stop before calling it a day. After making some dinner in the camper, we hiked to the Solheimasandure plane wreck before sunset (you used to be able to drive but there are concrete blocks in the track). We power walked and managed to do it in about 40-45 mins getting there just as the sun had dipped below the horizon. On the walk back the sky taunted us with a glimmer of the Northern Lights but the moon was almost full and bright which stopped a special show that night.
After being teased by a glimpse of the northern lights and full of excitement, I woke a couple of times in the night to see if they were there but the moon was just too bright. I set my alarm for sunrise to trek to the plane crash before the crowds. When my alarm went off I jumped out of bed and looked out of the window to see several groups of people already getting ready to hike to the crash. I switched tactics and decided to fly my drone from the carpark to the plane. It was a couple of miles away but fairly flat. I managed to get there safely and capture some footage of the plane with no one around and as I flew back to the car park I could see the groups of people on the trail with a fair way to go still, whilst I slipped back into bed.
We made breakfast and cleaned up before heading off to a couple of black sand beaches and the small town of Vik. We made a pitstop at the local supermarket to grab a few snacks before hitting the road again and heading off to find some glaciers.
We first aimed for one of the smaller looking glaciers on the map. We had to turn down a fairly rocky bumpy road but were eventually rewarded with the most magnificent glacier with crevasses running all the way through it, it was like a huge monster had dragged its claws along the ice creating massive beautiful scars. I was even tempted at one point to try and fly into one of the deep crevasses but Hannah was there to stop me loosing the drone. The light was falling quickly and we made our way into the national park to find a campsite and have a lovely warm shower and get into our comfy pjs.
We woke to heavy heavy rain and had to sprint to the camp site showers and back. Luckily we could leave the heating on in our van and so it was nice and cosy once we got back inside. That was the great thing having the camper that it was our refuge from the storms outside when the bad weather hit. After some breakfast we filled our water tank up and were on our way.
We drove to the Ice fields where the glaciers would carve into the lake. We braved the wind and rain and watched the icebergs float by and also spotted some seals! I picked up a smaller lump of ice near the shore of what was probably a very old piece of ice. We then ran back to the van as we were now being battered by the weather. Hannah then drove the 10 minutes or so up the road to a larger ice field with huge icebergs which could make their way under a bridge and out into the ocean.
After about 10 minutes of being there the weather broke, the clouds blew over and blue sky appeared. We had lunch and then decided that we wanted to drive to a beautiful looking beach near the small fishing town of Höfn. However, we were a little bit annoyed at finding that we would have to pay to see this beach when we arrived. The weather was too windy to drone so we decided to head back west. That evening we made it back to the glaciers where we found an off road parking area with no signs saying we couldn’t camp. We closed the curtains, made dinner and jumped into bed.
I was always very wary of the new strict rules about no wild camping in Iceland that came into force in 2016 or 2017. This always led to a broken sleep as I imagined a police man knocking on our van door and slapping us with a big fine. This luckily never happened and after looking online and seeing plenty of people saying that in parking areas where there wasn’t any restrictions tended to be ok. I was lying there awake though and every now and then thought I heard another vehicle pulling in. Eventually one did pull in and I noticed it was a park ranger. We were right on the edge of the national park and I thought '“here we go!” I quickly got up and opened the curtains and made it look as though we hadn’t been sleeping there. After about 5 minutes they left and we quickly pulled away to escape.
Our plans for the day were to make it back to the town of Vic for a short pit stop to use the toilets, refuel etc. We’d heard of some hot springs in the river not far from the town of Selfoss. Instead of joining the crowds at the blue lagoon we wanted to find a more traditional way of relaxing. It was a little complicated to find, but after speaking to a few people we were on the right track. We hiked into the mountains for just over an hour and then we were rewarded with the most beautiful hot spring river with an incredible mountain back drop to relax in.
The hardest part was being brave enough to get out of the water and stripping down in the middle of the mountains to put warm dry clothing on again. We then got caught in a hail storm on the way down the mountain and were totally soaked through and very cold. Our van was so inviting when we came over the hill and saw it waiting for us. We jumped into the back and got changed into some lovely dry clothes.
We found a lovely little campsite not far away for the evening and the owner even let us use the hot tub which we had all to ourselves. The rain picked up and once again we faced the same problem though of not being brave enough to get out because of the icy wind.
We had passed by so many beautiful icelandic horses and found a herd on our way back to Reykjavik. Our morning was spent exploring the streets of Reykjavik snd trying out the local grub before heading back to the CampEasy offices to drop off our fellow travel companion.
We love this beautiful country and all it has to offer. It really is a photographers dream, if we return we would love to venture around the west fjords and find some less known treasures. The best thing to do is to hire a camper from a company like CampEasy and head into the wild.