Road Trip: Iceland — Planning and Prepping the Camper

Iceland Road Signs

When I first started this blog, the whole reason was that I was heading to Iceland. I was so excited to be visiting another country by myself. The point of my.travel.map was originally to keep my family and friends up to date with what I was doing on my short journey for a college spring break, after all, they couldn’t seem to understand why I wanted to go to Iceland for spring break in the first place (reason #1 why I went alone). Now that I’ve come back to this blog, I’m excited to say that I’ve returned to Iceland, this time with my fiancé, Florence, for a road trip around the Ring Road over the course of 10-days! My next few posts will be the details of this trip, along with stories and photographs from the journey around Iceland.

Planning:

I’m lucky in the fact that I’ve found someone to spend the rest of my life with who loves adventure. When I brought up the idea of going to Iceland Florence didn’t even bat an eye before she said yes. And when we came across the idea of renting a camper van (or is it a flower delivery truck? We’ll let you decide) the first thing that she said was “HELL yes!” It was at that moment that we decided to circumnavigate the entire country by following the Ring Road.

But where to begin planning? How do we even start? It wasn’t exactly easy, but luckily I had a slight edge having been to Reykjavik before. Personally, I love planning vacations. Let me walk you through how I begin to plan every single trip:

  1. Google travel advisories for the place you’re thinking about visiting. (Chances are you probably won’t find any for Iceland unless a volcano is actively erupting.
  2. Follow the steps found in THIS post for how I usually find my airfare (and decide where I want to travel to).
  3. Utilize Trip Advisor to find top-rated things to do wherever it is that you’re thinking about going to as well as very useful information for required travel visas, currency exchange, and information about getting around in the country of choice.
  4. For Iceland check out this amazing website that Florence found with a pre-made road trip itinerary for driving the Ring Road.
  5. Put together an itinerary of your own.

That doesn’t sound too bad, right?

For Florence and I, the first step after booking airfare was to find a camper to rent. Let me take you through a visual tour of what we decided to go with:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To visit the website for “Happy Campers” follow this link: https://www.happycampers.is

After deciding to travel around Iceland in this way, the next obvious questions were how do we stock the camper with food, where do we spend the night, and (most importantly to Florence) how do we shower along the way?

Food is an easy one to answer. While most towns that you’ll pass through along the way have grocery stores to buy whatever you need, Florence and I chose the easier, but slightly less healthy option of packing along dehydrated backpacking meals. “Mountain House” is a popular choice who’s meals consist of dehydrated scrambled egg with bell pepper, bbq chicken and rice, etc and require only a cup of boiling water and 5 minutes of soaking time before it is ready for eating. As the camper came with a couple of fuel canisters and an easy-light gas stove, we found these meals the easiest options as they packed in our luggage and we didn’t want to spend any of our time in Iceland grocery shopping.

Spending the night becomes a little bit more tricky and requires a lot of research about the overnight parking laws in the country of which you’re traveling. Mistakes can easily be made (more on that in a future post!) but generally in Iceland you can pull off of the road just about anywhere to park for the night as long as you’re:

  1. Outside of a town as many small towns in Iceland have special laws prohibiting camping outside of designated campsites.
  2. Not on private property (this is the toughest to be aware of).
  3. Not in a National Park.
  4. Not in a place of sanctity.

Of course the safest camping option is to pay for designated campsites located all along the road. The benefit to these camp locations is first that you don’t have to worry about unknowingly breaking the law while you’re asleep, secondly that you can plan ahead which campsites you’ll be staying at– giving you an end-point destination for each leg of your journey, and lastly the fact that many of the larger camp locations have shower facilities for you to use. Since we decided to forego the designated campsite option, we had to find other means of shower accommodations…

IMG_0433
Anyone up for a shower?

Just kidding. However, this is a “shower” that we found alongside the road in a dirt parking lot. Rather than choosing to utilize this rather public option, however, we solved the shower dilemma by planning a couple of visits to Iceland’s local bath houses or natural geothermal pools. Many of these facilities have changing rooms and many of them, including the Blue Lagoon, require you to rinse in a shower before entering the hot springs…. we just “rinsed” quite a bit longer than most.

Now we’re ready to go! With our itinerary planned, a rough idea where we will want to be on the map before we start to look for a place to park to spend the night, and with our meals planned out, the next step was to fly to Iceland to pick up the camper and hit the road. From here we had one of the most amazing journeys of our lives! Here’s a small taste of whats to come on even day one of our trip around the Ring Road…

Grabrok Crater Panoramic
A Panoramic landscape view of the sun setting over the Icelandic landscape as seen from the summit of Grabrok crater.

 

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Author: Nathan Bush

Nathan Bush is an avid traveler, adventurer, and professional wedding and landscape photographer. His absolute favorite pastime is hiking all the while lugging his camera equipment into the backcountry in order to capture beautiful images of the wild. He currently lives in Colorado with his soon to be wife, Florence.

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