Iceland is probably the best place I’ve ever been to. When I went, I stayed in main cities and ventured on day trips to see the beauty of the country’s landscapes. Since then, I’ve been dreaming of going back to take a road trip around the country. My friend did just that last spring. So I had a couple of beers and asked her all about it. We were joined by a third friend who provided a different perspective on the whole adventure. We’ll call her Too Bougie for Camping.
GnomeTrotting: So how did you get around the country? You rented an RV?
Road-tripping in Iceland: Not quite. This is more like a van with a mattress. But you can do it a couple of different ways. You can rent a regular car, but you have to find a place to camp every night.
GT: Was the car automatic?
RTI: Yes, but not all of them are. That was a plus, cause neither of us knew how to drive stick. Most are stick. Automatic cars have to be rented in advance.
GT: What about the bathroom?
RTI: You just wait until you stop somewhere because you stop several times a day. And you stay at a campsite overnight and you have access to showers and bathroom.
Too Bougie for Camping: Is glamping available?
RTI: I don’t think that’s reached Iceland yet. Everything outside of Reykjavik is very remote.
GT: How did you find the campsites?
RTI: There’s an Icelandic website that tells you where the all are and which are open during the winter and summer. It’s so popular there that they’re really easy to figure out. Some were hard to find, but we stumbled into others. There is also some law that you can camp anywhere for one night. It’s a survival law. But then you don’t have showers.
GT: How much was it? Did renting a van save you on hotel?
RTI: Definitely, even though we didn’t rent it for the whole time. We stayed in Reykjavik at the beginning and the end, so before we got on the plane we had the comforts of home. We rented the van for about 5-6 days and it was around 800 Euros. So it definitely saved us on hotel.
GT: Do you think that was enough time?
RTI: No, I definitely feel like we didn’t spend enough time there. I’m dying to go back. Even though the people are dicks.
RTI: I know. You went early enough. It’s too late now. The massive increase in tourism is really pissing them off.
GT: Where were people dicks? In the city? The outskirts?
RTI: Some combination of both. Iceland is really fucking tired of people visiting. No one gave a fuck about them for a long time and they were really happy that way. We had awful experiences with people. One of the times was in a bar, and the guy next to us strikes up a conversation. You think, “This is friendly right?” We told him we were traveling around the whole country and how beautiful we thought everything was. And he was like “Can’t you just google it? What the fuck is the point?”
Then there was the time that we were trying to buy alcohol. Because I don’t know if you know, but they had prohibition until like the late 80s.
TBC: That’s why nobody was going there.
RTI: The only places where you can buy alcohol is at liquor stores and at restaurants. In grocery stores and gas stations, they have a trick. And it’s several low alcohol beers that look like regular beers, but then you look, you’re like 2.5%?? Then the liquor stores are open very limited hours. This one night we got to one right before it closed at 7. We parked at and the lady inside saw us coming, and she just stared at us while she slowly closed the metal door.
Then there was the speeding ticket we got. The entire country is one giant speed trap. I don’t think we were speeding too intensely because we had cars in front of us. But we got pulled over. And if you’re a tourist, the only way you can leave is to pay on the spot. $200. The cop was also a fucking asshole. Thankfully, they only take credit card. That’s the only good thing. And aside from people who can stop you, there are speed cameras, so there are people who have later gotten charged hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So those were our 3 top experiences with people being dicks. Most people were neutral or somewhat negative.
GT: What is the speed limit?
RTI: It depends, like 50 to 70 km, I think. This is the thing that really got us. I had planned so much but you have to drive really slow and everything takes so much longer than you think it will. So if you drive a regular car, you can stay in hotels. But you have to plan very specifically to get to your hotel every night.
GT: Despite those experiences, would you say you liked Iceland?
RTI: Yes, it was the most beautiful experience of my life.
GT: One thing I’ve never really felt comfortable with is driving somewhere where you can’t read street signs? How did you manage that?
RTI: What I would do is put the instructions in beforehand. It’s a positive that there aren’t that many cities, because when you come to a fork in the road it tells you these are the 3 cities that are that way and these are the 3 cities that are the other way.
We did catch a storm at some point. That’s the risk going in the winter. If you go in the summer its fine, but in the winter, there is the possibility it’ll snow. There was a day and a half where it snowed non-stop. It was hard to keep the car steady. The weather changes from one minute to the next. We were having a beautiful time, and then a blizzard happened.
TBC: I wouldn’t drive cause I’m sure I’m gonna be drinking.
RTI: In Iceland, if you wanna be drinking, you better fucking plan ahead. We bought duty free alcohol when we got to the airport.
GT: So let me ask you something. Normally, when you visit a place, at night you check out the city, go to dinner, go have drinks. How was it in this camper van. All you can do is drink duty free tequila and fuck?
RTI: Yeah…. You’re also tired. We went on hikes. We went on a snorkeling experience on a glacier. You don’t even wear a wetsuit. You wear a dry suit. None of your body gets wet. You have to wear two pairs of long johns and two pairs of wool socks under your clothes. Then they give you the dry suit.
GT: That sounds super exciting.
RTI: Actually, snorkeling was very scary. I was just having a panic attack inside the dry suit. It was very restricting. There’s no marine life. But the water is crystal clear.
TBC: That’s so romantic.
RTI: It wasn’t romantic for me because of the panic attack. But there was a couple next to us holding hands that looked like they were having a really romantic time.
GT: How was it being stuck with this person, where you can’t leave the van or go do your own thing?
RTI: It was very stressful. My boyfriend and I are both very intense people. I had a schedule that we could not keep to because he takes so long to get ready and do everything. He just wanted to go with the flow and I was more like a military drill sergeant type. I think it depends on the type of people you are. If you’re an extrovert, you would have a better experience. But there isn’t much alone time; there isn’t any quiet time. I don’t know how to make that better. There’s nowhere to go. It’s cold. You’re in a van.
GT: Was the van heated? Or were you freezing to death at night?
RTI: No, there was a heater. Actually, it was so hot the first night I almost died. We turned it up too high.
GT: Did you get to see the northern lights?
RTI: No. We got totally screwed. We had been watching the forecast for a couple of weeks. The week before was amazing. But when we were in Reykjavik, it was so bad that they even cancelled the tours. It was a little disappointing, but it didn’t make or break the trip.
GT: What was your favorite thing?
RTI: Jökulsárlón Lagoon. It’s a glacial lagoon. It’s right off a volcanic glacier. And there’s massive chunks of ice floating there. We opened up a couple of beers and drank there by the lagoon during the sunset. It was so beautiful.
TBC: That sounds super romantic
RTI: No there was some fucking Asian there with a drone that ruined it.
GT: So what would you do differently next time?
RTI: I was definitely wrong thinking we could accomplish stuff on a list. Some of the best moments we had were just seeing something interesting and parking and getting out. We saw a Kerið Crater just cause we were driving by. It leaves you so much opportunity for discovery.
GT: Which route did you take?
RTI: We went north.
GT: Oh! Did you get anywhere near Akureyri?
RTI: Yea, we went there! And we went to Myvatn Baths which I thought was better than Blue Lagoon, which is really expensive and really touristy. We paid like $80 per person including a transfer. What was cool about Myvatn was we got there 2 or 3 hours before it closed. So the place was quiet and the sun was going down and it was snowing on us.
GT: I had the exact same experience there. And I heard Blue Lagoon is kind of gross, because since that one is so popular and never gets cleaned, it’s full of people’s dead skin cells. Which is what people rub on their face.
RTI: Well I did that… so here we are.