Iceland Travel Guide with Kuku Campers
*We spent 9 days in Iceland in mid-April. We had 2 days planned for the North cancelled from winter storms and road closures. Here’s our 7-days version.
Our 9-day road trip with Kuku Camskpers through Iceland was one of the most magical adventures we’ve been on so far. Here’s our complete Iceland travel guide (we highly recommend seeing Iceland by car/driving around rather than a tour company), with where to stay, what to do, and the best sights to visit in Iceland.
As soon as we landed in Iceland (5am, 1am in Toronto), we hit the ground running. Our camper van, courtesy of KuKu Campers, was waiting at the airport.
Our campervan review:
- We originally looked into renting a 4×4 camper in Iceland, but with wanting the cheapest option, we opted for a larger camper and fit 5 of us comfortably. We chose Kuku Campers Category E van.
- The van comfortably slept 5 people (2 in the upper bunk, 3 in the lower), and came equipped with a built in space heater for overnight, a portable stove (we purchased 4 canisters of butane, which lasted our entire trip), kitchen essentials, and 5 sleeping bags that we rented ahead of time.
- Because the van was quite large and not a 4×4, we weren’t able to venture into the Highlands of Iceland, but that was okay, there was still plenty to see!
- Kuku Campers picks you up DIRECTLY from the airport (you just let them know when you land and they’re there to hand over the keys), and also have a parking area to drop off your campervan at the end of your trip. Really convenient and hassle free!
- We would absolutely rent from Kuku Campers again, and highly recommend using their services, we’re probably biased, but we thing it’s the best campervan rental in Iceland!
- Definitely do your homework if you’re planning on camping/seeing Iceland by campervan, know that it’s illegal to park overnight anywhere that isn’t a camp site. We did have some trouble as we couldn’t find much information online when specific campsites would be closed so we would often drive longer than hoped to find an open one.
The forecast was rain all day, We headed east and by 7:30am we were at our first stop: Seljelandsfoss.
There’s a trail to climb up the side of the waterfall, and one that takes you directly behind the falls (but prepare to get drenched and make sure you have a waterproof camera to snap safely).
By the time we were done, tour busses started rolling in – I recommend getting up early to check out popular spots, especially the water falls!
Next stop, Skogafoss.
We literally ran out of our campervan when we got to Skogafoss – partly because we wanted to beat the rush of tour busses that were just pulling in, and mostly because we couldn’t contain our excitement. You can’t venture behind these falls, but you can walk right to the foot of it. There’s also a trail/steps to take you up to the top.
Probably one of the most Instagrammed sights in Iceland, the plane crash on Sólheimasandur Beach was a stop we felt like we HAD to go to. It was pouring rain (fortunately it was one of the warmers days we were there), and the site was a 4km walk from the parking lot.
With nothing but empty and flat land the entire walk, we were all pretty miserable. The plane and crash itself was really neat – I had never seen a busted up plane before and it made me appreciate the engineering of planes 100x more. If it were colder, it probably wouldn’t have been worth while – but we did it for the gram.
Our last stop before camping out by the Icelandair Hotel Vik (the campsite is closed during the winter but we asked the Hotel and they were so kind to allow us to park there overnight, and us use the hotel washrooms in the mornings) was Dyrhólaey.
There’s a gas station right by the Icelandair Hotel. They have a hose that runs really cold, clean water – fill up all water bottles and your water tank here. Most gas stations will have their water shut off in the winter, but we lucked out with this stop.
Our first stop this morning was one of the most magical places I’ve had the pleasure of visiting: Reynisfjara (better known as Black Sand) Beach. I could have spent hours walking along the beach, but it started snowing and the wind really picked up so we retreated back into our camper van after about 45-minutes of screaming ‘WOW, THIS IS CRAZY’.
There’s a restaurant (it was closed at 8am when we arrived) on the beach by the parking lot with open public washrooms. If you’re travelling via van – take advantage of every washroom you get (especially if you’re the one female travelling with 4 male companions).
Another hour east of Vik is another ridiculous stop: Fjaðrárgljúfur. We spent about an hour here, though the trail never really stopped. The walk further inland was uphill, which wasn’t made easier with the wind – the wind was so strong I couldn’t stand with my feet together without getting blown over.
We snacked a lot on the road, but we made sure to take lots of time to enjoy our meals and clean up too (being stuck in a van with 5 people for 9 days wouldn’t have been enjoyable if we rushed through our day and left the space a mess – thank you boys for being so clean).
We couldn’t fit too much food in the mini fridge we had, so we had to get creative. Feeding 5 people for 3 days with only a small fridge was fun, not really – the guys definitely had caloric deficits (#summerbod2017).
We drove about an hour and a half further east (Joe, Alex, and Tim had to be in that area bright and early for their Ice Caves excursion). With more daylight left, we made our way to Jökulsárlón. Here’s what we got to see on the way:
Tim, Alex, and Joe were signed up to visit the Ice Caves at Skaftafell in Vatnajökull National Park first thing in the morning, so we headed back west about 45-minutes and pulled up just outside the park at a campsite, and called it a night.
The guys got started on their Skaftafell Ice Caves tour at 8:30am. Where we were parked overnight was the start of a road that lead toward the mountains – we noticed a ton of vans heading down this road before we went to bed and none came back out. We were curious, so we headed in that direction. Johnny and I happened upon and casually climbed the side of glaciers for the rest of the morning.
We went back to the Ice Caves parking/tour spot to pick up the guys. There were about 4 private bathroom/showers, and with a few euros, you could spend 10 minutes in heaven. This was the first shower of our trip, so all of us took advantage of it. It was a beautiful day and with not much left but our drive back west to our next campsite, we stayed a while, made lunch in the sun, and soaked it all in.
The next 4 hours of our day was spent in our van and on the road back west to Reykjavik to rest before heading to all the sites of the Golden Circle. We stayed at the Reykjavik Campsite this night. There were clean, 24-hour washrooms and showers on site. The water had sulphur in it (smelled like eggs) so it took a little bit of getting used to, but we were thankful to have facilities for the evening. The site also had a community area with a large kitchen (multiple stoves, sinks, pots, pans), and wifi! We spent the majority of our evening in this area, it was a really nice change after spending 4 days in a van.
We originally planned to continue travelling northeast so we could adventure around the entire ring road to see more of Iceland, but winter storms were coming and storms from earlier that week led to a ton of road closures that our van couldn’t get passed – the downfall of having a giant ass campervan.
We woke up to another day of rain. We took the opportunity to check out the largest church in Iceland, Hallgrímskirkja, and grocery shop before hitting the road again towards the farthest northwest we could go with all the road closures, Kirkjufell. Along the way, we checked out the Akranes Lighthouse (a quick 30-45 minute stop), Hraunfossar (a really quick 15-minute stop), Barnafoss (a 20-minute stop, but we ventured off the path for another 10-minutes, pictured below), and Londrangar (epic views from just the side of the freeway).
We eventually made it to Grundarfjörður, the closest teeny town, with a gas station, grocery store and campsite, to Kirkjufell. The campsite was right across the street from a school with an oddly nice basketball court, soccer field, and balls. The boys spent about 2-hours in the cold playing with mountains in the background – it was surreal. We spent the night here.
*We actually spent 3 days checking out the below stops/hikes, but it could have easily bee done in 2. Here’s the 2-day version we would have done to wrap up a 7-day trip.
We drove to Kirkjufellsfoss to get the iconic view of Kirkjufell, and it was just as it looked in photos. Though all the sites we visited were really popular, because of the tiny parking area just off the freeway, it seemed like it was by far the busiest, even at 8am! We didn’t climb the mountain itself, but spent about 45-minutes walking around the short trail and snapping photos.
Since we did a ton of sight seeing at the majority of stops along the way to Kirkjufell, we buckled in for the next 2 hours back south for one of the most beautiful (and scary) hikes up Glymur, the highest waterfall in Iceland.
We didn’t really follow a route (the route we were supposed to take pointed us across a raging river that we were definitely unable to cross) and instead, we climbed up the side of canyons, ran across scree fields, ventured through a snow storm, ice, and I experienced a newly self-diagnosed minor bout of vertigo. All in all, worth it and I highly recommend adventuring here.
We did this next part on another day, but if we had known better, we would have definitely taken the time to drive another hour to check out Reykjadalaur. This stop wasn’t initially on our list of things to do, but with all the north scrapped, we made time for it.
We ended our day at Faxi Falls, about a 45-minute drive from Reykjadalaur. We definitely pulled a not-approved-move here, but with winds blowing and a snow storm that made for low visibility, we decided to play it safe and spend the night in the parking lot for Faxi Falls.
After hanging out at Skogafoss and Glymur, we were clearly spoiled. Faxi Falls didn’t look like anything incredible, and was not a must-see (after all our other sights), but it was a treat waking up and walking 5 minutes from our van to this view.
From here, we headed south about 20-minutes to Gulfoss. Everything we did on this day was only a 20-minute drive from each stop and popular stops within the Golden Circle most visitors see if they only have a few days. If you can trust me, trust that you’re not missing out on much (compared to the rest of Iceland) – if you only have a few days, skip most of the Golden Circle and head east towards Vik and spend your days there instead!
Gulfoss was an epic stop. It was probably the coldest day we had in Iceland. The wind also didn’t let up – the conditions made it dangerous to venture down to the lower trail to get right next to the falls so we climbed up instead. We only spent about 30 minutes here before it got too cold.
We stopped at Strokkur Geysirs next. The concept of a geysir was (is) really cool. Waiting to see the geysir after countless ridiculous views made the geysir a whole lot less cool and really not worth it. If you’re short on time – don’t stop here. Not worth it.
We left the lot faster than we left any site throughout the whole trip and headed to Bruarfoss. From the parking lot, this waterfall was about a 10-minute walk. The walk was muddy (which is expected in the winter), but the view was worth our while.
Other than a couple gas station hot dogs and burgers, we cooked all our meals, so this next stop was one we really looked forward to. We made reservations to have a late lunch at Fridheimar Farm (a tomato farm/greenhouse) and indulged in all you can eat, freshly baked bread and tomato soup! They served other meals too, but we were on a budget and had tunnel vision for the all-you-can-eat.
If you’re afraid of bees, you may want to sit away from the plants – they have bees they release to collect nectar from the plants and use fresh honey straight from the hives. They also grow fresh basil in pots at each table to compliment your meal!
The last stop of Day 6 should be spent TREATING YO SELF at the Secret Lagoon. Though there were a lot of people, there was still room to have to yourself. We spent about 30 minutes in the water (some of us a little longer, others couldn’t handle the heat, me being one of them), and then spent a good 30 minutes showering in hot hot clean water and changing. You can pay for tickets online ahead of time and it makes checking in a lot faster.
We went back to the Reykjavik Campsite we were at earlier to spend the rest of the night.
Johnny and I walked from the campsite about 20 minutes into the city. On the hunt for colourful rooftops, we obviously got side tracked, saw an asian restaurant, and devoured a bowl of noodles instead.
It felt a little weird for us to be walking in the city (after being around mountains), walking into cute cafes, and ASIAN FOOD (the cravings were real).
The only stop we checked out and was left out on this list was the Blue Lagoon. It was beautiful, but more on the expensive side – the facilities were very clean and what you’d expect with the price tag, and the Lagoon itself was HUGE. At the end, we collectively decided that if we had skipped the Lagoon, it wouldn’t have been the worst thing. It was a very, very relaxing spa day and we saved it until the very end, just a few hours before our flight so we could shower and leave feeling at clean and refreshed.
It was weird thinking we’d miss living out of our Kuku Campervan, but once we rolled up to airport, we got a little emotional. We said our goodbyes, ate the last of our food, and sat in the airport ready for our next stop, Paris!