Posted by: jeanne | April 14, 2016

camping in iceland-theory

the theory behind camping in iceland is that you can go wherever the roads are paved, stop whenever you get tired, sleep until you wake up, and then continue on.

in the summer, there are campgrounds galore – electrical hookups, showers, a pool and hot tub, convenience store, horse rental.  but outside the season (unofficially starts june 1) most campgrounds are closed, and you get to explore wild camping.

wild camping is where you pull over into some safe, secluded spot, make camp and enjoy your situation, and then pack everything out and leave no traces.  no toilets, no showers, no electricity, no fee.

in theory, we will go straight from the airport bus to the camper (via hellisgerdi for the boys to run off some energy while i shop and pick up the camper), and then drive the golden circle until i drop.  and then a beeline to our furthest destination (jokulsarlon), working our way back over i forget how many days.  three.  three days to cover all the things i saw in two days on a bus…gee that’s busy.  (three days because i didn’t realize the trip was a next day arrival for some reason (like i haven’t done this dozens of times in general) or it would have been four.  but i totally dawdled when they announced a sudden $99 sale and i wasn’t quite ready (hadn’t told avery’s dad a thing about it yet).  and by the time i bought tickets, it was getting way high (tho still cheap by regular standards) and i took the best fee and adjusted my dates accordingly.  oh well.  it’s only meant to be a taste, after all (not only to whet their whistles but to satisfy my craving as well), because we’re stopping back for 10 days on our way back from venice this winter, and of course i’m spending three months in iceland next summer.  wee hah.)

this post is focusing (hah) on the area between reykjavik and vik, including the golden circle, which means this post is being written so i can consult it on our first day renting the camper, and on the last day, leaving the middle day way out at skaftafell campground (or somewhere near it that’s open, or not.  we can pick some wonderful place like fjallsarlon (the smaller glacial lagoon) to camp (their boat tour sounds wonderful but it’s $125 (but the boat tour at jokulsarlon is $93. huh?  still a bit of a hit)).).

looking at just one website for camping in iceland (, recommended to me by kuku campers, where we’re renting our camper for the trip), i find different choices than other collections of campsites in iceland.

faxi is on route 35, halfway to geysir.  you can camp right by the waterfall.  i don’t think there are any amenities, but i’m not sure i care.

uthlid is on 37 most of the way to geysir.  it’s got a pool, and a gas station.  and horse tours (2 hour tour $300).

brautarholt is halfway on the road between selfoss and fludir.  it’s got a pool and a playground, a supermarket, gas, restaurant and horse rental.

skjol is halfway between geysir and gulfoss.  it’s got a coffee house and horse rental.  but it’s 20 km from a pool, so…

geysir has camping, and they say they have a pool.  hmmm.  nope.  i checked.  they used to have a pool.

arnes is east of brautarholt, down 32 (what i assume is gravel – i need to check it out because our camper is not 4wd.)  pool, playground, mini mart, restaurant, horse rental.

that looks like brauarholt or faxi, or maybe uthlid.  fludir campground is closed at the end of may (i think i remember from a previous post.  it was my original first choice for the golden circle – it’s got an old outdoor pool and a must-have ethiopian restaurant).

then, between reykjavik and vik, there are several places.  these would be if we made it past the golden circle on our first day, which is unlikely.  but they’re also good places to stay our last night on the road, when we’ve got to be in hafnarfjordur by 9 to return the camper.

langbrok is in Hvolsvöllur, on the grounds of a cafe, near a goddess temple.  but everything else is 10km away.

stokkseyri is on the coast, off of route 1.  it’s got a hunting museum, as well as an elf and troll museum (must-see).  a pool and play ground, cafe, gas.

thorlakshofn is a little fishing harbor east of stokkseyri, also off route 1.  the campsite has a wonderful pool, playground, there’s a restaurant, mart, gas.

even closer to reykjavik, on the reykjanes peninsula, where the airport is, there are several nice places that are open before the unofficial season, as are all on this list.

t-baer is east of thorlakshofn, and so primitive it only offers cold water.  no pool, no playground.

grindavik is right in the port town of grindavik, which is on the back side of the blue lagoon.  it’s got everything, pool, playground, restaurant, gas, market.

sandgerd is another port town, or fishing village, on the north end of the peninsula, and just moments from the airport.  it’s got a pool, market and restaurant, but they’re most of a kilometer’s walk away from the campground.

so we only have 3 days in the camper.  well, now.  i thought we had more.

so kerid, geysir, gulfoss.  and on the other end, in the middle, vik, klaustur, jokulsarlon, skaftafell.  that leaves all the campgrounds mentioned above for the last bit.  that last bit – i don’t have much of an idea about what do to.  i know i can’t go from jokulsarlon to vik in one day and be happy about it, so i might get to vik and reynisfjara on the morning of the third day, and proceed east toward the vast nebulosity as it happens.

what does that mean?

southwest iceland is the reykjanes peninsula, full of young lava, steam vents, fishing villages.  very cool.  and very close in.

south iceland is full of natural wonders, and no ports from thorlakshofn all the way to hofn – nothing but black sand beach and potentially nasty atlantic ocean waves.

the sun rises at 3:30 and sets at 11:30.  not yet midnight sun; more like midsummer in scotland.  we leave hafnarfjordur around 9:30 am.  we go up 35, and come down 30, reaching route 1 at flatholt. it’s not that long, but given jetlag and three attractions, if i make it past fludir, hvolsvollur is just down the road from the turn to route 1.  so we can stay there the first night, possibly.  certainly the furthest i want to to, anyway.

what i’m forgetting in my mad calculations is that we have to basically pass everything twice.  we detour up route 35 for a minute on the golden circle, but from there all the way out, we turn around and come back the same way.  so our trek to the east can take in some waterfall, reynisfjara and vik – by lunchtime, and we can go to klaustur on the way back from skaftafell and jokulsarlon the next day.  which means we are still answering the same question – where in the southsouthwestern corner of iceland will we end up staying for the night?

we could stop in stokkseyri (the elf and troll museum), and then go thru thorlakshofn, but it would be a pity to stop there and waste all our time at the pool.  so onto the reykjanes peninsula.  and into the lava fields.  so grindavik, but probably ending up at sandgerdi.  and on reflection, we will do better going to thorlakshofn for the night, and getting to hafnarfjordur by 9, the thing is to get up early enough to see the thermal fields and maybe the bridge between continents before racing back to drop off the camper.  (and then where to swim?  there’s the geothermalgeothermal beach (just saying).)

now, all of these considerations are nice, but at least for the first night, the question is how long can we function, not how far can we get.  our flight leaves at 7pm, so we have to be at the airport by 5, and it takes an hour, so that means we’ll probably have lunch with mike and maybe mom close to union station and find a deli (cafe philips, 50 f st) somewhere for something to eat on the plane.  a six hour flight means we’ll all sleep some, but we land at 5 (1am our time), get on the bus around 6, get to hafnarfjordur around 7 (i expect the boys to doze along the way), and have to deal with 2 hours before picking up the camper (hellisgerdi park and shopping). then over the plateau to hveragerdi around 10, and to our first stop (kerid) around 11.  which is 7am.  so i’ll be falling asleep at the wheel.  maybe that’s as far as we get before we have serious sleep issues.  maybe we’ll be fine, and can hit all the heights and end up in the secret lagoon at fludir before going to bed.

we shall see.

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