Sunday, August 3, 2014

Iceland Trip Overview and Information

What drew us to Iceland?  Well, first it was the beautiful photographs, but then it was reading about the peace and quiet, a land full of geological and geographical wonders, and surprises around every corner.  
We came away with all expectations met and exceeded.  

One of the ways I gathered information is by reading people's blogs after typing in Iceland vacation blog into Google, so I thought it might be helpful to jot some of my notes down here for all those interested.  

Our Itinerary 
On the plane we had no idea what we were doing (a common thread on most of our trips…) but we had no problem planning as we went.  We choose to go counterclockwise around the entire island, starting in the south and finishing in the west.  We were thankful we did, as the South section was the most tourist-heavy and we experienced the peace we so longed for on the second half of our trip. 

Sweet Surprises
  • midnight sun-I didn’t expect to like this so much.  Since the sun never sets, it feels like you get more bang for your buck in Iceland.  You can just keep driving and driving well into the night and it still feels like 7:00 pm.  It’s also a dream for photographers! 
  • blonde freckled faces
  • limited advertising
  • simple, clean design ascetic
  • kind and simple wildlife
  • simple, well-marked roads 
  • varied landscapes
  • N1 gas stations with free wifi, water, car cleaners
  • yummy Skyr (yogurt)
  • delicious, perfectly prepared seafood
  • Icelandic peoples’ warmth and kindness 
  • super safe  
  • the greens are greener and the blues are bluer
  • driving through snow-covered mountains
  • wonder of geothermal heated swimming pools and hot springs
  • clean bathrooms everywhere where you can’t see through the cracks in the doors
  • the weather stayed at a manageable 45-60 degrees

Not So Fun
  • driving on narrow mountain roads in the mud and drizzle with hardly any guard rails
  • midges (gnats) 
  • Arctic Terns (scary dive-bombing birds) 
  • choosing which pictures to delete
  • we couldn’t go everywhere we wanted because we didn’t have a 4x4 vehicle (and were limited on time)

We would be completely lost without our AMAZING map created by Michael Levy.  It’s Called International Photographer: Iceland and pointed out all the important spots for photographers.  It was beautifully designed, water and tear-proof, with well-marked roads and attractions.  It came with an eBook in which he clearly explained his 21-day itinerary, complete with camera settings, camping information, and much more.  I will go anywhere this man makes a map for!

We also made good use of the Lonely Planet: Iceland guide.  It had information on each and every little town we came across.  It also had good information about trip itineraries and must-sees. 

These resources invaluable and really helped us make the most of our trip. 

Camper Van 
I got the idea of renting a camper van the very first time I saw someone’s blog post about a trip to Iceland. She said they rented a “campervan” and I immediately looked it up to see how much and what it was like. It sounded too good to be true…rent a car AND lodging to go on a road trip?  

We decided to go with Happy Camper and were so thankful we did.  The company was easy to work with via email, and friendly in every way.  The van came with a sink and water tank, gas burner, a pot and a pan, dishes, a refrigerator/cooler, some basic cleaning supplies…everything to keep us up and running for 10 days.  There was a couch that pulled out into a bed, (with plenty of storage underneath) and they provided us with pillows, a fleece blanket and a duvet per person.  We were plenty warm in June and quite comfortable sleeping.  (Maybe because we’re used to Korean beds which are hard?) The van was almost brand new, and my man said it was nice and easy to drive.  Even though it looked small compared to other options we saw on the road, it was plenty big for us and we were thankful for our little home away from home. 

In Iceland, wild camping is allowed, as long as you’re not on private property.  This means we were usually able to pull off the side of a small road and camp there for the night.  There are also campgrounds (a fee is collected) located all across the country simple facilities.  

Swimming Pools/Hot Pots
As for showering, we made use of the local swimming pools and hot springs.  What a treat!  In Iceland, it is very important to shower, without a swimsuit (communal showers…so not American) before hopping in a pool.  This helps them stay clean, since the water is not chemically treated.  Spending time in these pools are some of the best memories from our trip!

Packing List: 
I was severely underprepared for this trip, so had to buy much of the clothes right before we went, but was pleased that all was useful and necessary. 
  • wool socks
  • quick dry tanks and shirts 
  • hiking button up shirt
  • good quality leggings 
  • hiking pants (mine were OK but could have been a bit more waterproof)
  • waterproof hiking boots
  • Teva sports sandals 
  • gloves
  • sunglasses
  • warm Headband/Hat (I didn’t think about this so had to get one there…it ended up being pleasantly warm and Icelandic looking)
  • good quality Fleece
  • good quality down jacket
  • rain jacket 
  • jeans for city 
  • a nice shirt for city 
  • comfortable undergarments
  • backpack 
  • camera, computer, iPad, iPhone, converter (tech junkie?) 
  • food from the U.S. and special foods from Korea
  • Nalgene water bottle
  • quick dry towel/swimsuit (bikini would have been better than a one piece)
  • toiletries (you can get by with the basics while camping which I always forget) 
  • medicine (I had a nasty cold most of the time)
  • extra bags, paper towels, toilet paper

Unpacking List: (next time don’t bring) 
  • running shoes (nope, too cold and no extra time) 
  • ukelele (no sweet weather or campfires to sing around) 
  • table and chairs we rented from Happy Camper (too cold and/or windy) 
  • books (I brought some thinking I’d have plenty of free time to read, but in reality we were either checking something out, driving (looking out the window) or using our last few minutes before we fell asleep to edit photographs) 
  • headlamp? (it’s light all the time but I did use it once in a dark cave?)

We were blessed to be able to get a new camera (mine is four years old) right before we went.  I decided to go with a Canon 6D, a full-frame that was more reasonably priced than a Mark III…with wonderful reviews.  Deciding on a lens was tough, but after some research I decided to go with the 40mm/2.8 pancake lens.  It would be small and easy to travel with.  Although it limited somewhat what I could do (with no zoom) it proved to be a great setup and I am very pleased with my photos (which I unfortunately can’t say about our last trip in Southeast Asia).

My man got my hand-me-down camera (Trusty Nikon D5000 with 35mm/1.8 lens) which did me solid for four years.  It was so fun to be able to take pictures together that now we’re talking about making this a hobby we can do together…I’m so excited about the prospect!

We have been very pleased with our Manfrotto Bfree travel (yet solid) tripod that we bought a year ago, it has never gotten as much use as it has this trip.  

Last Thoughts:
Now that I'm back home/at work, people keep asking how our trip to Iceland was.  Well, overall it was perfect.  We had such a wonderful time together and it was such a thrill for me to explore a new land.  I had never been to Europe before, never had any desire to go, but now my curiosity is piqued.  I loved seeing creation and God's handiwork.  I cherish the time with my man and am so thankful we have the opportunity to travel.  I'd recommend this country to anyone!


  1. A wonderful post! We also rented a camper van from Happy Campers in October 2014. Our packing list was similar to yours except we used our headlamps quite a bit both in and outside of the camper since we had a few more hours of darkness than you would in the summer. I also agree about the table and chairs: we used them maybe once on the first day and the rest of the trip was spent wrestling them around for space. I have been saying the same thing about our trip, it was *perfect*! We got engaged while in Iceland and plan to return for our honeymoon! Can't wait!!

    1. So exciting! Congratulations! I want to go back too...in Winter next time!

  2. Hello!! We have just discovered your blog and we love your posts about Iceland!!

    We are quite curious about making the trip with a camper van... do you feel cold inside the van? is it confortable to sleep?

    On the other hand, could you advise us which clothes are needed in summer in Iceland?

    Thanks for your time and your posts!

    1. Hi Anna! Thank you for your kind comment!

      It wasn't cold in the van during summer (June). There is a heating system. We turned it on a bit, but never for too long. The blankets were plenty to keep us warm in the summer. It was comfortable for us to sleep! We are not too picky though. Much nicer than a tent (which we saw many people in at campsites) because it was so rainy some days.

      I gave a clothes list above...I would say dress with layers. Also, it was rainy so I would recommend waterproof gear. I brought shorts but I only wore them once I think. Also, I wore my hiking boots everywhere, it's pretty wild out there! It was nice to have some sports sandals to change into while we were driving. I also think a light down jacket is a must!

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