Growing up, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to quite a handful of countries with my family, Alhamdulillah. They were mostly by tour and fully paid for by Mama dearest but unfortunately, I never fully appreciated the places that we were brought to – I was too young :'(
For example, I’ve been to New Zealand before but the only memory I have is eating cold vegetarian sandwiches by a lake. I’m not even sure what lake that was but I’d very much like to go and find out one day.
As I grew older, I started to develop a strong liking for nature holidays. I didn’t fancy going overseas to shop or see buildings because we’ve got enough of that back in Singapore. I wanted to be around trees, around nature, around mountains with fresh, crisp air – something we don’t get much here.
Don’t get me wrong though, I LOVE my country – the locals are lovely (especially those who say thank you when you hold the lift doors open for them) and there are still many places here that I’ve yet to explore. But, sometimes it’s just nice to escape the hustle and bustle of this city life once in a while, ya know what I mean?
I’m also not too keen on going for tours. I remember going to the Great Ocean Road by tour and we only had an hour to bask in the beauty of the 12 Apostles. Ugh how stifling! I won’t deny that you can learn a lot from a tour guide but well, it depends what you’re willing to sacrifice. I’d rather have the freedom to roam around.
So I was pretty determined to make Iceland the *perfect* trip – free and easy and loosely (really loosely) planned around a few highlights. Yep, we were gonna wander around the country with very little idea of what to expect. 😀
Iceland has one main road – Route 1, also known as the Ring Road – which basically goes all around the island. We took this route which is about 1,332 kilometres and can be completed within 13 hours… if you drive non-stop. But YA CRAZY, BRUV? Lol.
We had 11 days in Iceland – the first and last days were to chill in Keflavik sans campervan while the road trip itself took 9 days. I wish we had a longer time but I think 9 days is enough to cover the whole Ring Road without having to rush.
I’m not going to lie – not doing proper planning did get us caught in a few blunders, which only made the trip more memorable haha. However, because of the mistakes we made, there were some places we missed. So, for the purpose of this post, I’ll be sharing what my ideal itinerary for the Ring Road would be like should we have the rezeki to go there again, Insya’Allah.
Day 1: Golden Circle – Þingvellir National Park, Geysers at Haukadulur, Gulfoss Waterfall, Kerið Crater Lake
We left our awesome AirBnB apartment (with its fully-stocked kitchen!) at 10 that morning and took a bus to BSI Terminal, where we met with Kristoff who fetched us to the GoCampers office.
That first day we got our campervan, we intended to drive around the Golden Circle. This is a popular tourist route in southern Iceland and can typically be covered in a day before going on the actual Ring Road.
Alas, Iceland was experiencing effects of a hurricane at Bermuda so there was heavy rain with super strong winds when we arrived. Truth be told, we were quite apprehensive (especially me darlin’ driver Han) and we were still adjusting to the cold. So we moved really slowly and only reached Þingvellir National Park right before it got dark.
Þingvellir National Park is a significant cultural, historical and geographical landmark for Iceland. It was where the Icelandic Parliament was established and also where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates converge. There was also a GoT scene shot there but I don’t watch GoT, regrettably (I confess, I’m a bit of a prude hahaha).
It was the first stop of our roadtrip so we were clearly excited to see waterfalls, evident in our video below.
Actually, I’m not even sure if that’s considered a waterfall lol.
We took a little hike to Öxarárfoss. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to come closer to the waterfall because I think it was flooded, due to the storm.
We wanted to go to Kerið volcano crater next but when we reached, it was really dark with no lights at all. It was spooky. Plus there was a huge sign that warned against parking overnight so we decided to call it a day and find a rest stop.
We Googled for a place to camp at for the night and keyed it into the van’s GPS. I’m not sure how but after a 30 minute bumpy drive, it brought us to someone’s farmhouse (I think) at some really secluded, unlit place. We really thought it was it and opened the gates only to find nothing except stacks of hay.
K nope, definitely not a campsite.
Realising that we just trespassed on someone’s property (sorry, farmer!), we immediately left and took a gamble to head to the nearest rest stop indicated on the GPS – a campsite/motel that was closed for the season. It was better than nothing so parked and slept there for the night, we did.
Truth be told, we were pretty shaken from getting lost. Plus, we were also cautious not to break any rules. In Iceland, there are gravel and unpaved roads which we weren’t sure if our van could be driven on. So we decided to just head straight to the Ring Road and skip the Golden Circle. Hope to see you next time, cool Strokkur Geyser and Gulfoss.
Parking Fee at Þingvellir National Park – 500 ISK
Toilet Fee at Þingvellir National Park – 200 ISK
Groceries – 5143 ISK
AirBnB at Keflavik (upon arrival in Iceland) – 120 SGD
Wild camped outside a closed motel because we got lost, hurhur (not recommended!) – 0 ISK
Day 2: Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Skógafoss Waterfall, Sólheimasandur Plane Crash
After a harrowing first day, we decided that okay, we shall do better the next! Luck was also on our side that day because the weather was oh, so fine! We woke up really early at 3AM (9AM in SGT) and reached Seljalandsfoss at 5 in the morning and oh my god, what a pretty sight it was! They placed lights at the bottom of the waterfall so it was brightly lit against the dark dawn sky.
You’re allowed to walk behind the waterfall but be careful, because it can get pretty slippery. It’s a popular tourist spot so we had to be shameless and made people wait just so that we could feeling-feeling photoshoot behind the waterfall.
The next nearest popular waterfall in the South was Skógafoss. There were steps you could climb all the way up to the top and the scenery from up there was breath-taking! (So was the climb up – I had to stop several times to catch my breath because so high!)
People could also stand at the edge of the cliff which Han was more than happy to try but I wasn’t so thrilled. Kept telling him to be careful and not slip because we just got married. >:(
We decided to have our lunch at Skógafoss (we had soup with bread!) before we headed to our next stop, Solhemaisandur.
The Sólheimasandur plane wreckage is a famous site in Iceland where a US Navy airplane crashed in November 1973. Thankfully, everyone survived the crash but the plane was left abandoned. Which is great because yay, cool photo op!
Vehicles are not allowed to drive in so you have to walk about 4 kilometres from the main road to the plane. Yes, 4. I think it took us about an hour in and an hour out because my feet were hurting in my new boots and I was struggling to walk on the gravel path lol.
But it was all worrrrrth it! It felt quite surreal to be standing in front of this battered plane. What made it look more dramatic was the sunset and it was so glorious!
There were quite a few people taking photos with the plane so you had to be really patient for your turn. Han tried climbing up the plane as well too.
All sites were free to visit! – 0 ISK
Cooked our own meals – 0 ISK
Skogar Campsite – 0 ISK
Day 3: Black Sand Beach Vik, Fjaðrárgljúfur, Svartifoss
It’s quite funny how we actually skipped these 3 places. Han was depending on me to plan the day (you know, co-driver duties) and me being the blur-ass self miscalculated and told him we only had 4 more days, when in fact we had 6. So we thought we were running out of time and rushed straight to Jökulsárlón.
Anyway, I’d suggest you go check out the coooool basalt columns at the Black Sand Beach at Vik, the grand canyons at Fjaðrárgljúfur (dare you to pronounce that) and the pretty spectacular Svartifoss waterfall when you’re there!
Day 4: Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon, Höfn
Iceland is called the Land of Fire and Ice because glaciers and volcanic springs can actually be found next to each other!
Jökulsárlón Iceberg Lagoon is a large glacial lake where you’ll see large blue-tinted icebergs that have broken off from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and drifting off to sea. Some ice will collect on the shores and that’s when you can take cool photos like this.
K lah haha not so cool. But eh when else can you sit on an iceberg, man? Especially when it’s not zero degree weather.
Anyway, you can go for the Ice Cave Tour at Vatnajökull when you’re there which we didn’t. It’s about 235SGD per pax (*cough*overbudget*cough*) but I think it’s pretty worth it to give it a go!
Han was pretty tired from the pretty long drive so we hung around Jökulsárlón the whole day and had lunch there as well (salmon and veggies!).
We left for Höfn to seek for a campsite nearing sunset, feeling all relaxed after realising we didn’t need to rush for time anymore.
But things took a twist.
The very next morning, the axle of our van’s front wheels decided to break. A big, burly mechanic (who looked really intimidating at first but turned out to be very jovial.. something we noticed about most Icelanders we interacted with) came down to assess and told us it had to be sent to the workshop which unfortunately, was closed because it was a Sunday. So, our only option was to have a replacement camper sent to us from HQ in Reykjavik, which was uhm, about 5 hours away.
Yeaaaah, tough luck.
So since our new camper would only reach us about 11 at night, that gave us ample time to walk around Höfn and eat lobster!
Höfn is commonly known as the Lobster Town of Iceland. We were recommended by this British couple we met at the campsite to check out Hafnarbuðin, a tiny, cozy restaurant by the harbour.
As compared to the more popular lobster restaurants, ie Humarhöfnin, the food at Hafnarbuðin was more affordable (by Iceland standards). If you’ve read my previous post (HERE if you haven’t), by affordable, I mean $25 for a 6-inch lobster sandwich. Which is okay, considering it’s lobster (I think.)
All sites were free to visit! – 0 ISK
Groceries – 2390 ISK + 853 ISK
Lobster Sandwich at Hafnarbuðin – 2000 ISK
Höfn Campsite – 1200 ISK
Day 5: The Eastern Fjords, Námafjall, Lake Mývatn
The moment we got our van that night, we were excited to leave Höfn almost immediately because the skies were clear. We thought hey, let’s go drive now because maybe we’ll have a chance to see the Northern Lights on the way to the East since the skies are so clear!
There’s a funny saying on a magnet we bought that says “Welcome to Iceland. If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes.”
It’s really true, guys. Imagine our surprise when we were met with super thick fog a short while later as we drove to the East.
The ride to the East was a really memorable one. We drove about an hour in the dark with thick fog and really low visibility. I learnt that you can’t use high beam in this situation because it will just reflect back at you, making it harder to see. It was pretty tense and this is coming from a co-driver – I can’t imagine how Han must have felt.
The ride got even more exciting later on.
You see, before we left GoCampers on the first day, the friendly GoCamper staff Kristoff had warned us not to go through several roads because they weren’t in good condition. He even crossed out the roads on the map but hey let’s all give an award to the best co-driver of the year, Me, for putting away that map in the bag. Out of sight, out of mind. In fact, both of us totally forgot his advice.
It was so silly that the conversation could very well have gone like this:
Kristoff: “Okay, when you follow the GPS, it will show you the shortcut and right here, they will tell you to go through Öxi Pass. Don’t go there *crosses out road on map*, it has bad roads and it’s in the Highlands”
Me: “Okay thank you for telling us! Let’s put this map away now and never use it ever again.”
So imagine our horror when we turned into Öxi Pass and the roads kept going higher and higher and higher. What made it worse was that the roads were gravel with pot holes and it was quite foggy. Yes, it was bad.
I didn’t take many photos on that route because Han and I were too busy silently praying for our lives. The roads were narrow and steep, with blind corners and I could imagine our van plunging down into the valley if we weren’t careful.
I managed to find someone’s video on Youtube of her drive on the scariest part of Öxi Pass! Go see how scary it got!
You can watch her full video HERE.
When we were at the steepest part of the route (at 00:27 in video above), as Han was trying to change to a lower gear, he accidentally released the clutch and the engine stalled. Hahaha yeah, pretty funny now that the ordeal’s over. Definitely not funny when it happened at that moment.
But there was a BEAUTIFUL lake on top and it kinda made everything worth it. On second thought, I think Öxi Pass is a beautiful route to pass if you’re not driving a big vehicle and the weather is good.
It was only after we reached our rest stop at Egilsstaðir campsite when we opened up the map and Han was like “B! Kristoff crossed out Öxi!” “Omg yaaaaaa!”
After we had lunch at Egilsstaðir (spaghetti!) and recovered from that whole nerve-wrecking experience, we headed to Námafjall Hverir. It’s a geothermal field with boiling mud pots and solfataras and oh, my, God it was so stinky because of the sulphur!
Ever curious how a fart would taste in your mouth? Try drinking the hot water directly from the tap there.
Lake Mývatn was a few minutes away and it was really picturesque. However, we didn’t really explore much there – we only drove around it. We slept overnight at Vogahraun campsite, which was beside the Lake though and it was really cold.
All sites were free to visit! – 0 ISK
Groceries – 1955 ISK
Vogahraun Campsite at Mývatn – 3500 ISK
Day 6: Dettifoss, Selfoss, Húsavík
Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. We had to walk quite a fair bit to get there but that’s okay because I’d rather have walks in nice, cold weather any day.
There was another waterfall, Selfoss, upstream which we walked to via a trail leading up to it. There weren’t any cliff fences installed so visitors could stand on the edges (and potentially slip and fall). So, of course Han did just that.
I had a near heart attack the entire time he was squatting by the edge to adjust the Osmo. But eh, I guess it was pretty worth it.
After busking in the sights and hanging around the area for about 2 hours or so, we then decided to proceed to Húsavík, the whale watching capital of Iceland.
We missed the last slot for the whale-watching tour so we decided to stay at Húsavík for the night. Húsavík’s a pretty small city and its campsite was serene but quite eerie, especially because it was closed for winter and there was nobody around. Even this Italian couple Han met said the place gave them bad vibes lol.
Off we went to watch whales early the next morning! We had to wear this really thick jumpsuit and were warned that it would get even colder out at sea. The boat we got on was pretty average-sized but I’d advise seasick-prone people against going on this tour because the boat ride was way rockier than your average ferry ride.
It was a while before we actually caught sight of the Humpback and Minke whales! We didn’t get to see any of the Humpbacks jump out of the water though but apparently, that’s more common when it’s mating season.
The ride back was super wet!! By 1PM, the waters were super choppy and a lot of seawater crashed into the boat. We were drenched and super cold. Despite the super rocky boat, the crew still offered us all hot chocolate which I actually managed to finish it all up without spilling! 😀
Friends and family already know this but it was also the whale-watching ride that led to the deaths of both my beloved Note 5 and our DSLR. It was *heartbreaking* – we both had a quiet moment to ourselves after we reached the shores. But eh, we did ask for it because we didn’t protect our equipment properly.
To cheer ourselves up, we went to the Whale museum. It was fascinating and very detailed! I reckon anyone can be a whale expert after a trip to that museum, lol! For example, I learnt that Grey Whales mate in threes – 2 males and 1 female, whereby the less dominant male will help prop the female against the mating male.
There were plenty of whale skeletons on display too!
Pool Entrance Fee (for shower) – 650 ISK
Whale Watching Tour – 20,600 ISK
Whale Museum Entrance fee – 2880 ISK
Groceries – 1669 ISK
Húsavík Camping Ground – 0 ISK
Day 7: Goðafoss, Akureyri
Goðafoss (roughly translated as Waterfall of the Gods, in Icelandic) has got to be my most favourite waterfall of all. It’s just so beautiful, Masya’Allah! Unfortunately, since our good cameras were dead, we had to make do with Han’s phone. I really want to go there again!
We then proceeded to drive up to Akureyri, the second largest urban area in Iceland after Reykjavik. It’s a really beautiful city and I daresay Hamrar campsite, where we stayed at, was the bestestest campsite of all! It had all the facilities we needed and was situated on a hill away from town.
Behind the common area, there was also a path leading towards a field of horses! AND WE WERE SO HAPPY!
Icelandic horses are not your average breed – they’re small (many are pony-sized!) and they rarely suffer from diseases. The breed has been kept pure, thanks to stringent import and export laws and it’s known for its five natural, unique gaits. Their fur is really nice too!
We spent 2 days at Akureyri just because the Hamrar campsite was so darn pretty. We checked out the Akureyri Museum, which had 2 particularly interesting exhibits on display – one about Iceland’s first and only female president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and another about the early days of Akureyri. Needless to say, we had fun.
We asked Erla, the very chatty museum staff, how living in Iceland is like and she said, “Oh it’s wonderful and peaceful because we live in front of mountains and see Northern lights at night. When I watch TV and I see those people in New York living in cramped tall buildings, I wonder ‘how do people live like that?’ ”
Oh, Erla, we just do. Haha.
Akureyri Museum Entrance Fee – 2400 ISK
Fish & Chips at Akureyri Fish & Chips – 3770 ISK
Hamrar Campsite – 2700 ISK
Day 8: Kirkjufell
I was most excited to go here just because it has been my desktop’s wallpaper for over a year.
Kirkjufell, near the town of Grundarfjörður, is Iceland’s most photographed mountain and is situated in the West. It was a 5-hour drive away from Akureyri. Alas, as luck would have it, we were met with bad weather when we reached there.
Like, really bad weather.
The winds were SO STRONG that Han had to firmly control the steering wheel because he could easily lose control of the van. You also had to be super careful to grip your door firmly when opening because the wind can just blow it open and spoil the hinges, which uhm, happened to both our doors.
By the time we reached, my beloved Kirkjufell looked like this.
Hahahaha, okayla, close enough.
Since it was unbearably cold and wet, we only spent 15 minutes there. Haha yeah, drive 5 hours but visit for 15 mins only. Jadi lah.
It was a bittersweet feeling – Kirkjufell was the final pit stop of our thrilling road trip and we were so relieved that we survived it. We high-fived and jumped for joy, blithely unaware of what was in store for us.
Oh no, no, that was not the end.
We happily left for the nearby town Grundarfjörður to seek for a campsite to park at for the night. It was really dark by then and when we reached the site, we discovered that it was closed and there weren’t any facilities we could use either. So we decided to drive back out into town but Han made a wrong turn. As he tried to reverse, it was too dark to spot the ditch behind us from the rearview mirror.
So, he reversed into the ditch.
GUYSSSS, do you know how terrifying it was to be seated in a big vehicle at a 50° angle? The front wheels of our van were literally in the air and our van hung precariously over the edge of the ditch. Any sudden movement we made could possibly cause the van to topple over. Plus, it was dark and the storm had gotten even worse.
There was nobody in sight who could help us so we decided to brave the storm (felt like -5 degrees C, I swear) to find civilization. Spotted a house about 300m away and we had to shamelessly ring the doorbell to ask for help.
Us: Hi there *shivers* sorry to disturb you *shivers* but our van just got stuck in a ditch *shivers* and we’re not sure where to find help.
Our Hero: Sure, show me the way!
And then said Hero proceeded to put on his knee-high wellies, an Adidas sports jacket over his singlet and walk to his car in his shorts, with an ice-cream stick in his mouth. Said Hero also laughed out loud and exclaimed “Dude, you are f*cked!” twice when he saw our van but later assured Han by firmly holding his shoulder and shouting in the rain..
“Don’t worry, we WILL fix this!”
Also, Syukur Alhamdulillah, I swear God was watching over us because our said Hero also happened to have a friend in the Search&Rescue team who was coming over for dinner in his truck so they managed to tow our van out of the ditch!
And it was all done in less than 30 minutes. After they towed our van, they just waved us goodbye. We didn’t even get to take a picture together or thank them properly. They were just so nice – they helped without expecting anything in return!
We desperately needed to get somewhere warm so we had hot chocolate and seafood pizza at a nearby cafe. The half-frozen faces you see above are the faces of survivors ok? Han’s especially. I was just sitting in the car with said Hero’s brother while Han was running around in the rain with the Hero to settle the van.
That night, we fell asleep in our van rocking in the strong, howling wind.
Getting van stuck in ditch – 0 ISK (no damages for this, thankfully) + lost a few years of our lives from distress lol
Hot Chocolate & Seafood Pizza at a Pizzeria – 4000 ISK
Wild-camped at random carpark (not recommended) – 0 ISK
Day 9: Reykjavik, Keflavik
Even the drive back to Reykjavik to return the van was daunting. The storm was still raging and the roads were foggy. At one point, it got so foggy, you couldn’t see anything 10 metres ahead.
But it was sunny in Reykjavik! After we returned the van, we immediately left for our AirBnB in Keflavik. We didn’t quite explore the sights around Reykjavik but you can check out the bird’s eye view of the town from Hallgrímskirkja Church and the iconic Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre.
We took a straeto bus to our AirBnB which was a stop before the airport. We were so lucky to get the apartment because it allowed late check-outs and we had the whole house to ourselves, for quite an affordable price!
It was the perfect refuge after the super exhilarating Ring Road trip. There wasn’t much to see in the neighbourhood so we only left to find for a restaurant to eat at, because we were too lazy to cook.
We left the apartment at 6 the next afternoon for the airport. Our flight was at 7 the morning after but because buses don’t operate so early and taxis are REALLY expensive, we decided to sleep in the airport.
Watch Scarface and chill – 0 ISK
Seafood Meals for 2 at an Indian fusion restaurant – 4000 ISK
Keflavik AirBnB one-bedroom apartment – SGD 140
Summary of our Expenses (for 2 pax)
Flight (FinnAir): 2648.40 SGD
Activities: 27,430 ISK ≈ 339 SGD
Food (+Groceries): 25,780 ISK ≈ 320 SGD
GoCamper Van (+Petrol): 2557 SGD + ~300 SGD ≈ 2857 SGD
Accommodation (AirBnB+Campsites): 7400 ISK + 260 SGD ≈ 352 SGD
Transport (Public Bus): 6720 ISK ≈ 83 SGD
SIM Card (Data): 4300 ISK ≈ 53 SGD
Total Spent: 6652.40 SGD for 2 pax
So, that comes to about $3326.20 per pax, which in my opinion is pretty okay for a country like Iceland where it’s touted to be the 4th most expensive place in the world.
I didn’t include the repair cost for our door damage though because I would like to think that everyone reading this will not be as careless as us, haha! But just so you know, repairs are really expensive so you best get travel insurance which covers the type of vehicle you’re driving. Ours didn’t, much to our despair.
Despite whatever that happened, Han and I still had amazing time in beautiful, beautiful Iceland! It was the biggest adventure of our lives in the 5 years of knowing each other and Han was there, holding my hand every step of the way. It was a great start to our marriage and although marriage life definitely won’t be a bed of roses, I’m grateful that I’ve found the right man to go through the ups and downs with, Alhamdulilah 🙂
To more adventures ahead!