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Iceland July/August 2023 trip report

We just spent the last 17 days traveling to Iceland for the 5th time. We did 10 days in a camper van mostly in the Westfjords, then swapped out to a car and spent a few days in Thorsmark, a few days on Westmann Island and then finally back to Selfoss and Reykjavik. Most of the trip was centered on camping and hiking, which I know isn't a huge draw here, but I thought I would share in care anyone is interested in a trip off the beaten path. Warning, it is long;)

This is our 5th trip to Iceland, but our first in a camper van. Loving it!!!

Arrived at SEA at 12:30 desk opened about 15 minutes later. Checked 2 bags and our personal and carryon items were checked for size and weight and tagged”approved “. We then went to checkpoint 1 and the Pre lines were very long but with clear we were through immediately. Headed to the lounge and hung out there. Went to gate about 10 minutes before boarding and it was chuck full so we hung out way in the back. An agent came down to move the ropes and I asked if we were in the way and should we move, since we thought the line to board was the next aisle over. She said no and to come with her. They had just taken a handicapped lady to board, then this agent took us so we were the 2nd/3rd people to board. Nice!

Flight was comfortable and we preordered food. I slept a bit. Landed a few minutes early at 6 am. Bought bingo balls, my husbands favorites, in duty free then waited for our Happy Camper van shuttle. Got the van, a 4x4. We have the camper for the first 10 days of this trip and it ran us about $3k. We then Headed to Braud, which is adjacent to Kronan and not far from the airport. I preordered cinnamon rolls, regular snd licorice/blueberry. Then did some basic grocery shopping and then proceeded to Costco. Bought a door mat for the camper which was key. Bought some smoked Arctic char and a quarter zip for my husband. Brunch was a hotdog there lol. Yes it was done Icelandic style, not US style.

Then we headed to Borgarnes. Stopped at the Settlement Museum and did the audio guide . I was started feeling sleepy so we headed out. Our campsite was 30 minutes away. Nice place. Clean showers with chairs and hooks. $26 for the night. We grilled lamb for dinner and made a green salad and had mashed potatoes.

In bed by about 7. Apparently I was telling my husband about our plans for the next day when I started to slur my words like a drunk person and then I passed out. Slept like a rock.

Our campsite last night was Snorrastadir Farm, 30 minutes north of Borgarnes. There was a kitchen area we could use, which was pretty nice. We didn’t need it but if weather were bad it would be great. It cost us $26 and included showers. There were 3 showers. Private rooms with hooks and a chair so it was easy to keep you stuff dry. The camp was right next to the river and there are horses on property. Very quiet.

We headed out early and went to Ytri Tunga beach to see the seals. On a prior trip we did not see any, but this day we saw so many.

Next stop was Raudfeldar Canyon. From the parking area it doesn’t look like much, but once you get up the hill and turn into the canyon, wow! We had to carefully navigate the rushing water and big rocks. Many people turned back here. It was worth it to keep going. Just gorgeous!

After that we headed to Arnastapi and did the hike to Hellnar and back. It was a clear sunny day so the cliffs were even more beautiful. In Hellnar we had lunch at the cafe that is right next to the trail. We sat on the deck and had fish soup and bread. Then we hiked back, this time stopping at all the little side view points. The arch where people do their instagram shots was crazy busy. We had no intention of walking across that so we just enjoyed it from solid ground.

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Our next stop was a visitors center. There was a strange obstacle course there, but also some whale bones and a lighthouse. It was nice to just wander as there were very few people here.

Just a couple miles later is the Vatnshellir Cave. This tour was really good! We were given helmets and flashlights and then descended a 7 meter metal staircase as well as a 12 meter metal staircase. I did not care for those but did it. Our guide was excellent and the cave itself was very interesting. Going back up the staircases was much better than going down;)

Just before the tour started, an Arctic fox ran right in front of us. He was running all over so we got to watch him for a few minutes. I did get some good photos!

Our next stop was to be Djupalonssandur beach. The road there is very narrow, often only wide enough for one vehicle. Plus it has quite a few hills so you can’t see cars coming. As we neared the parking area, cars were parked on the road. It was a disaster so we found a way to turn around and leave.

We knew we were getting short on time as we needed to grocery shop in Stikkisholmur. The grocery stores close early compared to the US so we had to hurry a bit.

I think it was around Olafsvik, there was a warning sign for birds on the road. Immediately birds were just swarming and dive bombing us.

We stopped at Kirkjufellsfoss. Beautiful waterfall. The mountain across the road had people walking up. We could see 3 people about 2/3 of the way up. Last I read, that is not allowed anymore as people have fallen to their death there.

We made it to Bonus in Stikkisholmur and loaded up on groceries just in time. Then we headed to the campground. It is at a golf course, and on the adjacent rocks were a disc golf course. This was a huge campground. Two showers, both outside. This one ran us $24.

We grilled lamb tenderloins (?) and had potatoes and salad again. With camping we try to eat simple, so this works.

We took the first ferry of the day over to the Westfjords. Uneventful and basically the same as our WA ferries. Once we arrived we headed to Hellulaug hot spring which is right next to the water. Having the camper is really nice in that we can change clothes in it so easily. There were a handful of people there already. My husband got in first and just as I asked him if it was slippery, whoosh, there I went head first. It sure broke the ice with the other people lol. I was fine and couldn’t stop laughing. There is a donation box there so we dropped some Kr in it.

Next we backtracked a bit to Gamli Baerinn Kaffihusi. We had lunch there and ended up talking to a ranger who came in. Also bought a hand knit hat.

After that we made the trek to Dynjandi which is way more impressive than I imagined. Walked to the top level of the falls. There are a few levels.

Our next stop was Onundarfjorfdur pier for the views. People had built very elaborate sand castles on the beach and several people were wind surfing. Then it was off to Isafjordur.

We made a stop at Bonus toget a few groceries. The Arctic terns have nested in the adjacent field so the terns were dive bombing everyone.

We made our way to the campground and got settled. We stayed for 3nights and it worked well for us. Very good facilities and the 3 nights ran us $86.

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This was the big hike day. We arrived at the dock at 8:30 am, and returned at 9pm. Long day! We did see a whale from the boat though! Plus a few puffins.

We have had really good weather. Today was not ideal, but no rain and it did clear up. We did the green cliffs of Hornstrandir which was to be a 9 mile hike but ended up at 10 as it all depends on the boat and where they can retrieve us from, taking into account the weather. You take a boat over, but then have to get on a zodiac to get to shore. The hike was challenging. In the first hour we climbed 1250 vertical feet. After that it was a gradual climb, nothing notable. But the terrain was tough and kept changing. A few times the clouds cleared a bit so we did have some views, but not like what a clear day would be. Still very impressive! The descent had two areas that were steep. The two guides were excellent and made sure everyone made it down ok.

When we returned that evening, we were so beat we didn’t even make dinner, not even a sandwich. We just showered and crawled into bed.

This morning we had a kayak trip booked, also with Borea Adventures who we used for the Hornstrandir hike. Our guide was very good. Our group was the two of us and a family of four. We had beautiful weather and the water was calm, when we started. On our way back the wind kicked up a bit so we were rowing into it so that took a bit of effort.

After that we headed back to camp and did laundry and made hot dogs for lunch.

We then headed west of Isafjordur towards Osvor. The little museum there is really interesting.

We did a few other things, nothing overly exciting, before heading to dinner at Tjoruhusid. I made reservations a few months ago. It was very good, but way too rich for my stomach. It is an all you can eat buffet. The dad in the family seated by us was a large guy(not fat, just huge) and wow , I have never seen a human ear so much food before. Most people had at least seconds. They must have had hollow legs😉

Back to camp and off to bed

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Today we slept in. We heated up a licorice /blueberry cinnamon roll from Braud to share and had skyr.

Then we were off to the Arctic fox center. It was a bit of a letdown as there were merely 2 foxes in a pen. The informational exhibit was very good though.

After that we did the short hike to Valagil. It is only 3 km round trip and basically just a walk, but very nice. One exception was drone boy, who decided he needed to fly his drone over our heads quite low. He got an earful from us and left. His wife apologized to us and looked quite embarrassed.

We stopped at Litlibaer Cafe for waffles and coffee. Cute little place with outdoor tables. Home made blueberry and rhubarb jams to go on the waffles and fresh whipped cream!

Horgshlidarlaug pool was our next stop. Long dirt road there but really enjoyed the pool. It sits right on a fjord. Two men eventually put on water shoes/gloves and snorkels and went out into the fjord. Brrr!

We made our way to Heydalur for the night. Loved everything about it, especially their golden retriever 😉. There is a natural hot spring a bit away from the rest of the stuff, but then also a hot spring right in the main area. There in a pool in the greenhouse as well The greenhouse itself was really interesting as I love plants so had to check everything out. We had dinner there and chose the meat (lamb) soup with arctic char salad starter. We enjoyed all the amenities that evening.

The next day we did a horseback riding trip at Heydalur. It was just the two of us and our guide Our horses were Thorka and Mosi and they were both so sweet. Mine wanted to be right by the guide and my husbands wanted to take her sweet time. It was low tide so our guide took us down to the beach and we got to ride there. One thing that is very different than here at home is that we never had to sign a waiver for this. In the US it’s totally different.

After we left the camp we headed to an old church and shed at Vatnsfjordur. The views from here were really nice. There was a ram that was near the shed and did not want us coming close, so we respected that. I did get a great photo of him with the shed and views though.

After that was an odd stop. It was the ruins of an old house that looked like a castle. Again views were great, but I especially liked the wildflowers that were there.

Saltverk was our next stop. It’s in a weird location and you don’t think you are at the right place. We just bought a couple jars and called it good.

We then headed to Holmavik. We climbed the rainbow steps up to the church. Then we walked back down to the Witchcraft and Sorcery museum. That was interesting, but just so overwhelming. We then headed to Dragsnes for the hot pots right on the water. There are 3. Cold, medium and hot. There was a family from the US and a German couple on their honeymoon. It’s always nice when you enjoy the company you end up with. We then headed a few miles out of town to a wonderful campground. They had a large pool, horses, greenhouse, and a really nice common kitchen area. The host was the nicest and most welcoming man. Turns out his son lives in Auburn, WA so we chatted a bit about WA. That night there was a big concert there and we are pretty sure every Icelander within a 10 km radius was there. Great music and just a really fun atmosphere.

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The next morning we tried to head north up to Krossneslaug. Our camp host said the rain may interfere. We got out 10 km on the rough road and it was very windy and the rain started in It wasn’t worth the risk so we turned back and totally changed plans. We decided to head back south as the weather where we were was not great. We headed back towards Holmavik. Along the way we noticed a hand knitting store so stopped off. It had a little cafe as well so warmed up with coffee and bought a few things.

I don’t know the name of the next place we stopped, but it was a canyon and waterfall. We we hiked down a steep embankment but did not go all the way to the canyon as the wind was just whipping.

After that we headed to Gudrunarlaug hot spring. The wind calmed down and the sun came out so it was really nice. I have wanted to go here for quite some time, and then last Christmas we got a Christmas letter that sealed it. A friends son got a record deal snd his photo for the cover was him sitting in this hot spring. So we thought of him while soaking.

We then drove to Dalakot for lunch. It was quite good, and we loved all the bird photos they had showcased.

A few doors down at the municipal building, there was an old phone booth. It still had the phone, but was also an honor shop. Homemade jams, bread etc on the honor system.

Erpsstadir creamery was our next stop. We got ice cream and then rhubarb and crowberry skyr for breakfast in the morning.

We then headed to Hraunfossar/Barnafos. It was a long drive but so worth it! I pulled out my dads old professional SLR and took some shots so hoping those come out good. I guess I’ll find out lol.

We headed to Bjarteyjarsandur to camp. Winds were crazy all day and getting worse, and were a good steady 30mph by evening. We made use of their common area to heat up dinner. The campground has roaming sheep and 3 sheepdogs.

So our whole change of plans leaving the Westfjords was so worth it!

We were able to change the date of our Hvammsvik lagoon so it worked out well.

Went to Akranes early in the morning. There have their own version of the rainbow road as well. We went down to the lighthouse area. There are two. You can see Reykjavik from there. We could also see a plume from the volcano, so we decided we would hike that today.

From Akranes we headed to Hvammsvik hot springs. Yes the hype is totally justified!!! Omg it was so good! There is a map of the various pools and their temperatures. They all sit over the water there. We met a guy there who has been on an adventure sailboat for the last month. Their next stop is Greenland. Turns out he lives about 20 minutes from us at home! We really hit it off and I think my husband will be in contact with him for an adventure.

We then headed to the volcano. On the way there we passed the Northern Light Inn, which we have stayed at before. We joked that we should stay there, but figured all the rooms were booked solid. My husband said to look, and there was one room left. When we stayed there before, they gave us a coupon for a discount on a future stay. I didn’t bring it with me so I called. They said no problem that they would do it at check in. So on a whim, we booked it!

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Heading to the volcano, we saw one car that has rolled off the road. It was pretty banged up. That was right near an overflow parking for P1. The parking area for trail E, which is the only one with the view of the crater, is at P2 so we headed there. It took us 5 hours total including about 30 minutes at the top as well as a quick stop for a sandwich on our way up. This hike is 12 miles or 20 km round trip. SAR and the police have a heavy presence there. Finally at one point we looked up and saw the magma. Wow!!! We kept going and went all the way. We texted photos and video to our adult kids and parents back home.

The hike back down was a slog. We were tired and wanted to just get to the hotel.

NLI is just as nice as our stay in 2021. Our room had robes and slippers. We went to the honesty bar and I got some Prosecco while my husband had his N/A Carlsberg. Sandwiches in the room was dinner, and dessert was the chocolates in the room😉

After the volcano hike we were due for a down day. We had a leisurely breakfast at NLI. It’s a basic buffet breakfast.

Got laundry done, which is obviously a must after packing so light. Strung it throughout the van to dry. You can get quite creative with how to string it.

Then we did a few repeat stops from past trips. Gunnuhver hot springs, which are 100F. We had to laugh as there was a random air of shoes on the viewing platform. My husband said it must have been from the last person who tried to go in😉 we also went over by the ocean and yes we recreated the Volcano Man at the keyboards. Hiked up the cliff for views. Up at the top there is a big crack in the ground that looks like the cliff is s going to split in two. It’s quite sizable.

Did the bridge between continents. Saw a car try and just pull over on the side of the road and tilt over. They were stuck and would need a tow.

Headed to Gardur lighthouse to the restaurant there. Rostin is the name and seriously good food! We did a very late lunch so sufficed for dinner as well. Cod fish and chips and then catfish with a mango sauce. Both were exceptionally good.

Checked out the Giantess Cave. Cute, takes all of 5 minutes.

Then to our campsite and sorted all our stuff. The camper gets swapped out for a car for the next week.

We briefly thought about doing the volcano again as it was just so stunning, but the weather was a bit windy and overcast so have it a pass. I think doing it once was good as some things just can’t be topped.

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Around midnight we got up and saw a beautiful sight. A red glow just above the volcano and with the lights from the city of Keflavik. It does not get dark at night this time of year, but it was just enough to be really pretty.

In the morning we sorted our stuff as we were headed to Thorsmark. We turned the camper in and picked up the car. We had no plans for the day.

We visited Thingvellir on our first trip back in 2015, but have not stopped there on our other trips so figured why not. Wow it has changed so much. So much more parking and of course wayyy more people.

Messinn is our favorite restaurant in Reykjavik and they have another location in Selfoss so we headed there for lunch. It did not disappoint. Their lunch portion of plokkfiskur was much smaller than dinner, so we got that and cod and shared. That was lunch and dinner for us.

The area around the restaurant is nice to walk around. Lots of coffee/ice cream/restaurants/shops. One thing we saw, I loved the idea. It was a glass case with individual units, sort of like an Amazon locker but see through. Each one had a flower arrangement. So you can buy those at any hour. Brilliant!!! They were beautifully done snd not your usual grocery store selections.

Then we headed towards Seljalandsfoss where our meeting point was nearby. As we were about 30 minutes out of Selfoss, I realized we forgot to stop and buy trekking poles. I don’t like bringing mine from home as they were expensive and sentimental, so I had borrowed from the camper company but of course turned those in when we left. So around Hella I was on the search. Note, there are none to be found lol. We stopped in every farm/garden store.

We carried on and parked at Seljalandsfoss with a million of our favorite people 🤣. We took one quick photo as we walked part. We headed down the path to Gljufrabui which is a waterfall in a canyon. My husband didn’t feel like dealing with the people so he waited for me. We have been here before, but in the fall and the water was higher. This time it was easy enough to get in and out without soaking your boots. The only issue is you have to stay right along the wall and people are trying to enter and leave so you have to take turns. It was beautiful in the canyon and everyone was good at taking turns with photos and not hogging.

Before we went to Seljalandsfoss, we first found our meeting location for the bus to Thorsmark so we would not miss it. So after the falls we headed back there to wait.

To get to Thorsmark there are a handful of river crossings, with one being especially dicey. No way would I attempt that in a rental even if equipped. You need to know what you are doing. The bus we took in had a step stool just to get to the bus steps, then about 6 steps on the bus. You haul all your gear up with you. The ride in was fun, but bone jarring.

We arrived and headed to reception to get the key to our hut. Very basic but we love it. They will rent linens if you need but we brought our sleeping bags and backpacking pillows. Mattresses are good!

The entire hut area is well thought out. Plenty of showers etc and there are yurts or tent spaces as well as the huts. The lodge is really nice and you can eat there for a few. Breakfast is about $18pp US dollars. You can preorder picnic lunches for about $20. Dinner is either a buffet for $40 or a burger for $20. We skipped dinner and just settled into our hut.

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In the morning we had breakfast in the lodge and picked up our picnic lunch for the hike. You need to preorder these.

We hit the trail and hiked for 5 hours. Omg the scenery!!! On the advice from the lady in the lodge, we took the harder route up(it was a loop hike) and got that out of the way first. We stopped for lunch at a rocky area. We had literally just sat down when the “fab 4” group behind us came up. They were all in their 20’s and had obviously bought all their gear for this trip. All brand new, very high end stuff. But they had no idea what they were doing. No idea how to manage clothing higher up etc. when they got to the rock area, there was lots of room for people yet decided to practically sit on our laps. Maybe a foot from us. So annoying. They were young and fast, but no experience. So we laughed yo ourselves later when we met up again and they were lost. Yes, we may be much older and slower, but they needed our help😉.

We got back to our hut and headed for the showers. Love these! They are spacious and the floor is wood decking, so we didn’t need shower shoes. Huge rainhead shower heads and hooks and a stool so your stuff doesn’t get wet.

Back into the lodge for an early dinner of a burger. Burgers are THE best thing after a hike, no matter😉

Headed back to the hut and could not stay awake. I was dozing off by 6 pm despite all my efforts. Best nights sleep!

Woke up at 4am and my knees and calves were not happy. I was not sure if I would be able to hike today so we had a bit of a leisurely morning. Breakfast in the lodge and picked up our picnic lunches and then I decided to go for it lol. We had to pack up and check out first, but you can leave your stuff pretty much anywhere. I did buy a tshirt, which is really nice and not a cheap fabric etc.

The hike we did was very similar to the day before I terms I’d super steep to start etc but then we took a longer more gradual descent back to the huts. We got back by early afternoon and were not scheduled for the bus until evening. My husband had his laptop out working and we had stuff all over the table. He spotted a bus so I ran out to see if we could take that one. Score! There were 2 seats left. The driver exited and I ran in and gave my husband the thumbs up. We literally just scooped everything and shoved it into our packs and ran out.

Once at the car we headed to the Westmann ferry. We were scheduled for the last ferry of the night, but we were able to get on the next ferry.

Our guesthouse had our keys ready for us and we settled in. Hamar Guesthouse, which is a hotel but also a hostel. Nothing fancy, but spacious and we had a nice couch in the room.

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In the morning we had breakfast at the hotel then ventured out. We went to the south end of the island to Storhofdi which is the windiest place in Europe as well as where the puffin lookout is. We were too late in the morning for the puffins, but did watch them fly around and fish.

We headed back into town and stopped at the Skyr bar. Yum!!!! Then wandered downtown a bit. I always love rainbow roads, and this one was nice and bright. The downtown is really tiny and not full of touristy shops, which surprised me a bit. Although the 66North stores were busy as could be.

Next was Eldfell volvcano. We hiked just over halfway and were not feeling it. Wayyyy too many people and we have hiked numerous volcanoes at home so it wasn’t a draw for us. We headed back down and went to the Eldheimar Museum. This was all about the volcanic eruption there in 1973. The first thing you see is what is left of a house. The museum was built around these ruins, so this is the real deal, not replicated etc. this museum was excellent and I cannot imagine visiting the island without coming here.

After that we went to see Elephant Rock, which is hard to do as the views are from the golf course and we did not want to wander through there, so just looked from the parked car for a moment.

Stave Church and the fortress were next. The church is beautiful and like many other buildings in town, the lava was right next to it. The church replica was only built about 20 years ago, but it looks much older and I really thought the lava stopped right before the church, but that was not the case. Regardless, it was a wonderful replica.

Lunch was at Gott in downtown. Fish soup and fish tacos, and both were very good. It was very warm out so we sat outside. Very little wind too!

In the early evening we went bs k yo the puffin lookout but we’re still a bit early. Every so often one would land, so we just watched them again.

Dinner was at Slippurinn and was sooo good! We always share, do we had wolffish and lamb with potatoes and a skyr dessert. The wolffish was in a cast iron pan with grains, apples , cabbage and mussels.

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I really wanted to see puffins up close so in the morning we got up and threw on our clothes and were at the puffin lookout before 7 am. We were the only people there, which really surprised us. It was amazing!!! Thousands of them and so close. We made sure to stay in the marked trails and did venture even a foot off. We have our iPhones, but I also brought my dads old professional SLR along so I hit a few shots with that. I am curious to see how those turn out. We stayed there for a good hour just watching the birds.

Then we headed to Vigtin Bakhus for coffee and a cinnamon roll. A Danish man was sitting by us and we hit it off. He works on a boat that was in port. He said he met a local couple who offered for him to stay with them. That didn’t surprise us at all as everyone we met was so friendly etc.

Back to the hotel to get ready and pack up. Checked out but still had the entire day. When my mom was able to travel, she loved postcards so I sent her one.

We headed over to the rib safari place and got suited up for our tour. We booked the 2 hour ride and it was so worth it! The tour itself was great, BUT then they noticed a huge pod of orcas near us. We headed over, slowly and just stayed out. Oh my gosh they were swimming all around us and came within about 15’ of the boat! We lost count at 7 of them. We have orcas at home in WA, but this beat anything I have seen at home. What a gift!!!

After that we got sandwiches back at Vigtin and headed to the ferry. This weekend on Westmann is the largest music festival in the country. So while waiting in line we saw all of the walkons arriving. People watching at its best🤣 We guessed median age of about 21 and most had small backpacks with minimal clothing and then were carrying cases of beer and sleeping bags. My description does not do it justice but it was very entertaining. Hardly anyone was headed back to the mainland. The ferry was less than half full of vehicles. Once we arrived though, omg the sheer number of vehicles parked there was mind boggling. We were very happy we left before the festival really got going. To give you an idea, the normal population of Westmann is about 4500 people. The festival draws an additional 22k people!

Once off the ferry we drove to around Selfoss to our cabin. Tiny little place but perfect. We sat in the hot tub and enjoyed the views. Then off to Mika for dinner. So happy we had reservations as many people were getting turned away. Food was excellent! We shared a scallop starter that had pistachios and chocolate and then we each had the lamb fillet. We splurged on dessert and shared a chocolate crème brûlée with raspberry sorbet. They hand make chocolates there, so we bought a couple wild thyme ones. So good, but very rich. With full bellies we headed back to our cabin for the night.

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The next morning we had to do our final packing as our flight was leaving later that evening. We did a pretty good job of cramming everything back into our bags, lol. That is always hard after buying things to bring home. On this trip, we bought a couple prints that had to stay flat on cardboard, so I kept those in a folder in my pack, but otherwise our purchases were woolen items, which are easy to pack down.

We headed to Fontana for a morning soak. Our reservation was for when they opened, which has proven to be out favorite time for any lagoon. There were very few people there even when we left. It was very relaxing and the facilities were very clean and well thought out. My husband did the cold plunge into the lake twice. I took his word for it;) If you didn't want to go into the lake, you had the option of doing a cold plunge via a bucket. Pull the cord and it would dump over your head. I passed on that as well;)

After that, we once again changed our plans for the day. We were just tired as we knew we were headed home later. So while we had no intention of going to Reykjavik on this trip, that is where we headed. We parked about a block from the church and easily found a parking spot and paid. We hoped to have lunch at Sjavargrillid for their lobster tacos, but they were not open for lunch today. So we headed up to Loki Cafe, right across from the church. It was chilly and windy, and the place was busy as could be. The only table was outside, which was fine. Meat soup for my husband and the plokkfiskur for me. It was good, but did not hold a candle to Messinn;) We had coffee and a latte to warm up as well. The sun came out, but the wind kept on. We just wandered a few places on the rainbow road. The hand knitting association store was a must, but it was just too crowded even for me. We also found a shop that had unique prints of just random Iceland day to day living. We found a perfect one for our daughter, who has been keeping our dogs for the last few weeks. The store also has all sorts of old cameras as decor, so for me that was as interesting as the prints. I also found a shop where everything was locally made so found a few items there. We just walked and walked, but honestly it was not near as pleasant as past trips because of the sheer number of people. I guess our winter trips have spoiled us in this regard;)

At KEF, we did our usual where my husband dropped me and the luggage at the terminal and then returned the car to Blue, then walked the 2 minute walk back to meet me. The process at KEF is really easy once you know what you are doing. There are kiosks to self tag your bags, then you go to another area and out your tagged bags on the belt and scan the tag and off it goes. Nobody checks your carryons as its sup to you to make sure they fit in the sizers. Next you go upstairs and scan your boarding pass to gain entry to security. Not TSA Pre here, lol, but at least we didn't have to take our shoes off anymore. I had my daypack and a soft sided carryon. Sure enough, that soft sided bag went through and then promptly was scooted aside for a going through. I was a bit stumped as to why as I had no liquids in there. The young man asked if it was mine, and I said yes and he had me stand right by the bag as he went through it. He found the horse shoes, and knew from just feeling them what they were so he didn't unwrap them which was nice. He laughed and I was on my way.

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Next you go through duty free. I purposely brought my duty free shopping bag from previous trips there. Before we entered the shopping area, I took off my hiking boots and put those in the bag and out my comfy sneakers to wear. We did a bit of shopping, mostly candy for the kids and my parents, but also a bottle of the rhubarb schnapps which is so good!.

We knew our flight would be out of the D gates, but the gates are not announced until about an hour or less before the flight leaves. So we skipped all the restaurant/shopping and just headed straight to passport control as there was nobody there. Walked right up, she asked a couple questions and off we went. Right after you get your passport stamped, you have to scan your boarding pass yet again to get back downstairs to where the gates are. There are more shops and some restaurants etc down there. I had to laugh, the last time we were here was just this past November, and since then they have put in a full on hot dog stand! As good as those sounded, we passed and just sat at Loskins Bar there and had sodas and a wrap for an early dinner.

Once the gate was announced, I was relieved as it was 15, which meant no bus to get on to get to the plane! Yippee! We headed down there and just waited near the roped off area. We are used to this, as they board Saga first then it is a free for all. No boarding by rows etc. Turns out we were first to board for regular economy. Flight was uneventful. The plane was a good temperature. I mention this because I have often read about flights on IcelandAir being way too hot. I have never read that about flights to/from SEA, but still I was paying attention to it out of curiosity. I slept a bit, which I always do.

Arrived at SEA and headed to baggage claim, then over to Global. SO happy we have that as the regular lines were way past the designed area. With Global we literally walked right up, she asked us a question or two and off we went. We headed over the sky bridge and to where the ride shares were and caught out Lyft to our daughters home. Arrived there about 10:30pm and after our dogs gave us the biggest welcome home ever, lol, we went straight to bed.

This morning we had a nice breakfast with her and gave her a bunch of random stuff we bought for her and just had a nice time catching up. Then the hour drive home.

Once home, I ran to the grocery store as we had no food in the fridge, and in the meantime my husband unpacked. Our sleeping bags and camelbak bladders are hanging on the line to air out, lol.

So while we changed our itinerary a few times, it all worked out better than we could have anticipated. Truly a wonderful trip in every way.

Posted by
2532 posts

Fantastic report! Love all the details and your descriptions of the facilities. I've only been to Iceland in late October so the idea of the camper van in summer is quite appealing to me. Thanks for taking time to share your adventures, welcome home!

Posted by
2256 posts

CL--two of our trips have been in October and that is actually my favorite time of year there. I don't think I would do a camper at that time though!

Posted by
982 posts

This is so great! Saving it for our next trip to Iceland. I'll be looking at a map to figure out where you went!

Posted by
15 posts

That's a really wonderful trip report, thank you for taking the time to write it. I really enjoyed reading it. I would love to visit Iceland, I know it is really beautiful. It's been on my bucket list for a really long time now, right now I'm trying to save up some money and hopefully I'll visit Iceland with my family next year.

Posted by
3365 posts

What a great time you had! Orca encounter sounds fabulous. A couple questions if you don’t mind.
Since this was your first time renting camper van, how would you compare it to staying in hotels? Which way do you like better? Which way was more or less expensive? Did you stay warm enough in the van? Which way do you think would be best for a first time visit to Iceland? Did the van come equipped with cooking supplies?

Will you go back to Iceland again or have you finally had your fill?

Posted by
465 posts

Wow! This was your fifth trip to Iceland? I wonder what your schedule and planning must have been for the other four trips! This was a very impressive amount of activities! I also liked how you described what you did when you got home. Hadn't seen that before in other trip reports!

Posted by
460 posts

What a fabulous trip report! Thank you for sharing so much detail. How amazing that you saw orcas up close! Your trip report is making me really excited for our winter trip, but I have a feeling that we will want to go in the summer sometime, too. Are all the camper vans for 2 people, or could any of them hold 4 (2 adults, 2 kids)? Cheers!

Posted by
2256 posts

Ruth--Thanks! Feel free to message me anytime if you have questions.

Jack--When we went in 2021, we took our 3 adult kids. Family trips are so great, so I hope you get to do this soon!

Tammy--The camera was awesome! We loved the flexibility it gave us. We have stayed at some amazing cottages and hotels in Iceland though, so I can't say that one way is better than the other. One one trip we met a couple with a camper and they booked hotels for every 4 days or so, and that would be a nice mix. The camper was so convenient! The camper cost us 3k for 10 days and our car was $1400 for 7 days. So the camper was much more economical since wee did not have the added expense of a hotel. The campgrounds ran us anywhere from $20-28 per night for the two of us. Plus quite a few of them have laundry facilities, which the hotels do not, so another thing to think about. We purposely have booked cottages with laundry facilities on other trips, but that is not the easiest to do. We were plenty warm in the camper and never turned on the heating system. The camper had all the cooking things we needed, including a tiny sink. They had camp tables and chairs as well, so we sat outside at that little table every morning and evening, minus one night when it was just too windy so we set the table up in the van to eat dinner. We will definitely be back! Still more to see, lol!

Pete--Our first trip was a short 3 night stopover in October on our way to visit our son in Denmark. We were hooked! We booked again for 2020, but you know how that turned out;) So I 2021 we went and took the adult kids and did 12 days on the ring road in mid-late August. Then we went for short 5 day trip in Feb 2022 and then again in Oct 22 for 6 days. Then this trip at 17 days. The short trips we actually used the Iceland Air packages as they were such great deals. I figured I should mention about hanging the sleeping bags and bladders out to dry/air out. Sleeping bags can get funky if you don't do this, and they definitely needed it!

Meg--Yes the orcas were just mind blowing! I have seen them from the ferries here, but at a distance. There were right in our faces. I was especially impressed with the boat as they went very slow to get a bit closer and then just stopped and turned off he engine. Everyone was silent and so respectful, without having to be told. I adore Iceland in the winter! When are you going? The camera vans typically hold 2 people, sometimes 3. Ours slept 2 and was a bit larger, so we had more room between the bed and the front seats. We left the bed down the entire time. In most of the vans though you have to put the seats up to get your luggage in. There are 3 person campers, and I think a few 4, but you would need to book those a year in advance as they go fast! Even ours we booked 11 months out and I got the last 4x4. With younger kids I think it would be doable, but if they are older it would be tough. Although you could get one that slept 2 but seated 4 and then bring a tent along as well. That would still give you flexability and keep costs down.