Something that has always been on our bucket lists is seeing the northern lights. So when we learned from a friend that Wow Airlines had $200 round-trip tickets to Iceland out of Baltimore in January, we didn’t have to think too hard about booking our trip. Within a few days, we had everything booked and at the same time, nothing planned. And this excited us most of all.
Our trip to the country known as the land of fire and ice was of the adventurer type, as we are in fact big adventurers (though I think most of you know this already). We wanted to make the most of our 10 days there while also not breaking the bank, so we opted to book a campervan. This was the best decision of our whole trip. We went with a fun and crazy branded campervan rental company called Kuku Campers and booked one of their cheapest rental options for two people (but not the cheapest option, as we splurged for one with a heater — a great idea for winter travelers!).
Traveling in a campervan had countless benefits. The most obvious benefit is that we got to see Iceland on our own terms. We got to spend our time where we wanted to spend it, whenever we wanted to. It also allowed us to be flexible so that we could check the weather each day and head in the direction of the sunny spots and camp in the areas where there was the best chances of seeing the aurora at night. This helped tremendously, as the forecast seemed to change every 4 hours! We weren’t tied down to hotel reservations that would determine our schedule each day — and it paid off. We were able to see aurora four different nights! We also drove the entire Ring Road route around the whole country, plus the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and into the West Fjords.
Another benefit to the campervan was the amount of money we saved by bringing our own food to cook in the fully equipped van. Our meals were pretty varied, from ramen noodles and just-add-water (and powdered milk) pasta meals with summer sausage to “fancy” dehydrated meals. Breakfasts were a bit more monotonous — instant coffee and tea or hot chocolate and oatmeal. Hot meals in the back of the campervan were always soothing and hit the spot, and with the heater in the back that ran off its own battery, we always were warm and cozy. We knew we’d save a lot of money, which is why we pretty much only packed food in our free tiny carry-on baggage allowance with Wow Air, but we didn’t realize how much money we had saved until we got to Iceland and scanned the menus outside restaurants a few different times. Iceland doesn’t really have cheap restaurants, and the ones that were on the bottom of the cost list averaged about $15 for one entrée. Imagine paying $15 for a Chipotle burrito, when in fact it’s about half the size of a Chipotle burrito, and does not come from Chipotle, but from a small shop in the middle of nowhere, Iceland, about as far from Mexico as you can get. So, unless you’re willing to drop $40-$100+ per meal for two, your camp stove will become your best friend in Iceland. We did treat ourselves to a few meals though, as you can’t go to a country and not try any of the local cuisine. Since we’d heard rave reviews about the gas station hot dogs, this was our first meal experience in Iceland.
Let me go on a tangent here — gas stations are actually pretty nice places in Iceland. They’re more like cultural centers, where people get together over a cup of coffee and hang out. We became loyal to one gas station in particular: Olí’s. Olí’s never let us down, as they always had free coffee every time you fill up along with having the cheapest gas prices with their discount card (which Kuku Campers kindly gives you when you rent from them).
Now back to the delicious Icelandic hot dogs… They look pretty unremarkable; however, when topped with raw onion, French fried onion and some sort of amazing dark gold mustard, you’ll forgive yourself from just having paid $5 for one gas station hotdog. Another item to splurge on while in Iceland, which can also be purchased at Olís, is Skyr, a brand of yogurt. This is something that you’ll wish you could get back home — it’s that good. Skyr is the thickest, creamiest yogurt packed with 16 grams of protein that will have you tossing your dry and frozen solid Clif bars out the window (not literally, obviously). The one-serving container is close to $3, but is a delicious breakfast to have on the road while enjoying the most amazing landscapes from the passenger seat with each creamy bite.
Our 10 days in Iceland were pure bliss. This trip was a time to refresh and refocus our mission and vision for 2017. We realized that we hadn’t taken a vacation to a place of our complete choosing since our honeymoon in 2014. We always get to travel to beautiful places (in the past two years we’ve worked in 17 different countries), and we even take trips to places we want to go, but it’s always based on the proximity of our project locations. This trip’s destination, however, was totally of our own choosing. After two years of traveling nonstop and producing more than 140 video projects in that timeframe, we felt the need to disconnect from the world and rest in God and creation. During our trip, we spent a lot of time in the Bible, doing devotions and praying. Being so far removed from planning a year’s worth of projects, we were able to concentrate on the breathtaking landscapes surrounding us, showcasing just a fraction of God’s glory — and what we saw is just the tip of the iceberg (and we saw those too).
Iceland was incredible — so incredible that we hope to go back to see it in the summer when everything is green!
Here is our list of the top 10 highlights in Iceland!
#1) Seeing the northern lights
#2) Hot Pot Hopping
#3) The West Fjords & Hellulaug (unfortunately we don’t have any pics from Hellulaug, our favorite natural hot pot!)
#4) Snæfellsnes Peninsula & Hellnar to Arnarstapi Coastal Hike
#5) Fontana geothermal springs (soaking in a variety of temperatures of hot natural pools, listening to the bubbling hot springs below while sweating in the +100 degree Fahrenheit steam rooms, and jumping into the freezing cold lake— four times!)
#6) All of the waterfalls! Including walking BEHIND Seljalandsfoss waterfall!
#7) The super friendly Icelandic horses
#8) Driving through pristine snowy landscapes
#9) Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon & Diamond Beach
#10) Vik & its basalt columns
Seeing reindeer didn’t make the list, but we felt it deserved an honorable mention.
To close, here are just a few more pictures, mainly of cities and towns that we passed through (including Reykjavik).