What is my most popular blog entry to date? That would be Iceland in a Camper Van - Part 1 of 2. It is coming up on 4,000 reads and counting, and Part 2 is not too far behind. This makes me think that I should write a little more about our travel adventures rather than focus only on my photography. So this entry I'll talk about our second Iceland trip, in which we decided to tent camp.
This was a much shorter trip, really a 4-night long weekend. But the truth is we'd like to go back to Iceland, to explore more remote regions, many many times more. This particular trip we focused on exploring the Highlands a little bit more, and also took the ferry to Heimaey (the largest of the Westman Islands) and spent a night there.
"I love Icelandic campsites, they are straightforward, generally very open and peaceful, not all that crowded, and so very free of mosquitoes"
Why a Tent This Time?
For once, it's a lot cheaper! But we also wanted to have a different experience for our second visit, and we both have been more and more into camping recently. Since this was a short trip (only four nights), it was a perfect opportunity to try out a tent.
Unfortunately for me, I was diagnosed with pneumonia the day before the trip, and camping in rainy 40 degree weather seemed like a questionable proposition. So, based on doctor orders, we ended up getting a hotel room at the very quaint Hotel Leirubakki for the first night, while the antibiotics kicked in. They could not have been friendlier and they have no-frills accommodations for all budgets! It turned out to be the perfect stop on the drive into the Highlands. And it's just down the road from the impressive, utterly uncrowded and evidently underrated Thjofafoss (top image in this post).
Our Camping Impressions We packed as light as possible, put everything into two big Osprey backpacks for the air travel: our Big Agnes tent, inflatable Thermarest pads, Enlightened Equipment quilts, our little MSR camping stove and of course our camping french press, etc. We rented an AWD RAV4 and off we went! We already knew what to expect in Icelandic campsites, as we brought our camper van to them in our previous trip. Hence, in a lot of ways the experience is very similar.
I love Iceland campsites, they are straightforward, generally very open and peaceful, not all that crowded (with a few exceptions), and so very free of mosquitoes. And they are, you know, in Iceland, so generally you end up surrounded by some incredibly fantastic landscapes that seem otherworldly. The ground is generally soft and flat, and the facilities minimal and secondary to the landscape. Since we had done the ring road on a previous trip, we prioritized getting to more out-of-the-way campsites this time around, which was fantastic.
"We tent camped around June 21st, so the nights were not as cold, and with 24 hours of daylight there were no sunrises to run for! So at this time of year the two main advantages of the van are not as critical"
How does it compare to our camper van experience? Well, the camper van has some clear benefits: a space heater we could run for a while before getting into bed (this was a big deal as the nights in late August got pretty chilly!), the convenience of having everything at hand without digging through bags, obviously not traveling with the gear, and stand-up room (in the van we rented) for changing, etc. But most importantly, the van allowed us to get up and go at any time without taking down a campsite (key for sunrise photography when sometimes we started driving before 4am). We were lucky it didn't rain on us when we were setting up or taking down our tent, but if it had, we sure would have preferred our van on those days! As for tent camping, really the main benefit is the much lower cost, plus the option to rent whatever vehicle you want (as in some really souped up 4x4 truck if you want to go deeper into the highlands). We tent camped around June 21st, so the nights were not as cold, and with 24 hours of daylight there were no sunrises to run for! So at this time of year the two main advantages of the van are not as critical. And we had time to enjoy the campsites and hike near and far around them. Where else can you set up your tent a few minutes walk from a view like the one below?
So, What About Next Time?
We are already dreaming of our third Iceland trip. There is so much to see! We haven't even touched the West Fjords yet! Or been there in the winter for the northern lights! Since our next visit will likely be in very cold weather, we look forward to experiencing Iceland in yet another way, likely staying in some little hotels or guest houses.
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