Few places capture the imagination quite like Iceland. With its otherworldly landscapes, geothermal pools and ancient tales of trolls, the land of fire and ice has stolen a great many hearts. If you’re dreaming of an Icelandic road trip of your own, then Christina & Jay’s anniversary adventure is sure to inspire…
I fell in love with the idea of Iceland at a young age. My uncle returned from a trip to Reykjavik with a copy of Icelandic Folk and Fairy Tales when I was 6, and I spent hours engrossed in stories of elves and trolls, ghosts and sorcerers. I remember being completely terrified by some of them, and yet strangely unable to put the book down.
Given that it’s been on my radar forever, I’m not sure why it took me so long to visit Iceland, but I guess the world is a big place and there was always somewhere else (usually with cheaper booze) to explore. But in the last few years, since flights to Iceland became less eye-wateringly expensive, Game of Thrones immortalised it as the frozen north and my Instagram feed started filling with photos of volcanoes, glaciers and lava fields, the pull became irresistible.
So you can imagine my incredible delight when I stumbled across Icelandair’s transatlantic flight Stopover programme last winter, while researching flights to visit our family in Canada (Jay and I met when we were working in a ski resort in British Columbia – he’s my favourite travel souvenir!). For only a little more than the price with our regular budget airline, we could fly from Aberdeen to Toronto and then spend up to 7 days in Iceland on the way home, at no extra cost. Which meant we’d get to celebrate our wedding anniversary there. I had my credit card out faster than you could say “Troll hunt!”
With just a couple of months to plan the trip, I soon discovered that accommodation in Iceland books up really fast, even in shoulder season. It was also tricky to know which locations to book. We were keen to see as much of South Iceland as we could in the three nights we would have there. But we would we travelling with our three year-old daughter, and didn’t want to turn it into the road trip from hell – what with small people (not to be confused with “hidden people”), not being good at the whole sitting still for long periods of time thing.
Then, suddenly, a genius plan presented itself. We would hire a campervan! We would also get really good insurance (because tales of sand storms and doors blowing off due to the insane Icelandic winds were freaking me right out!). And we would bring thermal everything. Because if anywhere can rival Scotland for unpredictable weather, it’s Iceland.
People must have thought we were a bit – or more likely, very – mad as they watched us carry our passed out pre-schooler (who stayed awake for the entire journey and then fell asleep twenty minutes before the red eye flight landed), her Trunki and our five suitcases (don’t ask!) through Keflavik International Airport. And we definitely looked more than a little out of place as we squeezed onto the crowded airport bus, which was packed with American students on spring break. But as we clambered into our Renault Master campervan and set off south east on the famous Ring Road (having first stocked up on supplies at Bonus – Iceland’s version of Aldi), the promise of the road trip to come put huge grins on our faces.
Five kilometres later (I kid you not!) we were pulling into our first pit stop. But on the plus side, we were able to sample some incredible pastries from the local baker before we got back on the road. Very quickly the scenery began to change. Bored of us pointing out all the Icelandic things – “Horses! Lava! Troll?“, Mila promptly fell asleep. We made it another five kilometres or so before realising we were about to do the same and pulled into the nearest car park for a disco nap. So much for getting lots of miles under our belt on day one.
Fueled by hotdogs, Skyr and so much free coffee (we love you Iceland!), the next stage of the journey was imminently more successful and we drove through the most incredible landscape, quickly running out of adjectives for everything we were seeing. Suddenly all the folk stories made sense as we passed rocks that we could almost have sworn were sleeping giants, their tufty grass heads peering from the depths.
We parked up by Skógafoss, and spent the evening listening to the waterfall thundering down and watching people in very Iceland-inappropriate clothing taking selfies.
A night under the stars, drinking slightly warm beer in a pretty basic campervan – with a small (and very chatty) child wedged between you – may not be the most romantic way to celebrate your wedding anniversary, but we wouldn’t change it for the world.
We love our cheeky city breaks for two and travelling with a 3 year-old is by no means easy (so, so many stops!). But seeing our little explorer’s face light up as we tucked into a midnight feast in the van and then went on a sunset walk (troll hunt!) across the lava fields, is a memory we will never forget.
Highlights of the days that followed included licking an iceberg at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon (guess who’s idea this was!), strolling hand-in-hand-in-very-small-hand across the black sand beach at Vík, marveling at all the supervans/superbuses/supertrucks that would go by, and camping beside a lighthouse at Garður (for free – because have I mentioned that Iceland is amazing!).
“Imagine if we saw a whale,” I said wistfully on our last morning, as we prepared to set off to the airport, feeling pretty brain foggy from our 4.30am start. And just like that, two orcas cruised by…
There’s something more than a little magical about Iceland.
We flew to Reyjkavik with Icelandair and rented a Go BIG campervan from Go Campers. Our trip took place in May, when the roads (and campsites) are a little quieter, and the interior is still thawing. We can’t wait to go back and explore more! Christina x
For wheels – GoCampers and GoCars, super friendly & helpful and the vehicles we saw were all in excellent condition
For serious wanderlust – Inspired by Iceland
For weather news/road closures/safe adventures – Safetravel
For a rooftop soak with the locals – Sundhöll Reykjavíkur, Reykjavik (the oldest public baths in Iceland)
For a night under the stars – Skógar Camping Ground
For gin lovers – VOR Gin
For a romantic walk – The black sands beach at Vik
For photos – Everywhere! (top tip – pre-book a mobile internet unit for all your Instagramming)