As a traveler, you usually search for a place that is other worldly and unforgettable. But there is one place that gives you that magical feeling, and then some…Iceland has been on the radar for some years now, and tourism is no doubt on the rise. Not only is this country full of diversity in nature, but it is extremely safe, on the culinary rise, and easy to navigate. Rent a car and camp almost anywhere, and it will be a vacation you will never forget.
Stephen Shelesky from Boulder, Colorado traveled to Iceland in June of this year. The sunlight is abundant and the twilight of the night is bare, which can make you restless. Iceland in May to August is full of sunlight, where as the other months it is mostly dark, allowing the dramatic northern lights to shine through. Both times of year are great for visiting, but be aware of the daylight hours and what your body may experience!
Shelesky traveled the southern coast of Iceland to Vatnajokull National Park for one week before heading to Norway. After researching for his trip, he rented a car and camped for the entire week. Since Iceland is relatively expensive, this was the most cost effective and the best way to see as much of Iceland as possible. You will need a 4 wheel drive vehicle and diesel gas, which is costly, but worth it. If you want to go off the beaten path, which Shelesky recommends, you’ll need this type of car.
“Iceland allows wild camping nearly everywhere, though encourages using campgrounds if possible. I camped the entire time, this was a great way to experience some of the more remote places. Trains don’t really exist, buses are infrequent, expensive, and difficult to use. If I had more time, biking the ring road is an option if you’re willing to deal with rain storms. Though this would be a unique way to experience the country.”
With so much to see, Shelesky recommends spending more than a week in Iceland. The entire ring road that covers most of Iceland will take you much more than 6-10 days. Rushing through the sites isn’t as wonderful as enjoying each day and taking your time seeing all of the wonderful landscapes. Two weeks to a month will allow you to see as much as possible without rushing.
“A highlight of my trip was hiking Kristínartindarin the Skaftafell region of Vatnajökull National Park. This hike was 18km to nearly 3,700 ft and takes you high above the skaftafell glacier revealing some incredible views of the surrounding peaks and glacier itself. When I hiked it the trail had only been open for a week so there was still snow in spots, but nothing too difficult. Additionally I had the summit to myself, so I sat up there and enjoyed the view for nearly an hour. If youre up for a more difficult hike, this is a great one.”
Kristínartindar is a popular hiking spot in Iceland. This specific hike offers great views and and is relatively dry and easy to hike. There are no glacier crossings and is a wonderful hike for all types of travelers. There are no hiking or park fees and camping is available on site.
“When camping at the upper falls of Skógafoss, most people stop at the lower and heavily photographed fall, which is absolutely beautiful as well. But the upper fall is equally impressive as it falls deep into a tight canyon. This area is about 3 miles past the upper falls, but you see numerous smaller falls along the way so I’d highly recommend walking past all the tourists at the lower falls if you have time.”
Skógafoss is one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland and is a great place to stop and take in the landscape. You can walk up close to the waterfall, but be prepared to get soaked! It is over 60 meters high and 25 meters wide. If you’re prepared for a walk, take Shelesky’s advice and walk to the upper falls. You can also trek up the 527 steps to the observation platform for some great views!
Putting Iceland on the top of your travel list? Check out WOW Airlines, where they offer one week layovers in Iceland when traveling to and from Europe (from the U.S.). Also make sure to check out the capital of Reykjavík for culinary experiences, the famous Blue Lagoon, and to see how the locals live!