Farewell Iceland

Iceland is an awesome country – and I mean that literally. It is awe-inspiring.

Despite its status as one of the smallest European countries, traveling its perimeter revealed to us the immensity of its landscape.

It is full of raw, rugged, powerful natural beauty that we have encountered in few other places in the world.



Roaring waterfalls.

Quiet fields of flowers.

Majestic beaches.

Cliffs with walls of seabirds you may otherwise only ever see in a zoo.

Geothermal beauty everywhere.

The vast majority of Iceland is as it has always been – untouched, wild, beautiful.

I can’t recall ever hearing an American tourist say that they were going to Iceland, unless it was merely a stopover on the way to some other destination. Perhaps when folks think of going to Europe, they think of the larger destinations such as France, United Kingdom, Germany, and Iceland gets overshadowed by their presence. This should not be the case. If you ever get the opportunity to go to Iceland, and you have even one bone in your body that appreciates the great outdoors, you simply must go. There is nothing like Iceland in the rest of the world.

Iceland’s natural beauty has left us awestruck and eager to one day return. And return one day we certainly will. Until then, farewell Iceland.

Back in Reykjavik!

June 20 and 21:


It is Sunday morning, so we decided to find a local church to attend! We drove right by a church on our way to our campsite last night. We looked up the service times and saw they had an English service at 11:00. The church was planted 21 years ago by an American missionary. It is the only Baptist church in Iceland! It is a very diverse church and such sweet people. It seems like many folks from other countries who live in Reykjavik for work attend the English service as most other churches in the area are only in Icelandic. We were able to talk for a little bit with the pastor and his family after the service.

After the service, we learned that it was the pastor’s birthday! We stayed and sang happy birthday with the congregation, and the pastor did a…hand stand? Not sure if this is a Baptist thing or an Iceland thing, but we thought it was quite impressive either way.


We turned in our campervan after 8 wonderful days. We managed to navigate the local bus system and made it to our Airbnb hostel home for the next 2 days. There is a warm shower, full kitchen, and a washer/dryer. There is even a cute local cat that greets us at the front door.

The friendly hostel welcome committee reaching out for a handshake
The entrance to our hostel!
Our hostel in Reykjavik!

We walked around the neighborhood and were able to kick back and rest for a bit in the hostel room. We had assumed that the camper van life would be really restful with a lot of downtime, but interestingly that just wasn’t true! We brought some books to read and card games to play, but didn’t get a chance to partake in either. During the day we drove all day, and when we weren’t driving we were hiking – and then we would pull into a campground around midnight, cook a meal, and go to bed. Rinse and repeat for 8 days! So this first leg of the trip was more of an adventure, and less of a time of rest – which is perfectly fine, just different than what we had anticipated.

Some lamb hot dogs to celebrate finishing the ring road

Reykjavik – June 21

We walked into town from our Airbnb, which was towards the outskirts of the downtown area. It was about a 35 minute walk.

Braud & Co – the local bakery chain

We found a local bakery (Braud & Co) that is known for their yummy cinnamon rolls. They were out of cinnamon flavor but we were able to try a berry and Japanese lemon roll. They were so yummy!

Braud & Co
Braud & Co

Next stop was a local coffee shop called Reykjavik Roasters. With it being the late afternoon and cold out, we both chose hot chocolate. Deep down we’re both old farts and caffeine in the afternoon keeps us awake too late into the night…

Hot chocolate from Reykjavik Roasters
Reykjavik Roasters

Icelandic Meat Soup!

We had to stop one last time at our favorite restaurant in Iceland – 101 Reykjavik Street Food. This is our third time here! The staff all know us now. Our phone’s WiFi immediately connects as we walk up to the restaurant. I’m surprised we don’t have our picture on the wall yet.

We have already pinned some recipes for the dishes we have tried here to hopefully try and make them at home when we return.

Completing the Ring Road and an Active Volcano Eruption

June 19:

Today we completed the ring road! It’s so fun to think that we were able to drive completely around an entire country in just over one week. We only had a short drive back into Reykjavik from our camp site.

101 Reykjavik Street Food

We went to this restaurant the first day we arrived in Iceland, and we couldn’t stop talking about it during the entire drive around the island. So of course, our first day back in Reykjavik, we had to stop in for another bite. It was just as good as we remembered! We got the Icelandic meat soup again – a lamb stew with potatoes, broth, and spices. This time we tried the traditional Icelandic fish stew as well – not really a stew as the name suggests, but essentially mashed potatoes, onion, and cod fish. Everything was delicious! We met the owners son while we were there. We told them we will most likely be back one more time before we leave. We love the food so much!

Fish stew directly in front of Graham (who took this picture), and Icelandic meat stew on the other side of the table in front of Lizzie.

Fagradalsfjall Volcano

The Fagradalsfjall volcano began erupting March 19, 2021 and is still emitting fresh lava as of today. It was about a 35 minute drive from Reykjavik to the makeshift parking lot they set up for tourists after it began erupting. We parked our car and began the hike. We first came to a field of lava hardened on the top, but boiling underneath. We were able to get a couple small lava rocks from the top because it had cooled enough to touch! There were many people taking bags full of lava rocks home.

Cooling lava as it oozed down the side of the mountain near the active eruption.

The lava field, even though it looked like it had been there for some time, was still extremely hot. If you looked across the field, you could see the distortions from the heat waves coming off the surface. In some cracks in the cooled magma, you could look inside and see that it was still glowing red hot as the lava continued to slowly seep beneath.

Beyond the hill at the far side of the lava field was the active eruption site.
Along the ridge, lava continuing to flow into the valley. If you look closely at the bottom of the “cooled” magma, you can see a crack in the rock showing that it’s still red hot beneath.
An up-close look at a crack in the “cooled” magma showing the red-hot lava flow beneath. We were only inches away from this!

As the magma cooled in this valley, it solidified into rock and expanded/contracted as it cooled and was reheated by the lava beneath. As this happened, you could hear it crackle and pop with almost a tin sound. It sounded like a tin can with carbonation in it, or after you drive an old car that’s all-metal and turn it off – the “pinging” sound of the metal parts.

It smelled like a mixture of smooth cigar smoke and gunpowder.

After we spent some time being mesmerized by this field (and probably becoming highly intoxicated by the toxic fumes), we began the insane hike up the side of a mountain to get a good look at the center of the actively erupting volcano. Huh… Maybe we were intoxicated by the volcano fumes…

Hiking up the ridge – the Atlantic Ocean in the background!

The hike was really challenging. Neither of us had hiking shoes or hiking poles as a lot of the folks around us did. The wind was also stronger than we’ve ever experienced as there were no trees nearby to stop it from blowing. That being said, the view from the top of the ridge made the challenging hike totally worth it! This was certainly a once in a lifetime opportunity. The lava was mesmerizing as it bubbled/splashed out and poured over the side of the mountain into the valley below. It sounded like strong waves crashing into the sand at a beach.

The lava bubbled like water and shot out of the cauldron – it was mesmerizing.

Sandgerði Camping

After the long hike, we swung into a local fast food joint for some burgers and fries. Interestingly, burgers, ice cream, and hot dogs are some of the most popular dishes here – especially as it relates to fast food!

We got to our final campsite of the trip around midnight – the ring road completed in 8 days. The campground was right next to a beautiful lake – it had hot showers, clean bathrooms, and a common area to charge our phones. This was our last night in the campervan. Tomorrow we turn in the van and head to our Airbnb for the last 2 nights here in Iceland.

The inside of our camper van – a comfy bed sat up on top of storage. The van came with dishes, a stove with gas, blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, 2 camping chairs and a fold-out table.


June 18:

Rauðasandur Beach

Our campground was right on the coast. The orange sand, blue skies and glistening water were breathtaking! We went on a morning walk on the beach when we woke up. It was warmer in the morning, about 12 degrees Celsius. Some of the warmest weather we have experienced so far in Iceland!

The locals tell us that this is an unusually cold summer, and things are expected to warm up in the next few weeks. But we have also heard (and seen) that the weather can change on a dime. In some places in Iceland, you can experience all four seasons in one day. We’ve heard quite a few people say that the worst job in Iceland is to be a meteorologist!

At this campground, they had a wonderful community center with a free clothes washer, stove top, and a cupboard full of dishes and silverware for travelers to share. Before we set off, we cooked up some oatmeal and brown sugar and ate it in an actual bowl with warm coffee in an actual mug.

Oatmeal and coffee on the finest of fine china!

On the road again

Our little camper van driving through the countryside courtesy of Graham’s drone!

Today was filled with driving! Lots of beautiful sights were seen as we drove. The Westfjords are some of the most beautiful parts of the island. The purple flowers continue to be some of our favorite sights to see as we drive!

A quick side note and some interesting facts that we learned about these flowers after further research. The purple flowers are called Alaskan Lupine. As you can tell from the name, they aren’t actually native to Iceland. Seeds were brought over in a suitcase in 1945 to help revitalize the land after several hundred years of logging and farming. The Alaskan Lupine helps take nitrogen from the air and pump it into the soil – helping farmers grow future crops, while also preventing erosion (which is a big problem here). The flowers were kept only to the Reykjavik capital region until 1976 when they were released to the rest of Iceland. Fast forward to today, and Alaskan Lupine now covers about 0.4% of Iceland’s land surface and it continues to grow exponentially. One estimate puts this flower at over 10% coverage of the island by 2085.

Everybody in Iceland has an opinion about these flowers. Seriously. You can walk up to anybody who lives here and ask, and they will inevitably fall into one of two schools of thought: Either they love the flowers – the way they look, the benefits they provide to the soil. Or – they loathe how invasive the flowers are in completely taking over the island, killing off some of the native flora. Who knew flowers could cause such a ruckus?

If you’re as interested in this drama as we are – we highly recommend some further reading on this. The broader story is quite fascinating and involves Neil Armstrong and a NASA training facility in the center of the island, now completely swallowed up in purple flowers. Check out this article: https://www.hakaimagazine.com/features/why-iceland-is-turning-purple/

Lunch Stop

After eating a lot of dried foods, it was so nice to pull into a restaurant/hotel and have a fresh meal! Our bodies were in much need of this!

Char fish (same family as salmon) and a cheeseburger!

Camping Þorisstaðir

This was not our original desired campground. The one we originally had planned to stay at was all full due to a local little league soccer team playing. A lot of local Icelanders (supportive grandparents and relatives of the kids playing) were camping in this town for the tournament this weekend. But we were able to find another spot close to stay at.

On the way, we found a beautiful lighthouse right next to the ocean. There are so many cool lighthouses here!

Lighthouse in the city of Akranes


June 17:

Today we set off on a long drive down the large Weatfjords peninsula. A lot of the road was surprisingly gravel or dirt. A very bumpy 4 and 1/2 hour drive for sure!

We had beautiful views as we drove along the coast! We didn’t have any rain, which was such a blessing!

Norwegian ship! Oldest steel ship in Iceland. Built in 1912 in Norway, shipwrecked in 1981.

We stopped along the way and made some tuna sandwiches from our earlier grocery run!


Látrabjarg is a national park at the farthest western tip of the Westfjords, in fact the furthest west you can go in Iceland. It is known for its views and the vast number of birds that nest in the cliff side, including puffins! When we first arrived, there were not any puffins. We were told by some bird photographers that they were out having dinner and will return to the cliffs shortly. We enjoyed watching the razorbills and northern gannets as they sat along the cliff flying to and from the ocean, both of which looked like little penguins. There were thousands of them! It was truly a sight to see!

Look closely and you’ll see thousands of birds!
Birds flying out to sea and in to share the fish caught

The sign at the entrance of the park said that during the summer time, there can be over 1 million birds nesting in this little section of cliffs. If you looked at the water, it looked like it was almost moving with how many birds were also swimming in the ocean.

Razorbills (they look like little penguins!)

Eventually, the puffins returned to the cliff side and we were able to see them close up! They are adorable creatures! Our favorite thing was to see them waddle around, almost like they are exaggerating each step.


Tonight we are staying at a campground near the coast. Beautiful blue skies and orange sand! Dinner was an Italian dinner pasta packet that we added to boiling water. It’s always so nice to have a hot meal after a very cold day. It was around 5 degrees Celsius.

Completely untouched by man!

The beach near this campground was one of the most beautiful beaches we have ever seen.

Melanes beach in the Westfjords!

Northern Iceland and Akureyri

June 16:

Today we woke up and made some oatmeal with brown sugar for breakfast. We had a beautiful drive along the coast of northern Iceland!

There are flowers everywhere in Iceland this time of year.
Just off the highway, overlooking a little inlet from the ocean in northern Iceland

Lots of sheep and horses along the road! One momma sheep walked right onto the road in front of us with two little babies in tow. We thankfully saw her and slowed down in time – though Graham mentioned something about “10 points for the big one, 5 points for the little ones”. Hmm… The mother sheep paused in the middle of the Highway and the two babies began to nurse while we just waited. We thought this was so funny. We beeped our horn and they eventually moved along.

There are so many baby horses as well! They were fun to watch as we drove along.


We stumbled upon this adorable little town while driving the ring road called Akureyri. It’s the second biggest city in Iceland after Reykjavík, nestled up in the northern side of the island. The city’s slogan was “love is in the air”, and they had big hearts you could take your picture by. They even had red traffic lights in the shape of hearts!

We decided to park our van and just walk around the city for a bit. We found a giant bookstore with a cafe (similar to Barnes and Noble back in the States), we got some coffee and sat in the bookstore for a couple hours reading and people watching.

The streets of Akureyri!


Grafarkirkja is the oldest church in Iceland. It is still operational as far as we can tell, and was such a beautiful sight to see!

Borðeyri Campground

Our stop tonight was another great campground spot with wonderful views! This campsite had some extremely territorial birds though. There were Arctic Terns nesting around the campground. The first spot we parked our van at, we found ourselves attacked almost immediately when we got out of the car. You could look up and see them screeching and dive bombing – like something out of a movie! We later learned that they will dive bomb to protect their eggs, which we must have parked right beside. We quickly realized this and moved our van to a different location. Almost like we passed back through an imaginary line, they all settled down again. Amazing! And slightly terrifying…

Geothermal Areas and Meeting Locals

June 15


After about an hour drive from our campground, we stopped by a quaint little harbor town. Djúpivogur is a small fishing village. We stopped and got some hot chocolate from a local cafe and to stretch our legs.

Gallery Freevilli

In Djúpivogur we saw a local art gallery. We stopped in and met the owner/artist. He had made many things out of recycled wood. Beautiful carvings, shells, rocks, whale bones, necklaces and so much more. We spoke with the owner for about an hour. His name was Villip, but he went by Freevilli. He grew up in the fishing village and told us a lot about Iceland’s history and politics, both local and international. He had great English and we really enjoyed hearing his local perspective.

Freevilli‘s shop!

The Long Haul

Today was one of our longest drives of the trip so far. We drove from the southeast side of the island all the way to the central-north side. Quite the haul for one day!

Our longest drive in a day so far!
We saw lots of wild reindeer along our drive today!
Cartwheel? Attempt at a hand stand? Just goofing off? Not quite sure!

Námafjall Hverir

Námafjall Hverir is a geothermal area with fumaroles and boiling mud pots. It looked so cool, but man did it smell terrible!! We have both smelled the sulfur-rich scent of geothermal hot springs and vents at places such as Yellowstone, but nothing quite like this. We both started out on the walking path fully confident in our walking capabilities, but had to turn back almost immediately as our legs buckled from the fumes. Ok – a slight exaggeration, but wow. We both had our noses in our jackets trying hard not to see our lunch again. It was probably the worst smell we have ever encountered. Lizzie had to go sit in the car. Graham walked around the other side of the park to see some more boiling mud pots, but couldn’t make it down the full path either. Needless to say, it was very cool, but Lizzie will not be returning.


As we were driving on highway 1 we came across this beautiful waterfall! It was already around 12:30am (though the sun was still up!), but we had to stop and take it in.

Goðafoss pronounced “Godafoss”

Systragil Camping Ground

We got to bed around 1:30am after settling into the campground and washing clothes in the washing machine (the reason we chose this particular campground!), drying our clothes on a makeshift clothesline over the front seat of our camper van.

Black Sand Beach & Iceland’s Biggest Glacier

June 14


Our first stop this morning was the black sand beach in Southern Iceland with beautiful jagged rocks jutting out into the sea. The weather was very windy, and very cold! The waves were mesmerizing – some of the biggest waves we have ever seen. The beach was filled with gorgeous smooth black rocks. The sand and rocks are all a pure black color from the volcanic activity on the island.

Black sand beach in southern Iceland

The drive

We’ve observed a few interesting things while driving through the Icelandic countryside. First, there are SO many sheep that are just roaming around, often outside of their pasture fence! But they aren’t very smart animals and will cross the street in front of cars at anytime. We were told when we first picked up our camper van that if we hit one we would have to pay 500 Euros to the sheep farmer for each sheep hit. We haven’t hit one yet thankfully, but have come pretty close!

Another thing that is interesting on the roads are their radar speed signs. There are happy and sad faces on them and it will change to a green happy face if you are driving under the speed limit.

There are also a lot of one lane bridges on the island.

In Reykjavik, there were a ton of “no tractor” signs. We thought this was funny since there didn’t seem to be any farms in the downtown area but clearly the city thought it was a problem and they needed to post a reminder on nearly every street.

Velkomin í Freysnes – Trail to a Glacier

We found this trail on All Trails. The trail was a little hard to find as it was tucked behind a hotel and not well advertised. It was our favorite hike so far! There were fields as far as the eye could see of these gorgeous purple flowers. We got to the top of the trail and it looked over the valley onto the very edge of one of the largest glaciers in Iceland. It was so beautiful!

Beautiful trail walk

Fjallsárlón Glacier

Our next little hike we went on was about 30 minutes down the road from the first. We were driving on the Ring Road and saw a sign for a glacier. We saw on All Trails again that there was a trail behind a restaurant. It was a short and easy hike to an absolutely stunning view of the glacier! While we were there, it was silent enough that from across the lake we heard the glacier give out a deep rumble. We were both mesmerized and terrified at the same time. It’s enormous!

Jökulsá á Breiðamerkursandi

Just a short drive from the Fjallsárlón Glacier was this amazing view of another side of the glacier. As the ice was breaking off the glacier, a canal was pulling the broken pieces out to sea. Birds were flying all around enjoying what appeared to be a bountiful fish meal under the melting ice. We even saw a seal swimming among the icebergs!

Diamond Beach

Right near the canal that was pulling the icebergs out to sea was this beautiful black sand beach. It is called Diamond Beach because it is filled with broken off pieces of the glacier. Graham was determined to touch a part of a glacier and he finally did here!

Camping Höfn

We stopped for the night around midnight. The campground had a beautiful view of a lake.

Yes, this is midnight! This is as dark as it gets in Iceland during the summer months.

Finishing the Golden Circle

June 13:

We woke up around 11:00, made oatmeal for breakfast, and headed off to finish our journey on the Golden Circle.

Efstidalur II- The Barnloft

Efstidalur is a local dairy farm that has a restaurant, lodge, and ice cream shop. We stopped for some yummy rich ice cream – we read it was the best ice cream in Iceland! Graham got vanilla and Lizzie got chocolate. The windows in the ice cream shop looked right into the cow barn where we were able to watch several cows eat while we ate our ice cream.

Brúarfoss Waterfall

After the dairy farm we headed to see some beautiful waterfalls. It was raining and very windy by this time and we did not bring our hiking boots since we would only really use them during this 10-day leg of our 2 month trip. The hike to the 3 waterfalls was very muddy and quite miserable as we tried so hard not to get our shoes wet or muddy. Much of the hike was us weaving through branches and walking on the outer bank of the trail to avoid the mud puddles. We thought about turning around many times, but were determined to see the waterfalls since we had come this far. We ended up making it to the falls and getting a good workout all at the same time!

The first waterfall we came to was Hlauptungufoss. It was beautiful with bright blue waters!

The bright blue color of the water comes from something called “Rock Flour”, where the glacier grinds up the bedrock as it moves, and then deposits that fine dust into the streams and lakes

The second waterfall was just a ways up (650m) from the first, Midfoss.

This part of the trail was mostly big rocks and beautiful black sand. Thankfully the mud was behind us. We kept going and finally came to Brúarfoss. It looked almost unreal. It was beautiful and worth the hike up.

The lower half of our bodies were covered in mud from the hike… but wow, was Bruarfoss worth the hike!


The next stop on the Golden Circle was this geothermal area with active geysers and boiling mud pits. It had a lot in common with Yellowstone National Park back in the States.

This pool was close to boiling temperature!
This pool was a breathtaking almost glowing blue color
A tiny bubbling geyser!


Hrunalaug is a privately owned natural hot spring. After paying the owner, we enjoyed such a relaxing warm dip in the hot springs. We met a lot of people while we were there and even another couple from North Carolina! We stayed for several hours enjoying the beautiful view and great conversations. This was our last stop on the Golden Circle!

Vik tjaldsvæði- Campground

We finally got to hwy 1 or the Ring Road, which is the road that encompasses the full perimeter of the island. We drove an hour and a half to a campground close to the black sand beaches. We made ourselves some Mexican rice for dinner and went straight to sleep around 1:00.

Arriving in Iceland!

June 11 and 12:

After packing our bags with 2 months worth of gear, we were finally ready to set off. We flew from Charlotte to Boston and had a six hour layover in the airport. Then we flew from Boston to Reykjavik, Iceland! Iceland air was probably the nicest airline we’ve ever flown on. It smelled like a brand new car when we first walked in. We had good leg room and had all three seats in the middle to ourselves.

They even gave us free bottles Iceland water when we first boarded. Unfortunately, we did not sleep much (at all) during the five hour overnight flight.

Iceland spring water given to everyone who boards!

Once we arrived in Reykjavik at 1am EST (6:00 GMT.), we went through customs and a quick COVID screening. Since we are both vaccinated, we only had to take a covid rapid test once we arrived and wait for the test results via text message before we could begin going into public places. This COVID test was different than most that we have experienced in the states. They swabbed the back of our mouths first, then with a second swab they jabbed our brains through our nose. The nose swab was very painful!

Our little camper van waiting for us in the Reykjavík airport parking lot

We had already paid and reserved a camper van for our Iceland adventures. (Kuku Campers) before we left the States. Our camper was already parked at the airport with keys inside when we arrived. We hopped in our van and decided to drive around Reykjavik until we got the text from the Iceland health system letting us know we could go out into the public. But we were both so exhausted after the all nighter that we decided to just find a parking spot and sleep. We found a hotel parking lot, climbed in the back of our camper van which only had a mattress and a fitted sheet at the time and slept. We ended up sleeping for nearly 4 hours!

June 12 Adventures Begin

Now that we were fully rested and had received our text message confirming we did not have covid, we were free to get out of our van! Our first stop was to find food! We drove back down to the downtown Reykjavik area and ate lunch at a local spot called 101 Reykjavik Street Food. We had the traditional Icelandic meat soup and the beef noodle soup. They both were so good! We spoke about the soups for the next several hours and already plan to return when we come back to Reykjavik on day 9.

Traditional Icelandic meat stew (with free refills!)

We went to the Kuku camper office to pick up our sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, 2 lawn chairs and a folding table. The staff was so friendly and the campervan is exactly what we need!

Next stop: the grocery store! Our camper van came with pots, pans, silverware, and a portable gas stove. No refrigerator or cooler, so we had to only buy items that would not need to be refrigerated. We stopped at a grocery store called Bonus, which is supposed to be the most budget-friendly grocery store chain in Iceland. At Bonus, we stocked up on fruit, snacks, water (for cooking and drinking!), and other essentials to cook our meals on the go.

We then began our first leg of the Iceland road trip on highway 36 traveling the Golden Ring. Our first stop was Thingvellir National Park. Inside the park, we decided to take a short hike down to a beautiful waterfall. The scenery was breathtaking and everywhere you look you think you are looking at a movie set.

It was about 20:00 (still getting used to that!) and we decided to find a campground and call it a day. We found the closest campground and pulled in. ( Þingvellir – Nyrðri Leirar ) We really lucked out with this campground! They had unlimited hot water showers, private toilet areas, an outdoor wash station for your dishes, and a gorgeous mountain view. We backed out camper up to the mountain view and made some tortellini for dinner on our gas stove. The park rangers came by that evening to collect payment.

We had a great night’s sleep. Our camper van has a heater inside that runs even when the engine is off. Right now in Iceland there are only about 2 hours of “darkness” each day. From 24:00-2:00 the sun skirts the horizon, but never fully goes down. Our biological clocks are getting thrown for a loop, but we are loving this beautiful country so far and can’t wait to see more!