Iceland has become a hot tourist destination, with the amount of visitors having doubled in the past two years (thanks, millennials). And it is no wonder why. The country is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes and volcanic activity in the world.
But our trip didn't start off quite so beautifully.
As you can see above, we were stuck on the side of the road for 18 hours after our "Happy Camper" Renault Trafic broke down. Despite missing nearly a day's worth of driving due to a mechanical failure on their part, Happy Campers didn't reimburse us a single dollar of our reservation, meaning we paid $200 to be sitting on the side of the road.
As far as the rest of Iceland, next time I visit I will make sure to plan my trip around the rainy season. Then, maybe I will have a chance to see the mountains and the Aurora Borealis. Check out the video above to see more about our camper ad-van-ture.
Chris McGraw: We are currently in the Keflavik airport, we're about 40 minutes outside Reykjavik waiting for the Happy Camper van rental people to come pick us up, which should be in like 20 minutes. Right there.
Speaker 2: You got this one. It's our Happy 3X.
Chris McGraw: In the Happy Camper. This an old Renault van. It has just shy of 275,000 kilometers on the odometer. It's a tall van and you can't really tell by looking outside right now, but it's super windy outside, and you can definitely feel the wind coming across this van. They said that most of the accidents that these get into involve the wind more than anything. The wind, or sheep crossing the road.
Van camping seems to be a fairly easy way to see the country. There are a lot of campsites you can go to, especially in the summer. There are still a good amount of campsites you can visit in the winter months too. From 2014 to 2016, the amount of tourists coming to Iceland has doubled, from around 900,000 to almost 2 million, and that trend is still going upwards. They're just building more hotel rooms to accommodate people, but at the moment using a camper van seems to be the best way to go, in my opinion.
This is the campground in Selfoss, Iceland. As you can see there are a bunch of other people camping here. It is 10 a.m., so a lot of the camper have left. It's not the high season, but it still filled up pretty quickly last night. We're walking to where you can go take a shower, there are some bathrooms, there's a kitchen, power outlets, all communal area. You have everyone in there at night charging up their cameras, checking out their photos on their computer. But it's nice to have, it's a lot different than campsites in the United States. It does cost, per person 1500, which is roughly 15 U.S. dollars, so we spent 30 dollars. Included in that is the showers. If you park over there, you have access to power all night, which does cost a bit extra.
We're in the camper, we're riding along near the entrance of Skogar, and the engine stalled out. So we came to a stop, and now I can't get the vehicle to start again. They have a mechanic, he says it's not too far away, I don't know exactly how far not too far is. Until then, we're stuck at the entrance, the busiest area in all of this region of Iceland, which is great. Yeah, just keep the hazards on and hopefully one of these buses doesn't hit us. This is the downside to getting the experienced van, the one that has a few miles on it, is that I think sometimes things go wrong like this.
Yeah, my co-driver filled it up last, I'm looking for the receipt, all right. D-I-E-S-E-L-O-L-I-A. They thought that we were putting regular gas in the car, I read him the receipt, this isn't the first diesel we've driven, clearly, so told him that it's been only diesel. It's gonna be a half and hour till the guy gets here. The waterfall is right back there, so not the least beautiful place I've ever broken down. Would've been nice to not break down at all. We double-checked the receipts, we put in diesel both times.
Speaker 3: What happened? You have no idea? All right.
Chris McGraw: I don't know. You'll have to steer, and I'll push from behind.
Speaker 3: All right.
Chris McGraw: All right.
Speaker 3: Okay?
Speaker 4: Okay? We're good.
Speaker 3: Yeah.
Speaker 4: We're good?
Speaker 3: Yeah.
Chris McGraw: This is van number two from Happy Campers, and it is completely identical, except for the fact that this one runs. We got a couple seats here. Here's the bed I was talking about, the top bunk. You just gotta muscle it out here, just pull it out all the way. This seat, we got some storage underneath and then you just pull it out, and if you don't have stuff in the way, this will lie flat, and that's where your second bed is. Right here we have our refrigerator. We got some food in there. Kitchen countertop, where we can take out stove, set it up, cook some food.
We actually have running water in here, which is nice. There's just like a container underneath, so if you open up this door you can refill your container of water. We haven come close to running out, we've been here for three days. This is our passenger seat. What's cool about this is that it leans forward. You just get rid of this, and that way you can kinda just hangout in the back, when you're at your campsite, just chilling in the back before snoozing. Very easy to get up and turn back into the passenger seat. Up here, more storage. We got our big, huge bag up there, and it fits with room to spare.
After our third night here in this Happy Camper 3X, I have to say this isn't the van that I would recommend for a trip to Iceland. If you do wanna go the camper van route, I would get one of the newer, smaller vans. They're more reliable and easier to drive, not to mention they're a little bit cheaper. If you'd rather stay in hotels the entire time you're here, you can do that too. You can rent a car from the airport and just drive, you'll just have to plan ahead 'cause they do book up fast. Now if you're planning on going on some of the rougher roads, you'll have to get a four-wheel-drive car. You can get a four-wheel-drive camper van, a Defender, a Land Cruiser or just a regular four-wheel-drive SUV from the airport.
All of these cost about roughly the same. You can stay in this for $200 a night, or you can rent a car for $70 and drive to a hotel that's $130. My preference, having already lived the camper van experience here in Iceland for a few days would be to get something fun, like a manual Golf, to really take advantage of what this country has to offer in terms of its roads. Though, getting a smaller camper van definitely comes in a close second. There's really no wrong way to experience Iceland.