Tales of foodie, sports loving Aussie expat in the Netherlands.

Iceland on a whim

November 13, 2017/Iceland

We were going to go to Mallorca.

That’s what we had planned, but we both weren’t too excited about it. Yes, it has come to this, people. Paul and I travel so much that we found it hard to get enthused about a trip to a Mediterranean island. We really are terrible people.

But on this blog, I like to tell the truth, as bad as it may sound. We had planned to go to Mallorca because I hadn’t been to any Spanish islands and truthfully, I didn’t think I was cool enough (or young enough) for Ibiza.

But every time we opened up Skyscanner, we managed to get distracted. One day this distraction came in the form of pressing the ‘Everywhere’ button to see the cheapest flights from Amsterdam. Usually this search brings up obvious must-see destinations like Norwich, Szczecin and Billund but this time, top of the list, was Reykjavik.

Iceland. Now, that made us think. Admittedly, we had never given Iceland much of a thought, despite seemingly every second Facebook album in my newsfeed boasting pictures of glaciers and geysers from the island. We weren’t really nature people. We were city and beach people. But it sparked our interest. So we booked the flights for the following month and figured we’d sort out the details later.

If you’ve been to Iceland, you will immediately notice all of the things we did wrong here. One was that we booked the flights because they were cheap; Iceland is not a cheap destination. Not in the slightest. We kind of knew that but adopted the old Aussie ‘she’ll be right’ attitude.

But the biggest glaring issue was the fact that we booked flights first without booking anything else. No accommodation, no transport, nothing. This was very unlike us. Maybe I was trying to prove to myself that I could be one of those fly by the seat of my pants travellers, I don’t know. If that was what I was trying to do, I really shouldn’t have picked Iceland as the destination in question for this new travel attitude.

Our options were pretty bleak. Accommodation that was still available for mid-September (mind you, it was early August at this stage) featured a range of €200 per night featureless rooms with lino floors and shared bathrooms. They looked utterly depressing.

Another problem was that if we were to book these sad excuses for hotel rooms, we would have to lock in an itinerary. Reading about the different sights of the country, I had no idea how long a stop to a waterfall or strange rock formation would take. We wanted to wing it. But it seemed that the Icelanders really, really did not want us to wing it.

My mind was racing. Come on Caitlyn, think. I Googled like I’d never Googled before, and suddenly it all made sense. We would rent a camper! A nice, comfy motorhome with a toilet, big double bed and perhaps even a stove.

My dream did not exactly match the reality, however. Sure, there are a few traditional campers, like the ones you see on the road in Europe and North America. But the bulk (and the cheapest) in Iceland are actually converted panel vans with a double mattress in the place of rear seats. We figured that’d do.

Our noble steed.

And you know what? It did do and I wholehartedly recommend it to anyone keen to venture out from visiting simply Reykjavik and the Golden Circle. We visited Iceland when the high season was just starting to wind down – mid-September – which meant we didn’t need to book campsites ahead of time. We just simply drove in, found a spot and paid (if it was attended – only about half were).

We didn’t have much of an itinerary, but we figured we would stick to the island’s south and also squeeze in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula if time allowed (it did). A few times we drove further than we thought, at other times we dragged our feet a bit and got distracted by waterfalls and random prettiness. If we had booked those overpriced hotels, we would have been looking at our watch all the time. Not with the camper.

We didn’t have a proper kitchen, but we did have a little foldup stove, which we used a couple of times to make my former staple of backpacker pasta. We stocked up big early on at a discount ‘Bonus’ supermarket and generally self-catered apart from a few hotdog stops and nicer dinners in the bigger towns.

This was literally our campsite for the night - directly in front of the famous Skógarfoss Waterfall.

We didn’t have a toilet, or, more importantly, a shower. Most campsites had cold, basic shower blocks at best and tiny single wooden cubicles exposed to the elements at worst. On this front, I must say we were sheer geniuses. Or rather, Kristin from Be My Travel Muse is the clever one; her blog recommended stopping each day at a local pool and using their showers instead. We ended up looking forward to our showers every day, a sentence I never thought I would ever type. For a few euro, not only would you get a hot shower, but access to the town’s geothermal pools. Win.

So how much are we talking here? We paid just over twelve hundred euro to hire the camper for a week; a far cry from what we would have had to have paid for hotels plus car hire. It’s a lot, yes, but even we realised pretty early on that you don’t go to Iceland for a cheap getaway. Yes, even when Skyscanner taunts you otherwise.

So we didn’t go to Mallorca that September. We went to Iceland on a whim.

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