On Day 10 of our trip we awoke to an empty campsite in what felt like the middle of nowhere. But excited for a tour of Vatnshellir Cave in Snæfellsjökull National Park. And even more psyched to finally spend some time exploring Reykjavik later that night.
Snæfellsjökull National Park
The park spans the majority of the Snaefellnes peninsula. It is basically a giant lava field with cool points of interest scattered about and it is absolutely beautiful. I wish we had more time to explore this area. But since it was Saturday we were trying to get to the first cave tour of the day to avoid huge crowds.
We ended up having a bigger group than we had hoped, but it didn’t really take away from the awesome experience. It was actually kind of fun to chat with other vacationers!
After signing up for the tour and receiving our gear (a helmet and “torch”), we were led to an entrance with a spiral staircase that led to the cave. The guide did a great job explaining all the geological points as well as the interesting folklore associated with the cave.
Apparently, this cave was a lava tube for a nearby volcano thousands of years ago. AND it is believed that a locally famous troll-man named Bárður used to live in the cave. There are even rocks thought to be his sofa and table. Every so often he is said to meet there with his troll friends to discuss important troll things. Maybe next time we can crash the party?!?!
The tour takes about 45 minutes and goes deep into the cave. At one point everyone is instructed to turn off their lights to experience complete darkness. So eerie! I highly recommend this tour, and for about US$20, it is definitely worth it.
A little bit beyond the cave we stumbled upon a gorgeous canyon with a trail that led inside, Rauðfeldsgjá. It is said that Bárður’s nephew put his daughter on an iceberg as a joke and she went all the way to Greenland. Bárður was so mad that he threw his nephew into the rift and killed him!
But this canyon has more than just a good story. It is beautiful and has a stream that leads up into the mountain that you can walk along. We were so excited that we wandered into this beautiful place on a hunch. It was such a unique find!
After our adventures in Snæfellsjökull National Park, we stopped by the Akranes lighthouse. It was closed but still worth a quick stop. And the fun flag rocks next to it were neat!
We were excited to spend the rest of the day exploring the beautiful city of Reykjavik, but first we had to go through the underwater tunnel and a ton of roundabouts!
The tunnel was a first for us, but it cut out a lot of time and was only US$7. It really isn’t scary if you aren’t claustrophobic. But definitely a unique experience. And once on the other side we learned how to successfully complete a multi-lane roundabout: quickly but carefully!
In Reykjavik we found the large city campsite and claimed our spot for the night early. Then, after some long showers, we set out on foot to explore.
Harpa Concert Hall
We walked along the water on our way to see the famed Harpa Concert Hall and thoroughly enjoyed the scenery. From far away Harpa looks like a normal building. But once you are inside it is truly an architectural wonder.
Some places were almost optical illusions, the way the glass and the sharp angles play off of each other. We hung out there for at least an hour taking pictures.
Laugarvegur on a Saturday Night
Afterwards we started wandering around the popular Laugarvegur area to find food. However, Saturday night in Reykjavik is a bit more of a big deal than I had anticipated. Every restaurant was booked until 10p.m. (it was only 7)!
So, we walked around for hours, admiring the rainbow street leading to Hallgrímskirkja Church, having some delicious life-sustaining ice cream and finally finding a pizza place with enough room to squeeze us in. That was the best pizza of my life.
Our Camper Van Party
We had initially planned to stay up until all hours of the night partying with the locals. But we were exhausted and a little unsure if we were dressed up enough. Everyone was dressed to the 9s. And we were in jeans. Although, our young waiter said we would be fine going out in what we had on, we felt more comfortable back at the campsite.We ended up having a really nice night in the van playing our “Instant Iceland” trivia game and drinking an assortment of mini Icelandic liquor bottles instead.
Reykjavik Flea Market
The next day we had big plans to go to the world-famous Blue Lagoon, what Iceland seems to be known for. But before leaving Reykjavik we stopped by the weekend flea market near Harpa to see if we could find any good souvenir deals. However, it was mainly used items and fish so we left empty-handed.
Although, if you are looking for clothes or books this is definitely the place to go. And it was for sure an interesting place.
The Blue Lagoon
After the flea market, we took the long way to the Blue Lagoon around the Reykjanes peninsula. Once at the Blue Lagoon, we checked in and went to our separate locker rooms. We took our naked showers (they actually had some private stalls too) and then met up for an afternoon of relaxing.
I didn’t really like how busy the Blue Lagoon was. It was basically a little bit fancier, way bigger and way more popular version of the Myvatn Baths. Check out this comparison if you need help deciding which one is for you.
However, you can’t complain about relaxing in warm water with a glass of wine! We did the silica masks too! I do have to say the warnings about the water drying out your hair are very true. I lathered mine with the complimentary leave-in conditioner. But it wasn’t strong enough and my hair was dry and crunchy for days! Definitely bring your own heavy-duty conditioner.
After a few hours at the lagoon, we changed and went to the Lava Restaurant which we had reservations for. Since we aren’t overly adventurous eaters we opted for sharing the cheese plate and getting dessert!
Little did I know the cheese plate was a meal in itself. Our waitress rolled out a cheese tray with accompaniments and cut off big chunks for us as she explained what each one was. They were all wonderful, especially with the jams!
And dessert was perfect! My poached pear with ginger sorbet was just sweet enough and Buddy’s chocolate mousse was decadent in the most wonderful way. The restaurant was the best part, in my opinion. And you even get to look over the calming waters of the lagoon as you eat.
Bridge Between Continents
We left the Blue Lagoon with full bellies and headed to Reykjanesbær to camp for the night. The Lagoon is close enough to go back to Reykjavik. But we wanted to stay further away from the city in hopes to see those playful Northern Lights one last time.
We also made a quick stop at the Bridge Between Continents This is the point where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet. It was nice to walk off some of the calories we had consumed in such a beautiful setting.
And on our way to our campsite for the night, we even got to see a beautiful sunset. And we also checked out a quaint lighthouse before settling in.
One Last Northern Lights Sighting
It wasn’t long after it got dark before those colorful lights we were praying for came out for a dance. That made three times we were fortunate enough to see this magical sight! We quickly drove out to a scenic spot to take pictures.
Technically, Buddy took pictures and I watched from the warmth of the car. A nice man even stopped to make sure we weren’t stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. I love Icelanders! Once the lights went into hiding we drove back to the campsite for a peaceful night’s sleep.
More Reykjavik Explorations
The next day was our last full day in Iceland and we were excited to spend it in Reykjavik! Our first stop was the iconic Hallgrímskirkja Church.
We lucked out with a free parking spot behind the church. Definitely go early in the day! This helped us beat the crowds also.
The outside of the church is very unique. It is designed to resemble the basalt columns found throughout the country. And the inside of the church was simple yet beautiful and it evoked a lot of emotions within me.
It just seemed like the perfect place to take a few minutes to thank God for helping us make this amazing trip to Iceland happen. And for keeping us protected on crazy roads, in troll caves and on top of windy mountains. I felt so blessed and overwhelmed with happiness as I sat in that pew far, far away from home. I couldn’t believe the trip was almost over.
After my moment of appreciation, we took the tiny elevator to check out the view from the top of the church. The colorful houses below, plus the mountains and ocean in the distance made for some beautiful pictures!
When we left the church, we were ready for some food! Walking around the city was a blast! It is covered in beautiful street art sanctioned by the government.
Our wanderings led us to the Laundromat Cafe for a wonderful breakfast. This cute restaurant is colorful, unique and has delicious food!
Next up was shopping! We looked around the stores for unique souvenirs. My favorite (of course) was the Christmas store. They have an option to send a letter to Icelandic Santa. (And at Christmas he sent me a note and an ornament!)
My favorite souvenir find was a craft store that sold lava rock beads which I’ve since hand-made into earrings! These were a fraction of the cost of the jewelry in Icelandic stores. However, not as nicely made… but I’m not picky!
There were only a few hours left before we had to turn in our van. So we headed over to the Arbær Museum to check out the turf houses.
And since they were between tours the guy just let us wander around for 30 minutes unsupervised to check everything out. Getting to go inside the little houses was so fun! I’m sure the tour is very interesting, but getting to explore on our own was really nice.
Returning our Beloved Happy Campers Van
Back at Happy Campers, we sadly handed over our keys and said goodbye to what we will always remember as our home away from home on wheels. That little van really was the perfect way to see Iceland. And we were so grateful that it was such a reliable ride! I really will miss her and think of her fondly for years to come, I’m sure!
Included in our rental price was a ride back to the hotel, which was convenient and fun! I loved picking the driver’s brain about where he liked to travel (ironically the U.S.). And the worst shape a van had come back in (one guy rolled it going too fast on a curve). I really enjoyed every person I met on the Happy Campers team and was pleasantly surprised at their stellar customer service!
Staying at Icelandair Reykjavik Natura
We were sad to have to turn in our van. But were psyched to sleep in a real bed for the first time in almost two weeks! And our room at Icelandair Reykjavik Natura was wonderful. It even had a nice view of the Perlan across the street.
After getting settled in, we had a wonderful meal at the restaurant on site. And then we spent the rest of the night drinking Appelsin and watching TV in bed. It clearly wasn’t an extravagant last night in Iceland celebration. But it was perfect for us after days of driving around and exploring our little hearts out!
Visiting the Perlan
The next morning had the nicest weather yet. So we finished packing our things quickly before walking over to the Perlan. The hill that led up to the entrance was a little bit of a trek. But the views from the top of this interesting dome building were well worth it! Before leaving I finally tried the delicious Icelandic Skyr yogurt while Buddy had a yummy donut!
Back at the hotel we printed our boarding passes, checked out and had lunch at the fabulous restaurant again as we waited for our FlyBus driver to come pick us up. I took part in the fantastic lunch buffet that was going on and Buddy had a delicious wood-fired pizza.
Getting to the Airport with FlyBus
Once the FlyBus driver arrived to transport us to the bus station, it was a mad rush of hectic craziness. He hurried us in the van, dropped us off at the bust station while hurling our luggage out of the back and then we got on the big bus to the airport after being rushed along by that driver.
However, I heard a local on the bus telling someone that was the only company that was reliable when it came to getting you to the airport on time. I see why! Definitely good to know.
The efficiency continued at the airport where the Icelandair line was directed by a pretty drill-sergeant-esque woman who made sure no time was wasted. I definitely appreciate the effort to get us to the plane on time! And this meant we had plenty of time to check out the duty free shop where we stocked up on souvenirs of candy and alcohol to give our friends.
A few hours after our shopping extravaganza, we were ushered out to our plane. We got to walk out to the plane because all the gates were being used. On board I remembered how comfortable the Icelandair planes were as I drank my last Appelsin and started writing notes for my Iceland blog posts!
There has been so much to tell about our Iceland adventure. And if you’ve followed along I commend you! I know it is a lot to read. But hopefully our stories have helped you plan your trip or inspired you to start! For easy to find links to each blog post, check out my road trip itinerary: here.
Iceland will always have a special place in my heart. It took my Passport virginity and really sparked wanderlust in myself and my hubby. We are already plotting and scheming about our next trip to Iceland. Hopefully in winter because I really want to meet the Yule Lads!
And for more Iceland travel stories from our fall camper van road trip, check out our Iceland page!