Let me start at the beginning... Iceland is a relatively small country. They have a small population and a handful of cities. Their main city of Reykjavik is where most people find a hotel / BnB and is on the far left side of the country.
We decided we would rather explore the beautiful nature that Iceland has to offer instead of limiting ourself to the boring city of Reykjavik. Some people actually spend entire weeks here although you can see all the city sites in a day, I do not get it! Go see some waterfalls and wild horses!! There are so many beautiful things to see outside of that city! Ok.. rant over. Sorry bout that..
You can make the drive to all the popular nature spots (called the Golden Circle) in a day or so if you didn't do much stopping but there weren't too many affordable places to sleep along that route. There were day tours from Reykjavik to the spots we wanted to visit but they were a bit pricey and I did NOT want to be herded around like cattle with all the other tourists.
I wanted the freedom to stop if we saw something interesting or head to the next sight if we got bored with something. Plus the thought of a cookie cutter tour was depressing. I love finding hidden gems that no one else know about or maybe isn't the most popular site but after some exploring becomes one of your favorite memories from that place!
The best thing I could think of to fit what we wanted was to rent a camper van. I know the idea sounds crazy, but that's exactly why it enticed me! This is a pretty common thing in Iceland and the more I looked into it, the more I loved the idea. I could drive wherever I wanted, see whatever I wanted and sleep wherever I wanted!! PLUS that meant only ONE expense of a car/place to sleep combo instead of the price of a hotel plus a rental car. Score!
There are two main camper van companies in Iceland: Happy Campers and KuKu Campers. Unfortunately, they both have a 3 day minimum rental and we were only there for a day and a half.
I was determined. I emailed each company and asked if there was ANY way we could rent for just the 2 days instead of three (It's only one day less but hey thats like 100$!).
Happy Campers said sure! Just pay for the three days and keep it two. Umm.. what?! Really funny, Happy Campers. Really funny.
Well jokes on them because Big Boss from KuKu said "bring a bottle of wine and we will make it happen!". Now those are my kind of people. I asked Big Boss if he preferred red or white and we had our camper van reserved that night.
Can I be honest with you guys? I totally fell in love with Happy Campers. They have an adorable set up and the vans are super practical. The pictures of them seemed a little nicer than the ones over at KuKu and gave me more of a hotel vibe and less of a "I'm sleeping in my van" vibe... Even if that is what we would be doing.. But in addition to the main problem of the 3 day thing, they have a serious love for money. Their rentals are wayyyy more than KuKu. Decision made for me.
Plus KuKu has really awesome graffiti on the side of each of their vans! How awesome are these?!
Regardless of what company you go with, there are different models to choose from ranging from a very small but cheap 2 person to a big 4X4 model. Whatever your needs are or how many people you are trying to fit, there is a camper van for you!
Here are a few different models from KuKu (We had the first model):
Also, you rent the extras separately from the van. You can rent sleeping bags, pillows, electric blankets, a little gas powered burner, a car adapter for your phone, chairs, ect. You can also rent tents if you have more people than can fit in the van for sleeping. I can't speak for Happy but KuKu includes plates, cups, utensils and even a frisbee in each rental at no cost.
Once we got into Iceland, we took a Reykjavik Excursions bus to a hotel in the city that is right before Reykjavik. Here, someone from KuKu picked us up and took us to the rental company. The folks from KuKu were wonderful! They gave us tons of pointers, a map with all the sites worth visiting marked on it and brought us back to reality when I told them which places I wanted to stop and see. Apparently a day and a half isn't enough time to see 25 sites throughout an entire country. Who knew?
We did all the paperwork and got our sleeping bags and car adapter and we were on our way! I was a little disappointed because we didn't get a graffitied van, but the one we ended up with was newer and safer and could handle all the dirt roads with runoff from the ice melting throughout the country.
The inside of the van was super clean and comfy and made me wonder why I ever doubted that Big Boss would deliver. It was perfect.
I recommend stopping at a grocery store and picking up some snacks and lots of water for the trip. Iceland is a SUPER expensive place to visit (THE most inflated place I have ever been to) so a meal from a grocery store vs. a meal from a restaurant will save you ridiculous amounts of money. We bought lots of cookies, chips, granola bars, self heating soups and teas (aka the best thing ever after a cold trip to a waterfall) and water. Because Iceland has such a small population, you can sometimes go miles and miles without seeing one gas station or town. So stock up on food and water and stop for gas way before you hit that "E".
If you do see a gas station, make sure you stop and try a pilsner.. Iceland's version of a hotdog and a staple of the country. Plus its the cheapest hot meal you can eat.
Have you asked yourself where we stopped to sleep? KuKu and Happy both recommend finding a spot on the side of the road and making yourself at home! The great thing about Iceland is there are hardly any people there. We once went 2 hours without seeing another car. They have a very very low crime rate and theft outside of the cities is a non issue.
Sooo.. we slept on the side of the road next to a field of wild horses. Sound lovely? It totally was! The Iceland sneak peek pic I posted a few weeks ago is from right outside our car where we slept!
Here it is again for those who missed it!
There are official campsites if you are nervous.. but thats more money spent and frankly is just unnecessary. Cmon, live a little! You'll like it I promise!
The only downfall to the camper van is that it was SO cold at night. And this was in the summer! We turned the car on at least 5 times throughout the night to get the van heated up and cozy. Next time we are definitely splurging on that electric blanket.
When I was doing my research, I had a hard time finding reviews or pictures of the inside so I knew I wanted to take a video to share with anyone who might be in that same boat! Sooo.. here is a quick video tour. Your'e welcome. Also, please don't judge my morning face or all our stuff shoved in the nooks..
After a fantastic time crammed into a day of driving and stopping (I won't get into all the absolutely stunning things we saw in Iceland just yet.. look for that in a future post) we returned the rental to KuKu and they drove us back to the hotel to catch the bus. You call the bus company ahead of time or ask the hotel desk clerk to call to request a pickup. It's not a common stop so they only stop on request. BTW.. set your pick up time wayyyy earlier than you think you will need. The bus was 20 minutes late and we thought we would definitely miss our flight. We didn't.. but you've been warned.
Camper van's are awesome and I will never travel in Iceland any other way!! Even my husband who can be a bit hesitant about things like this said that he would do it again in a heartbeat. If you are still unsure, visit their site and check each company out! There are videos on each site explaining how it all works to put your mind at ease.
We saw and experienced things we would only have been able to see by driving around Iceland, and I hope that if you are considering doing the same that you will take the plunge and just do it!! You will not regret it!