Things you should do immediately, according to Mary:
- Go to Iceland.
- Rent a Snail Van.
- Explore the coolest land known to man and rest assured your life is now complete.
That last part is mostly just the result of the first 2.5. It'll happen naturally. BUT SERIOUSLY.
If you follow me on instagram or snapchat you saw that I was in ICELAND last week! AAAH! To say it was an incredible week would be the biggest understatement e.v.e.r. — it was mind-blowing and gorgeous and breathtaking and absolutely unbelievable. My pictures don't begin to do the landscape justice — it's so vast and dramatic, my poor little iPhone took more panoramas in one week than it has in the rest of it's life!
As I began researching travel in Iceland, it was quickly clear that I'd want my own wheels. Then, as the options for what to see and where to go overwhelmed me, I realized: I don't want hotel reservations. I don't want to plan where I'll be. I WANNA BE FREEEE! Since I was there in high tourist season (July) there was no way I'd risk NOT having a hotel reservation — a campervan seemed like the absolute perfect solution. And honestly? I wouldn't have done it any other way. Our Snail Iceland Van was PERFECT! (Also, Iceland is EXPENSIVE! This getting a van is, I think, a much more cost effective way to see the country!)
Here's what it happened: We (the other half of "we" being Kelsey, BFF since age 4, NBD) arrived at the Keflavik Airport (!!!) where we were greeted by part of the Snail team! We drove to Reykjavik where we met the rest of the Snail Team — it's a family operation, and you can absolutely tell by the friendly service! They fed us (and even had some Portland coffee!!), and then we met our van. OUR SNAIL VAN! We were pumped. We had a yellow VW perfect for two people!
Behind the drivers seat was the kitchen: functioning sink with running water, cute little 1-burner stove, plenty of storage bins, and a bunch of handy things we would never have thought to bring (clips for closing bags, clothesline, etc.). Behind the passenger seat was a cute little fridge! We used it as a cooler, and put the stuff outside in a plastic bin at night. It got cold enough at night and then would stay nice and chilly in the fridge during the day. Perfect!
The couch in the back of the van folds down to make a massive bed, with plenty of storage underneath it. We ended up leaving it as a bed the entire time, so we didn't make/unmake it every day. I was honestly nervous about sleeping in the van and not being comfortable, but it was a surprisingly comfortable setup! We even had pillows, and duvet covers on our big fluffy comforters! Seeing as it actually got COLD at night, we were really grateful that the van had a heater back by the bed. We could turn it on for an hour before bed, and generally make it through the night without turning it back on, then turn it on when we woke up — without even having to get out from under the covers! It was nice to get the van toasty before having to get out of bed — it made mornings much easier!
We moved in (um, threw our backpacks under the bed...), headed to the grocery store, and were off! We kept things pretty simple in the food department: oatmeal for breakfast, cheese/pb/crackers/apples for lunch, and noodles for dinner. Plus pop tarts and cookies and trail mix and chocolate covered raisins, duh,for snacking. The van even had a pourover with filters for making coffee! HOW VERY HIPSTER AWESOME! Also, USB ports for charging phones (and playing music!)! Handy dandy!
Here's a little look at our route (we went counter clockwise, and did the jut inland at the very end, before going back to Reykjavik!):
For the most part, that's exactly where we drove. We also ended up in Reykjavik, but the Google is smarter than I and I didn't want to add the final leg. So. Connect the dots :)! I've marked some of our favorite waterfalls, other features, and *exactly* where we slept each night. With the exception of one night in a campground, we just pulled off the road and found ourselves a nice little private place to sleep every night! Usually with great views. And no neighbors. SO GOOD!
The best part about having a van to see Iceland is simply put: FREEDOM! We had a rough plan each day — and knew we'd be moving quickly, since we did in 6 days what most people take weeks to do — but for the most part, we just set out on the road and drove. If we saw something gorgeous, we'd pull over! So, basically every two minutes. If we were hungry, we'd make lunch/dinner! If we wanted to sleep, we'd sleep! If we wanted to stay where we were and soak in the scenery for everrrrr, we could! Everything we needed was in the van, and we didn't have to worry about anything other than seeing ALL THE THINGS. Absolutely PERFECT!
As for what we actually did — we mostly just took in the scenery! We took a bunch of hikes, some short, some longer. We saw a lottttt of waterfalls. We walked up volcanoes and down inbetween techtonic plates. We listened to the Walter Mitty soundtrack on repeat (and TayTay's 1989, duh). We went hot-tubbing/hot-springing whenever we could, partially just so we could take a shower. We ate hotdogs at gas stations. We snapchatted the most ridiculous things ever (like a high-speed goldfish toss straight into my mouth. TEAM WORK!). We stood on cliffs and under waterfalls. We said 'OMG THIS IS RIDICULOUS' every other second because seriously, the place was ridiculous. We smelled flowers. We gawked at pretty ponies. We ate skyr. We bought wool sweaters. We did NOT hit any sheep (this is actually surprising, since there are SO many sheep and many of them choose to stand riiiiight next to the road). We did hit a lot of bugs. We instagrammed. We tried and failed to speak in Icelandic. We took a ferry! We ate instant noodles. We pretty much just had the best freaking week I can remember having, ever.
Like I mentioned above, Snail is a family business — Sigrún and Arnih are so warm and welcoming, even hosting guests (like us!) in their own home for the night in Reykjavik. Sigrún and I cooked together on our final night — she introduced me to a KILLER recipe for fish and sweet potatoes (with brown butter and chiles ... hellooo!) — and made both of us feel right at home.
If you're going to Iceland, I cannot recommend getting a Snail van enough! They have more than 30 vans, of all different sizes, and will absolutely take care of you! You can find them online, on Facebook, and on Instagram. Go give 'em some love!
Also, keep an eye out for more Iceland posts! I'll post more pictures (and maaaaaybe even put together a video? Don't get too excited...) ASAP! xo
Snail.is generously provided the van for our trip, but all opinions are my own! They are the best!
I am now officially obsessed with this idea. I have wanted to visit Iceland for ages and this looks like such a fun way to do it! Going on the list for sure 🙂
Yes!! I highly support that!! Xo
How did you manage charging your devices? Does the van plug into campsites or do you charge off the car's battery. Also, is the van able to handle off-road driving? Which Snail van did you take? Sorry for bombarding with questions, I am going in September so I am desperately trying to pull a plan together!
Hi Brina! The van has USB outlets, and normal car charger outlets, so just bring your cords! It just uses the car battery, so we didn't ever charge things overnight — but did use them for a few hours each night. These vans don't have the massive tires for extreme off roading, but handle dirt roads and rougher patches just fine. Our van had license plate "MF 456" — a yellow VW without a pop top. Get in touch with Sigrún via email (the email listed on http://www.snail.is) and she will absolutely help you out figuring what you need! Tell her I sent you! xoxo
Barbara Lippert says
We lived there for 2 years back in the '60s and loved every minute of it. Except for some roads now being paved it doesn't appear from your photos to have changed much.
You did?!? Oh my gosh! I'm jealous! For work? There are definitely some beautifully paved roads, and definitely some bumpy, dusty, gravel roads, too!
Barbara Lippert says
Dick was stationed there by the Navy, in Keflavik. We had a Land Rover and spent our weekends traveling all over the country.... or at least to the accessible parts. Summer is beyond wonderful but winter can feel pretty long what with all the darkness.
Wow! Sounds amazing! I imagine the winters were rough... that's not a lot of sunlight! I hope you get back to visit sometime! xo
I've been twice and want to go back again to do the entire ring road. This is my dream trip. Thanks for sharing, especially the camper van tip. I'm sharing your post with all my friends. I look forward to more.
Thanks, Kristi! Feel free to shoot any questions my way — I'm happy to share!
Can I get there by pontoon boat?
I suspect you can, but I also suspect that's gonna be a COLD experience!! I guess it's time for another new boat! ;P
Oh my goodness Mary, this looks AMAZING!! We may just steal every single one of your ideas! What airline did you use to get out there?
Yes yes yes!!! I flew IcelandAir. They let you have a free stopover if you fly through Reykjavik on your way to/from Europe, so I took advantage of that on the way back from Scotland. In general, they have pretty affordable flights!
Liz @ Floating Kitchen says
I have been salivating over your Iceland photos. What an amazing experience. I want to do it and I want this van!!!
YES!! You absolutely should, Liz! So amazing. Lemme know if you ever do plan a trip — I'll give you allllll my knowledge! ;P xo
Mary B. says
I'm ready to go!!! Can't wait to hear more about it. Will you be in PDX the last week in August? I'll be there.
Yes! I can't encourage you going enough! GO GO GO! I will be around, so we can talk alllll about it!
Your trip looks like it was INCREDIBLE! I love the idea of renting a van...I am a freedom tye of vacationer, I like to do what I want, damnit!
YAH, DAMNIT! I get total FOMO if I can't control my own movements... Camper van FTW! xoxo
OMG... that water fall is just so beautiful ... the lavenders ... the mountains just like the scenes in the secret life of walter mitty!! Damnnnn!! i need to go there one day!!
YES! You do need to go!! We listened to the Walter Mitty soundtrack probably 50% of the time we were driving... it was AMAZING. So pretty! xo
This looks so amazing. What an incredible way to see the country. I never would have thought about doing it like that. But I do always love sightseeing via roadtrip when exploring new countries, so I love it. And your photos are stunning. PS - You and Kelsey are adorable!
Thanks, Erin! (we ARE cute, aren't we?! ;P )
Hi! My husband and I have started the initial phases of planning an Iceland trip. We love the idea of renting a van like this, but my only concern is where do you go to the bathroom?
Ha! Anywhere and everywhere, Kristin! Gas stations are a pretty good bet, or grocery stores/restaurants/coffee shops! (Or ... the side of the road!)
I ve found by chance your website and the story of your journey some times ago (and since then I follwed you in instagram btw)
I was so impressed by your journey!
so that I am organizing my own trip to iceland right now, I had a few questions, but my main concern is:
was your van a 4x4? did you went into f-roads? in case you did; how it was? in case you did not: did you ever regret not to have a vehicle to go off road?
Hi Guglielmo! Our van was not 4x4 — it did have pretty beefy tires though. We didn't go anywhere crazy, but did drive on some dirt/gravel roads and didn't have any issues. I never felt like there was a place I wanted (or was allowed) to drive that I couldn't! Have a wonderful trip!
Your trip looks and sounds amazing. I will be traveling with my bf in June using snail van as well! Very excited about it. Can I ask, what did you use for Internet access ? And which main towns did you stop in? Thanks!
Hi Karafina! We got SIM cards at the airport and added data from our phones... that's how we did internet! As for the places we stopped, check out the map in the post! We didn't spend the night in any towns other than Reykjavik and Hofn, as we were mostly in the van, but we did pass through many others! Have a wonderful time!
Great article and photos 🙂
Did the camper have a heating system that can be used while you are sleeping? and did it have shutters/blinds on all windows to block out light?
Hi Sandy! The van did have a heating system — we found that if we turned it on for 30 minutes or so before bed, we could make it through the night without getting cold. We did turn it on when we woke up though, before getting out of bed! The van also came with curtains that helped block out the light — worked perfectly for us!
Hi! Thanks for the great post! I'm looking into getting a Snail for our trip at the end of August, and I am curious... which model did you get? I'm having trouble deciding which is the one that I want... we are 2 adults.
Hi Emily! I don't know the exact model of our van — it's the one pictured here! It was a fairly large VW van, and we had plenty of room for the two of us. I think all of their vans accommodate at least two people, so I don't think you can go wrong! Have a wonderful trip! xo
Thanks so much for this! Your trip sounds great, and the pics of the van are super helpful. I'm going solo in September, and have been trying to figure out who to book with. I wanted a van a bigger than all of the little micro guys, and with the kitchen inside (so I could comfortably hole up in bad weather), but they are just so much more expensive. In looking at Snail's website, I thought no way could I swing it, but I just got a price quote from Sigrun, and it's cheaper than renting a smaller one from most of the other companies. Cheers!
Hi Jenny! I'm so glad you and Sigrun figured out a good deal! She's wonderful, and will be a great resource for you while you're there. Enjoy your trip! xo
your photos are amazing! do you apps or filters?
Hi Dan! Thanks! These photos were mostly edited on my iPhone in VSCO Cam — but that only applies to this post (my other posts are not iPhone and not filtered). Enjoy! xoxo
Great post, thanks! I am going to Iceland in September for 10 days and looking into renting a Snail. Do you remember which one you had? Just wondering which model is in your photos. I am looking at the Snail 3: Low ceiling Syncro.
Snail says that it can do the highlands and F roads, did you explore those areas at all?
Hi Allison! I don't know what the actual classification of van I had was — but you could ask Sigrun what it would be based on my photos! We did some highlands/F roads, but not a ton, and were totally fine. We never needed 4-wheel drive, but also had fairly dry/easy conditions.
Have a wonderful trip!!
Nitin Bansal says
Your blog is quite informative .I am planning a trip.in Aug and was looking at your itinerary ....how did u guys travel from Westfjords to reykjevik is there a ferry ?
Also I am not getting any camper van options with heating system ...do u think one can sleep during.nights without heater ...or it will be too cold to sleep comfortably ?
We did take a ferry at one point from the Westfjords — take a look at the map in this post and you'll see it between points H and I. Unfortunately, I don't remember the details, but I know google can help you out!!
We definitely used the heater in our van (and, I think it's pretty standard for them to have heaters... I would double check with whoever you've been talking to!) before going to bed, but then would turn it off until morning and be just fine.
Good luck — have a wonderful trip!
If you don't mind my asking - about how much did you spend on gas for your trip? I'm interested in doing this trip with a few friends, and we are wondering what to expect for fuel costs.
Thanks so much!
Hi Sarah! Great question, but unfortunately I don't remember! Ugh. Sorry. I should have kept track and written it in this post! It's definitely not cheap. I bet you could figure out average MPG (google), current gas prices (google), and length of your trip to get a ballpark idea. Have fun!!