Travel Iceland: Southeast Campgrounds
Some places never really leave you. Iceland is one of them.
Once you’ve traced the jagged ice of its glaciers, or watched the midnight sun graze the horizon, you’re a goner.
Even after you’ve touched down on familiar soil, gotten that weird camped-for-too-long stench out of your sleeping bag, and slept in your own bed, Iceland lingers with you.
I’ve spent two summers there now, and have travelled the Ring Road twice, but I still can’t seem to cross Iceland off my list. I think about what it must be like on dark winter evenings, with the northern lights flickering overhead. I hoard pictures of abandoned hot springs I haven’t swam in and bookmark hikes I never got to go on.
Without any conceivable excuse to fly to Iceland in the near future, I’m stuck with pouring over old photos and re-watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
For those of you lucky enough to be planning an adventure, I thought I’d share some of the places you shouldn’t skip. Here are my favorite spots in Southeast Iceland:
HöfnHöfn is an Icelandic fishing town with the most outrageous views of Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe. Besides having access to some insane glacier hikes (with the proper gear and guides, of course), there’s plenty of drool-worthy mountain views right from the campsite. When you’re not on crampons, I recommend finding your way to the golf course as the sun gets low for a panorama like the one above.
For the curious: Shell out 600 krónur for the thermal pool to stare at the Icelanders sitting calmly in a giant bucket of ice water (in 40°F weather) while you lounge in one of the various scalding hot tubs. Also, slides!
On the bucket list for next time: Visit Stokksnes. Build a cabin. Never return.
Read more about Höfn from my 2013 adventures here.
Skaftafell National Park
We spent about three days camping in Skaftafell National Park. Besides thanking the camping gods for overpriced laundry services and relatively clean bathrooms, I was quickly won over by the endless choice of activities. It’s known for the quick-and-crowded Svartifoss hike, but I recommend trying not to impale oneself with your crampons on the Skaftafellsjökul glacier or trekking to the Morsárjökull glacier to hear the thunder of the icefalls.
For when your body is on strike from taking another step in the upward direction: When the clouds clear up, the view from the campsite does not disappoint.
On the bucket list for next time: Aerial tours out of the nearby Skaftafell airport.
Read more about Skaftafell from my 2013 adventures here.
After seeing Skogafoss in nearly every Iceland travel blog and guidebook that I obsessed over before leaving for Iceland, I really wasn’t expecting that we would camp out so near to it. It’s a bit off a strange setup as during the day hundreds off tourists are wandering through your little tent village, but we were to busy hiking to notice. And nothing beats the early morning views you get after unzipping your tent in this spot.
For the seriously determined: Make the 20 mile (round-trip) hike up to the site of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption and you won’t regret it. Bring some marshmallows to try roast on the still-warm lava rocks that make up Magni, the small mountain formed in the eruption.
On the bucket list for next time: The Laugavegur Trail, a 3-5 day trek from Landmannalaugar to Skogar.
Read more about Skogar from my 2013 adventures here.
“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”
-The Secret Life of Walter Mitty