The land of fire and ice

The land of fire and ice is a dream destination for anyone looking for a diverse landscape that is simply different to home.

Contrasts between steaming, black lava fields and glacial ice caps - this is Iceland at its best. We also associate the land of fire and ice with hot springs and warm baths, preferably with a sea or glacier view. 

It’s also moss growing by babbling brooks and roaring glacial rivers with mighty waterfalls or the singing of seabirds on the ledges of the largest nesting cliffs in Europe, not to mention the spraying of whales as they emerge from the ocean waves that make Iceland so fascinating.

You will hardly find a destination in Europe that offers more contrasts than the land of trolls and elves. Let us invite you on a journey to the island of fire and ice and the smaller, yet unjustly lesser-known, archipelago of the Faroe Islands.

With the ferry & your own vehicle

If you own a camper and have at least 2-3 weeks of time, consider a return journey with the Norröna ferry. It connects Hirtshals (Denmark) with Seyðisfjörður (Eastern Iceland) and offers a relaxed journey with the feel of a cruise.

The crossing takes about 48 hours in each direction plus your return journey from Hirtshals. You can also plan a stopover on the Faroe Islands as part of the outward or return journey – an extraordinary group of islands that offers attractive and rewarding destinations. During a 3 day stay, you can visit the main islands of Streymoy and Eysturoy as well as the island of Vágar. Rest assured: the islands are sure to fascinate you.



Driving by car in Iceland

Ring Road No. 1 and the main routes are mostly asphalted or have a good gravel surface. Secondary routes are also usually manageable – although there are certainly exceptions to this rule. Tips regarding driving in Iceland can be found online on A film in English on is self-explanatory but helpful and worth watching!

Especially in the western and eastern Fjord regions, driving distances have been significantly reduced through the construction of bridges and dams through or over fjords and tunnels under mountain passes. The new tunnel on the Ring Road between Akureyri and Húsavík is a toll road.

Highland routes/highland buses (4x4 routes/F-roads)

Depending on your vehicle, you should carefully consider the choice of routes (recognizable by an “F” in front of the road number). 4x4 drive and a robust chassis with ground clearance is required (signposting!). Not every 4x4 vehicle is suitable for highland routes. Ask the locals if you are unsure. The Road Administration provides information on tel. 1777, or visit online.

If you do not feel confident in your or your vehicle’s ability to cross a certain route, highland buses run to special destinations such as the volcanic areas of Askja and Landmannalaugar or the glacial valley of Þórsmörk.

On gravel roads, it’s important to adapt your driving style according to the conditions. Drive quickly, but remember to be proactive. Even if you're alert, potholes and bumps are not always that easy to spot. This can be fatal - especially in the event of wet roads and inappropriate speed. Find out which speed is ideal for your car - every vehicle behaves differently. When gravel surfaces get rough, heavy demands are placed on the chassis and tires. That's why many camper van owners tend to avoid these kinds of roads. It’s up to you to decide whether to leave out the beautiful backcountry landscapes or to hazard the consequence of gravel roads slowly and carefully.

If there is oncoming traffic on gravel roads, you will need to slow down and drive to the right, stopping if necessary. This way, stone chipping damage can be largely avoided. Any change in the road surface is critical due to the abrupt changes this can cause to the vehicle's driving behavior and directional stability. These are indicated by a special traffic sign.

Be cautious in stormy weather

If wind speeds exceed 15 m/sec., special attention is required. This can also occur in summer. However, hurricane-force storms are more frequent during the winter months. It is worth following the weather report under Most storms don't last long, so taking a break is better than risking driving through it.

Driving outside of paved roads and lanes is strictly prohibited! Nature, especially vegetation, does not regenerate itself easily. Off-road tire tracks can remain visible for decades. Violators are punished with high fines and in serious cases even imprisonment. By the way: This also includes parking outside the designated parking areas.

Camping in the wild is prohibited

For this, we mainly have the inability of some unscrupulous visitors to follow basic rules and common sense to thank. The use of campsites for overnight stays is mandatory. The parking spaces at some camping sites are only suitable for camper vans under certain conditions. These were largely designed as unpaved lawns for camping in tents, descending into mud when it rains. In such cases, camping vans may need the help of tow rope to get out again.

However, it is not generally prohibited to spend the night in a camper van outside of campsites. However, the prerequisite for staying overnight is the consent of the landowner. The law does not specify how a tourist should identify who owns the land and how the landowner can be contacted. In such instances, a touch of tact and instinct is advised. Ask the locals or find a door to knock on. You can often find restaurants where you are welcome to stop by.


Bathing - pools

No visitor should leave Iceland without having experienced the incredible swimming pools. They are well-kept and often offer, in addition to swimming pools, hot tubs or whirlpools. The water in the pool is between 28°C and 33°C and in the hot tubs between 38° and 42°C. Modest entrance fees are usually charged. For more modern wellness facilities (Blue Lagoon, Mývatn Nature Bath, GeoSea in Húsavík or Vök Baths at Egilsstaðiretc.) you’ll need to dig a little deeper into your pockets, but they also have much to offer.

Hygiene is always a top priority. Before bathing, you’ll need to shower without swimwear - the picture shows where and how. Natural bathing spots in geothermal spring areas are especially exciting, some of which can be found in the highlands. Here and there you will also have the opportunity to bathe in warm streams, which makes hiking through these areas truly extraordinary.

. . . . .

    Flora and Fauna

    Iceland was described by those who discovered it as being covered in forest from mountains to coast. This makes it more astonishing to see how few trees and forest areas are left on the island today. Over the course of time, anything that was suitable for building and heating was cut down, while grazing took care of the rest. Attempts are now being made to reforest the country. The largest forest area is found at Hallormsstaður in the east, while the remaining forests mainly consist of scrublands.

    The highlands are dominated by volcanic deserts, at best sparsely covered with moss and grass. In the large, wide valleys and in the coastal zone, you will encounter meadows, pastures and cornfields that immerse the land in a lush green. Vegetables are mostly grown in greenhouses and partly outdoors in areas where thermal springs give off sufficient heat.

    You are unlikely to come across any wild land mammals. There is a small population of arctic foxes, as well as mink that have escaped from fur farms and spread across the country. Both have an impact on birdlife, especially in the case of ground-nesting birds, and are therefore hunted. There are also some reindeer in the east, the ancestors of which were abandoned by Norwegian settlers. Since the construction of the dam project on the eastern side of the island, they have migrated towards the coast. Last but not least, the growing population of runaway rabbits are breeding like, well, rabbits!

    Other mammals that you can expect to encounter close to settled areas are most often domesticated animals such as sheep and horses. But beware! Occasionally these will be found next to the road or right on it

    Seals are often spotted on the coasts, and you can look forward to seeing the whales off the island’s shores on a whale watching tour and to fresh fish on your plate. There are no reptiles or amphibians. You may be pleased to hear that there are very few insects – apart from the midges, especially on Mývatn. However, some wasp species have recently begun to settle in. Recently, there are also tiny mosquitoes in the south – which you might call globalization also finding its way into nature.

    The birdlife is overwhelming. Millions of seabirds breed on the bird cliffs and around the lakes. Puffins, gannets, guillemots and thick-billed guillemots are common, as are many species of gulls and the lively arctic terns that travel the long distance between Iceland and their winter quarters in Antarctica and South Africa.

    Inland waters and coasts are a paradise for many species of ducks, geese and swans. Many eider ducks can be found in the coastal area, which are bred to obtain high-quality eider down. White-tailed eagles and gyrfalcons are responsible for the natural regulation of the animal population, but their help is not sufficient, which is why ptarmigan and geese are also hunted by humans.

    Highlights of the tour

    You can easily reach the following highlights of the land of fire and ice with normal camper vans, mostly on asphalted roads. However, gravel sections of road cannot always be avoided. Exceptions requiring off-road vehicles are marked (4x4).

    When taking the ferry from Denmark, you arrive in Seyðisfjörður Eastern Fjords. 

    Don't underestimate the size of Iceland! It may seem feasible to drive around the island in 10-14 days taking the Ring Road. But when you leave the Ring Road to visit a particular peninsula or lane, it can easily turn into a drive of 4,500 km or more. Calculate based on an average speed of 50 km/h, and you can expect to be behind the wheel for between 50 and 90 hours.

    With this in mind, less is more! Consider yourself lucky if you can spend 3 weeks or more in Iceland. Then you’ll have time to pause in beautiful landscapes, go hiking, visit restaurants and much more. Perhaps you're even one of the lucky ones who take the ferry to Iceland in April and return home in October?

    No matter how you choose to do it: whether the readers of my MOBIL & AKTIV ERLEBEN travel guide for travellers with campers "Iceland with the Faroe Islands" stayed in Iceland for two weeks, two months or half a year, I often received enthusiastic feedback about the land of fire and ice, often with the hope of returning. 

    The East Fjords

    Lögurinn, Hallormstaður & Hengi waterfall

    The Lögurinn, one of Iceland’s largest lakes, is surrounded by interesting scenery. The forests of Hallormstaður and Hengifoss with its red layers of sediment are good examples. A worthwhile detour leads to the controversial Kárahnjúkar dam through a wide asphalt road in the highlands. A compensatory measure for the intervention in nature is the guest house with the hot spring Laugarfell.


    Borgarfjörður / Bakkagerði

    A visit to one of the most beautiful bird cliffs in the northeast is not only worth it because of the beautiful birds, but also because of the colourful mountains that offer many hiking opportunities all around.


    Northern Iceland - Diamond Circle & the Arctic Coast Way

    Askjá volcanic area (4x4)

    With a 4x4 car or highland bus, you can get to the highland areas of the crater lakes of the Askjá. There you can hike through the Drekagíl Gorge. All around the highly active volcanic area, the Herdubreið shield volcano dominates the landscape.


    Europe’s largest waterfalls & Ásbyrgi

    Jökulsá á Fjöllum roars northwards from Vatnajökull, forming deep gorges and waterfalls. Dettifoss is the largest waterfall in Europe. Unique rock formations can be found in the Vesturdalur and Ásbyrgi hiking areas.



    The capital of whale-watching.

    Since the 1990s, whale-watching tours in Skjálfandi Bay have been organized in the town with the impressive wooden church. The thermal bath GeoSea is yet another gem. Not far away in the high-temperature Þeistareikur area, a new geothermal power plant is being developed as well as infrastructure for tourism.


    Mývatn area

    The view over the "Mosquito Lake", a trip to the active volcanic area of Krafla with its crater lake Víti and a visit to the Mývatn Nature Bath are unforgettable. Equally impressive is the lake landscape of Mývatn with the "Dimmuborgir" (dark castles) lava formations, the explosion crater Hverfjall or the pseudo craters at Skútustaðir.

    . . .

      Akureyri & Eyjafjörður

      Akureyri, the capital of the North and Eyjafjörður - Iceland's longest fjord.

      Visit and enjoy the busy little town that is becoming increasingly international. The fjord stretches far into the land, lined by magnificent mountain scenery. There is plenty to discover - historically, culturally and architecturally. The fjord is becoming more and more of a mecca for whale-watching.

      . . . .


        Herring fishing used to be a major part of Iceland's exports. What remains is a beautiful museum, and the herrings are back too. The town, which is close to the Arctic Circle and surrounded by impressive mountains, leaves quite the impression with its views and is well worth a visit!


        Kjölur Highland Excursion-Route

        A 4x4 vehicle is no longer mandatory to reach Hveravellir. It is a special geothermal area. Not far from there, the melting of the glaciers in the volcanic massif revealed the colourful Kerlingarfjöll mountains – two stunning hiking areas!


        Vatnsnes Peninsula

        You can watch the seals on the coast of the peninsula or from Hvammstangi on a traditional oak boat observation trip. Fascinating rock formations such as the "monster" Hvitserkur or the rock castle Borgarvirki also await you there. 


        The Westfjords - for nature lovers who like lonely fjords


        The only glacier in the Westfjords, solitary and hidden, is only accessible on foot on a fascinating hike. If you love world of glaciers, this is the place for you.



        Metropolis of the Westfjords Ísafjörður.

        With its 2,600 inhabitants, Ísafjörður is a village embedded in the narrow fjord landscape. But the "capital of the Westfjords" offers everything that makes up a small metropolis. 


        Dýrarfjörður & Þingeyri

        The fjord with the town of Þingeyri is one of the oldest settlements in the Westfjords. The "Switzerland of the Westfjords” with almost 1,000 m high mountains can be seen from the Sandafell vantage point or hiked to from Þingeyri. 



        One of the most beautiful waterfalls.

        The water roars over the mountain edge, fanned out like to a Roman fountain. Worth seeing is also the nearby Hrafnseyri with its beautiful turf houses and museum.



        To the westernmost point of Europe.

        The nesting cliff stretches over 14 km long and over 400 m high out of the Atlantic - one of the largest nesting cliffs in the world. Hardly anywhere can you get closer to the birds. There are far more bird species to observe than just the popular puffins.


        Snæfellsnes & Reykholtsdalur, Snæfellsnes Peninsula

        It is said that if you want to see Iceland, you only need to see Snæfellsnes. Almost every landform in Iceland can be found here.

        The glaciated Snæfell volcano looms at the western edge of the national park with the same name. Other volcanic craters rise from the plain, including the picturesque Eldborg volcano northwest of Borgarnes. Hot springs, lava fields, rugged mountains and meadows, as well as cliffs and sandy stretches of coast can also be found there.



        Borgarnes & Reykholtsdalur

        From Borgarnes (with its interesting land settlement museum) you can reach Reykholtsdalur, where Europe's largest hot water spring bubbles forth. You can also relax at the Krauma thermal baths. Up the valley was once the home of Snorri Sturluson, who is credited with the writing of the sagas. Húsafell is the starting point for powerful lava caves, glacier trips, as well as for the unmissable Hraunfossar.



        You could quickly come full circle by zipping under the fjord to Reykjavík, but then you would miss one of the most beautiful fjords in Iceland, which appears almost cut off from the world by the tunnel. The landscape is magnificent - not least Iceland's highest waterfall, Glýmur, which you can reach via a strenuous hike.


        Golden Circle (Southwest)

        Reykjavík and the Capital Area: Reykjavík is known as the northernmost capital city in the world. Although the city itself "only" has around 85,000 inhabitants, if you include the suburbs, it forms a small metropolis. It's worth dedicating some time to the lively yet manageable old town. 

        The Reykjanes peninsula also awaits with its lava fields in the North and the bubbling mud pools and steam vents, lakes and impressive mountain scenery – and at its centre the Fagradalsfjall volcano which erupted in March 2021.


        About an hour's drive east of Reykjavík, on the dividing line between America and Europe, Alþing, the world's oldest parliament, was built in 974. In the meantime it has been moved to Reykjavík. Þingvellir is now a national park.


        Haukadalur - Geysers & Gullfoss

        All the springs get their name from the Geysir. Don't be disappointed: it is no longer active and just bubbling away, whereas its "little brother" Strokkur spouts a fountain of water up to 25 m high every few minutes. A few kilometres away, you can admire the famous Gullfoss (Golden Waterfall).

        . . . .

          South Coast

          Landmannalaugar & Eldgjá (4x4)

          In certain conditions you can reach both with 4x4 vehicles, and always with the highland bus. Colourful mountains and fumaroles - the area north of Mýrdalsjökull and Eyjafjallajökull puts on a display of everything that volcanic activity has to offer.


          Southernmost tip of Iceland - Cape Dýrhólaey

          Vík with its church - one of the most photographed places of worship in Iceland - is the southernmost village in the country, while Cape Dýrhólaey with its rock arch is Iceland’s southernmost point. The headland Reynisdrangar with its imposing rock formations and one of the most beautiful sandy beaches in the world, the "Black Beach", is certainly worth a visit.


          . .

            Skaftafell National Park

            Iceland's highest peak, Svartifoss, glacier termini, everything is close together near the Ring Road when you have the endless sand plain south of Vatnajökull behind you.


            The glacier lagoons Fjallsárlón & Jökuslárón

            Glacier termini empty into the lagoons, icebergs drift towards the sea. You can experience all of this on foot or on a boat tour.


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