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Old 12th January 2022, 16:36   #1
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Default Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay

ROADTRIP AROUND ICELAND IN A CAMPERVAN


Iceland is such an inviting place for travel. You're in for a treat, especially if you choose to do a road trip around the country. It is in fact, the best way to go around and see this beautiful country at your own pace.

We had taken a family trip (Self, Wife and 4.y.o.kid), around Iceland, in a camper van. This was September 2019, pre-pandemic, and the world was a different place. I finally found the time now, to compose a photoessay to share our experience with our fellow TBHPians.

Iceland does fall within the Schengen Area and the visa approvals are managed by the Danish embassy if applying directly to visit the country. It's non Euro zone and Icelandic Króna is the currency. Cards and online payments are widely accepted and most of the country had lightning fast internet and cellular connectivity.

We flew in to Amsterdam and connected to Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland. This is the main international airport and there are few other domestic airports around the country.

The Airport is actually in Keflavik, west of Reykjavik city. There are a multitude of options available for vehicle rentals in and around the airport. The country's travel itinerary and attractions are conveniently designed around road trips. So, it is a very accessible and practical proposition.

We could've hired a smaller car and travelled around, but would have had to stop for the night at hotels/ lodges. Iceland is expensive and it made sense to combine the travel and stay into one campervan experience. The bigger motivation was to introduce the fun of the great outdoors to my young son and bundle up a great family caravan experience.

The route is pretty straightforward and well laid out. It connects through all major sights you must see and is optimised for road trip schedules.

Simply called the Ring Road, it stretches like a ring starting and terminating at Reykjavik for reference.


Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-screen-shot-20220113-10.37.36-am.png

There is plenty of information in the airport itself and even a kid can get around quite easily (eh, if he could read).
Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-1_1_introboard.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-1_2_airport-exit.jpg

I did a number crunching comparison of all the rental providers and zeroed in on rent.is campervanrentals. There are many options and each have their USPs at different price points. You can choose the size and price that suits you best (P.S: I'm not affiliated with any of them)

I was picked up by the rental company in a car, from the airport and was driven to their office 10 minutes away, while my family waited at an airport hotel. I checked the vehicle and registered my license and documentation with the friendly reception desk. Had requested them to add on a child seat and installed it in the van. You have several options of insurance covers you can add on for peace of mind above the minimum required package.

I chose the Renault Trafic 3 Campervan. The van was clean and ready. Fuelled up to tank full and I had to return the vehicle at the end of the trip topped up again. I noted the dings and dents (not many, only very very few memories left behind by earlier renters) and had the company's proprietary stickers stuck on them for marking, so that they could inspect on my return for new dings, if any. I took a lot of pictures and a video of the van during pickup.

The vehicle was tall and ran on narrow tracks. LHD and size of the vehicle took a little time to get used to, but I was comfortable by the time I drove back and reached the airport, and started enjoying the drive. Only to be interrupted by a sudden downpour, which we learnt later was typical of Iceland with winds knocking our windows down.

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-1_5_campervanexterior.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-2_1_campervanprofile.jpg

The camper was modular and had everything that a family of 3 could ever need. It had a bed with cushions that could lay out flat for sleeping time (Slept 3 comfortably in length and width) Lift the cushions up and a lift the lid beneath to expose cavernous storage. We had blankets and pillows stocked here. We could cram in more of our larger backpacks into this area also. There's a different version of the Trafic 3, which comes with a pull up table that pops up between the beds for a comfortable dining area when the bed is not being used.

Between the bed area and the driver row was a small kitchen counter with a cooking gas-can operated small stove and all kitchen utensils one would need for whipping up a basic meal. A small water tank with a tap was available with freshwater. A small refrigerator was integrated below the counter in a neat and clever use of space inside the van. The windows in the back are sheeted up in the campervan version of the Trafic3, and the van came with cool exterior graphics. Rental Companies took these graphics seriously, and always outdid each other. There was a nice and toasty heating system in the van which was a life saver during the chilly nights.

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-2_2_campervan-random1.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-1_4_campervan-interior.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-1_5_campervan-interior.jpg

We drove straight to the nearest supermarket and picked up all the groceries and milk we would need for the next few days. Stocked up some eggs and sausages to whip up healthy and wholesome meals while we were on the road.

Until few years ago, you could park anywhere in Iceland for the night and enjoy the raw nature of the landscape. But this has been regulated recently due to the increase in number of visitors and complaints of intrusion into private property.

So the Government has ear marked 'campsites'. These are available on the map and are basically large camping grounds with a central shed+office. There are toilets and washrooms to one side of the grounds. There are designated parking spots depending on size and type of vehicle and you pay a small fee for just parking. Extra for usage of bathroom (through tokens you purchase ).

If you had an RV or a larger camper trailer with its own toilet, the campsite has provisions for connecting and emptying the sludge tank, and filling points for freshwater into the over head water tank, when provided. Th campsite is a compulsory trash sorting and emptying point also, where you had to empty your trash collected over the previous day of driving. The campsite also offers special bins for disposing used cooking gas cans for recycling.

The campervan came with a set of picnic tables and three chairs perfect for setting up a neat dining table quickly and for stretching out.

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-2_3_campsite1.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-2_4_campsiite2.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-2_5_campsite4.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-2_6_1_campsite-boxstore.jpg

There are central 'meeting halls' where you can come in, meet other campers and spend some cosy time in a centrally heated shed, heated further by so many peoples congregated body heat. We did spend some time to mingle with other folk and get tips on the route ahead and preferred camping grounds. It was interesting to share tales about each other and we cherish these interactions always as the best part of our travel experience.

We got enough table counter space finally to make more 'elaborate meals' in these sheds and share with other travellers.

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-2_6_6_campsite-omlette.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-2_6_campsite_6.jpg

Always have something to engage the kids on road trips. It will save you lot of stress while driving and buy you some quiet time.

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-2_7_campsire_painting-hibby.jpg

The roads were smooth, well laid and fatigue free. We could pull up anywhere and take great pictures. After a while, the camera just got in the way, so we enjoyed the drive and our time together instead, without the compulsive urge to document it.



Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-3_1_church.jpg

One night, we felt a little fancy, and enjoyed a meal with fresh fish from a local restaurant (more than the cultural and culinary exposure, we were bored with our van meal and wanted to break the monotony )

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-3_1_foodmenu.jpeg

Nights get quickly chilly and you have to park at designated spots in the campsite and batten down for the nap. I intermittently ran the heater, so as to not drain the battery overnight. It got pretty warm pretty quick and no climate control gimmicks. So I was the climate control guy, waking up now and then, zipping myself out of the sleeping bag and regulating the heat, as the van gently rocked to tunes of howling winds. It was pitch dark outside and we did catch a fleeting glimpse of the elusive Aurora Borealis from one of the campsites briefly. We were too overwhelmed to pull out a camera, and so glad we didn't. (If you are really looking for the Aurora experience, there are apps that show probability of spotting them from different locations, based on weather and some lodges which offer that experience as a package.)

We prefer self-drive travel wherever we go, because you can take in the sights as you like it, when you like it and as long as you like it. Itinerary is not fixed, and there are no other dependent variables. You can skip spots which don't interest you and stop over at places which do interest you but not on the tourist map.

There were roads called 'F' roads which meant 'Four Wheel Drive Only' and could be accessed only with 4x4. I made a mental promise to return sometime in the future and take a 4x4 off into the great beyond. It would truly be an even better adventure.

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-3_2_random.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-3_2_walk-dada.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-3_2_walkdadaaa.jpg

Last edited by vigneshkumar31 : 13th January 2022 at 17:16.
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Old 12th January 2022, 18:14   #2
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Driving Warning: Iceland is brutal with its strong winds and unpredictable weather. The winds are strong enough to topple cars and vehicles which went turtle caught in cross winds are the most common accident, we were warned.
If the van is pointing downwind, open the door with caution, and restraint, because the wind is going to pry it ajar with a strong jolt. I was very careful about this, except one time, I let it swing in a hurry and it cranked violently open. Luckily, no one got hurt.
I myself felt like a huge windsail with the van's large profile area running on tiny tires, and on narrow tracks as I drove down long roads with unobstructed vastness on either side, with cross winds reminding you to drive with caution.

You will never run out of horses in the country side. They run free and wild and its a happy sight to spot them, especially since people are tougher to find, as towns are few and far between.

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-3_3_1_horses.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-3_3_horses.jpg

Game of Thrones? No, Iceland is dotted with great geological formations. The terrain is shaped by nature and it is truly the land of fire and ice.

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-3_3_game-thrones.jpg

The road is great, the weather is good and you cover distances quite swiftly without even realising it. The entire Ring Road trip can be done in 10 days (recommended), but we took a couple of days extra to enjoy the drive and the country.

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-3_4_roadtrip.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-3_8_roadtrip.jpg

One morning you are visiting a waterfall, and by the evening you will be checking out natural geysers, driving through volcanic plains. The next day, you will enter glacier area and drive through bridges with icebergs floating beneath. That is the assortment of wonders Iceland throws at you.

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-3_9_iceroad.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-3_10_icelroad.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-3_33_roadsign-campervan.jpg

Waterfalls come in all shapes and sizes, with this one (Seljalandsfoss) especially which lets you trek and walk behind it.

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-3_33_seljandosfoss.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-3_34_seljandosfosse.jpg

It is one of the few places in the world, where you literally drive up and park next to the glacier. The glacier allows you to take a closer look and even take a bite out of it, thanks to these amphibians. I took a closer look on one of the junked examples parked off the road. It operates like a standard road vehicle with 3 pedals and a steering and the buoyant body is a boat which can float on water as you drive off land.

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-3_99_jokularsongladr.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-3_9999_amphibian_water.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-3_999999_amphibian.jpg

The Diamond Beach is famous for sparkling diamond (ice bits) washing ashore. Beyond the spectacle, its a sad reminder of global warming.

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-4_1_diamong-beach.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-4_2_diamond-beach.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-4_3_diamond-beach.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-4_4_4_diamond-beach.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-4_4_diamong-beach.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-4_6_diamond-beach.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-4_5_diamondbeachh.jpg

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-4_5_jokularson-glacuer.jpg

Iceland is a place which runs on the split between the geological plates (North American and Eurasian tectonic plates) of the two continents. The Bridge between the Continents connects the two land masses and apparently grows wider every year because of continental drift.
As I stood on the bridge, this is the second time, I felt like I was at two places at the same time, the first being in Istanbul where the Bosophorous splits Asia and Europe.

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-4_4_bridge-between-continetns.jpg

There are folklore and fairy tales draped around the terrain in plenty. Interesting to hear these stories handed down through generations, and almost every location had a story. It was fascinating for me to collect these stories as we travelled.
Like Brimkettil, a cauldron where an ogre used to bathe in the night and got turned to stone by sunlight.

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-4_6_brimkettil.jpg

We ended the trip circling back to Reykjavik and spent the last evening bathing in the soothing hot volcanic geothermal pools, a fitting finale to our memorable road trip.

Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay-5_1_volcanic-hotsprings.jpg

I returned the van the night before the flight out, and topped up fuel just before dropping it off. They accepted the car, and relieved my credit card of the deposit block, and bade farewell to me with a chat over hot coffee and cookies. They dropped me off at the airport hotel where my family was waiting.

Iceland was a very accommodating family adventure where most of the things we would encounter as challenged elsewhere, had been thought of and arranged by the authorities. So even with very less monitoring, and very less enforcement, the system runs like clockwork.

The entire experience was a dreamy road trip which gave us time to bond ,as a family without screens or TV, and gave an opportunity for me to introduce camping and road trips to my kid.

I sign off with hope, looking into the future, for better days, with this pandemic gloom behind us, where we will all be able to travel freely and drive seamlessly to enjoy such great places.

Last edited by vigneshkumar31 : 13th January 2022 at 16:50.
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Old 14th January 2022, 07:27   #3
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Note from Support: Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Travelogues section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 14th January 2022, 10:00   #4
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Default Re: Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay

What an incredible trip you made. A different experience of reading it and fresh to the eyes!
Thanks for sharing!
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Old 14th January 2022, 10:30   #5
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I have been planning to travel to Iceland for long time now, but somehow cant make it.

I am glad I could see how beautiful it is through your photos.

Regards
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Old 14th January 2022, 11:34   #6
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Default Re: Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay

vigneshkumar31 What a brilliant way to experience Iceland! Loved the writeup and pictures. Definitely gonna add this to my bucket list, Cheers!
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Old 14th January 2022, 12:27   #7
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Default Re: Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay

A great way top cover another off-beat place. You saw a country which is less visited by Indians and on top of that covered it living a camper life!

Salute to you and your family's spirit!
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Old 14th January 2022, 13:01   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vigneshkumar31 View Post

We ended the trip circling back to Reykjavik and spent the last evening bathing in the soothing hot volcanic geothermal pools, a fitting finale to our memorable road trip.
Lovely travelogue , Iceland never fails to bring a smile on my face. I believe you covered the ring road anti-clockwise?

Coincidentally, I also did my Iceland road trip in September 2019, had rented a JEEP Renegade and went for a few detours, including a day trip to Landmannalaugar. While camping at Skaftafell we got a glimpse of the Aurora.

Next time I plan to go to Ţórsmörk and also cover a bit of the north-western side of Iceland.

Spike
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Old 14th January 2022, 14:06   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SPIKE ARRESTOR View Post
Lovely
Next time I plan to go to Ţórsmörk and also cover a bit of the north-western side of Iceland.

Spike
Thanks Spike!
Iceland’s a dream.

Sep 2019, eh? We may have crossed paths.

I’m so yearning to do the detours on F roads on a 4x4.
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Old 14th January 2022, 14:32   #10
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Awesome travelogue Vigneshkumar!!
It is definitely brave and adventurous of you to travel in this way with a 4 year old kid! All respects to you and ofcourse your kid!!
How did you finalise the kind of warm clothing that you will need?
And can you give a ball park figure on the total amount you spent on the trip including the rental van? Do you think there would be enough vegetarian options on the travel route, especially in the local restuarants?
Its a place that I have always wanted to visit...your post definitely inspires me to make it a dream come true.
Cheers & here's more to travels!!
Krish
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Old 14th January 2022, 15:17   #11
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Great post Vignesh. Must have been an enchanting experience and your 4 yr old is tasting the first blood of roadtrips .
Could you throw some light on the driving license, health insurance requirements?
-Santosh
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Old 14th January 2022, 15:17   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vigneshkumar31 View Post

I sign off with hope, looking into the future, for better days, with this pandemic gloom behind us, where we will all be able to travel freely and drive seamlessly to enjoy such great places.
An incredible experience captured in words in a great way! Makes me want to do this someday.
PS - the eggs look really big!
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Old 14th January 2022, 17:02   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emmenhr View Post
Awesome travelogue ?
And can you give a ball park figure on the total amount you spent on the trip including the rental van?!
Krish
Thanks emmenhr.

The ballpark is largely going to be decided by the flight fare. Since you have to take a minimum of two flights from India, typically to some place in EU and then hop off to Reykjavik. Iceland is expensive to fly into and you would find the EU-Iceland price in the same order as Ind-EU. The total budget should come down once one has flight fares sorted. We prefer and recommend shoulder season for travel for better prices and lesser crowds.

The next cost factor is the choice of camper/vehicle. There are a plethora of options at various price points. For a simple 3 bedder, small van like what we took, it should cost between 12-15k INR per day. You can cut this greatly if it’s say, a couple travelling in a Renault duster type rental with those pop up roof tents. They would be the economic option. While there are full fledged RVs with showers and sleeping 6 also for a high budget.

With travel and kids, we feel it’s better to start early. It is beneficial to start doing small trips very young to let them get used to travelling and for us parents to get used to their needs. We did Sri Lanka with our kid when he was 4 months old. Kids are inherently curious and generally accommodating once they get the hang of it, and tend to invariably surprise us with their flexibility.

As for your query on clothing, it’s generally advisable to dress in layers while travelling so that you can tune up and down the warmth as weather can change quickly, within few hours and keeping the wind out is the key. My son and I are wearing layers with outer Jack Wolfskin here, they are pricey but earned their value in standing up to windslap. Any decent quality jacket/ wind heater with suitable layers would do.

We mostly cooked our own meals, from simple groceries picked up from supermarkets. I don’t see difficulty in veg only preparations in a similar manner. Ready to cook meals should be a quick fix for few days. This would be the most economic option.
In restaurants , Vegetarian options might not be rich in variety but definitely it is not impossible to find. Besides veg, the Vegan wave is sweeping the world, and I find more options now on menus than say a decade ago. It might be relatively more on price and less on options but definitely not impossible.

Hope I was able to answer your queries, please do PM me if any specific price you wish to know. Happy travels !

Quote:
Originally Posted by san711 View Post
Great post Vignesh. Must have been an enchanting experience and your 4 yr old is tasting the first blood of roadtrips .
Could you throw some light on the driving license, health insurance requirements?
-Santosh
Welcome to the Forum Santosh. Honoured to have your first post on this thread.

Both my wife and I have International Driving Permits so I registered using that at the renters office during pickup. Health insurance and travel insurance we prefer to take - not necessarily the cheapest - but some company which has a good claim track record and preferably a tie up of Indian and Foreign brands, like say Apollo-Munich. This helps to have some option of retro claim when you’re back home also. Main parameter is the key player in your destination who can give fuss free claims and settlements when required. We engage both health and travel insurance for complete peace of mind in such trips especially where medical emergencies can drain money and mindspace quickly and even small flight delays or changes can derail plans. In this particular trip we did encounter one flight cancellation. We got reimbursed by both the airline (according to EU Norms) and by our travel insurer. We believe comprehensive travel and medical insurance is an investment and not to be considered an expense.

Hope it helps.
Cheers

Last edited by Aditya : 14th January 2022 at 17:48. Reason: Back to back posts merged
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Old 14th January 2022, 17:56   #14
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Default Re: Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay

Very well written experience vigneshkumar31

I was there for the same trip in November 2019 (just before covid hit). Never got around to documenting my trip even though I registered for Team-BHP membership so I could share my travels.

Unfortunately I was unable to complete the entire ring road and had to turn back after Vatnajokull National park on the south side of the island and hence missed the northern island completely. However, I do intend to complete it sometime in the future hopefully in a campervan .

Road trip is the only way to travel around Iceland as the public transport system is virtually non existent. I was greatly inspired by TSK1979 travelogue,(https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/trave...-ice-fire.html (Iceland: A song of Ice and Fire)) a must read for all planning Iceland road trip (and also one of the reasons for not being able to complete my travelogue as this sets the bar very high).

Quote:
Originally Posted by SPIKE ARRESTOR View Post

Coincidentally, I also did my Iceland road trip in September 2019, had rented a JEEP Renegade and went for a few detours, including a day trip to Landmannalaugar. While camping at Skaftafell we got a glimpse of the Aurora.

Next time I plan to go to Ţórsmörk and also cover a bit of the north-western side of Iceland.

Spike
I missed renting a JEEP renegade and it was the only sore point of my trip. Made do with a Renault Duster (no complaints with the vehicle but a JEEP would have been awesome).

For Ţórsmörk, you need a seriously capable vehicle (super Jeeps) as most rentals are not insured if you go there as the only approach is via the F-road.
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Old 14th January 2022, 19:29   #15
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Default Re: Camper Van road-trip around Iceland - A Photo Essay

Great trip, awesome you did it. I just spent time planning but not executing it. Too bad wow air went bust and ended direct flights.
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