Camping has become keeping up with the Jónssons
Still more daring are those who choose to rough it in the hinterlands of suburban Reykajvík. The camping ground in Laugardalur nestled between Laugardalshöll Arena and the Reykjavík Hostel can be an excellent alternative to hotels in the area as long as the weather agrees. The price is right at kr. 750 per person, replete with amenities: newly landscaped grounds, nice bathrooms, showers, kitchens, and a grill area. Plus there is Katrín in the tourist office, who can outcharm any concierge in the city. She is ready and willing to book tours, answer any questions, and sell you lighter fluid. While touring the facilities, I ran into one local who had a bit of a gripe when asked what he thought of the site. “This is all very pleasant here, but it’s a landscaped park full of trees. We might as well be in Germany. But this is Iceland. Chop them down! Let’s not fool ourselves; it just isn’t very representative of what it’s like to camp in the rest of the country. This is not sveitarómantík” (the romantic countryside). He’s referring to the Icelandic notion of pastoral beauty and the Icelandic aversion to trees once they breach waist-level. While the grounds are very nice, it is admittedly odd to be surrounded by a sports arena, skating rink, busy residential streets, and cranes looming in the distance. It simply doesn’t spell “outdoor adventure” very clearly. Those looking for budget accommodation in big, bad, blow-your-life-savings Reykjavík can do little better than the camping ground outside of pitching a tent on the median of Miklabraut, but those in search of a more essentially Icelandic experience should push past the suburbs of Reykjavík and explore the vast and remarkable beauty of the countryside. July is doubtlessly the prime month to do just this.
Icelandic farmers are rarely the misanthropes people take them for
The time for action in Iceland is inevitably at the beginning of the month. Everyone has been paid and like the best of consumers, they are all eager to spend as quickly and as recklessly as possible. However, the beginning of June is still a touch too nippy for enjoyable camping. The first week in August is a huge national holiday in which the country descends upon the Vestmannaeyjar for a weekend of utter debauchery. This leaves the first weekend in July, which has become the traditional time for city mice to pack up, file out of Reykjavík, and run for the hills. In the past few years, Þórsmörk and Þingvellir have been among the most frequented destinations, but other places like Flúðir or Laugarvatn offer all the necessary amenities (including showers, internet, and a café if you’ve had your fill of lamb dogs) and are not as peopled as the more popular sites. However, for the quintessential camping experience, I highly recommend taking off in any direction (by bus, by car, or, my favorite, by thumb). Keep your eyes peeled for any place that strikes your fancy and stake out your own site, but remember that someone has most likely staked it out long before you and he’s called a farmer. So find the local farmer and politely ask for permission to set up camp. And if the spirit moves you, invite him back for a lamb dog and chew the fat of the land with him; Icelandic farmers are rarely the misanthropes people take them for. If you get to stinking, don’t fret. Most villages have a municipal pool where you can shower for next to nothing. If you can stand your own stench, force down one more lamb dog, and manage to actually sink a stake into the ground, then you may yet find a little sveitarómantík for yourself.