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You don't need a GT to have a grand tour – when it comes to great road trips, cheaper is better 

Hyundai i10 parked at sunset in Iceland 
The Hyundai i10, one of the cheapest cars on the market, was more than enough for two people to explore Iceland's wildernesses  Credit: Edward Rees

I jump at the opportunity of a road trip. You could call me a road trip aficionado. I have been lucky enough to explore some amazing places by car, both at home and abroad; I love the simplicity of driving on new roads to get to new destinations, creating my own itinerary from behind the wheel.

Iceland had been on my list for a while. Let’s not beat around the bush, it's an expensive destination. I nearly keeled over when a camper van hire company told us we would need to put down a deposit of over £2,000. But you don't necessarily need a motorhome, or even a particularly good car, to benefit from the freedom of the open road.

My boyfriend and I hired a Hyundai i10. Big enough for a couple, camping gear, lots of food, AND a large suitcase flung across the back seats. Admittedly, we packed too much – a rucksack each would have been ample – but we didn’t know what to expect, and that was part of the fun. Who needs a camper van when you can rent a tent off a very good-looking Icelandic man? Armed with sleeping bags, a gas stove and a handy lighter that gave-up on the first day, we were ready to begin our incredible journey across southern Iceland. 

Iceland’s roads can be hazardous, and the road surfaces are often unpredictable. One minute, you’re on a smooth and even road, heading towards beautiful snow-covered mountains; the next, you’re grappling with rutted terrain, driving at a snail’s pace to avoid potholes. The weather is equally temperamental; if you plan to travel there in August or September, prepare for some blustery winds and heavy showers. But don’t let a few raindrops stop you from getting out there. Swap the sandals for trainers and the cardigan for a cagoule, then you’re good to go. 

(There is little else more satisfying than putting up a tent in the pouring rain and realising you’ve managed to keep the inside dry.) 

Iceland is an expensive country, but Charlotte made the most of it by hiring the cheapest car she could find  Credit: Edward Rees

But having the car was invaluable. We were able to see and do the very best that south Iceland has to offer in just four days. The car was very economical – we only refuelled twice – and gave us the freedom to do what we wanted, rather than adhere to the prescriptive schedule of a travel company. We could make unplanned stops just to snap a few pictures and take in the views, and we were never restricted to a particular area as our hotel was folded up in the boot. Time was our own, as were the roads that we followed.

Unlike a taxi that just gets you from A to B, or a tour bus that drops you off at designated attractions, driving left us free to find many hidden treasures, most of which we encountered by mistake. Sure, we did the touristy things too – Blue Lagoon, Seljalandsfoss waterfall – but at our own pace. No tight schedules to abide by, no standing around in big groups reminiscent of school trips, just us and the open road: pure independence. 

The spontaneity afforded by independent road travel means stopping whenever you see something interesting  Credit: Edward Rees

The country is permeated with campsites (washing facilities included); therefore, plenty of options to park up and watch the sunset from wherever you find yourself. Every night is different, and that’s what makes this holiday truly special. There’s something very refreshing about embracing nature and leaving behind the tech-dependent world we’re all used to living in. Our phones were only used for navigational purposes and music in the car, which meant we largely relied on each other for entertainment. Remember face to face interaction? It’s what we did before memes.

Any road trip provides a much-needed technology detox, and Iceland is the perfect place to take a break from the daily grind. Only in Iceland will you find hot springs, glacier lagoons and black sand beaches by the side of the road. It takes a second to pull the handbrake, open the car door and explore; everywhere felt like an outdoor museum. We were learning so much about our world as we wandered around – eyes beaming, heads turning, and cameras at the ready, we were blown away by Iceland’s natural beauty. And we couldn't have done it without a car. 

Have you been on a memorable road trip – or do you find the idea quite repellent? Let us know in the comment section below.