Where to begin……..
Hello to my faithful following of two! I’ve decided to continue my blog with Iceland, as it is a ‘hot’ destination at the moment, and although relatively easy to navigate, a few pointers can go a long way. Before I begin however, I must confess a critical error on my part. I am sure at one point or another we have all experienced that fatefull moment when your computer has crashed and you get that cold realization that nothing has been backed up. Well this has happened to me and of course taken my Iceland photos to the unknown, poor me. Therefore, before I continue, I’d like to send a quick shout out to Molly for lending me a couple of photographs and Google for any others I think may benefit my points in Iceland.
There and Away
There are two decent airlines based out of Iceland, Iceland Air and the no frills airline, WOW……….both will get you there and beyond safely, but when I say no frills I mean no anything including a cup of coffee which will cost around 3 Euro’s…but you can’t beat the price, both airlines will give you a free stop over to or from Europe or North America depending on your departure point, but first you need to decide on length of stay. In my opinion there really is only two ways to get the Icelandic experience………either as a whirlwind 3 day dip your toe in a hot springs and grab a famous icelandic hot dog or take 10 days and see the whole Island. We stayed 7 days which was too short to see the whole Island, and yet too long to drive the small southern quarter.
Tip #1 – This is the only place I have ever been, where you can visit duty free as you fly into the country………buy your snacks and booze here, it will save you a ton of money, a lesson I learned the hard way.
Tip #2 – If you are just transiting through Reykjavik, pack a lunch. We ordered 4 soggy sandwiches, 4 bottles of water 500 ml and 2 small bags of crisps (potato chips my North American friends) which set me back nearly 70.00 USD!
GETTING AROUND –
Although the bus is a very economical way to travel around Iceland, you are limited with long waits, and missed sights with stops being few and far between some sight seeing treasures. For those who want to get off the beaten track, there are a number of safari’s available, but with a little adventure in spirit, renting a car will give you access to beautiful sites, long walks and waterfalls that will take your breath away.
Tip #3 – Automobile Insurance is a necessity here but be aware of the up-sell upon arrival. Take the full insurance package before you arrive as they will offer you all sorts of top ups once there….even insurance for dust. Check the car thoroughly as they will try to get you to pay for old damage. We booked with SIXT who I’d never heard of prior to Iceland but found them very reliable. The car was adequate but I would get a small suv for the numerous off road lanes that require you to have 4×4.
If you don’t like the famous Icelandic fish stew (plokkfiskur) , there is always the famous Icelandic Hot Dog… Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur in Reykjavik is one of the best hotdogs we tried. Not what you would find in a Yankees-Blue Jays mix up, but order it “eina með öllu” style or “the works” and it will surely delight even the daintiest of palate’s. Lamb is always on the menu, and although you may not be able to stomach a plate of boiled sheep’s head and potato, a good lamb stew is always welcomed after a long walk through the fjord’s. To those on a budget, look for the ‘Pink Pig’. BONUS, is one of the largest discount food shops in Iceland where $10.00 USD will get you a bunch of ripe bananas, and anything else you may be missing in your diet. Remember, this is a rocky island and almost everything is imported in, so costs are much greater than at home. Iceland is really starting to develop greenhouses heated by natural spring geysers, so more and more fresh vegetables are becoming readily available.
WHERE TO LAY YOUR HEAD
If you think the flight prices are too good to be true, this is where the pocket book balances. Camping is available almost anywhere you want outside the city, but strict rules prohibit camp fires and cooking fires. So then what is next? Hostels are next in line to save you some pennies, however don’t think you getting one past them. Doubles, triples and
quads with shared bathrooms will set you back between 200-300 USD per room per night. Hotels aren’t much more expensive, but for the best value and I’m not just talking cost, will be renting a small Icelandic cottage. It appeared to us that most people owned one of these summer homes and they were dotted right across the entire country. They are easily bookable through AIRBNB, VRBO or any other reputable website. We found these ranged from 200-300 USD a night and were the most beautiful of locations.
STYKKISHOLMUR TO THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
If you have seen Ben Stiller in ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’, then you may recognize this iconic r
ock and church. Stykkishólmur is a town and municipality situated in western Iceland approximately 175km from Reykjavik, on the northern coast of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. Not sure whether I was out of breath climbing the cliff or just from the sheer beauty of the view but this was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to Iceland.
The weather here can be very temperamental and we experienced winds like nowhere else we’ve been, it was at this point I realized why dust insurance was a required expense. From the top of the climb the views were magnificent. Looking down, we watched as the ferry Baldur pulled out heading to Breidafjordur fjord in the Westfjords. Lots of wildlife and seclusion for around 50.00 Euros each way.
The west is also a great place to observe the lava-scarred Reykjanes peninsula. Here lies one of the world’s major plate boundaries, the Mid Atlantic Ridge, where you can literally step from one side of the earth to the other, and experience first hand where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates collide.
THREE DAYS IS ALL YOU HAVE
If three days is all you have time for then the Golden Circle will leave you wanting more. The Golden Circle is a 300km tourist route inland from Reykjavik which includes Thingvellir National Park, Haukadalur’s geothermal area with the Great Geysir and Strokkur and the Gullfoss waterfall. The tour route can also include Hverageroi geothermal heated greenhouses and the Kerio crater.
Tip #4 The iconic Iceland Spa-although most who visit Iceland are drawn to the Blue Lagoon, please think twice. I would describe it as a ‘boil-in-the-bag shag fest’. For the true Icelandic experience, most towns have outdoor swimming pools all heated volcanically! Watch out though, the experience is not for the shy, as there is a strict swimming pool etiquette. All bathers must shower naked before suiting up, and don’t even think about cheating as you will surely be sternly challenged by change room ‘guards’ who are hyper vigilant in thier task.
Finally you can’t leave Iceland without a visit to one of their many picturesque waterfalls or the explosive gush of the great geysers of Haukadalur . Here are just a few photos of iconic Skógafoss, Seljalandsfoss, and Skaftafell.