This is the link to my Trip report & photographs - Part 1:
OCTOBER TRIP REPORT – PART 2:
Our planned itinerary was disrupted due to the weather, as mentioned earlier. So, we drove back to Reykjavik on 24th Oct itself & spent the rest of the days there, exploring Reykjavik & going on day trips to Reykjanes & West Iceland.
Overall Itinerary (as planned):
1. 13th Oct - Arrive at Reykjavik at 15:10. Relax. Overnight at Reykjavik.
2. 14th October – At Reykjavik. Whale watching.
3. 15th October – Photography tour to Snaefellsnes.
4. 16th Oct – Leave Reykjavik in the morning. On the road for 11N/12D. Back to Reykjavik on 27th Oct, evening.
5. 28th Oct – At Reykjavik. Also Northern lights trip.
6. 29th Oct - Landmannalaugar & Hekla by superjeep. (Went to West Iceland, instead)
7. 30th Oct - At Reykjavik. Northern lights trip.
8. 31st Oct – Early morning departure from hotel. Flight back home.
Drive itinerary (as planned):
Day 1: Reykjavik – Hafnarfjordur – Gardskagi (light-houses) – Grindavik - Kleifarvatn – Graenvatn & Krysuvik – Selfoss. Overnight at Selfoss.
Day 2: Selfoss – Gullfoss & Geysir – Seljalandsfoss – Skogar – Skogafoss – Myrdalsjokull – Dryholaey – Reynisfjara – Vik. Overnight at Vik.
Day 3: Vik – Klauster – Lakagigar & Fagrifoss – via Skeidararsandur – Skaftafell - Svartifoss – Hof. Overnight at farm near Jokulsarlon.
Day 4: Explore Skaftafell, Jokulsarlon & Vatnajokull. Overnight at farm near Jokulsarlon.
Day 5: Skalafellsjokull – Hofn - Djupivogur – Berunes – Breidalsvik. Overnight at Breidalsvik.
Day 6: Breidalsvik - Stodvarfjordur (stone collection) - Faskrudsfjordur - Reydarfjordur – Eskifjordur - Seydisfjordur. Overnight at Seydisfjordur.
Day 7: Relax at Seydisfjordur. Hikes & walks. Overnight at Seydisfjordur.
Day 8: Seydisfjordur – Lagarflot – Hallormsstadaskogur – Reykjahlid – Dimmuborgir. Overnight at Dimmuborgir.
Day 9: Explore Myvatn / Krafla & Dettifoss. Overnight at Dimmuborgir.
Day 10: Dimmuborgir – Godafoss – Akureyri – Laufas - Siglufjordur. Overnight at Siglufjordur.
Day 11: Siglufjordur. Overnight at Siglufjordur.
Day 12: Siglufjordur to Reykjavik. Drive via Hofsos (Grof church & museum ) and Glaumbaer.
PLANNING A TRIP
While planning our itinerary, it was initially confusing. Iceland looked pint sized, drivable in a few days! Most people seemed to visit for 3 to 4 days. The more I read about Iceland, I realized that even 3 weeks might be too short! Planning a trip to Iceland, of all my trips so far, has required the most amount of precision planning. Especially if you are travelling in winter & have to deal with a lot of challenges: shorter day-light hours, reduced timings for museums & stores, hotels, restaurants & museums that might be shut, towns that are more deserted than in summer, delays due to the weather, change of itinerary due to the weather. Driving in Iceland was a different ball-game altogether…..you see very few people on the road, so you can’t ask for directions frequently. Rest-stops are few & far apart. You can’t pull over for your meals whenever you like…it has to be planned or the option is to carry food with you. None of this is to put you off Iceland; it’s just to tell you that you need to plan things out in Iceland, unless you’re okay with having a clumsy trip due to lack of planning. Also, driving distances may look really small on paper, but, remember that the Ring road (Route 1) has speed limits. Most of the time, it was 90 kmph. Within towns, it was almost always 30-50 kmph. Also, you tend to spend a lot of time enjoying the scenic drive & stopping to click photographs. Definitely try to pack in very less in a day, unless you want to be just zipping past everything.
Informative websites are available for most parts of Iceland, which are a great to refer to while planning your trip. The 2 websites for weather forecasts & road condition status updates are indispensible. I’ve listed out all the websites that I referred to & found useful, at the end of this report. Once you reach Iceland, there’s a huge selection of maps & informative brochures to choose from, available for free, beginning right at the airport exit. They’re also stocked at all guest-houses & hotels. Detailed driving maps are available at bookstores. I picked up the Ferdakort (1:500,000 scale) & it was pretty accurate & useful.
These are some items that I carried & found really useful, on our Iceland trip:
Ready to eat food (most B&Bs, Guesthouses & farm-stays allow guests to use their kitchen. If you want to stay in during bad weather or if you are unwell or you want to cut costs - this is handy), Biscuits, chocolates & snack bars (I carried a few of these as well, to tide through hunger pangs just when there’s not a store in sight! You could also buy them in Iceland & they’re not very expensive. We also stocked up on Skyr & fruits, which we bought locally), Re-usable plate & spoon/fork (useful if you are trying to eat a pre-packaged sandwich that you got earlier & the wrapper gives way), Ziploc bags (to keep opened packs of biscuits fresh & also to waterproof important items in your backpack, when venturing out in the rain), Garbage bags (very handy to dispose trash in while on the road, until you find a waste bin), A small water bottle (hang on to the one that you might have purchased at the airport while flying in. It’s very handy to have a bottle that you can fill & carry each morning, as you leave your hotel).
Umbrella (not very useful due to the wind, but, handy as a cover over the photographer, on rainy days), Alarm clock (could either be your mobile phone or an alarm – useful if you’re not planning to stay at hotels where you can ask for a wake-up call), Torch / flashlight, with spare batteries (for exploring caves or venturing out at night), CDs of your favourite music (For the drive. Your only other option is the radio), Power adapter (for all your gadgets), a Net-book (this was great as it was much smaller & lighter than my regular laptop. I used it wherever I had wi-fi access, to keep in touch with family & keeping an eye on road & weather conditions in Iceland. It was also great for daily back-ups & analysis of our photographs).
Spare shoes (Incase your shoe is soaked in the rain / slush. If you don’t want to carry a spare, dry your wet shoes overnight by placing them in front of the room heater, at a safe distance), A basic first aid kit (also all your prescribed medication as well as ones for basics like cold & fever), Synthetic clothes rather than cotton (they dry very quickly, in the rare case that you are caught in the rain without your waterproof jacket), lots of spare socks, and finally, Swimwear (even in winter, to use at hot tubs & pools).
Lonely Planet’s guide to Iceland, 2010 edition. We also picked up useful brochures (for local zones) along our way & the ‘Around Iceland’ guide at the airport, when we arrived. Reading the paper while at Reykjavik is another great way of getting information on shows, exhibitions & local events.
Our primary map was Ferdakort, 1:5,00,000 scale. We also used maps available in our guide-book & brochures. We also printed & carried the Iceland Road Administration map from Vegagerdin.is, which was useful.
We used the Garmin GPS system that we got from our car rental agency. For route planning, we relied more on our Ferdakort map (especially after our experience on day 1), though our GPS was always switched on as a back-up. It was very useful, though, to get directions to restaurants, fuel stations or supermarkets within every town / city. We also used Garmin to roughly estimate driving times between places (rough estimates, not because Garmin is inaccurate, but, because it does not take into consideration time spent in stopping & admiring the scenery, which for us, sometimes lead to delays of even an hour or more).
Online guides & Blogs:
www.hostel.is/Inspireme/SampleItineraries/ (sample itineraries around Iceland)
www.heimur.is/world/ (for the Around Iceland guidebook)
Weather, Roads, Buses:
www.vegagerdin.is/english/ (Iceland Road administration)
www.re.is/Flybus/Schedule/ (Flybus schedules)
www.gedds.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast/ (Northern lights forecast)
Driving in Iceland:
Planning a trip:
virtualtourist.com/travel/Europe/Iceland/Pac… (packing lists)
www.gsmbensin.is/gsmbensin_web.php… (for fuel prices)
www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxzhWkMD3co&NR=1 (Icelandic pronounciation & phrases - videos)
Guides & tours:
www.icelandguide.is/ (for guides)
Weather & Clothing:
We were unable to purchase our wind & water-proof jackets from home or through the online North Face store. We bought them in Reykjavik, from a local brand called 'Ice-wear', which was recommended to us by Icelanders. It was slightly in-expensive than even North Face & worked very well for us in all the harsh conditions that we faced. We also got a good outer jacket from Ellingsen, by the harbor. We constantly faced temperatures of -3 deg. C to + 5 deg. C. If you take the wind chill factor into account, I suspect it was more like braving weather below 0 all the time, going up to lows of -15 deg.C. We had strong winds on a lot of days (10 mps) going up to 21 mps on one very bad day. There were days when we encountered snow, rain & sunshine, all within a few hours of each other. Use sunblock...the weather in winter might be deceptive, but, I did tan. Waterproof trousers were very useful on a lot of days, especially when we were out sight-seeing in the rain. Umbrellas are pretty useless….we did use them on the day we got there, before we purchased our water-proofs & we did provide a few laughs to Reykjavikeurs, what with our umbrella turning inside out & threatening to fly away! It was useful, though, to shield our camera from the rain, on days when there was no wind (there weren’t too many days like that!)
This information may not be useful for those from/familiar with cold climates. It’s for those from warmer countries: We dressed in layers – thermal inners, with regular clothes, a mid-layer of fleece & an outer layer that was wind & waterproof. We used waterproof gloves when necessary & fleece-lined gloves at other times. A fleece lined cap is also better - the wind just pierces through regular knit caps.
We had a great experience with Reykjavik Rent-a-car. The car was in very good condition and the agency was friendly & hassle-free to deal with. We had mailed them before arriving, to ask if they can get us a couple of small cushions to prop our back while driving & they remembered & got us a couple of them. We extended the car rent by a day & that too was a simple process. It was also very nice of them to let us retain our Icelandic mobile number for a couple of days after we returned the car, at no extra cost!
Hyundai Tucson, 4x4, Petrol variant. With Garmin (GPS) and a mobile phone (with an Icelandic sim card from Vodafone & 1000 ISK talk-time). After exhausting the 1000 ISK, we got Vodafone re-charge cards from fuel stations as & when required.
Reykjavik – Snorri’s Guesthouse
Selfoss – Gesthus
Vik – Hotel Hofdabrekka
Jokulsarlon – Gerdi (Farmhouse)
Breidalsvik – Hotel Blafell
Museums visited / Shows seen:
Duushus (a collection of hand-made models of ships & boats), Keflavik
Skogar Folk Museum, Skogar
National Museum, Reykjavik
Reykjavik Museum of Photography, Reykjavik
Saga Museum, Perlan, Reykjavik
Settlement Exhibition (Reykjavik 871 +/-2), Reykjavik
Let’s talk local - Reykjavik, Reykjavik
There are countless museums, exhibitions & sculptures that you can visit and shows that you can watch. Due to lack of time, we could see only a few. Also, during winter, many of the smaller ones are shut so find out before you turn up.
Glacier walk – Icelandic Mountain Guides
Laki tour – Arcanum (snow.is), with Ashpure as our guide.
Thingvellir, Langjokull & West Iceland– Privatetravel.is, with Oli as our guide.
Photography tour to Snaefellsnes & Northern Lights Tour – Icelandaurora.com
I’m vegetarian & my husband eats very limited meat (chicken & fish). Most restaurants in Reykjavik had at least a couple of meat-free dishes on their menu. Outside of Reykjavik, we did have a harder time…we had to sustain only on sandwiches, fries, pita or soup. Pasta & pizza were available at cafés in some larger towns. A lot of the restaurants at very small towns were shut due to winter & we managed by eating at fuel stations. We did get some different food at a few farms that we stayed in, but, it was really expensive. We stocked up on fruits & Skyr, which soon became a favourite. My reluctant husband did try Icelandic lamb & he loved it!
Typically, for vegetarian meals, we spent 1200 to 2000 ISK per person. The more expensive restaurants at Reykjavik cost 2500-3000 ISK per person. At farmhouses, meals cost 3500-4500 per person. Breakfast was provided at all our hotels, except at Selfoss (the kitchen was closed as it was winter).
Reykjavik: Graenn Kostur (Veg-repeat visits), A Naestu Grosum (Veg), Kitchen Eldhus (Nepali), Eldsmidjan Pizza (repeat visits), Rossopomodoro (Italian), Bakari Sandholt, Caruso (Italian-repeat visits), Geysir Bistro & Bar, Krua Thai (Thai), Austur India Felagid (Indian), Basil & lime (Italian), Food court at Kringlan Mall.
Grindavik: Mamma Mia
Selfoss: Subway, Gudnabakari (for breakfast).
Gulfoss: Café near the visitors’ center.
Hvolsvollur: Galleri Pizza
Vik: At the N1 fuel station. Also at our hotel, Hofdabrekka.
Skaftafell, Jokulsarlon: At our farmstay, Gerdi. Also at the fuel station at Freysnes.
Hofn: Kaffi Hornid
Djupivogur: Vid Voginn
Breidalsvik: Hotel Blafell