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Iceland - Reykjavik and south Iceland
Our trip in and out of Keflavik using IcelandAir was easy. We were able to buy Flybus tickets for the journey from the airport to Reykjavik on the plane before landing - efficient service taking us straight to our hotel in the city centre (changed to a smaller mini-bus when we reached the city).
Stayed at Hotel Odinsve and were really happy there. Reception staff were only to happy to help if needed. We stayed for 3 nights, in fact 2 would have be enough - it's a small city.
We took advice and got booked for various tour/car/accommodation at the Icelandic Travel Market (tourist information) in the City. Superb advice and guidance and really friendly too.
Really enjoyed the contemporary art gallery housed in an ex-fishmarket building. Oh and enjoyed Bistro 75 on "Beer Day" 2nd March.
Since we wanted to get out of the city on our last day in Reykjavik we booked on Golden Circle Tour with a company called Sterna. Their trip includes calling into a Geothermal Energy Plant which was really interesting. Did the geysers and Gullfoss - it snowed there - brilliant guide. A good opportunity to see how the driving would be.
We then had our hire car for 4 days and headed south and east - my first experience of being so close to a glacier, seeing seals playing in a lagoon amongst some icebergs.
We got snowed in on our way back - stuck in Vik at Hotel Lundi - if you have to get stuck anywhere this is a good place to do so. The staff couldn't have been more helpful.
Lots of groups of photographers on organised trips. The light is amazing on good weather days. Another amazing sight was at Hali where we stayed one night, watching the lake freeze over before our eyes, all happened in a matter of minutes.
I'm not sure whether it is typical but glimmers of Icelandic humour were superb. When I asked at Hali what was special about Icelandic ice cream, the waiter said "technically it's a cheese but it comes in a bowl like yoghurt" .
I was overwhelmed with the lava fields, stretches of knobbly rocks, frozen waterfalls - any moment I hoped a troll or a giant might rise up out of a crevice. Got interested in Icelandic folk tales - bought some books back after hearing the story of the 12 Santa Clauses - names like Door Sniffer and Spoon Licker appeal to my writer self.
Go to Iceland, have an adventure. We did.Related to:
- Road Trip
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Flying to Iceland
We flew to Iceland with Icelandair, from London Heathrow to Keflavik. The plane was very new and like all of Icelandair’s fleet was named for one of the country’s volcanoes. In fact, ours was named for the now-notorious Eyjafjallajökull, which struck me as ironic given that it had been responsible for grounding most planes across Europe for a while back in 2010!
The flight passed pleasantly enough. We had seat-back screens with a good selection of entertainment, which seems unusual for a short-haul flight, until you discover that the plane is going on to the US. One downside was that only soft drinks and coffee/tea are provided free of charge; if you want a meal or an alcoholic drink you will have to pay. So we ate at the airport on our way out, although we did buy a snack on the return flight.
On arrival we found Keflavik Airport to be modern and not too big. It was easy to find our way around, and we were soon through baggage reclaim and customs and heading for the car hire desk. All of the latter are together so if you haven’t pre-booked you could easily do some shopping around – or just go to the desk with the shortest queue. But if you are pre-booking, don’t make the same mistake as one family we saw. They hadn’t realised that international flights to Iceland usually arrive at Keflavik and had pre-booked their rental car at Reykjavik instead! Luckily at that time of year it’s quiet enough that they could get a car on the spot, and the company cancelled their booking for them. But it all took time, and with the skies already growing dark we were glad to not to have that complication and to be soon headed out of the airport.
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Our mini-break package included car hire with Avis and the agent recommended 4WD as we would be driving in February when even the main Ring Road can be icy. In the event it was not, although a week or so before our visit conditions had been quite difficult. But we were still glad of the 4WD as it enabled us to go on some gravel tracks that a normal saloon would have found very challenging, especially the road to the Sólheimajökull glacier. There were also a few icy patches on the Golden Circle Route, and a lot of ice in the car parks at Gullfoss and Geysir, for which we were glad to have the extra traction.
We had requested an automatic transmission and were pleased to find our request honoured. The car we were allocated was a Nissan Qashqai, which was bigger than we are used to driving, but as our own car is a Nissan it was easy to get used to the dashboard layout and most of the controls. However there were a few things, mainly relating to the 4WD, that were strange to us, and we found it odd that Avis didn’t supply the car manual in the glove compartment. Whenever we have hired a car in the US (usually from Hertz, occasionally Alamo) we have always been given the manual, and I’m not sure whether it was an Avis oversight or if it’s not usual practice in Iceland. Still, once we realised that the warning beep related to low outside temperature rather than a malfunction of the car we were OK!
While many things in Iceland seemed a little dearer than at home (e.g. food and alcohol) we were pleased to find that petrol (gas to my US friends) was in fact a little cheaper. We took the car with a full tank and committed to returning it full. In our four night trip we filled up just twice – towards the end of our second full day, and at the airport when returning the car. The latter though was a challenge, as the pump was well hidden behind the car rental offices and was out in the open on a day when the rain was sweeping horizontally across the forecourt! In fact, the only other time on the trip when we had such bad weather was on the day of our arrival, when we had to battle the strong wet winds even to get the car door open.
Driving itself was a pleasure. The roads were quiet, even on the popular Golden Circle route, and we could sometimes drive for miles only seeing one or two other vehicles. The main challenge for Chris, who did all the driving (my job is to navigate on these occasions, which I love), was keeping to the rather low 90 kph speed limit. A speed camera did in fact flash on one occasion, but we are yet to receive any communications as a result ;-) When we go back to Iceland we won’t hesitate to rent a car again, although I might choose our usual Hertz rather than Avis.
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Some things to note on driving
Couple of things on driving in South Iceland. It is quite an easy drive where roads are well marked within the Golden Circle and the Ring Road.
As road signs often appear only at the junction of the road (instead of several metres before), tendency to miss your turning is high. You will have to make U turns but make sure you only stop where there are clear indicators for car stopping. A good idea would be to bring a ruler and use the scale on the map to measure the distance between each location so that you can tell when the turn off is expected to come up (or invest in a comprehensive road map).
The Reykjavik tourist office gives out free road maps which are pretty general which we used for 6 days although a more detail map (which they sells) would have been more helpful in tracking our driving progress.
Our faithful Toyota Avensis for 4 days
We got a Toyota Avensis which fits 4 people comfortably for IKR35600. We had to pay an additional IKR15000 as we had to drop off the car at a different location. The additional payment for different drop off point was in small print on Lastminute's website (so beware!). Hertz was the partner company renting out the cars under lastminute.
Condition: Good. We were very grateful that the Toyota had a large boot that fit our big bagpacks and food we were carrying.
We took a cab from Salvation Army (Reykjavik town centre) where we staying to Hertz for IKR1500.Related to:
- Road Trip
Amazing pictures along the way
If there are couple of people to share the cost, I would highly recommend driving as we did so many things that we wouldn't had been able to do without a car. The sights along the road every day (we did 6 days) were absolutely amazing that we kept stopping the car to take pictures and some of the best pictures we have now were those taken along the road. Driving also allowed us to spend more time in different places. The only problem was that we needed to have the discipline to move on so that we can complete the itinerary for the day...and our poor driver had a difficult time keeping his eyes on the road when the rest of us kept gasping at different sights and the spectacular sky along the road.
For example, this picture and the picture in my main Iceland homepage (and several others) were all taken when we stopped the car by the road in the middle of nowhere.Related to:
- Road Trip
Another advertisement worthy picture
Driving in Iceland can be frustrating if you are not familiar with the roads as there are no road signs informing you that the road you want to turn into is coming up. The road signs are usually AT THE JUNCTIONof the road where you need to turn into and we found ourselves zooming pass the roads a couple of times. Fortunately there are not many cars in March, and we could do 3 point turns quite easily. There are also many proper stops at the side of the road that allows us to turn back.Related to:
- Road Trip
Reaching Jokulsarlon Is Easy !
We can easily reach Jokulsarlon because it is situated almost by The Ring Road !
The Ring Road is the main traffic road that circles Iceland, say from Reykjavik back to Reykjavik !..In a circle, get the picture ?
You can reach here by your car, your 4WD, your caravan, by bicycle, by your motorbike...even hitch hiking ! If people want to give you a lift from somewhere in reaching Jokulsarlon.
I took the scheduled bus from Hofn, back tracking to Jokulsarlon...
Though most people would reach here from Vik i Myrdal as it would be a straight way in reaching this place.Related to:
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