Iceland August 2013
What we hoped to see in Iceland
There are different ways to explore Iceland. One can book a hotel in Reykjavik and take tours to different places around the country, or stay in campsites or even camp in the wild. We were keen to avoid crowds and yet visit places that make Iceland unique: hot springs, geysers, ice lagoons, lava fields, basalt formations, mid-Atlantic ridge. We had 10 days for all this.
We thus decided not to do a full circle around Iceland which is a popular trip: we wanted to enjoy Iceland in the wild rather than from inside the car. Of course, some car journeys were still necessary, but we decided to spend some time at several key attractions
- Hot springs in Reykjadalur valley
- Ice lagoon and the glaciers around Vatnajokull
- Kerlingarfjoll mountains
And we wanted to see as many sights along the route as possible. The map shows our trip. Car journeys are shown with coloured lines, each day in different colour. The main attractions are numbered so that you see the direction of our journeys.
The hiking trip in the Kerlingarfjoll mountains did not quite work out, mainly due to bad weather, but the rest of the trip went according to plan. We really enjoyed our trip!
Trip planning and useful information.
Iceland is heavily dependent on tourism. One can easily finds many companies offering expensive services to conventional tourists. Therefore Iceland is known as a rather expensive country. But as we were after wild camping, we avoided all these costs, and overall the trip to Iceland was no more expensive than a comparable holiday somewhere in the Alps.
The flights (with Wow air) were reasonably priced, so car rental was the main expense. We rented a car for the whole trip. There are buses in Icelant, but you can't get everywhere on a bus, the bnuses are anything but frequent and by no means cheap. We rented a 2-wheel drive car, which significantly restricted our movements: many inland roads in Iceland are only accessible in a jeep. But renting a jeep is only justified if you are planning to drive a lot; jeep rentals are ridiculously expensive. One can rent a normal car and use buses to reach remote places. For instance, we could not drive to Kerlingarfjoll with our car, so we left it parked for a couple of days and took a bus to the mountains.
Our accommodation was easy to sort out: we alternated wild camping with staying in a tent at campsites. Most memorable were nights when we walked a few hundred metres from the car and pitched our tent at a crowd-free interesting place. We had to stay in campistes in the south west of Iceland, particularly arouind road No 1, in popular tourist places or in national parks.
- Maps. A very good map with aerial images (much better than Google maps) is here: http://map.is/ or http://atlas.lmi.is/kortasja_en/ (it is the same map). A very good map for sat navs is here. We used it for both walking and driving. It is the best one available on the net. You can buy topo maps in Iceland at 1:50000 scale, but they are not better, so we did not buy any. We were surprised by the lack of maps which show trails in Kerlingarfjoll mountains. A map is available on the internet, and a copy was attached to a wall in a campsite, but they did not have paper copies for sale. We were advised by the campsite people to take a picture of this map with a phone.
- Maps of the Skaftafell glacier, geysers (and here), hot springs in Reykjadalur valley, discount supermarkets Bonus (zoom out to see all Bonus supermarkets in the country, Kerlingarfjoll mountains., Thingvellir national park.
- Bus information. Information is scarce, we tried to call operators in Iceland, but they did not tell us much. Everybody says that there is no need to buy bus tickets in advance. But nobody knows what would happen if the bus would be full: sometimes there is only one bus per day, so you can't just wait for the next one? We were lucky, our buses were not full.
- Weather forecast. We were lucky with the weather - except for one key day. There was some sunshine, a few shows but they did not spoil the trip, quite warm, the temperature did not drop below zero even at night. A useful resource to learn about the immediate weather is a collection of webcams
- We rented our car in Procar agency. This is not the cheapest place but it is quite reliable. We did not want to rent very old cars, even though they are cheaper.
- Some trip reports, in Russian: 2011, 2006 (Kombrig), 2012, 2010, useful links; in English: 2012 (Andrew Lavigne), Reykjadalur, Laugavegur