Strolling It All

And taking my sweet time to do it.

Iceland – how we got there and what we know about it.

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There are three commercial ways to get to Iceland.  You can fly, take a ferry, or take a cruise ship. While the domestic ferry services are quite robust (for inter-Iceland travel), the ferry service from Europe is very limited.  All travel options can be reviewed at http://www.visiticeland.com.

Our choice was to fly Iceland Air. http://www.icelandair.us

Iceland Air has direct flights from the US to Reykjavik (the capital of Iceland) that depart 63e4-034c-9711-90a1from from Seattle (7 hours), Portland, Denver, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington, and Atlanta.  It’s a good airline with a strong safety and “on time” record.  Like most non-American international carriers, you will get a little more leg room (39 to 42 inches) and nice flight attendants.  It is also quite affordable. Even better, it flies to 22 destinations in Europe, making Iceland ideal for stopovers (which are free, encouraged, and often incentivized with free perks).

Transportation on the island is best handled by buses, rental cars, or short flights
(depending upon where you are going.)  Hitchhiking is fairly common, as crime rates are d05d-e94b-9c2c-e892-2extremely low, but one should factor in the severity of the elements if choosing to go that route.

We flew from Seattle to Paris with a two-hour layover in Reykjavik, and then stayed in Iceland on the way back. My business-class fare on Iceland Air was $400 less than an Air France coach fare out of SF, and the flight was two hours shorter.   An added benefit of flying out of Seattle is that they only have one flight a day each way on the same plane — it spends 10 hours a day not flying — so you can be confident that it is well-maintained and will leave on time.  Compare this to my parents’ experience on Air France.  The first direct flight had three mechanical issues. After four hours on the runway, the plane was de-boarded and they were put up in a hotel, followed by a next day departure with another 2-hour runway delay.   And guess what – on the way back from Paris, they had another four-hour runway wait.  You seriously need to check an airline’s average rate of making departure times and think about when your potential flight is most likely to come and go in order to make the best travel decisions.  

Iceland has a plethora of hotels5dfa-bb97-96cc-ce92, B and B’s, farm-stays, Airbnbs, and camping options to choose from at a variety of prices.  If you’re going during high season and want to stay indoors, you’d be foolish not to make prior reservations.   Towns are far apart and accommodations fill up in advance.  Fortunately, almost everyone you’ll communicate with is intelligent, speaks great English, and is internet-savvy, so making arrangements from afar is very easy.  There are also really good websites like that will help.  Here is the one I liked best — https://www.farmholidays.is

I can’t speak to camping, but that seems wide open.  A lot of people travel in well-equipped RVs and they seem to park wherever they want.  I also can’t speak to trekking or biking, but there are lots of blogs on the subject.  I will say that the weather (especially the wind) can be extreme all year.   How extreme you ask?  Well, I bought insurance to protect the car from having the paint sandblasted off, and I had to sign a waiver saying I would be responsible if a car door flies off its hinges, which apparently can happen if you’re not careful.  Now that’s windy.

Accommodations are, roughly priced, on par with the US, but food and gas are pricey – about like London.  BUT – all the parks are free and museums are cheap.  There is also a raging arts and music scene in Reykjavik and a few other places that can be enjoyed for nothing.   The people of Iceland are typically college-educated, well-read, well-versed in current events, and as I mentioned, almost everyone speaks English, so there’s no shortage of interesting, active, and strikingly healthy people to talk to virtually everywhere you go.  Unlimited outdoor adventures are reasonably priced and well organized.

Food is, in my opinion, pretty damn good — fresh everything (including veggies), with a heavy emphasis on root veggies and seafood.  Even places that look a bit touristy or serve food that might read as fast food in the states are often quite good, healthy, and locally sourced.

We rented a car and toured the perimeter of the entire country (with the exception of the West Fjords) on what is commonly referred to as “The Ring Road” in about eight days.  We would love to have spent more time doing it, as virtually everywhere we stayed merited more time.   Because of the unique, scenic, and fairly treeless (but very green) nature of Iceland, you can see incredible vistas, lush landscapes, and amazing geology right near the main roads, but even short hikes are highly compelling and often otherworldly.  There are few mammals beyond the rogue sheep and Icelandic horses (that roam free), but there are hundreds of different kinds of sea birds (a number of them found nowhere else).    2bdd-c18a-73fe-b9c4

Iceland is a photographer’s dream; the only way you can take a bad picture on a clear day is to leave your lens cap on.  It’s also a haven for people who like ornithology, marine life, geology and anthropology.  Lots to see in all regards.

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