So I went to Iceland in November. The timing of the trip might seem unusual, but it looked perfect in so many ways. Firstly, we got really cheap flights, and we would have gotten even cheaper bus had we been one day earlier. Secondly, it was just the end of tourist season so not many people, but all the attractions still working. Thirdly, it was nice weather. Fourthly, my work schedule during that week was not that bad. Lastly, and more importantly, it was supposed to me the most solar activity since last 15 years. This is important factor in creation of Northern Lights, and since that was one of our main priority, when we got the tickets, everything seemed perfect. So keep these things in mind if you are planning a trip to Iceland. 🙂
And since it was a very last-minute final decision, we went to Reykjavík (pronounced ray-kia-vic) with only two days hostel booking, and no attractions booking (since they require advance booking online). But this turned out to be one of the best things we did. This allowed us to rent a car, and travel entire south coast of Iceland, and combine tours such as the glacial walk, within our journey. The drive was very relaxed, since there is just one major road you have to follow, and its a pretty good road. Also, when we were there, no-one else was, so we would spend 10-15 minutes before seeing another car. 🙂
The first day of our drive we went to a Glacial walk at the Mýrdalsjökull glacial. It cost us 6000 ICK, and was definitely worth the money. However there are a few tours which also offer a basic ice-climbing lesson, so you might want to check that out.
Also, we made all our bookings through Icelandic Travel Market. Not only do they make the booking for you, they offer discounts, and very good advice as well.
From there, we drove to Vik. This is a really small town (291 people) in the shadow of a couple of hills. Be careful driving through the hills, policemen with speed meters were hiding here. Next morning, with crappy weather, we drove on to the glacial lagoon (Jökulsárlón). Since it was only 3 of us there, we went out on a small zodiac for a 40 minute ride in the lake. We even drove right into a couple of icebergs. It was by far the best experience for the money we spent (20 Euro). Our next stop was town of Hofn (1500 people) where we had a local specialty, langoustine.
And then spent the evening in a thermal swimming pool. The best thing about Iceland have to be the thermal swimming pools. They are everywhere and they are very cheap (4 Euros). It’s the perfect way to relax and enjoy after the tough day. And it is the best way to meet people (especially if you are in a random city). The best one in Reykjavik is “Laugardalslaug”. Not only is it big, and not very commercial, IT HAS A WATER SLIDE :D.
Blue Lagoon is the more famous destination. It is decent. It certainly grows on you. I would hate being there in tourist season though. It would be horrible experience I think. For us, it worked out very well in the end. Since it is between the airport and the Reykjavik city, companies offer a package where you go to the blue lagoon, spend sometime there while your luggage stays in the bus, and then just head on towards the airport. It is really economical as well.
Taking about water we also went snorkeling in Iceland in 2 degree crystal clear glacial melt water, between the American and the European continental plates. This was our second day in Iceland. The Icelandic Travel Market people found us an amazing deal for 10000 ICK. It was a very surreal experience. I can’t describe it. Only tip, practice standing up in water, in the start of the journey :).
Coming back to the road-trip. The glacial lagoon is actually part of Vatnajökull glacial. This is the place where Games of Thrones is shooting the second season. And we were unlucky enough to go there a week earlier than they were scheduled to start shooting :(. Actually, the areas we traveled through have been used in many movies, such as Stardust, Batman Begins, Die Another Day. I am actually surprised they have not film any extra-terrestrial movies there. Because the terrain was out of the world. Especially a lot of the stuff which is part of the “Golden Circle”.
The Golden Circle is the route established by tourist companies which is like a circle (kind of but not really) and has a lot of major attractions there. These include the Geysir, the Gulfoss, the old Parliament and a few other stops here and there. On advice from fellow travellers from our hostel, we decided to forgo the commercial bus tours with 40-50 people, but instead just rented a car (GPS came for free) and drove wherever we wanted. It ended up being about the same cost-wise, but we had all the freedom we wanted to do whatever we wanted. Again, the roads are nice, and there are attraction signs everywhere. Just make sure you know what the major stops are called and you should be good. You can also plan what places to see according to what else you do. We ended up going to the old parliament three times. Once while doing the golden circle, once for snorkeling and last time on a Super-Jeep.
Super-Jeeps are jeeps which have been pimped up, to do ridiculous stuff. They are also the most expensive thing we did. A day trip cost us 200 euros, however, it was worth it. We drove through rivers, climbed up waterfalls and finally, drove onto Langjökull glacial for amazing views as you can see in the pictures. It was hell of a day, with a wonderful driver, who had awesome music, perfect for every situation.
Changing tracks, even though we were lucky in terms of weather most of our trip, the really sucky weather came as we were heading back from Hofn to Reykjavik. I had to slow down and drive at 30 km/h at some point, because the rain was so intense. It immediately cancelled our plan for going Northern Lights hunting as well. In the end, we were unable to see Northern Lights because of the bad weather condition (it was not cold enough, and sun was not active enough). So our main goal of watching the northern lights did not pan out. But we had an amazing trip nevertheless.