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In October 2006 my wife and I took a trip to Iceland , all too short at Friday to Monday only yet still a fantastic break , so now I’m fully qualified to bore you all about it…………………………………………………………………………………….
I should point out this was a romantic weekend (errr … honest!) , not a photo expedition ,so I hope you like the photos, and I hope you get better ones.
In this place, shop goods are expensive, as almost everything is imported.
Using supermarkets and fast food places around towns it is possible to get eats cheaper and the Chinese /Indian restaurants do good value (for Iceland) set meal prices. We used Mc d’s , Tgi’s , a Chinese and the supermarket and also took Nut/fruit bars in the luggage.
If you like to drink, well you’ll need a mortgage! You cant buy alcohol in the supermarkets as the government strictly controls its sale operating its own shops selling alcohol exclusively to the public. My advice is to get some at the duty free on the way in.
Iceland is a magical island created by the meeting of two continents. Geologically it is a very young island, yet steeped in history.
Here you can witness the results of volcanic activity that has occurred within living history. Earth tremors are recorded daily here and visitors can witness the regular activity of a powerful geyser shooting steam 30m into the air every 5 mins, fumaroles emitting jets of steam through fissures in the rock, and hot-pools bubbling away amidst
Staying with water, how about visiting a glacier for an experience, Iceland's glaciers cover a larger area than all the rest of Europe's glaciers put together. You can take snowmobiles up onto these as part of organised excursions.
Moving to the coast and to wildlife , you can take a 20 minute boat trip to see whales in the bay just outside Reykjavik and other trips to see Puffins, amongst all sorts of other flying spectacles.
Take to the air from Reykjavik for a day trip to the island of Heimahey where (within my lifetime) man controlled lava flows to save livelihoods and preserve an important fishing harbour from certain destruction.
Inter-island flights are common here with airports dotted all over the island, in winter it can be the only way out from remote areas.
The islanders are among the most prolific users of I.T., this is no backwater when it comes to gigabytes and blogs, so you can stay wired as well as being remote.
To top it all this island is packed with less than 300,000 residents and yet is the size of Ireland , come on now tell me you don’t want to go...
What to shoot
You have to ask yourself "what don’t I want to take pictures of here?", so bring lots of film or Storage for your camera and don’t even think of leaving your camcorder at home either, you will regret it.
If you are a keen photographer used to waiting for the right conditions and your trip includes family, well they need to be patient and you may need to work faster than you’d like, they will get bored quickly waiting for you in the car. This all may sound obvious, but remember you cant just send them off to the shops for half an hour and it gets very cold here.
geysers, stunning waterfalls ,fumaroles , bubbling mud, glaciers, icebergs, the blue lagoon, the northern lights, amazing geology and volcanic craters, wide open landscapes , extensive lakes, rivers and mountains as well as flatlands, exotic wildlife, aerial photography and unique architecture (modern, old and just intriguing).
Come on Its not expensive its good value really!!!!
Time to visit
Now, next week, later this year, next year , every year, as often as you can…
The main tourist season is June/July because of almost continuous daylight. Now have you ever been to the Lakes or Cornwall on August Bank holiday? Its gonna be busy at all the hotspots I'm told so if this bothers you try later on in the year .
Whenever you go don’t expect guarantees on the weather , one guarantee… you cant predict it accurately.
The interior (uninhabited areas ) gets unreachable in winter and winter seems to begin in November and end in May by all accounts…………
You will land at the only international airport which is on the Reykjanes Peninsula and is 45 minuets from the capital. The airport at Reykjavik is only for interior trips.
The guidebooks all quote that travellers often opt for a visit to the nearby blue lagoon (15 minutes from Keflavik international airport) en route to/from the airport. This is easy to arrange and the lagoon stays open till 9pm in high season.
Travelling when there
Hire a car:
If you can hack occasional gravel roads travelling at a measly 15-20 mph at times avoiding potholes and oncoming vehicles in the middle of the road going at 30mph (that’s fast!) no really its great fun , but you need to be a confident driver.
You can get around near Reykjavik on superb tarmac roads and good tarmac roads will take you to Geysir and Gulfoss if you pick the right route and avoid the gravel roads.
My main regret is not splashing out £15 on a good road map, the signs are not intuitive and you really need not to get lost here . They do rent out sat-nav at the car hire desk at Keflavik, no idea how good it is though.
These trips will have their followers and devotees of course.
I have no experience of them, anecdotally you will like these if you would like a coach trip in the U.K. or a trip to Spain maybe. I would have been frustrated to hell.
Once your trip is booked you’re going unless the weather is too dangerous, so you may see your No.1 favourite photo opportunity in crap weather, you wont be able to just go and pick a better day.
As well inevitably you will be herded away just when the geysir erupts or when the light is just right and enough of your fellow tourists have left the perfect scene to then spend a frustrating 30 mins in the café/gift shop! They are on a timetable like any other coach trip …………but you may like (or lump) it if you can't choose an alternative.
Now this I would like to do, you see lots of these big jeeps some with stonking v8 engines and all with massive balloon tyres ,adorned with snow shovels winches and all that macho stuff.
The point here is you can get to places no-one else can get to and quickly, you will also get to meet your guide on a more personal level, and pick up a lot of local knowledge
Why not book a photo holiday here with fellow hobbyists who have the patience to wait for that special light!
At vedur.is you can access regularly updated island wide data on; current weather (forecasts though are sketchy in my opinion), iceberg location, seismic activity, webcams of road conditions and most impressive is the road system condition showing closed/iced roads and even where snow is falling and when snowploughs are currently clearing the road!!
Don’t rely on forecasts is my advice, cross your fingers and legs and hope…. Some tourists state they couldn’t get out of their car because of high winds/rain during the summer season!!
We witnessed (on arrival in Late Oct) horizontal rain like you wouldn’t believe coming from all directions, we were soaked just walking 200yds to the hire car. Our luck changed by noon Saturday and the place was basked in bright sun seemingly till we left on the Monday. WE WERE LUCKY.
Pack for the cold/wet!
Don’t forget that the interior in particular is inhospitable and in high summer even down-town Reykjavik can be woolly hat territory and that’s without the wind-chill factor.
You will need to pack for a winter holiday.
This is difficult, you know, say, when you go food shopping straight after a meal and come home with next to nothing. Well its sort of similar being in a warm home environment and trying to pack for a winter holiday. Ski gear would be useful, I borrowed a friends ski jacket and it kept me toasty!
I suggest you stand in front of an open freezer well before you pack and remind yourself what cold is before you think "nahh I really don’t need that scarf we’ll be fine and I don’t need gloves I’ll just put hands in pockets".
We went In Oct and packed each two pairs of gloves, two woolly hats and craghopper type warm trousers and waterproof coats/trousers as well. Remember you don’t want to be buying clothes out there unless you’re really loaded.
If you visit Gulfoss waterfall you will get hit with waterspray so be warned.
Don’t forget your swimming cozzy though, apart from the blue lagoon you can find swimming pools even in tiny villages,(as hot water is free here, I guess they aren’t a luxury).
If you are going please check out all these links.
Iceland Travel and Tourist Information - Practical Info
Visit Reykjavík - The official tourist website
Latest News, Currency and Financial Information
Iceland Travel Guide
The Climate of Iceland
Sunrise and sunset in Reykjavik - Iceland
Driving in Iceland
The Reykjavik Tourist Card