First visit to Iceland
Iceland had long been on my bucket list and with a client wishing to go for up to a month this year, I needed to go and report back.
Admittedly he will go in the summer and I went mid November so the weather conditions will be somewhat different.
Iceland is well served from the UK, with a variety of airlines to choose from. It was a good opportunity to try both Icelandic carriers - Icelandair and WOW. Service levels were excellent on both flights and both aircraft were spotlessly clean. I make that point because it is not always the case with low cost carriers.
Arriving into Iceland late afternoon meant that there was little daylight left. In winter it is compulsory to have studded tyres on your car, so if hiring a car, do make sure that you have them. Also, since petrol stations are few and far between outside the city and towns, ensure that you have sufficient before you set off. Local sat nav is also better than bringing your own from home.
Since the roads outside the city are not lit, and generally not very wide, allow longer to get to your destination if driving after dark, and I when I say dark, I mean pitch black, you can drive miles without seeing another vehicle or any kind of lights.
Something to keep in mind is that 5 star properties as we know them, do not exist in Iceland, although you can expect 5 star prices. Even the best boutique properties can be disappointing, dated and sometimes downright dowdy with damaged walls and woodwork, which is rather a shame.Service wise, our experience was that some staff were fantastic and took pride in their work, and some barely made the effort to know what they were serving.
I am delighted to report that food in each property was truly delicious, all locally sourced and beautifully presented. Vegetarian options are minimal so, if dining in your hotel two nights in a row, speak to the wait staff and the chef will ensure you do not have the same dish twice. Puffin and reindeer feature on some menus, and thankfully we did not see the fermented shark meat, which is not for the faint hearted. One of my favourite things to eat was Skyr, an Icelandic yogurt and national treasure, it is delicious, high in protein and and quite filling. I recommend the pear.
Talking of food, when going out and about for the day, pick up some snacks and drinks (and some Skyr) from a supermarket or petrol station. Fast food outlets, restaurants and cafes are few and the cold certainly makes you hungry.
Another tip - loo breaks, head straight for the Information Centres in each town and save yourself the time and trouble of driving around looking for rest rooms. When it is still dark at 10am and the sun sets before 4pm, it is important to maximize your time.
In winter, plan your days well, photo 1 was taken at 8am, and the photo below was taken an hour later at 9am. The weather conditions can change in the blink of an eye, so do not be over ambitious with your planning, allow plenty of time to get to each destination.
The Snaefellsjokul Peninsula is worth a visit, very scenic with stunning waterfalls and a rugged, black volcanic coastline. Guided tours operate on the glacier, although at the time of our visit, it was not permitted.
Other tips - be sure to have plenty of chargers with you. Iphones notoriously switch themselves off when it gets very cold, so do not rely on your iphone camera to take all your photos.
Waterproof trousers are great, not necessarily attractive but they help keep the wind out, a little, and of course, keep your trousers dry, which, in driving snow and wind, is quite important.
One more thing, if going in the winter be sure that you, or someone in your party, is happy AND experienced enough to drive on snow covered roads and in adverse weather conditions. It would be a shame to get there, and find that no-one wants to drive the hire car.
More on Iceland in my next post.