In January, on my way to some sailing in The British Virgin Islands, I managed to squeeze in a four day stopover in Iceland.
With the keys to a completely inappropriate hire car (lesson learned, pay the extra for a 4X4) I set off with no fixed plan other than to get a taste of the place. As usual, this worked well, mostly.
Having spent a day and night in Reykjavik (civilised, reassuringly independent, and fun) I took the road out of town to explore a snow blanketed southern Iceland…
It wasn’t all play. I was also in Iceland to research an article I am writing for a sailing magazine. Having been offered an interview opportunity with Icelandic Search and Rescue at the last minute, I made a dash back into town. Confronted with this road, it became clear that if I wasn’t careful, they might have to come to me instead. This would have been awkward to say the least.
Tourism is a big part of Iceland’s economy but every year there are a lot of cars that cause untold amounts of unnecessary rescues. In my case, having spoken to those that know at Reykjavik SAR, I think I was reasonably safe in what I did- but perhaps on the limit of what’s advisable. Helpfully, there is an excellent service providing live updates of road conditions. If you drive in Iceland- use it!
Back on the road, I booked a room last minute at the ION Adventure Hotel and after the most unnerving drive of the trip, due to some rather exposed cliff edges, arrived at this Bond villain lair of an establishment. In the middle of nowhere in the best possible way, fantastic food considering how remote it is, and a geothermal pool to myself to thaw out in, this was a real highlight. Highly recommended.
Thanks to its location the bar is a favoured spot for Northern Lights spotting in comfort. The night porter will wake you should they appear while you are asleep.
Unable to reject the instance of the guide book, I relented and took in some of the famous Golden Circle route. I didn’t regret it…
My last late morning sunrise was the most impressive. Heading out of the wilds to a miserable airport hotel before my early flight to New York, it was as if the place was pulling out all the stops to convince me to stay…
Iceland is a must visit. Stop listening to anyone who has told you it’s too expensive. True, it’s a bit more than London prices, but that’s not enough of a reason for you to miss it. Car hire is reasonable in the off season (even a 4X4) and almost everything remains open through the winter. There’s more daylight than you would think as well. Just go.
I took advantage of Icelander’s Stopover Policy which gives you up to seven days to explore on your way across the Atlantic. I was really impressed by them. An modern airline with old fashioned service. In addition, they have just launched their Stopover Buddy Service which teams you up with an Icelandair employee to see parts of the country you otherwise wouldn’t have. I think that’s genius and perhaps the shape of things to come.