Difference between revisions of "Iceland"
Revision as of 22:28, 17 February 2005
There are many excursions offered by tour companies and are readily available from any of the main centres such as Reykjavic and Akureyri. They will fly you around and take you on to the glaciers and to the big volcanos for a reasonable price.
Iceland is a stunningly beautiful place if you enjoy strange and desolate landscapes. Lava fields, lava tubes, plains of fractured rock, ice, fire and steam.
Iceland was settled by Nordic people in the 9th century AD - tradition says that the first permanent settler was Ingólfur Arnarson, a Norwegian Viking who made his home where Reykjavik now stands. The Icelanders still basically speak the language of the Vikings. Iceland maintains another Norse tradition: the custom of using patronymics rather than surnames (an Icelander's Christian name is followed by his or her father's name and the suffix -son or -dóttir, e.g. Guðrún Pétursdóttir (Guðrún, daughter of Pétur). Members of the same family can therefore have many different "surnames", which can sometimes create confusion for visitors!
Iceland is easily reached via air. Direct flights from New York, Boston and most major European airports are available, especially since Iceland Air uses Keflavik as a hub.
Keflavik, the island's primary airport, is about 40km from Reykjavik. The airport itself is quite barren; if you have a lengthy layover you should make sure to bring books or other entertainment.
There's a transfer bus for about 1,100Kr which takes about 45 minutes for the journey between Keflavik International and Reykjavik Internal airports. The bus does stop at various hotels on the way - just ask the driver. Another great option is to take the bus which stops at the Blue Lagoon either to or from the airport, then continues every half hour or so to Reykjavik. Be warned, a metered taxi costs about 9500 krona (roughly US$140).
In theory you can go to Iceland in your own car - but Iceland being an island, you'll have to take a ferry. It's probably more economical and comfortable to rent a car on Iceland.
It is possible to get to Iceland via boat but it takes a long time. The sea can be rough, making the trip unpleasant. Sea travel is likely not the best way to reach Iceland unless you have a vehicle that you absolutely must take with you.
From Denmark, Faroe Islands and Shetland Islands
The trip from England takes three days; there is a stop over on the Faroe Islands.
Aircraft in Iceland are like buses or trains elsewhere - they're the main form of internal travel other than the roads. Be warned though, that the ride can be a bit bumpy if you're coming into one of the fjords like Akureyri.
Scheduled service to domestic destinations, including Greenland and Faroe Islands, is provided by Air Iceland.
Driving in Iceland is on the right-side of the road. There are car hire booths for Hertz and Avis in the airport, as well as a local company, Alp. Hiring a car can be extremely expensive, especially for four-wheel-drives. Renting cars on-location is reportedly cheaper than doing so in advance.
Be aware that car rentals - also at the airports - are not open around the clock.
Driving on Iceland can be difficult. A lot of the terrain is rugged and forbidding; a good four-wheel drive vehicle is essential even if you stay to the "roads" (which are rarely paved except for major routes along the coast). You will have to cross many rivers and fords, some of which can be over 4 feet (1.2m) deep - especially if it has been raining.
The DUI limit in Iceland is 0.5%.
Hitchhiking is a cheap way of getting around in Iceland. The country is among the safest in the world and people are quite friendly. Along the main road (road # 1 that more or less follows the coastline) it is not a problem to get a lift. Remote areas can be difficult to reach though; take enough time, enought to eat and drink, and it's still possible. The weather can be awful and sometimes spoils the fun of this way of traveling.
Most Icelanders appear to speak English at least a little but, as is the same everywhere, it doesn't hurt to be aware of your 'please and thank yous' to make things go a little more smoothly.
Consult the Icelandic phrasebook for more information.
Iceland has a huge number of great little craft shops that sell everything from musical baskets and wonderful weird porcelain sculpture to paintings, glasswork, and jewelry. An interesting note is the National Galleries tend to carry the same artists work in the gift shops rather than the usual mass marketed product carried at so many other museums.
There is also a plethora of interesting local music cd's (beyond just Björk) worth hunting for. Obscurities worth picking up include Hera, Worm is Green, Mum, and Bellatrix.
Beware of the fact that almost everything is very expensive in Iceland.
Food is no problem for Westerners in the cities; there is the usual compliment of eateries and restaurants for your delectation. Some of the hotel restaurants are very good indeed but if you're looking for a bite to eat on the move you can't really beat a 'Subway' or a very long bag of chips (fries) from the drive-through cafe near the airport in Akureyri. They are fabulous!
Avoid eating at your hotel and experience one of the fabulous tiny restaurants in the city. The best bargain in all of Reykjavik is is Vegemot - the fettuccine with tiny lobster tails is to die for. On the expensive end, Husofelt (I know the name is misspelled) "the Lobster house" has exquisite food but the prices reflect this. A better bet would be to head to the top of the hill and dine at the revolving restaurant of Perlan (which also has wonderful gelato at the cafe below where you can walk outside the Pearl and see full 360 degree views of Reykjavik below).
Alcoholic drinks are very expensive compared to the UK and USA. Liquor can be purchased at licenced bars, restaurants, or VinBud, the state monopoly.
There are three local brands of Iceland beer: Egils, Thule, Viking.
Each year on Beer Day Icelanders celebrate the lifting of prohibition on March 1st, 1989.
The hotels are usually fairly basic around the island but you can usually get a room even in August just by phoning them up and reserving it before you get there. They are very clean and well maintained, light and airy with nothing at all that could even remotely considered 'dingy'. They are expensive though.
Outside of Reykjavik, one of the best hotels in Iceland is Hotel Budir on the Snaefell Peninsula.
The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa. For passengers departing on afternoon flights Reykjavik Excursions offers airport transfers which include a visit to the Blue Lagoon. A bus from the Main Bus Station in Reykjavik takes 40 minutes and costs 2750 ISK, including admission to the Blue Lagoon.
For an out of the way drive rent a car and travel along the southern part of the ring road to the town of Vik with its magnificent black sand beaches, rock outcroppings, glaciers, and lava fields.
BSI Travel (Vatnsmýrarvegi 10) rents mountain bikes. Reykjavik has a fairly extensive network of bike paths
Blue Biking (+354 565-2089) offers day tours from Reykjavik and multi-day biking and hiking tours.
Ultima Thule Expeditions (+354 567-8978) provides sea kayak and ski day trips from Reykjavik and multi-day trips for groups. No scheduled individual tours.
Icelandic Mountain Guides (+354 587-9999) offers a variety of hiking, ice climbing, and ski tours.
Ishestar Riding Tours (+354 555-7000) has a variety of day tours around Reykjavik or multi-day trips.
Destination Iceland (+354 591-1020)
Driving around Iceland can be difficult or even dangerous. Inform yourself on local conditions and make sure your vehicle and driving skills are up to the task. Ceck out the following website for up-to-date road-condition information: http://www.vegag.is/vefur2.nsf/pages/fu_fv_faerdogvedur_eng.html