We got to spend two nights in Reykjavik, Iceland in October last year on our way back from Scotland. All the time I was there, I was wishing I had been somewhere outside the city, surrounded by the out-of-this-world natural landscape that Iceland is famous for. Nothing against Reykjavik, mind you. It’s actually one of my favourite cities in the world, if not THE most favourite. I just like nature more. I tried to talk the husband into renting a car for a day but he was set on spending the whole stopover in Reykjavik. Oh well. Can’t say I didn’t try.
We have done a road trip around Iceland before in May 2013. It was the best trip ever, and the best two weeks I’ve ever spent travelling. We’d been dreaming of doing another Iceland road trip ever since we got back from that trip. Unfortunately, in the years that followed, the Canadian dollar only got considerably weaker and the Icelandic krona stronger. We’d had accepted the fact that we would have to save up for a little bit longer to be able to afford another trip around Iceland.
We took advantage of Icelandair’s free Iceland stopover programme and had a lovely two-night stay in Reykjavik in October on our way back to Canada from our two-week road trip around Scotland. We arrived on the same day Hurricane Nicole arrived in Iceland! It made for an interesting flight with two aborted landings before we finally touched down safely on the tarmac of the Keflavik airport.
After we got all our luggage back, which took forever due to the bad weather, we hopped on a shuttle bus for the 45 minute drive to the heart of Reykjavik. There are two companies that run shuttle busses from the airport to Reykjavik and vice versa, but we’ve always gone with Grayline because they charged slightly less than the other company. We’ve been quite pleased with their service so far.
Planning a trip to Iceland is so much easier when you’ve been there before. I remember feeling quite overwhelmed when I was planning our first trip in 2013. So much to see, so little time! (Two weeks is not enough time to see everything Iceland has to offer, unfortunately.) Though not being able to afford to rent a 4x4 vehicle did help limit our options a little bit.
Planning for this year’s trip in April is a lot easier because we already know what to expect and we know what we want to see and where, how to get there and so on. Well, at least we kind of know what to expect. We’ve never been to Iceland in April before and googling “Iceland in April” doesn’t really yield in anything that can satisfy my curiosity (I tend to trust independent reviews from other travellers more, but here’s a summary from a hotel chain), or anything that basically says “go to Iceland in April, it’s the best time ever!” which is what I’d really like to hear. ;-)
If you’ve been following some Icelandic news sources this week, you would’ve read the news about an American tourist who, while driving from the airport to his hotel in downtown Reykjavik on his first visit to Iceland, got so terribly lost and somehow ended up in a sleepy, northern Iceland town of Siglufjörður, at least 5 hour drive away from Reykjavik. In his defense, he was tired after a red-eye flight and he just went where the car GPS unit told him to go, in addition to the hotel not spelling the street name correctly in the address. But still, had he used a little more common sense, I don’t think he would have ended that far off course from his original destination. He should’ve at the very least known that Reykjavik was where he needed to go and that it was only less than an hour drive away from the Keflavik airport. He’s become some sort of a celebrity because of this mishap. Fancy that!
I found the roads in Iceland to be pretty well-marked. We managed to navigate ourselves around Iceland (even took some detours away from the ring road) without getting terribly lost, and all we had with us was a copy of a good, old-fashioned, paper map of Iceland, which we didn’t even use that much. Granted, we also had an access to Google Maps on my tablet but we only ever used it to navigate our way around Akureyri and Reykjavik, two of Iceland bigger cities, which our paper map didn’t cover very well. So, here are some tips I could give you in order to not get lost during your Iceland road trip:
I’ve been thinking about our little detour around West Iceland’s Hvalfjörđur (Whale fjord) a lot lately. I don’t know why. It could be that I’m just missing Iceland in general and the drive around Hvalfjörđur was the last item in our itinerary before we headed down to Reykjavik to spend the last two nights of our two week road trip around Iceland, so it was one of my last memories of Iceland. But it could also be because it was surprisingly beautiful. Like, breathtakingly beautiful.
Hvalfjörđur used to be a busy route because it used to be the only way for people in Reykjavik to get to the town of Borgarnes, which is like the gateway to the beautiful Snaefellsnes Peninsula. However, in the late 1990s, the tunnel Hvalfjarðargöngin was opened for public. For a small fee, people are now able to bypass the 62 km detour around Hvalfjörđur by taking the tunnel. When we were there two years ago, the Hvalfjörđur route had very little traffic. Driving around the fjord on a drizzly and foggy day, I felt like we were the last two people on Earth!
So you have a road trip around Iceland coming up but you’re not quite sure what the road conditions and the weather will be like (the weather part will also determine whether you need to pack your winter coat or not). The following websites are your friends and they will show you just what you need to know. We found them very useful during our visit.
For road conditions, make sure you bookmark Vegagerdin (Icelandic Department of Transportation) website. This clickable road condition map is essential. Don’t hit the road before consulting it first. If that’s not enough and you need to know what road conditions are like in (almost) real-time, there are road web cams, ready for your perusal.