Ice, Iceland Baby
Updated: May 19, 2019
In July 2016 I revisited Iceland for the first time since the mid 1990's. Reykjavik had developed from what I remembered as a sleepy little town with colourful, small corrugated tin houses to a country struggling to cope with the strain of the 2 million tourists that now visit this small country (according to the Icelandic Tourist Board, a total of 2,195,271 tourists visited Iceland in 2017). Keep in mind the population of Iceland is only around 330,000.
Don't let these statistics put you off visiting Iceland. These numbers are so high because Iceland is incredibly beautiful. Thanks Erwin Wong for these photos below that help showcase the stunning scenery.
I believe Iceland a destination that you should visit in Summer and then again in Winter for two completely different experiences (I haven't been in Winter yet, but trust me, I am planning it!). See Landmannalaugar in Summer and in Winter - Green Vs White (Thanks Arctic Truck Experience for the Winter photo).
The good news is, if you get off the excellent tar ring road the circumnavigates Iceland for at least some of your trip, you can still feel like you've got this beautiful country to yourself. There are "F Roads" that are all the dirt roads and tracks of Iceland. You must drive a 4x4 on these roads, but that means you will leave the tourist coaches behind. So, of course, we went not just in 4x4s, but Arctic modified 4x4s with their 38 inch tyres to give us extra clearance for some pretty fun water crossings - Sweeeet! Our 13 day route was around 90% off road. There were 6 cars in our convoy including our local expert guides, Siggy and his wife Habba. This was the first Iceland adventure we ran for our Self Drive Adventures business.
Through the centre of Iceland we followed ancient passes with names like"Sprengisandur". Around 930–1265 this was one of the important north-south routes that connected remote regions of the island to the Plains of the Parliament, Þingvellir, where the yearly parliament was held each year at midsummer. Sandr means "Sand" - I did not realise Iceland is like a desert through its centre. Being covered with snow through the Winter, I guess it is easy to understand why nothing much grows here. There are even ancient markers over 1,000 years old that mark the track and a show of Icelandic humour - a blue fire hydrant in the middle of nowhere.
There are a couple of standard jokes in Iceland - "If you find yourself lost in a a forest in Iceland....stand up" - Iceland does have some trees, but they don't grow very high...."If you don't like the weather in Iceland....wait 5 minutes". People do camp in Iceland, but you'd better be prepared to get wet and perhaps have your tent blown over. We decided a combination of hotels, hostals and hikers huts may be the way to go instead. This gave us relative comfort in the remotest of places. You do need to be prepared to sleep in close quarters with other hikers and travelers in these bunk-style dormitories.
I've posted a brief day to day itinerary of our tour below but if you'd just like to watch the video of the trip, turn up your volume and enjoy!
Below are links to the day by day itinerary:
Day 3: Reykjavik to Þingvellir and Hvolsvöllur