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Published: September 10th 2018
Although mid July is a few weeks past high summer in Iceland (64 degrees north) the sun doesn’t really ever set at this time of year. The most darkness you seem to get is a sort of twilight at 1am or so, so for light sleepers heavy curtains are a good idea.
We have 8 days here on a stopover between Central America and the UK and our friend Jackie joins us for 6 of these. We have hired a car to get around (you really do need to do this) and by a stroke of good fortune have been upgraded to a vehicle that we are permitted to drive on the unsealed highland roads, known as “F” roads. Unusually for us we have booked all of our accommodation in advance, partly to try to keep costs down, but also for practical reason - other than in Reykjavík there just aren’t that many places to stay and in summer these will all tend to book out. Apart from one night we’ve managed to find rooms in hostels so can self-cater, which should save us a small fortune eating out and have imported some wine from Panama and the Cincinnati airport
For the first 2 days we drive up the west coast north of Reykjavik. The weather is wet so not conducive to outdoor activities but we make the most of it. Even summer temperatures don’t seem very high. We briefly notice 16C but 14C seems a normal high for the day. Interestingly the weather pattern that has given the UK a long heat wave this year has delivered Iceland its worst summer in living memory.
After retracing our steps to the airport we drive south and east into the tourist heart of the country, where there is a hot spring area with the original geyser and Gullfoss Iceland’s most famous Waterfall. From here we follow the south coast past several impressive waterfalls and sea cliffs that are home to nesting puffins and on to the glacier lake of Jokulsaron. Then we drive back passing the volcano (Eyjafjallajokull) that stopped European air traffic when it erupted in 2010, through Bobby Fisher’s adopted hometown to Thingvellir the site of Iceland’s original parliament, which also happens to be the continental divide between the European and American plates. From here it’s only a short drive back to Reykjavík and the airport.
Though 8 days isn’t anything like long enough to see the whole country we have been able to sample it pretty well, without having to rush or drive too far. The flexibility of self-drive has been excellent letting us venture a little off the beaten track into the interior, walk on a glacier and find the free hot springs to swim in (though to be honest these weren’t that great). The accommodation we booked worked out well, apart from our last night when we caught out by an early closing supermarket and had the choice of petrol station provisions or eating out. Overall it ended up being not as expensive as I had feared, not eating out seems to be the key to doing Iceland on a budget.
I’ve really enjoyed the week here, not sure I’ll be back anytime soon but you never know....
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