Iceland

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The day of errands

After the drive north got cancelled, we found ourselves a little too lost with more time on our hands than we’re normally used to on our typical mad-rush vacations. The only things left to do were to rediscover the city centre and try out weird and wonderful food – there was whale meat, horse steak and reindeer salami from the Grillmarkaðurinn in Reykjavik – and window shop on a day that was miserably bleak and rainy once more. When the next (and last) day dawned in Reykjavik, TC and I decided that trying to climb Mt. Esja would be our workout of the day. Going halfway up through moss, melting snow and...

When the weather forces its hand

Breakfast in Egilsstaðir Guesthouse is a curious affair. Waking up too early has no merits here (at least on the day we were there) because the cook who was supposed to prepare the first meal of the day was still asleep by the time we got to the breakfast room. Instead, the owner of the property, an elderly farmer by the name of Jónas Gunnlaugsson, regaled us with tales of driving through thick snow in Mjóafjörður, his theories of the missing Malaysian Airlines plane and his efforts to learn about money and currency after Iceland economic crisis while we waited for breakfast. The worsening weather threw a spanner into our...

Eastwards in snow

The second day on the road brought sunny skies, high winds and impossible views of the many glacier tongues that stick out of the southern end of Vatnajökull national park. We stopped at Skaftafell for a 3-km walk, then carried on towards Suðurland and Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, finally bunking overnight in a country (farm) hotel that could have easily been the set of Dagvaktin. Weather and road checking became our latest obsession. The road leading eastwards had been closed because of heavy snowfall, forcing us to think about contingency plans at every stop on this ring road tour. It’s no casual undertaking, even at this time of the year: don’t...

Sandblasted on the sunny south Coast

The Iceland adventure in a four-wheel drive began on a sullen Friday morning in Reykjavik as spring brought unpredictable winds and a very changeable sky. After quick stop at the Thrifty office somewhere in town and a warning not to drive the new Ford rental SUV into a river, we took off for the 832-mile ring road. Finding the Miklabraut was tricky thanks to a GPS that led us to a dead end of a suburban neighbourhood instead of where we needed to go. Getting lost really (as well as driving on a different side of the road), should have been the least of our worries. I’ve been told to expect...

Around the ring road

Barely five months after last year’s adventures in the north, I find myself packing my bags again and heading towards Copenhagen and then onto Iceland to conquer the deep-seated fear of driving on the other side of the road. Apart from wanting to savour the elemental beauty of Iceland, of course, this time armed with a smattering of Icelandic vocabulary and grammar and an unsatiated hunger for seafood (and Icelandic Fish and Chips). With the memories of Svalbard and the arctic still in technicolor, it’s hard not to be gripped with the sheer excitement of returning to snow and ice and well, extreme living – except that I’m looking at...

From the Blue Lagoon to the Alsatian flats

A 12-hour journey that began at 4am in the morning in Grindavik, Iceland’s Blue Lagoon clinic ended on a whimper (literally) in Strasbourg, a city sitting at the edge of the German border, tiring enough to erase a near-perfect day yesterday spent in the Blue Lagoon and soaking up the silica mud. We joined busloads of tourists for the 45-minute shuttle from Reykjavik, driving to snow-covered lava moss with the distinct advantage of staying over at the clinic for a night – which simply meant we got free entrance into the Lagoon and more time to dally. Situated 5-10 minutes walk down a winding path from the actual building through flammable...

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle tour is Iceland’s bestselling tour, created in mind for those who want a quick summary of the country (if that is even possible) and is pretty much known as the tourist’s abbreviated version of Iceland. It’s essentially a 300km loop around the south of Iceland, a well-trodden day excursion that is the staple of many tour companies. This time, I chose to do it with Iceland Horizons and done, to my surprised delight, by David himself who happens to be the owner of the business. We found him articulate, wry, interesting and an absolute brilliant guide who answered all of our questions more thoughtfully than his own prime minister...

The Northern Lights

We’ve been dealing with sub-zero temperatures pretty much the entire time we’ve been here and it’s quite a challenge to deal with less-than-benign weather conditions in a jet-lagged,sleep-deprived state. Sunrise was after 10am (!) but the dim light bathed the city in an ethereal quietness that I’ve missed so much when we walked out for breakfast. A free day spent wandering the cute streets of Reykjavik degenerated into a wrestle with several Danish washing machines in a Laundromat cafe which seemed determined to make me burst a vessel. Reykjavik is home to the majority of the 320,000-large population, and surrounded by imposing peaks from the harbour, is at times breathtaking, and at...

Flavour of the far north

I think I fell helplessly in love with the world’s northernmost capital as the plane approached the large island from the southeast, even though it signalled the start of what is probably a gruelling journey of packed tours exacerbated by a persistent flu. Its notoriously changeable weather was in full force out of Keflavik airport, snowing small flakes as we queued like squashed illegal migrants on a tug-boat tussling for a space on the city shuttle. Coming in winter means spending one’s days in near-darkness with slivers of daylight, cloudy skies, hail and snow, but the prettily-lit streets and white surfaces makes it a classy Santa-land. Apartment K is cosy...

Exhausting defiance

My travel planning process typically runs across 2 veins: juggling foreign, captivating landscapes from which the instinctive need to explore arises (the heady rush is really quite intoxicating) and the harsh reality of cost-cutting after realising that the reckless planning is potentially busting the humble budget. It’s a common sensibility that probably fits me squarely into the peg called “budget travel” but the penchant for seeking out strange itineraries such as this upcoming one that crosses that oh-so-fine line into “luxury travel”. I’m also quite certain that the travel companion (TC) – who had initially agreed rather enthusiastically to another jaunt in Europe after my sales pitch – is regretting...