Archive for the 'Iceland' category

Spring Break in Iceland 2015

| March 27, 2015 8:36 am

We just got back from Iceland!   Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting about some of our adventures there but for now I wanted to do a summary about Iceland in 2015.

The people are warm and welcoming which is a bit surprising given the eternal coldness of this place.  The youth seem to have a bit of a rebellious streak in them and quite a few buildings in Reykjavik have graffiti on them.   In speaking to a variety of people there seems to be an equal split between the “socialism” factions and the “capitalism” factions and debate ensues about what is the correct approach to economic and social policy.   Almost all of the natives have pale white skin and blond hair as you might expect but with some variety thrown in.  Icelanders are all related going 7 generations back and there is an app that will tell you how closely you are related to that person you are dating….

The country itself has some remarkable infrastructure given the total population is 300,000 people.   There is however definite room for improvement as most roads connecting cities are two lane highways one for each direction with most of the roads in the open country made with gravel or dirt road.  If you come here I would strongly suggest you get a 4 wheel drive vehicle with high clearance.  During our visit we used a Toyota Land Cruiser with 4×4 drive.  I will also add there were a great deal of snow storms with 40+ mph gusts, fast snow drifts and ice as well as rain, hail, and sleet during March.   If you are NOT comfortable driving in these conditions you should consider a guide tour via bus.   Be forewarned gas is expensive here, the price we paid varied from 2.10 to 2.50 euros per liter.   At the time we were there the Euro dropped dramatically against the dollar so 3.78 liters x 2.18 = $8.24/gallon (diesel).

 Reykjavik is a modern city with all the amenities you will find in almost any large city with a few exceptions.  There is no McDonald’s in Iceland!  There are Subways, KFCs, TacoBell, and Dominos Pizza restaurants to name the more common American fast food brands.  There are Indian, Thai and other varieties of food but they are a bit harder to find.  Food here is expensive as it is in many island economies that need to import goods.  Whether cooking in your flat or dining out, expect to pay 30% more for food than you would in the United States.    A nice dinner out for four at the Fish Market in Reykjavik will run about $120 sans wine.

 The bed and breakfast inns are modest but very warm.  My biggest complaint is Internet access was very slow in most places even in our flat in Reykjavik.  Cell phone coverage was worse than you should expect for a modern city but understandable given the remoteness of the location and the sporadic weather.

 About Iceland Photography.  My most frustrating experience was photographing in Iceland.  The dramatic weather changes from snow, rain, hail, sleet, fog, overcast and sunny made it very difficult to photograph anything.   The crown for frustration in Iceland however goes to Reykjavik for light pollution.  Thousands come here to see and photograph the aurora but it is next to impossible in the city with so many lights on all the time.  Even traveling out to the peninsula is not a sanctuary because too many cars drive there with their headlights on drowning out the darkness.    If you want to photograph the aurora I suggest you drive at least 20 km out of the city.

What is there here to enjoy?  Music, food, culture, and of course the many sites from ice caves, waterfalls, black beaches, lakes and lagoons to museums, clubs and restaurants.   You are only limited to your imagination and ability to get off your butt and do something.    I will say that I was EXTREMELY disappointed that Uber is not available in Iceland.    Taxis are very hard to find and expensive.   If you will NOT be renting a car be sure to stay in the downtown area as that is where most of the action is and if you DO rent a car, be forewarned that parking is sparse and expensive.   The flat we rented came with a parking spot and that was worth its own weight in gold.    At one point, we went to the volcano house to see a brief 1 hour movie on Iceland and came out to find a $10 parking ticket for not putting enough krona coins in the parking meter.    The meter maids are out in full force during the day happily handing out citations.   If you do get a ticket, take it to any bank to pay it.   I suspect this is how Iceland is trying to recover from their financial crisis – one parking ticket at a time.

 How would I improve Iceland?   I would start by extracting value from the countries natural landscape.  Add ski resorts, snow tubing, snow biking, snowboarding to start.   I am told there are fishing tours in the summer but add on to that boating, cruising, water skiing,  jet skiing and other.   I don’t know if any of this is practical, perhaps the water is too cold or too hot because of the geothermal heat but I think it would bring in a ton of tourist money and add to the attractions.  Appeal to the ever growing photographers market by implementing light pollution controls or designate no light areas to enable photography of the natural landscape in Iceland.

Iceland please add Uber or your own version of it, this would help tremendously to get around Iceland.