08.01.2016 - 08.01.2016
The main event for this entire 45 days trip is to visit Iceland and it definitely lived up to the expectations for me.I wasn't able to cover the entire ring road (main road that goes one round around Iceland,known as route 1) and explored mainly the west and south.Let's starts off with Iceland in winter.
Summer vs Winter in Iceland - When to visit?
Cooling (15-20 degrees) vs Cold (0- negative 15 degrees)
Lots of daylight vs limited daylight
Easy driving vs challenging driving
24 hrs sun vs northern lights
Peak (more expensive) vs low season (less expensive)
green scenery vs snowy landscapes
So all these are just some comparisons between visiting Iceland in the summer (May-July) and winter (nov-feb).If you are planning to visit Iceland,here are some of my suggestions..
1) Be clear of your purpose for the trip.
(Eg; I knew I wanted to see the auroras and orcas (only available in winter),could have done the same if I went to the other scandinavian countries as well.BUT Iceland really offers a lot more than just auroras and orcas and I would still enjoy the trip if I fail to see the aurora or orca in any case.)
2) Do your research,know your stuff.
I've seen people not enjoying Iceland due to insufficient research/knowledge or even recklessness.You will also enjoy so much more if you know what you are seeing and not just hunting for Insta-worthy photos.Good research includes weather and road conditions,tips for winter driving,attractions' information,where and how to best see/capture the northern lights etc... Whatever it is,JUST DO YOUR RESEARCH!
3) Find a suitable and good travel partner.
Driving in the Icelandic winter
Driving in Iceland during winter can be your biggest enjoyment or nightmare.Some say,if you can drive fine during the winter in Iceland,you can drive anywhere.The weather in Iceland is crazy.You can get snow,hail,rain,super strong winds and snow/sand storms all in a window of 15 minutes.Like the Icelanders say,"if you don't like the weather,wait for 5 minutes!" I had a couple of "OH %#&@(!" moments along the trip even with a good car (KIA Sportage AWD w studded tyres).It will help to watch some videos on youtube about winter driving,especially those on ice and thick snow.Going too slow can be very taxing especially when one has to catch the limited daylight in winter.Going too fast at the wrong timings however can land you in serious trouble.(I've seen a couple of flipped cars in the snow.)Know your car,know the roads and adjust your speed accordingly.
While you get manned petrol kiosks in the city area,most pump stations in Iceland are self-serviced.You either get a preparid card or have a credit card (with 4 digit pin ONLY) ready.Discount cards will help you save some money along the trip. (I have a couple of discount cards left and I am selling a travel package,read below)
The northern lights
Technically,these are the favorable conditions to see the lights..
- dark and clear skies (away from the cities,check forecasts)
- new or no moon
- high KP index (check forecasts)
I saw the lights on 5 out of 12 nights in Iceland.Sometimes they just appear as feint green shadows from far.The best show I've gotten,was ironically seen from the balcony of my room in Reykjavik,with a kp level of only 2,full moon and suppository cloudy skies,no camping at all.(we just heard people shouting outside and I thought I take a look,and WOW) People are not lying when they say luck plays a part.There were nights with totally clear skies and a kp level of 5-6 which I stayed up and saw nothing.When they do show up,you have to be quick if you want to take a photo or timelaspe video.They sometimes show up for seconds and disappear for the entire night.Do some research on how to take nice photos of the auroras and also the necessary equipments.
Like I said,don't fly a few thousand miles just to see the aurora.Find a place where there are many other things you can enjoy even if you fail to see the lights.
My Itinerary and tips
To explore Iceland,you either rent a car or follow tours.Tour groups are rather expensive but they provide comfortable journeys and safety.
I got my cars (Kia Sportage & Suzuki Vitara) from Bluecar Rental and Procar Rental respectively.They provide good service and quality cars at reasonable rates. NOTE: read the reviews of the rental companies online before hiring.Tourists get ripped off by various methods every year when renting cars in Iceland.So,again do your research!
Just gonna leave the key attractions and towns I visit along west and south Iceland.Do a google map search to visualize the route.
Reykjavik area - Aurora Guesthouse
- new year countdown fireworks (they put SG50 fireworks to total shame,lasting for a few hours)
- Blue lagoon
Grundarfjordur area - Hotel Framnes
- good location for whale watching and hunting auroras.Saw the amazing orcas here with Laki Tours and 2nd best aurora show I've had.
- Mt Kirkjufell is 10 mins drive away
- Snæfellsnes peninsula
Selfoss area / Efsti Dalur - Efsti Dalur ll farmhouse
- Thingvellir National Park
- Geysir and Stokkur
Vik area - Farmhouse Guesthouse @ Skeiðflöt
- Vik black sand beach
- DC-3 plane crash site
Kirkjubæjarklaustur area - Horgsland Guesthouse & Cottages
- Skaftafell National Park
There is this guide that I recommend it to anybody who is intending to visit Iceland and most importantly the northern lights.Written by an amazingly talented photographer name Moyan Brenn.Here it is : http://earthincolors.com/2013/09/19/tips-to-see-the-northern-lights-in-iceland/
Road conditions and weather - www.road.is
Weather and aurora forecasts - http://en.vedur.is/
Travel warnings - www.safetravel.is
Whatever it is,Iceland is worth your time and money.Thank you for reading and I hope the information helps.For more photos,you can view them on my instagram account, weijiesim24.
Now..I'm selling some stuff away.An entire package of travel information and useful stuff if you are planning to visit Iceland.Includes all sorts of information (eg; restaurants,attractions etc...),map,brand new road guide and 2 different petrol discount cards (Olis and N1).Friends in Sg hit me up at 96514902 for a special price.