Anonymous asked: Good evening and thanks for inviting questions! My friend and I will be traveling to Iceland from US in late February 2013. We would like to rent a car and circumnavigate the island. Do you think this is foolhardy?
It should be fine as long as you don’t expect things to go as planned. It is a full on winter at that time, so be prepared for some proper winter driving, delays and closures. The Ring Road is generally open all year long, but stretches of it will close for a couple of days every once in a while during the winter. It is particularly prone to closure in the Eastfjords.
Foolhardy? Heading out in a Toyota Yaris with no winter driving experience would be foolhardy yes. But if you have a decent car, preferably a 4x4 with studded tires, you are used to drive on icy and snowy roads and you are careful, then you should be fine.
Check for road conditions and closures on road.is. The website is not that great in English, but the map in the upper right hand corner shows the conditions at each given time. The map on the left links to webcams around the country which can be useful. As you can see, mountain roads are closed all winter and although the Ring Road is usually fully open, there often are some hindrances.
Follow weather forecasts at vedur.is and if you are in doubt, ask some locals. They’ll know how it is to drive a given road or mountain pass in that day’s condition.
In Reykjavik and larger towns such as Akureyri in the north, everything is open, but unfortunately, in many parts of the country, tourist things such as museums may be closed during the winter. You could be in for some awesome northern lights and beautiful winter landscapes though. There’s nothing like lying in a hot spring out in nature in a snowy landscape, gazing at the aurora filled sky. Plan to have extra time around Mývatn. That is a beautiful area in the winter.
Have a fun and safe trip.
Anonymous asked: I'm an American trying to visit Reykjavik in December for a few days, a week before Christmas. Can you recommend things to do and day trips for 18 yr olds? Also, my parents sometimes worry about me traveling without them due to my wearing the hijab. Could you tell me about general attitudes toward Muslims? I'm an extremely accepting and liberal person contrary to people's assumptions based on my appearance, but will I be well-received by the atheist population? Thanks, your blog's great!
Reykjavík will be quite buzzing in the week before Christmas. Downtown shops will be extra busy which, if you are there to enjoy yourself and not stressed with holiday shopping, can be quite positive.
Most day trips from Reykjavík run year round. Things you should definitely aim to do is walk on a glacier, bathe in a hot spring and visit a local swimming pool. I used to guide the trip Ice and Fire which includes a hike to a remote hot spring and a walk on the Sólheimajökull glacier in a single day. I definitely recommend that. If you can afford it you should also try a super jeep tour like Essential Iceland and drive on top of a glacier.
In general keep two things in mind when choosing day tours. Route and group size. A lot of tours, probably a majority, goes to destinations along the South Coast. So it is a good idea to mix things up a bit and avoid driving the same routes day after day with slightly different stops. Also there are three general group sizes. There are the big bus tours where you travel with 20-60 people, van sized tours with 8-15 people and super jeep tours with 4-8 people. This is generally reflected in price, but apart from the super jeep tours, the price difference might be small compared to the quality.
For the swimming pools, just find the one closest to your hotel. They are all over the city. If you like it (I’m sure you will), then trey some other ones. There’s usually one in each neighborhood and each has their own style.
Truth be told, you’ll definitely stick out a bit wearing a hijab in Iceland and you will attract some curious eyes. But I don’t think it will really affect the way people interact with you. Iceland is very liberal, but sometimes too much liberalism makes you narrow minded. Many Icelanders will therefore associate the hijab with some sort of suppression. Something you might not agree with. Definitely a good conversation starter if you’re up for it.
Don’t forget to bring warm clothes and good boots. Wandering around Iceland in soggy sneakers in Iceland’s winter weather can really ruin a trip.
Enjoy Iceland and let me know how your trip goes!