Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Ring Road in Iceland (Route 1)

Route 1, also known as the Ring Road, is the major highway in Iceland connecting most of the towns, including Reykjavík, the capital and only city. It is 830 miles long (1330 km) and goes through the fjords, mountains, plateaus and flat land. Because Route 1 is the only road connecting east to west in Iceland, travelers should take precautions when crossing the country.


Marketers in Reykjanes, Snæfellsnes, the Westfjords and the far northeast of Iceland often complain that sticking to the ring road means you miss some of the country’s greatest pearls – and that is undeniably true. On the other hand, you also drive right through some of the country’s greatest pearls and it is an excellent first-time introduction to Iceland before you return to the country again, and again (hopefully).


The many amazing highlights of the ring road experience include some of the biggest towns in the country, some of the most sought-after waterfalls in Europe, the Eyjafjallajökull and Vatnajökull glaciers, the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon…and that’s just on the south coast alone!

There are already articles about the major attractions in South Iceland, East Iceland, North Iceland and West Iceland on this site, so we won’t dwell on them too much here. Suffice is to say simply that you won’t run short of things to see and do.


The Route 1 ring road around Iceland is 1,339 kilometres long, which makes it ideal for exploring slowly over the course of a week – or even longer. But the relaxed driving schedule also makes it easy to add in one or all of the missing areas mentioned above (like the Westfjords or Snæfellsnes) to increase the length of your journey and see more, erm, sights along the way.

The same is very much true if you want to roam off Route 1 and explore the East Fjords, and if you want to save a thousand krónur by taking the beautiful old Hvalfjörður road instead of the much shorter tunnel.


Route 1 is considered the national highway and it is used by lorries carrying freight almost every day of the year. This means snow ploughing is top priority in the winter and the road will be open when others may be closed. Of course extreme weather can shut even Route 1 for short periods, so it is always best to check the road conditions before you set off. There are no such concerns in the summer though (stated with at least 90% certainty).

The road was finally completed in 1976 and these days most, although not all, of it is paved. The small remaining sections in the East are gravel. The speed limit is 90 km/h (80 on gravel) and the police are extremely hot on dishing out speeding tickets. Apparently about half of tickets issued are to foreign tourists, and they even chase speeders by helicopter, believe it or not...


Example: 8/9/10 Days Round Trip in Iceland

Day 1: Reykjavík - Hvalfjördur - Borgarnes - Hraunfossar - Bifröst - Hvammstangi (sleep around this city)
(+1/2/3/4 days Westfjords)
Day 2: Blönduós - Glaumbaer - Hófsos - Öxnadalur - Akureyri - Godafoss - Mývatn (sleep around the lake)
Day 3: Mývatn - Detifoss - Egilsstadir (sleep at Egilsstadir)
(+1/2 days Mývatn + Askja)
Day 4: Egilsstadir - Hengifoss - East fiords - Fáskrúdsfjördur - Hvalnes - Stafafell - Stokksnes - Höfn (sleep at Höfn)
Day 5: Höfn - Jökursárlon - Skaftafell (Sjónarnipa, Svartifoss) - Vík - Reynisfjara - Dyrhólaey - (sleep around Vík)
Day 6: Vík - Skogafoss - Seljalansfoss - Golden Circle (sleep around Fluðir)
(+1/2/3 days at Landmannalaugar)
Day 7: Fluðir - Krýsuvík - Blue Lagoon - Reykjavík (sleep at Reykjavík)
Day 8: at Reykjavík, shopping etc...


This classic 10 days round trip brings you along the Ring Road as well as other roads looping out from the Ring Road. You will see the City of Reykjavik, do the Golden Circle, see hot springs, the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, Skaftafell nature resort in Vatnajokull National Park, Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, the East Fjords, impressive Dettifoss Waterfall, the towns of Husavik and Akureyri, and much more.


Berglind Rós, Iceland24
April 2014

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Hiking routes in Skaftafell National Park Iceland

Following are suggestions for a few of the more popular hiking routes in Skaftafell. Whenever possible the suggestion is a circular route. Please note that these are only suggestions; in most cases it is possible to use alternative paths, return the same way, do a reverse circle etc. Also note that distance and walking times are for reference only.


Hiking maps for Skaftafell are available in visitor centres, information offices and from park rangers. You can also use the ones here on the right; click on each picture for enlarged version.


Skaftafellsjökull (Skaftafell glacier) 
Distance: 2 km (4 km round-trip) 
Walking time: 1½ hrs. 
Route difficulty: 1 (easy) 

A paved path goes from Skaftafell Visitor Centre towards Skaftafell glacier. From the end of the paved section a gravel path leads to a point where there is a good view towards this impressive outlet glacier and its roots in Vatnajökull ice cap.

After enjoying the view you should walk back the same gravel path and then take another gravel path on the left which will lead you to Skaftafell Visitor Centre.


Svartifoss ('Black waterfall') 
Distance: 2 km (4 km round-trip) 
Walking time: 2 hrs. 
Route difficulty: 1 (easy) 

After walking 250 meters from the visitor centre through the campsite take you slightly upwards into the mountain heath in Skaftafell (elevation is 140 meters in 1.5 kilometers). From that point the path will take you down into the ravine below the waterfall).


After enjoying the waterfall and its surroundings you should walk up the basalt column steps on the other side of the ravine and follow that path all the way down to the campsite via Lambhagi. When visibility is good It is recommended to do a little extra loop to the viewpoint at Sjónarnípa on the way down.


Kristínartindar ('Kristín's mountain peaks') 
Distance: 16 km 
Walking time: 7 hrs. 
Route difficulty: 3 (difficult) 

The route to Kristínartindar goes from Skaftafell Visitor Centre through the campsite and up into the mountain heath as if you were going to Svartifoss. It is possible to go all the way to Svartifoss and then head on to Sjónarsker, but the shortest way is to cross the river on the walking bridge next to Magnúsarfoss and from there head to Sjónarsker. From Sjónarsker the path goes all the way towards Kristínartindar. When arriving at the foot of Kristínartindar you have two options.

The easy one is to walk the path around the mountain peaks where you will come onto the walking route again. The other option is to walk the path that goes through the rock scree all the way to the top of the mountain. For that hike it is strongly recommended that you have good boots and trekking poles. To go down you return the same way as you came up, with the exception of that when you arrive at the shoulder between the mountain peaks you take the path that goes to the left.

That path will take down towards Gláma where the paths meet again. From Gláma the path takes you down to Sjónarnípa and then onwards to the visitor centre/camp site via Austurbrekkur.


Sjónarnípa (a viewpoint) 
Distance: 3,5 km (6,5 km round-trip) 
Walking time: 2 hrs. 
Route difficulty: 2 (challenging) 

From the camp site walk up towards Svartifoss. Skip the first signpost for Sjónarnípa. After 450 meters another 'Sjónarnípa signpost' appears. Choose that path towards Sjónarnípa. Then continue back towards the camp site via Austurbrekkur. Even better option is to skip the second signpost also and choose the third one which is located right before Svartifoss.


Morsárjökull (Morsá glacier) 
Distance: 10 km (20 km round-trip) 
Walking time: 6 hrs. 
Route difficulty: 2 (challenging) 

The route goes from the camp site in Skaftafell across the mountain heath to Grjóthóll in Morsárdalur. A marked path goes from Grjóthóll towards Morsárjökull and the glacial lagoon in front of it. On the return you take the same path towards Grjóthóll and continue across the walking bridge on Morsá river.

You then continue on the trail next to the river all the way down to another walking bridge by Götugil. Walk over the bridge on follow the marked path that leads to the camp site.


Bæjarstaðarskógur ('Farmstead woods') 
Distance: 7,2 km (15 km round-trip) 
Walking time: 5 hrs. 
Route difficulty: 2 (challenging) 

The route goes from the camp site in Skaftafell across the mountain heath to Grjóthóll in Morsárdalur. A marked path goes from Grjóthóll towards Morsárjökull. From Grjóthóll continue across the walking bridge over Morsá river and straight on the marked path that leads to the woods in Baejarstaðarskógur.

The path continues through the woods and past two beautiful ravines that are worth a closer look. After passing the ravines it is relatively easy to walk across the sands back towards Skaftafell. There is no marked path on this route but aim for the lower end of the Skaftafellsheiði mountain heath and you should arrive at the walking bridge by Götugil. Walk over the bridge on follow the marked path that leads to the camp site. If you are not comfortable with crossing the unmarked sands you can return the same way as you came.


Kjós ('Dell') 
Distance: 12 km (24 km round-trip) 
Walking time: 8 hrs. 
Route difficulty: 2 (challenging) 

The route goes from the camp site in Skaftafell across the mountain heath to Grjóthóll in Morsárdalur. A marked path goes from Grjóthóll towards Morsárjökull. From Grjóthóll continue across the walking bridge over Morsá river and straight on the marked path that leads to the woods in Baejarstaðarskógur. Then instead of walking into the woods you should turn right and walk on the gravel bank of Kjósarlaekur.

Please note that there is no proper path or way marking. Continue until you arrive in Kjós. The same route will take you back towards Grjóthóll but instead of crossing the bridge you should continue on the trail next to the river all the way down to another walking bridge by Götugil. Cross the bridge on follow the marked path that leads to the camp site.


Getting there

By car: Road 1 goes from Reykjavík to Skaftafell (326 km). Road 998 (2 km) leads up to the visitor centre in Skaftafell. Road 1 continues to the east from Skaftafell. The distance to Höfn is 136 km and the distance to the Glacial Lagoon is 56 km.

By bus: A scheduled bus goes between Reykjavík and Höfn via Skaftafell. For further information check this website: www.straeto.is


Restaurants / food stores 

A cafeteria is operated in Skaftafell during the summer. It offers hot soups, sandwiches, cakes and coffee, along with some basic dairy products, bread, biscuits and fruits, to mention some.

A restaurant can be found in Freysnes which is 5 km to the east from Skaftafell (opposite Hotel Skaftafell). It is operated all year round and also has a small-scale food store. A larger grocery store is in Kirkjubæjarklaustur (70 km to west) and yet another one in Höfn (136 km to east).

Accommodation 

Information on accommodation near Skaftafell can be found on the website of the regional tourism organisation.


Skaftafell campground

The campground in Skaftafell is in full service from 1 May to 30 September. Guests are permitted to camp outside the service season but must take notice of limited services. Guests should contact the service desk at the visitor centre prior to camping.

Late arrivers should make contact first thing in the morning. Vatnajökull National Park does not offer any equipment rental.

Tel: +354 4708300
 e-mail: skaftafell@vjp.is


Source: Vatnajökull National Park
Iceland 24, April 2014

Friday, 11 April 2014

Car Rental Iceland - Price Comparison Summer 2014

Renting a car in Iceland may not be the cheapest way to explore the island (it’s tough to beat hitch hiking) but it doesn’t have to blow your budget. With public transportation being almost non-existent outside of the larger cities, like Reykjavik, renting a car gives you the freedom at a fraction of the cost when compared to the sightseeing tours sold at tourist information centers.


Despite being a big supporter of public transport I think the best way to travel around Iceland is by renting a car.

We recommend to pick up your rental vehicle at the airport to save money to and from the airport. For example, if you pick up your rental from the city of Reykjavik, you may incur an additional cost of about USD $25-35 / EUR €20-30 in shuttle bus fees each way to get to Keflavik International Airport. This is because the airport is about an hour from Reykjavik. However, planning to pick up your rental at the airport may save you from incurring the additional cost.

PRICE COMPARISON
July 27th - August 4th
Pick up: Keflavík International Airport / Drop off: Keflavík International Airport

Option A - New Cars:

HERTZ
http://www.hertz.com
Toyota Aygo                949€
Toyota Rav4                2.033€

REYKJAVÍK CARS *     BEST COMPANY SUMMER 2014
http://www.reykjavikcars.com
Hyundai i10                 550€
Dacia Duster 4x4         941€

EUROPCAR
http://www.holdur.is/en
Volkswagen Polo         879€            
Suzuki Grand Vitara    1.701€

AVIS
http://www.avis.is
Hyundai i10                 796€
Suzuki Jimny               1.542€

SIXT
http://www.sixt.com/
Volkswagen Polo         855€
Dacia Duster 4x4         1.724€

CARS ICELAND 
http://www.carsiceland.com 
Kia Rio diesel              581€
Suzuki Jimny 4x4        807€
*prices with all insurances included


Option B - OLD Cars:

REYKJAVÍK CARS 
http://www.reykjavikcars.com
Hyundai i10                 530€
Hyundai Tucson 4x4    909€

SADCARS
http://sadcars.com/en
Toyota Yaris                675€
Toyota RAV4              1.125€

VIKING CAR RENTAL
http://www.vikingcarrental.is
Kia Picanto                  848€
Suzuki Grand Vitara    2.084€

ICELAND CAR RENTAL
http://www.icelandcarrental.is
Hyundai i10                 630€
Toyota RAV4              1.064€

ARTIC CAR RENTAL
http://www.arctic.is
Toyota Yaris                640€
Toyota RAV4              1.175€

SAGA CAR RENTAL
http://www.sagacarrental.is
Ford Fiesta                  750€
Ford Kuga                   1.360€


Compare car rental prices online (see above) and then book your rental. Generally, the earlier you book your car rental, the more savings you most likely will get. You must have a valid debit or credit card to book a car rental in Iceland. Generally, the card must have a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club or Discover logo on it.

What should I do if an accident occurs?

Don't move your car (unless it is in a dangerous position which might lead to another accident) and wait for the police to arrive. You can call them on 112. It is a legal requirement to carry a warning triangle and this should be used if necessary.

In the meantime swap insurance information and addresses with the other driver. If you have a camera handy take pictures of the accident for police and insurance purposes. You should give a copy of the police report to your insurance company.


What are the seat belt regulations in Iceland?

All passengers must wear seatbelts. Having your headlights on while driving is also mandatory while it is illegal to drive while talking on a mobile phone.

What are the motorway signs?

There is one main highway in Iceland which goes from Reykjavik all the way along the coast. It is called the Route 1 Ring Road and you can't miss it.


What is the alcohol limit?

The drinking limit is 0.05% and the minimum fine is ISK 70,000 or 386 Euros.

What documents do I need?

You need to have your driving licence, your passport, some proof of insurance (including third party fire and liability insurance) and your vehicle registration information.


What phrases might I find useful when driving?

- Motor oil - motor olia
- Entrance - inngangur
- Detour - krokaleid blylaust bensin
- Diesel - disiloliaHospital - spitali
- Police - logregla
- Police Station - logreglustod
- Parking - bilastaedi
- Highway – hradbraut
- Road goes from being paved to Gravel - malbik endar (change your speed down accordingly)
- Unleaded petrol - blylaust bensin
- Gas station - bensinstod
- Exit – otgangur
- One lane bridge – einbreio bru (you should give way to cars already on the bridge)


What are the speed limits?
  • 50 kilometres per hour in built up areas.
  • 80 kilometres per hour on open roads.
  • 90 kilometres per hour on highways. 90 kilometres per hour is the maximum speed limit and should never be exceeded in Iceland as the penalties are steep.


Berglind Rós, Iceland24
April 2014
© 2014 by Iceland24