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View Diary: Icelandic Exceptionalism (211 comments)

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  •  Can't Wait To Visit (1+ / 0-)
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    Thanks for sharing this wonderful insight (and pics) into your country.  My Dad was stationed in the Reykjavík area for the US Army during WWII and I always had a desire to visit.

    Well this is the year as my wife & I are planning to drive the complete Ring Road in the second half of August.

    Any tidbits you as a local care to share that I might not be made aware of from the touring company that will be handing our booking?


    •  Lol, that could take forever to respond in detail! (2+ / 0-)
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      elfling, terjeanderson

      Some general comments though.

      Check to see if you'll be there for Menningarnótt!  If so, definitely be in Reykjavík while it's going on and catch as many bands as you can!  If you need recommendations, just ask.

      In general try to be in Rkv. Thu-Sat nights, if you want to maximize the concert/party scene.

      August is blueberry season.  Go out and enjoy them!  You find them by looking for dwarf birch, which covers hillside after hillside in places.  The blueberries (along with crowberries) grow at the base of the clumps of birch.  You can also randomly find strawberries and brambleberries.  Bearberries grow also but I don't recommend them.  Oh, and keep a good idea out for boletes, if you like picking mushrooms.  You find kúalubbi  (leccinum scabrum) and its similar relatives (though you need to pick them young to keep them from getting wormy, and I recommend soaking the caps for a few minutes after removing the gills to drive out any pests that might have gotten in).  There may also start being the wide range of edible forest mushrooms coming in by that point, though they really take off in September.

      Take as many detours as you have time for on the ring road.  While the whole country has some general "themes" to its appearance, each part of the country is different from the others and has its own unique natural treasures.  Just to give you an idea of how diverse an area can be, look up pictures of each of the following, and then plot them on a map to see how close they are to each other:  Gódafoss, Mývatn, Hverfjall, Krafla, Húsavík, Ásbyrgi, Jökulsárgljúfur.  :)

      Stay phone and net connected.  Bring a GSM phone that can handle email and the like and get an Icelandic sim card (not expensive, just pop by Kringlan) if you can't add Icelandic service to your existing phone.

      Expect to use credit cards for most purchases.  Pick up just a bit of cash at the ATM at the airport in Keflavík.

      As a vegetarian I recommend trying the awesome breads from Jóí Fel (generally found right outside Hagkaup stores), súrmjölk með hnettu og karamellu, rúgbrauð (comes in packs, pre-sliced or not), skyr (of course - check out that protein content on the side, though!), kókosbollur, banana corny bars (they're a German thing), any of the ice cream, and if you like licorice and chocolate together, well, then you'll have trouble choosing in the candy isle  ;)  (lots of other stuff though, candy selections here are pretty extensive).  Non-vegetarians typically recommend the pylsur (lamb hot dogs), hangikjöt (smoked lamb), harðfiskur (fish jerky, very popular here), and a bunch of other stuff that I try not to pay attention to  ;)

      Bring layers.  If you plan to be sitting or standing around in the middle of nowhere at increased elevation or whatnot, clothe yourself pretty well.  Don't, on the other hand, walk around Reykjavík in some bright red synthetic windbreaker unless you want to paint a giant "tourist" target on your back.  ;)  Wool is always popular.  Just don't have any single layer be overly warm, esp. your base layer because it can sometimes get into the 70s at low altitudes in August, and if you're walking around with your base layer as a heavy wool sweater...

      Take in some geothermal waters.  Doesn't even need to be a place like the Blue Lagoon, even the pools are geothermally heated (just not as fancy of scenery), and even the little ones generally have stuff like steam rooms and hot pots  If you want a Blue Lagoon-style place in the north, there's a geothermal baths at Mývatn.

      Get as out into the middle of nowhere as you can and take in the silence.  And yes, you can hike and camp and harvest wherever the heck you want so long as you don't cross fences, aren't too close to a home or campsite, and aren't in a national park.  So if you see some cool-looking volcano and decide that you want to spend the night sleeping in its crater?  Go for it.  Iceland really does the whole "I dare you to!" thing a lot with its landscape.  

      Don't be stupid.  Examples of being stupid:

       - Driving a regular car onto an F-road.  The rental car companies aren't just telling you to avoid them for giggles.  You Will Not Make It.  These roads are not only highly rugged, but they have things like rivers flowing across them.

       - Walking across a glacier without experience doing so, or worse, alone.

       - Walking across coarse apalhraun (blocky aa lava field) that's very heavily overgrown with moss - that is, terrain that looks like this.  The moss (which can get many inches thick, it's almost like walking on pillows) can hide holes between blocks or even into lava tubes.    In general though it's quite safe (not to mention rather comfy!) to walk in mossy areas, just not over coarse apalhraun.

       - Hiking into the middle of nowhere and relying on a single piece of electronics (say, a GPS) for your survival.  Because electronics fail.  Especially in the middle of nowhere.

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