Back from Iceland for the 3th time, today i talk about errors that people can make when travel in Iceland, and that can create problems, hoping to help someone.
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Here we go with my top 12 mistakes:
MISTAKE 1: VISIT ICELAND WITHOUT A MOBILE SIM CARD
In Iceland, sometimes, ones could require to call the emergency number to ask for help, which in this country, at this time, is represented by the number 112
Furthermore, since tourists come from all over the world and every international mobile company has its own fares (often very expensive), one of the best things to do once arrived at the Keflavik airport, can be to buy an icelandic mobile sim card, very easy to install and use
I paid 13 Euros for it, and it allowed me to surf with a limit of 1Gb, while also permitting to call for free the numbers of the same operator (at least in case of the Iceland mobile company NOVA), and also to make international calls at a fixed and enough convenient fare (however, the most important thing was the ability to call the 113 Emergency Number and to surf on internet)
During my last trip for example, i bought a NOVA mobile sim at the department store of Keflavik, which was opened also at night. To use it, i just mounted it on my phone and stop
Another operator i used during a previous journey in Iceland was SIMINN, although its sim card required to be firstly activated by calling the provided number (english instructions) to enter the card promotional traffic code
Anyway, in both cases, i didn’t need to provide an ID card or to make any special registration like in the case of some other countries. Rather, It’s something fast, and both cards were ready to be used right after the sale
MISTAKE 2: CHECKING TOO MUCH IN ADVANCE THE WEATHERCAST
After 3 journeys in Iceland in 3 different years, i can certainly say that the weathercast office of Iceland is seriously in trouble in predicting the weathercast in the long range.
It’s impressive how many times they change the forecast for the same day over time. If today it’s thursday and i check the weather for sunday, chances are enough high that they will change the forecast at least 2/3 times, by initially saying that maybe it will be cloudy, then sunny, and then again very cloudy
So, for my experience, the only realistic span of time for which the weathercast can seriously provide a reliable result is just 6/12 hours.
For this reason, don’t be worried if before going, the entire week looks terrible….probably, weathercast will change idea very soon
Apart from this, it’s relevant to consider that the weather can look different from area to area, reason why i often like to literally “chase” the sun while visiting in Iceland, by checking in the morning where the weather looks nice with the aid of weathercast and webcams, and by deciding in turn where exactly to go (as explained in the following point)
MISTAKE 3: MAKE A DAY BY DAY PLAN TOO MUCH IN ADVANCE
Since the weathercast in Iceland is enough unpredictable and can change from area to area, in my experience the best strategy i have found is to stay in hotels which can work as a “middle point” for multiple attractions, by deciding in turn every single day where to go depending by the weather condition
I like to call this strategy “chase the sun” style…..
As an instance, let’s say i want to visit within 5 days in sequence, Skogafoss, Vik, Lakagigar, Skaftafell, and Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. Someone can plan to book a hotel in every place by visiting them in a sequential order. However, what if one day it rains? Not only, when hotels are very close to specific attractions they can cost even more (Jokulsarlon lagoon is the best example of this problem….few hotels, very high prices)
For this reason, during my journey, i often prefer to book a hotel in a middle point equally far from all the attractions i want to visit, (let’s say in the area of Klaustur or Hvollsvollur for example, which are both 2 great areas in this sense), by visiting attractions based on the weather condition. In this sense, since the hotel is in a middle area, i can easily move back and forth between places without focusing too much the attention only on some of them
MISTAKE 4: GOING THERE ONLY FOR NORTHERN LIGHTS
Although many people undertake this journey to Iceland with the sole purpose of hunting the aurora borealis, in my opinion this is a great mistake for the following reasons:
– Iceland is full of real beautiful things. Why limiting the journey just to the aurora borealis?
– Noone can really predict northern lights, while great attractions like geysers and waterfalls are there all year long….why not focusing on them too? A journey costs lot of money, why losing this opportunity?
– Chasing northern lights it’s not an easy game…..how bitter and sad will be the ending of a journey if one only focus on it and fails?
MISTAKE 5: PRETEND TO MAKE THE WHOLE CIRCLE OF ICELAND IN FEW DAYS
The usual idea of many tourists coming here for the first time without a precise knowledge of the attractions Iceland has to offer is: “ok, it could be the first and last time i visit Iceland, let’s make the entire circle of the Ring Road, i want to see everything”….
Ok, stop for a second………who said “everything”? what exactly does everything mean?
Let’s make a bet……..i will now provide a list of beautiful things to see in just the south and west coast without any needs to make the entire circle (only the most beautiful ones)…..If someone can make a list for the north and east coast which is longer and better than mine, i will pay him a beer……
Here we go, this is my list of south and west area attractions…..
Reynisfjara beach (Vik)
Whale Watching from Reykjavik (usually made from Akureyri, but Google suggests it’s possible also from the capital)
Now the question is……considering that the list provided includes exclusively the best things, (and it’s quite clear that this list is incredibly long), is it really worth to go on the north and east coast by driving for so long in a rush with just few days left, if one has still NOT finished to see the above list of things?
……guess the answer…….exactly…….NO! (at least for me)
MISTAKE 6: DRIVE ALONG F-ROADS WITHOUT A JEEP
I’ve seen people renting city cars like, let’s say, a Renault Clio, and pretending to drive over off-roads (which in Iceland are commonly known as F-Roads) …
I saw it for real on Solheimajokull (before it became a paved road in the last year), and i can only say, be advised, if you make some damage, you will seriously pay for it, since driving in Iceland over F-Roads with a rented non 4WD car, is strictly prohibited, and also controlled by car rental personnel, which sometimes can make a visit to check the car park of off-roads attractions, to see who is acting as a sly
Concluding, the rule is simple: standard car, only paved road, 4WD car, it’s ok to drive along f-roads (although some experience could be needed in particular circumstances like in the case of occasional river crossings)
MISTAKE 7: NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO THE FUEL INDICATOR
Driving a vehicle in Iceland, especially a jeep, can be somewhat different from driving in another country.
In particular, in regards of fuel, these are some points to consider:
– driving off-road can require more fuel, since there’s a higher usage of short gears
– some rented vehicle, like the Suzuki Jimny which is popular in Iceland, have a limited fuel tank litres capacity
– Some roads of Iceland, present a smaller number of fuel stations available, especially in very remote areas
Concluding, putting attention to the fuel indicator and making fuel enough in advance can be a nice way to avoid some troubles
MISTAKE 8: FORGET THE BATHING SUIT AT HOME
Oh man, let’s stop with the idea that Iceland is a frozen paradise……how many people know that this country, especially in summer, is popular for its open natural hot thermal baths? Some examples are represented by the unforgettable Blue Lagoon, but also by the sites of Hveragerdi, Hveravellir, Landmannalaugar and Secret Lagoon (some of them are even free!)
Concluding, If one wants to make his journey more special, i believe that the bathing suit should be absolutely put inside the luggage
MISTAKE 9: RENTING A VEHICLE ON-LINE AT THE WRONG AIRPORT
Last year i saved my friend for committing such mistake….
The problem borns from the way websites call the Iceland international airport. They call it Reykjavik during the act of choosing a destination airport on a website ( probably because most tourists are just aware of this city, since it’s the capital), but in reality its real name is Keflavik, and the airport of Reykjavik is completely a different airport used mostly for local flights, while Keflavik, where the real international airport is situated, is just a secondary town situated some Km west of Reykjavik
So basically, to understand 100% which destination airport one will land to, just check the airport code on the booking confirmation email received by the flight company. If the code is KEF, then it’s Keflavik, and this means of course that the vehicle, while making the on-line reservation, must be rented at Keflavik airport, not at Reykjavik airport!
MISTAKE 10: GO IN ICELAND FOR PUFFIN BIRDS OR WHALE WATCHING IN THE WRONG PERIOD
A part of tourists visiting Iceland, come here to spot whales and the popular cute puffin birds (the ones with the red “parrot like” beak), without knowing that in reality they are not visible during the entire year.
From what i’ve read, July in both cases seems to be the peak period, and in general from May to first half of August should be ok, while in winter the chance seems to get lower to an average number of 74%.
However it is possible to precisely understand the situation by checking the whale watching diary archive of the Eldin company at the link here Eldin Whale Watching Diary Archive, which indicates, for every excursion made, the result and what they have been able to see, and also if during some days they were forced to abort the tour due to bad weather. In particular, by checking in the description of the winter tour, there is reported that the chance is around 74% as previously stated.
So, just be careful and stay informed before taking such decisions!
MISTAKE 11: GO OUT FOR A LONG TREK WITHOUT CHECKING THE WEATHERCAST
Iceland is very popular for its hikes and trekkings activities, situated in many different areas, like for example Landmannalaugar (Fjallabak), Thorsmork, Lakagigar, Skaftafell, and not only.
In particular, there’s one which stands out over the others for its impressive lenght and beauty. It’s called the Laugavegur path, and it’s the longest one of Landmannalaugar, as well as one of the longest of the entire country (Landmannalauger is a national park area situated in the north side of Katla volcano, also known as Myrdalsjokull)
From what i have heard it should require more than one day, and when i visited the basecamp of Landmannalaugar to make a shorter hike of 4 Km, i found a couple of paper fliers hung on the wall next to the small information center, carefully advising people about the risks of undertaking such trekking, including, in particular, the risk of finding bad weather conditions. For this reason, one should carefully check the weathercast before going, by also deciding in turn what kind of clothes to wear
MISTAKE 12: FORGET TO BUY SOME FOOD TO KEEP IN THE BAG FOR THE NIGHT
In Iceland highlands, restaurants and supermarkets tend to close early in the evening, (some restaurants as early as 21.30)
It can easily happen that coming back from a long excursion can require a longer time than the one planned, and for this reason, it could be difficult then to buy some food for dinner
For this reason, when i visited Iceland, i usually liked to keep in the bag or even inside the vehicle,some food like biscuits, chocolate, and even some asian noodles boxes, nicely usable as a backup option for a hot and enough pleasant dinner
These 12 points are just the result of my experience…..the list of mistakes to avoid in Iceland, probably, is absolutely longer than this, and i always invite everyone to act safely….
Stay safe and good luck with northern lights hunting if you go for that!
Thanks for reading
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