Thursday, March 08, 2007

Weekend break in Iceland (Part I)

M and I went to Iceland for a long weekend from 1st to 5th March.
It's a spectacularly picturesque country with very contrasting landscapes (if you drive about a bit like we did!)
We did most of the standard tourist stuff on the west side of the island but we'll get to that soon!

Day 1 - Thursday
Arrive at Keflavik airport quite late in evening after minor delay to flight. We took the FlyBus (1200ISK single ticket - just shy of a tenner) to Hótel Frón in Reykjavík where we were to spend the first night. It was a friendly establishment, very modern and clean with nice amenities. Since we were quite late and quite tired we chose to guzzle on some mint Baileys in the hotel room rather than going out.

Day 2 - Friday
Got up and tucked into a plentiful breakfast at the hotel. The breakfast spread was a mix of the sort of meat/bread stuff you seem to get in mainland Europe, mini croissants, toast and cereal- so something for everyone then! (Well no fry ups - but I'm still supposed to be paying lip service to WeightWatchers so that's probably for the best!)

We then got picked up by a Hertz shuttle to go collect our hire car - a Suzuki Grand Vitara. I was initially disappointed to find out they'd given us an automatic car - but it drove okay - and the 4WD combined with metal studded tires for extra grip on ice came in handy!

After a brief pause to admire the impressive Church of Hallgrímur in Reykjavík, and some brief confusion trying to find the road East out of town (we ended up headed West towards Keflavik airport again initially!) we were on our way.

First stop was Hveragerði, known for its greenhouses. We were there to visit it's tourist information office with the intention of obtaining a better map. We hadn't got satnav and the free tourist maps were quite frankly - crap. We got a decent 1:250000 scale map of West and South Iceland - which was definitely a good idea - and a highly recommended purchase for anyone visiting the area who wants to avoid in car arguments. (Stephan will vouch for how grumpy I get if I get lost whilst driving!)

Next stop:

After a brief stop to look at Kerio (a volcanic crater) we headed to Geysir. The original geyser no longer erupts but Strokkur still gives an impressive display. I do have some video which unfortunately I took whilst holding the camera vertically - so it looks rather silly oriented sideways on the PC. (I've no clue how to rotate video though!!)

We then headed to the nearby Gullfoss waterfall which was very impressive indeed. The water falls down several walls of a canyon at once. We grabbed a brief snack here (toasted sandwich) - we had fancied trying the icelandic meat soup - but 10 quid for a bowl of soup seemed steep (later on we saw similar soup in a hotel for 20 quid so go figure.. I guess soup is just damned pricey in Iceland! Maybe Heinz should export some Oxtail there!)

From Gullfoss we headed to our hotel for the evening - Hotel Ranga
The hotel was a wooden lodge style building - with an impressive polar bear taxidermy in the foyer. (A comedy rock had been strategically placed behind the bear's behind at the time of our visit. Well it made me chuckle..!) It had 2 outdoor hottubs, a bar on the upper level and a restaurant.

It was at this point it became apparent that the rumours about how expensive Iceland was were completely justified. The starters in the hotel were around 1600ISK (mine was 1900ISK) and the main courses we chose were 4200ISK (fish courses were available more cheaply for 2600ISK approx.) 4200ISK is about 33quid at the time of writing. To be fair the food was very well presented. My starter included Smoked Puffin (which I thought was mackerel!) The main lamb course was very tasty.

We thought at the time that the hotel was rather overpriced (33 quid would normally get you a whole meal including wine in a decent-ish restaurant in the UK!) - but with hindsight it was probably quite reasonable given what we paid for substantially worse food in a local bar the next day....

The next day will have to wait for another post though!

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