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Iceland in Two Weeks – Itinerary and Tips

Our two week Iceland road trip planning began months before our September flight.  Iceland was expected to have 2 million visitors in 2017.  Even though we decided to go after the high season, I read that accommodation can still be difficult to find as there just isn’t enough for all the people coming to Iceland.  Thus, by June I had already booked our accommodation, flights and car.  That was no easy feat, as we weren’t willing to spend an arm and a leg, nor were we willing to rent a camper van and rough it for two weeks.  In the end, the accommodation dictated our itinerary.  I tried to space our lodgings out by about 4 hours drive according to Google Maps.  I thought this would be a reasonable amount to drive each day, with plenty of stops in between.  I quickly discovered that 4 hours on the map can be up to double that depending on the road conditions, the quality of the scenery and opportunities for photos.

I decided to travel clockwise from Reykjavik (Point 12) so that we could be in the West Fjords (Points 2 & 3) earlier and hopefully get better weather, as it can get colder there before the south.  We stuck pretty much to the original itinerary, until the last few days, when the weather took a turn for the worse and we had to skip the Westman Islands (Bed icon between Points 10 and 11) due to gale force winds and the ferry potentially being cancelled.

TIPS:

  1. Iceland is easy to navigate.  There are not many roads, and some are in less than desirable conditions, but they are well-signed and with the help of a good offline map (we love maps.me– I don’t get any compensation from them) you should have no problem getting around.
  2. We never needed to use cash, but did get a little out at the ATM at the airport just for fun. You can use credit cards everywhere.
  3. We made sure to get gas when we were in big towns, and stocked up on groceries as well, at Bonus and Netto.  We brought a small cooler and ice packs with us as well.  This allowed us to bring perishables in the car, as we never stayed more than one night anywhere, except Reykjavik.
  4. Buy any alcohol you want at the Reykjavik airport duty free shop – it is far cheaper than the little liquor shops, which also have short hours.
  5. Having more than one driver was also key to our trip, as a few of the days were quite long.
  6. I booked all our accommodation on Booking.com (for their refund policy) and AirBNB (for the smaller towns).  This gave me flexibility when some better accommodation did become available closer to our departure.  Book in advance and shop around for car rentals.  I ended up getting a great deal on a 2015 Citroen Berlingo from Northbound/Thrifty for about 82,000 ISK (before insurance and extra driver cost) for two weeks in September 2017. Similar cars from other companies were often twice that.
  7. Every one speaks English. Icelandic words are long and look unpronounceable, but once you know a few of the basics, you can start to decipher the word, though probably never pronounce correctly. Here are a few key phrases that should help:
  • fjörður = fjord
  • vik = inlet
  • foss = waterfall
  • jökull = glacier
  • lón = lagoon
  • á (at the end) = stream
  • vatn = water (often lake)

Even more photos can be found on Riki’s website: Favorite Photos

Iceland Map - Original

 

Our basic itinerary follows:

Day 1: Arrive Reykjavik airport (Pt A, southwest) 8 am.  Pick up rental car and drive to Costco outside Reykjavik.  Drive 191 miles (307 km) to Grundarfjordur (Pt. 1) via Snaefells Peninsula.

Day 2: Drive from Grundarfjordur to Bjarkarholt (Pt. 1 to 2, 194 miles/312 km) with lunch stop in Stykkisholmur. Alternately there is an expensive 3 hour ferry across Breidarfjordur.

Day 3: Bjarkarholt to Isafjordur (Pt. 2 to 3, 129 miles/208 km) with stop at Dynjandi waterfall.

Day 4: Isafjordur to Laugarbakki (Pt.3 to 4, 222 miles/357 km).

Day 5: Laugarbakki to Akureyri (Pt. 4 to 5, north side, 167 miles/269 km) via Vatnsnes peninsula for seal watching.

Day 6: Akureyri to Husavik (Pt. 5 to 6, 92 miles/148 km) via Godafoss and Myvatn.

Day 7: Husavik to Seydisfjordur (Pt. 6 to 7, 170 miles/274 km) via Asbyrgi and Dettifoss.

Day 8: Seydisfjordur to Eskifjordur (Pt. 7 to 8, 46 miles/74 km) with day trip to highlands and Laugarfell for (dead) reindeer spotting.

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Reindeer are very precise about where they cross the road

Day 9: Eskifjörður to Höfn (Pt.  8 to 9, 151 miles/243 km) with stop at Hvalnes Nature Reserve Beach.

Day 10: Höfn to Vik (Pt. 9 to 10, 169 miles/272 km) with stops at Jökulsárlón and Skaftafell National Park.  This was a long day due to lack of accommodation in the area.

Day 11: Vik to Birkikinn on the Golden Circle (Pt. 10 to 11, 89 miles/143 km) with stops at Skogafoss, Seljalandsfoss, Hellisheidi power plant, Geysir and Gullfoss.  Our original itinerary included the Westman islands, but due to gale force winds we were forced to skip that.

Day 12: Birkikinn to Reykjavik (Pt. 11 to 12, 74 miles/118 km) with stop at Thingvellir National Park.

Reykjavik
Reykjavik

Day 13 and 14: Reykjavik and surrounding.

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15 Tips for a Morocco Road trip

My musings are based on the route below.  I can offer little advice for driving in the cities, as we avoided Casablanca and Rabat on this trip.  For more information about our itinerary, check out the other Morocco blogs (Coming soon).

Morocco road trip with cities.JPG

  1. Road conditions are good.  Our economy sized Fiat Punto had no problems in the mountains or desert, though we did not go off-piste at all.  The worst road we encountered was between Fes and Volubilis, where the edges were bumpy.
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    Road between Fes and Volubilis

    In the desert, the roads were generally smooth except where water occasionally passes over them.  These are marked with this amusing cat-like sign.

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    Thought this was a funny looking cat the first time we sped by
  2. Speed limits are well marked and range from 40/60 (in towns) to 120 (toll roads) km per hour.  Police radar traps are frequent as are checkpoints.  We met a couple whose fine for 68 in a 60 zone was about $20.  Drivers will often flash at you to warn about upcoming radar traps.  We were waved through all 20 checkpoints we went past, most of which were south of the Atlas mountains.
  3. Gas prices are lower than in Europe. Diesel (Gasoil) was around 9.50 Dh/liter (March 2017) and Unleaded (Sans Plomb) was around 10.50 Dh/liter.  There are plenty of gas stations along the main roads.
  4. Moroccan drivers are not all crazy or bad drivers.  We found driving in Marrakech and Fes to be hectic, but only a bit crazier than what we’ve encountered in Europe.
  5. Passing and honking are frequent occurrences.  Use your blinker when passing and honk to let the other driver know you are coming.  Most of the honking we encountered was just friendly beeps alerting us to their passing.
  6. Be alert at traffic lights.  If you are too slow to get moving, you will get honked at.
  7. Roundabouts or circles can be confusing.  For the majority, you should yield to traffic in the circle and this will be evident by a normal red triangle yield sign.  When there is a traffic light to enter the circle, you may be required to stop in the circle and wait for incoming traffic.  If there is neither a yield sign or a traffic light, yielding is the best bet.
  8. Watch out for animals and people in the road.  Many of the rural roads are used by pedestrians as well as herds of sheep and goats.

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    Watch out for monkeys near Azrou
  9. Signs are in Arabic and French.  Most roads signs are similar to those in Europe.
  10. Avoid scams.  We were the unfortunate victim of a gas scam at the Afriquia nearest to the Marrakech airport. Make sure the attendant resets the pump from the previous customer to avoid paying extra. We also read about scams involving people pretending to need assistance, only to take you to their friend’s shop.
  11. Use an app such as maps.me for offline driving directions.  We found this app to be generally accurate even though roads were rarely marked.
  12. Rental agencies are required to provide 3rd party liability coverage.  Consider booking your car with a credit card that offers additional insurance coverage for car rentals, so you don’t have to use the additional insurance offered.
  13. For entertainment during those long hours, we found the Moroccan FM radio to be decent with a mix of English and Arabic songs.  Bring a USB car charger to play your own music and to charge your phone.
  14. Check the spare tire has air and there is a working jack before leaving the rental agency office.
  15. Relax and don’t forget to pull over to enjoy the view (and if you’re Riki, take a few thousand pictures).

 

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In the Atlas Mountains between Marrakech and Ait Ben Haddou
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In the Atlas Mountains between Marrakech and Ait Ben Haddou

 

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Our little Fiat Punto
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Driving in the desert
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Pit Stop
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Road in Hassilabied, near Merzouga.  Fortunately, we only drove on this for a few blocks.
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Smooth roads except for some places where the shoulders are rough.
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Smooth and flat

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Distance markers for major towns are frequent.

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Motorbikes can also make this journey
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Watch out for these guys in the Medinas – real troublemakers.
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Meknes traffic
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Meknes Gate

Thanks for reading, and check out the other blogs on Morocco for more information.