Written by the Warrior
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
This is essentially what the Ring road (officially known as Route 1) does for Iceland, minus the sinister part.
According to the Lonely Planet on Iceland,
“There is no better way to explore Iceland than a road trip along Route 1. This 1330km tarmacked trail loops around the island… It’s supremely spectacular… Use the Ring Road as your main artery and follow the veins as they splinter off into the wilderness.”
We essentially followed this spectacular artery during our 21 day adventure in Iceland…
Travelling clockwise from Reykjavík…
To the Southwest…
Then the Golden Circle…
The Western Fjords…
And finally back to Reykjavík.
Along the way, we have learned the following important lessons.
- On travelling with children – it seemed like no matter where we were, or what we did, the Dragon and the Tiger Princess ended up dirty. If it’s not sand, it’s mud or dirt or food. Some people have musical talents, they seem to have dirt radar. Even if there was only a smudge of dirt within a 100km vicinity, they would always manage to find it, and wear it, and in the case of the Dragon, get it in his eye and give himself a whopping eye infection. Aside from that, travelling with children in Iceland is highly recommended! It’s a very safe country, with clean air, clean water and a whole lot of pristine nature to keep the little dudes content. We didn’t end up bringing a lot of toys, since we flew with Wow Airlines and I was way too cheap to pay for any excess luggage fee. But the Dragon and the Tiger Princess were happy to climb hills, dig in dirt, throw rocks and build inukshuks. Also, most activities such as museum entrance fees and tours are free for children under the age of 12, making a family holiday not that much more expensive than a solo holiday.
- On the standard of health care – continuing from the above point, since the Dragon managed to give himself a whopping eye infection, we inadvertently got to know the Icelandic health care system better than I would have liked. In fact, instead of visiting Akureyri (Iceland’s Northern stronghold and second largest city), we visited their hospital instead. And it is outstanding with wait times that Canadians could only dream of. Their system is surprisingly similar to ours, where upon arrival at Emergency, you are triaged, then assessed by a nurse, then seen by a doctor who gave us a prescription, then you go to the pharmacy (apótek) to pick up the thickest antibiotic cream ever. We were in and out in under 2 hours. The Dragon even got his arm (which was not hurt in any way), bandaged for fun. The whopping $600 bill made me realize just how awesome our own medical system is, where despite all its imperfections and crazy long waits, is free. I am extremely grateful that my medical insurance covered the whole bill, and that cost is not a factor in my decision to seek treatment in Iceland or at home. (Note, health facilities outside the large urban centres are limited).
- On travelling along Icelandic roads – due to the hair raising, sharp turning and steep grade nature of Icelandic roads, expect travel time to be much longer than driving the same distance in Saskatchewan.
- Speaking of driving along Icelandic roads – you absolutely need a cell phone! Even in the height of summer, many roads are lightly travelled. So in case of a vehicle breakdown, you might not see another car for hours. There are two telecom providers in Iceland, Síminn and Vodafone, both providing excellent cellular coverage across the country. If you have an unlocked phone, the cheapest and most practical solution is to purchase a prepaid SIM cards either at the airport upon arrival or in one of the major cities.
- By the way the international department lounge of Keflavik International Airport is totally awesome. (Wow Airline flyers, stay in the departure lounge as long as you can, since your gate doesn’t even have seats and is about as uncomfortable as it gets).
- On weather – I have heard so often from people that “Greenland is actually ice and Iceland is actually green.” Well, Greenland might be ice, but there is a reason why Iceland is call Iceland and it’s not irony. This is a country with no forest. It’s not green, it’s cold. We were there for almost the entire month of June and it never got above 15C. Like the East Coast of Canada, you can experience multiple seasons and storm fronts in a span of minutes.
- On the subject of irony – Icelanders don’t do irony or sarcasm. They are the most straight forward people I have ever met, to the point that they almost seem rude. But they have incredible hearts, love children and I would describe them as professional instead of warm, helpful instead of friendly.
- On money matters – this is the first trip that we went 100% plastic. In fact, other than knowing the national currency is the Icelandic Krona, I have no idea what it even looks like. Iceland is an expensive destination in terms of food and petro, as these have to be imported. Costs of activities, such as National Park entrance fees, are in most case quite reasonable – if not free.
- On food matters – Icelandic cuisine is simply outstanding and even approved by my three picky eaters. They have everything that we have, but 100 times better.
- On travelling without Kaffi in Iceland – absolutely unthinkable! Even for a non coffee drinker like me. Icelanders have taken coffee brewing to a whole new league, with these machines that are found all across the country.
With the press of a button, out comes streams of coffee, water, milk, cream, sugar in perfect blends in your cup.
Even hotel machines such as these churn out incredible coffee. Using these coffee bags (they are not tea bags).
- And finally no trip to Iceland is complete without mooching off of somebody else’s tour…