As the lead up to our Iceland adventure gets into the home stretch, there are some final thoughts and preparations we are making to tidy up those “damn logistics.” In addition, we mapped out various day trips for both home base locations.
When you are within a month of traveling, its time to get into the last minute logistics, such as:
- Checking health insurance for foreign coverage and, if needed, obtain international medical insurance for the period of time you are away
- Notifying your credit card companies of a travel alert to avoid any freezing of your account when sudden activity appears in a foreign country
- Notifying the USPS to hold your mail
- Making sure you have bought all the items required to make your trip safe and enjoyable (e.g. – clothing, hiking boots, charging adapters, etc)
- Making sure arrangements are made for your pets, if you have any
Most health insurance companies in the U.S. will not fully cover (or cover at all) medical expenses incurred in a foreign country. In 2016, as employers offer insurance plans with greater and greater restrictions and higher deductibles in the aftermath of Obamacare, when traveling abroad you must review your policy and decide if you need supplemental insurance while you are abroad. In an abundance of caution, I purchased a policy from Patriot Travel Medical Insurance through IMG. You can chose varying levels of coverage, but all in all it was worth the $58.00 to cover my wife and I for expenses of up to $500,000.00.
I’ve been reading so much about how Iceland is an almost 100% cashless society and credit cards are king. In an effort to assure there are no issues, I notified all of my companies of the dates and locations of my travel. Most of them allow for online notification, however, be sure to check to see whether a phone call is required.
An account with the United States Post Office (free to sign up) is useful, though not required, especially when you can notify them of your vacation travels in order to hold you mail while away. Even if you have someone watching your home, it is still useful to have the USPS hold the mail to absolve that person or persons of another responsibility.
Speaking of responsibility, your pets are family, so provide what you can – whether it is a trusting person to watch them at your own home, or boarding at a vet or other company.
Now, in part three, we discussed plans for the first half of the vacation, where we are based out of Hafnarfjordur, a suburb of Reykavik. To expand that part, we have planned a variety of day trips for Days 1-5, which we will select upon waking up each morning based on some criteria:
- how we feel that day
- length of the journey and if it would be better to split it over the course of the day
Having been to Alaska, we feel prepared for 24 hours of light. In that trip, we used the vast amount of daylight to adjust our schedule in case of weather or crowds. Now, we don’t expect crowds to be as big as some of the places we have been before, but since Iceland has become a hot travel destination and over 60% of travelers come from the U.S., I imagine we will have to account for crowds as well.
We have multiple options at our fingertips in all directions to allow for bad weather and the abundance of daylight allows us to adjust – whether its sleeping in (or looking at indoor attractions) when morning rain occurs or getting an early start with impending rain in the evening – thereby allowing for weather to potentially clear in the evening hours. Right now, Iceland’s “sunsets” are at approximately midnight, with no actual total darkness. This plays right into my plans as a photographer.
Some of the day trips for Days 1-5 include:
a. The Reykjanes peninsula – which includes the birding cliffs near Sandgerði and Hafnir, the “bridge between two continents” near Reykjanesta and the lava formations at the Reykjanesfólkvangur nature preserve.
b. The “Golden Circle.” This is the one that should be the most crowded, but it includes: þingvellir National Park (“þ” is “th” as in “thing”), Geysir (with the Geysir and Strokkur geysers), Gullfoss waterfall and Selfoss waterfall in Arborg).
c. The Snæfellsnes Penninsula, which includes: Snæfellsnes National Park (birding cliffs), the iconic Kirkjukfell peak (as seen in The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty in the background when Ben Stiller is in the bike riding scene), the basalt columns of Ytri-Raudamellur and the Glanni Paradise waterfall (among many other spots).
d. Vik and Jokulsarlon. When I originally planned the trip, there was a third base camp, which was supposed to be in the south. However, a lack of lodging forced us to rethink the idea. In any event, the road from Hafnarfjordur to Hauganes in the north may come in the form of a counterclockwise loop around the south or it may come from a clockwise route (much shorter) towards the north (and vice versa on the way back). My guess is, the weather will dictate the route. However, we do have a rather long day trip planned to one of the most sought after destinations – the iceberg filled Jokulsarlon Lagoon. The town of Hofn – just east – is the furthest reaches of the split in the country we had decided on. This part of Iceland also features the black sand beaches near Vik and a plethora of spectacular waterfalls.
e. A touch of the West Fjords. My wife wants to visit the West Fjords section for the spectacular birding cliffs of Látrabjarg. While most of this part of Iceland will remain undiscovered on this trip, I do want to make a run at Látrabjarg at least. It is the westernmost point of Iceland and a long road trip.
For the second half of the trip, we are staying in the small village of Hauganes, which features what looks to be a spectacular whale watching cruise company at whales.is.
Some of the day trips for Days 6-10 include:
a. Lake Myvatn. Even before Husavik and Akureyri, Lake Myvatn is tops the list of places we want to see in the North. Dimmuborgir’s craggy lava formations, Krafla’s crater and the psuedo-craters in the south are bound to be the highlights of the entire trip.
b. Husavik, Asbyrgi and Raufahofn. This day trip is a long drive, but involves whales (at the whale watching capital of Iceland), the “grand canyon of Iceland” (Asbyrgi), and, if possible – the “Arctic Henge” (the modern arctic answer to Stonehenge) in Raufahofn.
c. Grimsey Island. The only item we actually planned an actual day for is Grimsey Island. This requires a tour boat or the ferry out of Dalvik (just north of Hauganes). Grimsey is the only part of Iceland that touches the Arctic Circle and there is a monument for photos. The island is small and has a huge puffin population on its outer cliffs. We did plan on a 9am ferry ride for a three hour journey with four hours on the island before heading on the ferry back. Depending on how tired we are, we may continue the journey after a meal to points west.
d. Eastern Iceland. We might not get to see too much of Eastern Iceland, except what we can see to and from (or both) our West and North home bases. However, seeing a reindeer is pretty high on my list, especially with variety of land animals at a minimum. Also, riding along road 93 (as seen in The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty when Ben Stiller is skateboarding) is high on my list.
It might not be in the cards to see the central highlands, since it is so remote and there are so many other things we want to see. I imagine if your interests include overnight or 2-10 day hiking trips, the central highlands are the place for you.
Trying to get to some other places just west of north or the deeper into east coast of Iceland will have to come on our journeys around the island from one home base to the other and vice versa. For a smaller island, there is a plethora of stuff to do, but the key is educating yourself on everything in the destination so there are no regrets except lack of time. Finding out about something after the trip is over is a mistake I never plan to make again.
All that is left now is going! My next report will be from Iceland itself! Can’t wait to show you!