ICELAND : The Land of Fire and Ice
Sawasdee Krub everyone! This is my very first travel review on Readme.me. Therefore, I would like to use this opportunity to apologize if there is any mistakes... Actually, I have started to write travel reviews earlier but on Pantip.com. I am recently invited by my friend to join this website so why not. Anyway, I hope you will like my reviews one way or another. :)
Let's start off with the introduction of why I have decided to write this travel review here on Readme.me!
I love to travel and I love to see the world. Whenever I have a chance to travel to other countries, I like to share photos and experience to all my friends and family in order to encourage them to have their own adventure. Moreover, I have created a page on Facebook under the name of "World Walkthrough". It is about my travel and my travel plan that I want to share.
This is where the story get started ...
When my relationship began, I told my girlfriend that "I would like to go for the stargazing somewhere out of town with her" ... This is just like other guys flirting with his girls in the beginning. hahaha
After we are together for a while, I told my girlfriend that "I would like to take her to see the Northern Lights for once in a lifetime" ... This is just like other guys trying to please his girls.
After we have decided to go hunt the Northern Lights for real, I told my girlfriend that "I would like to have our pre-wedding photo shoot under the Northern Lights" ... This is just like other guys who are ready to get married with his girls.
I have been traveling to many places before I turn 25 years old. My job after graduation has a rotate duty in countries outside Thailand. I always search for an adventure every time I have vacation. One day, someone shared a travel review of a group of doctors when traveling in Iceland on my Facebook...This is a great experience shared from "travelers to travelers" which I am totally impressed. As a result, I have decided to make a trip to Iceland real...
After I have seen and read through this review, I then start to do my travel plan. I also do some more research on other travel reviews, rental service, and Facebook "Arctic Friendly Tour". They are all useful information I have found. I am also kind of surprised that there are people who really sacrifice their time to share all of their experience...That's why I have decided to do the same by writing this review to share my own experience just like what I have been shared. :)
I would like to use this space to thank "Joe & Win (the doctors)" and "Arctic Friendly Tour" for all direct and indirect useful travel recommendations.
Iceland travel review of World Wants Wandering by Joe & Win (the doctors) :
Facebook page "Arctic Friendly Tour" : https://www.facebook.com/Arctic-Friendly-Tour-1413875662163641/
Let's get this journey started! ....
Firstly, let me introduce myself, my name is "Bo". I am a petroleum engineer and currently working in Iran. I used to work in Kuwait 5 years ago where I met "Joe", another member of this trip. Joe is still working in Kuwait. One more member of this trip is "Yousef", an Oman American guy who works in the same company I used to work in Kuwait. I actually met Yousef for the first time in my farewell party before I moved to Iran. Yousef has made the last minute decision to join us on this trip and he will meet us in Reykjavik...
Girls on this trip are including "Rose", my girlfriend and "Grace", my sister ... Rose is working in Thailand. On the other hand, Grace just started working as a flight attendant in United Arab Emirates...
There are also some people who cannot make it to this trip because of certain reasons ... Anyway, we will ensure to make them feel like traveling with us all along. Please stay tuned and see how we could make that happen...
Our trip is from 1st - 14th March (arrive back in Bangkok on 15th March). This travel review will introduce you only stuffs that has not been told by Joe & Win (the doctors) because their review is very detailed and perfect. That's why their review is very well known. So with my review and theirs, you will have pretty much different views of traveling in Iceland covered (view from the doctors and view from an engineer hahaha).
Our travel plan is to go around Ring Road and visit Western Fjords where not many Thai people have been to... We have met around 4 groups of Thai people who are also traveling around Ring Road but they won't visit Western Fjords. The weather during this time is pretty unstable. The sky is mostly cloudy especially at night. It is clear again when the sunrise.
Anyway, this is alright ... Even though it is winter, our drone works so well throughout the trip. I feel so grateful to bring it along even it is not easy. hahaha And now, I would like to introduce this video to all of you firstly. It is taken by our drone and this video would give you an overview of this whole trip.
02:10 Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
02:14 Bruarfoss Waterfall
02:18 Skogafoss Waterfall
02:25 Thingvellir Park
02:29 Skaftafell Roads
02:41 Western Fjords
02:44 Svinafell Glacier
02:48 Godafoss Trail
03:22 Aurora in Akureyri
03:35 Godafoss Waterfall
03:39 Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
03:42 Reykjavik at Night
03:53 Blue Lagoon
03:54 Secret Lagoon
03:58 Snowboarding in Hlidarfjall
You can follow us on Facebook page of "World Walkthrough" :)
https://www.facebook.com/worldwalkthrough/14 Days of Winter in Iceland ;
Let's have a look at my journey!
Day 1 and Day 2 : Bangkok -> Reykjavik
We didn't plan well on our first day in Iceland. First of all, we have reserved a motorhome with the rental service company in Reykjavik which is about 50-kilometer far from the airport. That's why we have a non-refundable hotel booking over there. Unfortunately, the company has run out of the motorhome a few days prior to our arrival. Therefore, we need to cancel it and re-booked with another company near Keflavik...However, we are not able to cancel our hotel reservation with a refund. Hence, we have rented a car to go to Reykjavik for a night before coming back to Keflavik to get the motorhome the next day.... We have done this because we arrive in Keflavik around 5 PM and most of the car rental service companies are already closed. For this reason, we will be able to get the motorhome tomorrow...
NOTE: I would recommend you to book a car through www.rentalcars.com if you travel more than 3 people altogether because Rental fee pluses fuel cost would cost you as same as taking the bus to Reykjavik. What more you have got from renting a car than taking the bus is that you are free to stop anywhere you want and you manage your own way of traveling including the time.
Day 3 : Reykjavik -> Thingvellir -> Geysir
We are dropping our belongings at the motorhome rental service company before going to return the car at the airport. Our motorhome rental service company is camperIceland.is. We choose this company because "it is cheap" and it is also the only company that have a motorhome left for rent during this winter. In addition, we choose motorhome over campervan because my girlfriend uses the toilet quite often and we don't think doing this kind of business by the road is a good idea...We are traveling in others' home country so we better respect their property :)
We have a quick break when we approach Thingvellir National Park before continuing our journey...
It is snowing heavily today so the road is pretty slippery. I try to drive to Bruarfoss...but this motorhome cannot make it. :( We have decided to stay overnight at Geysir Cafe instead. It is not a bad idea staying here though, we see the geyser and we also cook. It is not long after that Yousef has arrived here with the 2-seat campervan. His flight just arrived today.
Our team members are all present finally. We have met another group of Thai people as well but they have left to Seljalandsfoss right away. We have heard later that they have seen the Northern Lights there as well. It is a pity that we didn't see it but we guess this is not the end. We will see the Northern Lights for sure one of these days...
Day 4 : Bruarfoss -> Fludir (Secret Lagoon) -> Gullfoss -> Seljalandsfoss
We drive back for about 40 kilometers to go to Bruarfoss where we couldn't get in yesterday due to the slippery road. We are lucky that we can make it today. We park our vehicles and walk for Bruarfoss for another 2 kilometers... I would say it is totally worth a visit. After that, we are going to Fludir. Fludir is a small town known for its natural hot spring (my second time washing up my body on this trip). Then we continue to go to Gullfoss where we experience a kind of snowstorm... We hardly see anything but this didn't stop us from going though. hahaha Seljalandsfoss is the final stop for today where we will be staying overnight...
Special : Portrait photography in Fludir
NOTE: The sky is clear tonight. The Kp-index is about 3-4. Well, I have never seen the Northern Lights before so I have no clue what to look for... I see something in white color in the sky but I am not sure whether this is it or not then I fall asleep... I figure out the next morning that there were the Northern Lights all over the sky last night when another group of people show me the pictures.... (Oh no!! I am not lucky at all)
Day 5 : Skogafoss -> Vik -> Skaftafell
We are heading to Skogafoss directly this morning .. and yes, there are so many people here and it is hard to find a good spot to take photos. I would say this waterfall is amazingly beautiful... There is no word that is good enough to express how beautiful it is. You have got to see it with your own eyes... It would be so nice during the sunrise here when there are no people. Then we drive to Vik in the afternoon. We also stop to change the gas tank for the motorhome on the way (oh! I forgot to tell you that... There are 2 vehicles that we are driving. The first one is a 4-seat motorhome. We use it for cooking, toilet, and 3-4 people can sleep in. The second one is driven by Yousef. It is a campervan rented from KuKu Camper and 2 people can sleep in. I have some difficulties changing the gas tank because I turn the gas head in the wrong way. I have learned it later that I have to turn the gas head another way around (you have to turn the gas head in the clockwise direction to have it loosen and this is worldwide)... We all have got a fever at the end because it has been snowing heavily while having the gas tank changed. We cook BBQ when we have arrived at the Information Center in Skaftafell. We cook it by using temporary stove which can be used only one time per one of them (it works pretty well) and our day ends here.
Day 6 : Svartifoss -> Vatnajokull Ice Cave -> Jokusarlon
We have pretty limited time today and we have to drive quite far. That's why we have to choose to see whether Svinafell Glacier or Svartifoss. We have booked the Ice Cave Tour at Jokusarlon this afternoon which mean we have to leave Skaftafell before 1 PM to get there before 3 PM and it is 80-kilometer drive. We decide to go for Svartifoss because we can walk in with our boots, no need to wear crampons (there are many places that can't be walked on by normal boots or shoes in winter because it is slippery with all the ice, you need to wear crampons which will improve mobility on snow and ice).
Svartifoss doesn't let us down. Svartifoss is a very unique waterfall surrounded by dark lava columns. It looks unreal just like some computer graphics. hahaha Well, since I cannot make it to Svinafell; I use the drone to fly up and overlook at it briefly instead (I have to make this trip worthwhile)... Then we are back at Svartifoss and ready to go to Jokusarlon Cafe where it is located next to the bridge and Glacier Lagoon straight away.
We have been transferred into four-wheel drive car at Jokusarlon Cafe to go to Vatnajokull Ice Cave. This tour run by localguide.is and it takes about 1 hour to get there from the cafe. I don't think you can drive there by yourself... I feel like I am in the middle of North Pole when we arrive because there is nothing at all around us. Once we get into the cave, it is like a whole new world. I would say it is a must to do when in Iceland. It is totally worth it to pay 6,000 THB. The tour guide will then start to tell you about the history of this place and the effects of the global warming.
NOTE: The sky is totally closed today because it is raining after the snowstorm. Therefore, we have no chance to see the Northern Lights, Glacier Lagoon, and the sun at all... What a pity!
Special!! : One of my friends named Joe planned to come along with us but his girlfriend, Kratae didn't have her vacation approved so they couldn't make it. Joe then wants to make something special for Kratae to make her feels like she is traveling along with us... (I heard that Kratae cried so bad after seeing all these photos hahaha)
Day 7 : Egilsstadir -> In the middle of nowhere??
I would call today a driving day. We have been driving all day but we enjoy the scenery along the road pretty much. We have arrived in Egilsstadir around 8 PM. Egilsstadir is the largest town of East Iceland. We would like to try traditional Icelandic food tonight so we stop at Egilsstadir Cafe right away since we are very hungry as well. Guest what we have found!...
Pizza and Hamburger (Oh no!...)
Anyway, we are hungry so no point to look for traditional Icelandic food now... So, we will just eat here. hahaha
We are all searching for a place with clear sky right now...because we have been traveling here for 5 - 6 days and we haven't seen the Northern Light yet. Luckily that we have found one place which is on the way to Akureyri and Akureyri is where we will be traveling to tomorrow. Hence, we have decided to pack and drive to that place right away even it is in the middle of the night...We have been traveling for 140 - 150 kilometers and guess what! we are experiencing the worst snowstorm in our entire life. The wind speed is 15 - 20 m/s (yes, I didn't write it wrong; it is "meter per second") or about 50 - 70 km/hr. Our motorhome is fighting with this snowstorm now.
And it seems to us that we won't be able to win this war .....
The motorhome is stuck!!
Our 6-wheel motorhome couldn't make it through the thick snow. Yousef on the campervan is trying to help us but cannot because the snow is getting thicker and thicker. We then can't do anything but stay still...Suddenly, there is a rescue team coming. They use the hook to get our motorhome out of the snow and it works.
We feel so thankful for their kindness but we didn't know that... we need to pay 10,000 ISK or about 3,000 THB. Anyway, we are safe now. We find a parking spot by the road to park our motorhome and sleep in it with the heavy snowstorm outside. We need to wait for the road to be clear the next morning... and this is the end of this long day.
Day 8 : Godafoss -> Akureyri
We are waiting for the snow cleaner to clear the snow from the road before continuing our journey. Then our next stop would be Detifoss. Unfortunately that Detifoss is closed during winter. If you want to get in, you need to drive the four-wheel drive car. If not, I am so sorry that you can't get in. hahaha Well, after my experience with the bad snowstorm last night, I don't think there would be any other worse incidents. My thought has changed completely after Joe comes and tells me that...
Joe : "Hey!... It seems like we lost one of our mudguards. I guess we lost it last night when the rescue team came and helped using the hook"
Bo : …………….. (Oh no! I guess we are going to be fined a lot because we didn't buy the insurance)
Even though we feel a little depressed, we continue our journey. We have been driving for 1 hour and we have just arrived at Godafoss. We can see it from far away... We walk through the path that fully covered with the snow. Some parts we need to climb up the hill and some parts we need to cross the bridge before we make it to the waterfall. I don't hesitate to let the drone fly over the waterfall and capture photos. I have seen quite a lot of waterfalls here and I have to say that the nature has created such beauty. Some of them are hardly to believe that they really exist.
We left Godafoss and are heading to Akureyri where we decide to do skiing and snowboarding. The snow at Akureyri is very soft and thick so you won't get hurt when you fall down. This is perfect for Rose, Joe, and Yousef because they haven't done this before hahaha... After that we check the weather on mobile phone and have found that the sky will be clear tonight. We then find something to eat for dinner before coming back to Hlidarfjall to standby for the Northern Lights.
And the time I have been waiting for in my whole life has finally come. The time that I see the grey light all over the sky. I wonder "is this...the Northern Lights?". It is not long after that the light has turn into green and purple color as if it has some magical power. I am telling you that you will feel excited like a child getting new toy when you first see this. I don't hesitate to...wake everybody up and have the tripod of the camera set to capture the moment.
Day 9 : Western Fjords -> Holmavik -> Budardular
We need to send Grace off this morning at the Akureyri Bus Terminal. She will go back to Reykjavik first before leaving to Copenhagen to travel with her boyfriend. After that, we will go Western Fjords. Well, we are encountering with another heavy snowstorm again (the sky is closed everyday for our last 5 days here) because there is a storm approaching the Southwestern Iceland. We also stop to play with the local horses on the way to Holmavik. Horses here are very tame. Joe is cooking while we are spending time with the horses. Then we continue to drive. We have experienced all kind of weather along the way including snowing -> raining -> sun shining -> sky being dark -> and hailing during this 3 hour-trip. So, we can say that this is a good experience trip. The weather doesn't seem to get any better when we arrive at Holmavik. So, we have decided to go to the last destination right away before going back to Reykjavik. We are going to Kirkjufell but will make a quick break at Budardular because it is quite far and the wind is very strong.
Day 10 : Kirkjufell -> Grindavik
We don't hesitate to go to Kirkjufell directly after breakfast. The snowstorm is haunting us again so we need to wait inside the car for a bit when we arrive at Kirkjufell. It s not long after that we have decided to just go out to take photos in the middle of the storm (we don't want to waste the time on this trip because we are here already). Our travel plan has slightly changed because we travel faster 1 day than we expect. So, we are heading back to Reykjavik straight away but will make another stop at Blue Lagoon first. Unfortunately, we can't get in because it is fully booked (we didn't check that we need to make a reservation in advance). Anyway, we will come back here tomorrow.
To book Blue Lagoon, you just need to go to their official website and buy your preferred package. Well, we have ended up here at a small town near Blue Lagoon instead. It is called Grindavik.
We use our mobile phone to look for a restaurant nearby right away. We have found a fisherman bar named "Bryggjan". It is a gathering spot for fisherman in town. Bryggja is a very friendly and cozy place. There is also a match between Manchester United and Liverpool tonight so it is quite crowded here. The highlight would be Lobster Soup. It is so good (as you can see in the photo). This is also where we have got a chance to try the local draft beer as well as draft beer from the countries nearby. Bryggjan is run and owned by Heydr who does everything, from serving, cooking, to cleaning the tables.
After I have been drinking for a while, I have seen an old piano standing nearby.
Bo : Is this piano still working?
Heydr : Yes, it is but not many people play it anymore.
Bo : Can I play it after you close your bar?
Heydr : No need to wait until I close the bar, you can do it right now...but under one condition. You need to impress me and if you do so, you will get a free can of beer.
Bo : Deal! (we all love free stuffs, don't we? hahaha)
NOTE : I intend to play "When I was you man" at first but I kind of forget how to play because I am drunk. It turns out to be like this as you can see... There is even a request. Someone wants me to play "Canon" by Johan Pachabel so this is my version of Canon when I am drunk. hahaha
I would say it is quite a night to end our trip around Iceland happily. I don't regret anything coming all the way to Iceland. Local people are very nice with their unique Viking heart which is pretty different from people in other European countries. Well, I don't really remember what happened after being in this bar. Rose told me that I was the one who drove back...After that when I feel better, I grab all beer that we have left and drink them all. Then I steal the key of Yousef's campervan and drive it crazily around my motorhome (the snow make the area slippery so I want to try drifting the campervan). hahaha Yousef and Rose come not long after to get me back to sleep and it is the end of the day!!!
Day 11 : Keflavik -> Reykjavik
We need to return our motorhome today at Keflavik and this is when something unexpected happened, the clutch of our motorhome broke down. We are not able to change the gear anymore. So, we call Camper Iceland to drag it back. We already know that we must be fined for sure from this point... and yes, we are fined with the total of 800 EUR (we are pretty shocked). There is nothing we can do but be responsible for it. We don't have much plan today. We just visit Hallgrimskirkja, one of the landmarks of Reykjavik... I don't hesitate to use the drone in taking photos even it is at night and the photos I have got are better than I thought actually. The pre-wedding photos are as you can see. We didn't get as what we have wanted because it is super cold and very windy. We have tried our best already. hahaha Then we just go for dinner before going back to sleep.
Day 12 : Laugavegur Walking Street -> Blue Lagoon
We have planned to go for skiing and snowboarding in whether Blafjoll or Skalafell today but we have got to cancel it because of the snowstorm again. We have changed our plan to go to Laugavegur for the Walking Street instead. There is nothing much here apart from a few souvenir shops. However, we are quite impressed with our walk on the way back because we are truly experiencing a temporary snowstorm. Then we are going to Blue Lagoon this afternoon to chill in the hot spring under the snow. I am telling you that it is totally amazing but I still prefer the Secret Lagoon because it is too crowded here. Then our dinner is back in Reykjavik. We are going for Fish and Chips restaurant where we can find Icelandic Stew called "Plokkari". It doesn't taste bad though (but Fish and Chips here are tasteless and very oily).
NOTE : The atmosphere of Blue Lagoon can be seen in the video right at the beginning of this review :)
Day 13 : Downtown Reykjavik
I have got to call today "the day of eating" because we have decided to be serious in trying the traditional Icelandic food. We have failed once at Egilsstadir where we found only pizza and hamburger. Then we will come back, start packing our stuffs, and get prepared to say goodbye to this amazing country on the Arctic Circle.
NOTE : Please stay tuned for the upcoming review about Food and Beer!
Day 14 : Keflavik -> Bangkok
It is time to go back to Bangkok. This is the end of this fun journey in Iceland and this is another beginning to get back to work and back to petroleum world for me.
This trip has ended successfully... I will give you more tips and further interesting travel point later. :D
Thank you everyone for your kind support
Cost Control ...
You will get a cheap rate when renting a campervan or motorhome during winter due to the low season. Therefore, you can save quite a lot traveling to here and there. Our trip can list down all the expenses as follows...
Motorhome rental fee for 10 days at 2,100 EUR = 84,000 THB divided by 4 people = 21,000 THB/ person (Camper Iceland)
Or you can rent a campervan, 10 days at 1,500 EUR = 60,000 THB divided by 4 people = 15.000 THB/ person (KuKu Camper)
Fuel cost = 12000 THB divided by 4 people =3,000 THB/ person
Car rental fee and fuel cost = 2,500 THB + Gas 1,000 THB divided by 4 people = 875 THB/ person (2nd March - Toyota Yaris)
Car rental fee and fuel cost = 5000 THB + Gas 2000 THB divided by 4 people = 1,750 THB/ person (11th - 14th March - Skoda Octavia)
Flight ticket = 25,000 - 30,000 THB/ person (Finnair, Lufthansa, Norwegian Air)
2nd March = 3,600 THB divided by 4 people = 900 THB/ person (Booking.com)
11th -14th March = 12,000 THB divided by 4 people =3,000 THB/ person (AirBnB)
Food for the whole trip = 15,000 THB divided by 4 people = 3,750 THB/ person
Visa = 3,500 THB/ person (Danish Embassy)
Ice Cave Tour = 6,000 THB/ person (Vatnajokull Glacier)
Snowboard rental fee = 2,700 THB/ person (Hlidarfjall, Akureyri)
All in all, it is about 76,000 THB per person for this whole trip (this is based on the actual rental fee of the motorhome and flight ticket)
If you travel by a campervan and also get a promotion for your flight ticket, you could save more than 10,000 THB. In other words, you can travel like us with the budget of 6x,xxx THB by not cutting down any activities we have done during winter in Iceland.