We started our Iceland journey by taking a Icelandair flight from Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN) to Keflavik International Airport (KEF). Icelandair is one of the direct flights which takes 3 hours 10 minutes to reach our destination. Iceland is 8 hours behind Singapore time.
GETTING TO KNOW ICELAND
During our travel, it becomes an educational trip for us as we get to know more about other countries. We thought it is money well-spent as Big and Small M are able to get first hand experiences and creating our blog becomes a mobile diary for them to remember their growing up years.
- Where is Iceland?
Iceland is a North Atlantic island and the westernmost country in Europe, midway between North America and mainland Europe. It is a country of extreme contrasts and widely known as “The Land of Fire and Ice”. Home to some of the largest glaciers in Europe, and some of the world’s most active volcanoes, Iceland is also the land of light and darkness. Long summer days with nearly 24-hours of sunshine are offset by short winter days with only few hours of daylight.
2. What is Iceland’s population?
Iceland has a population of slightly more than 300,000 and 2/3 of them stay in its capital city, Reykjavík.
3. What is Iceland’s currency?
The currency used in Iceland is the Icelandic Krone (pronounced “krona”), ISK. We were told by moneychangers back in Singapore that Euro is used in Iceland, only to learn that Iceland has its own currency. Credit cards are widely used in Iceland and you would not need to use cash most of the time. We exchanged the krona at Keflavik International Airport and immediately fell in love with this beautifully designed currency that we were hesitant to use them.
4. Buying Icelandic Prepaid SIM card
You must know how important it is to get updated on the weather and road conditions in Iceland especially during winter. Staying connected is a must in Iceland! We bought Siminn Prepaid SIM card from the convenience store from Keflavik International Airport arrival hall. Remember to bring along your mobile needle (smallest & most useful item) to change the SIM card if you are using iphone. There are 2 types of prepaid SIM card:
Síminn Prepaid Data – Mobile data only, with easy refill on the go. Included is a SIM card and 1 GB at the start.
5. Drinking Icelandic tap water and breathing Icelandic air
Yes, you can drink Icelandic tap water. Not only it’s free of charge, it is one of the purest and most delicious water on earth! Drink as much as you can to detox. Even the pure Icelandic Mountain Air is on sale as souvenirs. We were told by our car rental company that a South Korean couple rented a campervan from them and instead of driving much, they spent most of their time sleeping in Iceland as the air is so pure and therapeutic that they have never experienced that before in their life.
RENTING A CAMPERVAN
Coming to Iceland is all about exploring the country. We rented a campervan and it became our “hotel” accommodation. We drive, cook, eat and sleep in our campervan. Click here to read our previous blog post on renting campervan and 8 tips on road driving in Iceland.
We were fetched at Keflavik International Airport by the car rental company personnel after we arrived. At the warehouse, we spent about 2 hours on car inspection and briefing on how to operate the campervan. We also went through the insurance policy and the dos and don’ts in Iceland before hitting the roads.
OUR ROAD TRIP
The Golden Circle covers more than 300 km and the Ring Road (the main national road) covers over 1,300 km. We were ambitious and planned to visit Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon within the same night after collecting our campervan. By the time we departed from the warehouse, it was 7pm. Recall that night comes early during winter and sky usually gets dark by 3pm.
The distance to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is about 418km or 5 1/2 hours assuming we drive at a speed of 80km/hr (this is also provided that the weather is fine). To give you an idea of how far it is, just remember the distance from Singapore to KL is about 360km and Perth Airport to Margaret River takes about 280km.
And so we hit the roads. The thing about Iceland is the extreme personality – beautiful landscape but yet unpredictable weather. Those not used to Icelandic conditions might be amazed not only how quickly the weather can change but also how much it can differ from one place to another. The weather can be fine and not a snowflake in sight and yet after an hour drive or two conditions might have changed drastically, with even a snow blizzard and strong wind.
Big and Small M were exhausted by all the flight and car thingy that they were soundly asleep. We were trying to get use to driving manual gear and familiarizing with the campervan. The weather was fine for the first hour. However as we departed from Reykjavík and entered into the rural areas, the weather started to get inclement. We were negotiating the blind curves and out came strong wind gust of up to 30m/s slapping against the sides of our campervan so strongly that the campervan interior lights (which were switched off), started to flicker and turned on by themselves. I was grabbing the steering wheel tightly to prevent the vehicle from veering off the tracks. At times, I could feel the tyres did not seem to have a good grip on the road. The best I could do was to drive in the middle lane whenever the road ahead was clear of other cars.
Oblivious to Big and Small M, it was a pretty scary sight. Campervan has a larger surface area which is able to collect winds like blankets compared to smaller cars and it does not have a low centre of gravity. We were kind of regret getting a campervan and not knowing the dangers it may bring now that it is winter period, not to mention being during the night time. We were praying really hard!
To give you an idea how crazy the winds that we experienced were, this video is a good example. Accidents are real. In May this year, a caravan was blown off the road due to a powerful gust in Iceland.
We managed to cover about 180km (out of 418km) after more than 2 hours. Along the way, we came across this motel and decided to park here and rest for the night in our campervan as we were too exhausted and needed to recover from the ordeal 😦
The night was really cold due to strong winds. Although there was heater in our campervan, we were curling up like hamsters in midst of coldness. Ensure you have sufficient thick socks and clothings apart from the bed linens provided in the campervan. We slept for about 6 hours and feeling refreshed, continued our journey.
Along our way, we stopped by Skaftárskáli which is a gas station in the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur just by the road nr.1. There you can buy most necessites such as gasoline, basic groceries, etc. There is also a Grill-Restaurant selling hot dogs, fish and chips etc.
As the first beam of light appears, we were given a wonderful treat of sighting stunning Icelandic landscapes. It was a far cry from the urban concrete jungle we experienced back in Singapore.
Hvannadalshnukur & Skeiðarársandur Bridge Monument
We were trying to stay on track with our itinerary. However, some attractive spots were too irresistible for us not to stop to take pictures.
We arrived at the foot of Hvannadalshnukur (pronounced KWANNA-dalsh-nyooker) which is the highest peak in Iceland at 2110 meters. It is actually the highest point on a crater rim of the massive volcano, Oræfajökull, located in extreme southeast Iceland only a few kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean.
Beneath it is a little-known monument located in the southeastern part of Iceland, made of the remnants of the Skeiðará Bridge. Once the longest span in Iceland, the Skeiðará Bridge comprised a portion of the Icelandic ring road. The bridge carried drivers across the Skeiðarár Sandur, a wide plain of black volcanic sand marbled with creeks of run-off from the Skeiðarárjökull glacier. All that remains of the original bridge today are two twisted girders by the side of the new road. They form a unique monument to the lovely but powerful beauty of Iceland’s natural landscape.
We could only say the sight was breathtaking. From far, it looks like an ocean with strong currents only to realize they are frozen in all stillness. If you are adventurous enough, you can consider doing mountain trekking up Hvannadalshnukur.
Not forgetting to capture this magnificent moment before moving off.
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Icebergs. Beautiful picturesque environment. These spell out what Jökulsárlón-Glacier lagoon is all about. One of Icelands most visited places, Jökulsárlón put up a show with its majestic display of icebergs floating in the waters. It was freezing cold and raining when we arrived.
Jökulsárlón ehf. has been offering boat tours on the lagoon for over 25 years. The boat tours are in operation from April to November (depending on weather) and the café is open all year.
Visitors were pulling out their tripod and snapping pictures away. Ensure your camera is shielded from the rain during the trip by getting a waterproof casing to wrap over.
The pure natural art and spectacular sight made us forget the coldness for that moment.
Despite the rain, we strolled along the beach to explore more of the glaciers.
The icebergs are ice chunks falling off the Breidamerkurjokull Glacier. An interesting fact about Jokulsarlon Lagoon is that it is actually the deepest lake in all of Iceland, and the lowest point in the country.
How can we not fall in love with Jökulsárlón-Glacier lagoon?
We guess traveling 418km is all worth it. We hope to visit this place again.