Iceland has a small population, most of which is in the capital Reykjavik; the rest of the people are spread out sparsely in a relatively large land. The result of this is that, while there is public transport, it’s minimal, and not a good way to get around, especially if your stay in Iceland is a relatively short one and you need to be flexible. A car is the only practical option for exploring Iceland outside of Reykjavik.
While a having a car has some great advantages, and is essential here in Iceland, it also has some serious disadvantages. One of those disadvantages is that you are solely responsible for finding your way around in a strange land. When you’re driving a car there’s none of the relative simplicity of just getting on the right bus, tram, or train, and then leaving the rest up to the driver.
Exploring Iceland by car
After arriving in Reykjavik we spent a few days exploring the city on foot, and then we picked up a hire car to explore further afield.
We had a great time exploring Iceland in our little hire car, but we experienced the complications of being completely in charge of your own navigation.
Our hire car came with a GPS navigator. After exploring the south-east of Iceland, we entered our next destination into the navigator: our accommodation at Geirshlíð Guesthouse in Reykholt. The navigator gave us a route; we diligently checked the route against our hardcopy map, which showed a nice strong red line (a secondary road) with a route number, 52, so off we went.
The route rose up onto a high plateau in Þingvellir National Park, and took us past beautiful frozen lakes and snow fields, which was a great experience. However, the road progressively deteriorated and got icier, until our little Toyota Auris started dragging its belly along the ice ridge in the middle of the road. This is what the road looked like from inside the car:
We began to realise that we had been put onto an isolated and cold alpine road that threatened to be beyond the capabilities of our little car.
Despite the feeling of looming doom brought on by the likelihood of freezing to death if we got stuck on that ice hump, and the fear of getting stuck on the ice hump if we tried to do a three-point turn on the narrow road to go back, we really enjoyed the stark but beautiful scenery:
After some hours of getting slower and slower, getting closer and closer to dusk, and our little car scraping more and more on the ice hump on the road, we decided that we had to turn back.
We succeeded in doing a three-point turn without getting bogged, retraced our journey, and redid it on the longer route (distance, not time) through Reykjavik and the six-kilometre-long tunnel 165 metres below the surface of Hvalfjörður fjord.
We eventually arrived safely, but many hours later than planned, at Geirshlíð Guesthouse for a warm and sympathetic welcome from our host, Hulda. Hulda knew all about route 52, and had fat border collie puppies ready for us to cuddle to make us feel better after our stressful near-death journey.
This is Geirshlíð Guesthouse:
Geirshlíð is a working cattle and horse farm with a great backdrop:
And marvellous views (a very common thing in Iceland):
You wouldn’t really be travelling hard enough if you didn’t have the occasional life-or-death stress-out!
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