Although spending time in Reykjavík is a great way of immersing yourself in Icelandic culture – you won’t truly experience the immense beauty of the country unless you hit the road.
Iceland Travel Agencies
When you stay in Reykjavík, there are plenty of tours arranged by Iceland travel agencies on offer, that take you beyond the capital – but if you have longer to explore, the option of a self-drive adventure is a great way of seeing more of the countryside without the hassle of sticking to schedules and waiting around for other tourists.
So we opted to go on a four-day self-drive around the south of the Island with Hey Iceland – who not only organised our car hire but our accommodation, too – a converted farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in order to increase our chances of seeing the Northern Lights.
With over 170 different types of countryside accommodation from b&bs to farm stays, plus guided tours, car hire and customised trips, Icelandic Farm Holidays firmly believes that they can help you plan your holiday without any complications.
I liked the idea behind Icelandic Farm Holidays. Their philosophy is simple: to provide good service to visitors while maintaining sustainable tourism in rural areas of Iceland. In fact, the travel agency is still majority-owned by farmers, which keeps profits local and benefits rural communities. Which means by booking through Icelandic Farm Holidays you are helping to support local businesses.
Our family road trip
Because we were spending some time in Reykjavík, we asked for our car to be delivered to our apartment. Alongside a sat nav and a car seat for Monkey we were impressed with our vehicle. A Skoda estate with four-wheel drive and automatic transmission, it was a beast of a car – able to handle the snowy conditions and icy roads, comfortable and plenty of room for our luggage.
Getting the car was easy – a representative from Europcar picked up hubby and took him to the office where he signed some paperwork and then we were on the road.
There was no set route – we were given a map and detailed instructions on the whereabouts of our hotel near a small agricultural town called Hella. So we planned our road trip around specific sights such as The Golden Circle route and the coastal road towards Vik, always making sure we’d never be too far from our base, Hotel Lækur.
But that was the beauty of having our own car – being able to go where we wanted, stay for as long as we wanted, and leave when we’d had enough. The other benefit was being able to avoid large crowds because the tour groups tend to stick to a tight timetable – we just made sure to set off a little later, after all, we weren’t in any rush.
Being on the open road was fantastic. It was my most favourite part of our Iceland trip. We could travel for hours and just be in awe of the sweeping landscapes surrounding us. It was hard not to constantly gasp – we’d often see snowy-topped mountains, icy rivers, frozen seas and waterfalls when we were least expecting them.
We also got to find some hidden gems en route that were empty of tourists – and drive for some time without seeing another soul. This meant that we often felt like the only people on this magical land, perpetuated by the shimmering snow.
And, when we were sadly due to go home, it was just a case of driving to Keflavik Airport and dropping off the car. We even got a lift to the terminal with all our luggage.
For anyone thinking of taking a self-guided road trip in Iceland, I would highly recommend it – and not only do Hey Iceland have tours to suit any time frame but they can also customise an adventure to suit your needs. The great thing about going with such a renowned company is that the hassle is taken out of any planning – and your accommodation will be situated off the beaten track – therefore giving you a unique Icelandic experience.
Tips While You’re On The Road
• There are numerous car hire companies in Iceland to service your needs – and plenty of visitors make use of the option pick up their car from Keflavik Airport – this certainly saves on the transfer costs into the city.
• Be prepared to change your plans – and check with www.road.is for all the latest road reports. The weather in winter is unpredictable and roads can be closed without warning.
• Do stock up on water, snacks and petrol before you head off. We usually went to the nearest petrol station for supplies in the morning which were not only cheap but meant there was no need to detour to find food en route. Sometimes we would go for miles without seeing any civilisation.
• Make sure you have all the right clothing for when you need to get out of the car. You can be lulled into false sense of snugness and warmth inside!
• Be safe and mindful of other people. Don’t just stop in the road so you can take photos. Granted this is pretty hard with such breathtaking scenery, but wait until you can pull over safely.
• Take it slowly. The roads in Iceland are pretty good, but with bad weather and sudden snow flurries, a clear road can suddenly be icy. Meanwhile, if you haven’t got a four-wheel drive, don’t even attempt to go off-road. Not only is it dangerous, but you could face a hefty roadside assistance bill if you get stuck.
* We were fortunate to be guests of Iceland travel agencies Hey Iceland on their Northern Lights Self-Guided Tour which included the car hire, and bed and breakfast at Hotel Lækur, but as always my opinions are my own.