Peaks of snow capped mountains immediately appear before me. A cold and dampness hit me. The wind sweeps across the wide open terrain, stinging my eyes. Not surprising, given there is not a tree in sight to help block it as it soars down the side of the mountains.
Not knowing any better, you could think I am describing a scene near Trail Ridge Road in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. But in fact, we are thousands of miles away in a distant island in the North Atlantic. A place that has now become a tourist mecca. A place that has a climate that in many ways reminds me of my home town of Nederland, Colorado.
We hadn’t really planned on visiting Iceland this coming year. It just sort of happened spontaneously based on an innocent looking email from Travelzoo.
I happened to be sitting at my computer one day last October, with my email open. Being a travel lover with many exotic destinations on my travel “bucket” list, I subscribe to many travel websites. One popped up, saying “Iceland for $640”.
Intrigued, I opened it, not expecting anything. Wow, round trip airfare from Colorado, hotel, and two tours all for the bargain price of $640. Seemed like a really good deal. But this deal wasn’t going to last long with the opportunity to purchase lasting 48 hours or so.
“Do you want to go to Iceland!”
It’s clear he thinks I’m joking.
“No, there’s a really good deal for the winter to go to Iceland.”
He asks when the latest date you can travel is.
“March 28. Why?”
“There will be a lot more daylight in late March than in the middle of winter.”
Hmmm. I hadn’t thought of that. Curious, I Google the sunrise and sunset times for late March.
Wow, there’s 13 hours of sunlight, with the sun rising at 7 a.m. and setting a little after 8 p.m.
And so, completely spontaneously, we booked our Iceland holiday. Exploring a foreign land of snow, ice, waterfalls, volcanoes, and oceans.
The first challenge is even beginning to understand what the signs say or what people are saying in Icelandic.
Icelandic is a Germanic language — I speak German — no problem, right?
No. There are slight similarities I can see in the written word, but the pronunciation is something altogether different. Fortunately, many of the people in the tourist areas speak English. I hate sounding like an ignorant American tourist, but I don’t really have any choice here.
Our second challenge is picking up our rental car. I quickly realize that I made a mistake in not researching insurance options for international car rental. I’m so used to renting domestically where we are covered by our regular car insurance.
The lady at the counter is giving us the hard core pitch, trying to sell us on coverage at the bargain price of $47/day. Yikes!
I think we have coverage through our credit card, but it’s 7 a.m. Iceland time, meaning it’s the wee hours of the morning in the states with no customer service to call. Fortunately, I did put my cell phone on an international travel plan and a quick Internet search says we are covered through our credit card.
We pick up our pint size Hyundai and start our journey. One tip, if you’re renting a car in Iceland, be prepared to drive a manual transmission. Almost all the rental cars are stick shift, and the very few automatics they have, they charge outrageous sums of money for.
It’s 7:30 am., we’ve flown overnight, and can’t check in the hotel until 3 p.m. Plus, given we only have four days, we don’t want to waste a day snoozing in the hotel. We’re also starving, as we set out for our first destination, the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
Food. Food would be the bane of our existence over the next several days — where to find it, and forking a lot of money for it.
Stay tuned for the next installment on our Iceland Adventure….