It’s a cold, wet and generally unpleasant day outside here in my part of the UK and so I’ve been making good use of time in front of the computer: Planning Iceland 2014!
To recap the previous itinerary, I was attempting a circumnavigation of the island along the (roughly) circular route 1. It was to take 19 days and cost in excess of £3000 which, whilst expensive, is cheaper than some other destinations. The problem was not so much the cost but the imbalanced itinerary: approximately two-thirds of the time and cost was being spent along the south and south-east coast with a mad dash around the remaining part of the island, resulting in a lot of driving, not much stopping and no ‘slack’ time at locations to allow me to return should bad weather hamper the photography. Also, some of the accommodation I had booked was based on what was available at the time and not necessarily convenient for a key location meaning long, early morning drives, again not necessarily knowing what the weather would be like upon arrival. So, I cancelled the trip, lost about £300 in non-returnable deposits and had a sulk.
Not one to feel sorry for myself (for long, at least) I decided I should return to the plan allowing a bit more time before the departure date and focus the itinerary. As it is, work has been busy with various projects and, as it is the overtime that pays for my trips, evenings and weekends have been scarce. It is only today that I have had a chance to sit down and dedicate some time to the new itinerary free from distractions. And, progress has been made. Eventually.
The first mistake I made was to do the obvious: Decide how long I want to travel for, when I want to go and then begin dividing up the time between the key locations. This would be a brilliant approach if I were the only person thinking of visiting Iceland at the time, but of course I’m not and Jokulsarlon – one of two key locations for me – is a generally popular spot resulting in very limited accommodation options at the best of times. Given the dates this approach gave me I could either spend in excess of £700 for five nights in a conveniently located hotel, spend a more palatable £450 for one 40km east of the glacial lagoon and 80km east of the Skaftafell National Park, or I could camp. What I really wanted was a convenient, and cheap, place to stay for both the lagoon and the national park. Which surprisingly does exist as I discovered when I planned the 2013 accommodation.
To be fair, the convenient-and-cheap hotel doesn’t exactly get rave reviews, but after an eye-opening stay on a Chinese farm a few years ago I’ve have a generally liberal view on these things. After all, I’m not moving in.
So began the game of entering dates into the booking web site and seeing if the hotel had vacancies and after few iterations – during which I gave up on working out proposed flight and car rental dates – I had some dates for when the hotel was available.
Of course it wasn’t as simple as that: One of the reasons I want to go to Skaftafell is that there is a full-day glacial walk tour that heads out from there, but the season starts on June 1st – the last day the hotel is available – meaning I would have to check out, go on a seven hour hike and then drive back to Thingvellir National Park. A long day and a plan leaving no time for contingencies (such as tour being delayed due to weather etc.).
In the end, I’ve adopted a split approach – check into the cheap-and-cheerful hotel, use it as a base for Skaftafell National Park and, maybe, Jokulsarlon. Then check out on the 1st, go on the glacier walking excursion and then drive over to the guesthouse 40km east of the glacial lake. Whilst it sounds like a bit of an aggravation, the new guesthouse is only three kilometres further from Jokulsarlon than the cheap-and-cheerful place is and offers a different vantage point from which to explore the landscape. Also, should the glacial walk be delayed a couple of days, at least I’m still in the area.
So, eight hours of work later and I have a hook to hang the new itinerary upon. Not a bad way spend the first day of 2014!