The planning for the big trip began! The research convinced me that an Iceland trip needed proper planning, even better than planning a trip to all available parks in Orlando.
As usual, I didn’t opt for package tours with travel agents. I wanted to learn about the country on my own. Its geography, specialities and then plan the trip as per my interests. From the reviews and research, I noted each major and minor point that I should be careful about while travelling in Iceland. This, not only saved my time and money, but I now also knew my options in case of an emergency.
I made a list of interesting places after looking up photos and information on each site. The list was long. I flagged the selected places on Google map. A rough estimate looked like I would need at least 15 days to cover it all. However, 50% could be covered in 4 days, 75% in 8 days and about 85% 10-11 days.
I picked a balanced “8-days”. I would miss some waterfalls, glaciers and the like but would be able to visit similar features elsewhere in my trip. To avoid criss-cross travelling, I would have to stay at a different place on each of the 7 nights.
Hotels were few and far between. And for sure, very expensive. At best, there were 3-star hotels at some places. Rooms with attached bath were about INR 25 to 40 thousand a night! Guest houses were clean, comfortable and relatively economical at about 15 to 20 thousand Rupees per night. Most of the hotels and guest houses on our route offered only “shared bath”.
While selecting accommodation, another thing I looked for was “rooms with breakfast included” as it would be difficult to get right breakfast on the roadside particularly when driving on highland remote roads.
We wanted attached bathrooms which were few in the first place, and the ones that existed were already booked. Out of these, those with “breakfast included” narrowed down the availability further.
At an additional 10-15% Booking.com offered rooms with free cancellation. I started booking whatever best was available on the day as per my planned route. At the same time, I made a list of better hotels in the area. Every day since then, I would check for fresh vacancies (due to any cancellations) and book better hotels when available. I did this practically every day for over a month.
We would be staying in remote places on five out of seven nights. For these 5 places, I made 28 cancellations and re-bookings! I had to, for better accommodation! Every change meant a change in my route and itinerary. Finally, I froze the plan just a week before I left.
There were many local agencies that provided tour plans. But, I always enjoy the thrill of driving myself, on routes that interested me the most. I realised I would not be able to reach some of the highlands, if I rented a 2-wheel drive. So, I went for a 4-wheel drive. Many local set-ups offered vehicles at much lower prices, but I wanted to go with a known brand in car rentals, so that the vehicles are reliable while driving on mountains, crossing rivers and passing through rough lava fields. I selected Thrifty as that seemed the most popular amongst the International car rental agencies in Iceland.
I felt reasonably comfortable to take on the trip.
Written : Badri Baldawa
Edited : Meeta Kabra