It wasn’t supposed to happen so quickly after Patagonia. We had both savings and vacation time to rebuild. But when adventure and opportunity called, well, we couldn’t pass it up. The circumstances were that the crew we met and immediately bonded with in Peru and then met up with again, two years later, in Chile were up to planning another trip, this time Iceland. Not only that, there was a very short window of opportunity for one of our buds in terms of dates which forced the issue of commitment. Sure enough, not even two full months after returning from our Patagonia “trip of a lifetime”, we committed to this trip the following June.
The thing is, I believe that finding good travel mates is not an easy or common thing to do. Both traveling well together and having close enough hiking fitness levels are a magic combination. Add to that the dynamic of a larger group which offers more humor and space than traveling as a pair. Sure, I love traveling with my husband and group trips aren’t exactly romantic, but when you are hiking and camping and roughing it at times, that’s not the most romantic either. We can save a Paris trip for a couple trip, but adventure tours (at least in my opinion) are way more fun in a group.
Iceland is pretty popular right now. Unlike our Machu Picchu and Patagonia trips, I knew upwards of about a dozen (or more) people who have been. And since we weren’t purchasing an organized trip as we had for the other two, I took the advice of those dozen+ people sagely. In fact, one coworker had her complete 5-day itinerary which she graciously shared and we graciously co-opted.
But even with all the advice and support, I would say that Iceland is not an easy trip to plan. Or maybe, the statement is more accurately phrased, that a trip to Iceland with 8 people and two camper vans for 11 days is not an easy trip to plan. If you have ever researched Iceland, you know there are SO MANY sites to be seen. The landscape is epic. And while it isn’t the largest country, it’s also difficult to see *everything* in a two week span. You have to prioritize. It’s also a fine balance of how much do you want to see vs. how much you want to drive.
For us, as I mentioned, we were lucky to have a good start in my coworker’s plan which was 5 days and included most of the sites we wanted to see. We also had a few in the group who called out the West Fjords as a must-do. Between those two pieces, I unofficially took on a role of coordinator. And like working a puzzle, I spent more than a few hours, nights, days pulling together a plan (with input from the group, of course).
The good news, the plan was pretty damn successful. All but one of the campsites, I adored. We did move a few things around due to timing and circumstance. We never did make it to The Blue Lagoon (the #1 tourist destination in the country), but I’m pretty sure we are all okay with that — especially given some of the hot pots and outdoor pools that we get to experience.
I want to do my best to document the trip and that’s my plan over the next few weeks as time allows. I’ve already spend a significant amount of time just uploading all the darn photos from my phone which I have put into a public Facebook album that you can access here.
I also want to share our itinerary for anyone who might be planning a trip. So much love and care went into this that I hope it can serve as use to someone else. And if you have questions, let me know! I can tell you what worked, what didn’t, what we changed.
I also created this handy Google Map of all the destinations sorted by day of the trip. I’m sure that seems super crazy, anal-retentive to some, but it was super helpful when mapping various sites for driving time estimations.
Like I said, my plan is to document in more detail the trip, but I wanted to get this first post, the links and the photos out there. I also want to say that my top highlights of the trip were pretty simple. The first was by far the Fimmvörðuháls hike between two glaciers and a volcano. It was a grueling 14 miles that took somewhere around 11-13 hours for our group to complete (I can’t really remember exact start and stop), but was epic and amazing and an experience like no other. The second highlight was probably the campsite at Heydular on the night that James and I had to ourselves while the rest of the group was backpacking in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. While I am a little sad we didn’t get that experience (complete with arctic foxes), we did get our own private hot pot in the middle of heaven. Sitting in that 100 degree natural pool on a 55 degree, blue sky evening with yellow flowers, green grass, Fjords and a beer in hand has to be one of the most Zen moments of my existence.
Still, aside from those two highlights, there are a ton more precious memories that I want to sort and articulate and crystallize to memory.
We are lucky, lucky cats to travel the way we have. We are also lucky, lucky cats to have the people in our lives that we do to travel with.
Iceland was a gem and I’m so very grateful.