August 4, 2015
Off-piste and off-the-ground in Iceland.
Herewith, the penultimate installment on the enchanting island of Iceland; namely, on traveling off the beaten track on the ground, and up off the ground too – in a helicopter.
In just four days we covered more than a thousand kilometers of Iceland, but these were anything but boring kilometers. From one place of – particular – interest to the next, there are hundreds more exceptional sights to be seen: ludicrously breathtaking landscapes made up variously of volcanoes, cliffs, glaciers, waterfalls, dark gray fields of volcanic slag, and lava fields coated in seas of green or the lilac of lupine, plus distractingly dazzling dusks and dawns, pastoral scenes with sheep and horses… in short, a veritable feast for the eyes!
The Ring Road’s total length is 1332 kilometers (828 miles)
The Ring Road crosses a few glacial outwash plains, which are subject to frequent glacial outburst floods
Now, I’ve mentioned before how the roads here are of a full-on Euro-bahn standard; turns out that apart from the Ring Road and roads around (relatively) densely populated centers and tourist places of interest, the roads in Iceland are decidedly… dodgy. The further to the left or right off the Ring Road you drive, the more and more tarmac becomes a rarity. So much so that the rent-a-car folks warn how finding insurance cover for off-the-main-road getting stuck in the mud or – worse – vehicle ‘drowning’ is simply impossible!
We very nearly found ourselves in one such drowning incident.
Preparing the route ahead of our day’s driving, on Google Maps it looked like traveling along the Thórsmörk valley was the way to go – the road runs right along it, the views will be amazing, etc. However, just before setting off, we asked a local guide what he reckoned about our route. His eyes widened, the jaw dropped and head started to shake from side to side slowly, then quickly. Hmmm, not the reaction we’d hoped for. In the end we did do our route of choice, only – on the crucial advice of the guide – in these here tanks!:
Now I see what our guide meant: Indeed, the ‘road’, in parts, isn’t really a road at all. Google Maps – get a grip!
There is an alternative to the tank approach to non-ring-road travel on the ground in Iceland – one that’s much cheaper though somewhat more inconvenient. You can buy a bus pass for a week or two and take your time seeing the whole island in ‘hop-on hop-off’ mode. Public transportation here: impressive.
While at the other end of the scale in terms of budget for getting around the island, there is… the helicopter! Iceland on the ground is imposingly impressive; from up above – even more so!…
The origin of these ‘runes’ forming patterns across the landscape is unknown. Maybe Icelandic elves exist after all?
A breathtaking helicopter trip over Iceland by @e_kasperskyTweet
All the Iceland pics are here.