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Iceland for about 5 or 6 days - better to go with a tour or hire a car and drive myself?

(17 Posts)
BlackAmericanoNoSugar Mon 23-May-16 12:38:11

I'm thinking about going to Iceland in mid-May next year with DS (12 yo). I want to see some dramatic scenery and maybe do some activities like an ATV trip or horse riding. I want to do a few things that will blow his little mind but not cripple me (I'll be 50 by the time we go and I'm not super-fit) so perhaps an easy glacier trip or a close up look at a volcano.

Is it better to find a tour that does the things we want or would it be more fun to drive ourselves around and just book one or two day tours?

Twitterqueen Mon 23-May-16 12:40:50

marking place as I'm off in 2 weeks time (on my own) grin

I'm not hiring a car as I'm staying in central Reykjavik and booking excursions that either leave from the centre, or where the tour guides will pick you up. So it doesn't seem worth it to me. If I were taking the DDs though, I would definitely hire a car.
I'm doing Golden Circle, a whale watching boat trip and a horse ride grin

Paperkins Mon 23-May-16 12:41:18

We hired a car. Was a recommendation and we like it. Had a small, cheap one tho and some of the roads are out of bounds for non-4x4 and some are just full of potholes (this was a decade or so ago though, so may have changed). We liked the freedom to stop and admire small waterfalls, etc.

However, the car hire was only for a part of it. The other days we did join a group to the Blue Lagoon in the evening and also used Mountain Taxis for a trip into the interior as that I wouldn't want to go driving through.


Paperkins Mon 23-May-16 12:44:31

We went whale watching - did not see any whales sad

Did go horse riding - was brilliant but also freezing (Aug).

Both of you - pack waterproof jacket and take it everywhere with you. Everywhere!

The walking through the tectonic plates was also cool, but can't remember the name of it.

I wanna go back... wail envy

BlackAmericanoNoSugar Mon 23-May-16 12:46:53

I'm going to skip the whale watching as both DS and I get desperately sea-sick. grin

I might do what you did Paperkins and do part of it by ourselves and part on an organised outing. I'll get myself a guide book and see if I can pick out the things that he would like to do, then see which would fit into our trip.

Any recommendations for a guide book? I usually buy Lonely Planet or Time Out.

Nydj Mon 23-May-16 12:56:05

We stayed in Reykjavik and just did tours so didn't hire a car. I am not a confident driver at the best of time so was very happy with our decision. In May, the roads may not be fully repaired from any damage over winter so you may want to take that into account.

We did a half day excursion called inside the volcano which was pretty amazing and I would definitely recommend. Also did a golden circle tour and another tour which took in more coastal sites and was great. Loved it all. As well as the recommendations for waterproofs, I would strongly recommend that you take woolly hats and ear muffs with you on any excursions as the wind is something else!

Paperkins Mon 23-May-16 12:58:49

We had AA Iceland Things to See smile I know cos we still have it as reminds us of the trip. The roads are pretty easy to navigate, so I think we just had a map from the hotel to get out of Reykjavik.

We essentially did the Golden Triangle, but on our own, in our own time and some pootling around and stopping for snacks and lunch when we wanted.

Lovely food there I remember!

BlackAmericanoNoSugar Mon 23-May-16 12:59:58

God, that looks AMAZING Nydj. DS would either love that or be too terrified to do it. grin

BlackAmericanoNoSugar Mon 23-May-16 13:02:10

I'm not too worried about driving. I'm a confident driver and I'm well used to dodging pot-holes, Irish roads can be pretty bad.

Whathaveilost Mon 23-May-16 13:03:10

Iceland!! My favourite topic!

Depends on so much.
We did a whistle stop tour of the island two years ago (DH and 2 teenage sons) I am glad we did it this way as it gives us a flavour of how different and diverse the island is.

We hired a large 4x4 which was defiantly needed if you were touring otherwise you are limited to the orbital road around the island.

If you are going to stop in Reykjavik maybe just do tours from there but if you are going to stop in different places and go to the Highlands you need a car. Choice is yours but what ever you decide it will be fantastic.
Next time we go back we are going to stay and explore one place throughly.

Remember to take warm and waterproof clothes with you!

OldBeanbagz Mon 23-May-16 13:08:14

The first time we went to Iceland we took the airport bus into town for the first few days, then picked up a hire car to do the Golden Cirle and Blue Lagoon before dropping it back at the airport.

I think it's worth doing the Golden Circle at your own pace so the car hire was worth it for that alone. It meant we could catch the evening light and weren't stuck to a strict schedule at each place.

Did a whale watching tour but only saw them at a distance so not really worth it plus DS spent the return journey feeling sick. Didn't do a horse ride as i'm allergic to them and the DC weren't bothered.

DH and DS went quad biking which they both enjoyed. I think they did half a day and would probably have done a full one if we could have afforded it. Excursions are expensive over there.

Would love to do the volcano trip when we go back this summer!

ExConstance Mon 23-May-16 15:20:29

I went in 2010 and am hoping to go back next year. I did one week riding and one week touring around. I'm usually nervous driving abroad but the roads are so empty and the maximum speed (about 50?) is so slow that I found it a doddle, even in built up areas. The drivers are all very courteous so nothing to worry about if you decide to drive. I understand there are heavy fines for speeding and imprisonment if you get too many convictions!

OldBeanbagz Mon 23-May-16 16:35:27

Yes to drivers being courteous. They even stop to let you cross the road where there's no crossings smile

CatatonicLadybug Mon 23-May-16 20:03:54

If you're a confident driver, including steep hills in a manual car, then I would vote hire a car unless you are a massive fan of tourist group outings. Iceland has very few places that are roped off like the rest of the world. You can walk right up to most of the waterfalls, step over the cracks in the volcanoes and look down to see the magma. It's all stuff I wouldn't want to do at anyone else's pace.

If you can do the loop of route 1 (main road that circles the island), you will see all sorts that will you'll never forget. It's a great but easy tour if it fits your schedule. Bring some music for the car or be prepare to talk a lot. There is not much in the way of radio stations to pick up for big stretches of the drive.

Have an amazing time. Iceland is fabulous!

GoudyStout Wed 25-May-16 14:41:56

I did an organised 2 week camping trip about 20 years ago - did all kinds of activities (glaciers, snowmobiles, rafting, pony trekking, whale watching) as well as lots of sight seeing. I lucked in as it was all at a pace that suited me. Not sure that company is still going, but Arctic Adventures do a 6 day trip (limited to 16 people) that takes in waterfalls, geysers, fjords, volcanoes etc, and Nordic Experience do self-drive trips. Just depends on your budget.

Nydj Wed 25-May-16 21:17:59

OP, the volcano thing was the highlight of our trip for my son who and it really is an very easy walk to get there. Its the only place in the world where you can go inside an empty magma thingy ( sorry, can't think of the right word!) I would definitely go if you have the time and the budget allows.

ExConstance Thu 26-May-16 13:30:34

I went into the volcano that was the setting for "voyage to the centre of the earth" extremely interesting, lots of stories about trolls and folk history. One of the wonderful things about Iceland is that the historic stories are still part of everyday life, and repeated and believed. The troll story I was told at the volcano was about a young couple whose parents disapproved of the match. She was lost out to sea on a large piece of ice and he was blamed. her father went into the volcano and became a troll and was not very nice to the local people, clearly all grounded in fact and absolouty fascinating.

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