Travelling alone will be the scariest, most liberating life changing experience of your life.
I read this somewhere and this quote has stayed with me forever. The evolution of digital age its become more pronounced how men & women are shedding their clichéd hides for a newer skin. A skin which is more attuned with adventure, passion and their pent-up emotions. Long back a friend had mentioned his sister had gone on a trip to Ladakh with a set of strangers. This was at the office lunch table when we all listened to his stories with great awe and sigh. The stories which were retold to my husband over bedtime. It just got refreshed every now and then, with a tiny glimmer of stray inspiration. Though we always ended up bookmarking it. We continued our journey as avid travellers and the solo chapter remained unread for a long time.
This year pushed me closer to my epitaph and brought me back from it.
A person who was mostly healthy was suddenly made to go under the scalpel.
I had always found myself to be extremely confident girl in the crowd. Flashes of my trembling limbs on the bed, which was painted red (by me) while I lay naked in the tattered gown, still haunt me. To each his pain is ginormous but for me it plummeted my confidence. In the process of crumbling you pull in the thriving too. My hubby was the most effected and it become extremely difficult for him to manage all the chores while I sat lost and shrivelled.
But one handsome morning when the burgundy sun stroke my pillow I found a ticket to La La Iceland underneath my pillow. I realised the sunshine streaming through the window was actually inside my room peering over me with two tiny heads and one big bobble in the middle. I got up half-dazed half dreamy and I declared ‘this is just not happening’. While my pleas fell on deaf ears. But my family cheered in unison ‘lets do it’.
I had read a few solo trip articles where the girl sets out on her journey. It seemed all so easy if you don’t have an entourage its easier to relinquish monotony and jet speed into a surreal world. I had a month to prepare my home, children and hubby before I ventured into this solo trip. It was still a blank page and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do on this trip. I started reading a lot of write-ups on travelling solo and tons of articles on Iceland.
I have never formally introduced myself on the blog.
Hi, I am Roy !
Mother of two beautiful cherubs,
Jack of many jobs but master of none,
A Dreamer of-course……..
Most importantly a fighter.
Iceland and Its hidden people
Why Iceland ? Iceland is the land of ice (of course) glaciers, snow , rocks, volcanoes, hot springs, canyons, waterfalls, rocks, hills and mounds. Its populated by the 330,000 descendants of the original viking settlers. Icelandic people conceive nature as alive, which holds a dual personality of a foe and a friend. It not only provides the lush green pastures but also the cold icy spells, snow avalanches and fuming volcanoes. The storytellers felt that in this vast barren country they were lonely so they naturally believed its natural habitat is teeming with elves, hidden people, natural spirits, trolls, ghosts and goblins.
Amidst my positive and negative poles, photography has played a pivotal role in balancing both the sides. If you believe in magic and its charming mystery then this is the place for you.
The people speak English as their second language some with a heavy Scandi accent but unlike few european countries where you struggle with the language, Iceland is a perfect 10.
Iceland is a solo travellers paradise and is considered one of the safest destination.I have been fairly lucky in life as I had a chance to stay in Finland for work which retains its numero uno position of being the safest place in the world. After travelling to these countries I have never felt more safer.
My readers know that I am not a strong feminist. So safe for woman, safe for men is my outlook. I don’t want to assign a gender to safety.
Mid June to August is the peak season for travelling promising some of the best weather and safer driving conditions.
Though my visit was targeted for winter because I am a winter baby and this was meant to be a birthday gift. Second its an off peak season so the prices are not inflated and you get the best deals. Third Iceland in winter is a photographers dream with increased probability of northern lights viewing. The truth to come in terms is that Iceland is a cold country so its intensity is trembled during the winter months. But the right kind of clothing, precaution and most importantly attitude you can easily behold Iceland.
Navigation is marked by the outer ring road which provides connectivity to most natural spots. One of the most scenic journey for photography woven with stories and nature’s fury and Icelandic spirit.
You suddenly attain a Halo around you when you mention solo to fellow travellers. They want to talk to you and know a little more about you and your journey. I throughly enjoyed my experience of making new friends.
Most people sought vouchers and travel packages via Icelandic Air which offers some great deals like hotel stay, airport transfers and even golden circle tour packages. Foreseeing my craving for adventure and photography my hubby went for EasyJet flights which has some great arrival and departure schedules to Keflavik airport. It’s very easy on the pocket. Another recommended Airline especially for those travelling from the US is WOW air for cheap and efficient flying experience.
Airport transfers to and from the airport are very convenient. There are two options one is Flybus and other one airport express. With Airport Express you take a Volvo which is parked right outside the airport and a change at bus terminal to a smaller minibus which leaves you right at the doorstep of your accommodation.
I booked my tickets online for the round trip and got an additional 5% discount on the booking fee.
Cost of my flight (round trip) : £80
Well, had I travelled with family then I would have said yes for a hotel. Plus it was all about getting into the elementary state of Solo. So I purposefully opted for a hostel. I think sleeping in tents, school dorms and hostels was a part of growing up. Adventure seeped into my blood quite early. But after marriage I did not remember a single sleeping outside my bed. The whole feeling of sleeping on an alien bed with a bunch of strangers surely gave me an adrenaline rush. So I said yes for a Hostel.
After doing a careful read I wanted to be closer to happening places. So Downtown surely ticked in all the segments.
I chose the Reykjavik Downtown HI Hostel which is very close to Bus stop 4 and is one of the important pickup points for all tours. I chose a female dorm. Everything is quite smooth from the beginning. They issue you a key card which access all the areas of the hostel. The breakfast is not complimentary and needs to be booked a day before. The kitchen is fully equipped and hostel is perfectly safe and is very close to Bus stop 4.
Accommodation cost for 4N/5D : £170
P.S : The other two recommendations by fellow travellers is Loft – HI Hostel and Kex Hostel.
I wouldn’t be the first to tell you how expensive Iceland is when it comes to expenditure. I was already on a tight budget so the entire trip you will hear stories of judicious spending. I have already discussed the travel and accommodation expenditure.
Now for the food expenses. But there is no pleasure in visiting a place and not taste its local delicacy. I have always been quite experimental with my palate. Though I strongly respect the culinary heritage but use my personal discretion when it comes to eating. Puffin, Whales,sharks, Icelandic horses are a delicacy in Iceland because the initial settlement into the frigid zone ensured no food during winters. These readily available animals in the wild became their saviour in 35 metres of snow. But with rapid urbanisation we pushed these animals on the brink of extinction with their depleting population I would abstain myself from having these meat. Though Icelandic lamb is one of the best lamb I have eaten and I would rate it over new Zealand lamb. The meat is extremely sweet and is of melt in mouth texture and it doesn’t smell as the British lamb meat that I am used to. Sheep outnumber humans in Iceland nearly two to one.
I ensured a handsome breakfast as a reward to my tummy (generally at hostel). Around the day moving around I munched on energy bars and it kept me active and energetic to survive the cold. An occasional cuppa of hot coffee which I carried in a thermos from the breakfast table. Quite frequently I went week in my knees when I saw the national street food of Iceland. The Icelandic hot dog. To my great luck I stayed close to Bus stop 4 which is the home to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (which translates to “best hot dogs in town”). Thou shall not ask how many I ate through the week. It literally just cost me 500 ISK which is like £3.
I have always had a soft corner for hot dogs even in the UK. Though its tastes very different from the American counterpart because its major constituent is Icelandic lamb mixed with a little of beef and pork. The outer casing is natural and its a bite of heaven when you ask for all toppings please. You get the soft crush of fresh onions and the crunch of fried onions and the entire flavour amalgamated with mayo,mustard and capers.Mmm…..mmm. Though it is always advised to order 2 but I controlled my desire to one so that I don’t overeat.
Honestly, everyone advises eating in a restaurant could be an expensive affair which to some extent could be true because the most prevalent practise is having a three course meal. But frankly I was Solo on a budget I went directly for the main course which came as an assortment of meat with rice or salad and sometimes chips too. With a hard day in the sub zero temperatures I think this was a very mandatory meal to preserve my engird for the next day.A single dish with a drink like coke or lemonade could cost you from 1500ISK – 2500 ISK. I stayed to the most happening downtown which has some of the best eat out places. I took A step inside by reading the menu options to serve my requirements best. Trust me everyone in Iceland welcomes you with a smile.
‘Vatn’ or water is the cheapest and freshest in Iceland. The locals drink the readily available tap water.The driver which drove us around told us not to buy mineral water.Just get a reusable water bottle and fill it up on the go.At the hostel as well I drank the water which was cold and delicious to taste. There is lot of conjecture over the smell of sulphur or the taste being different but thats only the case with hot water which is to suitable with drinking.
WHAT TO PACK (WINTER)
It is very essential to understand that Iceland is covered with ice and snow but with god’s grace its not one of the coldest places to be even in winter. While driving our driver told us that the coldest place he had been was Montana a -15C.
Yes things which could make you feel colder than the actual temperature is the chilled arctic winds, snow storms, hail and blizzards. I experienced very little of the natural weather spoilers the temperature range was -1C to -5C. It could get that cold in UK sometimes so I was prepared for it. The worst chill I felt when the cold knocked my head was when I spent a few hours in the night outside photographing the northern lights. It needs warm clothes and perseverance.
I have always valued layering as the best tool to handle frigid weather. Here is what I packed based on my Itinerary.
- 1st base layer thermal : I bought a pair of black Merino wool thermal set of top and bottom from Marks & Spencer’s.The merino wool kept me warm and cosy.
- 2nd inner layer : I bought a middle layer of fleece from sports direct which provided a warm layer of insulation.
- 3rd layer : This was a basic half sleeve breathable T-shirt from mountain warehouse.
- 4th layer exterior layer : I chose the most trusted brand North face Women’s Decagon Jacket to provide the most protection. It was totally waterproof to protect from the cold showers and snowfall. It has an adjustable hood and pit-zip vents which allows added ventilation in warmer weather.
I bought heavy duty ski-pants from decathlon for the south west coast where I would need it to face the drastic weather conditions. This provided the perfect waterproof as well as enough padding to provide heat insulation for the legs. I did not wear any thermal underpants as there was no need.
I chose pro warm nike leggings, though they weren’t water proof but it served me well on the golden circle. There was always a layer of thermals below.
On the insistence of my hubby I did buy a balaclava but honestly I never wore it. Except the night I spotted the northern lights. The cold was spine chilling and the cold arctic winds felt like -15C.
Gloves :Insulated with a soft fleece lining and made from a snowproof fabric,they had an adjustable flap to allow me to free my fingers during the clicks. Not the most ideal pair but this was the best I could hunt for fitting my budget. I know there are some excellent pairs online to aid in extreme photographic conditions.
Scarf : I always vouch for a scarf which protects your neck and ears from the cold. I had one from M&S. Lightly brushed for a soft handle and finished with a tassel fringe, making it the perfect choice for wrapping up when the temperature drops.
Shoes : I would strongly recommend buying Gore-Tex waterproof boots. It provides high traction and comfort foot wear in the snow and over ice you would be best fit with crampons.Waterproof bootie is must for trekking and walking.
Socks : Good number of Decathlon merino wool sock pairs for protection in wintery conditions and long hikes on snowy terrains.