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In June, 2006 we embarked on one of the most fantastic of travel adventures - encircling Iceland by car on Highway 1. 4,000 pictures later, here is my record of our trip.

Tour guide books will lead you to believe that large portions of the Ring road - Highway 1, are unpaved and somewhat primitive. This information is patently outdated and incorrect. It is now possible to drive all the way around Iceland with probably no more than 20 miles of unpaved road. Yes, the road is narrow, and most bridges and tunnels (yes, even VERY long tunnels, exceeding 3 miles in length) are single lane. Traffic is light and I doubt we met 5 vehicles total at any of these obstacles on the entire trip.

There may be a some truth to the fact that regular hotel lodging is a little more difficult to obtain, but not impossible to find. The easiest way to find accommodations just about anywhere in the country is to take advantage of the network of hundreds of farm 'hotels' that nearly cover the entire country. Classes of accommodations vary, but even if you want a made up bed and your own private bath, there are enough facilities available to easily allow access to the entire country. These 'hotels' are almost bed-and-breakfast facilities, many on active farms, allowing the country to support its booming tourist industry while supplementing farming income as well. For more information, visit Icelandic farm holidays. If you choose to take advantage of this excellent service, tell our agent María Leifsdóttir "hello" for us. Oh, and if you're not exactly the farm type, don't worry about it. I didn't have to milk a single cow or shoo chickens away from my door. In fact, I didn't see either at any of the farms we stayed at. There was the occasional cat or dog, and they were most well behaved.

During our stay in Iceland, we spent roughly 3 days in the Reykjavik area, 7 days driving around the island, and the better part of another day visiting the Westmann Islands. We didn't make it up to the Northwest Fjords or get to take in much of the central highlands.

Weather was mixed - really bad when we first arrived, improving to fabulous within a couple of days, and remaining fantastic to acceptable for the rest of the time. Remember, Iceland is in the North Atlantic just 1500 meters (that's right - less than a mile) south of the Arctic Circle, so realistic expectations are absolutely necessary. Take a coat - you'll need it. If you're a California girl, take a heavy coat - high temperatures on a good day barely reach 50, and the wind always blows.

I took more than 4,000 pictures in 10 days, and pared them down to around 700 that tell the story of our experience fairly completely.

Here's a quick-link index directly to particular segments of our journey. (I know, any word with more than 2 unfamiliar symbols initially makes as much sense as Chinese, but with a little practice and experience they do start to take on meaning)

Resources -

While on the road in Iceland and in putting this collection of comments and pictures together, I used the following resources -

Kortabók Íslands - Published by Mál og menning in 2005, ISBN 9979-3-2002-8. 1:300 000 scale with extensive place name index and street maps of 33 cities, towns and villages. This was our traveling companion. I purchased it over the internet. It seemed horrifically expensive at the time, but was probably the most valuable tool we had on the trip.

Ísland Vegaatlas -  Published by the National Land Survey of Iceland, 1st edition, 2006. Its scale is 1:200 000 and has a name index of 15,000 places. I purchased this in Reykjavik just before we hit the road. More detailed than the Kortabók, we used it to locate those particularly challenging places. I'm using it now more for researching where we were and where we went.

A guide to the Flowering Plants & Ferns if Iceland by Hörður Kristinsson - Published by Mál og menning, 2nd edition published in 1998, reprinted in 2005. A great field guide to Icelandic wildflowers. Easy to use for the amateur, arranged by flower color. As an intermediate wildflower expert, I end up spending half of my time in the index looking things up. My guess is it contains nearly all flowering plants one would encounter in the average visit to Iceland. I only found one rather inconspicuous orchid that I was not able to identify.

Icelandic Bird Guide by Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson, Translation by Anna Yates, Published by Iðunn, Reykjavik, 2005. While I didn't go to Iceland specifically to look for birds, I was glad to have this guide along, just because we encountered so many birds we eventually became curious as to what we were seeing!

Google - Just about anything you need to know about any place in the world is availble here. I used it mostly to verify spellings and facts about places we visited.

The book I wish I had - A couple of bookstores in Reykjavik had a wonderful oversized atlas of Iceland - about 300 pages of maps at a scale of about 1:80 000, as I recall. I've not been able to find it listed anywhere online. I almost bought it, but I couldn't come up with an rational reason I would ever need such a volume except to look at it and daydream. I'm sure I would have bought it, even though it was outrageously expensive, except I knew it wouldn't fit in my suitcase, and we were already running over the limit on carry-on items. oh, well... If someone were to donate one to my local public library, I would go visit it!

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