It’s been an amazing nine days (undoubtedly my best holiday ever), and we are +1 cat. She has survived her time at my parents’ well, evidencing remarkable robustness in her ability to endure a diet of king prawns and bountiful ministrations.
In fact, this holiday was so awesome that I’ve only remembered that we “failed” to carry out our initial plan whilst writing this. If we’d planned to do exactly as we’d done, it still couldn’t’ve worked out better, or have been a more breathtaking experience.
So, what made this holiday spectacular? I began trying to list the most incredible bits, but swiftly realised that I was just listing *everything.* (A would probably want me to flag up Hestasport as the accommodation that was so good, she squeaked with joy when our plans fell through and it looked like we might go back there.)
Lists having failed, I’ll try to distil the best bits into a couple of stand-out / overarching themes: the people we were blessed (by the Lutheran / Norse pagan deity of your choosing) to meet, and the remarkable privileges of shoulder season.
It’s both tempting, and utterly daft, to make generalisations about an entire nation’s “character.” So I’ll only speak about those we met who were generous to a fault, giving, warm, and concerned. When we mentioned our plans, several people in mustard-coloured cafe galleries or hotel receptions took the initiative of checking our route for us – and even calling up Vegargedin to get a better overview of what was going on. I always felt as if people were looking out for us, and willing to go the extra mile because they wanted to ensure we were welcomed, safe, looked after, and ok. That was an incredible feeling.
Shoulder season was also an unqualified blessing (A might demur here – she wanted to do more hiking, but had forgotten to bring a coat that was fully weather-appropriate. She seems more temperate timing in future). In many regions and on many roads, I felt a real sense of aloneness whilst being together. We were the only people in our wind-blasted seafront hut in Malarhorn, Drangsnes (pop. 67). The hotel owner and his wife opened up their cafe and cooked us a huge, beautiful, robust meal with barely an hour’s notice. With not another soul in sight. And the next day, we drove along coastal roads free of tyre tracks to Bjarnafjordur, where we were showered with kindness and coffee by a hotel owner who opened up just so we could look around, and use his swimming pool. And all this was spontaneous un-asked for, generous and warm beyond our wildest expectations. In Akureyri, we had personal tours of the art gallery, and we browsed Holmavik’s museum of sorcery alone. In two stays at Varmahlid, we met just one other couple.
Shoulder season also meant that we got to see places fully iced, and drove across mountain passes that might have been straightforward in Summer. That might have been fine, but I’m really glad we had these experiences, too. It was sublime, rather than universally beautiful. Raw and blasted volcanic plains, jagged shattered iced inlets, sheer frozen mountain walls, mile after mile of deserted sheet ice road… rather than warm and completely safe. (But 3G reception, outstanding locals, and Vegargedin were always just around the corner…)
And, of course, shoulder season is cheaper – for hotels, at least.
We did have to adapt our plans on the hoof, and we did have 2-7hrs of driving each day. But if you’re still not put off by these descriptions (and the possibility of things having to change, or the risk that it might even be bloody awful throughout), I would have no hesitations whatsoever in recommending that anyone gives it a go.
An incredible country. And an amazing week!