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Iceland, best time to visit and some other questions
February 23, 2014 9:12 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering going to Iceland this summer and I have a few questions that haven't exactly been answered in the other threads and/or the the rest of the internet. For background, I'm traveling alone, planning on staying a week to ten days, and I'll be renting a vehicle.

1) I'm fairly interested in botany and therefore, I love exploring the flora of new places. Given the Iceland has a relatively short growing season, when would be the best time to go to see the most and most interesting native plant species? While beautiful, I'm less interested in seeing fields of the exotic North American lupine that has apparently becomes quite invasive there. Also, any suggestions for great botanical areas to visit would be appreciated.

2) I was thinking of trying to camp during the majority of my stay there. Is this a viable option? Similarly, I was thinking a doing one or two small 1-3 night backpacking trips. Since I'm traveling alone, I would try to avoid any extremely treacherous hikes for safety's sake, but is backpacking alone in Iceland in summer something one should do (I have a fair amount of outdoor experience)?

Thanks!
posted by buttercup to Travel & Transportation around Iceland (6 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Since nobody else is answering...
[I stayed out of this since I've never been to Iceland]

I have no idea about botanical interests, but this person or this person might.

Camping is the only thing that anyone I know has gone there to do. People who don't tend to rent cars, so there must be some kind of transit to trailheads. The reports have all been supremely positive about the state of available huts, etc., too.

Solo camping is probably as good/bad of an idea as it would be anywhere.
[I would go for it.]
posted by Acari at 5:41 PM on February 24


As the responses have been, um, light, I'll pitch in:

I can't speak to the plants n' stuff, but I have been to Iceland as a solo lady traveler. I did not camp, but I did do a handful of long walks into the hills. I stayed on 4x4 roads, as I was finding that marked trails are a relative term in Iceland (caveat: I am not the greatest trails finder). I barely encountered any other people once I was off the main road. Also, bear in mind this was in late September/early October, so this was not really the high season. I felt completely comfortable by myself, and would have happily kept walking into the mountains had I come with the proper gear. I really would like to do a longer trek into the interior during the summer.

Do it!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 3:27 PM on February 26


Yeah, its been a pretty light in terms of responses. The information provided has been helpful. Thanks. I'm definitely going, I just have to pick dates!
posted by buttercup at 8:18 PM on February 26


Okay, well, I did do a 10 day road trip around the entire ring road and also the Westfjords. I didn't answer your question because I stayed in hostels the whole time, but I'll speak to what I can.

LOTS of people camped. I saw campers pretty much everywhere (even in some very remote locations). There are two ways to do it: traditional tent, and people who rented these (there are several companies that rent that sort of thing). I don't know what your tolerance for cold, windy rain is, but except for the Lake Myvatn area (gorgeously sunny and calm in the middle of summer) camping in a tent might get rather uncomfortable. Also, many hotels have a sort of camping area on their grounds, and you can pay to use their showers/laundry/eat breakfast, and most of them will also put stuff in the fridge for you overnight for free. And offer free wifi in the lobby.

My only regret is that I did not go backpacking in the Westfjords. Apparently there are some pretty awesome areas up there that are only accessible on foot. The place I am talking about is Hornstrandir nature preserve. My understanding is that you can backpack alone there if you want, or hook up with a group that tracks arctic foxes. I think backpacking in Iceland would be pretty safe, as long as you already had backpacking experience and didn't try to do crazy shit by yourself, like go into the Highlands. I would definitely have a satellite phone if I was going that route, though.

Most of Iceland doesn't have a lot of plants (except for a large variety of mosses and lichens - look around on Snaefellsnes peninsula for tons of that). The area around Lake Myvatn has the most wildflower filled landscape. Another cool botanical feature of Lake Myvatn are the Marimo balls that come to the surface during the day and go back down at night. They only exist in two lakes in the world, so that's kind of a cool botanical feature. Another cool and rare feature are glacier mice, which are these moss covered rocks that exist on only a few glaciers in the world (including some in Iceland).

Also, I noticed this at several campgrounds. There are wild blueberries in Iceland, but they don't grow in bushes like here. They grow in mossy patches on the ground. I saw tons of campers gathering big bowls full to eat with their meals. They are pretty tasty - much more tart and less sweet than the ones over here.

Also, here is a useful list of the few types of vegetation that are on the island.

Have fun with your trip! Iceland was one of the very best places I ever visited and 10 days was definitely not even enough. I cannot wait to go back one day.
posted by sickinthehead at 1:57 PM on February 27


Oh, and on a practical note: make absolutely sure you get yourself a credit card with a chip in it (and American Express won't work, they take that nowhere). You will be amazed at how many places will not take chip-less credit cards, including virtually every single gas station. Ideally you get a credit card with chip + pin technology, because you still might run into problems at gas stations without that.
posted by sickinthehead at 1:58 PM on February 27


I can't add a whole lot, since I didn't camp and I don't know much about botany, but I was there in August a couple years ago and one place that immediately comes to mind is Skaftafell. There were a ton of people camping there, and it was one of the very few places with any sort of rich vegetation.
posted by parallellines at 12:08 PM on February 28


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