Iceland: Planning and Preparing

Our first international destination for 2015 is Iceland – the land of fire and ice! We would be in Iceland from 28th February to 5th March. The air tickets are booked. Yes, we know that it is winter time… and we are really excited about it! There is a lot to do before the trip. Here is our to do list… every item needs to be ticked at least a couple of days prior to departure. Do you think we have it covered?

Visa formalities

Indian passport holders need the Schengen visa to enter Iceland. Iceland is our port of entry to the Schengen region as well as the country of longest stay during the nine days that we are in the region. In India, the Embassy of Denmark handles visa applications for Iceland through the VFS Global in New Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru. The visa fee is EUR 60 plus the processing fee that VFS will charge. The money is taking in cash only – we need to remember to visit the ATM before submitting our application.

Stamped in Sweden... Our first Scandinavian country

Stamped in Sweden… Our first Scandinavian country

Ankur is putting together the documents to attach along with the visa application; its a cumbersome process and I am really bad at it. Hopefully, we will have the application and its supporting documents ready in the next couple of days. Assuming all goes well, we should have the visa in the next two weeks – latest by 15th February 2015.

Shopping for adventure gear

We have been staying in Mumbai for the past 8 years. It is never cold in Mumbai. The lowest temperature in winters in about 18 degrees Celsius. Needless to say, our winter clothing collection has been lean traditionally. However, in 2012, we went to Abisko in the Swedish Lapland to see the Northern Lights and braved temperatures as low as -20 degrees Celsius. The lapland is cold…really really cold. We shopped for woollen inners, fleece, caps, ear muffs, scarves and spent a fortune on down jackets. A dear friend was kind enough to shop for us in London (when the crazy sales were on!) and send the stuff to Mumbai.

In the first week of March, the temperature in Iceland is between -5 degrees Celsius and 3 degrees Celsius. Our winter collection is more than equipped to handle the temperatures.

All geared up in six layers to brave the Arctic winter as we go vrrrooooooommmm... on a snow mobile!

All geared up in six layers to brave the Arctic winter as we go vrrrooooooommmm… on a snow mobile!

The weather in Iceland is supposed to be extremely unpredictable. Both, precipitation and sunshine have their own mind and having good quality raingear is important. Did I mention that it can be rainy and windy and cold all at the same time? While it pours in Mumbai and we have loads of fancy umbrellas, we have nothing to protect us on a windy and rainy day. Shopping is on the cards… I am already loving the trip!

Hostel/hotel bookings

Winters in Europe is typically considered as off season, more so in Northern Europe. It may be off season for those who seek a comfortable holiday to enjoy the Sun and smell the roses. It possibly isn’t the best time to travel with little kids. However, to the adventure seeker, winter in the Arctic region is as happening as it can get… there is plenty to do ranging from glacier walks to husky safaris.

Husky tours for the dog lovers

Husky tours for the dog lovers

We hope to join the ‘adventure seeker’ clan and would be there during the winters. Reykjavik, the capital of the country would be our base to explore the nearby regions. Our experience with hostels in Europe has been outstanding and we would be staying at hostels in Reykjavik as well. Hope to meet travel enthusiasts over a drink or a cup of coffee. As we say it, let the travellers’ tribe grow!

Tours and day trips

We would have loved to hire a car or a camper van and explore Iceland by doing a road trip. All our road trips till date have been so much fun… our honeymoon in South Africa… the Jordanian sojourn… and numerous weekend breaks that we take from Mumbai. Ankur and I both enjoy driving and Iceland would have been a perfect destination to hit the tar, but in summers. While loads of travellers do rent cars and do go for the self drive option in the Icelandic winters, we haven’t been able to get ourselves to do it. We are not confident of driving over ice covered or snow laden roads and intend to leave this to the locals and professionals.

Just another day in the Arctic... can't think of driving here!

Just another day in the Arctic… can’t think of driving here!

We need to book our tours and day trip with various tour agencies. Not all agencies offer all tours during winters – number of players in the market is limited, especially for specialised tours like the ice cave in Vatnajokull. We intend to do at least four tours – South Iceland, Golden Circle, Iceland from below (lava tubes), Jokulsarlon (ice caves and glacier walk) and off course…the aurora borealis! This is an active vacation and we need to set our itinerary and make bookings before all slots are full.

Our first aurora borealis in Abisko, Sweden...need to book the aurora watching tours in Reykjavik as well!

Our first aurora borealis in Abisko, Sweden…need to book the aurora watching tours in Reykjavik as well!

Vegetarian food arrangements

We struggled, in every sense of the word, to find hot vegetarian food in the Swedish lapland. We want to make sure that it doesn’t happen in Iceland. We need to update our database on typical local vegetarian dishes on the menu of the local restaurant and vegetarian restaurants in Reykjavik.

One of the few hot vegetarian meals that we managed in the Stockholm

One of the few hot vegetarian meals that we managed in the Stockholm

In geographies where vegetarian food is a challenge, our experience is that hostels are the best place to stay. Most hostels have a kitchen which ensures that you can have a hearty breakfast, pack a snack for lunch and cook yourself a hot comforting dinner at night. Works well on the pocket too! We also need to stock up our ready to eat food supply and some Indian spices to cook something authentic for our fellow travellers in the hostel.

Do you think we missed something that needs our attention now? Leave a message and let us know… many thanks, in advance, in helping us plan!

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6 Responses

  1. Driving is a pleasure in Iceland… if you can, go for it. You can also pick up a couple more from your accommodation and share costs. Having said that, the tour companies are equally good and amazingly efficient. Tough choice!

    1. We were a little worried about the ice covered roads and the erratic weathers. We haven't driven in snow ever and have heard that the weather can change in the blink of an eye in Iceland. Hence, thought it would be wiser to take the tour companies.
      Maybe Iceland will call us again for a trip during summers ! 🙂

  2. Been there in march, and the roads have been well maintained and the snow is always ploughed away from the roads, I haven't come across a stretch where driving on snow/ice was required

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