Faroe and Iceland - Facts and Information
Accommodation in Iceland
Where we stopped and why
Bed and breakfast in the eastern third of the country.

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Initial thoughts
We saw little point in going all the way to Iceland just for one week so settled on two. In the event the change of season in ferry timetable meant we had just over two weeks. Looking at what could be done in that time we realised that although many people did go all the way round the country in one week this would mean a lot of hard driving with an eye constantly on the clock and only one shot at seeing a particular place. The ferry arrives in the east. The busier south west of the country, with hordes of trippers rushing like lemmings to the Blue Lagoon, held no appeal so, although a visit to Reykjavik would have been nice, we ruled that part out. The West Fjords were very appealing with their scenery and remoteness but travel there is slow and they were quite a way from our port of entry. Reluctantly they were ruled out with the consolation that the East Fjords would be a reasonable alternative.

Initial research showed that we wanted to get to the Skaftafell National Park with its glaciers in the south, the Myvatn geothermal area in the north and the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park with its gorges and waterfalls in the north east. We would spend some time in the east while travelling from south to north. We aimed to spend three to four nights at those four locations, plus a night at each end to and from the ferry. And so the itinerary was fixed, giving us the ability to settle in a spot without having to move on every day, the opportunity to stand and stare and the flexibility to make a second trip to a site if the weather was foul the first time. We wouldn't see all the country, but we would see an example of most of its attractions, a cross section of its scenery and we would be fairly relaxed. And we would avoid the 'must see' brigade at the Blue Lagoon.

What sort of accommodation?
Initial research had shown that Iceland was not expensive, it was very expensive - very, very expensive. We ruled out hotels on the grounds not only of cost but of the lack of flexibility the would allow us in planning our days. Self catering, which we are used to, seemed impractical with frequent moves. The final choice was bed and breakfast, ideally at farms (though only one place eventually met that criteria) and with residents' kitchens in which we could cook our own evening meals to give us maximum flexibilty in the evenings.

Further research took us to the Icelandic Farm Holidays brochure (not all are farms) and the internet. A 'basic' room for two (often with basin, but no toilet) with breakfast would cost about £100 per night, so that was what we went for. En suite accomodation was expensive, sleeping bag accommodation in private room or bunkhouse too basic for our declining years. We identified possible locations and passed these onto Smyril who booked them as part of the whole package.

Where we stopped
We decided that a drive Skaftafell on the first day would be too far, especially as we wanted to go the long way round the coast of the East Fjords. We were aiming for Höfn (pronounced hurp with a short ur) the only significant settlement on the way. Smyril booked us in at Árnanes just off the Ring Road (Highway 1, which runs right round Iceland). It was OK for one night but not inspiring, we had to sleep wrong way round in beds for fear of decapitating ourselves on the bed light fitting on the sloping ceiling.

Skaftafell National Park is short of accommodation but we had come across Bölti Farm Guest House on the internet and got that. Its setting is superb. Our room was functional but comfortable and bathroom facilities were limited. The residents' kitchen was basic but well equipped. Breakfast was in the family dining room (plus overspill in the kitchen when busy) in a traditionally furnished house. It was thoroughly enjoyable, ideally situated and we would very much like to go there again.

Heading north we wanted to stop near Egilsstadir and had asked for Eyjólfsstadir in Hérad just south of the town. This turned out to be a Lutheran bible school (many schools and such become guest houses in the summer). The room was good, but the residents' kitchen was a bit hit and miss (the fridge wasn't working and didn't get repaired), but location was convenient. We would use it again.

We had expressed no particular preference in the Myvatn area, apart from wanting to avoid Reykjahlíd (justifiably we thought having seen it). Smyril booked us at Stöng to the south west of the lake. Initial reservations about it being a few miles down an unsealed road were soon dispelled as it was a real farm in a splendidly isolated setting. Accommodation is actually in a guest house with comfortable rooms, run under the firm eye of the farmer's wife. The residents' kichen was OK, but the electric rings were incredibly slow to heat and would cause a bottleneck when busy. We liked Stöng a lot.

Jökulsárgljúfur National Park is also short on accommodation. We were a few miles away at Skúlagardur, once a school as its name implies. We had very mixed views about here. Initial impressions with resurfacing on the access road and in the car park were poor, especially as we weren't sure if we would get the car over the rough surface. The room was OK, but strangely the basin had been removed at some time. Cleaning of the room and communal toilet was inadequate, though not unpleasantly so. The residents' kitchen was small and very poor on utensils (saucepans were huge ex school kitchen issue). However by now we had developed a little pioneering spirit and the fact that it was very quiet and in a nice setting made up for the drawbacks, but we don't think we'd ask for it if there's a next time.

Our last night needed to be in the Egilsstadir/Seydisfjördur area for the ferry the next day. Given the sailing there was probably considerable demand for rooms in the area. We ended up at Hótel Svartiskógur which is on Highway 917 about 40 miles from Seydisfjördur, further than we hoped but in fact quite a fast journey. We had a chalet consisting of en suite room a little way from the main building. The hotel is well back from the (very quiet) main road. It was a lovely evening and we took the chance for some gentle walks in the woods and down to the shore, so made a fitting end to a superb trip.

Shoes
In Iceland, it is both customary and expected to remove your shoes when entering a house. The situation in hotels is not quite so clear, but here we tried to err on the side of courtesy.

Breakfast
Breakfast is self service and seemed to be virtually the same everywhere. Juices, cereals, cold meat and cheese, bread, jams etc plus provision of coffee, hot water for tea and a toaster. Most places served granola, a sort of crunchy, nutty, cooked muesli. This was superb with surmjölk, a sort of thick, cultured milk. Doing yourself a pack up for lunch is very much frowned upon, but we found that after our second bowl of granola we were usually full until the evening.

Self cooking
We aimed to cook our own evening meals and, expecting facilities to be limited and not knowing what would be available in shops, had gone prepared with a supply of pasta and sauces (the Bisto sauce granules were conveient and only needed water) and instant tea. We needn't have bothered with the pasta, it was readily available. The kitchen facilities varied a lot, but were generally limited, antique and probably got very busy in high season. The pasta + veg menu, though repetitive, allowed some scope for variety and was fast. A few people were attempting more ambitious meals but were regarded with some annoyance by others being held up by them.

More information
A number of worthwhile web sites are shown on the external links page for Iceland.

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