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Monday, 31 August 2009

My plans for next summer

Now that I am back from Lundy and this years summer holiday, my thoughts have turned towards next year. It may seem a little premature, but having made up my mind to return to Iceland, and knowing that this can be an expensive country, it helps to have some idea of costs. To this end, this past week has been spent re-reading various guide books and deciding based on this years bus timetables what is and is not feasible.

I was pleased to discover that Iceland Express, the budget airline that flies to Iceland from the UK, as of this May changed their London base from Stansted to Gatwick. This is perfect for me, living as I do less than half an hour from the airport. It will cut down the journey time not to mention the cost, considerably. Since they fly on Sunday evenings it may be possible to fly out after a weekend at work, giving me an extra days holiday without actually taking a day off. On the other hand, it may be better for me to fly direct to Akureyri in the north of the country, which Iceland Express do each Monday. Decisions, decisions.

I had already decided that I wanted to visit Myvatn in the north of the country, so the Akureyi flight would be perfect, as I could use it to connect with a bus to Myvatn, which is around an hour by bus from Iceland's second city, and packed with attractions - abundant bird life, bubbling mud pools, hot springs, pseudo craters and of course the lake itself. The best hot springs are of course the ones at Landmannalaugar in the country's interior. Landmannalaugar can be accessed via several different bus routes - one of which goes to Myvatn three days a week. Landmannalaugar also lies on the Fjallabak route which runs to Skaftafell National Park in the south east. This is one of the few places in Iceland which I have never visited.

Initially I was torn between a visit to the park and a trip to the Westman Islands off the south coast, which I have visited before - several times. The islands are best known for the volcanic eruption in January 1973 which threatened the towns fishing harbour, but also for the island of Surtsey which rose from the sea bed in November 1963. The island is off limits to all except scientists, but it is possible to do a fly past, and the island can be seen from Heimaey, the largest of the Westman group on a good day.

In the end, because Skaftafell and Myvatn can be linked together by Landmannalaugar, I will probably visit the National Park, but until next years bus timetables are released it is impossible to make concrete plans. I relish the thought of long walks across the heath to admire the views across breathtaking glacial lakes, and hiking across the Icelandic interior, relaxing in a natural hot springs at the end of a long day. I get the feeling that next summer will be a good one!

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