Two week self drive trip to iceland - Jun 30 - Jul 14, 2018

Traveler: Ben B. - Local specialist: Preeti Bhide

My wife, Renee, and I had a memorable and exciting 14 day trip driving an AWD vehicle all the way around Iceland in early July. Preeti at kimkim did a fantastic job taking into account what we wanted to do, working out the logistics of how much we would likely be able to drive/accomplish in a day and choosing hotels for us that were all 3+ star and met and, in many cases, exceeded our expectations. She also incorporated a variety of guided activities into our schedule. The final package was delivered to us as a pdf document with day-to-day instructions, Google driving maps and vouchers for hotels and activities that we had pre-paid for. All-in-all a very seamless experience and well worth the small percentage service fee included in the final reckoning. My only somewhat minor criticism was that it was hard to decide what to include and what not to, based simply on cost, as the car rental, activities and hotel bills were not itemized prior to payment. For those trying to budget, I would strongly recommend searching on the web in addition to working with Preeti for a better idea of itemized costs before committing.

The best things about Iceland are the incredible scenery, especially the volcanic landscapes, seascapes, waterfalls and turf-roofed houses and churches, and the flora and fauna, especially the Icelandic Horses, puffins and arctic foxes. All of it was wonderful, even if the weather was not always cooperative. Expect to have a backseat full of wet rain gear, as you get in and out at frequent intervals to explore roadside attractions and take photos! Places that I would highly recommend include ALL the waterfalls (including Gjain and Haifoss, two of our favorites which we added to Preeti's itinerary), the road to Landmannalaugur, the icebergs at Jokulsarlon, Petra's Stone Collection in Stodvarfjordur and Audunn's Mineral Collection in Djupivogur, Seydisfjordur (especially the sushi at Nord Austur), puffin viewing at Halmarholmstri, hiking around Lake Myvatn and Asbyrgi, the Whale Museum at Husavik, the Herring Museum at Siglufjordur, the Settlement Center at Borgarnes, Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, and the reconstructed fishing station at Osvor. Overall, I'm so glad we did not spend too much time in Reykjavik or waste our money on the Blue Lagoon, as the rest of Iceland has so much more to offer.

Among the organized activities Preeti set up for us, we particularly enjoyed horseback riding among the geothermal springs at Eldhestar, a glacier hike near Skaftafell, and eating uni (sea urchin) and scallop sashimi freshly bottom trawled from the floor of Breidafjordur on our Viking Sushi tour. While we did successfully track three humpback whales on our whale watch tour in Husavik, it was a very wet ride and we had hoped to see other species, so it was a bit disappointing. The weather (10 foot swells!) also caused our trip by boat to Hornbjarg, the bird cliffs on the north side of Hornstrandir Nature Resrve, to be cancelled, but Preeti and her husband came to the rescue and arranged for us to go instead to Hesteyri on the south side of the Reserve, where we had an enjoyable hike to an old whaling station. We had booked a kayaking tour in Isafjordur the next day, but we were too tired to contemplate it and the weather looked foreboding still. Luckily, Preeti was able to cancel at no charge for us and we received a refund for this and the shortened Hornstrandir trip very promptly on our credit card. Finally, on our last day in Iceland, we were booked for the Inside the Volcano tour near Reykjavik. When we got there, the weather was really ghastly and we called Preeti to ask if we should/could cancel. She persuaded us to go, despite the weather, as she revealed that it was the most expensive tour we had booked on the whole trip. So we bravely marched two and a half miles across the lava in our yellow slickers and had an incredible experience descending more than 200 meters inside an extinct volcano, something I'm sure we'll never get the chance to do again. On top of that, we got to see an adorable baby arctic fox who had taken up residence under the trailer for the base camp at the volcano. So, THANK YOU Preeti for persuading us to persevere and for organizing such a great trip. Thank you also for going above and beyond to retrieve Renee's expensive Swarovski binoculars that she left at Hesteyri and ship them efficiently for us to Reykjavik's domestic airport, where we could pick them up before our departure back to the US. You get the highest recommendation from us!