My wife (Cat III) and I
left Baltimore (BWI) Friday evening, July 26, on a PAX flight to
Keflavik Naval Air Station. The nearly six-hour flight was full Only
one Cat VI was offered a seat but was bumped at the gate by a
late-arriving duty passenger. On our return flight the following
Saturday, everyone including all Cat VIs (not sure the total
number)made the flight.
Before departure, we
reserved billeting for the first night of our stay. As a back up, we
called the Navy Lodge (011-354-425-2210; toll-free 800 number was not
available from the states)
and found rooms available there for $67/night. The Navy Lodge is
located next door to the air terminal.
CAR RENTAL INFO
Also before departure, we called various car rental agencies and were shocked at the high prices. Not sure if it was due to Iceland's peak travel season of July-August, but all the major agencies charged a stiff premium for unlimited mileage and automatic transmissions. We started to reserve a manual-transmission compact car with Hertz (on-base pick-up available) for about $375 per week plus $.40 per kilometer (or $771 with unlimited mileage!). Then we tried the MWR Tour Office on base (011-354-425-4200). There, we were able to reserve the same size car (also manual transmission) for $378 with unlimited mileage. The lack of a mileage charge was important because we planned to do a fair amount of driving (about 800 km worth).
While on base, we
Viking Mall (with bowling, video rentals, fast-food restaurants, coffee
convenience store, and more), the Navy Exchange, and the commissary.
are nice though not as extensive as those on larger bases such as
We stayed most of the week in Reykjavik, 45 minutes from Keflavik, using the Radisson SAS Saga Hotel (800-333-3333) as our home base. The Radisson, like all of Iceland, is expensive ($200/night plus) but is located within walking distance of the city center and offers free parking. The upper floors have wonderful views of the city and the surrounding bay and mountains. Though by far the largest city in Iceland, Reykjavik feels like a small northern European village with most of its museums and attractions within walking distance of each other, city squares surrounded by leisurely coffee houses, good restaurants, colorful rooftops, and a large, striking church (Hallgrimskirkja) overlooking the entire city. The air is remarkably clean and refreshing since all electricity is generated with geothermal and hydro sources and traffic is relatively light.
By Icelandic standards,
the weather for most of the week was goodÑmid 50Õs to low
60Õs (a welcome relief from the muggy mid-Atlantic summer!),
cloudy to partly sunny,
and offering 18+ hours of daylight. The long days allowed us to start
mornings at a leisurely pace, knowing we had until 10:30 that evening
WATERFALLS AND GEYSERS
From Reykjavik, we took
day trips to the surrounding countryside, filled with incredible
stretches of lava fields, steaming fields of geothermal streams and mud
erupting geysers, picture-perfect volcanic cones, and immense glaciers.
The coldest and windiest day found us relaxing in the 102-degree,
waters of the Blue Lagoon (just minutes from Keflavik), oblivious to
Our favorite discovery was Dyrholaey, a protected nature area near the town of Vik on IcelandÕs south coast. With thousands of artic terns and colorful puffins milling overhead, our breathtaking cliff-top panorama included a pristine black-sand beach, the rolling waves of the North Atlantic filled with every kind of seabird imaginable, towering off-shore rock formations, and a horizon-wide glacier looming in the distance.
Iceland combines it all -a relatively easy Space-A opportunity from the east coast, European atmosphere and amenities in a country where nearly everyone speaks English, a fascinating history (full of Vikings, heroic Sagas, and the world's first parliament), and most of all one of the most incredible, other-worldly landscapes youÕll ever witness. Even with a week's stay, we saw only a small portion of the countryside, so we hope to return soon to further experience this Land of Fire and Ice!