BWI TO KEFLAVIK- ICELAND TRIP REPORT by Roving Eye

STARTING THE TRIP

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.

BILLETING INFORMATION.

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 conveniently 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 explored the Viking Mall (with bowling, video rentals, fast-food restaurants, coffee shop, convenience store, and more), the Navy Exchange, and the commissary. All are nice though not as extensive as those on larger bases such as Ramstein.

REYKJAVIK

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 our mornings at a leisurely pace, knowing we had until 10:30 that evening for our explorations.

WATERFALLS AND GEYSERS

From Reykjavik, we took day trips to the surrounding countryside, filled with incredible waterfalls, desert-like stretches of lava fields, steaming fields of geothermal streams and mud pools, erupting geysers, picture-perfect volcanic cones, and immense glaciers. The coldest and windiest day found us relaxing in the 102-degree, ice-blue waters of the Blue Lagoon (just minutes from Keflavik), oblivious to the foul weather.
VIK and DYRHOLAEY SEABIRDS

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!