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Self guided driving tours

Planning a trip for June-July 2019, 12-14 days including driving the ring road, golden circle and time in Reykjavik at the end.
Does anyone have experience with what seem to be called self guided driving tours? There are several companies that offer them. They include car rental, most have several choices of vehicle and pre-organised accommodations, with choices of type of accommodation, basic, mid range to luxury.
Most include some sort of itinerary, your choice of whether you follow it closely or not, some will pre-book tours and activities if you want. Some have all one night stays-wouldn't be my choice-others give you options of a combination of 1 and 2 nights-your choice.
My reason for considering this is that our last two major trips have been to somewhat sparsely populated islands , Newfoundland and the Big Island Hawaii, booking accommodation was incredibly time consuming. Both trips were planned 6 months+ ahead of time but finding accommodation in the areas we wanted to visit was hard work!
Budget is a consideration but not the most important factor, location is at the top.
We are not looking for 'fancy' hotels, just clean, comfortable, private bathroom and breakfast included.
Any comments?

Posted by
146 posts

About 4 years ago my friend did a 7-10 day “self-guided” tour like the ones you described. They very much enjoyed it and the tour company tailored it to fit their interests. That said, her one complaint was that the distances between a few of the destinations were rather long and they ended up not spending as much time there as they would have liked. But that might have happened on a “self-planned” tour too.

Posted by
467 posts

We used Nordic Visitor this past September for a self-drive trip. We followed their South and West Iceland 8 day tour. There were 3 adults and when I started looking for accommodations in April, I saw it would be a challenge finding triple rooms, since everything seemed booked up then. I checked Nordic Visitor and they seemed to fit the bill for what wanted. Basically, they did everything they say they will do. I called them to ask some questions at that point and the person I spoke with became our travel consultant. I explained what we are interested in and they designed a suggested itinerary.
We chose the mid-level accommodations and were very happy with the places they selected for us, which included private bathrooms and breakfasts.
You can tell them where and for how long you want to stay in a place. However, without 2-3 weeks for the Ring Road plus Reykjavik , I think you'd be doing mostly 1 night stays.
Some included things turned out to be quite helpful:
. Their GPS with the Icelandic keyboard (those little accents do matter)
. The portable WiFi hotspot gave us connectivity everywhere
. The cell phone with preloaded data to make it easy to call them, or vice versa when one of our activities was cancelled. Also, accommodations ask that you let them know if you'll be later than 6 PM, and we frequently were because of distances to drive.
. And it was quite nice to be met at the airport on arrival and have a prearranged ride back to the airport.
If you have other questions, you can PM me, or ask here.

Posted by
6 posts

The current plan would give us 14 days, Day 1 arrive about 9 am after overnight flight from Toronto, leave Day 14 evening, travel days would be Wednesdays, as flight prices are lower than other days of the week. That isn't carved in stone, we may be able to find one extra day, but no longer.
We are like most Iceland visitors interested in the great outdoors, scenery, walking/hiking, about 6-8 km max, lots of photography, on vacation we usually don't look for high class accommodations, fine dining, shopping or nightlife, we have all those at home, just food is fine and probably some carefully selected souvenirs.
I am a botanist so I find all forms of plant life fascinating, I believe there are 2 botanical gardens, visiting the garden in Reykjavik is on our to do list.
My husband is interested particularly in the geothermal plants, we both like caves, find volcanoes fascinating, wildlife etc, we did a whale watching boat trip in Newfoundland. Museums but only those that are real history.
We have hiked in snow, all day drizzle, I don't swim so most water related activities are out, we try to find sightseeing helicopter tours, i think there are some out of Reykjavik.
I know that summer is by far the busiest time of the year, but other commitments don't let us do this trip in the shoulder seasons,
We have done many long distance drive trips, some camping, many not, the longest was 13,000 km. We always have a to do list that is far too long, and we know that we won't do everything on the list; it does give us lots of options if weather or other circumstances don't cooperate.
Any suggestions welcome

Posted by
467 posts

Hi TG,
I'm not assuming you would use Nordic Visitor for your travels, but using their website and our experience makes it easier for me to make suggestions. My son works in horticulture, so our first stop in Reykjavik after breakfast was the botanical gardens. We walked out there (a good hike, about a half hour from our hotel) and spent enjoyable 2 hours. We found the weather on that walk to become typical: sunshine, showers, rain, showers, sunshine, etc. so layers were essential.
Nordic Visitor (NV) has several Ring Road trips. Their Complete Classic 14 days, 13 nights is pretty complete and could serve as a point of reference for you. The Itinerary pages have links to Attractions and Optional Activities, which give you a good ides of what is around the places on the itinerary. It's a good resource, even if you don't use the company.

Most of their trips spend the first and last nights in Reykjavik, I think so you can recover from jet lag upon arriving and see some of the city, then return to see as much or as little as you want on the end.
On the second day, NV will pick you up at the hotel and take you to the car rental. agency. From there this itinerary goes to the Golden Circle. There is a nearby lunch restaurant you and your husband might both be interested i: Fridheimer Farm, in located in a greenhouse that uses geothermal energy to produce tomatoes. It is popular, so reservations are recommended.
The next 3 nights are spread out along the south coast which is good because there is a lot to see and do.
We didn't go beyond Jokulsarlon Lagoon, where we did the Zodiak boat ride, so I can't comment too much about the east and north, other than to say that others on the forum have enjoyed Lake Mytavn and Akureyri. I think the whale watching from Akureyi is better than from Reykjavik. Again, I don't know much about the West Fjords, but perhaps you might drop a night there and add it someplace else. On Day 13, the itinerary is quite packed, and that would also be the day to return the car in Reykjavik. You could add a night here, in the Borgarfjordar area to see the Deildartunghver hot springs, the largest geothermal area in Europe. It is near Reykholt. The Hraunfossar and Barnafoss Falls are in the area. We did a tour of the Vidgelmir Lava Cave and found it interesting. Grabrok Crater is an extinct volcano that you can climb, also in the area. This would give you more time on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula the day before, and in then this area.
We weren't too focused on Reykjavik, so the day of arrival and evening before and a chunk of the day of departure were enough for us. We ate dinner on the harbor both evenings and saw rainbows. Reservations recommended.
Some thoughts:
--We booked 4 activities, and one was canceled. As much as we enjoyed the activities, we were glad for the days with nothing planned because we didn't have to be someplace at a certain time. (NV does try to schedule them at convenient times.)
--Familiarize yourselves with driving in Iceland. Iceland tourism has several cartoon videos giving pointers that are helpful. Most of the roads we traveled on were paved.
--Familiarize yourselves with some Icelandic vocabulary, and place names will make much more sense. They are basically a combination of geography terms. Foss=waterfall; jokull=glacier; reykur=steam; vik=harbor. So Reykjavik means steamy harbor. The Rick Steves book has a listing in the back. He also has suggested tours.
Hope this helps a bit.

Posted by
6 posts

The trip is booked, mid June to early July 2019, we decided on the 15 days/14 nights around Iceland trip from Hey Iceland with an extra night in Reykjavik at the beginning so we don't drive after arriving early morning probably with little sleep.
The trip goes clockwise around the island, with five 2 night stops , one 3 night stop and one 1 night stop, goes everywhere except the Westfjords, I will definitely report back afterward, and will probably have other questions before we leave

Posted by
21 posts

I am looking to do a similar self drive tour in the same basic timeframe. I am curious as to why you chose Hey Iceland vs Nordika Travel. Did you consider any other tour arrangers? I have been looking for a site that might compare the different tour operators, but so far I have not found anything.

Posted by
6 posts

The primary reason we choose Hey Iceland is because at least for this length of trip they book 2 nights per accommodation location, and most others seem to do one night stays even if it is a longer trip. I'm reasonably sure i looked at what Hey Iceland books for shorter trips but I don't remember the details.
We really dislike changing where we stay every day, packing up, dragging luggage to the car, and then doing it in reverse at the end of the day. In all of the places we are staying there is more than enough places to see and things to do in the area to spend 2 nights in one place. It provides an entire day to explore without spending time driving to the next place to sleep and if we want to stay out late because the sun hasn't set we aren't going back to somewhere new.
On this trip we have 5, 2 night stays, 1, 3 night stay and 2 one night stays, one of which we booked because we added a day and night in Reykjavik before starting the 'official' trip.
The second reason we choose Hey Island is because they have a commitment to sustainability, so their lodging locations are to a large extent selected because of their commitment to green practices.
I did look at many of the other tour arrangers, some appear to offer customisation of routes, others surprisingly have no options of any sort; most of them offer lodging options, private bathroom, various levels of luxury or not, breakfast or not.

We wanted breakfast included every day, so that we didn't need to go looking for it in locations where it might be difficult to find.
Some of the places we are staying are in the countryside, with lovely views, and surroundings, gardens, on site hot springs, dinner available but far from a local place to get breakfast.
If you want further details, send me a PM