Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Spring Break in Iceland

Somewhere in Western Iceland, 2005

The town of Bolungarvik in the Westfjords. JRR Tolkien supposedly based Mordor on this part of Iceland.

Me jumping off at dock in the Westfjords at about 11pm in June 2005.

Reykjavik, 2005

The site I worked on in September 2007 near Reykjavik. As you can see, the weather was less than ideal for digging in the fall.
Ryan and I recently bought tickets to Reykjavik for my spring break in March. Since buying the tickets, we've been inundated with questions that we normally hear about Alaska: Isn't it going to be cold there? Isn't it going to be dark all the time? Isn't it expensive there? Depending on how you look at it, the answers are sort of, no, and yes.

Iceland has a relatively mild climate for its latitude. Warmed by the North Atlantic Current, the average winter temperature in Reykjavik is about 36 degrees Fahrenheit. I've been watching the weather on my iPhone and over the last month the lowest temp I've seen is 25. Today it's 45. All you Alaskans are probably thinking that doesn't sound so bad right about now! The average for March is 38. I have a friend who spent his spring break in Iceland several years ago and he said they did encounter some blizzard conditions, but overall the weather was fine. We know that it will probably be a little chilly in March and we will probably see rain and maybe snow, but that is not enough to deter two Alaskans from enjoying their spring break.

While everyone thinks of darkness when they think of the near-Arctic in winter, we will actually be in Iceland for the spring equinox. We arrive in Reykjavik on March 21, the day that everywhere on Earth receives 12 hours of daylight. After March 21, the northern hemisphere will start getting more daylight than the southern hemisphere. For the rest of our trip, we will actually be getting more daylight in Reykjavik than we would in Seattle! Here's to hoping we actually have sun!

Iceland is a very expensive place to live and visit. It has one of the highest standards of living in the world. Just like Alaska though, touristy things will be cheaper in the off-season. We did get a pretty awesome deal on our plane tickets, so compared to other trips we could have taken for this vacation, I think the costs of getting there vs. being there will balance out. Iceland Air has a direct flight from Seattle to Reykjavik (7 hours) and in the winter, it is cheaper than flying from Seattle to Anchorage! Part of the reason this seemed like such an appealing spring break trip to us is that we could get somewhere far away for a relatively reasonable price without having to waste too much time in airports, changing planes, etc.

We plan to spend a couple of days in Reykjavik sightseeing, soaking in hot springs, and visiting friends. We're also going to rent a car and drive around the ring road. We'll probably do some hiking, see a glacier or two, stop in small towns and go to the quirky little museums that make Icelandic culture so unique. Despite having been to Iceland twice, I have not seen most of the island. The first time I was there I spent nearly the entire month in the Westfjords taking a field school. The Westfjords are a remote area with few towns, harsh weather, and spectacular scenery. I'm glad I had the opportunity to spend time there because it's a part of Iceland that I doubt many tourists visit and I don't think we'll have the time to make it there on this trip. The second time I stayed in Reykjavik and worked on two archaeological sites in town. I'm looking forward to exploring more of Iceland this time. I've included some photos from my previous trips.


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