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How Iceland will blow your mind

15:30 AEST Fri Aug 19 2011
Know much about Iceland? Ben Dark travelled to the far north of our planet to find out more about the volcanically active island just outside the Arctic Circle. Its population is 320,000, mostly descended from the original Nordic and Celtic settlers.

He took a 10-day Bentours Circle self-drive adventure, starting out in the world's northernmost capital, Reykjavik, and circumnavigating the country.

Highway 1 is 1339 kilometres of windswept blacktop connecting habitable parts of the country. It takes in most of Iceland's sights. The southern part of the road is occasionally destroyed by massive floods caused by geothermal heat and volcanic eruptions melting inland icecaps.

Ben's first unusual experience was at the main bus station. Locals drive through to buy their favourite delicacy — sheep's head. Ben tried it and said it wasn't bad at all.

The next surprise was at the main harbour where lobster soup, scallops, red fish, blue line and whale are the go. It was a case of 'when in Rome' and fortunately for Ben, tasting whale was a one-off experience.

He headed south to the Skafta River valley at the foot of Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland's most delinquent volcano. In April 2010 the entire valley was washed away as the infamous eruption caused billions of litres of glacial melt water to sweep all before it. The soft sandstone gradually opened and that was it.

Something else that was right up Ben's alley began in the late 1970s. Iceland's National Rescue teams began to modify their emergency vehicles to handle rough terrain and steep hills.

Then they began competing against each other, and that led to racing to raise money for Iceland's emergency services.

Offroad Iceland has four locations for you to give it a go. Passengers have around five minutes in the vehicle, and while it may not sound very long, the adrenaline rush makes it quite long enough!

Around 340 kilometres from Reykjavik is the Ingolfshofdi Headland. It's the place to see some of the planet's most unusual birds. There are millions of black and white puffins with orange feet and beaks. They are quite comical in appearance, but are very tough. They head to sea at six weeks old and stay there for a couple of years. They are always on the lookout for the Arctic skua. There are only around 15,000 of them and they are always stealing precious food. Skua are very aggressive towards other birds — and people — so be warned.

Thingvellir Lake, National Park is where you go for the Silfra Dive. Known as the dive between the continents — America and Eurasia — it's world class because of its location and excellent visibility. There are two dives — one in the crack and the other in the lagoon.

Of course, the water is always very, very cold so you need to wear a little more than your bathing suit, but what you see and with such clarity will give you a nice warm feeling!

Location

Iceland, a three-hour flight from London.

Cost

Bentours' 10-day Iceland Circle tours are $1918 per person based on twin share. Accommodation, eight-day two-wheel drive compact vehicle car hire and breakfast are included. They operate from Reykjavik between May 1 and September 30 every year.

Emirates has flights to Copenhagen and 27 other European destinations via Dubai from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth with connections to Reykjavik. For an exclusive Getaway viewer's discount, log on to www.emirates.com/getaway.

Prices correct at 20.08.2011

For further information

Emirates
Ph: 1300 303 777
www.emirates.com/getaway

Bentours
Ph: 1800 221 712
www.bentours.com.au

Visa: Not required by Australian passport holder for stays of up to three months.

Electricity: 220v 50Hz using 2 pin plugs with round prongs.

Time zone: GMT.

Currency: Icelandic kroner.

Telephone code: +354.

It is recommended travellers see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there may be specific vaccinations recommended for areas you will be visiting. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended. For further information, visit www.smartraveller.gov.au and www.welltogo.com.au.

User comments
I was in Iceland in the late 60's as part of bumming around the world. I worked on the fishing boats out of Reykjavik for six months. Christ it was cold. Their favorite food then was sheeps head. The country was in the process of changing from left hand drive to right hand drive, so they had left hand drive vehicles driving on the left hand side of the road until the changeover. Quite strange to say the least. The Icelandic girls were amongst the most beautiful I have ever seen. Im now 70 years old, and I have fond memories of iceland, the friendliest people ever.
The emirates link doesn't work... All i got was "Sorry, the Promotional code you entered is not valid. Please check and try again. "
I have logged onto the link emirates.comgetaway for the 'exclusive Getaway reader's discount' but it won't allow me to nominate any airports (Bris to Copenhagen I was trying to enter) - any suggestions?

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