I recently visited Iceland to experience everything from the Golden Circle, the Blue Lagoon to the stunning Ice Caves. When researching excursions online, I realised that the prices including travel from place to place were extortionate, so I was better off just renting a car.
On a budget, I opted for the cheapest car I could find to hire. I chose an automatic because I couldn’t face the thought of trying to change gears when on strange roads in a different country. When I went to collect the car I was given a “complimentary upgrade” (after being forced to pay nearly £200 for insurance!). Sure, this may sound like a good thing, but I found it a bit daunting. It meant I would have to drive an estate which was about two times the size of my car back home.
So, when I first started the engine and practised driving such a huge, automatic car for the first time on the 'wrong' side of the road, I hated it. I broke down crying, telling my fiancé that I just wasn’t cut out for it. Little did I know that by the time our holiday was over that I’d feel totally differently!
As I got to grips with driving on the opposite side of the road without a gear shift, I realised how easy it is to drive along South Iceland. My confidence grew and I even built up the courage to turn on the cruise control. From then on, I felt like I was sitting in a 5* luxury car that practically drove itself.
Then, as I drove along the beautiful single carriageway roads which were surrounded by bright green moss and mountains with waterfalls, it started to snow. It started to snow a lot. Like most people, I’m not a big fan of the snow when I have to drive in it, so I slowed right down to about 10mph. But to my relief, I soon remembered that my car was fitted with winter tyres. I have never appreciated how much of a difference winter tyres can make. For the first time, I actually felt confident driving in the snow and I could enjoy being behind the wheel even in particularly snowy areas.
So, after driving 6 hours to the south east of Iceland I was ready to get the holiday started. The plan was to drive back to Reykjavik and stop off every other day at Iceland hotspots. This saw me driving through mountains, towards icy glaciers, alongside waterfalls and even travelling through the middle of a storm – but every journey was worth the breath taking views we got to witness. Even the dreaded five lane motorway was worth it.
So, would I do it again or would I stick to booking an excursion and letting someone else drive me around?
Well, I absolutely loved driving in Iceland. It is a magical country. The views are outstanding, the roads are mostly quiet and there are many places to stop off safely and observe stunning waterfalls, mountains, icebergs and farmland.
And not only was Iceland beautiful, I found that driving in another country, in a totally different car and in every type of weather possible made me a much more confident driver. I am already planning another two week driving holiday there because I loved it so much.
So, if you’re thinking about doing something similar, whether you're an experienced advanced driver or a nervous novice, I highly recommend you take the plunge.
Iceland is an amazing place with an incredible landscape. I can't wait to go back for my next amazing drive.
By Junique Aujla, IAM RoadSmart's digital marketing executive