Iceland: Reviews of Travel Books and Maps
The purpose of this page is to reveal to you the resources that we have used both prior to and during our trip to Iceland. We have reviewed such resources so we can convey to you which ones we thought were most useful as well as those we didn't find useful. Hopefully, this may better direct your information gathering efforts for your own trip...
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REVIEWS OF TRAVEL RESOURCES (BOOKS, MAPS, WEBSITES)
Iceland (Landmark Visitors Guide) [Overall Rating: 3/5]
This was the first book resource that we consulted prior to our trip to Iceland in 2007. It was our primary resource (along with an outdated 2004 version of Lonely Planet), but because this book had many photos, it helped provide me with a good introductory sense of what Iceland was like prior to our arrival in mid-Summer 2007. So for that reason alone, I found it to be pretty useful.
The book covered much of what would turn out to be pretty standard Icelandic destinations, but it also covered some of the more remote areas in the interior of the country. Much of my initial inventory of sights to try to target for our upcoming trip came from this book, though there were other supplementary resources that helped to add to it.
The one gripe I had about this book was that it had quite a few advertisements in it. I thought it was kind of tacky, especially since we had already paid for this book, and it made it feel like I had paid for advertisements where they were trying to sell me stuff even after I had paid money! So aside from the advertising distractions, the book was adequate (especially for a full color guide like this), and I credit it with helping me get oriented with the country without having been there yet.
Lonely Planet: Iceland [Overall Rating: 3/5]
We actually consulted two different editions of this book prior to our 2007 mid-Summer trip to Iceland. The first book we consulted was a pretty outdated 2004 version that had the usual major sights but was quite text heavy and difficult to ascertain which sights were really worth doing or not just based on the text alone. Of course, I went searching for waterfalls in the guide, but it was surprisingly lacking in that edition.
The older edition then gave way to a recently updated May 2007 edition that came out just in time of our trip. It was a last-minute addition to our trip research and it fulfilled most of what was missing in the 2004 revision that I was looking for - waterfalls, up-to-date information on food and accommodations, more photos, and more maps. I also read some of the summaries on culture and history, which helped to paint a deeper picture in my mind of the people of Iceland.
After the book's usefulness as a trip planning resource, Julie then consulted the book in search of good places to eat after a long day's hike or touring. Most of the time, we spent our hard-earned money on hot dogs and expensive pizza as we were trying to manage the high cost of food, but when we were in the mood for more local foods, we splurged based on the restaurant and cafe recommendations given in the book. I think Julie also consulted the book for some accommodation bookings made just prior to our trip as well.
So all in all, I'd have to say the LP guide was adequate as both a trip planning resource as well as a guide. Of course, we had many other supplemental resources beforehand so it would be a stretch to say we had to rely on this book for our researching and guiding needs. However, it certainly helped in terms of solidifying and shaping our itinerary that we would ultimately execute towards.
Walking and Trekking in Iceland (Cicerone) [Overall Rating: 3/5]
We actually didn't get a chance to consult this book prior to and during our trip to Iceland as it was published in 2012. That said, we were given a review copy and looked through it as a review of how much we covered during our 2007 trip as well as to get ideas on some of the places we didn't get a chance to do that the book reminded us of.
This guidebook was really a hiking guide showcasing the various routes that the English author Paddy Dillon did in this compilation of such adventures. The collection of routes were quite comprehensive as it covered just about all of Iceland, and clearly compiling this work had to have taken several months and a lot of self-sufficiency to handle the fickle weather and backcountry conditions out there.
Most of the walks were pretty long and involved (the shortest one I saw was on the order of 3.5 miles, which Julie and I actually did regarding Dettifoss and Selfoss), and I'd imagine each excursion would take the better part of a day or multiple days as some would make use of the backcountry mountain huts.
The book also featured a lot of pictures for each of the hikes, each including maps, length and time commitment, and of course, a pretty detailed description of what the walk was like.
Perhaps if we're fortunate enough to return to Iceland, we'll probably make better use of this guide. But as it stands now, we can't really say much more about its usefulness as a trip planning and travel resource since we haven't yet used it for this purpose.
Kortabok [Overall Rating: 2.5/5]
I primarily used this road atlas as a pre-trip resource so I could gain an appreciation of the context and locations of the waterfalls I had been research about up to this point. This helped me to understand the extent of the driving I would have to do on our planned trip to Iceland in mid-Summer 2007, and it would help to shape the itinerary we would ultimately execute upon, which circled the entire country.
I was hoping this road atlas would be as useful as the Norwegian one by Statens Kartverk, especially since that one pointed out places of interest with useful icons. Unfortunately, this book didn't quite have the icons pointing out the worthwhile places of interest, and it was really more of a no-frills road atlas giving you the roads and place names like most typical maps.
I probably used this book for our research for several weeks until we finally got some CD/DVD resources where I could start seeing such maps on a computer. So when that happened, this book fell out of favor though I still referred to my bookmarks that I had left in there every so often.
We brought this book with us to our trip in Iceland in the event that our laptop and GPS combo would crap out like it did in Norway two years prior. Fortunately for us, we didn't have to resort to those measures.
GPS Kort for Garmin v3.0 [Overall Rating: 5/5]
When we stumbled upon this software while researching for our upcoming Iceland trip in 2007, we ended up getting in touch with a shop in Reykjavik called R. Sigmundsson, which essentially sent us a CD of their Islandskort Garmin 3.0 and then told us that we were supposed to get a license to activate it. All things considered, they ended up giving us the software that worked (without the license), and it ended up being the single most important travel resource for both our pre-trip research as well as our in-trip navigation and guide.
We did have a small bit of complication when we learned on the first day of our trip to Iceland that it didn't quite work with our aging Garmin eTrex handheld unit so we ended up buying an OEM USB unit that worked with our laptop once we were in their shop in Reykjavik the next morning. From that point on, it was all smooth sailing.
Before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you that this product was actually a Garmin MapSource product using the Garmin engine but with localized knowledge added to the base engine. Therefore, it was loaded with information about the locations of petrol stations, accommodations, food places, and most of the sights and landmarks that I'd bet you won't find on GoogleMaps. The person we spoke to from the shop (calling long distance and emailing them) wasn't kidding about this being a much better product than the Atlaskort Landmælinga Íslands, which we were using prior to getting our hands on this product.
In any case, prior to our trip, I extensively used this program to gauge driving distances, pinpoint locations of almost all sights that I had inventoried during my pre-trip research as well as pinpointing the locations of almost all of our accommodations as well. In other words, I was able to map out almost all of our pre-trip itinerary and get good estimates for the time investment in all the transport that we would have to do. Of course, I usually pad our estimates with margin so we could buffer some of the unforeseen events that always happen on our trips (in this case, a flat tire while we were leaving the Westfjords and en route to Akureyri).
So with all this information provided, we had full confidence that we would execute on our trip. Once we were in Iceland itself, we then went from trip research mode to trip execution mode, and with this software (and the new OEM GPS USB unit that hooked up to our laptop; this was before Garmin Nuvis were very popular), we were very efficient with our movement and we almost never got lost. We even used it to keep us on track and not get lost when we were navigating to some really rugged backcountry spots in the country's interior.
All in all, I can't recommend this product highly enough. If you think we have good information on our Iceland webpages, I have to confess that a good deal of the research came from this product. As for securing this product (you won't find it on Amazon), I have noticed that there are lots of pirate sites trying to bit torrent this product, but the link I've provided goes to the R. Sigmundsson dealer where I'm sure if you pay for the software, you will not have to deal with trojans or other hijacking malware. Trust me, it's not worth taking the shortcut.
Anyways, if we're fortunate to return to Iceland, I'll make sure to procure this product once again, especially since our installation CD of this software was bent (i.e. unreadable and destroyed for all intents and purposes) at the end of our trip in 2007. So I've never been able to re-install this software (especially since I can't justify spending more money on map software I might not use for a while) ever since I've changed computers, which is a real bummer.
Atlaskort Landmælinga Íslands [Overall Rating: 3.5/5]
Prior to using the Garmin Mapsource product, we bought this product online direct from some Icelandic company (whose name escapes me). It turns out that LMI was discontinuing digital topographic maps so all the finer-scaled maps were unavailable and I think we were fortunate to get our hands on this particular product at the time in 2007.
This is basically a 1:100k scale topographic map with a 1:750k overview. The interface is a bit clunky and we didn't have any luck getting this map to talk to our GPS. So this map was primarily used for pre-trip researching (as it had a decent enough place-name database so I was able to find quite a few waterfalls). However, once we learned of a much more superior and functional Garmin MapSource product (reviewed earlier), I ultimately ported over the stuff I learned while using this LMI product to the Mapsource product. The Mapsource product was ultimately used in the field.
Considering there wasn't much of a choice prior to learning about the Mapsource product, the LMI product did its job in terms of enabling me to do pre-trip research with the kind of precision and accuracy needed to make bookings and plan out our itinerary given a limited amount of time abroad. I believe LMI was the official land surveying agency in Iceland so the information contained herein was probably as authoritative as it gets. However since GPS navigation and functionality didn't seem to be their main purpose for their existence (as it was strictly land surveying and mapping, it seemed), then the limited functionality of the CD-ROM we ended up procuring was understandable.
The link I've provided here goes right to the LMI website. It looks like they've actually put a lot of their surveying information online (in much the same way Statens Kartverk did it for Norway except they seemed to use GoogleMaps engine). In any case, I learned that despite all this free information available, there's still a need to make this information practical, and that's why I limited the rating of our deprecated CDROM to 3.5 as the Mapsource product was far more functional (even if they derived a lot of their land surveying info from LMI itself).
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