Birder's Guide

MAR 2018

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 65 of 73

Birding in Iceland 64 Birder's Guide to Travel | April 2018 clockwise from bottom: n Northern Wheatear. Photo © Geoff Malosh n Black-headed Gull. Photo © Neil Hall n Tufted Duck. Photo © Ashley Coates n Meadow Pipit. Photo © Kev Chapman 16 hours, though certainly nobody would actually do this except maybe on a dare, especially on their first trip to the country! Sixteen days is more like it. Many road signs are printed only in Icelandic, so it is a good idea to familiar- ize oneself with them prior to traveling in the country. A good bit of general cau- tion is also advisable. The Ring Road may be the national "highway", but outside of Reykjavik it's pretty much just a narrow two-lane road with many blind curves and hilltops, and is unpaved for stretches in the remote east. The frequent and sud- den changes in weather can make driving difficult or even downright dangerous in a matter of minutes, especially in winter. Many side roads are unpaved, and the transition between paved and unpaved sections of road can be especially danger- ous for unsuspecting foreign drivers. Lodging is widely available even in most of the smallest villages, but in some of the most popular birding areas, like Lake Mývatn and the West Fjords near Látrabjárg, lodgings can book up early. An entire range of accommodations is available, from hostels to bed and break- fasts to full-service hotels. In remote areas these establishments frequently double as the only restaurant for miles. Camping is a good option in many areas and can be much more cost-effective over the course of a long trip. Wi-fi is widely available at lodgings and restaurants throughout the country, even in very remote areas; credit cards are taken (and preferred) just about everywhere; and more than 95% of Icelanders speak fluent English, as well as their native Icelandic. All of this makes Iceland a very accessible place to travel independently for birders coming from the ABA Area. A general word about costs. Iceland is an expensive place to visit, no doubt about it. Anyone traveling independent- ly and expecting a full-service, North American-like lodging experience can find it in Iceland, but for a steep price—on the order of U.S. $400 per day, not including food, rental car, and gas (oh, yeah, gas is about U.S. $8/gallon). Tempering one's ex- pectations and being willing to look into camping, hostels, farm guesthouses, and most of its infrastructure designed for au- tomobiles, and rental cars are easily ob- tained at Keflavik. The country has limited options for public transportation, but for birdwatching (and really for most tourism) a rental car is the easiest and most practi- cal way to get around, short of joining a bus tour. Tourists coming from North America appreciate that Icelanders drive on the right side of the road, and that the traf- fic laws and customs are mostly familiar. The island is circled by the national high- way, Route 1, more commonly known as the Ring Road, which is the main route to most destinations throughout. Beginning and ending in Reykjavik, one could drive the entire Ring Road (non-stop) in about

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