Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Review - Walking and Trekking in Iceland by Paddy Dillon

Review - Walking and Trekking in Iceland by Paddy Dillon

Cicerone Press

ISBN: 978-1852846473

Price £17.95 (cheaper on places such as Amazon now)

01M-2633 Guidebook map and notebook used to plan a trip to Iceland.
Lots of info and useful for pre trip planning

There is a lot of information crammed into this guide, which runs to some 352 pages, covering 12 areas, 49 day walks and 10 multi-day treks. All in all something like 100 days worth of walking.

I used the book to help with planning for my recent trip to Iceland and found the descriptions to be concise, clear and accurate for the areas I have visited. The photography is good and the illustrations and maps are clear and easy to understand.

Walking guidebooks of course are not just about the walks and I found the historical, geological and wildlife information both useful and informative. The historical timeline was particularly interesting and really does highlight just how young Iceland as a country is.

For impoverished outdoor folk like me, information on public transport and things like budget accommodation and food were useful. I also found the section listing further sources of web based information handy during the planning stages

The section on river crossings is definitely also worth a read if you lack experience in this area, however you do need to recognise the limitations of the information provided.

When it comes to using guidebooks I am a definitely a visual person and in particular I do like to use overview maps with the different walking areas marked on them. Paddy helpfully does this however one element I certainly feel could be improved is the labelling on the overview map itself (Pages 10 &11.

There are a lot of numbered walks in the guide and at times I ended up flicking back and forth when I confused area 3 with trek 3, or trek 3 with stage 3.

For folk like me placing the relevant page numbers for each section in the actual section box of the overview map would have been ideal. For example in the box of " Area 2 - Fjallabak and Thorsmork". By adding "Pages 94 -133" in the box itself I could then have flicked straight to the start of that chapter without hunting. As I say it 's a personal thing and not a major issue.

The usual warning about the accuracy of route descriptions as they may change is an important point to remember and you really do need to take this seriously and recognise that the landscape is in constant flux, with paths and even tarns appearing and disappearing. For example on the Lagavegur trail there were several short sections that certainly varied on the route we took a couple of years ago. With this in mind the guide alone is not a substitute for a map. That said even the maps end up out of date quite quickly as we found out when the two large tarns the trail was supposed to pass between had actually disappeared.

You may of course think no one would simply rely on a guidebook, but in Iceland I was stopped by two guys and asked if the lake we were looking at was Alftavatn and how long would it take them to get there. All they had was some pages photocopied from a guidebook.

Talking of navigation. I do feel that the maps/walks descriptions would have benefited from having some key GPS information linked to them. For example hut locations. Nowadays the GPS does seem to be the norm for a lot of people, even if it is only as a backup. Perhaps this is one for consideration in a future edition?

As I said before guidebooks are not just about the walks and one minor inaccuracy I did note was the statement "Alcohol of any strength has to be bought from state liquor stores, rather than supermarkets". I found it possible to purchase cans of beer of up to 2.8% strength in several small supermarkets, including the mountain Mall bus at Landmannalaugar. Whether this rule has changed or some supermarkets are now licensed I cannot say, but if you enjoy a celebratory (if rather weak) beer or two at the end a long trek it's worth knowing.


· At £17.95 the guide is on the expensive side.

· Lacks GPS information.

· The overview map would benefit from having the page numbers in the area boxes to make finding sections quicker and easier.

· Photography is good and map illustrations are clear and accurate

· Descriptions are concise and easy to follow and were certainly accurate enough for the walks I did.

· There is some interesting background information relating to history, wildlife and geology. Getting around on a budget without a car, accommodation and personal safety were also useful sections.

· To help with planning there is an appendix containing useful web addresses

4.5 out of 5. I would be happy to recommend to a friend.


  1. Back in 1981 when my wife and I visited Iceland, the only guidebook available was written by a chap from Nenthead and called, if I remember correctly, Iceland in a Nutshell. It was more a general guide, rather than a walkers' guide, but useful nonetheless. I subsequently lent it to someone and never got it back. It's nice to know there are others available these days, and I am familiar with Paddy Dillon's books because I have his Madeira guide, and that was pretty easy to follow. It's also good to know that alcohol is available, because back in the 1980s a type of prohibition was operating and you could only buy a drink in a hotel. How times have changed – and thankfully for the better.
    Cheers, Alen

    1. Shame the book was not returned to you. It will probably have been written by Dick Phillips, known locally in Nenthead as "Iceland Dick". He was still running tours there in his mid seventies and if still around is probably still running them now. He is a bit of a legend in the area and people often seek him out for advice.

      While I have loads of Cicerone guides in my bookcase, this is the first time I have used one of Paddy Dillon's and would happily use one again for a trip elsewhere.