I'm sharing my travel experiences, candid opinions and what's on my mind. If you think it's inappropriate for a travel writer to stir up discussion on his blog with political observations and insights gained from traveling abroad, you may not want to read any further. — Rick

The Westman Islands’ Sagnheimar: A Classic Community Museum

There’s a special charm to small, old-school, community museums — like the one I just visited, the Sagnheimar Folk Museum, filling the floor above the Westman Islands’ little town library.

All over the world, “interactive,” “high-tech,” and souped-up museums (often with lots of glitz but no actual artifacts) are the highly advertised, money-making hits. Many of these, with fancy shops and restaurants attached, are little more than commercial ventures. It’s the low-key, low-tech community museums — staffed by knowledgeable volunteers with a passion for their mission — that often tell the real story. In Iceland, I found the glitzy museums (the Lava Centre, the Whales of Iceland exhibit, and so on) were twice the cost and half the value as the old-school, simpler museums (like Sagnheimar and the Skógar Folk Museum, on the South Coast).

From the Glencoe Folk Museum in Scotland, to the Westfries Museum in the Netherlands, to the Third Man Museum in Vienna, to the little historic museum filling the Carnegie Library in my hometown of Edmonds, don’t neglect the lovingly-gathered, old-school community museums — filled with artifacts found in local attics, staffed with enthusiasts who really know their stuff, and at old-fashioned prices. What’s your favorite? Let me know in the comments here, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

 

Video: Road-Tripping in Iceland

More than in any other country I can think of, simply road-tripping is a big part of the joy of exploring Iceland. And it’s hard to get lost: Route 1, the “Ring Road,” circles the island in one big loop. Each little road branching off the main road has a sign showing what’s out there — and at most points of visual or historical interest, there’s a handy pullout, with a thoughtful information board explaining things in Icelandic and English. (Forgive my fancy camera work as I not-so-gracefully multitask in this clip.)

How was your driving experience in Iceland?

Heading to Iceland? Pick up a copy of the Rick Steves Iceland guidebook.

You’re Right: Take Warning Signs Seriously!

 

Earlier today, I shared my thoughts about the “Do not pass this point” signs that travelers often come across — and I wrote that I generally choose to ignore them.

I asked you to share your own thoughts — and wow, what a torrent of thoughtful responses I received. I read over 500 of your comments (all of them) here and on Facebook, and they were filled with wisdom…far more wisdom than I shared in my initial post. I learned a lot, and I must say, I was wrong, and the community of travelers on my page was right. I appreciate how, on this forum, I can learn from you, as well as vice versa.

So, after considering your comments — the vast majority explaining the many ways that warning signs are worth taking seriously, with only a few agreeing with my take on proceeding at your own risk — I’ve taken down my original post. As a travel writer who respects the platform I have to share my thoughts, I do have a responsibility not to give advice that can endanger people.

Stay tuned for lots more travel advice. And if you think I’m steering you wrong, I have no doubt you’ll let me know! Happy (and no foolish, risk-taking) travels.

Video: Puffins, Black Sand Beaches, and a Windy Bluff in Iceland

Our new Iceland guidebook lists the four best day trips from Reykjavík: the Golden Circle, the Blue Lagoon, the Westman Islands…and the road trip that I’m on right now, a long day of sightseeing on the South Coast.

My friend and local guide, Stefan Valsson of Reykjavík Bike Tours, brought me here today. I just love the luxury of traveling with a local guide. With a local guide, you’ll know where the most dramatic bluffs are and what you’re seeing from them — and you’ll have all your puffin questions answered. In this clip from the top of the windy Dyrhólaey promontory, Stefan gives a good defense of why it’s OK to eat the cute local puffins.

Of course, it’s expensive to hire your own private guide. My work: to take these tours privately, learn what I can, and then distill all the insights and tips I’ve gathered into a guidebook so my readers can enjoy — secondhand but much, much more affordably — the brilliance of a guide like Stefan.

rick steves and tourists holding rick steves iceland guidebook

A particularly gratifying reward for me is meeting so many happy travelers on this route who have the first edition of Rick Steves Iceland. It’s only been out a few months, and already it’s the dominant guidebook here. I’m hugely thankful for the brilliant work of my co-author Ian Watson and contributing author Cameron Hewitt.