Nov 25, 2006

Iceland Travel Guides: Insight Guides

Iceland Insight Guide, by Jane Simmonds. New York: Langenscheidt, 2004. 378 pgs. $22.95

You need this book! Even if you don't like Iceland, buy this book--it will help change your mind. It is lush with pictures. In fact, every single page has a least one color photo; many have several. The book design makes it enticing to pick up, and difficult to put down: there are boxed insets, sidebars, special sections, maps.

The guide begins with an excellent historical section that has interesting anecdotes, literary quotations, old illustrations and maps, and all number of things to spark the reader's interest. The bulk of the book is organized by geographical area but interspersed throughout are heavily illustrated articles: the sagas, birdwatchers paradise, unusual foods, hauntings. Lots of travel tips are included, and the reference sections and maps are accessible and helpful.

We left this book at home when we traveled to Iceland: with the colored glossy pages it is rather heavy. We should have either taken with us despite its weight, or read it cover to cover before we left--it would have enhanced our appreciation of all aspects of Icelandic life considerably. This book is a hybrid: a small coffeetable book with lovely photos, and much information on history, culture and contemporary life. Consequently the information on hotels, restaurants, travel, and tourist sites isn't as detailed. For the traveler, this one won't substitute for one of the guides below, but its a wonderful addition.


Alda said...

Heh. I've actually worked on two editions of that book, although I'm not sure if my stuff is still in the latest one. I think so. Incidentally, Jane is only the editor, not the author. The book is all in written by different people, i.e. updated regularly with new stuff replacing some of the old, etc.

Rose said...

I think I have the latest ed., and yes, you have a number of excellent articles in it. All the contributing authors are credited on the first page. If you have an opportunity to contribute to the next edition, Please, please, please try to get information in it on tipping! I haven't found anything about tipping in restaurants in any Iceland travel guide I've seen. When we had been in Iceland a week, and were preparing to tip a waitress in Selfoss, she kindly informed us that tipping isn't a custom in Iceland. We also looked for nonexistent laundromats throughout Iceland. (When I got back I remember seeing something in the Iceland Review on that topic.) Possibly you'd prefer I direct these comments to Jane...Takk!