Ask Joan: Iceland and a quick dash to the sun

Joan Scales answers your travel queries


For my 60th birthday, my children gave my husband and I flight-only tickets to Iceland for one week in June. The trip will span the longest days of the year. We are quite active, have travelled a lot and enjoy swimming, walking and getting about. I believe car hire is quite expensive and so I am wondering if it makes more sense to base ourselves someplace and just make day trips? Can you recommend a good tour company that does interesting one-, two- or three-day trips to explore this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover Iceland?
ME, Cork

Iceland in midsummer will be a wonderful experience and you can plan on sleeping when you get home as there are many sites to visit and things to see. Car hire will cost in the region of €550-€ 650 for a smallish car for the week and petrol is around the same price as here.

You could weigh up the cost of tours against driving around with a guidebook. The landscape of Iceland in summer is green and safe for driving, though there are long dista nces without habitation.

There are many tour companies to choose from, have a look at and Places that should be on your list to see include Thingvellir national park, where you can stand on the mid- Atlantic ridge of tectonic plates.

The Gullfoss waterfall throws up a huge spray and on sunny days rainbows glint off it. There are plenty of geysers to see and you may also consider a day’s pony trekking with Pony will also feature on menus in restaurants.

The Golden Circle takes in some of the main sights in a day and you can also include whale-watching.
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I have the tough task of organising a three-night sunny holiday abroad for seven women who have paid into a “40” fund. We are looking for a villa with a pool and would like a bar on site. We want to fly from Cork and flying into Malaga seems the most competitive. Any help in terms of accommodation would be great.
AD, Waterford

As you are only going for three nights, then you need to look at the shortest journeys with the best possibilities for a great time. From Cork not only do you have Malaga and the Costa del Sol, but also Majorca until September 16th, and Barcelona, Faro and Nice through to the end of October.

Places to look for villas include, where three nights in the Costa del Sol with flights will cost from €480pps. also has a selection of lovely houses both on and off resorts in Spain and Portugal. Call them on
01-697 5734.

Most villas to rent on the Costa del Sol with a bar on site tend to be golf resorts, which are not the most exciting places if you are looking for fun. You would be better off to rent a place in, or near, Marbella, Benelmadena or Estepona.

There are some very nice resorts on the Algarve where you have villas/townhouses with hotels and all the facilities of restaurants, spas, bars and pools, such as Pine Cliffs with the Sheraton Hotel.

Check out the Vilamoura area too, though most of the resorts have apartments rather than villas.

We have booked a gîte and our flights to Carcassonne for a two-week holiday in a country location in the Aquitaine. We need to rent a car – however we don’t have a credit card and it seems to hire a car you must have one. We have a debit/Laser card – can you advise what we should do?
JP, Louth

Debit cards are in more frequent use now but hiring a car with one can be very difficult. The major car hire companies will not hire without a credit card. First thing you will need is to change your Laser card to a Visa debit.

You could contact Indigo Car Hire in the UK. Indigo deal with rental companies across Europe that accept debit cards and Carcassonne is one of the locations. Phone for a quote on 0044-113 289 9279,

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