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Trip Report Iceland 2 week trip itinerary/report

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Just back from 2 weeks in Iceland. :) Below is what we ended up doing day to day. 'We' is me, hub and our 9 year old son. We drove about 1500 miles (I think) but aside from 2 days, it didn't seem like we were driving that much. Everything worked out really well and pretty much as planned, except the day we couldn't get to our cabin near Skaftafell when the road was closed due to wind. Had a great time, found the Icelanders to be friendly, helpful and polite, everything wasn't painfully expensive, we had all types of weather from sunny and warm to freezing to crazy wind. We mostly shopped at grocery stores and ate in. Ask away if you have any questions. :)

Day 1 - Sun, June 28 KEF - Laugarvatn
Sixt car rental - 2WD Chevy Trax
Thingvellir
Fontana Geothermal Baths at Laugarvatn
overnight: Golden Circle Apartments, Laugarvatn

Day 2 - Mon, June 29 Laugarvatn - southwest
Geysir
Gullfoss
Gamla Laugin/Secret Lagoon at Fludir
Seljalandsfoss
overnight: North Star Cottage, Eyvindarhólar (southwest)

Day 3 - Tue, June 30 southwest to Skaftafell
Skogafoss
Dyrholaey
Reynisfjara
Vik
Fjadragljufur canyon
overnight: Hotel Skaftafell (only because the road was closed and we couldn't get to our Nonhamar cabin)

Day 4 - Wed, July 1 Skaftafell
Icelandic Mountain Guides - Blue Ice Experience (glacier hike)
hiking at Skaftafell: Svartifoss and Sel
overnight: Nonhamar cabin, Hof

Day 5 - Thu, July 2 Skaftafell
Jokulsarlon, amphibious boat
Ingolfhofsdi tractor tour to see puffins
overnight: Nonhamar cabin, Hof

Day 6 - Fri, July 3 Skaftafell to Myvatn (north)
Drove from Hof (near Skaftafell) to Myvatn with a detour to Borgarfjordur Eystri to see puffins.
overnight: Dimmuborgir guesthouse, Myvatn

Day 7 - Sat, July 4 Myvatn
Dimmuborgir lava field
hiked up Hverfjall (the big crater)
Hverir geothermal area
Krafla - power plant visitors center, Viti
Myvatn Nature Baths
dinner at Vogafjos (cowshed café)
overnight: Dimmuborgir guesthouse, Myvatn

Day 8 - Sun, July 5 Myvtan
Dettifoss
Krafla - Leirhnjukur lava field (about a 2 mile walk through the area)
Grjótagjá
drove around the lake
dinner from Daddi's pizza
overnight: Dimmuborgir guesthouse, Myvatn

Day 9 - Mon, July 6 Myvatn to Akureyri
Godafoss
Laufas turf house museum
Akureyri - Brynja ice cream, botanical gardens, poked around town
overnight: Saeluhus

Day 10 - Tue, July 7 day trip around the Trollaskagi peninsula
Siglufjordur herring museum
Hofsos pool
Glaumbaer turf house museum
overnight: Saeluhus

Day 11 - Wed, July 8 Akureyri to Reykjavik
Borgarnes Settlement Center
overnight: Gray Tower apartment, Reykjavik

Day 12 - Thu, July 9 Reykjavik
Hallgrimskirkja
Reykjavik 871 museum
Viking maritime museum, Odinn ship tour
Valdis ice cream
wandered around
overnight: Gray Tower apartment, Reykjavik

Day 13 - Fri, July 10 Reykjavik
Blue Lagoon
Icelandic Phallological Museum
wandered around town
overnight: Gray Tower apartment, Reykjavik

Day 14 - Sat, July 11 Reykjavik - KEF - home
Kolaportid weekend flea market
Harpa
home!

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    I packed in as much as I thought I could get away with before the hub and child overruled! ar ar

    highlights/favorites
    - the pools! We visited 5 hot springs pools and loved them! We went to Fontana at Laugarvatn, Secret Lagoon at Fludir, the pool at Hofsos, Myvatn Nature Baths and the Blue Lagoon. Hard to pick a fave, but the Blue Lagoon was last on the list.
    - hiking uphill from Skogafoss
    - hiking along Fjadragljufur canyon
    - Skaftafell - everything we did in that area, including Jokulsarlon and Ingolfhofsdi. The 2 days we spent at Nonhamar were wonderful!
    - Everything in the Myvatn area

    lowlights
    - The wind at Dyrholaey and Reynisfjara was insane! It was interesting to experience, but it pretty well sucked.
    - Same wind causing the closure of the ring road south of Skaftafell.
    - Realizing that I had just paid $1.65 each for several standard postcards. ack! My fault, shouldn't paid more attention, they weren't that expensive everywhere.
    - Tour buses. I know, I know, that's the only way some people can go, and I ack that they are fellow travelers, curious about the world and all that. But when a tour bus pulls up to an otherwise empty site, suddenly there are 100 people where there were none.

    Food
    - Loved all of the dairy products we had! Wonderful cheese, ice cream, butter. Even the soft serve at the gas station was fabulous! Local dairy products weren't insanely expensive.
    - Same for smoked salmon. Yum! And maybe cheaper than at home.
    - We didn't eat out much so can't say much about restaurants. Vogafjos (cowshed cafe) in Myvatn was great! I thought it was going to be hokey touristy but it wasn't. Food was wonderful.

    If I had it to do over...
    - I might skip the Blue Lagoon. It was the 5th pool we went to and we liked the others more. It was crowded, I had to book in advance, it was over-hyped and about the same as the Myvatn Nature Baths. We went on one of our days in Reykjavik so it ate up a lot of the day.
    - I wouldn't plan on buying a phone at the airport. I have a cheapy flip phone at home (I'm just not a cell phone kinda person) that wouldn't work there, so I figured I'd buy a cheapy in duty free there. They were sold out of cheapys, so I had to spend a chunk and could've gotten a much cheaper one at home if I had bothered to check on it.
    - I wouldn't take so much food! I had read how expensive everything was, AND my kiddo can be really picky, so I packed all kinds of stuff. Barely made a dent in it.
    - I wouldn't take so many clothes. It was cold. We didn't sweat. Could've worn the same thing for days if we had wanted. :)

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    I love the last point - no one would know :)

    Glad you had a good time. I know it's going to be windy. I keep looking at the daily forecast, and it's about 15mph winds EVERY day. So I figure that's the baseline. We head out on our 16 day trip on Friday!

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    Have fun!! We experienced a wide range of weather and often within one day. :) It wasn't always windy, but the day we went around the south it was INSANE. So insane that farther around, just beyond Skaftafell, they closed the road for several hours due to the wind. A camper van had been blown off the road and rolled a few times. The people inside weren't hurt. We saw the van later off the road and it was pretty scary! The top was torn off and it looked like a debris field. The wind there is not like wind other places! It was 80-90 mph that day. I found the daily forecast to not be very helpful, but maybe I wasn't looking at the right forecast. It seemed like everyday had some sun, some clouds, some light drizzle, some rain, some wind. :) There were only a few times that it rained enough to be a nuisance.

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    That's what we're hoping for - 'not enough to be a nuisance' for most of the time. I frequently vacation in Ireland and Scotland, so rain doesn't scare me. Rain so heavy you can't see ten feet in front of you is another matter. And such winds as you describe - definitely scary!

    I remember one trip we did in Ireland up Conor Pass in Dingle. It is supposed to be a lovely vista, but the wind was so strong I couldn't open my car door! We had to move the car around to get it open, so it was angled differently. And then we couldn't see for the rain and fog!

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    That's how it was on Dyrholaey. We could barely get out of our car and it was blowing so hard it was difficult to focus. When it's like that, careful how you open your door. I've read stories of rental car doors being severely damaged when the wind caught them. I believe it!

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    I'm pleased to say that although we had rain, we didn't experience any of these high winds when we were in Iceland but it's as well to be prepared for them i think.

    hope you have a wonderful trip, GD, and I look forward to reading your TR!

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    Your report has sparked my interest. Thank you.
    Could you advise an approximate daily budget, not including hotels or hire car,which we would prepay, but including petrol, sightseeing and one restaurant meal a day, please?

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    Carrabella, daily budget for how many people? Most sightseeing is free, it's the tours that add up quickly. Tourist pools like the Blue Lagoon are expensive (it's 45 euros per adult, kids free) but local pools are pretty cheap, like $5 for an adult. The amount you spend per day can vary widely, same for accommodations and car. For example, our 2 week rental of a 2WD Toyota Trax (with GPS) cost about $800. The same type car on other rental sites at the time of my booking cost almost twice that.

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    Tally, you are right - most of the natural sights in Iceland are free, but it's the getting there that is expensive. Who did you book your car with? that sounds like a good price!

    [welcome back, cold. we've been missing you, especially in the lounge!]

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    Sixt. I had read lots of bad reviews on them and all car rental companies on trip advisor (I suspect some of them are actually fake and put up by competitors, but who knows) but it was so much cheaper I couldn't resist. I booked the car and flights almost a year in advance but I saw the same rate for the car months later. Sixt was fine. The clerk gave me the standard YOU MUST TAKE OUR INSURANCE OR YOU'LL PAY FOR THE WHOLE CAR routine since I was using my credit card's insurance, the car was fairly beat up, but other than that, no problems with the car and no problems turning it in.

    I keep thinking I'll write a better trip report with more info but haven't had time yet. I totally enjoyed reading yours, Annhig, so I feel obligated to do better. :) I got some good info from you, like going all the way around instead of halfway and back, looking up grocery store names BEFORE we were driving around looking for them, and I'm sure some other stuff. :)

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    You're too kind, Tally. It's always nice when others learn from one's mistakes and we made some big ones on that trip; strangely though, it's the good bits I remember best.

    I'm sure that you've got some good info to pass on too, like your car hire tip, which was obviously a success!

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    Here we go... more info than you could possible want. :) I sent emails to my family during the trip, so that's the part at the top, then I added stuff I thought you fodorites might find helpful.

    Day 1 - KEF - Laugarvatn
    Sixt car rental - 2WD Chevy Trax
    Thingvellir
    Fontana Geothermal Baths at Laugarvatn
    overnight: Golden Circle Apartments, Laugarvatn

    Hey! Going on 30+ hours without sleep so forgive any typos... :) We got here on time, no problems, got our luggage, found a phone to buy, got some cash, found the car rental people, etc. First stop: a grocery store. :) We had to find a 24x7 one for Sunday morning at 10:00. ar ar X and I went in while Y slept in the car. :) Then onto Thingvellir national park. We wandered and checked it out. It was pretty windy but not thaaaat cold. Then onto Laugarvatn and to the Fontana Spa. It's a hot springs pool. Loved it!!!! We had our first shower-naked-before-pool experience. ar ar We were ok with that but it was the walk to the warm water while wet in the cold blasting wind that was a bit unsettling. :) The pool is really nifty with a few different temp pools, right next to a lake, while it was chilly, windy and sprinkling. We stayed a few hours then came to our apartment for the night.

    Notes
    X is my 9 year old son, Y is hub. 

    Mistake #1: Thinking I would buy a cheapy cell phone at Elko in duty free. They were sold out of cheapys and I had to spend a lot more than I had planned. Should've bought a cheapy unlocked phone in the US.

    Duty free: If you plan to drink any booze on your trip (beer, wine, etc), buy the max you can in duty free. They tax the sh*t out of it, and the liquor stores are often not open, so stock up at the airport.

    Cash – You don't really need much cash, if any. Every place takes credit cards, even for a cup of coffee. A booth at the flea market didn't take cc's, but that was the only case we found. You need a cc with a chip. If you plan to ever get gas from an unmanned gas station (and there are some around the island that are unmanned all the time), you need a PIN to go with your cc (or you can get prepaid cards for the N1 stations, so I read, but we didn't do that).

    I planned this trip for over a year! I looked up what all the grocery store names are so we would recognize them, and found the 24x7 store beforehand and had the address ready for the GPS. Speaking of GPS's, if you take your own, make sure you have access to an Icelandic keypad for your Icelandic map, or you'll never find anything. Speaking of grocery stores, we often found that they didn't open until 10:00 or 11:00.

    Sixt car rental – They were supposed to meet us outside customs but no one was there (granted we took forever in duty free), but then we couldn’t find their pick up place, fortunately had a phone so called, blah blah, finally someone showed up.

    If you're planning a trip to Iceland I'm sure you've already heard about the requirement to shower naked before entering their pools, right?  It really wasn't a big deal. Don't look at anyone. They're not looking at you. It's ok. Really. 

    Bonus points #1: I bought cheapy towels at Target ($4 each) to take on our trip so we never had to rent towels, saving us at least a few bucks. 

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    Day 2 - Mon, June 29 Laugarvatn - southwest
    Geysir
    Gullfoss
    Gamla Laugin/Secret Lagoon at Fludir
    Seljalandsfoss
    overnight: North Star Cottage, Eyvindarhólar (southwest)

    We went to the main tourist sites, Geysir (the one that all others are named for) and Gullfoss, a big ol' waterfall with a parking lot full of tourbuses. Then off the tourist circuit to a place called the secret lagoon (Gamla Laugin), another hot springs pool. Loved it! This one was just a rectangle pool with a gravel and moss bottom, fed by hot springs bubbling up all around. There's even a mini-geysir next to the pool. We could get used to the hot springs pools. :) Then onto another tourist waterfall, Seljalandsfoss. Another place crawling with tour bus people. It's pretty nifty and you can walk behind it and get soaked, so we did. :) Then onto our cabin for the night. We found it, there were only 2 of these cabins, off the main hwy, but hey, someone was in our cabin (that I booked and paid for last Sept). Fortunately I knew that a nearby hotel (Hotel Lambafell) managed the cabins, so we went there, where there was no front desk, just a paper with a phone number posted, and called the number. ooops! They would look into it. A nice young man appeared and gave us the other cabin. Fine with us, but we half expected someone to show up later trying to claim it. :) Groovy little cabin with a kitchen and loft. We dined on fine Icelandic smoked salmon and went to bed early. The bizarre thing about going to bed is that it really doesn't ever get dark.

    Notes
    Geysir has a huge gift shop and lots of bathrooms.  The site is free. You can walk all over, watch Strokkur erupt and still be done in 30 minutes. Gullfoss also has café and gift shop but I really couldn't tell you much about it because when we were there, it was packed to the gills. The walkway to the waterfall wasn't crowded though. The Secret Lagoon wasn't crowded at all. I don't think anyone was with me while I showered naked. ar ar I don't believe they had any privacy stalls (same for Fontana) but then again, I had resolved to doing as the locals do and not being a wimp. 

    North Star Cottage – Someone did show up later! They drove down the road to the 2 cabins, got out and walked around with confused looks, then piled back in their car. I'm guessing they double booked. If you stay there, maybe reconfirm right before your trip. The number I had for them was the same number I had for the Golden Circle Apartments that no one ever answered. Oh, I forgot to write about that on the previous post. Here it is.

    Golden Circle Apts – Laugarvatn – Decent, plain apartment near the lake and Fontana pool. The email confirmation said to call for early check in. I called, and called, no answer, ever, so we blew that off and went to the pool. Later we realized they hadn't left sheets for the couch. Called and called again, doo dee doo, no answer. Went to the apartment they mentioned in their email and rang the bell, and rang, and rang, and finally was greeted by the very unhappy keeper/owner. Got sheets and fortunately didn't need to
    contact management again.

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    Day 3 - Tue, June 30 southwest to Skaftafell
    Skogafoss
    Dyrholaey
    Reynisfjara
    Vik
    Fjadragljufur canyon
    overnight: Hotel Skaftafell (only because the road was closed and we couldn't get to our Nonhamar cabin)

    An abrupt change of plans today!

    The day started off perfect! We went to a groovy waterfall called Skogafoss (on the south coast). It was mostly sunny, almost sorta warm, not windy, and not many people around. We took the stairs up on the side of the falls then hiked along the top for a while. Fabulous!! We found a few more falls along the way, some sheep and great views. We all agreed it was a 10 event. :) They both praised my trip planning quite a lot while there. :) Good thing I racked up some points early on... :)

    Then on to a promontory called Dyrholaey where I thought we might see some puffins. The GPS led us uphill on a dirt road and even when we got to the parking lot, darn thing told us to drive over the edge. We didn't. :) The wind up there was INSANE. Y guessed 80 mph. It was hard to walk and we didn't see any puffins. We did see the cliffs and tried not to get too close for fear of being blown over. Lost a few points on that one.

    Then onto Reynisfjara, a black sand beach. More outrageous wind. Hard core wind. But we did sorta see a black sand beach (it's hard to focus with 80 mph winds in your face) and some basalt columns and a rock formation out in the water that really really looked like a willy. :) Lost a few more points there, but got a few back since there was a cafe there and we had chocolate cake. :)

    Next the town of Vik on the south coast. The wind wasn't quite so crazy, maybe only 50 mph, but it was pouring rain. We drove around to sightsee and went to a grocery store. woo hoo for Vik. We headed off, just wanting to get away from the wind.

    Next stop was Fjudaklsjdflaskd canyon (sorry, don't remember the name but I bet that's close). Another 10! It was cloudy but not windy and not raining when we arrived, and no tour buses and only a few people. It's a gorgeous canyon with sheer walls covered with bright green moss. We hiked up along the top for a while and over to the viewpoints (trails to the edge). Very nice. I got a lot of points for that one!

    Ok, time to head towards our cabin for the night, just past Skaftafell national park on the southeast coast. We were really tired and ready to get there, unload and have dinner. Just one problem. There was a tank and some policemen blocking the road, about 10 miles from the cabins. Ope! WTF??? Turns out the road was closed due to crazy wind down the road. We thought we had already seen crazy wind. Estimate of opening time?? Well of course, who knows what the wind will do, but the forecast is for crazy winds until midnight. Midnight!! And we're 10 miles from our hotel!! But hey, looky here, there's a hotel entrance just before the tank. One of the very few hotels (Hotel Skaftafell) in this area (seriously, there's not squat out here). I called the cabin and the guy said he wouldn't charge us if we can't get there and decide to stay somewhere else. Groovy! But where might we stay in high season out in the middle of nowhere?? This hotel? Surely it's all booked. I dashed inside and guess what? We got the LAST room. Really. We snatched it up and checked in, had another nice dinner of Icelandic smoked salmon and here we are at 7:30 and while the tank is gone, there's still a police car blocking the road. We have a glacier hike scheduled for tomorrow at 10, in the opposite direction of the police car, so hopefully that will go as planned. We'll see! So that's it for now. We're super duper happy that we're sitting in a hotel room post-dinner and not sitting in our car in the parking lot. :) later!

    Notes
    Dyrholaey – There are 2 roads going there. One is paved and stays level, one is dirt and goes uphill. The road uphill was winding, narrow and a bit rugged (or maybe just felt that way because I thought we were going to be blown off said road). I'd love to go back some day when it wasn't windy (if that ever happens).

    Hotel Skaftafell – I vaguely remember reading bad reviews of this place, but after staying there, I have no idea why. It was perfectly acceptable, just pricey (but of course we didn't prebook). It was a standard, clean hotel with a nice breakfast buffet. The only downside for us was that we were self-catering for the most part, staying at places with fridges and microwaves and such, and had a cooler bag of food. They gave us a bag of ice and that worked well. No fridge or microwave in the room. The hotel is one floor and we had the room on the end and it was very quiet, and in a great location for exploring Skaftafell and the area.

    THE WIND – I had been checking weather forecasts, knew about the warning signs, but the road closure totally caught us off guard. Yea, it was windy at Dyrholaey, but we were quite a ways from it and we had no problems driving or anything. If you see signs that say LOKAD (or something that looks like that), that's CLOSED, as in, the road is closed. If a local warns you about wind, listen. No one warned us, BTW, and the road would've stayed open except for what had happened. One more thing, if the winds are crazy, be careful how you park and open your car doors. I've read about car doors being slammed OPEN by the wind, messing up the hinges, and the renters have to pay for the repairs. If anyone says there's a sandstorm ahead, for the love of God, STOP!

    Fjadragljufur canyon – So loved that place… sigh… There was quite a discussion about how to get there on the other travel board that I frequent. Here's what we found. Exit on road 206 off the ring road. It's paved for a bit then switches to dirt. It's a short drive, no problem at all for 2WD. The F206 road is a right turn off of 206, so you're not on an F road at all (can't take 2WD rental cars on F roads). There are bathrooms at the parking lot. You park and can hike as much or little as you want; the canyon is right there.

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    More notes
    GPS - We got it with the rent car for about $100 more. Like I mentioned above, we put in Dyrholaey and it took us up the dirt road and told us to drive over the cliff. Another time in the trip it told us to go over the highlands from Akureyri to Reykjavik. I had enabled 'avoidances' or whatever it's called, but it still did that. So, if you use a GPS, also have a map handy and have an idea of where you're going. Don't blindly follow your GPS.

    2WD vs 4WD - If you want to go on any F roads (rugged interior roads) you must rent a 4WD. If you take a 2WD rental on an F road, you'll be in a heap-o-doo doo if you have any problems at all, because it's strictly forbidden. Our 2WD was fine, but there were a few times I would've preferred a car with higher clearance. Dirt roads sometimes are a bit more rugged that you expect, even if they aren't F roads. Rocks are everywhere. I don't think you can drive on any road in Iceland, paved or not, and not find some rocks. They get flung at windshields. Ponder that when you're choosing your insurance. We used the zero deductible CDW provided by our credit card.

    Sheep - They're everywhere. Watch our for sheep on the road, and just to the side of the road, and in the ditches. Hitting a sheep would no doubt ruin your holiday.

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    Day 4 - Wed, July 1 Skaftafell
    Icelandic Mountain Guides - Blue Ice Experience (glacier hike)
    hiking at Skaftafell: Svartifoss and Sel
    overnight: Nonhamar cabin, Hof

    A big thumbs up for day #4. :) Our hotel last night (Hotel Skaftafell) was actually pretty good. Our room was quiet and breakfast this morning was included. We were up early and had breakfast when it started at 0700. It was pretty standard stuff with the exception of some funky fish (possibly raw?) that Y really liked. He likes stinky fish. Called the original hotel (Nonhamar) and he said we could bring our stuff by this morning, so we cruised to our cabin to offload. We saw why the road was closed last night. :O We saw a camper van off the road in the gravel field, missing a chunk from the top and a debris field all around. Apparently it blew off the road and rolled. The wind was over 80mph through here last night. Yikes!! (the people are ok, btw) Our little cabin is soooooo cool!! It's tiny, but has 2 bunk beds and a little kitchen area, has a little stream on one side, stark mountains behind and off in the distance we can see the ocean.

    We unloaded then headed to Skaftafell national park, on the SE side of Iceland, about 20 minutes away. I had booked a glacier walk at 10:00. There are glacier tongues sneaking out between the mountains all along the road here. We got crampons, piled in their van and drove to the glacier, then headed out exploring. Way cool! And ice picks. We got ice picks. I don't think the guide told us why we got them or what to do with them, but it was sorta cool. :) We stomped around on the ice for 1 1/2 hours, checking out crevices, caves and streams. X's favorite part was drinking from glacier streams. You dig your pick in across a stream (little streams, like 6" across) then basically do a pushup using the pick for support and stick your face in the water. :) The water tasted great! A lot of the glacier is covered with ash so it doesn't look quite as pretty as glaciers elsewhere. He showed us where the glacier used to be, just a few years ago, and it's pretty sad what global warming has done to them. Big thumbs up for that whole experience.

    Back to the parking lot at the park and after a picnic lunch, we headed off on a hike to Svartifoss (black falls). It was a couple of miles to the falls that are called black falls because the rock behind them is black basalt columns.
    Onto an old turf house (Sel) way up on the side of the mountain with really cool views over the sand/gravel fields that extend to the ocean. Then back down, back to our cabin, and that's it for today. :)

    No crazy wind today (very little wind at all), no rain just clouds, maybe 60 degrees...nice day for Iceland! :) More cool stuff planned for this area tomorrow. :)

    BTW, everyone speaks perfect English. I had read that Icelanders were
    fairly chilly and not too friendly, but we've found them to be quite nice and polite. If we smile, they smile back. :) I'd also heard that prices here are crazy. I guess it depends how you look at it and what you do. Last night's emergency hotel was about $300 for an average hotel booked at the last minute. Our groovy little cabin down the road which we LOVE is half that. Smoked salmon seems to be cheaper than at home. A t-shirt at the national park gift shop was about $20. :)

    Notes
    Nonhamar – Loved it!! The owner couldn't have been nicer. Super nice and welcoming even with self check in. He lives next door. There are 3 cute little cabins. Small, quiet, comfortable, great location. Best deal of the whole trip.

    Glacier tour – This is the tour we took. It was perfect for kids.
    http://www.mountainguides.is/day-tours/glacier-tours/from-skaftafell/blue-ice-experience/

    Skaftafell NP – Has a nice gift shop, café, lots of free bathrooms. Fairly easy hike to Svartifoss (our 9 year had no problem with the hike). Continue past the falls and up to a cool view point, then down to Sel, the turf house museum with fabulous views. I think we spent 2-3 hours on that going pretty slow.

    Skyr – This has nothing to do with anything in particular from that day, except we ate it every morning for breakfast. Icelandic yogurt, like Greek yogurt but better. Low fat, high protein. YUM. It's pronounced like skeer.

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    Day 5 - Thu, July 2 Skaftafell
    Jokulsarlon, amphibious boat
    Ingolfhofsdi tractor tour to see puffins
    overnight: Nonhamar cabin, Hof

    Another double thumbs up day! :) We started at Jokulsarlon on the east coast. It's a glacier lagoon. We got there around 8:30 and it was foggy and cold (but not raining!). We took an amphibious boat out on the lake amongst massive boulders of ice that calved from the glacier. Ice cold water, huge chunks of floating ice, a massive glacier off in the distance... yes, it was cold! Brrrr... After the boat ride (we saw some seals!) we walked along the shore and followed the very short river to the ocean, chasing ice boulders. :) It was pretty cool watching glacier chunks slam into others as they floated along. The beach there is black sand (as are most of the beaches on Iceland, from volcanic rock), and littered with huge chunks of ice that got stuck there. Groovy!!! But dang cold! Coldest I've been so far on this trip. But it was pretty nifty.

    Later we drove back towards our cabin to Ingolfshofdi, the place where Ingolfur Arnarson (I think) landed in 824 and spent the first winter, as the first Norwegian to move here. I booked a tractor tour to a nature area to see puffins. :) The meeting place is a tiny shed out in the middle of nowhere. It was gray, a little windy and cold! We piled into the trailer pulled by a big tractor and headed off across what was essentially wet black sand, for 6 km. It stopped raining after a bit, yay! And then wasn't so cold. We pulled up to a promontory way far out from the coast, climbed a black sand hill and got to the grass covered hillside. The end of the hillside was a sheer cliff and at the top of the cliff were puffins! Lots and lots of puffins! How cool!! We got pretty close, maybe 10', but we didn't want to scare them off and they were at the top of a very sheer high cliff. :O They are really funny birds. They don't seem to fly well and every landing is like a crash landing. :) We also saw some great skuas, big ol' brown birds that don't like people, especially when they have their babies nearby. We saw some of their cute little babies and managed to not get dive bombed. :) We spent about 1 1/2 hours wandering around up there. Aside from the puffins, there were really cool views down to the waves crashing on a black beach. Beautiful!! Back to the car and stopped at an unmanned gas station. Like, never manned, totally unmanned and looked deserted. There's not a whole lot out here!

    Since there aren't many restaurants around here, we've been dining in our cabin. They have wonderful cheese here! I think it's because the cows here get to roam around and eat grass without fertilizer and pesticides. Wonderful breads, too. :) They make a type of heavy brown bread that's a little sweet, and cooked in the ground with geothermal heat. YUM.

    Tomorrow we're leaving the southeast and heading north, around the island. It looks like at least 6 hours of driving. Fingers crossed I haven't totally miscalculated! And no road closings, please! No sheep jams (lots-o-sheep here). Lots-o-sheep and they get on the road, and hang around right by the edge of the road (no shoulder on the 'highway/ring road' that goes all the way around).

    That's all for now! Later

    Notes
    Amphibious boat tours – I believe you can pay for your tickets in advance, but you still have to go to the ticket counter when you arrive and get a time slot. We were there before they opened, first in line, and even though the first boat was at 09:00, our tickets were for 09:40. Tour groups were ahead of us. I don't know if there's any way to get a specific time. I think you CAN reserve on the zodiac tours, which are probably more interesting because they blast over to the glacier which is way on the other side of the big lake, but kids have to be over 12, I think. You can see a lot of the same stuff you see from the boat, just from the shore of the lake, so if you don't get to take the boat, it's not such a biggy. Bathrooms there often had long queues, there's a café and gift shop.

    Ingolfshofi tractor tour – There are 2 roads near each other that look like they might be the way to the meeting shack. It's not the one that goes to a tiny airport.  The correct road has a few signs and is pretty obvious (especially if you've just driven on the road to the airport). There was an outhouse potty and small parking lot next to the shack. The trailor you ride in isn't covered so prepare for whatever weather! That was the one time we wore our rain pants (but then it stopped raining and the weather was fine). The trailor had limited seating and most people stood up. There were other kids, older people and people with babies on our trip. Anyone can do it, as long as you can walk up a sandy hill.  Puffins are only there for a few months in the summer (I think). There were other birds in residence there as well, but I was really only interested in puffins so I wasn't paying much attention to the others. 

    Grocery stores – If you plan to spend a few days around Skaftafell, keep in mind there are no grocery stores nearby. To the south the closest is in Kirkjubaeklaustur (I didn't spell check that, so if I got it right, I deserve a prize.  ). To the north it's in Hofn. You can either dine at your hotel for every meal, eat at the national park café (although I don't know what their hours are), bring your own food or be hungry. 

    Potties – We had no problem finding facilities when we needed them throughout our trip. Apparently this isn't the case for all tourists, as there have been many stories in the news lately about tourists pooping in graveyards, behind schools, etc. They really don't like that. Some potties cost 200 ISK, most were free, some cost for adults but were free for kids. Have some 100 ISK coins just in case.

    Disclaimer – I should've said this first thing. It seems that things in Iceland related to tourists/tourism change often. So, everything I tell you may be obsolete already. ar ar Also, this was my first and only time to Iceland and while I read loads, and planned for a year, I'm no expert.

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    "Go for it Dickie"

    It's strange with Iceland. It seemed to be the "in" place prior to the recession. We didn't make it and since then in Britain, Iceland seems to be a little "been there done that".

    We have had two incredibly enjoyable trips to both Norway and Sweden in the past two years. Enjoyable for very different reasons. Yes, the Aurora will be an attraction but it will difficult to best the many shows we have seen in Northern Norway.

    We've revisited the idea of Iceland and in view of the fact that we have a geography mad 10 year old, it just looks ideal.

    It also seems to have benefited from huge capital investment funded on the never, never before 2008.

    Tally

    This amount of detail will be hugely helpful to us. Our current knowledge of Iceland is very limited. I'm going to read it all this afternoon and book the flights tonight, will post later with questions if you don't mind.

    Have a free afternoon as our "summer" weather has caused the latest round of The America's Cup to be cancelled. If this is summer goodness knows what winter will bring in Scotland.

    Thanks again.

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    You're welcome! Glad I can help! I had a hard time getting started on planning. There is SOOOOOO much to see and do, it can be hard to choose and make a plan. Like, around the ring road, or just Reykjavik and south (or west)? Highlands or not? What to focus on? I tried to plan a trip that all three of us would enjoy and wouldn't be too tiring for the smaller one, and included a bit of everything. Our son LOVED it, and so did we. :)

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    Day 6 - Fri, July 3 Skaftafell to Myvatn (north)
    Drove from Hof (near Skaftafell) to Myvatn with a detour to Borgarfjordur Eystri to see puffins.
    overnight: Dimmuborgir guesthouse, Myvatn

    Lots-o-driving today! We left our groovy little cabin by Skaftafell national park at 07:30 and headed northeast. We stopped for gas a few times, took a short cut over the mountains (road 939 from Djupivogur up towards Egilsstadir), saw a herd of reindeer, lots of waterfalls and glacier tongues, then took a detour to Borgarfjordur Eystri on the northeast coast. To see puffins! Around the little bay is the old harbor and on one side is a rocky outcrop where puffins nest. They've built a staircase up around the outcrop so you can get pretty close to some puffins, maybe 10-15'. It was so nifty getting to watch them again!

    But it was freezing. Up at the top we could see down into a little chasm and both sides were lined with hundreds of puffins. Puffins!

    Back in the car and through the little town where we saw the grassiest house ever. :) Looked like it needed a good mowing. And the elf rock. A big chunk of rock where elves live. :) We took a different road back to highway 1, but still had to do the slightly scary mountain crossing on a narrow dirt road with no guard rails and major drop offs, in the fog. At least on the way back it wasn't raining like it had been on the way over. Passed a big boulder on which someone had painted a big smiley face.  The dirt roads from there back to the 'highway' were fine. The rest of the drive up to Myvatn in the north was across Mars like terrain. Lots of black lava rocks and not much else.

    We arrived at Reykjalid, the little town by the lake, around 5:30 and stopped for gas and to wash the car. Most gas stations have an area with hoses for washing cars for free. And our car was filthy! We can confirm why this area is called Midge Lake (that's the translation of Myvatn). If you stand still for too long, little black flies try to examine your face. But they don't bite, just are annoying. We are now at our next groovy cabin, right on the lake in a lava field. There's a massive black crater just across the road, an extinct volcano, that we may climb tomorrow (with our bug nets on!). Loads of cool stuff to do here. We're staying at the Dimmuborgir Guesthouse. woo hoo!! later!

    Notes
    Borgarfjordur Eystri - If we had had more time, it would've been nice to spend the night in Borgarfjordur Eystri. It's a really cute tiny town in a very pretty setting. If you're going to Myvatn from there, you don't have to go back through Egilsstadir, but take 944 to 927 back to the ring road (check a map). I don't recall if it was paved, but it was a good road, mostly flat, no problem at all.

    Puffins – Here's a website about that area. It's not always open, so check before going. Great puffin viewing there!!
    http://www.nat.is/travelguideeng/plofin_hafnarholmi.htm

    midges – If you're going in the summer, take a bug net to wear over your head, just in incase. I really don't like bugs and was concerned they'd ruin our stay there, but they weren't that big of a deal.

    Midges and our cabin – When we arrived there were quite a few on the windows, attracted to the light. We found that if we closed the blinds during the day, they weren't on the windows when we got back. In the cabin they didn't bother us at all, just hung out on the windows.

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    It's strange with Iceland. It seemed to be the "in" place prior to the recession. We didn't make it and since then in Britain, Iceland seems to be a little "been there done that". >>

    Dickie - we did make it then and have not so far been back so i suppose that we fit into your description! We did enjoy it though, and I would quite like to go back to see the bits we missed i.e. the north and east. and if you want to find out how not to see Iceland, read my TR!

    Tally - I'm really enjoying your TR, nice to see that you didn't repeat our errors, though I am pleased to say that we didn't come across winds like the ones you describe which sound quite scary.

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    Day 7 - Sat, July 4 Myvatn
    Dimmuborgir lava field
    hiked up Hverfjall (the big crater)
    Hverir geothermal area
    Krafla - power plant visitors center, Viti
    Myvatn Nature Baths
    dinner at Vogafjos (cowshed café)
    overnight: Dimmuborgir guesthouse, Myvatn

    Hey! Today we were up early and had breakfast at 07:30 in the reception building. The breakfast room is pretty cool: glass all around with a view of the lake and lava fields. Breakfast was standard Euro stuff like
    fresh bread, cheese, yogurt (Icelandic yogurt called Skyr which is like Greek yogurt but fluffier), coldcuts and smoked fish. Yum!

    After breakfast we piled in the car for a short drive across the way to the Dimmuborgir lava field. Lots of cool black lava formations with trails winding around. Before we got there, the midges weren't that bad really. We saw a few, but we walked to the hotel reception and they weren't bad at all. The hotel gal said they like sunny, still days, and it happened to be cloudy and cool. It wasn't that much different when we arrived at the lava field for our little hike, but mein Gott, there were zillions of midges! We are at Myvatn, Midge Lake, after all. X and I put on our bug nets over our baseball caps and aside from seeing everything with a green tint, we were fine. It was even sorta amusing watching the bugs buzz around. They don't seem to bite, sting or even land on us. They just desperately want to get up our noses, in our ears and eyes. Ha! Denied! Except for Y. :) He didn't put on his bug net for a while. We wandered through the lava formations, found a couple of tube caves, had good views of the big caldera crater nearby, but the most entertaining was watching Y without his bug net. ar ar He finally conceded and put his on as well. They were everywhere, but we walked into an area where they were so thick we could barely see through them. That was trippy. They still didn't do anything to us but it's weird to walk through a crazy swarm
    of flying bugs!

    Afterwards we drove back to the cabin for a potty break. There's a cafe there with pay toilets that are 200 kroner. 600 for the 3 of us is about $4.50. yikes! Most potties are free, and we've seen some for 100 ISK, and some that charge but let kids go free. They're free at
    gas stations.

    Next we hiked up Hverfjall crater. It looks pretty ominous; it's dark gray and BIG. We followed the 'easy' trail up to the top. Not as many midges along the way, but I kept my bug net handy. From the top you can see down into the old caldera which is the same as the rest of it, and dark gray/black rock. Very nifty.

    Stopped at the N1 gas station, the center of the town's activity apparently, where there's also a grocery store and soft serve ice cream! X and I had some and it was dee-lish. It was about $6 for a dipped cone and a cup with caramel sauce.

    Just down the road is Krafla, a geothermal/volcanic area. There's a geothermal power plant there with a visitors center (open every day, free coffee and bathrooms).

    We followed the paved road to the last parking lot to see Viti, a caldera with a blue lake in it. I thought we had to hike to it but we parked, walked 20 meters and there was the view into the caldera. That was handy. :) We stomped around a bit, enjoyed the cool views, then piled back in the car.

    Oh hey, it wasn't cold today. It was sunny with a few clouds and at least 70. I had read, more than once, not to pack shorts thinking it would be warm enough to wear them, because it wouldn't. Today we could've worn shorts.

    Next up: Myvatn Nature Baths. Have you heard of the Blue Lagoon? This is the north's version. We got discount tickets from our hotel so it was about $50 for the 3 of us, and X got in free. The pools are fed with runoff
    from the geothermal power plant. The water comes from 2500m underground and is full of silica, minerals and whatever lives in water 2500m underground. We braved the naked shower thing again but this time was a little disappointing for me. I got my own stall! No signs about which body parts you're supposed to wash, no shower police (in any of the pools we've been to so far) and no being shamed into washing better. ar ar That is what I expected from the Iceland pools based on everything I read. There are 2 pools and lava rocks all around, a few big rocks in the middle, one long hot tub, saunas and that's it. It was nice to sit in the water for a while but got a bit boring for the young one in our group and even for us. No noodles to float on and not enough different pools to make it really really interesting. It's uphill from lava fields so it's pretty nifty to sit in the pool and look across it, so that it looks like an infinity pool. And no midges there! :)

    We left around 5:00 and went to the Vogafjos cafe, or Cowshed cafe, not too far from our cabin. It's a real farm, with a real cowshed, attached to a nice little restaurant. The café has tables with views of the lava field and lake, or into the cowshed. We took the latter. No cows when we sat down but were told they would be milking soon. What better to stare at during dinner than cows? We had a great dinner! Y had a sampler with local smoked arctic char from the lake, geysir bread (hearty rye baked in the ground near hot springs), an omelette made from eggs and cheese from the farm, salad, skyr and probably some other stuff. I had pan fried arctic char (YUM!) and a potato cake and salad. X had skyr and some of all the stuff we had. With a beer, coffee and piece of chocolate cake it was about $90. It was fabulous! And no midges in the cafe even though the door was wide open. They finally started milking so we had front row seats (there was just a window between us and the milk room). That was amusing. After dinner, we went in the cow shed where X bonded with the cows. 

    Back to our little cabin where X played with the resident dog, Valur. This cabin is a bit bigger than the others, but the bathroom is so tiny you can hardly bend over the tiny sink.

    That's it for today! We're still here tomorrow, so plan to see more stuff in this area. So far, great trip!

    later!

    I forgot a couple of things yesterday. We went to Hverir, a geothermal field. It's just east of town on the ring road (hwy 1, the only road that goes around Iceland). It's surrounded by brownish barren hills. You can't miss it; there's a massive amount of steam coming up and too many tour buses parked in a tiny parking lot. There's a little platform, and a path through the area. The hot spots are roped off. There are bubbling mud pots, steam vents and ground that generally looks unstable. Nifty! And stinky!! Sulfur!

    Speaking of stinky, I totally forgot to mention the tap water here. Everywhere else we've been the tap water has been beautifully sparkling clean and tasty. Like a commercial for Evian. Here, not so much.
    Looks ok, but egads it stinks. The hot water is worse. Hold your nose while you take a shower! The cold water isn't quite as stinky but first thing in the morning, the first drink, tastes horrible. I had read that the water in the Nature Baths would tarnish jewelry but the tap water here does it as well. My silver ring is now black, and my 18K gold rings are looking a little dark.

    Did I mention the tiny shower and bathroom?? I think so, but I have to say, taking a shower is my least favorite part of the day. The shower in our cabin is tiny and has a curtain, there's a small ledge around the bottom (very lame attempt at containing the shower runoff), the water stinks and don't drop the soap! :) If you bend over you're likely to bump your behind on the hot water pipe that traverses the shower wall (which happens to just be the wood wall of the cabin).

    That's all for now! Off to explore again today. :) It's beautiful and sunny and probably will be another shorts weather kinda day. :) later!

    Notes
    Krafla - I was quite confused about Krafla before our trip. It's pretty simple though. There's a big post that says KRAFLA next to the road you take off the ring road. First you get to the power plant and attached visitors center on the left. Nice place to stop and read about the area. Follow the paved road uphill and the first parking lot on the left is for Leirhnjukur. There are bathrooms, and a loop trail that I would guess is about 2 miles (relatively flat) through the lava fields from 1975-1984. Very cool and worth the time. Continue further on the paved road and the next parking lot is for Viti, the lake filled crater. You can park right next to it and take a quick look, or walk around the top, some or all the way. I think the paved road ends there. I don't know if there is anything else to see there, but these are the obvious attractions.

    Hverir – I was also confused about this. I saw 'namafjall' and 'namaskard' alongside 'hverir' when I was reading about the area, and really couldn't grasp what was what. Hverir is the geothermal area, there's a sign on the ring road for Hverir, there's a parking lot, viewing platform (to watch the mud pots from), and area to roam around (but no bathrooms). I don't know what namaskard and namafjall refer to (maybe the hill behind the area? Or the pass?). I do know that the sign from the ring road says 'Hverir'.

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    Day 8 - Sun, July 5 Myvtan
    Dettifoss
    Krafla - Leirhnjukur lava field (about a 2 mile walk through the area)
    Grjótagjá
    drove around the lake
    dinner from Daddi's pizza
    overnight: Dimmuborgir guesthouse, Myvatn

    Today wasn't a shorts day after all, and was even a 2 coat day at some times (fleece jacket and wind breaker/rain coat) but it didn't rain on us at all. We started by driving 20 miles or so to Dettifoss, Europe's most powerful waterfall (I think). It was a paved road the whole way, a big parking lot, potties and a half mile walk to the falls on a well marked dirt trail. The falls were very similar to Gullfoss that we saw on day 2 - BIG. :) The river is pretty wide for around here and the falls are
    big and loud. We followed the path upstream for a bit to another waterfall called Selfoss. Not as big but still pretty nifty.

    Back in the car and towards town, and up to Krafla again, just east of town. We stopped again at the visitors center then up to Leirhnjukur, the other tourist worthy site (the other being the Viti crater that we saw yesterday). We parked and followed the trail, not really sure what we
    were going to see. It was actually the area of a lava flow from 1975-1984. The trail looped through the area, past lava glops and rocks, steaming hillsides, blue-white pools, mysterious holes in the ground and lots of steam. Cool!! We even got to trek through a snow covered field next
    to a black lava flow. The trail was probably a couple of miles and it was pretty chilly and windy. Oh yeah, here's something pretty funky: there's a shower (no stall, just a shower that constantly runs) on the road into Krafla. It looks quite odd. I asked about it and it's an old borehole they made into a shower just to be funny. :)

    Onward! :) We stopped at a cave, Grjotlasdjkf something. We went in at 2 different places and it was really neat. There was a shallow pool of clear water at the bottom and big rocks piled all around, all in the cave.

    Next up we stopped for ice cream at the gas station/grocery store, then drove around the lake. There aren't a lot of trees blocking the view so we could see the area quite well. The lake is apparently really shallow and there are several pseudo craters around, where the lava flowed over water and the water boiled then blew out the top. We stopped for takey outy pizza at Daddi's pizza, a tiny little restaurant. We got a 16" (interesting since they use the metric system here) that was half cheese and olives and half their special with smoked trout, pine nuts and and some kind of soft cheese. Yum! It was about $30 for just the pizza.

    Back to our cabin for our last night here, before heading to Akureyri, the 2nd largest town in Iceland. It's just 60 miles west of here.

    A few interesting things... there are no shoulders on hwy 1. There are a few pulloff points, but no shoulders. All of the bridges we've crossed lately are one lane. Sheep are everywhere! There are fences along the hwy and sheep on both sides. And sheep sleeping on the side of the hwy. No tipping here! AT least we don't have to pay $30 for a pizza AND tip. ar ar They just don't tip here. The Icelanders that we've dealt with all speak perfect English, are friendly enough and polite. We saw a sign in a bathroom today that asked people to not wash their shoes in the toilet. ar ar ar

    Oh yeah, and no midges today! We saw a few here and there but none that bothered us. We noticed that the people walking along by the lake had bug nets on, so maybe it just depends where you are.

    Notes
    Dettifoss – We drove there on road 862 on the west side of the falls.

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    Day 9 - Mon, July 6 Myvatn to Akureyri
    Godafoss
    Laufas turf house museum
    Akureyri - Brynja ice cream, botanical gardens, poked around town
    overnight: Saeluhus

    I woke up last night at 01:50 and looked outside and it was dusk. Or dawn. Not sure. It is not getting dark ever while we're here. We brought eye masks and use them some but we manage to sleep just fine every night. :)

    No midges this morning!

    This morning we got up and had our last nice breakfast at the Dimmuborgir Guesthouse. The people that run it are really nice and the guy looks just like Enrique Iglesias. :) Checked out and piled in the car and headed west.

    First stop: Godafoss waterfall. It's a big waterfall with several branches and looks very cool. :) There's a little gift shop/café so we stepped in and I picked out 5 post cards, asked for 4 stamps to the US, and got my bill and it was about $15! Dang!! Granted it's a tourist stop, but the postcards were 200 ISK each, so about $1.60 each! These are the same cheapy postcards you get all over the world. Stamps were 250 ISK each. Yikes! Note to self: do not assume postcards are cheap!

    That was only 30 minutes or saw from Myvatn. Back in the car and to the Eyjafjordur (?) a long fjord with the town of Akureyri at the inside end. We headed up the coast away from town to a turf house museum called Laufas. What a cool place! The old house had several rooms, all with steep pointed roofs covered with turf (sod and grass). The gals working there were super friendly and told us all about it. Very interesting.

    BTW, it was not shorts weather again. :) Overcast and cool, but no rain. Later it cleared up but was still cool.

    As we were driving to our hotel we passed a locally famous ice cream place called Brynja and stopped in. They have soft serve in vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and licorice. Icelanders love licorice apparently. Half the candy bars we've seen are chocolate covered licorice. And they have like a million toppings. We had vanilla with a hard chocolate shell and candied nuts, chocolate ice cream with white and dark chocolate hard shell (the kind that gets hard after it's poured on) and caramel choc bits and vanilla with caramel shell and choc crispy bits. Yum! It was about $5 each, I think.

    Back in the car and on to our hotel, the Saeluhus, up the hill from town. We have a small one room apartment with a kitchenette, dining area and balcony and best of all, a hot tub on the balcony. This place looks like an Ikea store. It's all very modern and Euro and has a lot more space than the last few places. And yay, a slightly bigger shower with a fold out door, so no ocean on the floor everyday! :) The balcony looks out at a hill with trees (!) and the fjord beyond, and the other coast beyond that. Very nice. The hot tub doesn't have jets, it just fills from the bottom from a local hot spring. It continuously fills and the overflow drains off so it stays nice and hot. When you turn it off, it stops filling and just drains from the bottom. Love it!!

    Dumped our stuff then walked to the town center, past the church. It looks like it's made from cement blocks, but is still really nice. They have a model ship hanging from the ceiling and the usual stained glass windows and big organ, but not much else. Not over the top ornate by any means.

    We ambled down the pedestrian shopping street and were a bit surprised at how little was there. A cruise ship had pulled in earlier and the place was crawling with tourists from a Disney ship. Oh yeah, on the way down into town we stumbled upon the botanical gardens and that was really neat. Lots of pretty flowers! Wandered back through on the way up, back to our room, dined in on yummy local bread, cheese, blueberries, smoked trout, then sat in the hot tub until we couldn't take it anymore. That's it!

    Tomorrow we may explore the area. later!

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    Thanks Ann, I will look it up when have time to research this trip.

    Hopefully today, need to book the flights as they are a good price.

    Have you been to Norway? The Lofotens were jaw dropping and that was in dank, misty weather. Goodness what they look like in a clear, blue winter sky.

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    All of the bridges we've crossed lately are one lane. >>

    don't you just love the "blind bridges"? I think that Iceland was the most challenging place to drive, apart from NZ.

    anyway, Tally, thanks for "showing" me the part of Iceland that we missed.

    Dickie - we've never made it to Norway. I think that DH would enjoy a "Hurtigruten" trip, but I am no sailor so I haven't mentioned them to him!

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    The bridges are worth mentioning again. One lane, sometimes quite long. If someone is on the bridge, you pull over and wait before crossing. (duh) You have to take turns. :)

    They drive on the right, just fyi. :)

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    The bridges are worth mentioning again. One lane, sometimes quite long. If someone is on the bridge, you pull over and wait before crossing. (duh) You have to take turns. :)>>

    good plan, except on the blind ones [can't remember what the sign says but we got good at spotting them] - they are called that because you can't see the other end and therefore don't know until you are half-way across or more whether someone else is also crossing the bridge but in the opposite direction.

    I can remember this happening a few times, what I can't remember is what we did about it!!!

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    Ann, you can have a great time in Norway without going down the cruise route - we loved Oslo and the Sognefjord area. The latter is a doable drive from the capital and should fully satisfy your fjords, waterfalls, glaciers and mountains appetite.

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    Annhig, someone has to back up! :O That never happened to us on a bridge, but it did happen to us coming down from Dyrholaey on a narrow, winding, dirt road, when we encountered a tour bus going up. We had to back up, uphill, around a curve, to get to a place big enough for the bus to pass.

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    Tally - living in Cornwall I can tell you that I know all there is to know about backing up.

    I have a memory that there were passing places on the blind bridges, I don't remember having to reverse on any of them, thank goodness. [you may remember that my track record with reversing our hire car wasn't good, if you got to that part of my TR!]

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    Tally - we specialise in them, along with hedges that look like they are made of plants but are actually stone, but one plus is that in the main local drivers are very polite [not only do we thank someone for waiting for us, but the thankee then thanks the thanker] and know the passing places so most of the time we get along fine.

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    Day 10 - Tue, July 7 day trip around the Trollaskagi peninsula
    Siglufjordur herring museum
    Hofsos pool
    Glaumbaer turf house museum
    overnight: Saeluhus

    Today we went on a day trip from Akureyri up around the Trollaskogi peninsula. We left around 8:00 and got to the first little town around 8:30. Dalvik. Not a lot there, but we thought we'd stop in a coffee shop for a bit. The only one we saw didn't open until 10:00. Not early risers in Dalvik, apparently.

    So onward north we went, through Olafsfjordur, a tiny town on the fjord, and through 3 tunnels to Siglufjordur. One of the tunnels was one lane with pull off places and another was 7km long. Siglufjordur is a slightly bigger tiny town on the water, with steep mountains shooting up behind. We found an open coffee shop/bakery and had coffees, cake and hot chocolate, bought some bread for dinner, for about $20. Very tasty stuff there and nice people. :) The big attraction there is the herring museum. Herring was big there until about 1950, or thereabouts. There were several fish processing plants in the area and fortunes made off herring. And then the herring disappeared, and the town shriveled up. The town is at the top tip of the fjord and the tunnel connecting it to Olafsfjordur was only built recently, so the town was just a blip on the map for a long time. Now you can drive all the way around the fjord (instead of over the mountains on a dirt road) and the tourists are coming, so it's coming back to life. The herring museum is in 3 buildings along the water. One is the old bunkhouse and it still has things in it from the workers like they just up and split and let half their stuff behind. Pretty cool! Then there's the factory, where they processed the herring and separated out the oil and made the rest into meal for animal feed. Finally there's the boat house where they have some old boats you can go aboard. All of it was pretty interesting.

    Back in the car and around the fjord, and the farthest north that we've ever been. The scenery along the way was fabulous! It has started as a cool, cloudy day but by the time we were driving around the tip, it was sunny and mostly clear.

    We made our way around to Hofsos on the other side of the peninsula from Siglufjordur. Not much there, except a really cool hot springs pool. :) And it was cheap! Only $5.50 for adults and kids are free. The pool building is built into a hillside so you hardly see if from the road. Inside there are big windows looking out at the pool and fjord beyond, and halls off to the dressing rooms. There's a sign at the front door with rules. Like, shower naked, no phones or cameras in the dressing rooms and if you're caught, they'll call the police (or something like that). They went to the men's dressing room and I went to the women's where there were no private stalls, just a big shower room. The whole pool shower thing is a little complicated.
    1) Leave shoes just inside the dressing room door on the big shoe rack.
    2) Disrobe and put valuables in a locker (this pool only had tiny lockers for keys and wallets and things). The locker key is on a big rubber band that you wear on your arm into the pool.
    3) Get naked and shower. Take only your towel with you and put it in a towel rack that is somewhere near the showers. My shower area had a diagram about which places to wash, but no shower police. :)
    4) Dry off before you go back to the dressing room. DON'T GET THE DRESSING
    ROOM FLOOR WET.
    5) Swimsuit on. This pool has little baskets to leave your stuff in, just sitting in the dressing room. I guess they assume no one is going to steal your stuff then blaze down the one road alongside the fjord.
    6) Go to pool! They don't seem to take their towels with them. Not sure where they're leaving them. Maybe by the showers?

    This pool was really neat because it was a normal local swimming pool and not a tourist attraction (although it is that as well). It has a rectangle pool for swimming and playing, floaty pool toys for kids, with water that was slightly warm but not toasty. They also have a hot pot, or a hot tub without jets, with hot water bubbling up from the bottom and draining at the top, lined with a bench inside around the edge. It was very popular, even on this sunny day, thanks to the cold wind blasting. Loved it!! But the coolest thing is that the big pool is sort of on a hill and it looks like an infinity pool that flows over in the ocean. When you're in the pool looking out, you see the edge of the pool water and the ocean just beyond that. Way cool. We stayed for a few hours and played in the pool with floaty things and sat in the hot pot. Loved it!!

    From there we drove down past the end of the fjord and to a turf house museum called Glaumbaer. Very cool! It was a big house with several rooms connected with peat lined hallways, each room with a slanted turf covered roof. People lived there until 1947. Nifty!! Next door is an old fashioned café with traditional cakes, so we had some sherry cake. yum! Not much else out there, just cool views all around of green fields and stark mountains.

    That was it for the day! Then about an hour drive back to Akureyri and our cool little apartment/hotel. They have one washer and one dryer for free, so we jumped in and got a load done.

    Off to the last stop of our trip tomorrow: Reykjavik. Should be fun!

    I forgot to mention a couple of things I thought were sorta funny. You know the speed limit signs that tell you your speed and flash red or green, or tell you to slow down? We saw one here that flashed our speed in green, above a lit up smiley face. :) Today at Siglufjordur, there was a statue of a big fish on a dock, with a fishing pole, and a little person hanging off the end. :) You can't say Icelanders don't have a sense of humor.

    Notes
    Tunnels – Some of the tunnels around the Trollaskagi peninsula are one lane, with pull over places inside marked with 'M'. If the pull over place is on your side and a car is coming, pull over!

    pool locker rooms - I saw signs at a couple of pools that said school aged kids must go in the locker rooms of their sex. Just fyi, in case you are traveling alone with your little kid and they are not the same sex as you. Seems to me that 6 or 7 is a bit young to go by themselves, but we didn't have to find out if that's a firm rule.

    Akureyri street lights – A lot of the red lights are heart shaped! Funniest thing ever. I remembered reading that they did that during the financial crisis to make people feel better. :)

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    Day 11 - Wed, July 8 Akureyri to Reykjavik
    Borgarnes Settlement Center
    overnight: Gray Tower apartment, Reykjavik

    Greetings from Reykjavik! This morning we packed up and checked out around 8:45. Hotel reception didn't open until 9. No early risers there either! :) Oh, I forgot to mention what happened the night before, our first night in Akureyri. The smoke alarm went off at 0200! We jumped up (no need to turn on the lights because the 'black out blinds' didn't really keep the light out and it was plenty light outside), swung open the front door thinking we just needed some fresh air (there was no smoke), swung open the back door and finally it turned off. :) We were up fairly early, like 0600, so it didn't wake us up again when it went off at 0630, but probably did everyone else nearby.

    We drove back to the west through the same valley we drove home through the day before and stopped at just about every gas station along the way. First stop: Varmahlid. Next stop: Blonduos. The gas stations are the center of activity in the little villages and have little shops and restaurants. They always have self service coffee machines that make plain coffee, espresso and espresso drinks, hot chocolate, etc, and it's all really good for 225-275 ISK each ($2 and under). And they seem to all have soft serve ice cream that is priced well. We stopped at a grocery store in Blonduos and stocked up on breakfast stuff. Their version of yogurt, called skyr, is fabulous and not too expensive. A single serve cup is about $1 or so. We got skyr, smoked salmon, rolls, soft cheese and apples. The fruit and veg selection is pretty slim pickins at every store we've been in. The soft cheese is like Camembert and is really tasty and not too expensive, maybe $4. The label says, "Icelandic white mould cheese." Sounds tasty! ar ar

    Trivia here: Island is Icelandic for Iceland. I keep reading it as island and am thinking, yea, it's an island. ar ar

    From Blonduos the road turned inland and wasn't the most exciting scenery we've seen. Low hills, few trees, no ocean views.

    Next stop: Borgarnes, an hour north of Reykjavik. We decided to visit the Settlement Center there, a museum about the settlement of Iceland. I didn't really know what to expect but it was way cool. There are 2 parts to the museum and you get an audio guide that tells the story of the Vikings coming over in one part, and the other is dedicated to Egil's Saga, one of the famous Sagas of Icelanders. These are old stories about the first settlers here. They're mostly about Norwegian vikings that didn't get along with the king of Norway (probably because they killed one of his relatives) so they ran off to Iceland instead of submitting (or getting killed as payback). The sagas, including Egil's Saga, have loads of violence, death and revenge. Anyway, it was really interesting and took an hour to get through it.

    Back in the car and onto Reykjavik! The capital of Iceland and home to about half of the 300K residents of this lovely island. We found our apartment but between the one way streets and road construction, it took a bit to find the parking. Found it, unloaded and got in the apartment.

    Here it is, almost 9pm and it looks like it's middle of the afternoon. We can see the mountains and ocean since basically one wall is all glass. Groovy! Tomorrow we're planning to walk all over town. Yay to no driving tomorrow! I think it was about 5 hours driving from Akureyri to Reykjavik today. So far this has been a really fun trip! It feels like we've been here for a long time and it's hard to think it will be over soon.

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    Day 12 - Thu, July 9 Reykjavik
    Hallgrimskirkja
    Reykjavik 871 museum
    Viking maritime museum, Odinn ship tour
    Valdis ice cream
    overnight: Gray Tower apartment, Reykjavik

    It's Thursday, we must be in Reykjavik! :) We love this apartment! We're across the street and a building away from the ocean, and we can see a bit of the ocean and snow capped mountains beyond between buildings. This is a great place to stay. This apartment is fully furnished with groovy Euro appliances that we have no idea whatsoever how to use. :) This morning Y decided to boil eggs. Pot, check. Eggs, check. Stove... check, but how the heck do you even turn it on? It has a touch pad area with just a few really vague buttons. Thank God for the internet. Y found a video on how to use it.

    We were out around 8:45 (after spending forever trying to figure out the stove top) and headed uphill to the big famous church, Hallgrimskirkja. The city looks a lot like any very small European city that happens to sit on a spit of land surrounded by ocean, is a bit hilly, with lots of old buildings and narrow streets. We took the elevator up the tower of the church (only because that's the only way up, otherwise for sure we would've climbed the stairs :) ) and had great panoramic views of the city while being blasted with cold wind, even though it was a bright sunny day. That wind! When it blasts and hits you just so, it's freakin' freezing. Fortunately it didn't blast all day and was a wonderful sunny day for us.

    From there we headed downhill on a narrow shopping street. We found a tiny kitchen shop crammed with everything you could imagine, floor to ceiling. I love kitchen shops but we didn't find anything in there we just had to have. The prices here are a pretty big deterrent to random shopping. Down the hill a bit we came to a funky cafe called Babalu, so stepped in for some coffee. Great coffee and cakes! We split a nutella cheesecake, that was really like heavy frosing on a crust. Y got some apple thing. Yum! The cafe had all kinds of stuff all over the place, like stuffed animal heads (fake ones) on the walls with sunglasses, or a tea cup on a head, and life sized Star Wars posters in the bathroom. I think it was about $20 for a coffee, latte, and 2 fabulous pieces of cake.

    Onward! We looked in lots of tourist shops, and while there were certainly tourists there, we never felt overrun with other Americans or anything like that. We wandered and shopped and ended up at the Reykjavik 871 exhibit. They were building a hotel and dug up some ruins of a viking long house, probably from around the year 871. They built a museum around it. All that's there is the foundation and bottom of walls, but it's still pretty nifty, plus there's a lot of info about how they lived back then. I had read all about such things in the past year, when I read every book you can imagine on Iceland, :) but the boys had not kept up with the pile I had for them, so it was an easy way for them to get the scoop. :)

    We wandered towards the old harbor looking for food trucks or some cheap eats. We only found 2, and tried them both. One sold crab cake sliders (mini sandwiches on buns). It was about $10 for one, so not really cheap eats. Next we found a fish and chips truck. We got one with just fish for 1000 ISK (about $8) and split it. Yum! We got another and split it. :)

    Next up was the Viking maritime museum, but we didn't actually go in the museum, we just took a tour of the coast guard ship out front in the harbor. It was involved in the 'cod wars' with Britain. Britain was fishing for cod too close to Iceland, Iceland expanded their water boundaries, Britain didn't honor them, Iceland rammed their ships with their ice cutter coast guard ship, Britain scoffed, they signed a treaty. Repeat 2 more times. :) The ship was pretty interesting and we all enjoyed it.

    After that we were getting pooped and needed a break, so luckily there was an ice cream shop nearby. Valdis. It was PACKED with locals. I took a number and waited while the gal called out the numbers before mine in Icelandic, and the people ordered in Icelandic, and everything was in Icelandic. I thought, I should've learned some Icelandic. :O My turn came and I tried to order using the Icelandic words for the flavors and the gal just stared at me. Said it again in English and she smiled happily and talked to me the same exact way an ice cream gal at home would. :) They must start teaching them English when they're babies. They speak it perfectly, and even with slang. We ate our ice cream outside on a bench. No inside seating. I wonder if it's so popular when it's not so nice out, like 99.9999% of the time?

    From there we headed back in the direction of our apartment, looking for the willy museum but didn't find it before we got the the street our apartment is on. (I'll just leave you hanging on that one. ar ar Hopefully we'll go tomorrow and I can report back). We were back at the apartment kinda early, but we were pooped and didn't really feel like stomping around anymore today.

    Tomorrow, the Blue Lagoon! I got our tickets for 0900 so we'll be up and out early. It's like the #1 tourist thing in Iceland, so we're expecting big crowds and lots of non-Icelanders, but hopefully it will still be fun.

    I forgot a funny thing that happened today. In Reykjavik they have standalone 1 person public potties like elsewhere in Europe, except here they are free. :) If they aren't in use, you just push a button and the door opens, you step in and the door automatically closes behind you after a few seconds. They are cylindrical buildings, really just big enough for one, however, the sign on the door says kids under 10 should be accompanied by a parent. Inside is a potty and behind is an automatic sink/dryer in the wall. When you're done, you step out, the door locks behind you for a minute while it self cleans. Not really sure how it self cleans but the floors are always a bit wet. Anyway, X wanted me to go in with him. Ok, it's a bit of a squeeze but we both fit. He opened the door to leave but I hadn't washed my hands, so I hung back to use the auto washer. Then the door started to close and I didn't even notice, because I was trying to maneuver my hands under the tiny space of the washer. X grabbed me and hollered, and I got out just before the door closed and the self clean started. ar ar ar I probably wouldn't have been a happy camper if I had been self cleaned as well. :)

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    Day 13 - Fri, July 10 Reykjavik
    Blue Lagoon
    Icelandic Phallological Museum
    wandered around town
    overnight: Gray Tower apartment, Reykjavik

    Well poo...our last full day in Iceland. This has been a fun trip!

    Today we were up and out early for our 0900 tickets at the Blue Lagoon. If you've ever seen a picture of Iceland, it was probably the Blue Lagoon. I couldn't decide if we should go or not, but considering the very first thing I ever saw about Iceland that got my attention was a picture from there, I figured we may as well. Booking ahead is required, because EVERYONE goes to the Blue Lagoon. Every tourist that is. I bet locals don't go there. It's too expensive and too crowded.

    Kids are free, but we cost 45 euros each, so it was over $100 for us to go. We got there around 0845 and queued up. We finally got to the check in and got bracelets with chips in them. The chips open the lockers and also are used to store fees for anything extra you do there. They went off to the men's locker and I to the women's. So this was our #5 Iceland pool and even still it was by far the most confusing. #1 - place to leave shoes, check. #2 lockers. This is where it got confusing. There were several rows of lockers and none with keys. The magic bracelets were meant to open the lockers but how? When I was about to give up and go ask at the front, a gal (dressed head to toe in black, not looking like she belonged in a locker room at all) asked if I needed help. Well, yeah, I have to idea at all what to do here. Ok, you need to swipe your bracelet over the screen in the middle of the lockers to lock and unlock, but no idea how she assigned a locker to me. But after she did something I could open and lock #49 with my bracelet. Groovy! But where are the showers?? Found them and they appeared to all be private stalls, and only one little sign saying to shower before getting in the pool. The attendants didn't seem to care at all if people showered naked or showered at all. I suspect they get really tired of telling tourists to shower naked. Ok, great, done with that, where is the pool?? Found it, found the boys and got in. So far, the BL wasn't getting a lot of points from me. I had read sooooo much about it and I think it's overhyped.

    The pool is quite large, bright opaque blue-white water, surrounded by black lava rocks. It looks really cool. About the same as the Myvatn Nature Baths that we went to earlier on this trip. It's one big pool with a few bridges around smaller parts, a fake cave, a little 'river', wooden boxes with white silica mud that you can scoop out and slather on your face, and a power plant in the distance. And a bunch of zombies slowly moving around the pool with blank looks on their white silica mud covered faces. :) It was fun for a while and we explored every nook and cranny but it's really meant for just lounging in, not really doing anything. We stayed for about 1 1/2 hours then braved the locker rooms again. By that time it was filling up and getting crowded. We managed to make our way out and walked the long trail back to the car, lined with high lava rock walls.

    It was #5 of our Iceland pools and we all agreed that it was #5 in the ranking. Too expensive, too touristy, too crowded, too hyped, too much trouble to get to and had to book in advance. If it was the only pool we had gone to I'm sure we would've liked it more, but the other pools were niftier.

    Back to our apartment then out to wander. It has been a pretty nice day but started to sprinkle after a while. We wandered up to the willy museum. WILLY museum. ar ar ar :) So yea, it's a small museum dedicated to the willy. They have willies from lots of different animals in jars. The most impressive was from a sperm whale (I don't really need to comment on that, eh?). They also have some from humans but they looked pretty shriveled and funky. The funniest thing in there was a display from the 2006 Iceland Olympic hand ball team. They got a silver medal in Beijing. They have a case with silver molds of all the team members' members. :) X said that if they had gotten gold, they would've gotten gold molds of their willies. ar ar ar

    After that we just wandered around. I looked at wool sweaters but they're awfully itchy so I passed. I did get some wool mittens. We got ice cream. We wandered and shopped and learned that our little one really doesn't like to just wander around a town. He's ok with wandering if there's an eventual destination, but doesn't like aimless wandering.

    Back to our apartment around 5pm, dinner, laundry and all that. We haven't packed yet...

    So that's about it! Here's a brief summary of our opinions of Iceland.
    - It's clean. Clean restrooms, clean accommodations, clean countryside, even the city is pretty clean.
    - Cool people. I think they are slightly reserved but seem to be well educated and have a good sense of humor.
    - Pretty expensive, but not everything is outrageous. Ice cream and dairy, coffee, fish at the store, all seem fairly reasonable.
    - Easy to get around. Even though the traffic signs are in Icelandic, we've managed ok, and since everyone seems to be bilingual, it's really easy to communicate.
    - Beautiful scenery!
    - Erratic weather. Wind. Crazy wind.

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    Day 14 - Sat, July 11 Reykjavik - KEF - home
    Kolaportid weekend flea market
    Harpa
    home!

    We were up early and I spent a few hours packing. I didn't think we had acquired much but it was much harder to get it all back in the luggage that I had expected! I sorta thought this might be an issue so the day before when we were out and about, I looked for a cheapy fold up duffel bag, or just a cheapy bag of some sort but couldn’t find one anywhere.

    We loaded up the car and checked out of our apartment (that just meant leaving the keys and closing the door behind us) and headed off to look for the Kolaportid weekend flea market. We found it in a warehouse type building and ambled up and down the aisles. Lots of used clothes, books and misc stuff, so not really that interesting, except the food section on one end. We got some fairly cheap bakery goods (much cheaper than even the cheapy grocery stores we'd been do) and some more dried fish. Didn't take long to be done with the flea market, so we headed back to get the car and thought we'd go to a museum out by the airport.

    On the way we passed a really cool building, a concert hall called Harpa. It's hard to describe, but the exterior is all glass that's angled in different directions so it reflects the light in interesting ways. We ditched the museum idea and went in instead. Way cool!!! They've done some really cool stuff with the glass exterior walls (4 floors high, I think) and it just looks neato on the inside. There are also gift shops and a cafe and it appeared to be a popular place to just wander around. We loved it!

    Back towards the car we stopped at a bakery and had coffee, Y had some boring thing :) and X and I split a caramel topped sweet roll thing. Yum! On the way to the airport we filled up the car and washed it one last time. I love the free car washes at the gas stations.

    Onto Sixt to return the car. I read a zillion bad reviews of Sixt before we went, and the car rental companies in general in Iceland, and how they try to cheat people and make them pay for a whole paint job for one little scratch, etc etc. I was nervous about turning the car in. We were using our cc that provides free zero deductible CDW insurance, so I really had nothing to worry about because even if they said we caused some damage, we wouldn't have to pay anything, but I really didn't want to mess with any drama about the car. When we got the car the clerk that checked us out was a jerk, and went on and on about how we needed to buy their (expensive) insurance because our cc wouldn't cover this and that (like how did he know??). The rental contract only showed existing damage in one small place, but the car had paint chips and scratches all over. I wrote that on the rental agreement and wanted him to print a new one but he just signed it and said that was enough, but then it was on me to keep that one copy that he had signed. Anyway, when we turned in the car, a gal walked out with me to check it, she looked around for less than a minute and that was it. No drama, no problems at all. :)

    Drama in the airport though (sort of). There were 4 Icelandair flights leaving from the same tiny area at the same time, all packed flights to the US, so there were probably 1000 passengers in that general area. It was a ZOO. We didn't have seats together (because somehow, even though I planned this trip for over a year, I messed up and didn't request our seats for the return flight until a few weeks before when I noticed) but at the gate the guy got us 2 seats together, then on the plane it was like musical chairs anyway as all the families swapped seats so they could sit together.

    Standard flight home. Icelandair takes care of the kiddies on board. X got a free hot meal and a goody bag with headphones so he watched movies on the seatback screen until he finally couldn't stay awake any longer. The people at Icelandair seem to have a good sense of humor. :) On the onboard menu they offer a variety of stuff and in most cases they just have a description of the food but in some cases they have some pretty silly stuff. Like for the skyr (yogurt), it says something like, "Boring flight? Try eating your yogurt with a fork. It will take longer and keep you entertained." ar ar ar :)

    That's it! No idea where we'll go next. Any suggestions? :)

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    Thank you so much for the detail... I am in the beginning stages of planning for next year - it will be myself, Hubby and 13 year old son... so it was great to hear what worked for you. Would you mind sharing your total budget for lodging? I am trying to determine whether we will go with the Campervan or hotels/ cabins and the trip you took looks similar to the lodging we would choose. (I'm trying to compare the cost of car+hotel to campervan and I cannot easily find costs of lodging online)

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    Did you look at booking.com and tripadvisor? The cost depends on the exchange rate when payment is due. I paid for some of ours months in advance, then the dollar got stronger, and when I paid the rest, it was cheaper.

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    Terrific report, Tally; i picked out a few bits along the way to add my two penn'oth:

    <<The herring museum is in 3 buildings along the water. One is the old bunkhouse and it still has things in it from the workers like they just up and split and let half their stuff behind.>>

    we have a similar museum in cornwall but ours is a tin mine, left just as it was when the last miners clocked off for the last time. Don't know which one came first.

    <<Britain was fishing for cod too close to Iceland, Iceland expanded their water boundaries, Britain didn't honor them, Iceland rammed their ships with their ice cutter coast guard ship, Britain scoffed, they signed a treaty. Repeat 2 more times>>

    I don't think that that is the official British version - for the sake of "balance" this more or less sums up the UK received wisdom about the subject:

    http://britishseafishing.co.uk/the-cod-wars/

    <<My turn came and I tried to order using the Icelandic words for the flavors and the gal just stared at me. Said it again in English and she smiled happily and talked to me the same exact way an ice cream gal at home would. :) They must start teaching them English when they're babies>>

    I was really impressed too by the English/german/french I heard Icelanders speaking until I talked to some of them and discovered that they were in fact English/German/French people working in Iceland, some of whom spoke virtually no icelandic at all - that apparently was not a drawback! That's not to say that you're not right about many Icelanders speaking excellent english, but quite a few people speaking excellent english are in fact--english.

    I envy you having made your way "all the way round" - perhaps we'll be back there one day and get to the other side.

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    Tally - you ask about places to go next - when we had kids about the age of your son, we toured France, went to Majorca, spent a week on Lake Garda, as well as taking seaside holidays in north Devon [and the odd trip to Florida to do Disney et al].

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    Here's a bit more info about driving and the rent car. We had a Chevy Trax, fairly small (but not the smallest) 2WD, 4 door. We drove 2564 km (1593 miles) and spent 40150 ISK on gas ($302 at the current exchange rate). The price per liter for regular gas was about 225 ISK. Car rental with Sixt, booked months in advance, was about 820 euros for 2 weeks which included a GPS, but didn't include any extra insurance (we used our credit card's insurance).

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    Tally - really enjoyed your report! Very informative and entertaining. Thank you.

    I was in Reykjavik for only 2 days last week and loved it. I was very interested in reading about your experience at Blue Lagoon. I considered going but decided against it mostly for the cost and based some of the reviews I read on trip advisor. I didn't miss not going.

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    My trip last month!
    Hope you like it :)

    When visiting in winter (or really October through April), you’ll want to be conscious of two factors that can affect where you go: the weather and the shorter hours of daylight. You can easily get around in winter near Reykjavík without a 4WD vehicle, but some areas of the Ring Road will be more difficult to manage.

    You’ll also need to travel at a slower pace, especially when the days are at their shortest (around mid-December). Unless you plan to rent a 4WD vehicle (we got it with www.reykjavikauto.com), your best bet is probably to stay near the capital. Luckily, there is plenty to see and do in and around Reykjavik to keep you busy for 10 days.

    We recommend you to read our latest article about driving in Iceland.

    Plan on 2-3 days for sightseeing and shopping around the city, then budget 4-6 days for day trips like cave exploring, ATV driving, glacier walking, snorkeling, horseback riding, dog sledding, and venturing as far as Vik.

    Save one day for the Golden Circle tour; if you have time and are so inclined, you can even take a day trip by plane to Akureyri or Isafjordur with AirIceland.

    6 days trip in winter based in Reykjavík

    Day 1.

    Once you’ve settled in, I recommend you start by getting your bearings, and there’s no better way to do that than to head up to the observation deck of Hallgrimskirkja, or “the big white church” as many people refer to it. You’ll see it from nearly anywhere in town and as long as you can find your way from there to your hotel, you’ll never be lost in Reykjavik. You can go inside the church and take the elevator to the top for the best view in the city.

    Afterwards, you can stroll down to the Solfar (Sun Voyager) sculpture on the waterfront and then continue down to the harbor, where you can have lunch at Icelandic Fish and Chips, or warm up with a hot bowl of lobster soup at Sægreifinn (Seabaron).

    From there you can walk through the heart of downtown, past the Parliament building and around to the Radhus, the City Hall, to see a giant topographical map of Iceland. Swing around the Tjornin pond, past the Prime Minister’s office, and up Bankastraeti, which turns into Laugavegur, the main shopping street. If you wants to pick up something to make for dinner, stop at the Bonus grocery store.

    Day 2.

    Today is a great day to get in some outdoor activity. Arrange to go snorkeling in some of the clearest water in the world at Silfra in Thingvellir (wrapped up in a surprisingly warm dry suit to survive the frigid water temps) or go riding on an Icelandic horse.

    Tour companies will take care of all the details, including pick up and drop off, and many tours can be combined to maximize time. For example, you could arrange to go horseback riding and combine that with a trip to the Blue Lagoon or to Geysir and Gullfoss, two of the country’s most popular attractions.

    Day 3.

    If you’ve made some friends at your guesthouse or are traveling with a few other people, split the cost of a car rental and drive to the Golden Circle attractions. With even one other person, the $100 US cost of renting an automatic transmission car (including insurance) would work out better than spending 9800 ISK (about $89 US) for a tour of the Golden Circle.

    The roads along the route are fairly well-maintained and unless a storm comes up, the drive would be no worse than driving anywhere in the US in winter. Plus, a car allows the freedom to stop as often as you’d like and detour when you want.

    After a day of exploring, treat yourself to a splurge dinner, before hitting some of the clubs for the Friday night runtur. I highly recommend Fishmarket, an upscale restaurant that serves Icelandic specialties with an Asian twist – I loved the grilled king crab claws with chili may (3900 ISK, about $35 US) or the 6900 ISK langoustine from Vestmannaeyjar. If that’s too rich for you, there are plenty of cheap eats, like Tapas Barinn, where you can sample smaller portions at smaller prices.

    Day 4.

    Assuming you stayed out a little late last night and want to take it easy on Saturday, you should stick around Reykjavik. Relax in one of the public swimming pools, ride a bike around the city if the weather is nice, or do some shopping at the weekend Kolaportið flea market near the harbor.

    If you are in the market for an Icelandic sweater, get one here for much cheaper than in the souvenir shops. If you have some cash to burn, stock up on stylish outdoor gear at 66° North or head to the Kringlan shopping center. If it’s Wednesday, today is the best day to visit the Culture House as there is no admission charge on Wednesdays.

    Day 5.

    You need to get a Car rental in Iceland and drive to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Jökulsárlón is today one of Iceland's best known and most popular natural wonders, and for a good reason. A magnificent view welcomes you as you arrive there and it's almost like stepping into a fairy tale landscape.

    The lake has grown since then at varying rates because of melting of the Icelandic glaciers. The lagoon now stands 1.5 kilometres away from the ocean's edge and covers an area of about 18 km2. It recently became the deepest lake in Iceland at over 248 metres depth as glacial retreat extended its boundaries.

    Day 6.

    Most flights back to the US leave between 3pm and 5pm; Keflavik Airport is small and the security line moves pretty fast so you don’t need to get there much more than 90 minutes before your flight, which leaves plenty of time left in the morning to explore more of Reykjavik or schedule once last excursion. If you haven’t yet visited the Blue Lagoon, go today on your way to the airport.

    The Flybus picks up at the BSI bus terminal, an easy 10-15 minute walk from the city center, and goes right to the Blue Lagoon. If you takes the 11am bus to the Blue Lagoon, you’ll arrive by 11:45, and will have over two hours to soak before boarding the 2:15pm bus to Keflavik, which arrives with 2.5 hours to spare before a 5pm flight.

    This leaves plenty of time to have a snack, turn in any receipts for duty-free shopping to get a tax refund, exchange any remaining kronur for dollars, and relax before the flight home.

    Do not forget to search for the Northern Lights

    The Northern Lights appear from September to March, and though sightings are never guaranteed, there are many tour companies who will drive you to a viewing point and provide warm gear, hot drinks, and even dinner, while you wait for the lights to dance overhead (for example: www.landmannalaugartours.com or www.visitaskja.com). But you don’t have to pony up for a tour though. In fact, sometimes you don’t even have to leave the city, as the lights can often be seen from Reykjavik.

    Lina :)

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    You need to get a Car rental in Iceland and drive to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Jökulsárlón is today one of Iceland's best known and most popular natural wonders, and for a good reason. A magnificent view welcomes you as you arrive there and it's almost like stepping into a fairy tale landscape.>>

    that's a long way for a day trip Lina, especially in winter when a lot of the drive will be done in the dark.

    you talk about your "trip" last month but when you post this:

    <<We recommend you to read our latest article about driving in Iceland.>>

    it makes me wonder - you wouldn't have anything to do with a car rental firm would you????

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    hey Tally. after reading mom and her cucumber account, i was ready to cancel our trip. however, yours was so helpful that we are back on again. i wish i had spent a year putting together but oh well. we are going early august. we have at least 4 of us and maybe 5. we have 6 days on the ground. sounds like the first part of your trip was the best. could you tell me if you went to the golden circle and could this be done as a day trip or several days? do you think i could put this together myself or do we need a guide with a car? my husband is very nervous and non adventuresome type and not sure we could survive driving some of the roads. thanks Tally

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    lovetotravel, as the mum in question, I'd hate to think that I'd put anyone off going to Iceland, and I should like potential visitors to be well-informed about the good as well as the not quite so good aspects of traveling in Iceland.

    So IMO the Golden Circle would be very easy to do yourselves. The roads are extremely easy so long as you stay on the A and main B roads [no need to go on any nasty gravel on the way to the Golden Circle and back] and it's very hard to go wrong.

    I would suggest 1-2 nights in the area - there is Pingvellir to see, you can walk along the line of the geological fault between the European and American land masses, as well as see the waterfalls and the Geyser.

    Good luck!

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    Don't cancel your trip, love2travel2LA, The mom and cucumber report was funny to read but totally different than my experience in Iceland...particularly concerning food. I had some great meals and good food there.

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    To the OP: Thank you SO MUCH for this trip report! The DH and I are planning a trip next summer, so we have a year to plan as well (hence my finding your report with my early research! :-) ) We plan to visit many of the places you've wrote about, and now there are a few more on our list!

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