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Belgium Netherlands Iceland, August 2014 - itinerary opinions, please?

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Jan 19th, 2014, 11:32 PM
  #1
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Belgium Netherlands Iceland, August 2014 - itinerary opinions, please?

Thanks to a number of Fodorites who are wonderfully experienced with Benelux/Iceland travel, we've developed the following tentative itinerary. We're experienced travelers, late 50's to mid 60's, fit, and prefer to plan our own trips and forge our own paths rather than participating in tours. The one exception we've decided to make here is that we are considering a Golden Circle Tour in Iceland and are looking for recommendations for specific companies who provide small group tours. We're basing this on the fact that we have such little time there, at the end of our trip, and wonder about the wisdom and/or hassle of renting a car to do this for the day. If anyone has advice to steer us in the other direction, please weigh in!

We also typically do some combination of train and car rental, but it seems like sticking exclusively with the rail system (and bikes whenever possible) is going to work best for us this trip.

Finally, this itinerary seemed to lend itself nicely to longer (apartment) stays in Bruges and Amsterdam with day trips from there. We have had many a trip through Europe where we stayed in a number of places for anywhere from 2-5 nights. We've found this much easier to do when driving about, but especially on our last trip began to tire of the baggage-on baggage-off hassles of train travel with luggage. Day trips from a home base sound lovely!

Here goes:

8/12 fly Boston (overnight) through Iceland to Brussels

8/13 land in Brussels, go directly to Bruges

8/13, 14, 15, 16, 17 Bruges apartment - this gives us 4 full days here, with day trips planned to Ghent and a bike to Damme, leaving 2 1/2 days to explore Bruges.

8/18 to Amsterdam via Antwerp, spending a good part of the day in Antwerp

8/18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24 Amsterdam apartment - 6 full days here, with day trips to Delft/Hague, Haarlem (and possibly Zandfort am Zee to get a glimpse of a seaside town), and possibly a long biking day traveling through Rotterdam to Kinderdijk. (We could potentially substitute this with Zaanse Schans) I've also read about other bike trips that sound wonderful...this will depend on time. Current plan leaves 3 full days in Amsterdam itself so we could be flexible with whether we add additional journeys out or enjoy the city to its fullest.

8/25 fly Amsterdam to Reykjavik

8/25, 26, 27 apartment in Reykjavik - perhaps see Blue Lagoon on the way into town from the airport, one day to explore Reykjavik, one devoted to the Golden Circle

8/28 return to Boston

our flight leaves at 10:30 a.m or so...Is it still doable to stay in Reykjavik and get a shuttle to the airport early in the morning or should we stay at an airport hotel? I know that might minimize the morning rush, but with only 2 days, really, in Reykjavik, I hate to lose that last night - though depending on what evenings are like in the city, maybe we'd be just as happy to be settled near the airport. Advice here is also welcome.

Thoughts? Doable? Suggestions regarding adjusting our time in each place, or things we may have left out?

As always, I don't know how I'd plan a trip without all of you.
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Jan 20th, 2014, 06:26 AM
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ttt-
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Jan 20th, 2014, 06:57 AM
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Actually you have one more day than I did in Iceland and I did what you are planning. On my arrival day (I did get there early) explored Reykjavik and on the next full day I did the golden circle tour. Reykjavik is very small, did you read my trip report? As I said in it, I walked all over the whole city in a couple hours - and then had time to do it again. So you will have more than enough time in Iceland to do what you say. I had a very early flight and there was a bus from the city center to the airport at that time. I think I gave the bus company name etc in my trip report (the links are in your other thread). The only thing I didn't do is the Blue Lagoon so if you want to do that you are probably good with three nights.

Two and a half days just for Brugge will be very relaxing.
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Jan 20th, 2014, 06:59 AM
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and possibly a long biking day traveling through Rotterdam to Kinderdijk> I would advise going to Gouda, a sweet regional Dutch town with the usual expansive Grote Markt town square lined by ancient buildings and renting a bike there to cycle the flat 15 miles or so to Kinderdijk - over bike paths - easier than cycling thru Rotterdam though there is a boat from Rotterdam that you could put your bikes on to Krimpem then cuycle the few miles to Kinderdijk and the thrill of cycling thru the heart of the flung out string of behemoth windmills.

For trains you may want to consider the Benelux railpass good in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg - hop on any train except Thalys which you seem not to have to take anywhere but compare to local prices - use the pass for your long journeys and short trips just buy before the train. For lots of great info on Benelux trains check out www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.seat61.com and www.ricksteves.com. www.ns.nl is the site of the Dutch railways and http://www.belrail.be/E/index.php is an unofficial but informative site about Belgian trains.
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Jan 20th, 2014, 01:17 PM
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Thanks to you both - isabel, your replies have been so helpful for Iceland. And PalenQ, I can't quite recall from exactly which trip planning in the past several years (Switzerland/French Riviera/Provence, or perhaps Germany/Prague/Austria) I recognize your name - or perhaps even an earlier trip (Barcelona/Languedoc/Amalfi Coast) - but I was relieved to "see" a trusted Fodorite here. Your knowledge of Benelux is a real gem for the rest of us.
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Jan 20th, 2014, 04:17 PM
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If you are transiting through Brussels - put your bags in a locker at Bruxelles-Central and pop in and see the Grand' Place. One of the most spectacular squares in Europe and won't cost you much time out of your itinerary. Google 'images Grand' Place Bruxelles' and you will get an idea.

Lavandula
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Jan 20th, 2014, 06:04 PM
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Lavandula, sounds like a great suggestion. I think we have ample time in Bruges, and back and forth around the area, to work that in.
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Jan 21st, 2014, 06:59 AM
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Also consider Antwerp - to me one of the unique cities in Europe and if a lover of Flemish art you're in heaven - also art nouveau architecture abounds - an easy day trip from Bruges or any Belgian base.
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Jan 21st, 2014, 09:42 AM
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another neat day trip from a Bruges or Gent base is to go to the seaside - to neat towns like Oostende, Blakkenberge or tony Knokke-Heist - trains from Bruges go to all of these and then along the coast you can take trams between the towns - these trams are remnants of the old Vicinal inter-urban tram system that once went all over Belgium.
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