Iceland early december visit

Old Oct 21st, 2017, 12:23 PM
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Iceland early december visit

I am planning a trip to Iceland in early December for 7 days (days 1 and 7 are arrival and departure so limited activity time). It will be my fiancée and myself. I’ve been devouring the information on this forum, as well as other internet sites in preparation, which has proven most beneficial. Initially we planned to rent a vehicle and travel on pour own, traversing the Ring Road, however the winter driving discussion has caused me to put this idea aside. Although we live in the mountains of Pennsylvania, and as much as I loathe group tours, I don’t think it’s wise to drive and put ourselves and other people at risk based on the description of the high wind and ice conditions.

This leaves me in a quandary. There are an incredible number of tour operators from which to choose, which is the basis for my post. Perhaps if I list the activities we would like to experience, recommendations may be offered for me to review and narrow my choices.
Number one on the list are the Northern Lights. I have read it is best to stay outside the city. We would also like to have multiple opportunities to see the Lights in the event the first evening is not cooperative from a weather perspective.
Other experiences we want to enjoy in this stunning country are:
• Blue Lagoon
• Other lagoons
• Golden Circle
• Geysers
• Waterfalls
• Glaciers
• Ice caves
• Whale watching
• Geothermal spa bathing
• Ring Road
• Snowmobiling

We have not made reservations for accommodations, so please also advise on this, as based on the activities we may want to stay in multiple cities.
Thanks you in advance for your advice.
rwagner is offline  
Old Oct 21st, 2017, 01:17 PM
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I don't know where to start with Iceland....but here goes.

We visited in February this year :

Firstly, the weather is totally and utterly unpredictable due to its latitude and it's position on the North Atlantic Drift. It can be quite mild in winter, it can have 100mph winds which in exposed areas simply push cars over. It can snow to the extent that the road system isn't safe.

All this makes planning difficult as you have no idea what the conditions will be until around 2 days prior to arrival.

Of the activities you mentioned :

Whale watching : it's not a hot spot and the operators in February were not have frequent sightings their are pods of Orca which are around in summer.

Aurora : Iceland hasn't the right latitude for sightings but the cloud cover frequently ruins the show. There are far better continental locations in Europe and a North America which enjoy settled high pressure and clear skies in winter.

Blue Lagoon : some hate, we loved it. Failrly up market corporate feel, we visited at night on a still evening. It was magical with the steam rising from the water.

Ice Cave : the one incredible experience we had in Iceland. The glaciers are accessible and the tour operators have hacked walkways into the ice which make the trips fairly safe. Incredible colours in the caves, a lifetime experience.

Geysers and Waterfalls : hated these trips, the locations were just overrun with tour buses and people, selfies everywhere, not what the nature environment is all about, in our opinion.

The Black Beaches were stunning but again very busy even in February.

Compared to Canada and Norway, we found Iceland to be disappointing and absolutely, totally and utterly ridiculously expensive. Although the pound is particularly weak at the moment, those converting from dollars will also notice the high costs.

By the way, your list is long and you talk of multiple cities. Iceland is huge and has only really one city. You really need to narrow down your list.
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Old Oct 21st, 2017, 01:22 PM
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I think it's smart to not drive. It would help if you posted your budget. Iceland is expensive, and perhaps money might make some activities more of a priority.

Blue Lagoon is easily done as part of an airport transfer. I did that upon arrival and it was great. If possible, try going early. The first hour or two at opening was the best. It gets super crowded.
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Old Oct 21st, 2017, 01:25 PM
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I agree The Blue Lagoon makes sense to/from the airport.

You can also tie it in with a night trip out of the city to look for the Aurora.
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Old Oct 21st, 2017, 02:57 PM
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We visited Iceland in May, so I have no experience with the Northern Lights, but I got the impression that Akureyri is a popular viewing area, as it's further north and gets even more hours of darkness than Reykjavik. If you went to Akureyri, you'd want to fly that time of year.

Totally agree with this statement:

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Old Oct 21st, 2017, 09:44 PM
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We went in Oct and saw a glimpse of the Northern Lights. We took a small tour that hit a couple of major sites that I thought it perfect. I wrote a trip blog about our experience complete with itinerary, photos, and recs:

We had an ice cave tour planned that was unfortunately cancelled due to volcanic activity and poor weather. It looks like it would've been incredible. Might be worth checking out this tour operator anyway:

Enjoy trip planning!
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Old Oct 21st, 2017, 11:48 PM
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Akureyri Is a better option, I'd agree.

In the week that we were there, I'd say every night it had clear sky in the North whilst we had one night in the south.

The prevailing winds are generally SW and there is altitude in the centre of the island. This may lead to more cloud in the south and less in the north.

I'd be careful about building Iceland up as a destination. It depends what your previous travel experience has been and how you regard the natural environment.

We live in Scotland and can walk for days in glacially eroded stunning lanscapes which are on a much smaller scale than Iceland. In Iceland the scale is huge and dotted around the countryside are features that are very definitely incredible sights.
The problem being every tour party and cruise ship in the Northern Hemisphere also know about the sites.

The term "The Golden Cirlce" says everything it's a tourist marketing ploy.

If you don't mind sharing areas with a thousand people, it's fine. If not, like us you could begin to wonder.

Throw into the mix the huge cost of all goods and services and you start to feel that Iceland isn't value for money.

There's also the snow issue. While we were there it was 7oC in February without snow. The towns and countryside just looked battered and burned. A week after we left they had huge snowfall and the photographs looked incredible but travel around the island was restricted for days.

Iceland is an enigma to us.

In terms of personal time we can't afford travel enigmas.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2017, 08:19 PM
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I am in the same position as you are. We booked Iceland Dec. 2-9 and we wanted to do a self drive as well. After much research even though we have a lot of winter driving (Washington State) experience we decided that a tour would be a lot less stressful if storms were going to be going through while we were vacationing. Right now we are seriously considering Guide to Icelands 8 Day Winter Wonderland National Parks and Ice Cave. Included in the tour is hotels and Northern Lights as well as the things you want to see listed. They have good reviews on TripAdvisor. We have only heard good things about Iceland- aside the fact they are expensive from our niece who visited this summer. So I am looking forward to going
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