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Iceland in February - Advice needed including best spot for Northern Lights

Iceland in February - Advice needed including best spot for Northern Lights

Nov 28th, 2017, 07:08 AM
  #1  
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Iceland in February - Advice needed including best spot for Northern Lights

My friend & I are planning a 5 day trip to Iceland, arriving/departing Reykjavik.
Our 2 most important goals for the trip are to experience the Blue Lagoon & see Northern Lights.

While I know there's no guarantee with the Northern Lights, can anyone recommend the best/prettiest viewing site? Best to self drive, take tour, etc?

Any tips for experiencing the Blue Lagoon?

Tips on what else not to miss on our short trip there keeping the time of year in mind?
What is the best area of Reykjavik to stay in? Should we stay there the whole time and use it as a base while doing day trips? Any great Hotel & Restaurant recommendations?

Just starting to plan our trip after spontaneously booking. Any advice to help get us started would be great while I'm researching online.

Many thanks!
JES28 is offline  
Nov 28th, 2017, 07:31 AM
  #2  
 
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Can't help you with Northern Lights as both times I've been to Iceland were in spring.

My tip for the Blue Lagoon would be not to experience it at all. It's inconveniently located, vastly overpriced, and hardly representative of the spa culture of Iceland. You can go to public (and private) hot springs all over the place for a fraction of the price and actually sit in pools with Icelanders instead of busloads of tourists.

We have always stayed at the Hotel Frón in the center of Reykyavik, very convenient to everything and we have gotten prices as low as 50 euros a night for a spacious double room.

We've tried, but have not succeeded in finding, "great" restaurants in Reykyavik. Best we've found is the only Turkish restaurant in the country, Mezze, downtown. There's a nice reggae coffee bar on the main harbor, but it's not somewhere you'd head for a good meal.The fish restaurants in that neighborhood were expensive and mediocre. And the famous Iceland hot dogs were, in our opinion, repulsive. It's not, IME, a place to go expecting fine cuisine.

Take one of the free student-led tours. They are wonderful
StCirq is offline  
Nov 28th, 2017, 07:31 AM
  #3  
 
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You do need to get out of Reykjavik to see the northern lights. Unless you are used to driving in snow and winter driving conditions you can find lots of Northern lights viewing tours on line or wait until you are there to see how the conditions are and then book a tour. The tourist information office or your hotel would be able to help you.
You can also get Blue Lagoon tours to avoid driving. And I would recommend a Golden circle tour also.
You might or might not have snow but it can come any time so you have to be prepared.
I went last February and loved it. Have a great time.
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Nov 28th, 2017, 07:43 AM
  #4  
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Thanks so much for the quick responses.
StCirc - That's great insight on the Blue Lagoon. Were there specific public/private springs that stood out to you that you would recommend?
Great idea about the student led tour!

MarthaT - From what I can tell, it makes the most sense to book there while we can monitor conditions. I am used to driving in winter conditions, but maybe it's not a good idea in a different country..!
Great to connect with someone who was actually there in February! Would you mind sharing some of your favorite things while you were there?
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Nov 28th, 2017, 09:42 AM
  #5  
mms
 
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I would not skip on the Blue Lagoon. We ran out of time when we were there, but our adult kids did it and loved it. They were there over NYE and several days, so it was quite cold. We know many people who have gone and done it, and they all loved it, FWIW.

There is a wonderful walking tour that is free, but you tip what you feel is appropriate. BTW, the tour ends near an ATM if you need to get cash, but they also accept all currencies, FWIW. We did this tour on our arrival day.
https://citywalk.is

We had some very good meals while there. Snaps Bistro was the best, and other we really liked were Icelandic Fish and Chips and Stofan Cafe.

We did a tour with Grayline to the Golden Circle (as did our kids) and we loved it. Definitely bundle up. Reykjavik is nice, but getting out of town and seeing more of the countryside is a must, IMO. We already have a return trip planned, we enjoyed it so much and know there is so much more to explore.
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Nov 28th, 2017, 12:33 PM
  #6  
mms
 
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Oh, and use the Appy Hour app on your phone to find great deals for drinks/inexpensive food. It is real time and we found some fun places using it.
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Nov 28th, 2017, 01:04 PM
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Yup, everybody loves the Blue Lagoon and gives it a big hands-up, but they are not the people who try the alternatives.

Next time we pass through Iceland we'll try the Apply Hour.
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Nov 28th, 2017, 01:42 PM
  #8  
mms
 
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St Cirq--But correct me if I'm wrong, you didn't go to the Blue Lagoon right? So not sure how you can dismiss it so easily. Our kids did not go to any of the alternatives, but other friends have and enjoyed those as well, but said they were two totally different experiences, FWIW. My doctor is one of those and commented that we need to go on our next visit.
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Nov 28th, 2017, 01:53 PM
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I did go,the first time I went to Iceland, like everyone else, and can compare it,OK? Would never go again. Waste of time and money IMO.
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Nov 28th, 2017, 01:58 PM
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So was cost the issue, or was it simply that you can't bear to be around other tourists?
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Nov 28th, 2017, 02:16 PM
  #11  
mms
 
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Oh, I just remember your posts where you said you skipped it and never left Reykjavik.
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Nov 28th, 2017, 03:54 PM
  #12  
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Thanks so much mms, I looked up all of your recommendations and they all look really great! How did you get around ? Did you rent a car while you were there? I usually rent a car wherever I go as I don't like to be dependent on public transportation (especially waiting around while it's cold out) and I usually don't like tours unless they're shorter, preferring to see things on my own....However , not sure what to do since it may be icy and bad. I was considering renting a 4WD.
It does sound like the Golden Circle is very well liked...but I looked it up and it's 12 hours which seems long. I'm wondering if we can drive the circle on our own. Is that crazy, especially that time of year?
I was looking at The Garage hotel, Country Hotel Anna and IcelandAir Hotel Vic for some options outside of the city maybe for a night or 2 as it looks like you can see the Northern Lights there...does anyone have any thoughts on this? If we stay there I'm thinking we would definitely need a car.
Thanks for the suggestion with Appy, I will definitely download it!

In terms of the Blue Lagoon, I think I will plan to go as I think I will regret going all the way to Iceland and skipping it, but I will definitely go to the public/private ones as well (recommendations welcome!)
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Nov 29th, 2017, 04:43 AM
  #13  
mms
 
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JES28--We used Flybus to get from the airport into town, and after the we just walked. It is very compact, so no need for anything but your feet. Typically we don't care for tours either, but have found that in some places day tours work well and Iceland is one of those places, IMO. We were there in mid October, and since weather can change so drastically, we didn't hire a car even though we have extensive snow/ice/mountain driving experience. Yes, the Golden Circle tour is long, but it didn't feel like it at all.The scenery is stunning, so you are constantly oohing and ahhing and time flies. In February, there is no way I would attempt to drive there. Check Trip Advisor as well as many locals post and can give you better info on that. There is a wealth of info there. BTW, we used the ATM once to get cash for the walking tour, but never needed it anywhere else. So we gave the leftover to our kids for when they went. The tour accepts any currency, so you don't have to hit the ATM at all, which makes things so easy.
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Nov 29th, 2017, 07:07 AM
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Just a caution about doing your own driving. Two days before I was leaving there were travel advisories posted everywhere we went about a very bad storm coming in the next day. Blinding snow and gale force winds. I was on a tour heading to Blue Lagoon early the next morning and the storm hit. We came to a spot in the road where emergency services was stopping traffic and diverted us to an elementary school where the Red Cross has set up a shelter and we were there all day.
At the school they clocked 1 wind gust at 106 miles an hour!
No one was allowed on the roads on the whole southeast of the country.
So weather can change quickly.
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Nov 29th, 2017, 07:20 AM
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<>

Oh FFS, stop being such an effing pest. As I said it's because it's inconveniently located, costs a boatload, and yes, is a tourist trap. I would rather, and did rather, pay 6 euros for a similar experience in Reykyavik, not a tourist venue, just a local place.

Have you been? Do you have an opinion? If not then just STFU.
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Nov 29th, 2017, 07:25 AM
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My, my. I must have hit a nerve.

No, I haven't been, I was reading this thread because I'd like to go. And I asked for clarification of your point of view because it's useful in deciding whom to listen to when opinions diverge. mms always gives excellent advice, in my direct experience.
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Nov 29th, 2017, 08:53 AM
  #17  
mms
 
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Wow, just wow...

NewbE—thank you
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Nov 29th, 2017, 09:04 AM
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Two points :

The Blue Lagoon : was our only high point in Iceland. We went at night, it was cloudless with no wind. The place is very commercial but it is very good at what it does. The water was magical with steam rising in -3oC temperatures and the Aurora vaguely visable. It was a very memorable experience.

The rest of Iceland was over hyped, overrun by "world" tourists , completely and ridiculously expensive. To us Norway is magical, Iceland was a gravy train.

Aurora : it isn't witchcraft just very specific science, check the KP factor on the Alaska Aurora Watch website. I seem to remember Iceland needs 2 or 3 to provide a decent show. Then you just need break in the cloud cover which is the difficulty as Iceland is frequently cloudy.

There are some really good locations, if you drive south of the city for 30 minutes and then turn off the airport highway and head down to the coast which is 5 minutes away. Be very careful on the roads, it can get chaotic if there has been cloud for some days. Huge numbers of visitors and tour buses hit the road and frequently drive insanely. My sister in law was driving behind us and was hit by tourists in a car who were watching the sky not the road.

If you are mobile, one other lifetime experience we enjoyed as a guided tour into a glacier with a tour of ice caves. It was shockingly beautiful and not something that I would begin to consider without a guide.
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Nov 29th, 2017, 02:15 PM
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This place is a lot less fancy than Blue Lagoon, but we just wanted a laid-back place to soak and relax, and it was definitely that. It's much less expensive if you're OK with a more dressed-down experience (they don't really have luxury packages, but there is a small bar and some snacks), and we didn't have the aggravation of lines and and people herding us around so much:

http://secretlagoon.is/

My only advice on the lights is to make sure you have plenty of chances in your schedule to go out to watch for them. You never know what nights they'll be visible so flexibility is essential.
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Nov 29th, 2017, 02:51 PM
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<>

We drove ourselves, in May though, not February! It took us the better part of a day, but nowhere near 12 hours.

We were underwhelmed with the Golden Circle and a bit perplexed at it's popularity. It's proximity to Reykjavik seems to be the main draw; it's readily accessible to those on stopovers who want to pack in what they can in a day or two.

Personally, I'd probably not drive very far in Iceland in February. To give you an idea of why, here's an excerpt from my Iceland trip report.

"During our six days in Iceland, we’d learned that roads outside of the cities don’t have shoulders; they’re narrow and built-up (presumably to prevent flooding), with steep ditches on both sides, and more often than not, surrounded by lava fields. It feels as if you’re driving along a narrow ledge. In other words, these are not roads you want to stray from. All of those warnings about winter driving in Iceland began to make perfect sense. I would definitely not want to be stranded out here in the middle of NoWheresVille, with the ferocious Icelandic wind whipping snow across the road and obscuring visibility. Thanks, but no."

Here's the whole report if you think it might help:

https://www.fodors.com/community/eur...-road-trip.cfm
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