Iceland - July 2010?

Old Jan 4th, 2010, 06:47 PM
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Iceland - July 2010?

My family of 5 (Hubby, 3 kids ages 7,9, and 11 and me) were looking for an adventurous European destination (for a week's visit during July) , and stumbled upon Iceland. It just sounds beautiful, and as a family who loves the outdoors, I think it would suit us perfectly! A few questions for those of you who have been there:

I have found two flats/apartments in central Reykjavik within our budget. Although Reykjavik would have many activities to keep us occupied, it sounds as if there are some beautiful sights outside of the city.

Does anyone have some favorites (Suitable for our kids' ages? We love to hike and stumble upon unique geography.)

I hear rental cars are expensive. Would you advise renting a car, maybe for part of the stay or taking a guided tour or both? If anyone suggests a guided tour, do you have a good tour company? I do love to research areas, and my husband has already driven on the "wrong" side of the road in a few countries, so I would value anyone's opinion on how tough driving is in Iceland.

How's the weather in mid-July? Interestingly enough, today it is warmer in Iceland than it is in Ohio!

I would appreciate any feedback! ~Thanks so much
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Old Jan 4th, 2010, 07:50 PM
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We were in Iceland, DS and I on the 4th of July about 12 years ago - my 3rd time there. It was sunny and pleasant. It rained. It was cold. It snowed. It hailed a bit. All on the same day. The motto for Iceland could well be, if you don't like the weather, just wait a half hour and it will change. For the most part we found a sweater and windbreaker combo to work well.

We had a wonderful time renting a car and driving the Golden Circle, a great way to start. There are also plenty of tours if you don't want to drive, but I would rent a car. It wouldn't cost more than 5 passengers on a tour. Reykjavik is OK but the glory of Iceland is the countryside. The kids will love the geysers and waterfalls.
They will also get a kick out of watching the sun not setting. It goes down to about the horizon in the west and during the "night" you can watch it moving along the horizon toward the east to come up again.

As far as driving is concerned, In Iceland one drive on the right. Is that the wrong side of the road for you? Speed limits tend to be low and don't even think of driving if you have had some alcohol. Those laws are strictly enforced.
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 05:33 AM
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Thanks for the info. You must realy like Iceland if you have been there 3 times! We are still undecided about the whole trip. Would you mind sharing with me what you like so much about this country? (I have to admit, people kind of think we're nuts for considering it for a vacation destination. I think most Americans probably view Iceland as a frozen tundra.) Do most people speak English? Why have other posters discussed damage to rental cars and the need for insurance? Is it the gravel? We drive on the right side of the road here, so I guess with an English GPS, we would be do fine. It sounds safer than navigating those narrow, curvy roads in Scotland where people drive on the left and very fast! I look forward to your reply and anyone else who would like to tell me what they love to do in Iceland. Thanks!
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 05:39 AM
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I spent two weeks in Iceland in 2003 with 10 family members (we're Canadian Icelandic). To answer some of your specific questions

- Most people speak excellent English
- driving is on the right and for the most part very easy (and navigation is easy too). Some of the gravel roads can be a bit rough but still very safe (the biggest risk is apparently hitting sheep! - we had a sheep spotter in the passenger seat)
- the terrain is remarkably changeable - in 15 minutes you can go from a verdant valley to surface of the moon conditions
- re things for kids to do - lots of hiking/adventure type activities; waterfalls, also whale watching in Husavik

Here's a link to my (very long) trip report - happy to answer any questions you may have

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...roots-long.cfm
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 06:34 AM
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I've been to Iceland twice and agree with Elizabeth S regarding driving, it is very easy and not as dangerous as many would have you believe. The last time I went (in October '07) I rented a Mazda 6 and it was more than suitable for the roads (and much more comfortable than the small Suzuki 4x4 which was another option).

On one particular day, we drove for hours without seeing another car, meaning we would have had to be doing something pretty ridiculous to get into an accident.

The things that I love about Iceland (I also went there on my honeymoon in July '06, so you can imagine the looks I get) are the scenery that you don't get anywhere else, the contrast between the rough and ready outdoors and the incredible interior design of many places, the incredible people, the nightlife, the culture, the list goes on and on.

The thing that I love most about Iceland is its sense of 'otherness' that (as you can tell) I find hard to put my finger on. For me it feels like nowhere else on earth, not quite Scandinavian or mainland European, not American (despite the Taco Bells, KFC's and enormous pick-up trucks) with a totally unique atmosphere.

It really is a place that you have to visit in order to understand and I'm still working on it. Our next trip there is scheduled for as soon as my son is old enough to walk, talk and have a rough idea of what's going on, and I can't wait. Iceland is easily one of my favourite places on earth and I'm jealous that I won't be going again for at least another year.

If you want specific ideas of things for you and your kids to do, just shout!
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 08:39 AM
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Mrs Bilbo uploaded a massive Iceland trip report under my name last year. Suggest trail my name back
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 08:50 AM
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Neal - the other replies say it all for me, particularly Jay's.

Jay - Iceland was the first stop on our honeymoon too. A bit before yours - May '68. We stayed at the Loftlieder (sp?) Hotel and were very surprised when we found that our tiny room was set up with bunkbeds.
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 06:02 AM
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Thanks, everyone for your comments. ElizS, I look forward to reading your trip report. From my email correspondence with a few flat owners, I get the impression the people of Iceland are very hospitable and friendly. I was asking how far a certain location was from a hotel where my husband will attend a conference and she replied, "It is within walking distance, but I'd be happy to lend him a bicycle." (So sweet!) It sounds great, despite all the blank looks I get from friends when I tell them about our possible plans! I will keep all of you posted once we make a decision, and will have many more questions (I'm sure) if we go ahead with it. Thanks so much!
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 06:26 AM
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basingstoke - glad to find out I'm not on my own! I would love to have been able to see Iceland in the sixties and see how it's changed over the years, I suppose I'll just have to keep going back for the next forty years...

Neal - please do let us know what you decide and don't let your friends influence you too much. Those that question wanting to go to Iceland, would never understand it. Take that step into the unknown, you won't regret it.
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 08:01 AM
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Just GO! Driving is easy... we did the full Ring Road plus more in two weeks in early October. Even with some snow and rain, I found the driving to be no problem (though some of the roads into the northern national parks were rutted goat tracks by that time... and this was in a 2WD little Citroen.

The best part of Iceland is discovering little hikes and scenic sites. They have great markets for 'points of interest'... just find them... turn off the main road... and GO!
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 08:11 AM
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Markers... NOT markets... sorry!
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Old Jan 8th, 2010, 05:31 AM
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Just found this and it is of great interest to me, as we are also thinking of visiting this July. Can anyone recommend any good guide books, maps or web pages to start our research? We intend to fly/drive independently, so accommodation recommendations would also be helpful.

Many thanks, Maria
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Old Jan 8th, 2010, 06:18 AM
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hi Neal and Maria,

if you click on my screen name, you'll find a link to my trip report from our trip to iceland in July 2008. it will soon become evident that we were not bowled over by the entire experience, whereas astein [who has also done a very informative report] loved it.

the best bits: the golden circle, the western fjords, whale watching, the iceberg lagoon.

not such good bits: long distances between attractions/ sights, some of the accommodation and food, the roads, the cost.

I think that the latter has now changed a bit - we probably went at the very worst time!

the iceland tourstist board will send you as much info as you can cope with, and the farm association runs a very efficient accommodation listing service. a week wouold give you the chance to stay in Reykajvik for a couple of days, then head out into the Golden circle and stay somewhere to do some walking/horse riding for the rest of the holiday.

regards, ann
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Old Jan 9th, 2010, 05:55 AM
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We're Ohioans who visited Iceland (second visit) in the summer of 2008 with our son who was 8. For families who like the outdoors, it is an amazing place. Our son said it was like "stepping into a fairy tale land." Rental cars are best way to go -- they are quite expensive, but driving in Iceland, if you stay on main ring road, is pretty simple, weather cooperating. Get map from rental agency showing the paved roads and don't venture off of them except for short distances. Other advice -- take lots of layers, sunglasses (for wind & dust, not sun), invest in sturdy hooded Cabella/LL.Bean type windbreaker/raincoats for all. Be aware, with kids, that there aren't "barriers" or "warning signs" on the gorgoeous places like you would find in USA parks. We liked that, but you do have to keep an eye on things & the lack of barriers at the big waterfalls did make our son a little edgy. Also -- take a lot of prepared food and snacks. Think camping-type food. Places to eat are few and far between once you leave Golden Circle and Rejkavik. Beyond the city, the food is usually found at the gas stations (and it's not too bad -- prepared sandwiches, grill-type selections, etc.) -- stock up on food when you see it, don't wait until you are hungry, is our advice. All gas stations usually have microwaves you can use too. Selfloss and Vik have grocery stores -- and it's fun to visit an Icelandic grocery store, we thought. Look for the yummy "bakaries" in both towns. Places we loved visiting -- Golden Circle (spend full day here), Seljandafoss waterfalls (this area is full of waterfalls, once you start looking and exploring -- don't just drive by), Skogafoss waterfall (hike to top), black beaches at Vik, Skaftafell Park (many hiking possibilities), glacier lagoon (boat ride) -- plus, many cool sites along the way while driving. Road signs and turn offs mark locations of some interesting sites, so don't be afraid to take time and stop to walk when you see something. Iceland is best appreciated slowly with lots of time to explore built into your schedule. When the weather is good, take advantage of it. We found more than enough things to occupy a week just sticking with southern Iceland, outside Reyjavik. We stayed in a mix of rental self-cater cabins and tourist hotels. You're right -- this is way off the radar screen for most American families and prices can be steep. It does take some planning and is a much different experience than traveling through USA parks & tourist system, but if you are campers and outdoors-people, you'll love the un-crowded beauty, the fact you can see waterfalls, volcanoes, and black sand beaches within a four-hour drive of eachother, etc.. With kids, there is probably more to do beyond Rejkavik we think --we took a whale watch trip from town, but very rough waters and few whales. There are museums in Rejkavik, but we've been too busy to try them on either visit.
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Old Jan 9th, 2010, 06:44 AM
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There are museums in Rejkavik, but we've been too busy to try them on either visit.>>

we're not very museumy people either when the sun's shining, but once the heat wave that greeted our arrival in Iceland has changed to rain, we needed something to do - the national museum of Iceland was brilliant with loads to interest kids and adults, plus it's nearly all in English.

wintershell - i wonder if we were there at the same time - end of July - beg August, 2008
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Old Jan 9th, 2010, 10:08 AM
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annhig -- yes, we were there first week of August in 2008. Nice weather, but we did manage to overlap a major national camping holiday, so Golden Circle very busy & most stores/banks closed. Fortunately, we arrived at end of holiday weekend, so traveling the opposite direction of most cars. Our other visit was late May/early June 2007 -- much colder and windier, but had nearly every beautiful place to ourselves, which was amazing. We'll check out the National Museum on our next visit. Considering a return trip this summer or next. Still want to drive entire ring road.

One other note on Reyjavik to family -- if you are staying in city on weekend, keep in mind it can get loud & college-town like especially if you are in bar/restaurant area. We learned this the hard way with a hotel on a busy city street, next to bar, on our first visit. No sleep.
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Old Jan 9th, 2010, 10:55 AM
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hi wintershell,

the highlight of our visit was definitely the western fjords. the drive is hard- work [lots of gravel roads, the best way to tackle it is to take it faster than you'd think] but the views and the birds are truly fantaastic. I will never forget "puffin city" where they live together in their burrows and let you get within 6 ft of them. and the whale-watching trip where we saw and were followed by a pod of killer whales for about 30 mins was pretty memorable too.

I think that you have to get off the "ring road" to see the best of Iceland.
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Old Jan 11th, 2010, 09:33 AM
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Ok, we're going ahead with our trip to Iceland, based in part, on everyone's positive feedback! Now for the planning part: I've read a lot of about the Golden Circle. Is it worth doing the whole thing? How many days should we allot for this? Is there enough to see, or will kids get bored in the car? As I had mentioned, we love to hike as a family and discover interesting/memorable geography along the way. We can also hang out at a beach (one with black sand sounds fun!)for hours, even if it's 50 degrees out. We will be based in Reyjavik, due to my husband's conference, so can anyone suggest a possible route that we could see many highlights outside of this city for 2-3 days? (We could stay in a hotel for 1-2 nights elsewhere in Iceland if need be.) We can also take daytrips and return to Reyjavik at night for closer sights. Can kids (ages 7, 9, and 11) go horseback riding or are they too young? JayG - I love your comments in your last paragraph! Wintershell - Glad to see some other Ohioans have made the trip as well!
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Old Jan 11th, 2010, 10:33 AM
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Neal, I checked icelandadventures.com and horsesnorth.com (I think they are the same). As far as a horse tour is concerned, they can put one together for your family if all of the kids are experienced riders. Otherwise, minimum age is 12. Icelandic horses are special. They are small and have a very smooth gait. They can also put together custom auto tours or have standard tours that they say are suitible for kids since there are lots of stops.
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Old Jan 11th, 2010, 11:12 AM
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Neal623--
Golden Circle is great -- a definite must for a first visit. Everything in Iceland is pretty compact compared to U.S., so there are not long drive times between sites. Just to give you a sense of timetable needed:
we left Reykavik around 10 with packed lunches & supper fixings from deli/grocery and arrived at Thingvellir around 1o. There are some pretty waterfalls and hikes in this area, besides main tourist ones, keep your eyes peeled for the small turn-offs for them. We spent a good 2 hours in this cool park, just wandering through area/climbing on rocks/enjoying picnic lunch. Got to Geysir around 4:00, which is a good time because tourist buses are leaving. Spent about an hour in geyser area. Drive to Gulfoss waterfall is very short and we arrived 5:00/spent about an hour at waterfall/had a little snack at nice Gulfoss cafe and headed to our cabin in area for evening & supper. So, you definitely can see all in one day, and rather than rush back to Rejkavik that evening, I'd suggest staying in the Golden Circle area -- lots of lodging options, hotels, homes, cabins, etc.. If you want two days outside Rejkavik, I'd suggest visiting the Seljandafoss/Skogafoss/Vik area the next day and staying in that general area overnight. There are roads near Vik that go to coast area. Think "wintery" black sand beach, though, not a place to dip toes in. Again, many lodging options because it's on the tourist track. Then it's about a 4 hour drive back to Reyjavik from Vik, with no stopping and decent weather. One of the things to keep in mind about Iceland that is quite different than US Parks is that the "coolest" places will not have signs (or very small signs) -- it is a country where you have to keep your eyes open, stop when something catches your eye, and make your own discoveries. Check out the travellingdad.wordpress.com blog entries on Iceland for a good sense of what the country is like for kids (and also the weather challenges) -- the writer is traveling in the more remote spots of Iceland than I'd recommend on a first visit but his comments in general give a good picture of what an Icelandic vacation is like.
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