Iceland Trip Report

Old Jun 14th, 2017, 03:39 PM
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Iceland Trip Report

The Trip - 5 days in mid-May. I was due to go to Asia in April, but due to illness that didn't happen, so this was a shorter, last minute trip with minimal planning.

Flight - Delta from JFK. Delta food is pretty bad, except for the honey roasted peanuts. Long lines for immigration at KEF airport, but it moved quickly. Coming back, you still have to wait in line even if you check in online.

From the airport: Flybus from the airport and Gray Line back. Both are about the same price but Gray Line has more comfortable seats.

Accommodation: Airbnb - about US $130 per night, which is the most I ever paid for an airbnb. A nice clean place in a quiet neighborhood but only two blocks from the main square and walkable to everything. For those looking for a place, it is "A cozy apartment in the heart of Reykjavik" on airbnb.

Food: I didn't exactly eat well, but a few recommended places are Bioborgari which has hamburgers and veggie burgers and very good sweet potato chips, Stefan's chocolatier right across the street, not a restaurant but good chocolate and he'll give you a free sample and, one block away, Cafe Stofan which I only discovered on my last night, but has lots of choices and good cake.

People: Most people were polite, but many also seemed a bit cold, perhaps typical for northern Europe, but no one was rude or dishonest.

Costs: I expected Iceland to be expensive, but it was still shocking. An Indian meal that would cost $15 here in New York was $40 there. Museum admission is usually $15 - $20. Even a Snickers Bar is $4. As I overheard one American tell another, "You just have to deal with it."

Weather: It was cold and damp when I arrived, then became unbelievably windy, winds that I have never experienced before in my life, and then for the last couple of days, the sun came out and it was absolutely beautiful, the best weather I've had on a trip in a while. It was only about 55 degrees, but felt great.

Car rental vs Bus Tour: I am usually anti-tour and was planning to rent a car. But considering I live in New York and rarely drive much anymore and that Reykjavik is full of narrow one way streets and big traffic circles that we Americans have no idea what to do with, I opted at the last minute for two tours. I used Bus Travel Iceland which I recommend. Did the afternoon Golden Circle (about $100) and a full day Southern Iceland (about $140). Though it was a big bus, there were only 13 people on the first one and 16 on the second. At some places, I'd have preferred more time, but mostly there was enough time. And for those traveling solo, not to worry as there were at least a few solo travelers on both tours.

Sights to see:
1.The Maritime Museum - something different. Tells the history of fishing in Iceland and is fascinating.
2. National Museum of Iceland - a very good history museum that is worth a couple of hours.
3. Hallgrimskirka Church - Nice inside and the view from the top - on a sunny day - is worth the price.
4. The Pond - the first time I saw it was on a cloudy day and I thought it was a waste of time, but on a sunny day, it is beautiful.
5. Gulffoss - Probably the best of the three waterfalls I saw.
6. Kerio Crater Lake - very dramatic when you first see it
7 The Black Sand Beach - nice rock formations with the ocean in the background
8. Seijiandafoss - Looks nice from the front but hike up behind it and it is really amazing. It's not too often you can get so close to a powerful waterfall like that.
9. Vesturbaer Pool - Didn't go to the Blue Lagoon but for less than what it would have cost for one visit, went to the pool five times. That's where you get to see daily Icelandic life and its quite nice sitting in an outdoor pool when it's 45 degrees outside and the sun is shining at 9PM.
10. Sunsets - Go to Eidsgrandi St on the west coast of Reykjavik where there is a long walking path and pick a spot and have your camera ready. The sun officially set around 11PM but for at least an hour after that the sky was various shades of glorious orange. That's the best sight in the city and it is completely free.

Advice:
1. For cheap food, go to any Bonus supermarket (there's one on the main shopping street), where prices are a fraction of anywhere else.
2. If you're going to two or three museums and maybe a pool in one day, the Reykjavik Card is definitely worthwhile. But it is only good at the public museums. At the private ones you just get a small discount.
3. Tap water is served at every restaurant and tastes better than in most other countries.
4. Go to the pool and sit on the edge, with your lower half in the water and upper half getting a mix of steam and the cold winds. Quite a nice feeling.
5. Visit in May - weather is decent, there are long hours of daylight and the summer crowds have yet to arrive.

In the end:
This was one of the better trips I've been on. Despite minimal planning, everything went surprisingly smoothly. Highly recommended.
trebex is offline  
Old Jun 14th, 2017, 04:16 PM
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A nice recap. You give a nice report with helpful information. Iceland is on my list.
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Old Jun 14th, 2017, 05:33 PM
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Very helpful, concise and to the point! Bookmarking for our August trip.
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Old Jun 14th, 2017, 05:55 PM
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Very nice! I'll be in Iceland next week and appreciate your info. Thanks!
wtm003 is offline  
Old Jun 15th, 2017, 01:13 PM
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trebex -

Enjoyed your recap. We too visited in May, but spent 10 days driving the ring road.

Indeed it was shockingly expensive. You got off pretty cheap at $130 a night!

I'm working on my trip report, but it's godawful detailed, so will take some time.

Glad you enjoyed your trip.
Melnq8 is offline  
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