My wife and I went to Iceland in early April for 5 days. I wanted to pass on our experience.
As other people say, it is expensive to visit Iceland. Expect about 25% increase in the cost of everything if you live in most places in the country. New Yorkers probably won't be that shocked. The prices seemed to be on par with a previous trip to New York.
I highly recommend where we stayed: Room with a View. The website is http://www.roomwithaview.it Arni, one of the owners, was fantastic. Located on Laugavegur--the main shopping street, it is in an excellent location. I booked it because all the room are actually apartments which are extremely well furnished and have full kitchens. Also had an excellent rate. There are plenty of pictures on their website. We cooked some meals in the apartment to save costs. Shopping at the local grocery store was an adventure. Luckily the employees and other patrons helped us figure out what most things were. It was quiet, well-located, and very comfortable.
We had also considered Hotel Leifur Eiriksson and Hotel Odinsve.
Everything is very fresh on the island. The bibb lettuce still had the root bulb on it!
Be prepared for the sulphur smell whenever you turn on the hot water. This is true of everywhere in Iceland since the water is heated geothermally. The smell does not linger on your body and you won't notice it in the shower by you third day.
Don't bother buying bottled water. All of the cold tap water is spring water.
Almost everyone speaks English very well. One book stated that to graduate all students must speak English, Icelandic, and (I think)Finnish. We only ran into two people that didn't speak English on our trip.
We took buses around town to a few places and it was very convenient.
Also, I was told by our host that no one tips in Iceland at restaurants or bars. We didn't for tours, but thinking back we probably could have.
Weather while we were there was very blusterly especially in the morning. It wasn't bitter cold, but it did drizzle/mist often. Throw in a decent wind and you'll want to wrapped up. The weather did change rapidly. Cold, raining, overcast then 5 minutes later the sky is pure blue and it starts to warm up enough to take off your jacket. 5 minutes later it starts snowing.
I would suggest getting reservations anywhere you want to eat dinner. It's not that most places are crowded, but a crowd could get there 5 minutes before you and then you're stuck . . . unless you have a reservation.
I am a fairly adventurous eater and will try most anything. You'll see as you read on. Every meal we had was very good. One was excellent, and one was disappointing considering the price. Comments below.
We landed as everyone else does in Keflavik and took the shuttle bus to Reyk. It was 1000 kronur each (KR)
We took a nap and went to the grocery store and walked around to get our bearings. Very easy to get around on foot in Reyk. We ate dinner at a bar called 22 at 22 Laugavegur; we both had hamburgers. Bill was 1940KR (just over $25). Nothing special. We then enjoyed some local atmosphere at a pub on the corner. I had a mixed drink and my wife Diana had a hot chocolate. It totalled 1500KR (just under $20).
We over slept big time and killed almost half of the day. Once we got up we just walked around Reyk again and did some souvenir shopping. We also went to the Viking History Museum. very intersting exhibit about how the Vikings settled Iceland. It was 500KR each to get in. There is also a public accessible computer on the second floor that has Internet Access. Good for a quick email to family or check the headlines back where you're from, but I wouldn't spend long on it.
For dinner we ate at a restaurant called Prir Frakkar. About a 5-10 minute walk from our apartment. The lobster bisque Diana had was excellent. My appetizer was also very good, but I can't remember what it was. I had Whale Pepper Steak for dinner--yes whale. Very thin sliced and seared. I thought it would be an oriental-type pepper steak, but it turned out to be more like a blackened-pepper steak. Not spicy at all, just very well seasoned. There was a hint of a sweetness to the meat too. I believe that Diana had a glass of wine and I had a mixed drink. Total was 8580 KR or about $112.
We went on a Golden Circle Tour withIcelandic Adventure that included all the typical sights and added on a stop at the Blue Lagoon.
The scenery was great and the Blue Lagoon was very relaxing. It was 7700 KR ($95) per person. The waterfalls were gorgeous, the countryside was beautiful, and the memories will last a long time.
At the Blue Lagoon I wouldn't bother paying extra for a Robe. Even if it is cold and windy outside (which it was) you will be fine until you go outside. If you have a robe, then it'll just get wet. There is a way to enter the water before you go outside, so you never really get full exposure. You have to shower before you go in. I experienced first-hand how Europeans are not nearly as shy as were are. We were only in the water for about 35 minutes but that really was enough. Women should remember to lather their hair with conditioner in the shower and leave it on (don't rinse it out). It'll protect your hair while in the Blue Lagoon. You can't have too much as my wife found out. The tour guide suggested that we pick up a sandwich at the Blue Lagoon if we were hungry. They were around 750KR ($10) each.
The trip took the majority of the day. Pick up around 9:30 or so and got back around 4:00.
We ate dinner at placed called Skolabru. We decided to eat there because on a walk by it the day before it smelled wonderful. All in all it was a disappointment. 11760 KR ($154) for the meal. We each had an appetizer and an entree. Had it been around half that then it would have been less of a let-down. I don't remember what either of us ate that night--should tell you something. I do remember that I had an assortement of smoked meat for an appetizer: puffin, guillemot (I think) and something else. Interesting, but not worth a repeat visti. This was also the only restaurant that had a place for a tip on the bill. The entire restaurant came across as trying to be very pretentious and high-class, but only managed to be a little snobby.
We took a Super Jeep Tour by Icelandic Adventure up to Langokull Glacier. Several stops along the way to climb into lava tubes, visit Europes largest hot spring, waterfalls, greenhouse farms, and few places to get sandwiches and snacks. At one stop I bought some fish jerky. Opened the bag and then threw it away.
The highlight and purpose of the trip was the glacier. It was very neat being on a glacier. The weather wasn't very good while on it and the guide didn't bother looking out the windshield why he was on it. He simply looked at his laptop and GPS unit to see where we were. The wind was amazing. The trip was expensive, but worth every penny. Our guide convinced us to take part in an Icelandic custom of "Kissing the glacier" We got pictures of each of us smooching the glacier. The trip was 16000 KR ($215) pp.
We left around 9:00 and got back at 5:00 or thereabouts. That night we made dinner in the apartment and went to bed early.
We went to one of the public swimming pool--heated of course for about an hour. Very soothing and especially fun when it started snowing! 220 KR pp and 220KR for renting a towel.
We ate lunch at Jomfruin. I have also seen it spelled Jomfrum. They serve Danish open-faced sandwiches. Very good and highly recommended. Lunch of two sandwiches was 2420 KR ($31,70). Worth every penny.
Dinner that night was at The Lobster House. I had a reindeer appetizer that was wonderful. Diana had some more seafood bisque--excellent. Diana's main course was a bunch of Icelandic Lobster tails. She got the half kilo which translated into about a dozen of the things. I had the conversion between kilo and lb backward in my head. I thought she was getting like half a pound when it turned out to be almost 2 lbs. Oh well, more for me. I had an excellent piece of meat that isn't found very often in the US. In fact it is frowned upon when I mention it. You'll just have to go there to see what it was. It'll be obvious looking at the menu. Very flavorful and cooked very-well. I wouldn't have known I was eating this type of meat had I not known what I ordered. We also each had a dessert that we just as good as the rest of the meal. By far our best meal in Iceland. The total was 15730KR ($207.51).
We got up, finished up shopping for souvenirs, and headed to the airport on the shuttle. A cab to the REYK airport for the ride to the Keflavik airport was 900KR.
I did have a problem with Hotel Odinsve however that I want to pass on as a caveat.
I originally booked our stay at Hotel Odinsve through IcelandAir. Made the reservation back in early January 03. Everything is fine. Had a great rate for the stay since it was the off-season. Don'e remember the rate, but it was about 25% below their posted rates for the time.
After making the plane reservations but before buying the tickets, I had sent an email directly to the hotel asking them to confirm availability and the rate. They sent an email back to that effect and saying that it would be simpler for me to allow IcelandAir to book the room on my behalf.
Well on 2/14/03 I get a call from IcelandAir saying that hotel could not fulfill my reservation request. I was heading out of town to celebrate Valentine's Day, and couldn't deal with it then. I was shocked that it took 6 weeks for the hotel to process the request. Especially, considering that I had contacted them directly to confirm everything.
After several phone calls and emails, it was all chocked up to human error. That I can understand, but I wasn't happy about it. I believe that they held the room for me until someone else made a reservation at a higher rate. I have no proof of that though.
I ended up not minding because after needing to scramble for a room I found "Room with a View," so it all worked out.
I hope all of this information helps someone else enjoy Iceland as much as my wife and I did. It really is a wonderful place that is worth visiting.
Hopefully reading this post will remind past visitors of their trip too.
If I can ever figure out how to add a new hotel to Rants and Raves I'll put up some information about Room with a View there.
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