Anyone been to Iceland?

We are looking into summer vacations, and airfare to Mainland Europe is ridiculously high. Iceland airfare is about half.

Anyone been there? Just looking for basic thoughts – thx.

I was there on an unplanned trip last December - my flight from Germany to the US got horribly delayed and I missed my connection in Reykjavik, so IcelandAir put me up in a hotel and I got to spend a full day wandering around the city.

It was very pleasant, and interesting - not in a “Wow, so much interesting stuff is going on here, where do I begin?!” way, but in a quiet, intrinsically interesting way. More of a, “Wow, I’m in a small, remote country that I never expected to visit. How interesting to see the way these people live.”

I knew that Iceland couldn’t have a very large population, but I was shocked at how small it is - just over 300,000 in the entire country. That fact colored my view of the whole trip. Every time we passed a moderately tall building or apartment complex I’d think, “That is a discernible chunk of your national population, right there.”

Reykjavik was, no surprise, very small, with few buildings of more than a few stories. It was clean and pleasant and prosperous; not terribly interesting architecturally, but well kept up - even the '60s-era architecture that you could just tell would look drab and rundown in other countries looked very well-maintained there.

The free meal I had at the hotel IcelandAir put me up in was delicious. You could tell they used very high quality ingredients.

The landscape on the drive to and from the airport is bleak, but interestingly otherworldly. Not sure how to describe it…

Don’t know what time of year you’ll go there, but it is certainly at a very high latitude, and when I was there in December it was still dark at 8 or 9 am.

I didn’t manage to visit the Blue Lagoon thermal baths, which I think is the country’s main attraction. A guy on my flight did, though, and he said they’re great.

Hope that helps; if you can afford it, I think it would be an interesting place to spend a few days.

I haven’t been myself but I have always wanted to and I know lots of people that have. They all loved it, not in a Paris kind of way, but for what it is. The landscape is supposedly like being on the moon or another planet and the thermal springs are a cloud pleaser. The nightlife in Reykjavik supposedly pretty wild on the weekend. Food and entertainment are said to be very expensive so plan that into your budget.

Travelzoo.com has a good deal on an Iceland package this week. It is only $999 and includes airfare (from New York or other East Coast cities), 4 star hotel, transportation, and admission to some attractions. That is for 6 days in November but the climate is milder than many think so it shouldn’t be too bad. I was thinking about booking it myself.

The flights may be half the price, but after your first evening meal and beer in Reykjavik, you’ll realise you could have flown all the way to Rome, business class :wink:

That’s not to say you shouldn’t go. I loved Iceland - I went there when a friend got married over there a few years ago, and stayed on for a week afterwards.

It doesn’t feel like “Europe”, really - there’s nowhere much like it. It has a very small population, only one “city”, which itself would only be a medium-sized town in many parts of the world, and a heck of a lot of empty space. The scenery is breathtaking, as you’d expect. Glaciers, geysers, waterfalls, mountains, lots of sea birds, seals, whales etc etc. Midges, too. :slight_smile: What Shagnasty said about being on the moon is right. We camped wild one night, just over a rise out of sight of a gravel road somewhere near Dettifoss, and as far as the eye could see there was no sign of anything alive - just a rugged lunar landscape of gravel and boulders. Quite a cool place to wake up to.

In the space of four days I circumnavigated the country - there’s only one main road that goes round the coast, so you have to choose whether to concentrate on one region and do some backtracking, or go flat out and see more, but briefly.

I’m dying to go since hot tubs, ponies and yarn are basically my favorite things.

I’ve looked into a bit and most people go in the summer or make a special trip in the winter just to see the aurora borealus. though there’s also a "shoulder season in September when it’s possible to see the northern lights.

I’ll be going in about three weeks (as part of an organized tour to see the aurora borealis). I’ll try to remember to post my thoughts about the place to this thread when I get back!

This absolutely bears repeating. Repeatedly :).

I went to Iceland for my honeymoon, in late January 2004. I get the impression that it’s a different place entirely in the summer, but in winter it’s supernaturally beautiful - the moon comparison is very apt I think. There isn’t a huge amount to do, I’d say, but tonnes of stuff to look at. And so so so expensive. Seriously, really expensive. Thank the gods we were on our honeymoon and could convince ourselves we didn’t care about the money.

We did see the Northern Lights a couple of times, glaciers, geysers, gorgeous beautiful dramatic scenery, plus we put on every item of clothing we’d brought with us and played around on snowmobiles for an afternoon.

If you do go, definitely go to the Blue Lagoon, which is amazing. And save up enough for one meal at the Pearl. I remember the food as being great, the building’s interesting, plus it revolves 360 degrees.

But it’s seriously outrageously expensive.

I went in 2011 in the summer (pictures) for an extended-long-weekend trip.

If you go, there is a “golden circle tour” that gets you a lot of the major sites in the southwest of the island. Including gulfoss (huge-ass waterfall) and geysir (the geyser other geysers are named after).

In addition to that we did a glacier climb, and whale watching, and a morning in the Blue Lagoon before returning. Good time had by all.

(And I’m using your post as a pretext to link my pictures :smiley: ).

ETA: Keep in mind, if you go there in the summer, you will not see any northern lights because the sun will not fucking go down. (Maybe it dips below the horizon a little at 1am, but the sky never gets dark.)

On my way to Kuwait we stopped there for refueling. Got to walk around a small part of the terminal. It was the middle of the night and nothing was open. It was dark when we landed and dark when we took off so I couldn’t even see the terrain at all. But technically I can say yes to your question.

I read a book entitled The Geography of Bliss. It is very well written by a NPR person. He travels to about 12 countries in an attempt to discover which country is the happiest and why. I remember his trip to Iceland. I wanna go there!

I went there for a week in August 2011 and had a lot of fun. We stayed in Reykjavik but used it as a base for a few different day trips in addition to exploring the city itself. Reykjavik feels very much like a small city, very walkable and generally easy to navigate. There isn’t much in the way of “attractions” but they have a couple of decent museums, some nice shopping, and nice restaurants/bars. The people are very friendly and all seem to speak perfect English.

The two major attractions in the country that I highly recommend are the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon. The Golden Circle is made up of several sites - Skálholt, Gulfoss, Geysir, and Þingvellir, among others. That was interesting and gives you an idea of the strange landscapes of Iceland. We took a bus tour of that and all told, it took about 6-7 hours door to door. The Blue Lagoon is really touristy (it’s the #1 tourist attraction in Iceland) but is still very nice. It’s a good place to hang out, relax, and float around in warm water.

My favorite thing that we did while in country was take a tour with a company called Goecco. They’re small tours that go all over the country run by some very enthusiastic locals. We took the Glacial Lagoon Tour, which took us from Reykjavik all the way across the south end of the country to Jökulsárlón and back in one 18 hour day. It was a van tour, so it was two guides and something like 9 of us travelers. It stopped in several places along the way that were all amazing in different ways, like a geothermal pool at the base of Eyjafjallajökull, awesome waterfalls like Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss, and a glacier walk at Svínafellsjökull (where they filmed parts of Batman Begins and the second season of Game of Thrones). I can’t recommend this highly enough - it’s a little pricey (about $350 for the day tour) but totally worth it. The same group also performs free walking tours of central Reykjavik every day at 1 pm, I believe.

Me too :slight_smile:

I took a ton of pictures so I’ll just link to my photo sets:

Reykjavik
Skálholt
Gulfoss
Geysir
Þingvellir
Goecco Glacial Lagoon Tour
Blue Lagoon

Keep in mind, though, that you went there before the economic crisis. Their currency has since dropped in value pretty dramatically. We had a year old travel book when we went and the US dollar equivalent prices in the book were almost double what everything really cost. I didn’t find the country to be particularly expensive, but then I don’t drink and tend not to eat very extravagantly. Looking at my records from the trip, my friend and I had a nice sit-down dinner at the Geysir Bistro (kind of a misnomer, it’s in Reykjavik) and it cost $42. I also had a slight-step-above-fast-food burger, fries, and soda at a place for about $12. Pretty standard, IMO.

Curse you for having better pictures than me! :stuck_out_tongue:

Another important Iceland tip: If you don’t want to sound like a yokel, don’t pronounce the letter “Þ” as if it was a “P”. :slight_smile:

The pictures are awesome, thanks for sharing! I’ve never seen any place like this.

There is a definite small-town vibe, which I found charming but others might not consider very interesting. The guided tour of Reykjavik that I took included a fish cannery and a public swimming pool.

It’s the salads that will cost you. :cool:

Do they have private changing rooms and showers at the Blue Lagoon? I’ve kind of thought about going to Iceland, but this would be the deciding factor. No privacy = no visting the Blue Lagoon = no reason to go to Iceland.

Yes they do. The locker room has some little stalls (like toilet stalls, but without a toilet) you can use.

Re: airfares, I noticed that at least when I was window shopping a couple of months ago flying to Europe via Iceland Air with a connection in Reykjavik was quite a bit cheaper than the non-stops. Even if you don’t think there’s a whole vacation there, it could be fun to work it so you had a couple day layover there to explore.

I’m pretty sure you can sneak a trip to the Blue Lagoon into an abnormally long plane change. It’s right near the airport and I think there are shuttles. No need for more than a few spare hours.

My husband and I were debating between the Inca Trail and the Laugavegur Trek for our honeymoon this year. We ended up choosing the Inca Trail because it’s still open during the time we can get the vacation to go on the honeymoon but I asked for the Laugavegur Trek for our 35th bdays next year. If you’re at all outdoorsy I strongly recommend it-from what I’ve read people who do it say that they can’t believe it’s not up there in fame with the Inca Trail.