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Travel to Iceland
September 13, 2004 9:35 AM   Subscribe

I'm having to take an emergency holiday to iceland. I've got some ideas for things to do but further recommendations would be warmly recieved.

Have decided to use up some holidays and save my sanity with a little trip booked very late in the day, after some websearching for ideas am likely to do some walking, cycling, possibly riding and likely whale watching. I've picked up a rough guide, but from experience are there some things that I really should be doing/seeing while I'm out there? I'll be around Reykjavik and I don't drive. I've got a week. I'll be able to log in to MeFi while I'm there so this can be almost interactive!
posted by biffa to Travel & Transportation around Iceland (8 answers total)
 
The Blue Lagoon is pretty sweet. I was only there for a weekend in January, so I don't have any other suggestions personally, but the Icelandair website has a bunch of stuff.
posted by mookieproof at 10:24 AM on September 13, 2004


Blue Lagoon is fun but touristy. Try to find your way to one of the public pools/spas, which are cheaper and a great way to meet locals. There's one in Laugardalur (outskirts of Reykjavik) with a series of hot tubs that get progressively hotter. You can reach it via bus.

(Note re: Blue Lagoon -- Don't be tempted to wear your glasses into the lagoon. I ruined a pair of lenses with silicon in the water... And, yes, I know it was stoopid.)
posted by sixpack at 11:02 AM on September 13, 2004


Ah, Iceland. Expensive and wonderful. In addition to its stark and beautiful surroundings, Reykjavik has a neat little assortment of clubs, pubs and coffee-bars. Well, here are a few suggestions:

Grái Kötturinn (The Gray Cat): a neat little breakfast nook (come early).
Hverfisgata 16a / Tel. 551 1544 - good, basic breakfast far enjoyed by locals.

If it's cool outside (and it probably will be), get a superb cup of hot chocolate at Kofi Tómasar Frænda on the main drag in town (Laugarvegur?).

A couple of days in the capital will probably be enough for you to sample some food, check out some museums and maybe have a walk up to the church at the top of the hill. I'd highly recommend getting out of the city for a bit - the tours are pretty good, as are the horseback rides.
posted by kahboom at 12:47 PM on September 13, 2004 [1 favorite]


I don't know when you'll be there, but the Iceland Airwaves music festival was great when I was there.
posted by thebigpoop at 12:56 PM on September 13, 2004


Mount Esjais a decent day hike, now that I think of it. It's pretty steep, and has a nice flat plateau with great views. Give yourself plenty of time, though. I took a cab there early in the morning just by pointing at the mountain. The driver only spoke Icelandic (a rare exception) :)

This Place, called Gullfoss, can also be reached by one of the many tours available.

There's a small, but very useful, tourist information place downtown if you'd like help choosing tours and such.

Another possibly helpful link with other possibly helpful links in it.
posted by kahboom at 1:02 PM on September 13, 2004


Trout and salmon fishing in Iceland.... hmmmmm. Salmon licenses are pricey, but it is the best in the world. Trout fishing is relatively cheap. It's a great way to get invited out by the locals.
posted by zaelic at 3:09 PM on September 13, 2004


I spent a week in Iceland this June and attempted to stay to a budget (staying in hostels and buying food in supermarkets) and still ended up spending over £1000. Iceland is a very expensive country as everything is imported except for fish and seabirds. Fruit and veg sections in grocery stores are laughable.

Your activities are kinda limited due to the time of year as the nights are closing in and the weather can change at the drop of a hat. Glacier and volcano 4x4 tours are probably out due to the inland roads being closed since end of July. And the infamous 101 Reykjavik nightlife may not be so crazy and not go on into the morning anymore. Trekking will still be available, as will most of the museums.

The best things about Iceland are the people and the National Bus Service (BSI).

The locals can appear rather blunt and frosty to begin with but after a ten minutes or so they relax. An example being if you ask in a remote shop for the number of a local cab company, after walking for an exhaustive three hours to get there, they will offer you a lift back to your town on their next break.

The bus service is excellent (www.dice.is) and offer a discount on routes around the main road that circles the island, aswell as stop on and off routes around the country (headset audio tours available too). You can also combine getting from one end of the country to the other with a guided tour - two one way tickets on different days (www.re.is), to break up a long journey.
One trip everyone tends to do is The Golden Circle - encompasses all sites around Reykjavik, Gulfoss, Thingvillir, etc.
All of the bus companies only stop at the best sites for as little as ten minutes but spend half an hour at a terrible tourist trap like a garden centre/snack bar. You're better off going on guided tour with a hired car and driver with a few other people and take in somewhere like the Geyser (you definately need more than ten minutes there).

BSI do a good entrance discount to the Blue Lagoon on the trip back to Keflavik airport, otherwise you waste half a day getting there and back.

As for whale watching, there are some companies that operate out of Reykjavik. But if you want to see something other than dolphins at 200m you'd be better of heading to the whale watching capital of Husavik in the north via the friendly, if quiet town of Akureyri. The best company IMHO is www.northsailing.is. The famous Penis Museum is now in Husavik too.

Other tips are:

Copy the locals and do most of your drinking before you get to the pubs and bars, and when in them, stick to the local Viking beer. Don't start drinking like you do at home as you will spend an absolute fortune and steer clear of spirits or alcopops. If you smoke, in most places you have to ask for them at the checkout as they are not on display.

When I was there, the bars and clubs were completely deserted until after midnight when everyone arrives already drunk.
Bars: Kaffibarinn, Sirkus, Celtic Cross
Clubs: Kapital, Pravda

Best places to eat, pubs and clubs are along Austustraeti and Hafnastraeti (101 Reykjavik).
Places to eat include Kaffi List, Indokina and the excellent Vegamot. Many places stop serving at 10pm and turn into clubs.
Try the national dish - Icelandic Hotdogs (Pylsur)

Local Tourist Info Office is excellent (just as you start to go up the hill on Austustraeti, after public loos, turn right into outside area of a restaurant)

Look out for the pair of wanking pandas!

Any specific questions after this ridiculously long post, email me.
posted by desert_roamer at 11:30 PM on September 13, 2004 [2 favorites]


Thanks very much all, I´m now here in downtown reykjavik. Tried a few bars and found some comparative bargains on beer prices. You´re right that options are more limted at this time of year, wind has meant all the whale watching trips have been cancelled and lack of demand is putting paid to some of the horse trekking, may go for a swim this afternoon if whales are off again. Apparently they do still go out on the lash in force in the evenings and I think I´ll take up some of your boozing recommendations for tonight.
posted by biffa at 5:29 AM on September 17, 2004


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