Visiting Iceland - where to go?
February 17, 2011 6:35 PM   Subscribe

Visiting Iceland - where to go?

I'm thinking of going to Iceland with my girlfriend sometime in the Spring or Fall. However, we really don't want to make plans or really research it before hand. So I'm hoping someone out there can help with here to visit in Iceland that includes both the arts, and food all within walking distance. If possible, we would also like to head outdoors and experience.

We were looking at Reykjavik but was hoping someone else out there had some must see things, or other general advice on things to do or see?

Also, if anyone knows, since it has played a factor in certain areas when we were researching - are interracial couples looked down upon in Iceland? She's korean and I'm pasty white, and certain countries we were told that it was frowned upon and in certain areas actually dangerous (Russia).
posted by lpcxa0 to Travel & Transportation around Iceland (18 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Go to Tapas Barinn. I had the Icelandic Gourmet Feast (Number 7 here) and substituted kangaroo for the trout. It was fabulous.

Also, do a Golden Circle Tour. I found the puffin-viewing tour kind of dumb, it's too far away to see anything.

Seriously, though, have dinner at this place. You will remember the awesomosity forever.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:47 PM on February 17, 2011

My sweetheart and I had a great time a couple Marches ago. We only had time for four or five days there. The Lonely Planet was helpful. Reykjavik was a very walkable, explorable city, with plenty of coffeeshops and things to look at. Go to the top of Hallgrimskirkja and look at the city from up there. About a block away, there's an awesome public bath, with hot tubs on the rooftop. We went there every day (protocol: pay money, get a towel and a locker, shower nude, then put your trunks on and bathe).

We also drove up to Stykkisholmur, about two hours' drive North of Reykjavic; spent the whole day driving, hiking, bathing, walking, exploring, etc. That was absolutely beautiful. There's not much up there, but plenty of fodder for adventure. Especially if you like the outdoors. We took a hike through an elf-infested lava field near Budir and that was the most beautiful place I've ever been.

We went to Þingvellir, also not far from Reykjavic; intended to go to Geysir and Gulfloss - they're all natural/geologic tourist attractions, with lots of walking and beautiful things to see - but at that time of year, we couldn't get to Geysir and Gulfloss, so wound up detouring to Raufarholsholir instead, which was a long underground cave in the middle of a lava field that we explored.

Had we more time, it would have been awesome to do more hiking, and to spend some nights in smaller towns outside of Reykjavic. A friend went to Akureyri and had a good time, especially at t Icelandic Phallology Museum.

We spent hours at the Blue Lagoon the morning we flew out. Total tourist trap. Totally worth it.

I don't think Iceland has much racial antagonism.

Feel free to message me for any more info or questions or anything.
posted by entropone at 6:47 PM on February 17, 2011

I have no idea if they run tours and I've never been to Iceland but I'd try to visit an aluminum smelter.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 7:11 PM on February 17, 2011

If you can get there, Gullfoss is really amazing. Might need to hire a driver, depending on the weather, though.

Seconding the Blue Lagoon, though entropone is right-- it is a total tourist trap. We went at night and caught our only glimpses of the Aurora Borealis (in December).

I found Reykjavik to be a blast, plenty of places to wander, and the buses are pretty easy to use.

Avoid the tiny horses at all costs.
posted by activitystory at 7:14 PM on February 17, 2011

If only I had a penguin... is right: go to Tapas. Their langoustines were the best we had. Also go to Icelandic Fish and Chips and have the rosemary chips. You won't find their equal anywhere. And make sure to visit the Einar Jonsson museum - it's small, but excellent. And make sure to hang out at a local pool/hot pot. Just because you can.

Consider staying at Apartment K (info). They're scattered around the city, some in excellent locations, and Kathy is really nice.

If you go in the fall, try to visit before September 1 - a lot of things shut down then, and it's much harder to get around outside the city.
posted by dilettanti at 9:25 PM on February 17, 2011

Rent a car for a day and travel to Vík. The black beaches south of the village are fantastic. The drive down there is an experience in itself, so make sure have plenty of time to stop and explore places you find nice.

Interracial couples are by no means looked down upon in Iceland.
posted by Jonnings at 11:00 PM on February 17, 2011

I took a really enjoyable (and incredibly long - 14+ hours) day tour of the Snaefellsnes peninsula with a company called GoEcco and it was great. This was this past December. The tour leaves from Reykjavik and we visited this remote thermal pool in the middle of nowhere, did some walking, had a nice dinner, and saw amazing Northern Lights on the way back. Only drawback was spending ALL DAY in a minivan with strangers (charming strangers, to be sure, but 14 hours, omg), but they do also do private tours (a little more expensive).

Do see the Golden Circle sights, either in a rental car or on a tour. Just about all of the tour companies also take you to a geothermal power plant on the GC tour, which is kind of cool, actually.

There are a lot of museums in Reykjavik and you can get a pass that covers a lot of them at the main tourist office. It's a good deal if you want to visit the museums, and I think it comes with a map and everything.

I enjoyed shopping in Reykjavik, too, though I didn't buy much. There are lots of cool little shops, and for an American even the chain stores are new and interesting. Lots of great design shops and galleries, and some cool antique shops as well. I liked Fríða Frænka, which is close to the tourist office and Icelandic Fish and Chips.

I'm white and went on my own, so I don't really know what it would be like to be an interracial couple in Iceland but I would be really surprised if you encountered anything worse than flaky curiosity - definitely not antagonism.
posted by mskyle at 6:05 AM on February 18, 2011

Oops - a correction. We did go to Stykkisholmur, but that's on the peninsula of Snaefellsnes, which is where we did that hike near Budir, and where there's a glacier called Snaefellsjokull - that's where the journey to the center of the earth started. All of Snaefellsnes is ridiculously beautiful.
posted by entropone at 6:07 AM on February 18, 2011

I just went with girlfriend and my folks in October 2010. Awesome trip and totally worth it. I'd recommend hiring a car and driving around though rather than staying in Reykjavik.

Reykjavik is really nice / cool cafes and bars and food - I recommend trying the Hakarl - its not that bad and if you are a bit foodie you will regret not doing it.

But there isn't that much to do in Reykjavik itself.

I think the main reason one should go to Iceland is the pure alienness of the landscape and crazy environment and the only way to do this is to drive around and stop at loads of random things.

We did the Golden Circle then kinda veered off to the south east. Made it as far as Jokularson (the glacial Lake) then drove back. the south coast is awe- inspiring just the drive along the immense gravel / mud flats beside the Glaciers will haunt me forever.
posted by mary8nne at 6:56 AM on February 18, 2011

Yes, absolutely the Golden Circle tour and Blue Lagoon.
Eat at the Noodle Station! - Thai noodles, the cheapest hottest most delicious eats in town.
Don't miss the big Kolaportid Flea Market down a few blocks east of the harbour - coolest stuff ever. Spend the morning looking at all the weird stuff then buy yourself one really gorgeous handmade sweater.
Take a whale watching boat partly yes to look for whales but even more to be out on the North Atlantic - amazing - the island seen from the sea - the sky - the cold air -etc.
It was barely 50F in August (love it) so consider the time of year you are going. One of the neatest places I've ever been! Wonderful vibe.
posted by henry scobie at 6:57 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

argh - How can you go all the way to Iceland and Eat Thai noodles!! no!
Eat some Horse, Sea Bird, Puffin or something regional - the Lamb Soup even that they serve everywhere!

Actually my favourite meal was at Icelandisch Barrin - which is a bit 'touristy' but they do serve Hakarl with Brennivin.
posted by mary8nne at 7:14 AM on February 18, 2011

My wife and i did 24 hours in Reykjavik recently, and had an awesome time. One of the more interesting things we did was the Settlement Museum. You can see it in an hour, most of it is a room built around an excavated Viking long house. Hallgrimskirkja was also really neat, as noted above.
We had to move on, sadly, to our next destination, so I can't speak much to the rest of Iceland, but the even the view out the window on the way to and from the airport gave me a lot more context for Sigur Ros. I can't say enough good stuff about Flybus for getting to and from the airport.
Anyway, 24 hours was a little quick, but I'd say that another day or two and we'd have been ready to get out of the city. It's pretty small.
I'm jealous! Have a great time!
posted by qnarf at 7:49 AM on February 18, 2011

entropone: "A friend went to Akureyri and had a good time, especially at t Icelandic Phallology Museum. "

The Icelandic Phallogy Museum is in Husavik, about an hour from Akureyri (there is a bus, really a van, that goes several times a day).

While I loved Akureyri and the museums in Husavik, it sounds like you might be happier in Reykjavik. It is very walkable, if you are used to walking at all. Be aware that crossing some streets can be very dangerous and that the pedestrian lights seemed to be timed on joggers.
posted by QIbHom at 9:49 AM on February 18, 2011

Seconding Icelandic Fish & Chips, going to Vik, and going to Stykkisholmur (where you can see the art exhibit Library of Water). Also, if you are a music fan, plan to spend a couple hundred bucks and a few hours in the record shops 12 Tonar and Bad Taste. We stayed at Apartment K and it was awesome.

You should know that there are (at least when I was there) no laundromats in Iceland. You will have to take your laundry in to a shop to have it done, and they are usually not open on weekends.
posted by matildaben at 10:03 AM on February 18, 2011

I stayed once at Fosshotel Baron. It was pretty much a bare bones motel. Next time, for the same price, my girlfriend and I stayed at Apartment K and it was leaps and bounds better. Amazing location, swank rooms, and an extremely friendly owner! I can't recommend Apartment K enough.

Nthing Icelandic Fish & Chips and stop by the Flea Market by there. It's called Kolaportið.

The first time I went, I took tours everywhere. It was ok, but I enjoyed having a car much more the second time I went. Rent a car from SADcars. They rent out older cars, but for a much more reasonable rate than any other agency. It's pretty hard to get REALLY lost since there are only a handful of roads.

For day trips, the Golden Circle is nice and totally worth it, but everywhere is pretty crowded. You're definitely a lot better off getting a car and doing it yourself than being crammed in with a bunch of people in a tour bus.

Drive to Vik. The drive to Vik is unbelievably beautiful and the black sand beaches around Vik are awesome.

Also take a day to drive up to and around Snaefellsness. The area around Budir is so beautiful and the fish soup at href=""> the tiny restaurant on the water in Hellnar was one of the best soups I've ever had.

The Blue Lagoon is a tourist trap but it is also the most amazing tourist trap in the world.

It doesn't really matter what you do in Iceland. Pretty much everything is "amazing," "beautiful," and "unbelievable" no matter what you do.

Just make sure you stop and pet the ponies on the side of the road.
posted by havemercy at 1:21 PM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

As everyone has said, the Blue Lagoon is trappy but excellent. The way I did it, which I definitely recommend, is to book the combined Blue Lagoon/airport shuttle. They pick you up at your hotel in the morning, you go sit in a geothermal spa for hours (while they hold onto your luggage), then you get picked up and driven to the airport at one of the preset times they offer.

After hours in a hot tub, you will sleep better on the plane than you ever have in your life.
posted by sah at 7:06 PM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I went about 5 years ago and had a great time. Stayed 3 days which seemed about right to me. We found an awesome cab driver that gave us a tour in and around Reykjavik with a lot of local history/culture. Went to the blue lagoon which was amazing and very relaxing. We took a "ghost" tour" all about the elves and hidden people on the island that are a part of icelandic folklore. We also did a 3 hour bus tour and got to see a lot of beautiful landscapes (I got to stand on the continental divide between Europe and North America - COOL!!) Just wander around Reykjavik and you'll find plenty of museums, shops and cafes to occupy yourself. If you're up for it you could check out the Icelandic Phallological Museum (aka the penis museum).
posted by smokingmonkey at 9:13 PM on February 18, 2011

Also, I don't think interracial couples are looked down upon at all. The culture seemed very liberal, open and accepting while I was there. While I don't remember seeing many non-white people, I can't imagine you'd run into any trouble. It's like any other western european country in that respect. I've been to Russia and they're not even remotely comparable.
posted by smokingmonkey at 9:19 PM on February 18, 2011

« Older Mens no show socks in earth tone colors   |   Is splitting HDMI out into HDMI video + RCA audio... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.