Visiting Iceland in October
May 22, 2012 8:44 AM   Subscribe

I've always wanted to see the Northern Lights, so my boyfriend and I booked a package through IcelandAir for the end of October*. We're spending two nights Reykjavik and two Akureyri. What might we need to know or want to do that a guide book might not mention? With what seems like so much to see in a short amount of time, what's not to be missed?

We know it will be cold, and that there will be around 8 hours of daylight. I don't drive and my boyfriend hates driving, so we won't be renting a car. We like nature, folk art, and eating.

The package includes a Northern Lights tour in Akureyri, but we weren't sure what else we should be looking at doing, given our timeframe:
Arriving in Reykjavik from DC in the morning and spending the first night in Reykjavik, flying to Akureyri the next morning and spending two nights there, then back to Reykjavik in the morning for the last night, then catching an evening flight back to DC.

I was surprised that whale watching and horseback riding tours run year round. In late October, is that just asking for misery?

We love hot springs and baths, and I know that they're all over. I've been to the Blue Lagoon before (best layover ever!), and know that it's touristy, but am thinking of heading there on our last day just to relax and decompress before getting on the plane again.

I'm looking at some of the tours to get inspiration, but we're fine taking a bus or other public transportation if it's available. Would there be limited availability during the off-season, or other compelling reasons to stick with a tour instead of trying to find our own way?

I'd be interested in the Museum of Small Things and the Icelandic Folk and Outsider Art Museum, but it looks as though they might be closed in the off-season. Also, we wouldn't have enough time in Reykjavik for what seems like a typical Golden Circle tour (most of them seem to last 8-10 hours), so what should our priorities be for a mini-tour?

My boyfriend is hesitant to take one of the Lake Myvatn tours from Akureyri due to the length (8-9 hours). Are they worth it in October, or would it be possible and more advisable to try to break it up over the two days that we're there and prioritize a couple of the stops (They seem to all stop at some combination of Waterfall Goðafoss, Skútustaðagígar, Dimmuborgir, Grjótagjá, Hverir, Mt. Námafjall, Mt. Krafla, Víti, and the Mývatn nature baths)?

*I know that we have plenty of time to plan, and I have some guide books on hold at the library, but I'm very excited!
posted by amarynth to Travel & Transportation around Iceland (7 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I was there about 8 years ago, and there was a dogsled tour to a lake in the main glacier where you could see the glacier calfling. That was about 50 km north of R. Don't know if it's still there. It was on the western approach.

Also don't eat the Forbidden Animals; they are not tasty after all.
posted by digitalprimate at 8:55 AM on May 22, 2012

Best answer: It might be cloudy all four days you are there. This happened to me when I went to Iceland. Fear not, though, there's plenty to see on the ground!

Most of the nature tours can't be done on public transport. The Golden Circle tour, for example. The offseason is a fabulous time to see the Golden Circle, it's not very crowded. They offer half-day tours that are a bit faster paced, maybe you have time for that?

Make sure to stop by Reykjavik's most famous hot dog stand. It's good stuff.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 8:55 AM on May 22, 2012

The Icelandic Phallological Museum moved to Reykjavik last year, and they're open all year long.
posted by punchtothehead at 8:58 AM on May 22, 2012

In the "it might be cloudy" vein, be sure to book one of your seats on the left side window seat of the plane on the way there, and a right side window on the way back. I've never seen the Northern Lights either, until I happened to glance out the window on my way to Sweden with a 2 day stopover in Iceland (Yay IcelandAir!) and saw them from the plane! Not AS awesome as seeing them on a clear night from the ground I'm sure, but it was still awesome nonetheless!
posted by Grither at 9:20 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was there last year at the same period ( left on the first day of Airwaves festival) and had glorious weather! We had a two-hour horseback riding sessions just outside of Reykjavik (10 min taxi ride) that was amazing. Also took a one day Golden Circle tour in a tiny group that i highly recommend. The rest of my trip was amazing too, but would definitely require a car so i'll skip that.
Looking back, i would have spent less time exploring Reykjavik itself and more time outdoors.
In the city ( and absolutely if you are there for the festival ) I recommend KEX hostel/bar highly, for either drinks, or an affordable place to stay, if accommodation's not in your package. We also had a nice dinner on the main street of Reykjavik, a tiny place on the first floor that serves exclusively soup in bread bowls.
Overall, more than the cold, i was surprised by the relentless WIND. Ear warmers are a must, or treat yourself to a beautiful hand knit icelandic hat :-)
posted by PardonMyFrench at 10:43 AM on May 22, 2012

forgot to add: Make time for the blue lagoon!!! very close to Keyflavik airport, and an incredible experience when it's snowing around you and you're soaking away in a warm white lake!

and for the golden circle: I loved the waterfalls and geyser the most if you have to make it short.
posted by PardonMyFrench at 10:46 AM on May 22, 2012

The National Museum is awesome. We did the Golden Circle (Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss and Geysir) with a friend (by car) and I definitely recommend it if you can make the time. Get all the skyr that you can eat. It also travels well if you bring some home in a suitcase.
posted by mingshan at 10:39 AM on May 23, 2012

« Older Distorted recordings of live music   |   Has a copy of John James Audubon's The Birds of... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.