Iceland decisions: ice cave or glacier?
October 15, 2015 11:58 PM   Subscribe

My friends and I will be in Iceland for four days in late December. The plan is to start in Reykjavik on our first day and to end at the Blue Lagoon on the last day. Now we're trying to decide what to do with our free time.

The first option is to head north to Husafell for 1) a snowcat tour into an ice cave.

The other two options are to head east for a glacier walk, either at 2) Solheimajokull or 3) Svinafellsjokull.

If we opt for the glaciers, we'll probably spend the night nearby, which would also give us an opportunity to see Vik and the black sands beach.

I realize that there's probably no wrong choice here, but we're hoping that some Mefite has enough Iceland experience to point us one way or the other. Thanks in advance!
posted by roger ackroyd to Travel & Transportation around Iceland (13 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
for four days in late December.

Keep in mind that most of Iceland lies above 60 degrees north latitude. Around the winter solstice (Dec 21) you'll have maybe 4 hours of dismal, cloudy daylight out of 24. And the rest of the time it will be really dark outside of the cities so you won't have a lot of time every day to explore glaciers and places like that.
posted by three blind mice at 1:12 AM on October 16, 2015

Or you could think of it as like 6-8 hours of solid golden hour for photography... But I vote for staying outside, no caves. It's dark enough. Staying outside the city gives you better opportunities got seeing Northern Lights but maybe not much opportunity to do much else.
posted by mskyle at 4:25 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I did the "into a Glacier". Meh. I would never miss Vik to see that, honestly.

In Vik we love Grand Guesthouse Gardakot for lodging. The road to Vik is also awesome. Do you best to drive it daylight hours. You'll see Skogafoss - probably my favorite out of all the Iceland waterfalls.
The timing isn't bad. You can get up and have breakfast and be on your way by 11 am. The sun will be rising about 11:20 and you can maximize your daylight hours.
posted by ReluctantViking at 4:26 AM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I assume you're doing the The Golden Circle? This is the tourist day trip out of Reykjavik, taking in Thingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir - definitely worth doing, although it may be (relatively!) crowded.

I would vote to go out to Vik, on the way: There is a geothermal power station near Hveragerdi if that floats your boat, Seljalandsfoss - a very high thin watefall, Skogarfoss - a wider but quite high waterfall, and a cool museum of transport and technology.

At Vik, you'll see black sand beaches, basalt formations and puffins flying in the wild.

I did a glacier walk at Skaftafell. Jökulsárlón is a way after there but if you can get there, it's magical - icebergs floating in a lagoon.
posted by SpacemanRed at 5:09 AM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

Just piping in to say I hiked Solheimajokull this past June and it was awesome! The Westmann Islands close by were pretty cool too!
posted by El_Marto at 8:36 AM on October 16, 2015

I spent a few months working at the hostel in Vik. It's run by a lovely family and they are very helpful with tours and things to do nearby, even if you are not staying there.

I would recommend going east. You don't have enough time to go all the way to Isafjordur if you go north, which, i think is the big appeal of going north. I think there are more things to do on the east route that is all near the main road, and it's a much easier drive. You'll pass lots of waterfalls and hiking routes just on the way to Vik.

The best part about Iceland is that you don't really need to go to the main tourist spots to do/see something cool. Some of the best times I had was hiking random mountains while taking a walk.
posted by monologish at 9:12 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think I had almost the same itinerary as SpacemanRed, and I concur it was well worth doing. Recommend it! We did the glacier walk at Svinafellsjokull and it was pretty neat. Jokulsarlon was awesome. As was the Golden Circle.

oh, I'm envious - you have a fantastic trip ahead of you! Our trip was one of the very best weeks of my life.
posted by john_snow at 9:51 AM on October 16, 2015

A word of warning: the Blue Lagoon, while kind of neat, is also a bit like Disneyland. Really touristy and super expensive. If you're into hiking, I highly recommend the Hveragerdi Hot River. It's a stunning 3.5 kilometer hike up a mountain which ends at a gorgeous little stream winding through a valley which happens to be hot tub temperature. Also it is free.

If you are after more of a spa experience, I thought that Laugarvatn Fontana was fantastic. Quiet, reasonably inexpensive, and not crowded at the edge of a lake, fairly near to Geysir and Thingvellir.

Also DO NOT MISS the Einar Jónsson museum in Reykjavik!

I realize that I haven't even come close to answering your question, but I thought I'd throw my two cents in. Have fun!
posted by TheCoug at 6:46 PM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you go to Vík then you must go a little bit further, and visit the Jokulsárlon lagoon, with all the icebergs. And now, because of global warming, there is another lagoon nearby at Fjallsárlon, that has spectacular icebergs as well, but without the gift shop or the little amphibious vehicle that takes you floating on the lagoon. Just you, solitude, and the icebergs.
posted by seawallrunner at 9:01 PM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Just returned from my second trip to Iceland. Using recommendations from locals on our first trip, we planned our second trip. With only four days, my recommendation is this:

Skip the Golden Circle tourist trap in favor of miles of views along the south coast.

Drive east to Jokulsarlon Glacier lagoon. Photographs of icebergs on the black sand beach at dawn, then visit the lagoon itself. Stay in a nearby hotel, like Hali Country Hitel, which had a very good restaurant.

Next day, drive west toward Vik and visit Reynisfjara (black beach) and nearby Dyrholaey for stunning views. Skogafoss is on your way back to Reykjavik.

Spend a couple days in Reykjavik. Eat at Icelandic Fish and Chips and Baejaerins Betsu Pylsur (hot dog) stand. On one of your city days, drive out to Thingvellir National Park, only an hour away. Go snorkeling in 33F degree water there at the Silfra fissure. They provide dry suits. Take an underwater camera; look up images on Google to see what I mean.

The Blue Lagoon is Disneyworld in a hot tub. Bring an old towel you can throw away later to save $15 on the already very expensive admission.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 8:12 AM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I forgot to say that with my recommendations, you still get a glacier walk! The proprietor of Hali Country Hotel leads walking tours on Vatnajokull. We didn't do it, but I heard other guests raving about it.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 8:40 AM on October 17, 2015

Best answer: I cannot say enough positive things about the (geothermally heated) public pools in Reykjavik. Seriously, they are so pleasant, with warmer-than-usual swimming areas, hot tubs of 38c and/or 42c, and sometimes kiddie wading pools too. A guest pass was $5 (USD). We went five times in a week. If you even had an hour to spare in any city or sizable town, I would highly recommend stopping by the pool.
posted by zachxman at 5:06 PM on October 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Just wanted to check in, post-vacation, and thank everyone for their help. Due to road conditions, we did not end up doing the glacier walk or the ice cave, but still managed to get to Geysir and Þingvellir, both of which were otherworldly and incredible. (And zachxman, you are absolutely correct about the Reykjavik public pools.)

It was a great trip and I can't wait to return.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:50 AM on December 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older Uncertainty of Death (Perspective of a Friend)   |   Anything crucial that only Microsoft Excel does? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.