Aeroflot777 From Russia, joined Mar 2004, 2974 posts, RR: 29 Posted (1 year 3 months 2 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 6517 times:
I recently booked a 5-night trip to Iceland and naturally wanted to turn to fellow travelers and members for some guidance and recommendations to see if there is anything that shouldn't be missed.
I did some digging around before making the booking to see whether a trip to Iceland in the winter was a good idea. To my surprise, I read that many people actually prefer visiting in the winter over the summer months. Any experiences? We arrive in Reykjavik on November 13th and leave on the 18th. Is it smart to make Reykjavik home base for all six days and just take day trips, or should other cities be looked at for over-nights?
Any insight on what to see, where to go and what to eat while there? We're is really into natural hot springs and such, so if anyone knows any non-touristy places that are good, I'd love to jot things down.
GST From United Kingdom, joined Jun 2008, 930 posts, RR: 0 Reply 2, posted (1 year 3 months 2 weeks 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 6464 times:
If you drive out along the south coast there are many of the famous waterfalls etc, many hot springs etc. Akureyri on the north coast is a very nice place, probably a bit far to drive in a 5 day trip but you can fly there from Reykjavik. Also the Westman islands off the south coast are well worth a day (at least), you can fly there from Bakki or Reykjavik.
Iceland is awesome, I went in summer but badly want to return in winter too.
jblua320 From United States of America, joined May 2002, 3170 posts, RR: 20 Reply 3, posted (1 year 3 months 2 weeks 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 6404 times:
Iceland is a great place! If the weather is clear, you'll probably have a great shot of seeing some very lovely Northern Lights displays.
I'd strongly recommend booking a guest house with a kitchen. Food in Iceland is very expensive. Buffet lunches are a little cheaper and many people eat a continental breakfast, a buffet lunch out and then cook dinner or just have a lighter snack in the evening. The main grocery store is Bonus and it's logo is a smiling pig (seriously lol). When my friend and I went, we stayed at The House of Spirits Guesthouse. It came recommended on Trip Advisor and I cannot speak highly enough of it. Check it out here: http://houseofspirits101.com/
Definitely rent a car and stay away from organized tours. We did the Golden Circle landmarks entirely on our own without a tour and could move at our own pace. We traveled in March which is a shoulder season and had many of the famous places all to ourselves. Gulfoss, Thingveller and Strokkur are all worth seeing and a trip to the Blue Lagoon, while touristy, is a relaxing and otherworldly experience.
Driving in Iceland isn't too much of an undertaking, except for the changing and sometimes challenging weather conditions. The weather changes all the time- from sun to snow to rain to hail to sleet all back to sun in an hour. Be careful when driving in those conditions... but the road systems are well laid out. It's a 45 minute drive from KEF to the city.
I'd recommend driving to the Westfjords if you have the time. It's just amazing - beautiful scenery.
If you're in Reykjavik for the weekend, be sure to take part in the bar scene, called the Runtur. Icelandic people know how to drink on the weekends - follow the crowd, you can't miss it!
One last word about the people... sometimes, they can come across cold, but that is just the culture. They warm up to you when you are personable and friendly, and definitely appreciate an interest in learning their language or hearing about the culture and history of Iceland.
Have a fab time - Iceland is one of my favorite places!!
Aeroflot777 From Russia, joined Mar 2004, 2974 posts, RR: 29 Reply 4, posted (1 year 3 months 2 weeks 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 6363 times:
Quoting 3DoorsDown (Reply 1): I can't imagine Iceland in November. But if you dress warm I bet it will be a lot of fun.
From what I've read, Iceland is actually warmer in the winter than the U.S. Northeast can be. It doesn't often dip below 0C in the winter (on average). After spending some great, cold winters in both Moscow and Salt Lake City, I hope Iceland will be a piece of cake.
Quoting GST (Reply 2):
If you drive out along the south coast there are many of the famous waterfalls etc, many hot springs etc.
Thanks for the tip! Do you think driving in the wintertime is a smart idea, how long are the drives between the different sight-seeing points? Also, any rental car pointers?
Thanks for the detailed post! Fingers are crossed for clear skies as the Northern Lights is what I look forward to most!
Guesthouse looks great, I've shot them over an email with our dates to see if it's available. The option to buy food and cook ourselves is a great bonus. Any good restaurants in the area that you liked?
Having been on those roads, do you think they are doable in November on our own? Did you have all nights booked in Reykjavik and just drive around during the day, or did you stay elsewhere for some nights? We're planning to be in town for Friday-Sunday, so we'll be hitting up the nightlife scenes too.
prebennorholm From Denmark, joined Mar 2000, 6131 posts, RR: 55 Reply 6, posted (1 year 3 months 2 weeks 21 hours ago) and read 6264 times:
Quoting Aeroflot777 (Reply 4): From what I've read, Iceland is actually warmer in the winter than the U.S. Northeast can be. It doesn't often dip below 0C in the winter (on average).
Reykjavik in November: Average daytime maximum +3C, average nighttime minimum -1C. It can be somewhat warmer or colder than that.
But please don't be surprised by windy and wet weather. And of course the short days - we are close to the Arctic Circle. I have been in northern Finland in January, and judged carm and dry -30C to -35C comfortable compared to some Icelandic weather. But as the locals say: "Dissatisfied with the weather, wait an hour or two".
Average number of sunshine hours in November is 39. You may experience way more than one hour sunshine per day, and in five days you may not see the sun at all.
Quoting Aeroflot777 (Reply 4): Do you think driving in the wintertime is a smart idea, how long are the drives between the different sight-seeing points? Also, any rental car pointers?
In November I wouldn't go on a long distance drive (to the north coast or such) and risk to get stuck in snow. But one day trips out of Reykjavik with updated local weather data, no problem. Most major international car rental companies are in Reykjavik.
For a first-timer in Iceland the Golden Circle (Geysir, Gullfoss and Thingvellir) is a must. It's an easy one day roundtrip, but here the few daylight hours in November comes into play. (I am mostly there in June/July when there is 24 hours daylight). Be prepared that unlike July/August you will be pretty lonesome at those places. And if slippery conditions, be VERY careful where you walk at Gullfoss, it is easy to stumble and die.
There are some very pricey restaurants in downtown Reykjavik. But it doesn't need to be expensive, especially if you go a few km out of town center. I have over the last 10-15 years got used to an excellent restaurant named Lauga-as, http://www.laugaas.is , tel. (+354) 553 1620. Address is on street Laugarasvegur, and placed at the intersection with street Sundlaugarvegur. You won't find many tourists there, but for evening dinner - at least during weekends - advance booking is recommended since it is a very popular place with the locals. They specialize in some very exotic fish dishes, but they serve just about anything. You can easily have a good three course dinner at $50 or less.
Out of town, most villages have a service station with a cafeteria which will prevent starvation.
Have a pleasant trip to Iceland! Sure you will, since you don't expect to find Hawaii up there.
Always keep your number of landings equal to your number of take-offs, Preben Norholm
prebennorholm From Denmark, joined Mar 2000, 6131 posts, RR: 55 Reply 8, posted (1 year 3 months 1 week 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 6103 times:
Quoting bjorn14 (Reply 7): ...prepare for sticker shock on gas prices.
That's a myth. Gas is ~ ISK 275/ltr. That's roughly equal to most European countries like Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden etc, and somewhat cheaper than the expensive countries like Britain and Norway.
Quoting bjorn14 (Reply 7): ...be aware that roads on a map may look like major roads but are little more than dirt tracks.
That's another myth. Iceland has an excellent road infrastructure - much better than a couple of decades ago. Of course it has dirt tracks like any other country. At arrival at KEF or at a book store you buy a decent road map. It clearly tells the quality of the roads. Last time I was there, May this year, (roughly 40th time since 1977) the "biggest" problem was temporary diversions due to main road #1 being widened from two to four lanes. A few years ago there was the same "problem" on the the road from the airport to Reykjavik, but it has now been finished into four lanes with the smoothest asphalt on planet Earth and roadside lighting all way (the latter is hardly seen anywhere else in Europe).
The unpopulated interior of the country has some interesting dirt tracks. They are only for fun for the locals. For a few days trip, without special preparations, without an AWD car and all off road equipment, those places are totally off limit. Especially in November. And there is no reason to experiment with bad roads because you find just as interesting places on good roads.
And BTW, the locals are sick and tired of having to put up rescue missions for stupid tourists who think they can go in winter with a rented VW Golf where the locals go for the fun of it, in groups only, in summer only, with their monster off-roaders.
Always keep your number of landings equal to your number of take-offs, Preben Norholm
DeltaMD90 From United States of America, joined Apr 2008, 6576 posts, RR: 51 Reply 9, posted (1 year 3 months 1 week 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 6102 times:
I LOVED Iceland. As others have pointed out, the temperature is only around freezing in the winter time, though you won't have too much daylight. I don't remember the names of places, but driving just a few dozen kilometers was like a completely different country--the scenery is varied but all very nice! I describe it like a several national parks wrapped up on a friendly island. Great place!
n229nw From United States of America, joined Sep 2004, 1884 posts, RR: 34 Reply 10, posted (1 year 3 months 1 week 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 6042 times:
The blue lagoon is touristy, but really cool, just somehow so relaxing and beautiful...when I was there in November the steam coming off the water was so thick (because the water is warm and the air cold) that you couldn't see people who were standing a few feet away.