Planning a Quick Getaway to Iceland

Getting There

Iceland is an island, so you can rule out using a bus or a train to get there. WOW Air is a low cost long-haul airline based in Iceland. They fly from different cities in Europe, USA, Canada and Israel. I flew with Norwegian Air which is another low cost long-haul airline. Luckily, I had collected a lot of cash points last year which I traded in so ended up paying 16 euros for a return flight from Oslo to Reykjavik.

Many of the major cruise lines also have cruise ships which make a stop in Iceland. Obviously, this would just be a part of the itinerary and you would be cruising to other places as well. A great place to source great cruise deals is Seascanner.com.

Snow-capped mountains in the distance

Choosing your Accommodation

Depending on your preference, you can book a bed in a dormitory for 20-40 euros or a 5 star hotel with all the luxuries imaginable – at an astronomical price to match.  When booking a hotel, I like to look at the location.  Anything near the train/bus station and city centre is usually my top choice.  After my last experience booking a bed in a dormitory, I have decided that I am too old for that.  I like my privacy and a bathroom close by.  However, a dormitory experience when you want to meet young like-minded people is good, if that is a goal of your trip.

In Reykjavik, the city centre is small enough for you to be able to walk most places.  In addition, there are heaps of bars and restaurants in the area.  I chose the Metropolitan Hotel which was 150 euros a night.  It was conveniently located in a quiet street 2 minutes walk from Ingolfstorg Square, which is where many of the restaurants and bars are.  The Metropolitan Hotel is also 200m from the Old Harbor where you can take a Whale Watching Tour, and 400m from the City Hall where you’ll find Bus Stop 1, one of the main pick-up locations for all the various tours on offer.  On two occasions, I walked from Bus Stop 1 back to the hotel by myself at 1am after a Northern Lights Tour, and I never felt unsafe.

My room in the hotel was quite basic with 2 twin beds and an ensuite bathroom.  The wifi was really good.  You could pay for a continental breakfast if you wished, but I chose to rather eat at a nearby Cafe.  This was a no-frills hotel but warm and comfortable, which was all I needed.

Downtown Reykjavik

Foraging for Food and Drink

To my surprise, Reykjavik proved to be a foodie heaven.  Every restaurant, pub, cafe I went to offered exceptional quality.  The prices were not the cheapest, but the quality and service was great.  On the Tuesday of my 4 day trip, violent storms caused all tours to be canceled.  This resulted in me spending the day bar and restaurant hopping.  Here were some of my favorite places:

Cafe Haiti – in the Old Harbor.  Great breakfast options, very reasonably priced and arguably the best coffee in Reykjavik.

Geysir Bistro – near Ingolfstorg Square.  The chocolate brownie and salted caramel icecream was heaven on a plate!

Grillhusid – opposite the Art Museum in the next street after Ingolfstorg Square on the ocean side.  Food excellent, large variety for all kinds of eaters, exceptional service and very reasonable prices.

Lava Restaurant – at the Blue lagoon. High class, great food, but high prices.  The Icelandic Lamb was to die for.

The Dubliner – great Irish pub near Ingolfstorg Square.  Good atmosphere, beer and cider on tap, excellent Irish coffees on a cold day.

Saeta Svinid Gastropub – right on Ingolfstorg Square, this was one of my favorite places and I ended up going there more than once.  If you want a taster platter of Icelandic delicacies, then this is the place to go.  Arctic char, puffin, whale and horse.  This is where you can leave your comfort zone and try something new.  The seafood soup was also amazing.  However, their hamburgers are what they are most famous for but I didn’t try one.

There are of course many other great restaurants and pubs, but the ones above are the ones I tried and can recommend.

Fish and Chips at the Geysir Bistro
Chocolate brownie with salted caramel icecream
Icelandic Platter

Booking Tours

As a tourist destination, Iceland has many different tour operators.  The one I used was Reykjavik Excursions. They are extremely reliable and reasonably priced. They have so many different tour options, click on the link above to find the prices.

Reykjavik Excursions Bus

Northern Lights Tour – If you go on a Northern Lights Tour and don’t see the Northern Lights, you are able to rebook without any extra charge, any time within the next two years.  I went the Sunday night and even though the sky was clear and the stars were out, the Northern Lights did not come out to play.  I was able to rebook for the Wednesday night and Reykjavik Excursions drove to a remote area where there was an opening in the clouds, and we were all able to witness an awesome display of the Northern Lights.

Northern Lights

Blue Lagoon Comfort Package – This tour includes transport to and from the Blue Lagoon, as well as entry to the lagoon, a towel and a free mask.  If you want to hire a gown and slippers, that will cost you extra.  It is worth hiring a gown, especially in winter, as you are hit by an icy cold wind as you run from the building to the relaxing hot waters of the lagoon.

Blue Lagoon

Golden Circle and Snowmobile Tour – My tour was originally scheduled for the Tuesday, but due to violent storms and generally bad weather, it was canceled.  Reykjavik Excursions emailed me the day before the tour and gave me an option to rebook at no extra cost or get a full refund.  I was able to rebook it for the Wednesday.  The Golden Circle gives you the opportunity to see fantastic scenery and take amazing photographs.  The first stop is the Pingvellir National Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  This is where the Eurasian tectonic plate meets the American tectonic plate, resulting in huge cracks in the earth’s surface.  The next stop is the geothermal area known as Geysir with numerous spouting hot springs and geysers. The last stop of the Golden Circle is the stunning Gullfoss Waterfall.  It is here that you transfer to a monster bus to take you to the Langjokull Glacier, where you gear up to ride a snowmobile on the glacier.  This trip is definitely worthwhile!

Pingvellir National Park
Geyser at Geysir
Spectacular Gullfoss Waterfall
Snowmobiling on the Langjokull Glacier

Iceland: Yes or No

While there are much cheaper places to visit on the planet, Iceland is quite unique with its stark landscapes, stunning waterfalls, great restaurants, friendly people, making it worth the money you spend there.  For me Iceland had three bucket list items – Blue Lagoon, Northern Lights and snowmobile down a glacier.  On a 4 day trip, I managed to achieve all three.  So do I think Iceland is worth it?  Yes, definitely!  Two GIANT thumbs up from me.

Icelandic Elf

You can find out more about my Iceland trip by watching my video on Youtube.

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