Reykjavik

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st13phil

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My wife and I tend to take a short break towards the end of the year and last weekend, together with another couple, we took a trip to Reykjavik.

All I can say is that it was a hoot and well worth going. We arrived on the evening of Saturday 13th and were shuttled from Keflavik airport to collect our rental car from SADcars. These guys claim to be the cheapest car rental in Iceland and only rent older cars (think Rent-a-Wreck) and although they get mixed reviews on TripAdvisor, I'd say that as long as you go into the deal with your eyes open, they're fine. We had a Gen 1 Yaris 1litre 5-door which had covered 342,000km when we picked it up! OK, it looked scruffy (the guy doing the handover started pointing out the dings and marks on it and then looked at us and said, "ok, you can see it's been around a bit. Just try not to add too many more digs or scrapes"), but everything worked and it hauled the four of us and our luggage around in reasonable comfort and - most importantly - warmth.

We took my Garmin Zumo satnav with us and I'd pre-loaded a number of POI's (hotel, key attractions, etc.) which proved invaluable. We stayed a little out of town at the Arctic Comfort Hotel which was nothing special, but was warm and comfortable. The town's "main" street, Laugavegur, was around 3km away costing around kr2,000 in a taxi which compared favourably with the kr350 x 4 bus fare, so a taxi it was!

Sunday's weather was reasonably bright but cold and windy (-4c with windchill down to -10c) and we wandered around the town, visiting the Cathedral:





View from the top of the spire:



And then down to the seafront:





(yes, it was as cold as it looks!)

...before going out on an organised tour to see the Northern Lights - which was ultimately unsuccessful, but quite entertaining.

Monday was brilliant weather so we decided to go out sightseeing in the Yaris :) So, off we went to Geysir, which entailed a 60 mile drive, mainly on compacted show and ice to see this:



...before moving on to Gullfoss (the Golden Falls):



Although not as deep as the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara, I reckon they were probably even more spectacular and the Icelandic authorities have done everything they can to keep them as natural and undisturbed by tourism as possible. We also saw this:



We left the falls just as the sun was going down in the hope that we may get to see the Northern Lights on the way back to civilisation, but once again they proved elusive :(

Tuesday the weather turned, with snow and hurricane force winds, so we spent most of the day holed up in various Reykjavik bars. There's a great smartphone app available called "Appy Hour" which lists all the Reykjavik bars and their Happy Hour times and prices and saves quite a bit :D

The bad weather extended into Wednesday which meant our flight out was delayed, but all in all it was a great trip and thoroughly recommended if you fancy something a little different.
 
Friends have just returned from a 4 day break to Iceland, they got a deal with flights from Heathrow and a decent hotel for £300 each.

They didn't hire a car but went on several trips to glaciers and see volcanos etc, they thoroughly enjoyed it, other friends have been and everyone, without exception has recommended it for the beautiful scenery and the warmth of the welcome they received.

We hope to go in early January.
 
We hope to go in early January.
You'll love it!

One tip is to visit Volcano House in Reykjavik early on in the trip as it will give you a good insight into the volcanic activities and geology of the island.

As far as restaurants go, there are many to chose from on Laugavegur. Rossopomodoro was a perfectly acceptable, if average, Italian / Pizzeria (circa £135 for 4 two-course meals with two bottles of the house red), MEZE was a good Turkish place (a little more expensive), Kitchen Eldhus was a very good Nepalese, and Svarta Kaffi did great soup served in a loaf for kr1,550 which is an excellent warming lunch.
 
You'll love it!

One tip is to visit Volcano House in Reykjavik early on in the trip as it will give you a good insight into the volcanic activities and geology of the island.

As far as restaurants go, there are many to chose from on Laugavegur. Rossopomodoro was a perfectly acceptable, if average, Italian / Pizzeria (circa £135 for 4 two-course meals with two bottles of the house red), MEZE was a good Turkish place (a little more expensive), Kitchen Eldhus was a very good Nepalese, and Svarta Kaffi did great soup served in a loaf for kr1,550 which is an excellent warming lunch.

Excellent!:thumb:

Many thanks for the recommendations, there is nothing quite like a real review from someone recently there.

Did you book a package or sort flights and hotel separately? Would you recommend the hotel you used?
 
We were there in Sept '99 and had a great time. IcelandAir were terrific and from Glasgow meant the flight was cheaper (for once) than from an English airport. The Blue Lagoon swimming is a must or failing that there are open air geo-thermal pools in Reykjavik which are good. It'll be almost permanently dark in January though.

https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/iceland/reykjavik?month=1&year=2015




.
 
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My step-daughter went back in September with her fiance, for his 30th birthday. They had a great time, I wouldn't mind a visit too..

Cheers,

Gaz
 
Did you book a package or sort flights and hotel separately? Would you recommend the hotel you used?
It was all booked by our friends, but I know that they booked a hotel / excursion deal (the Northern Lights trip) and then added easyJet flights as they suited our travel needs much better, and then booked the SADcars rental on top of that. It worked out around £325pp all in, with the accommodation booked on a room only basis.

The hotel was fine. It's a 3-star place a bit out of town and although there was nothing to commend the view from the rooms (it's in a shopping / light industrial area), the rooms were clean and a good size, the beds were comfy, and the heating worked great. There was free parking too. If you're looking for the sort of hotel that you'd spend all day in, then I'd not recommend it, but as a sensibly priced comfortable place to sleep it was good. Breakfast (typical buffet selection of cold meats, cheeses, fruit, waffles, toast, jam, etc.) was kr1,800 per person per day. We did that on Sunday morning as I'd already read that none of the small cafes around that area were open on a Sunday morning. For the rest of the days, as the rooms all have fridges and tea / coffee making facilities, we picked up bread rolls, cheese, meats, pastries, fruit juice and suchlike from the local supermarket (there's a Hagkaup hypermarket and also a Bonus supermarket close by) and had breakfast in the rooms.

While we were there, sunrise was at around 11:15 and sunset around 15:30, so if you want to go sightseeing out of town you may have to both set off and return in the dark. The Volcano House place I mentioned opens at 10:00am and shows a 53-minute film on the hour - so you can go and watch the first showing of the day without missing any daylight outside :D

There are an almost unlimited number of trips you can book, but remember that with the short days and weather that can curtail travel at short notice, you need to be prepared to change plans at the last minute and go with whatever works that day. Note also that places like Geysir and Gullfoss are free to visit, so if you're comfortable driving in what can be challenging conditions, then you can save a whole bundle of cash by renting a car and driving yourself. BTW, fuel was around kr212 / litre and the distances you're likely to travel aren't great so it doesn't cost much.

Regarding clothing, just make sure you have lots of layers and that the top one is waterproof. I wore Rohan trousers that are wind-proof with long-john's on underneath, then on top a light Rohan T-shirt, another shirt, a jumper, and finally a CragHopper jacket with a fleece liner and hood. You will need wind-proof gloves, and a hat that covers your ears and also has a peak (to be worn under the jacket hood!) is invaluable in bad weather. Finally, waterproof boots will ensure you stay toasty warm and dry.

A final note about driving there. Our sh1tbox Yaris came with normal winter snow tyres and it was fine in the conditions we drove in (which were by far and away worse than most things you'd experience in the Alps, for example), but after talking with one of the taxi drivers I'd be inclined to demand something with studded tyres if I was headed out in the boonies again. He explained that the issue if you don't have studded tyres is that the car doesn't have enough grip on ice in really strong crosswinds to avoid being blown off the road :eek:
 
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Thanks for the write up Phil . Was looking a Reykjavik on secret escapes for Wifey in the New Year .
 
I'd definitely recommend it, Ash.

Compliments of the season to you, P and the family :thumb:
 
Well we are of to Iceland next Tuesday until Friday!

Both very much looking forward to it.

Happy New Year to all :)
 
Went last year and had a great time. Can't add too much to what is a great write up other than there is an Icelandic tapas place which was great for different food; puffin, whale and foal on the menu! Puffin was horrible but whale and foal very nice even if slightly wrong. We got "upgraded" to a Ford Explorer which was terrible, it took poor economy to new levels but a great place to visit. check the distances before setting off, we went to see the ice floes where the Bond film was shot and only just made it in daylight.
 
Well last Tuesday we flew off to Rejkjavic (With WOW Air, an Icelandic version of Easyjet!)

After a pleasant flight of just over 2 hours 30 minutes we had our first sight of Iceland as the aeroplane flew over mountains covered in ice and snow and then along the coastline before touching down at Keflavik.

The airport is quite compact and with only hand baggage we were through Passport control etc and on to the waiting pre-booked coach in around 10 minutes. One tip; if you want to buy wine etc to drink whilst there then pick some up from the Duty free at the airport, you can buy Duty free on arrival.

Supermarkets and shops are not allowed to sell alcohol apart from low strength beer of no more than 2.25% so your only choice is to find one of the State run shops called Vínbúðin (Forsíða - Vínbúðin) and they have rather short opening times!

The journey to Reykjavic took around 50 minutes and we were dropped at the coach station just in front of the harbour, there you are shown to a fleet of mini-buses that take you on to your hotel, all very organised and efficient.

The first evening we walked in to the city to find a restaurant following st13Phil's excellent guide, when we set off it was cold but clear, after 10 minutes we had gale force winds and a blizzard so refuge was taken in a bar whilst the restaurant choice was finalised from the comfort of warm seats and a few pre-dinner drinks :)

We ended up in a small restaurant recommended by the waitress in the bar that we had taken refuge in and had very good, freshly made Ravioli stuffed with butternut squash, ricotta and smoked bacon, bread and a good salad and I a lamb casserole accompanied by a bottle of wine and coffee for around £80.

Our hotel( Welcome to Hotel Leifur Eiriksson ) was directly opposite the large church and was perfectly comfortable, clean and warm (after being shown initially to a room with two small single beds and suggesting this was not what I booked we were given a much bigger room with a sitting area and dressing room) and it's location proved ideal for getting around to the major shopping streets, restaurants and sights in Rejkjavik.

Day two was the Golden Circle tour, again a mini bus picked us up from the hotel and took us to the coach station and at 09:00 we set off .

Still very dark we quickly left Reykjavik and were on a mountain road covered in snow and ice as virtually all roads were. We drove past some of the Geothermal power stations and it was quite eerie seeing them shrouded in steam with the glow of their lights in the dark!

Our first stop was at a place that grew tomatoes and cucumbers using the Geothermal power to heat huge greenhouses, you could buy fresh tomato soup or a Bloody Mary and it seemed rather rude not to :)

Then off to the Stokkur Geysir at.... Geysir!

The landscape is beautiful with bubbling pools of hot water running into springs and the ground all around steaming contrasting with the snow and ice and the Geysir performed a number of times during our stop!

Our guide suggested that it is best not to test the water for temperature and assured us that it was around 90 degrees C, Icelandic Health and Safety is quite restrained, the odd sign and a small rope around a foot of the ground are all the warnings you get :)

Next we drove to the waterfall at Gullfoss, this really is spectacular and has amazing views over the plain and to the glacier above The glacier was closed that day to the snowmobiles due to bad weather and there was a 50km/h wind blowing which made the minus 10 degrees C feel somewhat colder. Fortunately the Café came to the rescue with hot chocolate and brandy/

We finished the day at the National Park at Thingvellir (Thingvellir National Park - English ) where you can see the two tectonic plates pulling the island apart, you can also dive in the huge lake there and the guide told us that the water clarity makes the diving amazing. Water temperature is a fairly constant 4 degrees C all year.

Whilst at the park I did come across a first, the lavatories had credit card machines on the turnstiles in case you did not have two hundred Icelandic Kroner to hand:)!

The landscapes we saw on this day out are truly wonderful and the sheer expanse of beautiful views just seems to go on and on, it is, for me, a "must do" when visiting Iceland.

On the Thursday it was a day in Reykjavik were we found more restaurants (including a sweet French Bistro where we had an excellent late lunch) and enjoyed walking around the city, the sea front and the harbour as well as the Volcano museum and enjoyed excellent coffee and cake in the attached restaurant.

On Thursday evening it was the Northern Lights tour but despite being out from 20:00 and returning to the hotel shortly after 01:00 no lights in the sky appeared.

This, I must say, was not a tour I enjoyed particularly as, in stark contrast to the Golden Circle was just not as well organised, our first stop about an hour out of Reykjavic was at a small Café, that would not have been a problem but within a short time there were 14 coaches all disgorging passengers which resulted in rather long queues for drinks or the lavatories and this continued on the next stop as we chased a gap in the clouds.

Friday was another morning spent walking around the town and we decided to have breakfast out in Café Paris an American style diner before waling back along the harbour and bay to return to the hotel for our pick-up back to the airport.

Again the routine checks and security at the airport were efficient and the food stores and duty free shops were spacious, pleasant and well organised . One thing to note: the airport do not make routine announcements regarding flights so you do need to check the screens for information.

Our flight back was a little late, due to delays earlier at Gatwick but despite leaving 50 minutes late the Jetstream got us back on time, our pilot even commented on the 200kt tailwind we picked up!

It was one of the best trips either can recall and certainly a place to return to as there is so much more to see and enjoy.

If anyone would like to see some of the photographs then I have uploaded them here :http://imgur.com/a/alIYE
 
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Really glad to hear you enjoyed it - there's nothing worse than extolling the virtues of a destination on a forum like this only to have someone else go a month later and pronounce it sh*te :D

I should have mentioned the Duty Free on arrival at Keflavik. We'd been given the tip before we went and it makes life much easier/cheaper :thumb:

Your experience on the Northern Lights tour sounds similar to ours in that we spent all night looking for the elusive aurora with no success :( I dealt with the café in a slightly different way though. My mate and I bagged one of the comfy sofas near the entrance, we both made sure we were fully muffled up and then spent best part of 2hrs asleep while everyone else (including our wives!) milled around :D
 

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