Iceland Trip in March 2017
In mid-March, I traveled to Iceland with my friend Rissah. We left the US on a Sunday evening and arrived in Reykjavik bright and early Monday morning. We stayed through Thursday morning, flying back Thursday afternoon. We used Airbnb for our lodging, and it worked out great! We stayed on Baronsstigur (forgive the missing accents, please) and were a block from the main shopping street, Laugavegur. We did not rent a car (to save money) and did just fine. We spent time walking around the city, and on Wednesday we did an all day excursion.
Our itinerary (as best I can remember!):
Monday - arrived and got into our apartment. Took a much needed nap (I didn't sleep as much as I had hoped on the plane). We then took a walking tour through downtown Reykjavik. I highly recommend it! We used City Walk. After we finished the walking tour, we grabbed some lunch and window-shopped.
Tuesday - coffee at Te & Kaffi on Laugavegur. We checked out the police station before walking down to the water. We took the walking path to Harpa, the concert hall. There we saw a short 360 degree film on Iceland's landscape. It was very impressive! After that, we checked out the docks and had a late lunch at Cafe Haiti, which I highly recommend! I investigated some yarn shops, and we met up for pizza for dinner. That evening we went to the swimming pool/hot tub (what they call "hot pots"). The hot tubs were two different temperatures and were just what I needed! Mother Nature added to the scene by sending snow.
Wednesday - coffee at Sandholt. Yum! Oh, and great service. Then it was an all day excursion aboard Sky Bus 12. We booked through Guide to Iceland. I would highly recommend them. Here's a link to their website. It was perfect! We went to several waterfalls, including Gullfoss, Geysir, visited some Icelandic horses, had ice cream at a dairy farm, and ended the day at Pingvellir National Park. Wow! It was an incredible day with beautiful scenery! That night we had dinner and drinks (Icelandic vodka) at Kex, which is a hostel/restaurant in town). More snow that evening so no Northern Lights tour.
Thursday morning - coffee at Te & Kaffi before last minute souvenir shopping.
Things that worked well for us:
- Taking the Flybus from the airport to the bus station in Reykjavik. The streets are very narrow in downtown, and parking is limited. It was nice not having to worry about dealing with a car (and the added cost).
- Buying breakfast food at the Bonus Grocery store. My breakfast was Skyr yogurt (the absolute best yogurt ever) and a piece of toast with strawberry jam.
- The City Walk tour was great. It gave us a layout of the city, some history, and some facts about the people and country. It was a great introduction!
Lessons learned and my advice:
- If traveling again in March, I would wear insulated boots. My feet were consistently cold. Waterproof hiking boots and wool socks didn't cut it for me.
- A waterproof shell (with a hood) and liner were perfect for staying warm and dry. Also, I recommend a hat and a scarf to cover your face. It is always windy there. Sometimes more so than others. I didn't need waterproof pants. I typically wore a nylon hiking pant with long johns. They shed the brief periods of rain/snow/sleet that we experienced.
- Food (more at restaurants than at Bonus) and souvenirs are very expensive! Be prepared! Yarn is not. LOL A piece of caramel apple pie cost me 9.75 USD. My vodka on the rocks was 12 USD. A souvenir magnet was 8 USD.
- While a lot of people in Iceland get buy with a credit/debit card, it is helpful to have some of the local currency. I would avoid the airport to change money and just visit an ATM. Also, all the credit card machines I used made use of a chip card (FYI). Also, local money is helpful when you really have to pee in the national park (it is about a 2$ fee to use the water closet).
- Book your excursions once you get to Iceland. The weather changes frequently. We learned that if you book a Northern Lights tour and you go out, but you don't see the lights, you don't get a refund. You only get a refund if the tour company cancels the trip.
- I'm not a foodie, and I'm not a meat-eater. It was a bit challenging to find veggie dishes in Reykjavik. Hence, snacks from the grocery store worked well!
- Don't buy bottled water there. Take an empty water bottle with you. The hot water does have a sulfur smell. If you let the cold water run for a minute, you will get absolutely great tasting water for free! And we all know that free is good!!
- Most people speak English. Our tour guide told us Icelanders start learning English at the age of 6. Some of the older ladies at the knitting stores didn't speak as much English, but we still communicated fine. Oh, and the people are very friendly and helpful.
- Before using the pool/hot tub, you shower naked and then put on your swimsuit. This is not as traumatic as it sounds! LOL The procedure is to take off your shoes before you enter the locker room. Undress and store your belongings in your locker (they give you a key on a rubber band). Take your swimsuit and towel to the shower room. Stow them in a cubby on the wall. Shower and wash with soap (provided), including your hair.