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a VirtualTourist member from New York State


Need help planning Iceland trip!!

HI!! My husband and I would like to plan a trip this summer for approximately one week. 1. Should we stay in one hotel and take day trips or 2 different hotels, (other ideas??) 2. Can we do the above and explore the southern region including Westmann Island? 3. What are the "can't miss" things in this part of the country? 4. HOw long to stay in Reykavik? 5. Better to rent a car and explore or do organized tours?

I know this is kind of vague but I want to book flight before airfare spikes. I appreciate your insight and experience.

14 Answers

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Reykjavík

I live in Iceland and if you have a look at my Iceland pages [original VT link] and subpages on Iceland, including Reykjavík, then you will see the most interesting places in the South of Iceland and Reykjavík. There are two possibilites, to stay in Reykjavík and go on organized day tours, f.ex. The South Shore Adventure and the Golden Circle Tour. These two tours I strongly recommend, but there are many others. The other possibility is to stay for a day or two in Reykjavík and then rent a car and explore these areas by yourself, which gives you more freedom. And then stay in a hotel in South-Iceland. This will also give you the opportunity to go further south to Skaftafell and Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. Have a look at my pages and decide for yourself what might be the best thing to do. Get back to me if you need any more information.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from New York State

Your pages are so helpful! Do you have any hotel recommendations in Reykjavik and good options of places to stay in the south? It looks like there is a lot to see in that region that we can really spend time enjoying without rushing to drive around the entire country. Thanks for so many great ideas. Do you think a week is adequate time? Thanks again!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Reykjavík

Thanks :) A week in this area is enough. But if you were to drive around the country I would say you need two weeks. As I live in Reykjavík I have not stayed in the hotels here, but let´s see if other members here, who have been here as guests, won´t be able to answer that question. There are many guesthouses and hotels in the south, I have stayed at Hotel Skógar, which is by the waterfall Skógafoss. It is a school in winter, but doubles as a hotel in summer. That is just one idea. I send you a link to hotels in South-Iceland All the best, Regína

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Province of Ontario

Regina is of course an expert about her own country. She has some great information on her pages.

Let me give you an outsider's view (we've been to Iceland twice so far and are looking at a third trip). The first thing to understand is that Iceland has a very small population base and most people live in the area in and around Reykjavik. Once you are away from the city your choice of accomodation and place to eat become a lot more limited.

I personally would not spend more than a day in Reykjavik; there are a couple of main streets and some shopping and dining. There are a few places you should look at visiting in town; the Hallgrimmskirkje, the Perlan (nice Viking display there), the Icelandinc National Museum is small, but gives a nice overview of the history of the country.

Visiting the Blue Lagoon is really a must do, either on your way to Reykjavik or preferably on the way back to the airport for your flight home. Bring a bathing suit and plan for a few hours of soaking in the waters.

The Golden Circle is about a 45minute drive from town and will take you at least half a day and if you take your time it will take most of a day; þingvellir (the Law Rock is the site of the first Icelandic Parliament) and there are interesting elements to show continental drift in action. Iceland is a piece of the North Atlantic Rift that sits above the surface; roughly 1/3 of the island (the western part) is geographically part of North America, while the eastern 2/3s are part of Europe. The geothermal area with the geyser Strokkur erupting every 5 or 10 minutes and shooting steaming water to similar heights as Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park is a great viist (there are other geothermal features there too) and the Gullfoss waterfalls. The Kerio crater is also in the area.

I believe there is whale watching out of Reykjavik and we did a 1/2 of riding on Icelandic horses just outside of the town of Sellfoss. This is as far was you can easily do daytripping out of Reykjavik.

You can head along the south coast, visiting waterfalls, watch puffins at Dyrholey, glacier adventures in Skaftalfell part of Vatnajökull National Park (we spend 1/2 a day walking on the glacier; crampons, ice axes and all). The glacier lake at Jokulsarlon should be on your "to do" list and there are all kinds of interesting landscapes on your way. You will need to find local accomodations for this part of the trip. We got as far as Höfn on our 1-week trip.

The Ring Road is fine to drive in a regular car. Any 'F' roads are for 4x4 only as there are no bridges across many of the rivers. A week is too tight to do the whole island. In the summer you will have very long days to travel as depending on when you are going it will either never get totally dark (end of June and early July) or get dark very late (August).

I've got a number of Iceland related postings on my home page:

[original VT link]

I hope you enjoy Iceland as much as we did...

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from New York State

Grumpy, this is so helpful too. Good to know we can take day trips out or Reykavik. How long should we stay in the south? any good recommendations of hotels/etc in both areas? We want a private bathroom, etc and clean/safe. Did you do planned excursions from the city? Can we see many major attractions without a 4x4? What do you think of Westman Island? It looked pretty interesting.

Also...should I book air separately and then deal with hotel later?

Thanks again! You guys are great!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Province of Ontario

We did not make it to the Westman Island because of time constraints. Yes, you can see a lot of the places without requiring a 4x4; that being said our first trip was for one week we just stuck to the south. We really didn't have enough time to see the interior, which is why we came back for 2 weeks and rented a 4x4 to explore the north and the interior.

We did a couple of hotels but did the B&B route for most of the places. Hotel Fron in Reykjavik would be high on my recommended list; good location and nice rooms at a good price. Once you get away from the Reykjavik area, your choices are much more limited.

In terms of packages, you'll have to see how they work for you. We booked air separately and put together our own package with a local travel agent on the ground for accomodation and vehicle. We used Nordic Visitor for our first trip and Icelandic Farm Holidays for our second. In both cases, we did not use any of the packages but got them to book accomodation in the places we were looking to visit.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Tongeren


We've spent 14 nights in hotel Hafnarfjordur in april 2012.
It's a very nice hotel. It's actually an appartment-hotel, every room has it's own kitchenette. Breakfast is included in the price. Staff is extremely helpful and friendly.
I know it's a long time to spend in one place, but it gave us the opportunity to explore the area thoroughly. And as we were travelling with a 4 and a 6 year old, we could keep up a more relaxed pace.
The Reykjanes peninsula is really beautiful. We went as for south as Vik and as far north as the Snaefelsnes peninsula. This sometimes made for long days of course, but there are so many lovely things to visit closer by.
We're going back for 19 days next month, now taking the tour of the ringroad.
Our stay will end with 5 nights in Hotel Hafnarfjordur again.
I haven't gotten round to posting the extensive amount of tips I have, but here's the link to my Hafnarfjordur page [original VT link]

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Tongeren

As for visits:
1 day in Reykjavik should do to see the main sights.
We went on a whale watching trip from Reykjavik with a company called Elding.
Of course the Golden Circle is an absolute must! Make sure to take enough time tondalk around Thingvellir - go see Oxarafoss waterfall in the gorge.
Reykjanes is really lovely. Be sure to stop at Kleifarvatn lake. Visit the geothermal area Seltun/Krysuvik.
And of course treat yourself to a soak in the Blue Lagoon.
On the way south you'll pass Seljalandfoss and Skogafoss. Stop at the Solheimajokull glacier.
As said above don't miss out on the area around Dyrholay.

More to the north of Reykjavik is Snaefelsnes ... very lovely peninsula with some great places to stop. Regina has some excellent tips on this.

Also nice driving nirth from Reykjavik are Barnafoss and Hraunfossar. The last one isn't actually a waterfall as we know it ... It's a collection of small waterfalls coming out from beneath a lavafield. Nearby you can also find the largest hotspring in Iceland - Deildartunguhver.

I'm now forgetting to mention so much ... but I think you see that there's sooooo much in the area that's worth visiting.

Enjoy your stay !!!!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from New York State

Thanks!! Did you keep Reykjavik as your home base or did you stay at a hotel in the south as well?

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Tongeren

We stayed in Reykjavik/Hafnarfjordur the entire time and did everything as daytrips from there.
Of course this meant that there were days with a lot of driving, but that's something we don't mind doing. We sometimes made special detours just to drive on a road we hadn't been on before ... Sounds crazy but that way you come across some nice spots and spectacular scenery you would otherwise miss out on ...

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from New York State

how did you book your trip? did you book air and hotel separate or do a package? Which hotel did you stay in?

What was your longest drive in one day?

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Tongeren

Our longest drive was without a doubt the day we went to Snaefelsnes. Don't remember the exact mileage, but it was over 450 kms.
Left early and got back late ... but so worthwhile! We drove the entire stretch of the peninsula, starting on the lower side, going round it completely to Stykkisholmur, and then returning back to Hafnarfjordur.
It was a very long day, but all of us enjoyed it very much ... The scenery it truly amazing!

We stayed the entire time in hotel Hafnarfjordur. The town of Hafnarfjordur is at about 10 kms south of Reykjavik and easily accessible.
Here is the link to my tip about this hotel [original VT link]. We really liked it ... we're going back there for couple of nights at the end of our next Iceland trip in a few weeks.

We booked the planetickets directly through the Icelandair website.
Last year we booked the hotel through, but this year we booked it directly at the hotel. We sent them an e-mail to check availibility and ended up paying less than their own internetrates. Their website is linked in my above mentioned tip.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from New York State

Did you take organized tours from your hotel or just drive on your own?

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Tongeren

We always drove on our own. Much more practical, especially with the kids.
That way you're not bound to the times they have set up for the tour. We always like to keep our own pace.

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