I never wanted to go to Iceland. So many people we’ve talked to have gone to Iceland. All of those people were on a tour bus. I hate tour buses. My whole perception of the country was just a bunch of tour buses wandering around an overpriced countryside. Going in October limited the number of tour buses we saw. It was cold and windy but not unbearable. It never snowed. It was, however, cloudy, and that’s part of the reason we never got a real shot of the Aurora Borealis. The country is small, easy to get around, and people are very friendly. For a long weekend rent a car and spend the first night in the capital before venturing into the country for the rest of the trip. If you have a week you can drive the ring road around the whole country (this is better in the summer when you know the roads aren’t frozen over).
Iceland is a short 5.5hr direct flight from NYC. Several other international airports have direct flights, mostly on the country’s main airline, Iceland Air. Iceland makes for a great long weekend or a full week. If you want to explore the whole country rent a car and take a week. If you just want to see the capital and surrounding area, maybe even spend a night or two in the wilderness, you can rent a car and do this in just three nights.
When we went
October 2013. We flew into Rejkavik (slept 1 night), drove north to Snæfellsnes Peninsula (slept 2 nights), drove back to Rejkavik and spent the after noon in the Blue Lagoon before flying home.
What we did
Day 1 – Took a night flight from JFK and arrived in Rejkavik at 6am. Got a car and drove to the hotel which let us check in early! After a quick shower and change we got on a 9am whale watching tour.
Bundled up on the boat while on a whale watching safari.
Harbor in Reyjkavik
We grabbed hot and fresh langusta soup from the local fish cafe near the docks.
Explored Reykjavik the rest of the day. We had coffee in one of the many coffee shops and went grocery shopping for road snacks. Our hotel was an old paint factory on the water with a beautiful view of the harbor. We ate dinner at a steak house on the main street. Great dinner!
Cathedral in Reykjavik
Day 2 – Drove out of Reykjavik. 30 minutes outside of the city the scenery is breathtaking. We drove to the world famous geyser and the biggest water fall in Europe.
Geyser in Geyser
Got to our rural inn, the Hotel Budir, 3 hours north of Reykjavik in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Church in Budir
Day 3 – Explored the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Day 4 – Drove back to Reykjavik. Ate lunch and relaxed at the Blue Lagoon before an evening flight home to new york.
1. Taking sunset photos in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula on a field of black volcanic rock covered in a 12 inch thick layer of moss.
2. Driving the barren and dramatic countryside of northern Iceland.
Whale watching with Elding; Reykjavik. We took a morning boat ride out into the sea for a chance to see whales. In October, we only saw a few dolphins and sea birds. It was VERY cold but luckily they provided thick, warm snow suits so that you could stand outside and take photos.
IcelandAir Marina Hotel; Reykjavik. We stayed here for one night. It’s an old paint factory in the harbor. Get a room with a view! The location is perfect, walkable to everything. We heard the food was great but didn’t get to try it.
Hotel Budir; Budir. We stayed here for two nights. Think of a quintessential inn at the end of the world — thats what this place looks like. The halls are filled with candles at night and the fireplace offers welcome refuge from the harsh conditions outside. Unless you’re an 18th century explorer your normal life is no where near this place. Every room has a view. It was quiet when we were there but I’ve read that it’s much more crowded in the summer months because it’s a popular place for Icelandic urbanites to get married.
Grillmarkaourinn (“Grill Market”) – dinner; Reykjavik. We ordered the tasting menu which practically put us in a food coma. We also got to try minke whale.
Bæjarins beztu – lunch, hot dog stand; Reykjavik. Popular with everyone — from Bill Clinton to Margaret Thatcher — do yourself a favor and try one of these dogs covered in ketchup, mustard, relish…and a special brown sauce.
Kaffitar – breakfast, cafe; Reykjavik. Reykjavik has a thriving coffee culture. This small cafe is located on the main street — great lattes which freshly roasted beans.
Hotel Budir – dinner; Budir. Our hotel in the Snæfellsnes was known for it’s tasty traditional food, which combined with the amazing views from the dining room made it hard for the meal to end.
The Sea Baron– lunch; Reykjavik. Located in a small marina shack near the whale exploration boats, the Sea Baron served hot langusta soup, crusty bread and beer.
Gullfoss Cafe – lunch; Gullfoss. Located right next to the Gullfoss waterfall, it’s a perfect retreat to chilly weather. They serve a traditional meat soup (I believe it’s lamb). This is what you get.