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Heading to Iceland, Poland and then Germany 15 days

Hi all,

We want to start off flying from Orlando FL to Iceland and see the south coast of Iceland for 4 days total. How do people feel about renting a car in Iceland any tips on good companies? Also places to stay and eat

Next we plan to fly into Gdansk Poland and spend time seeing that City and taking a train down to Krakow and spend 4 to 5 days there. I know people have posted renting a car is best to see the Countryside would like pros and cons of that.

We would like to finish our trip in Germany and possibly fly out of either Frankfort or Berlin depending on what makes most sense.
We are trying to pack in alot but this will be a once in a lifetime trip.

We are planning this for late November or early December of 2023

Posted by
5094 posts

We rented from Hertz in Reykjavik, an all-wheel drive Chevy. They made it simple and affordable. This was in early April, and we witnessed a VW sedan fly off the road, hitting black ice, a single-car fatality. November could have snow and ice, too, so care and attention should be exercised when driving.

Being in Colorado and doing a lot of driving in the mountains, I’m pretty used to those conditions. If you’re more used to roads closer to Orlando, be prepared for winter driving. Four wheel drive doesn’t mean four wheel stop, and skidding on slick roads can happen. Be ready for really short daylight hours that time if year, too. The roads in Iceland are in very good condition, although narrower than U.S. Interstate highway lanes.

Posted by
3 posts

Thankfully we are both from Buffalo NY and had 30 years of driving in snow and ice so I completely understand! Thank you for the info on Hertz

Posted by
4955 posts

New Yorker magazine mentioned that rescue squads in Iceland use an internal term called “Death by GPS.”) Do not assume that you can learn about driving and buying insurance in Iceland from a few internet posts. Driving a Chevy Suburban to malls in Colorado is not training for Iceland in the northern hemisphere winter.

Posted by
2305 posts

We would like to finish our trip in Germany and possibly fly out of
either Frankfort or Berlin depending on what makes most sense.

Frankfurt makes the most sense in my opinion as it is a big hub

Do not assume that you can learn about driving and buying insurance in
Iceland from a few internet posts. Driving a Chevy Suburban to malls
in Colorado is not training for Iceland in the northern hemisphere
winter.

That is a very important point. Also, don't assume a bigger vehicle is better. Wind can be a big problem in Iceland and smaller cars will handle strong winds better.

Posted by
3251 posts

I think the choice of season is poor because of day length and temperature. You may be cold the entire "once in a lifetime" trip, in Poland also.

It rains a lot in Iceland and we appreciated our July journey month because even though it rained most days, for every day of our trip, there was 6 hours of sunshine that we could work around in the 22 hour long midsummer days. Your chance of any sun at all in 4 consecutive 3-5 hour long days is small.

The driving is quite easy and I would normally say that your Buffalo winter would be more than enough experience, but I don't know what the snow clearing and ice treatment efficacy is. They may have a wait-for-it to-melt attitude since winters there are usually pretty mild, hardly below freezing for that long at a stretch, at least near sea level.

A lot of car rental experiences here. If you are renting from or returning the car to Reykjavik, pay attention to the locations of the return facilities. Hertz is a ways out.

Posted by
3 posts

Hi all thank you for your advice on Iceland. We both know this is not the ideal time to go but having lived in Florida for over 15 years we are truly ready for cold, rain and no sun. Hard to explain other than if you are in an element all year long with no break, i.e. sun, hot humid weather etc this will be a nice break. The weather does not brother either one of us in fact its really pulling us to go that time of year. As far as Poland goes again rain is not an issue with us and we want to see the Christmas Market in Germany so we are definitely determined to make this work during the dark, cold months :)

Posted by
232 posts

Please do a lot of research about Iceland on TripAdvisor Iceland forums and on FaceBook Travel Iceland page. As well as a couple of good guidebooks (Lonely Planet is one). We just came back a week ago, and had a great trip.

I would join the others and saying that November or December is a terrible time to visit Iceland. On December 1 the sun is up for five hours, and the days keep getting shorter after that. Add in that many times roads can be closed to everyone due to snow, black ice, and very high winds. Most of the people who go to Iceland go for the nature -- waterfalls, glaciers, hiking, etc. Not much to do just in Reykjavik. You would be wasting your "once in a lifetime trip" by going the wrong time of year.

Germany and Poland could be fun, though for what you want to do. Lots of things in do in the big cities. And you can easily travel around by train.

Posted by
3251 posts

If you are flying the Icelandair nonstops to Reykjavik, fly round trip to Berlin and get a Reykjavik stopover without an extra fee in either direction. Note that the stopover may be free or not, since segments are priced differently on different days.

Note that flights only go two days a week that time of year.

Edit: Neither Delta nor United fly to Iceland that time of year, so Icelandair is your only option.

Edit2: There don’t appear to be any same day connections to Berlin from Orlando in Iceland, Frankfurt would work or try Munich.

Posted by
24 posts

I've been reading this particular forum and wanted to ask those of you who have been to Iceland and Reykjavik: is the beginning of January [5-15] a good time to see the northern lights?

You have mentioned that sometimes road conditions were poor which means to me that tours to other areas around Reykjavik might be cancelled. Am I interrupting this information correctly?

Is there enough to do in Reykjavik to stay for 9-10 days? I'd be solo.

I will say that the long nights would be ok as I could work on getting lesson plans ready for university start up in late January as well as read.

Thanks.

Posted by
5094 posts

Judith, the Northern Lights are always there, you just can’t see them except when it’s dark enough. Times with more darkness - like winter months, will afford the best opportunity. Other factors can affect being able to see the N.L.’s, most importantly weather. Overcast skies will limit being able to see anything, so the weather forecast would be helpful to review. Sunspots generally mean more N.L. activity, but it might be hard to plan the timing of a trip to Iceland based on predictions. Some of it’s just plain luck, as long as you’re in Iceland between mid-September and early April, and more like Nov.- Feb.

We missed seeing the Lights on an April trip. We went on a land-based tour, but it was overcast. We talked to others the next day, and they did a nighttime tour on a boat, and got a glimpse of the Lights through breaks in the clouds out at sea.

As a travel destination on its own, 3-4 days would be my max for Reykjavik itself.

Posted by
5094 posts

Driving a Chevy Suburban to malls in Colorado is not training for Iceland in the northern hemisphere winter

I’m not sure where the references to a Suburban, or to Colorado malls for a Florida resident came from, or how that relates to the original question. For what it’s worth, the Chevy we rented from Hertz was not a huge Suburban for the 2 of us, but it was all-wheel drive. I don’t frequent malls, or their parking lots, which can actually be good training for hazardous driving. Winter driving requires attention, and anticipating skidding and sliding. Slower is better, but be prepared to react if the vehicle isn’t responding to steering or braking. Lots of distance from the vehicle in front (and behind), and staying on the road are critical.

Posted by
24 posts

Cyn and Tom, you mentioned that folks left the capital but are there tour companies there still open and offering tours outside the capital? There appear to be some online but perhaps they might cancel if not enough people sign up?
Thanks

Posted by
232 posts

Tours outside of Reykjavik could possibly be cancelled due to either not enough people signing up or due to the weather. There are times during the winter when the roads are closed because of snow, black ice, and high winds, like I mentioned in my earlier comment.

Posted by
38 posts

We drove the Ring Road in May several years ago. The Icelandic Weather Service (or maybe it's the highway service) has an app that gives the road conditions on any given day, along with weather warnings, earthquake/volcano warnings, high wind warnings, etc. Unfortunately I don't remember the name of the app, but I'm sure it can be googled. Iceland Review is a little online magazine that has stories about events, mainly in Reykjavik, along with news.

Posted by
5094 posts

Our trip was a few years ago, way pre-Pandemic. We used Icelandic Adventures https://www.icelandicadventures.is/ and although they also did tours with several customers in a van, we booked a private tour for the 2 of us. It was just us 2, plus the guide/driver, in a car. We toured the south coast, did a glacier hike + crevasse exploration, over 3 or 4 nights, returning to Reykjavik. Our guide was moving to Denmark for college shortly afterwards, but they are an outstanding operation, with experienced and knowledgeable guides, and safety was of paramount importance. That was for outdoor and backcountry travel safety, but I’d have to think that they are also taking Pandemic precautions seriously, too.

After that guided tour, we rented our car to do the Golden Circle and other parts of Iceland on our own, closer to Reykjavik.

Posted by
1455 posts

I had a four night trip to Reykjavik about four years ago, in early December.
I like winter and cold weather, and although it was between 0 and 10 Centigrade the whole time , that was not what made it cold.
It was the wind!
It was very windy the whole time, but as long as you are dressed for it , it's fine.
Merino wool long underwear, Merino wool or polar fleece sweaters, wind/rain pants, and boots with a good sturdy grip in case of ice.
Hat, gloves and warm socks.
Bring all those with you, as to buy them in Iceland you would need to take out a mortgage. $$$
It's really warm and cosy inside every building.
The main streets are kept free of ice by thermal spring water running beneath them.

I disagree completely that there is not much to do in Reykjavik!
I found plenty to do in the city, and did a couple of walking tours, a couple of the excellent museums, and one day did a whole bus tour day of the Golden Circle, which was great, and no worries about driving a car.
There are concerts you can attend, and plenty of music to hear.
I also booked a Northern Lights bus tour; and it was cancelled, then rebooked for another night with better skies predicted.
Book a NL tour for your first night there, then you have other nights to do it if it's cancelled.
I did see the Northern Lights, it was amazing.

As far as hours of daylight: it did not get fully light until 10 am each day, and it was getting dark again by 3:30 pm.
My hotel served breakfast by candlelight, as did some of the coffee shops open in the afternoons.
I would absolutely go back in winter!
I then flew to Copenhagen and spent 8 nights there, which was also wonderful in winter.

Posted by
1455 posts

Just to add to my post above: I was in Reykjavik on the day the big town Christmas tree was lit in a ceremony on the big square outside what I believe is the Town Hall.
Lots of people, food stalls, and music on a big stage.
Then the ceremony of the lights being turned on on the tree as it got dark.
I think it was about the 6th of December.
That was fun to see it all.

Posted by
6763 posts

Iceland will be very dark most of the time during your visit. Save it for late spring, summer.
We loved our stay in Krakow! We did not want to stay right on the main square due to noise, but back a few blocks. We found the perfect locally owned hotel, Amber Design. We were the only Americans at the hotel during our time there. The Front desk arranged airport pickup and return, and a small van day trip to Auchweicz with guide. Very helpful and all spoke perfect English.
We opted for a large room on the back side of building.

Posted by
6082 posts

We did not visit Gdansk, but I'd just relax and take the train to Krakow. Its 5.5 hours by train so a lot longer if you drive and especially if you stop. We were on a bus between Warsaw and Krakow, and it wasn't especially scenic. The same scenery that you'd see by train except the would-be driver can see it too, instead of the back end of a truck.