Going to Reykjavik at the end of March for about 5 days, with my adult daughter. Have been looking at hostels to keep the price down as we want to spend our money on riding the horses, whale watching, a dip in a thermal pool, and hopefully a Northern Lights excursion. Would be grateful for any tips. She is a vegan, but have seen that is pretty popular there. We will be using public transportation. If you have stayed in a hostel there or used any of these types of tours and excursions, am looking forward to what you thought of them. It might be too late in the year for the Northern Lights, but one can hope.
Look up Loki 101 Guesthouse -- http://www.loki101.is/
I stayed at Loki 101 Guesthouse as a solo traveler for 10 nights at the end of August. There are single and double rooms, and a triple room -- with shared bathrooms. There is a fully equipped proper kitchen, along with assigned refrigerator and pantry space for each room.
Location is great -- Loki 101 Guesthouse is just two doors down from Cafe Loki and right at the Hallgrimskirkja, which is also the location for Tour Bus stop #8 for tour pick-up and drop-off. One block over is a convenience store sized market and about 1/3 mile walk from a Bonus grocery store.
While I stayed at Loki 101, most of the other guests were staying as they were getting ready for or finishing up their Ring Road trip. So mostly couples or families.
I was staying at Apartment K this March and because of the low season, I was able to get a studio with a kitchenette for less than $80USD a night. It's in center city and so very convenient, though on Friday/Saturday the neighborhood is loud because the bars nearby are opened until like 4 am.
As far as tours are concerned, I usually book direct, but this time I went with Arctic Adventure which is both an agent as well and operator, because of the 10% discount for taking 3 or more tours. Everything went well.
Ms. Jo -
Just returned from Iceland yesterday. I had a package through Icelandair that included round trip airfare, 5 nights hotel at Centerhotel Plaza, two big bus excursions with Reykjavik Excursions (northern lights and Golden Circle), and entrance to the Aurora Center. I also purchased a separate small bus tour to the Southern Coast with GeoIceland, a food tour with Your Friend in Reykjavik, and did the "free" City Walking Tour. Though end of October is the start of off season, it was still quite crowded at all of the main sites. Big bus, small bus, everyone is going the same place! I noticed all the guides repeated many of the same stories (Icelanders are consistent, at least) but for the most part the tours were fine, and the food tour was excellent (I was the only tour member). Sorry I can't help thermal pools as I skipped that activity, though I will say the geothermal heated water in my hotel shower was heavenly (even though it smelled a little like eggs).
If you decide to do northern lights tour, look for one that lets you go again the next if you don't see them on the first try. I was lucky and saw them on the flight to Iceland! I also saw them on the big bus tour which left at 9 p.m., returned at midnight. In March you will have more daylight to contend with, so you'll have a much later evening (don't plan an early departing day trip the next day, as I did!). I was very surprised that the lights don't look very vivid to the naked eye (more like wispy clouds/fog), but I did get some decent colorful photos with the nighttime setting on my cell phone attached to a tripod.
Wherever you choose to stay, it helps to be relatively close to one of the numbered bus stops (here's the list). Both the big and little bus tour companies use them for pick up/drop off locations. I really was glad I picked a hotel in the center of the old part of town - I was an easy 10 minute walk to all the main sights, as well as bus stop #1. I didn't use any public transport in the historic center - walked everywhere.
I didn't keep an eye out for vegan food, but hopefully your daughter will find things to eat (they do like meat). Icelandic Street Food was tasty and had a vegan soup (as well as seafood and lamb stew) - with unlimited refills on the soup for about $15. There are several small groceries downtown. My hotel included breakfast every day (not super vegan friendly though - eggs, bacon, sausage, cheese, bread, cereal) but was a huge cost saver. If you drink beer, I recommend Skuli Craft Bar - a cool vibe, and they have happy hour 4-7 every day with 4 rotating local brews (about $8 a pint).
Happy to answer any other questions, I'm jet lagged so that's all I could think of :)
Thanks for the tips. Have booked four nights at the Blue House. It is close to the beach and I think can be used to watch the Northern lights as well as sunsets and sunrises. Cost was a reasonable 89€ per night for a room with 2 twin beds and because I booked direct, we get breakfast for free instead of paying 10€ apiece. Thought this was a good deal for expensive Iceland. Now to plan our excursions!
If this isn’t too late to mention, we got an amazing ”Hot Nights and Cool Lights” tour through Icelandair when they started service to Denver, Colorado, in April 2015. It involved picking people up in a Gray Line coach from near their hotels in Reykjavik, then a ride out to the Fontana hot springs/sauna location. After soaking (and a dip into the cold lake next door, quick shower outside, then getting back into a hot spring for a bracing then relaxing experience is possible!), then showering, there was a great buffet inside their lodge/dining room. There was meat, but lots of soup, salads, fruit, and non-meat mains. Go to Fontana, even if not on a tour!
The next part of the package, riding to a prime viewing spot for Northern Lights, got cancelled because it was so overcast that night, with no forecast of a clear sky, and we got back to Reykjavik early. We heard the next day that some people on a boat, out at sea for a Northern Lights tour, did get a tiny window on the clouds, and did see a little Aurora Borealis. April’s the end of likely viewing, so March will give a better chance. Still, Fontana made the night wonderful.
Our Icelandair package included super low hotel prices (those are long-gone), plus the Hot Nights tour. Maybe the tour’s still available on its own? And for whale watching, Elding did it right! Can’t recommend Elding more highly.