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Iceland for short Thanksgiving week

My husband and I are finding ourselves solo this Thanksgiving and decided to do a last minute trip to Iceland. It’s only the second time that we’ve vacationed w/o our child since he was born (he’s now 15)! We fly from Denver on Sun 11/25 to arrive at 6am Mon. We leave Thurs 11/28 at 5:10pm. We booked at CenterHotel Thingholt (Reykjavik) and plan to do day excursions (don’t want to drive in winter!). Since check-in isn’t until 2pm and we’ll be tired, I thought Blue Lagoon for the morning and lunch would be a good stop. Is it a tourist trap? Hoping it won’t be so busy this time of year. As for getting around in Iceland, is it easy and affordable to catch a taxi or Uber from airport (rather than doing the Blue Lagoon shuttle) and in and around Reykjavik?

For activities, we thought we’d explore the city and do a couple of excursions (top is to see the Northern Lights). My husband doesn’t think we should book a tour for Northern Lights until the last minute since it is so dependent on weather. Any recommendations for activities given our short time at this odd time of year? I’d love some “couple” activities like a romantic hot spring (seems most are family oriented (??)). We are in our mid 40’s and active but I have knee issues that makes hiking inclines difficult. I’d love to see some of natural wonders (volcanos, waterfalls, and glaciers.. oh my!). TIA!

Posted by
2 posts

I stayed at CenterHotel Thingholt with my family last spring, and it was great--centrally located, nice rooms, and great breakfast. (Very nice for families, but the other guests all seemed to be adults/couples.)Our flight arrived early and we got to the hotel about 8 a.m. For a modest sum, we got an early check-in, including breakfast, and the room was ready immediately. So we had a nice meal, took a very quick nap, and then were out exploring for the day by noon. We hit the Blue Lagoon on departure day on the way to the airport, and I think enjoyed it more than we would have if we'd just gotten off the plane.

We walked everywhere in Reykjavik--the downtown and harbor area sights are within a 10 minute walk of the hotel. Your weather will be colder and so less pleasant for walking, but waiting outside for a taxi (no Uber in Iceland) would be similar. If you do tour group day excursions, the pick-up spot for all the operators is just around the corner.

Posted by
2904 posts

It is a fairly lengthy drive from the airport into town. I suggest taking the airport shuttle bus. It is very convenient. After you pick up baggage, simply walk to the doors. A booth there sells tickets or you can buy on your flight if you are flying Iceland Air. Walk outside, and board the waiting bus.

Posted by
8502 posts

I have been to Iceland twice and head back next week. (I fly to London today.)

Take the Flybus from the airport to your hotel. It's a 45 minute drive and a taxi will cost plenty. No need to prebook. Buy your ticket when you arrive. They run continually.

Let your hotel book your Northern Lights tour on the day you want to go. They will also check to make sure the tour is running.

The other popular one day tour is the Golden Circle. This will cover many of your "natural wonders". I recommend it. Your hotel can also book it. It won't cost more than booking it yourself. Book this when you arrive or the day before.

As for the Blue Lagoon it's personal preference. Some people love it while others, like me, have no interest

Posted by
1504 posts

I just returned from 5 nights in Iceland. I booked a package through Icelandair, which included flights, 5 nights at Centerhotel Plaza, and two day trips (northern lights and Golden Circle, through Reykjavik Excursions). I did not visit Blue Lagoon (personal choice, it is a tourist trap). I had the same flight arrival time and hotel check in delay as you have. Personally, I would have fallen flat asleep if I had soaked in a hot spring on arrival. Better to book it on your way home (it is near the airport) - they have luggage lockers.

It is indeed a solid 45 minutes drive to town from the airport. You can pre-book the Flybus for a discount. The historic center limits big buses, so many tours (and the Flybus) drop you at the main bus station, where you catch smaller buses to numbered stops throughout the city. Looks like you're near bus stop 3. https://www.icelandtravel.is/faq/bus-stops-in-reykjavik/ If you book group tours, they'll ask you what stop you'll be waiting for them, usually 30 minutes before your scheduled departure time. I never took a cab in the city center, everything is walking distance. There are no Uber or Lyft options.

I got VERY lucky and saw the lights twice - once on the flight and once with an excursion. They are less dramatic in person, but still cool in photos. This site helps with the planning - very dependent on sun activity and cloud cover: https://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/

Have a fun time, it is a beautiful country and wonderful people.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks so much everyone for your replies! I can always rely on this forum for good advice. I’ll try to arrange an early check-in at the hotel, take the Flybus, wait until last day if we want to do Blue Lagoon, and leave the planning for Northern Lights and Golden Circle to the hotel and tour groups. Whew! Thanks all and safe future travels!

Posted by
2 posts

One more tip! Since you'll be staying at the CenterHotel Thingholt, I recommend taking the Gray Line shuttle rather than FlyBus. This is because the bus stop nearest to the hotel is a standard stop for the Gray Line airport shuttle (officially, they stop there--bus stop 6/Culture House--and at their terminal; in practice, they actually stopped at multiple hotel bus stops, perhaps because our shuttle was not particularly full). With FlyBus, my recollection is that you'd need to take a shuttle to their main terminal and then catch a second shuttle to the hotel. Of course, things may have changed, but, for us, the direct ride from the airport to our hotel stop was a big plus. So worth checking out...

Posted by
10 posts

@Tessa - thanks for the tip! Would certainly be nice to get a direct ride after a long flight!

Posted by
71 posts

We had an early arrival like you so booked the Blue Lagoon with transfer from airport and onto Reykjavik for arrival day. We were there when it opened and practically had the place to ourselves the first hour. Very nice. We left to go on into Reykjavik after about 3&1/2 hours and by then it was very crowded. Also, it was nice to have a proper shower at the hotel after the lagoon, it left a funny feeling on my skin (not sure if it’s the silica) but I would not have wanted to fly home with that feeling. There are showers at the lagoon but they are very small not very private.

Posted by
1838 posts

I ditto the advice of the last poster. Do the Blue Lagoon early in your stay, and DO book ahead. When we were there (part of a National Geographic tour), we had advance reservations. When we were leaving the Blue Lagoon, there was a long line and several people being turned away (who did not have advance bookings).

I had some concerns, thinking I would smell like sulfur for the rest of our trip (did not), but I actually LOVED the experience. Very relaxing!! Highly recommend it. Did not dine on location, so cannot advise re: that.

The Golden Circle part of our itinerary was fabulous also. Seeing the natural wonders and how those natural wonders are harnessed into an incredible energy source is fascinating.

Oh, and funny thing........as our plane was approaching, I looked out the window and saw the most fascinating display of red/yellow. Little did I know I had just viewed the Northern Lights (I did not know they could also be red/yellow), but it was quite the topic as passengers were leaving.) We had hoped to see them on our Greenland expedition portion of the trip and even put on warm clothing in the middle of the night when the expedition leader announced a small sighting (with the disclaimer that it was faint)...............nothing like what I saw from the plane window!! This was in late August that year.

Enjoy your trip!!

Posted by
242 posts

It's been over 10 years at this point since I was last in Iceland, but I do remember enjoying going to a public pool that also had outdoor geothermal baths. It's not the same "natural" looking environment as the Blue Lagoon, but can also be relaxing. I'm pretty sure I went to Laugardalslaug but there are others as well.