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Two nights in Iceland...

Hey folks! I'm flying to Rome early October but plan on stopping in Iceland for a couple of nights on the way there. This will be my first time in Iceland and I'm travelling alone. On my list of things to do are the Blue Lagoon and the Northern Lights. What would you recommend for the following:

-What city/town should I stay in? (I haven't booked my accommodations yet)

-Rent a car/Jeep or Uber/public transportation (if there is such a thing)?

-Eat out or cook? Restaurant recommendations?

-Airbnb or hotel? (I haven't booked my accommodations yet)

-Nightlife?

-See Northern Lights with a tour group or drive on my own? (I know visibility of Lights isn't a guarantee and depends on conditions)

-Other things to do/see besides Lagoon and Northern Lights? It doesn't have to be "tourist" stuff...I enjoy immersing myself into the local culture.

I only have 2 nights (well a little more than that since my flight to Rome doesn't leave until 4pm on the 3rd day) so I know I can't go crazy. Thanks in advance!

Posted by
9386 posts

Rick Steves has a guidebook for Iceland that should address much of this. Do you have it?

Posted by
3064 posts

We visited in the Spring of 2015, before Rick had come out with a guidebook on Iceland. Our package deal from Icelandair included a real bargain on the Icelandair Marina Hotel, and offered a soak-and-Northern-Lights experience. We were picked up in a Gray Line Bus, and our relatively small group was taken to the Fontana baths, not the Blue Lagoon. We were able to soak in pools with different levels of heat, and go into saunas heated geothermally, and for the experience you can even jump into the cold lake water, rinse off quickly using their outside shower, then pop back in to a hot pool - bracing and relaxing, without the industrial backdrop of the Blue Lagoon. Afterwards, everyone headed inside for a great buffet dinner. Unfortunately, the evening turned out to be totally overcast, with no possible clearing before midnight, so the planned Northern Lights part of the excursion was cancelled, and we all got back to Reykjavik early. The soak and dinner part, though, made for a really good and memorable time. We learned the next day that some visitors who went out on a Northern Lights boat saw some Lights that night, out at sea, but don’t know who they used.

We rented a car for a couple of days, exploring north of Reykjavik, and also driving our own Golden Circle. Unfortunately, after stopping to see the dormant Kerid crater and heading back to Reykjavik, a car approaching us in the distance hit a patch of black ice, went airborne, and a passenger was ejected. A bunch of us cars stopped, called 112 (Iceland's 911), and tried to render aid. He was evacuated by helicopter but later died. The roads are in good shape, but weather is fickle, and conditions can change in an instant, so be extra careful if you drive. We got back to our hotel after the restaurant had closed, so we missed dinner, but they assembled a meat and cheese plate so we could eat something.

One thing to add to your Iceland bucket list, if you’d have any interest, is a whale watching tour. We used Elding, and for someone who lives 1,200 miles from the nearest ocean, seeing even one whale was thrilling! The weather was wet, mostly pouring rain, and apparently the boat’s sonar detected a lot of whales in the vicinity, but they weren’t all surfacing.

Posted by
8487 posts

I've been to Iceland a couple of times and I'm going back in November.

For two nights, here are my suggestions.......

1) Take a Golden Circle tour. Let them do the driving as they know it best.

2) Take a Northern Lights tour as well. They know the best viewing locations and will take you there. You can take the Golden Circle Tour during the day and the Northern Lights tour at night. It will be a long day but with them driving it won't be as bad.

3) Do the same for the Blue Lagoon if you wish. Perhaps on your arrival since it is closer to the airport.

Stay in Reykjavik. You really don't have enough time to do more.

Posted by
2275 posts

I was there in late September last year. I’d suggest getting a rental car and staying either in Reykjavik or along the south cost (between Reykjavik and Vik).
You could of course stay in Reykjavik- more hotels and restaurants, and it’s fine with a car (unlike cities like Rome, you can drive out for day trips and park near your hotel pretty easily)
But staying outside the city puts you closer to nature and a better chance of northern lights visibility. We saw them in late September but it’s nowhere near a sure thing.

Drive the Golden Circle one day and the south coast (waterfalls, black beach) the other day. If you have time on arrival or departure day go to the Blue Lagoon.

Posted by
65 posts

We did a 3 night stopover a few years ago and enjoyed it. We stayed at the Hilton in Rejykavik. The first day we drove the south coast to Vic and back and then did the Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon on the next two days. We enjoyed the south coast more than the circle. We really enjoyed the blue lagoon. With only two days I would pick the south coast and blue lagoon. We rented a car and drove on our own. We also stopped at a grocery store and bought food since it was difficult to find food when you wanted it when you are out driving around.

Posted by
65 posts

The Hilton was fine. It was about a 15 minute walk into town. All on sidewalks and very easy. We had breakfast included and it was very nice and filled you up for a day out traveling. It appeared that a lot of tour groups stayed there and several tour buses would pick tourists up there as well for day tours. There were some cafes and small places to eat nearby. I would recommend it. As with most things there, it wasn’t cheap from what I remember.

Posted by
325 posts

Please note that you may not see northern lights in October - that’s more of a winter thing.

Hmm, that's not an accurate statement - it doesn't have to be winter to see northern lights.

The sky needs to be dark and clear, and there needs to be solar activity. Iceland sky is dark after 6 pm from late September through to March. We enjoyed a 2 night stopover in Reykjavik in 2014. I would stay in Reykjavik so you can explore the city on foot. If you're traveling solo, I would recommend taking a group tour rather than renting a car so that you have company while aurora watching - sometimes you can wait for hours and see nothing.

Where I live in Canada, we can begin to see aurora during mid-August (usually around midnight) through to early May if the conditions are right.