Please sign in to post.

Iceland July, 2021 Trip Report: Before/During/After

Hello!
I am starting my trip report before my first flight. Partly to use up some excitement energy and partly as a way of being able to come back later and compare expectations with what really happens. At the beginning it may be too detailed to be useful/entertaining for readers and I might get tired before the end of the trip and start abbreviating things.

I was planning a RS week long city tour of Paris, followed by a week on my own in September, 2020. Delta refunded my flights. I was too optimistic and bought flights for my son and I to do a Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, Prague trip in May, 2021. When Iceland opened up to travelers, my son and I decided this would work for us. I was able to change our tickets to Iceland in first class and we got $500 e-credit we can hopefully use for tickets next year. We both enjoy going to historical places best, but are also looking forward to all of the fantastic landscapes in Iceland. And of course, Iceland has a unique history of its own. The other bonus is that I like to go to a land where I share genes with the locals. I have a significant amount of Norwegian/Icelandic heritage.

I really love the combination of the structure of a RS tour combined with planning out possibilities for the free time and for pre and post tour travel. However, trying to figure out how fast to travel the ring road and to book 14 nights of hotels in a relatively short amount of time seemed daunting. So I hired Hidden Iceland. Scott made all of our hotel reservations and some tour reservations based on what we were interested in and where specifically we wanted to go. (We are spending 3 nights in the Westfjords). I don't now if he never sleeps, but if I email him in the evening EST, he still gets back to me right away. Yes, this is more expensive, but I am working full time and am happy to pay for a good service. Our itinerary is printable (I didn't print it) and available in an app called Trip Creator. It is customized for us. There is an overview that lists each day and the highlights, a map that shows directions for each day, and a detailed itinerary. Of course, we don't have to follow all of the suggestions, but there are some specific tours we signed up for and we will need to be on time for those. The suggestions are listed with suggested times to give us an idea of how long things might take. The reference numbers for the tours, the rental car, the car ferry, and the hotel reservations are all listed there. Once I received the itinerary (about 3 1/2 weeks prior to the trip), I got out my google maps, the internet and my RS Iceland guide and went to work looking at the suggestions and finding other possible stops along the way. So even though a lot of work had been done for me, I still got the satisfaction of a lot of planning.

We decided on a 4WD station wagon. This was a compromise between an expensive SUV and a 2WD car. I made this decision with Scott's input. My personal requirement is to be able to use my phone for internet and for calls. I am happy to spend the $10/day that Verizon charges me. My son also wants the use of his phone. We decided to rent a Trawire pocket wifi. It has very good reviews and is likely to work everywhere we are going, even while hiking. We can both use the wifi. I will use wifi calling and texting and internet use. If we do separate activities, I will send the box with my son and I will use cellular data during that time. We will pick up the device at the Orkan gas station near the airport. They give you an envelope to mail the device from the airport at the end of the trip.

We are taking carry on only. I mentioned to my son that maybe we should check one small bag since we will need more clothing and we will have a car, but now he has caught the carry-on only bug. I am packed except for the last minute essentials. I am carrying an Osprey 46L bag. I don't pack it full and cinch it down, so it is about 40L. My son has a 40L Osprey Farpoint. Cont'd.

Posted by
860 posts

For our personal items we are both carrying 28 L backpacks that we can use for day bags or for hiking. They are currently about half full. I did purchase some things especially for this trip. My son already had a rainproof jacket that he got before our trip to Turkey. My raincoat was not large enough for me to wear a bulky sweater under, so I bought an REI jacket. I bought us both a pair of rain pants. I purchased REI water bottles that pack flat. I bought him one pair of wool hiking socks for his glacier hike, otherwise he wears shorter, thinner wool socks. I got a medium weight merino wool shirt that I can wear on its own or under a sweater.

We are 55 minutes from the airport. My husband hates to drive to the airport so I arranged a car service.

We filled out our pre-arrival registration forms on covid.is and took screenshots on our cellphones. Since we are landing early July 1, we will be one of the first flights that do not need a PCR test upon arrival. I bought 6 antigen tests (minimum) from eMed. We will take 2 each with us and then do a telehealth appointment 2 days prior to our return. I am a little nervous doing this on our Pixel phones (not traveling with a laptop). I will let you know how that goes.

My plan is to come back and add information as the trip happens. If I am too tired to do that when traveling, I will at least document some highlights. I will only have my phone so it won't be easy to type. Of course, let me know if you have any questions about my trip.

Posted by
3151 posts

I will be following this since I leave about when you return. Especially looking for clothing, footwear, and driving advice.

I was going to post that Delta doesn't offer First Class ("Delta One") to Iceland since the Minneapolis flight only offers Premium Select as the highest cabin, and Icelandair tops out at Saga class which is about the same thing as Premium Select. But checking the JFK flight there it is, Delta One. I wonder how you are thinking about using the lie flat seats on a 5-1/2 hour flight-- are you going to try to sleep at all, or just relax in the extra space? I have found that 2-3 hours of sleep does do wonders for the first day.

Posted by
860 posts

Tom,
I should have been more specific. I am flying out of MSP. It is a Boeing 757 180 seats. The first class is like domestic first class, no lie flat seats. If they were lie flat, I definitely could sleep for a few hours after taking a benadryl. I will let you know what the plane/flight is like.

Posted by
3151 posts

I’m on Icelandair; I bought before Delta had announced restarting service (and I prefer Icelandair’s afternoon return time anyway). I’ve done this run 3 times and the views of Greenland at sunrise can be sensational.

The public toilets in the basement of the airport are worth a special trip. A little like “The Jetsons.”

Posted by
63 posts

Just wanted to say "I'm following" your thread. (I'm glad you posted.)

I am considering abandoning hope that a rescheduled trip to Scotland will happen this year and am considering Iceland as an alternate destination. (The trip to Scotland was originally scheduled for May 2020 and is now scheduled for Aug/Sept 2021, but it doesn't seem certain that the U.S. will land on the U.K.'s "Green List" by our departure date. )

I normally spend months--off and on--working out the details of a trip, and, generally, really enjoy it. I hope there is adequate time to develop a good itinerary for Iceland. I look forward to your updates and hope your trip goes well.

Posted by
860 posts

Hi,
Busy day finalizing packing and getting to the airport. We flew CLE to MSP. I am now sitting in the plane that will get me to KEF. Seats are comfy and service is good. I will check in again tomorrow.

Posted by
860 posts

Our flight went fine. Due to poor visibility at KEF, they put an extra 80 gallons of fuel on the plane. This took about 30 minutes so we took off late. The flight was oversold and I think they found 3 volunteers to take $750 gift cards.
There was a full dinner service. I had cheese lasagna and my son had beef tenderloin. We both enjoyed the food. The flight was a little over 5 hours and took off at 8 pm. I was not able to sleep more than 90 minutes. My son did not sleep at all.
When we landed at 7:10 am, we checked out the basement bathrooms that Tom mentioned and headed to immigration. We were near the end of the line for our flight due to stopping at the bathroom. It went quick. The line moved continuously. No fanfare, no questions, the agent looked at our passports, looked at our previous stamps and stamped us through. We walked through duty free. We bought one bottle of booze and some nuts. Not much to choose from here other than booze, make up and chocolate. We then walked through to customs. Here you had to show someone the barcode from the prerestration form. A lot of people thought they didn't need to do this because there is no more PCR testing starting today. They had some machines set up so those people could get their bar codes. There was a short wait to reach another agent that scanned our barcodes and briefly examined our CDC cards.
At this point the airport became very congested. We made it to the Europecar desk. They had 4 agents working. They were all waiting on customers and we were next in line. It took forever. Two of the customers seemed to be confused and were asking a lot of questions. We saw several people that did not have reservations and they had no cars for them.
We ended up getting a Subaru Outback which is all wheel drive. I checked with Scott because I thought we were getting 4WD. He said no, the all wheel drive is adequate.
The weather was raining and foggy. When the plane landed it was shocking because we were in clouds one minute and on the ground the next. I have not experienced this before. It was 52*.
We stopped at the Orkan gas station to pick up our wifi box, it was easy to set up.
We drove about 25 minutes to the volcano site. It was easy to find. We hiked to the lava flow. It was an easy hike, but I was glad I had my hunger hiker pole. We saw a sea of black lava. There were places where you could see red lava underneath. It made a weird crackling sound. I forgot to check the time but we spent about 2 hours on this. Be sure to have the parking app PARKA app added and ready to go. If you are not good g to have access to a phone to pay for parking, I don't know what to tell you. Luke said he saw cameras recording the cars coming and going, but I did not see this.
We did not attempt the harder hike to see the crater. It was raining and you couldn't see the top of the ridge where you can see the crater due to fog. I saw one lone hiker start this trail but he turned around before he got very far.
It took 52 minutes to drive in to Reykjavik. Luke fell asleep in the car. It was an easy drive using Google Maps navigation. It was hard to go the speed limit. The roads are nice and people were passing me frequently.
We parked in an underground parking garage that you pay on departure. It was a several block walk to our Hotel Alda. We got to the hotel at 12:45. Our room wasn't ready yet but the desk person was very friendly and called the maid to ask her to clean our room next. This is when jetlag hit hard. We went to the hotel restaurant called Brass. Luke ordered a hamburger and parmesan fries and I had a bowl of seafood soup with 2 slices of bread. Luke was fading fast and ate about half his meal. He said it was yummy. I ate all of my soup and it was delicious. I don't eat seafood in Ohio but I will in Iceland! Cont'd

Posted by
860 posts

We drank tap water. The meal was 5580 kroner, no tip. By then our room was ready and we took a 3 hour nap. I had planned to visit the National Knitting Association store to get a sweater, hat and gloves. But we were to tired. We also had dinner reservations at Grill market (too tired to look up the Icelandic spelling). We decided to cancel that and go back to sleep. I haven't experienced this much fatigue on a European trip before, but attribute it to the shorter, earlier flight.
We will be here 2 full weeks and decided to be rested for tomorrow. Luke is snoring away right now. 😄.
We will be up early tomorrow to make it to our Silfra snorkeling tour by 9 am.
Our Hotel is very nice. Typical Scandinavian design. Staff s very friendly and helpful.

Posted by
860 posts

I will add a few bits about clothing for Tom. I wore hiking pants and a medium weight sweater and large cotton scarf on the plane. Luke wore a t shirt and joggers. I have Keen high ankle boots and Luke has Keen ankle high boots. When we got to the Volcano site I put on a silk base layer shirt under my sweater and my rain pants. I added my rain shell jacket. Luke put on his fleece jacket and rain shell, but didn't use his rain pants. I was toasty warm and this worked well for the hike. It was about 52 degrees.

Posted by
860 posts

Thanks for that link Tom.

We checked out of our hotel at 7:30. The breakfast in the hotel was welcome as we skipped dinner the night before. The garage we parked in identifies your car by taking a picture of your license plate. The rate is about $1 per hour. We drove to Silfra at Thingvellir. We donned dry suits which is no easy task. We snorkeled in 40* water over the tectonic plate. We then spent an hour walking to see the parliament and to an overlook of the area. Next we drove 45 minutes to Fridheimer greenhouse restaurant and had lunch. I thought the tomato soup tasted too sweet, but my salad was terrific. Luke said his tomato beer didn't taste like tomatoes. Then to Geysir and Gullfoss. It was about 5:30. I wanted to see Kerith Crater but we scrapped that. We stopped at a gas station/grocery. I used an ATM card and that worked. We arrived at Hotel Voss on the south coast at 7 pm. We had dinner there which was carrot ginger soup and Arctic Char. Very yummy. It is now 9:55, broad daylight and time for me to sleep. The weirdest thing today was the weather. It was 72*. I did not pack very well for warm days. It was the perfect day though for seeing all of the sites.
Today I wore athletic pants and a long sleeve Merino wool shirt and sunglasses 🕶️. Luke wore athletic pants and a light long sleeve shirt, baseball cap and sunglasses.

Posted by
860 posts

I had yesterday's information just about finished when I lost it. An abbreviated version is... We ate breakfast at the hotel and checked out at 8:45. We stopped at Selanjafoss, Skogafoss, Dyrholaey light house , Reynsifjarna beach. All beautiful. There was a parking fee at Selanjafoss, pay at machine with Visa or MC. The trail behind the waterfall was a bit treacherous in one spot, you had to climb up a very steep rock wall. The roads to the light house and to the canyon that afternoon were unpaved, rocky, steep and narrow. We stopped in Vik for lunch. We each had seafood soup and shared a pizza. It was about $72. Then came Fradrarfilufur canyon. Wow!!! We arrived at our hotel at 7:45 pm and ate there. Luke had beef tenderloin and a beer. I had Aperol cocktail, a side salad with pear and walnuts and a cheese course. The cost was $120.

This morning I dropped Luke at the meeting site for a glacier hike. I came back to the hotel for some rest. We will stay at Foss Hotel Glacier Lagoon for the second night tonight. This afternoon we will go on a RIB ride on Joklsarlon Glacier Lagoon.

Weather was warm again yesterday, about 68. Today was 46 this morning and may get into the low 50's. It is supposed to be raining, but instead is overcast and humid. Everything is still beautiful.

Yesterday I wore a cotton long sleeve shirt that I brought for a pajama top. Everything else was too warm. It cooled in the afternoon so I added a sweater over top. We wore our rain gear at the waterfalls so we could get up close and behind. Luke wore a t-shirt, joggers and his fleece jacket. This hotel has a laundry service. I think it is $25 for one bag. We are taking advantage of that.

My overall impression at this point is that Iceland is likely the most beautiful place I have ever been. Every 25 kilometers reveals a different landscape. Flat, black and barren to green, lush and hilly to glacier mountains. Fantastic!

Posted by
860 posts

I am back from my trip now for a week. I obviously wasn't able to keep up with the daily reports. Just a few comments to add about the first few days. Our second hotel on the South Coast, Hotel Voss, was one of our favorites. The meal of arctic char was also one of our favorite meals, and the woman that checked us in and gave us our meals was extremely friendly. Also, I am sure I saw close to 100 waterfalls. One of my favorites was Skogafoss in the South. It had tons of birds nesting and flying overhead and you can get very close to where the water lands and feel the power of that.

On day 4 we took the RIB boat ride at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. We were extremely lucky again with weather. It was raining/misting and overcast. Our guide told us this is the perfect way to see the icebergs because you can see the blue colors. When the icebergs are exposed to sunshine, they turn white. I recommend the boat tour. That night we stayed a second night at Fosshotel Glacier Lagoon. They did a nice job on our laundry and it was affordable. Dinner on the second night was not to our taste. We had charred cod and neither one of us ate very much of it. My bill at the hotel was $248 (included 2 dinners, laundry and some sodas/beers).

I forgot to mention that Luke had a blast on his glacier hike. We later figured out that this is where he got sun poisoning. He was fairly well tanned from golf and working outside, but he got a fairly significant rash on his neck and hands. His ear blistered. He did report that the hike was not easy for him, so it was a good idea that I didn't attempt that.

Day 5. We did not follow our recommended itinerary this day. We wanted to be in Hofn for lunch and eat Humar (langostines). We slept in and didn't leave the hotel until about 10:30. We had a beautiful drive to Hofn which is a cute town with a nice marina. We ate at Pakkhus. We enjoyed our humar lunch and it cost $83.

After lunch, another beautiful drive along the Eastfjords. The next bit gave me PTSD. We decided to take 939 over Oxi pass. I new that this route was unpaved, and some had posted that it was a difficult drive. I wasn't very worried as I learned to drive on narrow, curvy roads in WVa. The trouble was that the clouds were low and this is a mountain pass. Visibility was about 6 feet in front of the car. We couldn't see anything. I was worried about driving off of the road or headlong into another car. I don't know how to describe how frightening this drive was due to the poor visibility. We barely made it to our hotel Gistihusid Egilsstadir for our 7 pm dinner reservations. The meal here was another favorite for me. I had lamb and Luke had ribeye. There were cows in the barn, a horse in the corral that loved being fed dandelion greens and a beautiful lake view. We spent $112 on dinner.

Day 6 Due to me being traumatized, Luke did most of the driving today. More beautiful scenery. We saw Hverir, geothermal area, Grjotagja Cave (Game of Thrones filmed here), Dimmuborgier Lava field where we took a great hike, and Skutustadagigar pseudocraters at the south end of Lake Myvatn. We stayed at Icelandair Hotel Myvatn and ate at Vogafjos Farm. It was kind of cool, because there are plexiglass windows from the restaurant into the dairy barn, where you can see the cows. We had a cheesy meal. It was $83. We attempted to drive to Studlagil Canyon. However, there was a huge machine that was adding and then flattening dirt on the road. Because of the piles of dirt and the need to somehow drive around this huge machine, we turned around.

Posted by
860 posts

Day 7 was packed and long. We started out early by seeing Dettifoss and Asbyrgi Canyon. Short hikes at both, both beautiful. We had lunch in Husavik and took a whale watching boat trip at 2 pm. We saw a large pod of dolphins, puffins and 2 different humpback whales. The whales surfaced (did not breach) so we could see them blow and their dorsal fins about 5 times each. Then the iconic tail wave each time they dove. This was a very special experience. After that we drove to see Godafoss and then to Akureryi. This was Luke's favorite town. Another great experience is he had golf tee time at 8:15 pm. I road the cart while he played. This course is one of the northernmost 18 hole golf courses in the world and it was great being there late into the night with the sun shining. We stayed at Hotel Nordurland. We had our least expensive dinner this night. We had sandwiches and fries from a food court-$27.

Day 8 This was a driving scenery day. We slept in a bit. We drove the Trollaskagi peninsula. There were many tunnels through bridges. Most of the bridges are one lane. When a car is coming in the opposite direction, you have to find a pull out area and wait for them to pass. I think these tunnels have tolls. I went to the tunnel.is website and paid for "one trip". I am not sure if I paid enough and am waiting to hear from the rental car company that I owe them more money. I think they have cameras to capture the license plate. We stayed at Salthus Guesthouse. Beautiful location on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean. They had a full service kitchen and a washing machine and dryer. I did 2 loads of laundry. (Would have been one load in my American machine).

The next 3 nights we spent in the Westfjords. The hotels were Heydalur Farm, Holt Inn and Hotel West. They were all adorable and nearly in the middle of nowhere. Holt Inn used to be a schoolhouse. The scenery in the Westfjords was breathtaking. We didn't see very many people here. Some of the roads were traumatic due to being on the side of a mountain with a sheer drop off to the ocean on our side, and very narrow. Again, Luke was the designated driver. We ate several meals in places that were part grocery store, part cafeteria. Quality of food was good. We kayaked with seals and puffins near Hedalur, this was very cool. We stopped in Hvammstangi at Kidka Wool factory. I purchased an Icelandic wool poncho and wool hat. We saw a rescued baby Arctic Fox. We took the Baldur car ferry (3 hours) back to the mainland. We spent the time speaking with an Icelandic couple. The gentleman had spent some time in Ohio as an exchange student and we had a lot to talk about comparing our lives and sharing stories.

Day 13 was Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Today and yesterday were cooler with mist and rain. Just when you think you have seen what Iceland has to offer, there is a whole new peninsula with sights to see! We spent the night back in Reykjavik.

Day 14 was supposed to be spent at the volcano again. We had a helicopter ride reserved, but the weather did not cooperate. We basically had perfect weather the whole trip until now. By now, my knees were shot. I knew I could not do a 4 hour hike. I offered to send Luke with a tour group for the hike, but he said he was also worn out and didn't want to hike that far in the poor weather since the chances of seeing anything weren't that good. I spent a few hours walking around Reykjavik and we had a nap and some down time. We had dinner at Grillmarkadurinn. We chose the tasting menu: smoked Arctic Char, Tuna ceviche, tempura prawns, grilled Minke, ribeye, salmon, and dessert. $250.

Posted by
1029 posts

Wow - this is quite a trip! Glad you are back safely. Sounds like beauty (and some excitement) abounded!

Posted by
860 posts

I did my emed telehealth Covid antigen test on day 12. I had to call in twice due to a camera problem. I suggest watching a video on how to do the test, because I almost picked up the card and ruined the test. Luke did the test on day 13. He had mistakenly used his shortened name and had to change it. This caused a bit of a problem because it took awhile to update, so he ended up calling about 5 times. They emailed us our certificates. We had to show the certificates from our phones at the Delta check in. Nobody else asked to see them.

Our flight back was at 9:30 am. It was a little difficult finding where to turn the car back in. Otherwise, things went smoothly and we were back home by 8 pm EDT.

My overall impressions are that Iceland is a must for those that enjoy the beauty of nature. I plan to get a geology of Iceland for dummies book, because I can't understand some of the things I saw. We saw some wildlife: seals, puffins, countless seabirds, reindeer, fox, whales, dolphins, dogs, cats and an African Grey parrot. We were literally attacked by some arctic terns protecting their nests when we attempted to hike to a light house near Skagastrond. I am very happy that this trip happened now because it was a challenge for me physically. After a week of babying my knees, I am finally able to climb stairs with one handrail and standing upright! Most of the "sites" can be seen a few hours northwest and southeast of Reykjavik, but going all of the way east, north and west was well worth the time. It is true that food was expensive and the rental car and gas costs added up. However, the sites were free. The experience was well worth the costs. All of the locals we talked to were happy to see Americans starting to return. I did notice that Reykjavik was much more crowded on day 14 than it was on day 1. I would take heed if you are a nervous driver and you are planning to drive the Arctic Way or the Westfjords.

Another great trip. I can't wait for the next one!

Posted by
6697 posts

Your trip sounds amazing and totally diverse/ comprehensive in terms of the areas covered. I thought I saw a lot on my trip, but only a fraction (I didn't rent a car, but went out on guided trips every single day to different places). The warning about visibility is a good one. A friend of mine got caught in some very unpredictable ice/snow storm event when he went and it was almost out of the blue, and I think it alarmed him too. So, yeah, one has to be ready for anything because the conditions can change rapidly and you're out there without many people around at all. The scariest drive I did was Mount Evans near Denver...I thought I was going to be sick too, it was white knuckle driving with the switchbacks and no guardrails (and that was a paved road, but the elevation change was drastic). Getting to the top was spectacular though, it did remind me of Iceland with the glacial lakes and other scenery.

Terrific trip reports, thank you. Your wallet must be saying OUCH right now. I know, Iceland put a large dent in mine (I think it was something like $500 per day for everything and I was traveling alone - everyting was pricey: tours, lodging, food, etc). The food was spectacular (the seafood I mean). I loved Reykjavik as well as the outdoors. What a neat place - like no other I've been to!

Posted by
3151 posts

The only toll in Iceland is for the long tunnel between Myvatn and Akureyri.

Posted by
860 posts

Agnes, my travel fund was juicy due to no travel last year. My next trip will hopefully be in May, 2022 so I have time to replenish it.

Tom, thanks for the toll info. Then I am all paid up! The toll was about $12.

Posted by
345 posts

We leave in a few weeks so our report was especially fun to read, thank you.

Have it planned to drive Oxi Pass, but read conflicting reports. I am sure it is all due to weather, so we will play that by ear. We are used to driving mountain roads with sheer drop offs though.

Thank you for the suggestion of watching a video for the eMed tests.

Posted by
860 posts

I have spoken with a few others that drove Oxi pass in the sunshine and they said it was very beautiful!

Posted by
3151 posts

Mikliz: I would not drive Oxi pass. We have learned on our trip (not yet over) to take advantage of whatever sun you get, and the sun shone so we stayed on Hwy 1 as long as possible. The east fjords are quite pretty in the sun. If you stay on 1 you get a tunnel.

Fáskrúðsfjörður looked to be an interesting hang out spot, or at least an overnight. Seyðisfjörður is the traditional hang out town but the food/rooms are overpriced and it gets 2 cruise ships/day. The drive over (no pass, just switchbacks up one side down the other) is plenty scenic though.