Trip report: Iceland

I travelled from San Diego to Reykjavik May 2012. This trip report focuses on the company Reykajik Excursions. Iceland may be windy, rainy and/or cold most of the year. Nonetheless you'd be remiss not to explore even the most basic tourist traps. We chose Reykjavik Excursions because the prices were reasonable and the packages convenient.  1) The Blue Lagoon tour picked us up at the Keflavik airport about 2 hours after our arrival, on our way to the capital. Within seconds of dipping in to 100 degrees F of milky, smokey geothermal goodness, it was heaven. It is very important to strip down, take a shower naked, soap/wash, apply plenty of conditioner. and then put on your bathing suit. When in Rome... You can be a prude, but be the one that doesn't make eyecontact when she does this. I'm no supermodel, but I am - more importantly - sanitary. We arrived at 10 am, opening time, and beat the crowds. The lockerrooms include hair blow dryers, mirrors, cotton swabs and large mirrors. The cafe is pricey but I thoroughly enjoyed my skyr smoothie and caesar salad. The steam bath was very nice, as was the waterfall. Swim to the far end for buckets of facial clay. Apply liberally!! http://www.bluelagoon.com/Geothermal-spa/

Posted by andrea
san diego, ca, USA
44 posts

2) The Golden Circle Direct tour was a 6 hour trip, including direct hotel pick up, and a few delays/detours because of late travelers. Although we did not stop at Parliament, we lucked out with not just sunlight, but sunshine - making it clear enough to take plenty of photos from our bus at Thingvellier, of Viking horses grazing and sheep, of volcanoes and glaciers, of small towns where everyone has a jacuzzi in their backyard, and Halldor Laxness' house!! That last bit was a great surprise. I'd read The Fish Can Sing and Independent People just weeks before my trip. Excellent books - the latter won Laxness the noble prize in 1955.   A) The Geysir spouted every 5-10 min, sometimes twice in a few seconds yet I was only able to capture the steam that remained. And yet we got sprayed. Very unexpected but Moreso funny. B) Gulfoss was awe inspiring. I imagined it to be thunderous and chilly - a bright rainbow stretched across the width and the lookout points were very peaceful. C) Thingvellir Park was truly amazing. Its a UNESCO world heritage site. We stopped exactly where the North American plate and Eurasian plate meet.
3) We also used Reykjavik Excursions for our morning flybus pick up to the airport. The shuttle arrived promptly at 430 am but immediately turned off Laugavegur, where our hotel was.  This was a disappointment for me because I wanted to take photos of all the party people. The music is still bumpin, the sun is out. I don't think there even is a last call. 

Posted by andrea
san diego, ca, USA
44 posts

1st Stop Reykjavik, Iceland Day 1 - All airports and Airplanes Flights 1135 am - 235 pm San Diego to Seattle, Alaska Airlines
7 pm - 5 am Seattle to Keflavik, Icelandair Icelandair is the Rolls Royce of flying. A bottle of glacial water is handed to you as soon as you step on the plane. Pillows felt plush and the blanket was very cozy. I really enjoyed the meal, which comes at an additional cost. I sat middle, so there was a ripple affect of problems. Window kept the shutter up and played angry birds very loudly. He wasnt terribly tall, yet his knees and elbows knocked me up a bit. I coped with plenty of water, failed attempts at sleeping, stretching, sleeping pills and in flight entertainment - 9 min documentaries about artists throughout Iceland. Aisle was quiet and awake the whole 7 hours but I had too many bathroom breaks. We booked a flight with a 3 night layover. Final destination Helsinki. Day 2 Reykjavik Iceland Im not an early bird or a late bird. Plain bird i guess but Keflavik was very clean and made the waits doable. We stopped by Blue Lagoon on our way to Reykjavik. Unforgettable and a top 3 on vacation highlights of all time. We then transferred at the BSI bus terminal and were ped off at our hotel's doorstep. CenterHotel Skjalbreid is dead center on Laugavegur, a one way main street in downtown, lined with coffee shops, boutiques, restaurants. Reykjavik is extremely easy to navigate. It's not just small, there are maps (like directories you find at malls) along the street. We walked a few blocks over to Hallgrímskirkja and took the Elevator to the top... There's a great view of the entire city, in all directions. It was a cloudy day but still very pretty.

Posted by andrea
san diego, ca, USA
44 posts

For dinner we carefully chose Tapas barinn. It was so good and reasonably priced that I wanted to come back again and again. It'll have to wait until another trip back. It is very easy to find - well everything is easy to find what with all the signage everywhere. We were seated immediately and given menus in English. We ordered a lamb skewer, chocolate and vanilla *, paella, salmon skewer, and waters. Day 3 Reykjavik Considering I had 2 hours of sleep on the plane, and that's being generous, I was really surprised that 7 hours of sleep felt more than enough to get me back on my feet.  The nightlife in Reykjavik starts at 1 am and the noise comes mainly from people on cigarette breaks. Nothing obnoxious. I woke up only once and still slept well. Breakfast at the hotel was free and necessary, especially since we planned on eating a high class meal of traditional Icelandic food some time during our stay. We had muesli with milk, toast with jam, boiled egg, juice. We stopped at Mokka and settled in with our cappuccino (450 ISK) and latte. Mmmmmm. Where * I have a very good friend whose barista skills can rarely be challenged. He'd love Mokka! As did I. Next up, Kolaportið. We had only a vague understanding of what area to find it and quickly found an information store that gave us not only a map but specific directions. We were only a block off. Small indoor flea market. Very large book and record collection. Lots of clothes, some shoes. My flea market finds: pale pink scarf with Zebras for 1000 ISK, Flashdance record 500 ISK, Sagas * book 500 ISK.

Posted by andrea
san diego, ca, USA
44 posts

At 13:00 we met up with foreigners for the goecco.com FREE walking tour. Tips encouraged. Comical, very very comical. If a fisherman husband left his not pregnant wife and returned to find a new son, she could say an elf visited her in her sleep. Completely acceptable, end of discussion. If a wife finds said husband to have syphilis, he could say that he mistakenly peed on an elf rock (home). Completely acceptable, end of discussion!!! I am a big supporter of preservationists and historians, having been a docent for a few years post-undergrad. Oli, a local, and Taylor, a transplant, were witty, sexy and fun and we would have wasted our time if wed headed to Reykjavik Settlement 871 +- 2 and called it a day. They made it abundantly clear which parts of the tour were fact and opinion and I ate up every bit of it. Lunchtime: baerjerin Bestu hot dog stand. Everything on it with a coke. That touch of lamb, slight crunch on the outside, juicy sausageness on the in. YUM! Only 500 ISK.

Posted by andrea
san diego, ca, USA
44 posts

Long break back at the hotel. When we finally decided to go to Kringlan for TopShop, we learned all malls and boutiques were closed. We found instead a few bookstores and tourist stores to satisfy the fix. Dinner Saegrifin. It was raining and in the 40s F so our rubber boots helped make the short walk to the docks doable. We accidentally entered through the back, as did many others - the owner was friendly and pointed us through the kitchen in the midst of working. We ordered 2 lobster soups, and a skewer of shrimp and veggies. ISK Bread and butter came at no additional cost. The bread was delicious and I couldnt get enough of it. A nice crust, but fluffy inside. I wish I had gone more than once. The soup was so smooth and I believe had coconut juice. The lobster and shrimp were plump. Dessert Scandanavian. This Restayrant and bar was only a few doors down feom CenterHotel. We ordered 2 hot chocolates and, upon recommendation of the waitress, a French chocolate cake. Naturally, we had immediate sugar highs. Very very good.