Betsy’s tips for her 11 day trip to Iceland in the summer with 3 other active adults. She visited Iceland to relax, see nature, hike a bit and relax.
Who & what? We were two couples who are very active adults and good hikers. We are in our late 50s to 70s. We landed in Reykjavik at 6am, rented a car, drove into Reykjavik, had breakfast, walked around and into souvenir shops, then drove to our AirBnB about 40 northeast of Reykjavik.
Any lodging, restaurants or activities especially awesome? The performing arts center in Reykjavik was great. Toured one day and attended a jazz performance the next night. Worth going there twice. The restaurants were so expensive and the food was OK. Kinda off-putting to see horse on the menu (we did not order it). All activities were awesome. We took driving day trips on 9 of the 11 days; doing nothing on 2 of the days. The waterfalls were mammoth, walking behind them fun, icebergs and glaciers stunning. No Northern Lights since we were there in the summer. Having daylight 24/7 was expected but a surprise to experience. One of our group had lived in Alaska for several years and was not as surprised as the rest of us. The surprise was that our minds do not think we are tired when there is no dark (light-less) times of the day. We did not stay in hotels; the restaurants were just OK (we like to cook and did so most of the time). The activities were day trips around the island (the Ring Road). The beers were great. Driving on the Ring Road where the bridges are often one lane was interesting; you hoped that a car was not coming in your direction and the drivers were polite so we never had a head-on experience. I cannot imagine how people navigate the roads in the winter. We rarely saw street lights in the country.
Dislikes/things you would have done differently? It rained 9 of the 11 days we were there; the coldest summer in recent history. It was raining when the plane landed; we all got wet moving from the plane to the airport buses. The airport was under construction so there were no jetways. We had rain gear but it was windy, cool and wet most of the time. We would not have stayed there for 11 days; four or five would have been enough. There was lots of construction in Reykjavik so driving around was a challenge. We parked and walked a great deal. We went to one museum in Reykjavik and it was disappointing since there were few items on display. The hot springs really smell awful and we never went in. The Blue Lagoon is a tourist trap but if people like the spa experience, then they should go. I stayed in the car in the parking lot since the winds were fierce, it was cool and it was raining so hard that the driver (one of our group) truly could not see more than 5 feet in front of the car. The restaurant food was OK, the prices were outrageous, pizza and beer were the best. Fish was OK but dinner without wine with a fish entree, green side salad and beverage was over $300 for the four of us. Those prices were typical and so high that cooking at home, bringing sandwiches on our day trips was a good idea.
If you had one more/less day? We saw enough of the country; we did not do the Ring Road as it would have meant packing and unpacking often; and the hotel prices were outrageous. For our relaxation need, we did not want to drive around the entire island country. 11 days was too much; the waterfalls, lava fields, hay-packed pink plastic marsh-mellow packages in the fields were fun to see and surprising. We were there too long and think 4 or 5 days would have been enough.
Any other tips? We loved having our own car. We saw many tour buses at each stop (waterfalls, glaciers, geysers, lava fields, fjords, Reykjavik, hot springs, etc.) and learned that tourists paid around $250 pp to go on a bus tour. We read about the sites pre-trip and re-read our books on the trip. We carried a few towels in the car since it was raining; in that way we were not sitting on wet seats. I did not and would not have brought children on the trip as there were too many places a child could fall down a crevice and disappear. Children like to run and explore; the waterfalls, rocky hikes, crevices, glaciers were not safe; Iceland would not be safe for young children (having a stroller would not have worked either).