While it has taken me a few months to put this post together, I am committed to sharing the amazing scenery and overall experience of our recent trip to Iceland. As we covered a lot of ground, I have decided to break this up into several parts, with this initial post being about the planning process and the first few days of the trip.
We did most of our research online and borrowed the latest edition of the Lonely Planet Iceland guidebook from the local library. Once we committed to the trip, purchased our plane tickets (on 4/16/15), and reserved accommodations and the rental car, we basically didn’t do anything trip-related for several months. We had plenty to keep us busy and distracted: I joined my extended family’s vacation in Alaska in May; we attended Greg’s youngest brother’s wedding in Indiana in June; we moved and both started new jobs in July; and I returned to Indiana for my uncle’s funeral in August. Thus, it wasn’t until about two weeks before departure that I started really finalizing the details of the trip.I eventually ordered the Lonely Planet Iceland guidebook and DK Eyewitness Travel Top 10 Iceland from Amazon. We also decided to purchase a 1:500,000 scale road atlas at the Ferðakort map store in Reykjavik as it was not available in the U.S. and we weren't enamored with the foldout maps we found at Powell's. By the way, we are now selling all three books (in like new condition) so please send me a message if you’re interested!
Here are a few of the websites that I found most helpful for research and planning purposes:
I will discuss our budget and expenses in a future post, but know that, as it relates to our overall itinerary, we did not let money i.e. cost dictate the duration or route of the trip. We could have easily tacked on a third week, or at least a few more days, so we wouldn’t have to be on the go so much and cover so much ground each day. But we were limited by Greg’s vacation days as well as the airline’s flight schedules.Thus our itinerary was essentially a “Greatest Hits of Iceland” with the exclusion of the remote West Fjords and the Highland Interior, which require a 4-wheel drive vehicle (and more time). We basically circumnavigated the island counterclockwise via Route 1 aka the Ring Road, deviating only to reach more remote sites and parts of the East Fjords and the Snæfellsnes peninsula.
Based on our research, we decided to travel in the shoulder season, which generally starts in September. At that point, prices drop as the weather can change quickly and there is less daylight (13-14 hours, compared to 24 hours in the middle of summer) for sightseeing. By mid-September, many hotels and restaurants are closed and activities are limited. But there are fewer tourists and an increased chance of seeing the northern lights. This is why we chose to travel over the first two weeks of September.
We departed Portland on Wednesday, September 2 at 6:30 a.m. We had a scheduled, long (7+ hour) layover in New York City during which we took public transit into lower Manhattan to visit the World Trade Center Memorial site for the first time. We met up with my friend Corey outside of St. Paul’s Chapel and wandered around the memorial pools and the new/ongoing construction. After a nice sunset stroll and dinner along the esplanade overlooking the Hudson River and New Jersey skyline, it was time to head back to the airport. Sweaty (it was 91F) and exhausted, we boarded our flight to Reykjavik and departed on time at 10:30 p.m.
Thursday, September 3, 2015
We landed on schedule just after 8:00 a.m. on a gray, rainy 52F day at Keflavik. We shopped the airport duty free, as our research indicated that alcohol was significantly cheaper there than anywhere else in the country. Then we crammed all of our purchases into our already stuffed suitcases and boarded the Flybus into town. Our next two night’s accommodations were at an Airbnb in the city center, which was walking distance from the BSI Bus Terminal. Unfortunately, it was raining steadily when we got off the bus, so we donned our full rain gear and pack covers for the 1 km walk to the apartment. Our host was just arriving to clean, so we left all of our excess gear with her and headed out on foot to the tattoo studio where I had made an appointment via email in advance. After a lengthy consultation, I ultimately decided to wait until the end of the trip to get my new ink, so Greg & I began searching for a warm, dry and reasonably priced spot for lunch. We found a cute little cafe serving fresh sandwiches and soup which was the perfect comfort food for our tired minds and bodies. Afraid that we would sleep the rest of the day if we went back to the apartment to take a nap, we simply took a few minutes to regroup and map out some sights of interest, then initiated a self-guided walking tour of the city using my trip research notes and our two guidebooks. After a couple of hours spent visiting the Hallgrimskirkja, Einar Jonsson Museum sculpture garden, and buildings in Old Reykjavik, we browsed the main tourist office for any useful free maps and other info. At this point it was after 5 p.m. and we were completely exhausted. We headed back to the apartment for a hot shower and had no trouble sleeping through the night.
Friday, September 4, 2015
Photos from Days 1-3 (all taken with my iPhone 6):
New York City layover