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Iceland (The Country not the Shop)

Anyone been to attempt to see the Northern Lights here and other sights etc? I'm off there in a few weeks for a long weekend and just wondering if there's any tips anyone could share? I know it's meant to be really expensive to drink and I was debating renting a car to move about as opposed to organised trips, not sure if that's a good idea or not? Are there any hints that might save a few quid?

Any help much appreciated.
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  • Definitely rent a car, ideally a 4x4. Having the freedom is brilliant.
    For the northern lights a coach trip is probably best. Don't set your heart on seeing them though. After a knackering night on a coach, we returned disappointed.
    Try to get to a place called the Secret Lagoon. Much more atmospheric than the more famous Blue Lagoon, though that's good too.
    Try some local food. It's mental. I had what can only be described as piss-flavoured shark cubes. Luckily my reindeer burger took the taste away.
    We spent a day just driving around which was great. I've never been anywhere like it.
  • Went a couple of years ago. We rented a car and it was easy to drive around. Stayed in Reykjavik at a rented apt. It is expensive to eat and drink and we bougt breakfast stuff at a local supermarket. Blue lagoon is a must do and we drove the Golden Circle which includes some geysers and Gullfoss waterfall. Only there 3 nights on stopover to UK but was great.
  • Uboat said:

    Definitely rent a car, ideally a 4x4. Having the freedom is brilliant.
    For the northern lights a coach trip is probably best. Don't set your heart on seeing them though. After a knackering night on a coach, we returned disappointed.
    Try to get to a place called the Secret Lagoon. Much more atmospheric than the more famous Blue Lagoon, though that's good too.
    Try some local food. It's mental. I had what can only be described as piss-flavoured shark cubes. Luckily my reindeer burger took the taste away.
    We spent a day just driving around which was great. I've never been anywhere like it.

    And how were they?
  • Uboat said:

    Definitely rent a car, ideally a 4x4. Having the freedom is brilliant.
    For the northern lights a coach trip is probably best. Don't set your heart on seeing them though. After a knackering night on a coach, we returned disappointed.
    Try to get to a place called the Secret Lagoon. Much more atmospheric than the more famous Blue Lagoon, though that's good too.
    Try some local food. It's mental. I had what can only be described as piss-flavoured shark cubes. Luckily my reindeer burger took the taste away.
    We spent a day just driving around which was great. I've never been anywhere like it.

    And how were they?
    As you'd expect, but only slightly worse than the accompanying liqueur.
    I'm glad I had them, but I'll probably pass in future.
  • My Mum's gone to Iceland...
  • Pwopa nawtyimage
  • Northern lights are brilliant went for a week and saw them twice, there's a great app you can download which tells you the chance of seeing them on a particular day, works 2-3 days ahead as a guide.

    Go with a reputable company we went gray line, heard some horror stories from cheaper trips.

    You must go blue lagoon brilliant half day out.

    Most bars do a happy hour, best to drink then and take some duty frees in with you.
  • My wife went with her parents a few years ago and they won’t forget their attempt at trying the local delicacy, putrified shark. By the description above, it sounds like the same thing!

    Apparently the worst thing any of them have ever eaten!

    My daughter goes in October half-term with her school, lucky lady. Not yet been myself :(
  • Yeh the blue lagoon is definitely worth going to . Food is a bit different ... i had puffin i think . Birds are fit though , enjoy
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  • Incredible place, I will go back. Wish we'd rented a car - I'd imagine a 4x4 would be best this time of year. We did organised tours which were more restrictive and they have quite a bit of filler in there to justify the cost and time.

    Having your own car means you can get to the smaller spas that are in every town/village/settlement but the blue lagoon trip is a must (and a good idea to pre book now online to avoid the queue).

    Reykjavik is an incredible city, very very hipster so if you are fed up of whale, puffin and fermented shark, there is plenty of other good food and craft beer. Echo those who say pick up some duty free at the airport (you leave the airport through a duty free shop) as the off licenses in town only number about 6 and they close very early (1800 i think).

    There's an incredible hot dog stand near to the prime minister's house. Cheapest meal in town!

    Have fun!
  • edited January 24
    The white Einstok beer with an orange segment in is class, hadn't tried it before I went there.

    Thought it'd be mega expensive from what I'd heard but found it was pretty similar to London prices, maybe a bit more.

    Also got the tasting menu from here on the last day as we got too many Pesetas out before we went there... but would recommend it to anyone (http://www.grillmarkadurinn.is/)

    Did the 'boat tour' (big old ferry) to see the Northern Lights... I would say to avoid that and either get your own 4x4 or go on a tour inland as it didn't go far out and the city lights kind of spoiled it a bit when they did appear.

    Blue lagoon was brilliant (intrigued by this 'secret' one!), touristy and commercial but still great. Golden Circle we had included with the deal but actually found the tour fine. They gave you plenty of time to see things and just took you from place to place and let you get on with it. The frozen waterfalls we saw (big one that's in Prometheus) is still my phone background.
  • edited January 24
    We had a lay over there on a flight from Canada to England which we turned into a long weekend in Reykjavik. We didn't really get off the beaten track, but we rented a small car (VW Lupo I think). Like absolutely everything else in Iceland, car rental was quite a bit more expensive than in a lot of other places so we went for the cheapest car they had but you might want to consider a 4x4 if you will be there in the next few weeks - remember it is winter and the clue is in the name for what the place gets like in winter. I don't know what the law is there on snow tyres, but if you can find a rental company that fits them on their cars that might be worth considering too - they do make a difference. It's also quite a long drive from the airport to Reykjavik, so the cost of the car rental will mostly be covered just in the saved taxi fare (based on Icelandic prices, you'll probably need a mortgage to cover the taxi), although check what parking is like where you are staying. Also be careful where you take the car - you are not covered to drive on some of the inland gravel roads under the standard rental agreement - I have a friend who the rental company tried to screw for a few thousand dollars in "sand damage' saying she'd taken it off road, when she hadn't, and google suggests this is not an uncommon ploy so something to watch out for.

    If you have a car the golden circle is easy to drive and navigate. Blue lagoon is back down by the airport. Guided tours are expensive and not really necessary - get yourself and guide book and a road map and you'll be fine. There aren't really enough tarmaced roads for you to get seriously lost.

    Again, food and drink is expensive - you'll see all the locals head straight for duty free when they get off the plane - but that is still not exactly 'cheap'. We like to try and eat at nicer places when on holiday and avoid cooking wherever possible, but we ended up getting a couple of takeaways and just ate out for a nice meal the once. Take sandwiches with you if you go on a road trip - places to eat along the way may be few and far between, and they may charge even more for the captive audience.

    We did a whale watching boat trip out of Reykjavik harbour which we enjoyed as you got some great views of Reykjavik and the nearby mountains. Saw lots of wildlife, but no whales unfortunately.
  • I saw the Northern Lights in Norway. Absolutely awesome
  • Never been, always wanted to, and now having read this thread will make sure I correct that soon.
  • bobmunro said:

    Never been, always wanted to, and now having read this thread will make sure I correct that soon.

    Can't you see the Northern Lights from Stoke ?
  • bobmunro said:

    Never been, always wanted to, and now having read this thread will make sure I correct that soon.

    Can't you see the Northern Lights from Stoke ?
    I see them 2 or 3 times a year, albeit it relatively faintly, from my back garden here in Edmonton Alberta and we are on about the same latitude as Liverpool. The problem is the further south you go the weaker they tend to be and with the level of light pollution in the UK they aren't visible, even though they are there sometimes. If you want a really spectacular show you need to head north and somewhere dark, and keep your fingers crossed you get a good solar storm at the same time.
  • Great country to visit, yes it is expensive food & booze you just need to take a few more bob, great sights & people will defo go back.
  • Check the northern lights forecast, it is pretty accurate.

    We rented a car, no need for 4x4 as the roads are great unless you intend to go off-roading.

    Are you staying in a hotel or self catered? We cooked for ourselves to save money but there are cheaper options out there - you just have to find them.
  • Anyone been to attempt to see the Northern Lights here and other sights etc? I'm off there in a few weeks for a long weekend and just wondering if there's any tips anyone could share? I know it's meant to be really expensive to drink and I was debating renting a car to move about as opposed to organised trips, not sure if that's a good idea or not? Are there any hints that might save a few quid?

    Any help much appreciated.

    Definitely rent a car.

    Don't pin all your hopes on the Northern Lights as you might not see them.

    Do the Golden Circle, the Kerið crater lake was amazing.

    Not sure you'll be there long enough to see this but this is some of the stuff we saw outside Reykjavik.

    image

    Would definitely recommend seeing Skogafoss if you have the time.

    Prices of drink were silly. We got some wine from the airport on the way out and just drank it in our hotels, especially helpful as we had supermarket food in our room a few nights because eating out is quite expensive.

    For lunches we bought stuff from the supermarket and made sandwiches from it. In Reykjavik we went to Dunkin Donuts and got a bagel which was super cheap.

    There's a really reasonable (and tasty) pizza place in Reykjavik called "Pizza With No Name" which I'd recommend.
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  • There's also a fish & chips stall near the marina which stayed open late and was great although probably too cold to eat outside at the moment.
  • Anyone been to attempt to see the Northern Lights here and other sights etc? I'm off there in a few weeks for a long weekend and just wondering if there's any tips anyone could share? I know it's meant to be really expensive to drink and I was debating renting a car to move about as opposed to organised trips, not sure if that's a good idea or not? Are there any hints that might save a few quid?

    Any help much appreciated.

    I went two years ago, almost to the day. Wrap up and yes it is expensive. We stuck to organised trips as we were only there a few days but I imagine hiring a car would be great if you really want to get out in the country and explore. We never got to see the northern lights though as every night the trip was cancelled due to poor visibility. My tip would be to try and go as early in your stay as you can to maximise the chances of being able to see them the next night if that makes sense. Enjoy!
  • Thanks guys, some really useful stuff here.

    Can't say I'm looking forward to piss flavoured shark cubes, but, you only live once!
  • Off to see the Norvern Lights this weekend

    image
  • My tuppence worth of input.

    I have been to Iceland not so far off half a dozen times now, albeit mostly more as a 'resident' than a tourist.

    - If you have time and love a bit of adrenaline - travel to Skagafjarðarvegur (I know..) for some river rafting - it is by far the funnest thing I have ever done, and this was on the king of all hangovers. . It is 300km away, so a few hours drive, but worth every minute of the drive once you get going, also some lovely places to stay nearby for cheap (in Icelandic terms) . Some reviews: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g189954-d4174151-Reviews-Viking_Rafting_Day_Trips-Akureyri_Northeast_Region.html

    - Expect expensive prices, they earn a lot and they spend a lot. Alcohol is expensive, taxi's are very expensive and eating out is expensive. I spent 100k Krona (ISK), woke up thinking that's alright, must be about £200.. It was £700.

    - Be wary of the Tapas - you'll probably get served rotten Whale and uncooked shark and all sorts of madness - good laugh after a few beers, though.

    - Wrap up for wind, it's the wind that gets you. Expect wind and rain and grey skies, grey skies are the banker, but Iceland is still super beautiful.

    - Go out LATE if you want to experience the real Iceland, I am talking late late. If you want to soak up the weekend night life, most of the people leave at 11PM-midnight to go out. It's mostly the tourists at 7-8PM. They party through to the early hours and sleep in till the afternoons.

    - To sum up the size of the country and its population: I have been to Iceland just a handful of times and bumped into the majority of the famous people I know. Hermann Hreidarsson whilst going to a pre-season friendly and Julius Bjornsson (the Mountain from Game of Thrones) whilst grabbing a burrito.

    - To reiterate others' points r.e. the Northern Lights, it is no banker to see them. I didn't see them in Iceland, and only once in Norway in the Northernmost town I could be in - even then I needed my glasses to see it. As with anything, don't class yourself unlucky or the experience as terrible if you are not to see them.

    Anyone thinking of going, go. The people are lovely, majority speak great English and are more than happy to help albeit they are mostly quite shy, then after a few beers as crazy as batshit. Will add more if I think of it.
  • Be sure you try Hakarl. It's shark that they throw into a hole for 6 months then dig it up and eat it. Tried it in the Faroes at an Icelandic tourist event, best thing I've tasted since I accidentally chewed up my granddaughters week old nappy.
  • Was there for 3 nights in December.

    Unsurprisingly it was absolutely freezing! -12 one day, probably closer to -20 with the wind chill. Could barely take your gloves off to take a picture on your phone before hands started to go a bit numb! And even then your phone can stop working!

    We did a group tour that stayed at Hotel Ranga. Amazing place a few hours from Rejkavik. The sky was so clear one night, the sheet of stars in the sky was incredible. We had the last bit of a meteor shower too.

    Blue Lagoon definitely one to do as well.

    Regarding the Northern Lights, there is something called the KP index which measures solar activity. As a rough guide to see something in Iceland you need a 2 or higher on the index (goes from 0 to 9). But we had a clear night and a KP index of 4, and it was just a smudge in the sky. Then on our last night it was a KP index of 1 and they were much clearer. So, unfortunately it really is pot luck!!
  • Should add, you will have an amazing time! Already we want to go back!
  • ct_addick said:

    Went a couple of years ago. We rented a car and it was easy to drive around. Stayed in Reykjavik at a rented apt. It is expensive to eat and drink and we bougt breakfast stuff at a local supermarket. Blue lagoon is a must do and we drove the Golden Circle which includes some geysers and Gullfoss waterfall. Only there 3 nights on stopover to UK but was great.

    Forgot to add we went snowmobiling on the Langjokull glacier which was brilliant just an vast expanse of snow and no trees etc
  • I'm surprised that Iceland is so popular for the Northern Lights, as my impression is that it's generally cloudy. I went to Abisko in Sweden to see them, and only saw them on one night out of 4. When there we were told about the party of Scots who had come to see them 2 weeks before us. The weather had been cloudy, and they missed out. But there was a solar storm at the time, and the Lights were visible for their neighbours back home. Anywhere you go, it's pot luck whether you see them, but you can maximise your chances.

    One Iceland tip: beer costs practically as much for a pint as for a half (Ireland is the same).
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