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Iceland

 
 
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Author elsslots
Admin
#16 | Posted: 23 Aug 2020 10:08 | Edited by: elsslots 
Today I returned from a very fulfilling trip to Iceland. I will put my 11-day itinerary here as an inspiration, maybe @Randi & Svein who visited 2 weeks before me could do also with theirs? It has similarities but also is slightly different. I used a 2WD rental car for my trip and completed the full circle on the Ring Road anticlockwise.

Day 1 - Flight Icelandair Amsterdam - Reykjavik. Overnight Reykjavik.
Day 2 - Full day in Reykjavik. Overnight Reykjavik.
Day 3 - Superjeep tour to Landmannalaugar/Fjallabak TWHS. Overnight Reykjavik
Day 4 - Vatnajökull WHS. Overnight Skaftafell.
Day 5 - Ingolfshofdi Puffin tour plus some more Vatnajökull. Overnight Skaftafell.
Day 6 - Long drive to Myvatn with a lunch stop in Djupivogur. Overnight Myvatn.
Day 7 - Full day around Lake Myvatn TWHS. Overnight Myvatn.
Day 8 - Whale watching at Husavik. Turf church Víðimýrarkirkja and turf farm Glaumbaer TWHS. Overnight Hvammstangi.
Day 9 - Thingvellir WHS and rest of Golden Circle (Geysir/Strokkur, Gulfoss), ferry to Westman Islands. Overnight Heimaey.
Day 10 - Surtsey WHS and Heimaey. Ferry back to the mainland. Overnight Keflavik.
Day 11 - Flight back home.

In hindsight, 11 days were pretty perfect. Everything between 10 and 14 days is good I think. With extra days, I would have liked another day at the Westman Islands and incorporate a sightseeing flight above the Vatnajökull icecap and glaciers. With less days, I'd consider skipping the east and northeast (everything between Jökulsarlon and Myvatn) as I found it the least interesting.

Of course I will add reviews of the WHS and TWHS in the coming weeks. More detailed day-to-day reports can be found on my Dutch language website: https://elsslots.wordpress.com/category/reisverslag-ijsland-2020/?order=asc .

Author Colvin
Partaker
#17 | Posted: 23 Aug 2020 14:06 
That looks like an awesome itinerary — thanks for sharing! I'd certainly be interested in seeing how similar or different Randi and Svein's itinerary was if they'd like to share it. The reviews and blog entries are certainly convincing me that I need to visit Iceland sometime in summer!

Author nfmungard
Partaker
#18 | Posted: 9 May 2022 14:48 
We are planning to visit Surtsey in early August. We have a few places on the boat left. If you plan to be in Iceland, ping me.

Author kintante
Partaker
#19 | Posted: 12 Aug 2022 03:48 
I would like to participate with some general knowledge we gathered during our Iceland trip

How to travel
Caused by after Covid rental shortage and high season, the rental car prices were crazy we opted for a normal car and payed almost 1000 EUR for 9 days. 4WD started from 1500. The first rule is probably to book early, as they seem to run out of cars during peak season. We were able to visit most sites with the normal car, but missed out on 2 tent sites (Fjallabak and Breiudarfjödur) due to lack of a 4WD. It is not just the roads you are not allowed with a normal car, that give you a hard time. Many roads outside the ring are gravel roads and simply bad. I would go for a 4WD if you can afford it, simply for not skipping sites due to road conditions. But to see the current WHS, a normal car is enough.

Where to sleep
This was the most tricky for me. Especially for 3, you need to book ahead. Options are very limited outside Reykjavik. The problem is, that the weather in Iceland requires full flexibility to change your plans, so booking ahead turned out to hinder us from advancing faster to the next place. If you travel alone, I would probably go for a tent. There are enough camping sites and they are cheap. And you don't need to pre-book. We spent an average of 150 EUR per night for very basic places for 3. Höfn was the most expensive place. Avoid sleeping there if you can.

What to eat
I did not enjoy eating in Iceland. Normal Icelandic restaurants are expensive and outside Reykjavik there are not many of them. The prices for food are actually what I know from home (Switzerland), but you get much smaller portions. I usually could have eaten the same thing I ordered twice. They also close between 9 and 10 pm, which might be a problem, as you want to use to long daylight hours to squeeze in as much sightseeing as possible.
For breakfast and during the day, we bought food in grocery stores. Bonus is the cheapest. Netto is also fine. Check the map before, as they have not too many stores around the island. For dinner we sadly had to opt for fast food a few times, because these places were the only thing still open after 10pm. Aktu Taktu was not bad. I did not like Leirunesti. Please don't eat whale meat or puffin meat. Tourists ordering these things are the main reason they keep killing these awesome and threatened animals in Iceland.

Surtsey
Nan coordinated, that 3 of us (Nan, Clyde and me) travelled to Iceland at the same time to split the cost for Surtsey. I would highly recommend this if you don't want to pay the charter fee of 1200 EUR for the boat by yourself. The boat fits 12 people and if completely full the price for the 2.5h trip would actually be very reasonable.
You should build your itinerary with Surtsey as the main sight to see. The trip is cancelled if winds are too strong, so you need at least one replacement date.

Swimming pools
Every bigger settlement has a public pool. They are cheap and a nice way to relax after hiking. Public pools all have a small 36-38 degrees pool, a small 38-40 degrees pool and a big and a (around 35 degrees) swimming pool, often with slides for the kids.
The blue lagoon is obviously too expensive, but still nice. It is accessed via time slots and most were booked. We went at 9pm on the last day (one of two slots remaining for the whole week) and paid 85 EUR per adult to stay there until it closed at 10:30pm. At least a beer and the towel usage was included. Don't go, unless you want to make your wife happy or you also collect the 25 Wonders of the World. But I would still suggest to visit the site. In front of the Spa you will find a beautiful area with rocks and blue water and you can visit this area for free.

Author Colvin
Partaker
#20 | Posted: 12 Aug 2022 17:33 
Thanks for the great tips! I definitely agree with your observations on food; Iceland is one of the most expensive places for food that I've yet encountered. How did the trip to Surtsey go? Did you make it on the first day or did you have to go for the back-up day? Glad you had a good trip!

Author nfmungard
Partaker
#21 | Posted: 15 Aug 2022 03:21 
kintante:
Caused by after Covid rental shortage and high season, the rental car prices were crazy we opted for a normal car and payed almost 1000 EUR for 9 days

Cheapest class was roughly 100 EUR a day. However, cars will always be more expensive in Iceland due to terrible road conditions. The wear and tear... In any case, get full insurance.

kintante:
It is not just the roads you are not allowed with a normal car, that give you a hard time. Many roads outside the ring are gravel roads and simply bad.

The roads in question are F (= Forbidden) Roads. Google maps may still steer you towards them. Check https://safetravel.is to be really sure where you can go. Generally, F Roads may cross water and that can break cars.

Gravel roads can get pretty bad, too. We aborted a visit to a seal site on official roads as it was a constant chain of potholes. If you don't like the brown patina, bigger tank stations have car cleaning (water hose) for free.

kintante:
If you travel alone, I would probably go for a tent. There are enough camping sites and they are cheap.

We travelled with a tent and some prebooked guesthouses (small rooms, community kitchen, community bath). Camping is really the only option if you want to stay flexible. I was hoping for cancellations etc. to open up hotels, but specifically between Vik and Akureyri, there were no options at all or only at super high prices (>300EUR).

Campsites were fine. Höfn was imho the nicest.

kintante:
Höfn was the most expensive place. Avoid sleeping there if you can.

Bring a tent. Höfn was a very nice (and natural) stop over. The camp sites also have bungalows (that you need to reserve in advance), that are less pricey.

kintante:
For breakfast and during the day, we bought food in grocery stores.

Food in Iceland was not good. At least not for the amounts I was willing to pay. You are best served by preparing food yourself.

kintante:
Surtsey
Nan coordinated, that 3 of us (Nan, Clyde and me) travelled to Iceland at the same time to split the cost for Surtsey. I would highly recommend this if you don't want to pay the charter fee of 1200 EUR for the boat by yourself. The boat fits 12 people and if completely full the price for the 2.5h trip would actually be very reasonable.
You should build your itinerary with Surtsey as the main sight to see. The trip is cancelled if winds are too strong, so you need at least one replacement date.

A few corrections:
* SECA (Seabirds and Cliff Adventures) comes recommended.
* Boat has 10 seats. I think Els found a smaller boat (a bit cheaper option). Price is high, but on a per seat level okay.
* They can tell you like 3 days in advance how the weather is going to be. Problem is that unless you plan to camp, it's really hard to keep your itinierary flexible in Iceland.
* Last but not least, you can try to sell the remaining seats. We found 2 Americans at the harbour. So probably, if you arrive early and look around you could find copayers. The normal daily tours only go around the main island.

kintante:
Every bigger settlement has a public pool. They are cheap and a nice way to relax after hiking.

Yes. Recommendation is to go to the public pools (10 EUR). They also solve the main issue with camping I have (hot showers and proper restrooms).

Author nfmungard
Partaker
#22 | Posted: 15 Aug 2022 03:34 
Itinerary
* 03/04 Aug: Arrival Iceland. Bus to Reykjavik.
* 04 Aug: Golden Circle and then Vestmannaeyjabær
Note: Leave Reykjavik asap. No point sticking around apart from picking up the car and doing groceries. And Vestmannaeyjabær really nice.
* 05 Aug: Surtsey and then road to Vik.
* 06 Aug: Vik to Höfn with several Glacier and Waterfall stops.
* 07 Aug: Höfn to Fellabær.
Note: First encounter with a long gravel road in the fog going up the mountain.
* 08 Aug: Fellabær to Akureyri. Myvatn and several other stops along the way. Best part was to travel via gravel road from Stuðlagil Canyon to Möðrudalur.
* 09 Aug: Akureyri to Stadur. We thought Stadur is a town. It isn't. Always check where groceries are available.
* 10 Aug: Stadur to Reykjavik.
* 11 Aug: Early flight via Copenhagen home.

Possible tweaks:
* For Western Fjords you would need another 2 days. A lot of driving on potentially bad roads.
* For getting to Vatnajökull from the North (Highland) probably a 4WD and another day.
* You can also explore the North Eastern coast (1 day).

Budget
I would assume costs end up as following (per day, for 2 people):
* Rental car in high season: 100EUR.
* Gas: 40EUR.
* Hotel: 100EUR.
* Campsite: 20EUR per person. Not sure if RVs cost extra.
* Entries: 0-20EUR. Most sites are free. If you have to pay entry (and there a few sites where that's sensible), assume 20EUR.
* Food: Pizza, Burgers, ... 20EUR. Real food > 50EUR.

To sum up, you min have to spend 200 EUR per day on the island if travelling with two people, a rental car and camping in a tent.

Sites

WHS:
* 4.5 to 5*: Vatnajökull National Park. This is in league with the best of National Parks (Los Glaciares). Worth a trip.
* 4*: Surtsey. It may have been the overall experience and not so much the site. But still, stellar trip.
* 1.5* Thingvellir: Would have better served by being an intangible heritage. There is just too little left.

Tent:
* Yes. Turfhouses. Sure inscription. However, most museums contain relocated turf houses. The best I saw was Víðimýrarkirkja. If you love wooden churches as much as I do ...
* No. Myvatn. Pretty lake. Not much else.

Other:
* Reykjavik: Skip. Terrible village that grew to a town. You may need to pass for logistical reasons, but that's roughly the only time you should allocate the place.
* Philipp and I didnt find a pretty town. Clyde felt there is one (Selfoss?).
* Viking sites are somehow none existing. All we found was pretty laughable. We didn't even find tomb graves.

Tips
* Coffee sucks in all of Iceland. You should go for the filter coffee to be on the safe side.
* Rental cars are cheaper in downtown Reykjavik. If you arrive late anyhow and would like to safe yourself the hassle, take flybus to town. They also offer an option to take you to the hotel.
* Our car rental offered a 30 EUR fee for us returning the car at Kevlavik. You may want to consider it.

Author nfmungard
Partaker
#23 | Posted: 15 Aug 2022 03:46 

Author meltwaterfalls
Partaker
#24 | Posted: 15 Aug 2022 13:29 
Thanks for these run downs.
A return to Iceland has been in our plans for a little while, but tallying up the costs always seems to drop it down the list.

I will say I liked Reykjavik, but that is probably a result of my obsesion with the music scene there, especially when I was younger. A visit to Smekkleysa Record Store and Sundlaugin recording studio were as good as WHS ticks for me.

I also liked Hallgrimskirkja (it is a big expresionist concrete cathedral so of course I did) and the pool at Laugardalslaug was probably the best equipped one we went to (also next to the national stadium, so another tick on another list for me)

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