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A bunch of questions - 12 days in Iceland this May

Arlington, Virginia
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A bunch of questions - 12 days in Iceland this May

Hello people of the forum,

I have been reading your posts for a few weeks now, preparing for my Iceland trip.

A lot of very helpful tips/ information on here!

I have done a lot of research as well; yet still have a few unanswered questions that I hope you can help me with!

We are planning a trip to Iceland in early May this year, for about 10-12 days.

I have made a general itinerary for us, and I would like to ask your opinions as well as your advice:

My husband and I are really not into touristy places, so we are not interested in places like the Blue Lagoon or anything of this sort (as pretty as it may be)

And yes, I am fully aware that nothing in Iceland is “touristy” really, but still…

I want my Iceland trip and experience to be focused on wild life, nature, heritage, and history and of course: how can we pass on the local bar scene and local food in the cities? (with emphasis on local ‘real’ stuff!)

Can anyone local, or someone with same interests maybe suggests some ‘hidden gems’? I am very interested in the history of Iceland and the Viking heritage, and local folklore but sadly couldn’t find much about information about it…

We want to hike, but not to camp out, so we will get hotels near all locations.

Day 1-2

Land in Reykjavík, pick up rental car and head to a day trip to Bjarnarfell to see the geysers and hike a bit in Gullfoss. (Golden Circle)

Option: driving to Hveragerdi:

Would anyone recommend it? I have heard mixed reviews, and I want to hear your opinion regarding spending a day hiking there, and maybe getting into the natural hot springs. Is it worth the trip? How busy does it get etc

QUESTION: Is it worth the day trip or shall I just skip?

Day 3-4

Drive from Reykjavik o Snæfellsjökull National Park

Hike and see: Londrangar, coast line, Svartifoss (‘Black waterfall’), Sjónarnípa and more.

QUESTION:

Would you recommend Hellnar or Ólafsvík for our stay when near Snæfellsjökull?

I want to also see Arnarstapi and Londrangar cliffs – has anyone been there and can tell me if it’s worth the extra time added?

Day 5: drive up north to Osar (3.5/hour drive) for a night and to go to the seal beach, and to see Hvitserkur and to hike a bit in the area.

Spending the night somewhere there too

Day 6+7

Drive to Akureyri- (3 hour drive) Spend 2 days/2 nights in Akureyri:

Including an hour drive up north to Husavik to spend the day there and go whale watching and hike in the area. Including 45 min drive east to Goðafoss waterfalls

Day 8+9+10

From Akureyri to Lake Myvatn (1.15 minutes drive)

Spend 3 nights there to do day hikes and really explore the area

I want to see: I want to see: Dimmuborgir, Hverarondor Hverir, Myvatn Nature Baths, geo-pools Namaskard Volcano and Hverfjall

QUESTION: Do you recommend just staying in Akureyri and drive an hour to Lake Myvatn every day for a day hike, or is it better to stay in the lake area?

Day 10+11

From Lake Myvatn back to Reykjavik (5.5/hour drive)

Spend two nights there, enjoy the city for a full day, relax and fly home the next day.

My main questions are:

A) would you even recommend this kind of itinerary?

Am I doing a lot of driving in the first few days, and are any of the spots I mentioned worth going? Are there any other spots I am missing and that are a must see?

B) any Viking/ local folklore/ must-see history spots I should see along the way of my rout, or others you would recommend me to go to? (I have no problem changing my itinerary based on cool and must-see gems!)

C) Any really good places to eat you would recommend along my roads,

Such as Amazing local restaurant, village that has a specialty food, a gas station with awesome store- anything on the interesting food front that I should know about? I would love to sample local dishes, local treats, anything out of the ordinary and “true Icelandic”!

D) Fully aware that those are unpredictable, but where would (if at all) I be able to see northern lights the best along my trip?

E) I read somewhere that if you drive on some roads, the gas stations often don’t have credit card machines and I should get a pre-paid gas card to use: is it true along the roads that I have planned here?

F) Last but not least- will we be able to buy wine/ beer and take along with us to our hikes / travel? Needless to say, we are not going to “Drink and drive” but I am curious about the laws/stores that one can find those.

Thank you so much in advance for any information / answers anyone can provide me with!

Karen

Vogar
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1. Re: A bunch of questions - 12 days in Iceland this May

There is too much light at night in May for the Aurora to be visible.

All gas stations take credit or debit cards but you have to remember the PIN code for the unattended ones.

You can buy alcohol at the duty free in the airport and there are stores around the country where you can buy alcohol (www.vinbudin.is/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-3/)

Salisbury, United...
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2. Re: A bunch of questions - 12 days in Iceland this May

Stay in Myvatn area and don't waste time going backwards and forwards to Akureyri.

Also you mention cities, everything outside Reykjavik is little more than a village, only place that is bigger is Akureyri. So facilities can be limited in some places.

With a 12 day trip you can drive the whole of the ring road and you are missing the whole of the east coast, think about carrying on to the east instead of backtracking.

As said no Aurora sadly but lots of other sights to make up for it and pretty much 24 hour daylight.

Albuquerque, New...
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3. Re: A bunch of questions - 12 days in Iceland this May

US credit/debit cards do not have the chip and pin and may not work at self serve pumps. We just got gas often when we found a station that was staffed or purchased a prepaid card that we could use at other stations of the same brand. We used cash for everything to avoid the foreign transaction fee on our credit card. On Snaefellsnes peninsula we stayed at Sudur (sorry, I don't have the Icelandic letter, so I used a d) Bar near Grundarfjordur. It was very nice. If you want to pay the price, the Hotel Budir on the south side of the peninsular is very nice. Did not stay there but stopped for a hot drink and when we go back, I want to stay there. Alcohol is much, much, cheaper at the duty free at the airport. The Vinbudin stores have very limited hours, so if you are buying there, stop when you find one open or you may be out of luck. Enjoy your trip. We did not find a single place in Iceland that we did not like.

New York City, New...
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4. Re: A bunch of questions - 12 days in Iceland this May

Karen-

With 10-12 days, I would recommend driving around the circumference of the island instead of driving to the northeast and turning back. You're missing the east and south with your itinerary when you could re-work it to include a greater area of the country.

I would recommend doing the Golden Circle and Hveragerdi first, then going to Snaefellsnes, then continue to Hvitserkur, Akureyri, Myvatn, Eastfjords, Jokulsarlon, Skaftafell, South Coast, and end in Reykjavik. With this itinerary, you'll see volcanoes, glaciers, mountains, plenty of coastline, bird life, geothermal areas, green valleys, waterfalls, rivers, sand flats, and plenty of midnight sunsets, going in May.

One thing I want to point it is that Svartifoss and Sjonarnipa are part of Skaftafell national park and not Snaefellsjokull national park. You'll have to go to the southeast to see Skaftafell, although the scenery is different and also beautiful at Snaefellsjokull.

For foods in Iceland, I would recommend skyr (has the texture and taste of Greek yogurt but is actually considered a cheese!), smoked puffin, lamb, langoustine, and seafood in general. Iceland also seems to have a high concentration of delicious, dense chocolate cake and great whipped cream! I would recommend the local blackberries but they aren't in season until the end of summer. Specific restaurants you may want to try are Grillmarkadurinn and Tapas Barinn in Reykjavik, Narfeyrarstofa in Stykkisholmur, Hotel Budir in Budir, and Fjoruhusid in Hellnar.

For a couple more of your questions:

Definitely do the Reykjadalur hike at Hveragerdi. It was one of the highlights of my trip to Iceland I want to do it again when I return in June. Bathing in the hot river is not to be missed.

For a hotel recommendation on the Snaefellsnes peninsula, I had a very comfortable stay at the Hotel Hellissandur. They have a good restaurant and a generous, free breakfast buffet. Hotel Hellnar is nice but is quite a bit more expensive. Don't know much about where to stay in Olafsvik. Definitely do the coastal hike between Arnarstapi and Hellnar. Fjoruhusid is on the Hellnar side of the trail, and having a coffee with a piece of cake or fish soup is a great way to end that hike.

It is highly unlikely that you'll see northern lights in May, but do enjoy the colors of the midnight sun.

And, finally, as to museums, the Settlement Center in Borgarnes is said to be one of the best in Iceland and it seems you would be interested in their exhibits.

Have fun!

Arlington, Virginia
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5. Re: A bunch of questions - 12 days in Iceland this May

Thank you so much for all of your wonderful replies! I think I am definitely going to take your advice and add two days to my trip and do the entire circle of the country and not back track from Myvatn to Reykjavik.

Chris, I am taking your advice to see Eastfjords, Jokulsarlon, Skaftafell, and South Coast- any hotels you recommend in the area?

Thank you also for the great tip about Hveragerdi! Definitely going to do it then! Is it a full day hike/trip, or pretty easy going half a day kind of thing?

Thank you again for all the great advice and answers from everyone!

Arlington, Virginia
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6. Re: A bunch of questions - 12 days in Iceland this May

One more question: If I do the entire circle, any other "must see" spots along the south coast?

New York City, New...
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7. Re: A bunch of questions - 12 days in Iceland this May

For the South Coast, some "must sees" are Vik/Dyrholaey/Reynisfjara, the waterfalls Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss, the geothermal pool Seljavallalaug. If you want to see puffins and plenty of other birds, a guided trip (which is necessary to access the private property) to the Ingolshofdi promontory is also recommended. Also, as you have already mentioned a few attractions within Skaftafell, you should check that out, too.

New York City, New...
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8. Re: A bunch of questions - 12 days in Iceland this May

The hike to Reykjadalur ("smokey valley", which is the name of the geothermal valley that sits on the other side of the hills to the north of Hveragerdi) should be done in about a half day. Between hiking and bathing in the hot river, I spent about 4 hours there, but the next time around, I plan to spend even more time. Hveragerdi has a couple of other interesting geothermal areas in town - the geothermal park and another geothermal area on the east side of town by the river, I believe - but the Reykjadalur hike is more "wild" and scenic, in my opinion.

I will be going to the east for the first time in June, so I can't talk about specific hotel experiences. However, I've booked at Blabjorg Guesthouse in Borgarfjordur Eystri and it looks lovely and has a beautiful location. In the southeast, I will be staying at Guesthouse Stekkatun, which is between Hofn and Jokulsarlon. Looks nice and gets good reviews.

Hanau, Germany
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9. Re: A bunch of questions - 12 days in Iceland this May

Skogar has an open air museum with several old houses, there is one in Reykjavik also minjasafnreykjavikur.is/english/…tabid-4203 but that is by guided tour only during May, I liked Rekjavik 871 +/- 2 a lot, they found one of the first houses there from the year 871, it's a small exhibition and I think with the visit Reykjavik card free entrance, it's very centrally located, during our trip around the ring road we sometimes saw signs to museums and just followed them, in one there was a church build by a son for his mother which went to Italy around 1000 ad or so, she later went with the vikings to north america.

After you leave Myvatn towards Egilstadir you pass the Myvatn bath travelandescape.ca/2013/… we enjoyed that a lot, laying in the warm to hot water with snow capped mountains around was so nice, not very many visitors there.

I wouldn't be to sure if you really enjoy real Icelandic cuisine like Gammelhai or Sheeps head, but the seafood is very good go to the Sea Baron in Reykjavik http://saegreifinn.is/?page_id=1333

Joekulsarlon is in the east but for me a must see, if you do the whole ring road you can do the golden circle at the end, close to the fjord in Osar is a hostel you can find it under http://www.hostel.is/ in case you want to stay there bring some food there is nothing around, the next gas station with a little bit of food is 20 - 30 mins towards Akureyri, good start for hiking along the fjord but we thought it's a village with at least something and ended up there unprepared ;), have fun in this amazing country.

Edited: 18 March 2014, 16:44
10. Re: A bunch of questions - 12 days in Iceland this May

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