This the story of my trip to Iceland – 22-26 August 2017.
Iceland was on our mind for some time. We wanted to see the northern lights. We made our plans last May. We decided what we wanted to see, where to go, where to sleep.
The country/island is small. We joked that there are more than 300 000 people and 400 000 of them live in Reykjavik. The biggest minority? Of course Polish people.
Strange land. Land where you do not hear Icelandic language often. Everybody speaks English. Lots of foreigners work in services. Land where you do not have to carry cash. They accept credit card everywhere. We did not hold Icelandic kronas (ISK).
It was quick decision in May. We booked plane tickets and that was it. The dream was about to happen. The flight was at 6 p.m., after work. From city centre to the airport Okęcie is like a stone’s throw. Not like Modlin airport – kayaking for 3 days.
Iceland is in different time zone. We started our trip at 6 p.m., plus 4 hours of flight, minus 2 hours and we landed at 8 p.m. local time at Keflavic airport (40 minutes from Reykjavik).
I will quote prices for goods and services we purchased there. It will give you a better picture (I hope).
We rented Nissan Qashqai (or Rouge outside Europe) from Hertz. 5 people, 3 suitcases (small, medium, bit bigger than medium), 2 backpacks and we were ready to explore the island. For 4 days we paid 120 000 ISK.
1 000 ISK = 10 $
We headed to Hveragerði. It was just a place more than 1 hour from the airport. We just stayed there for a night to be closer to next day’s attractions.
I was mesmerized by Iceland from the very beginning. Moon? Mars? The view from the plane was amazing. And while driving we got scent impressions – H2S (hydrogen sulfide) or sulfur itself.
The house we rented – 260 euros (309 $) – 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, living room, dining room with separate kitchen. We just treated that place like a stop for a sleep. We hit the road first thing in the morning.
We were surprised with the greenness.
It was summertime after all. Thank you lord for the weather. We were lucky. Maybe the last day was not so summery. Well, you cannot have it all.
Waterfalls were first on our map. Awesome! You could go “behind” the falling water.
Notice – you have to wear waterproof clothes unless you want to be all wet. At the top of the waterfall we saw people. We wanted to go up there as well. On the left there was a sign – something 650 m. Icelandic is peculiar. We did not know how to read/pronounce the word(s), so do not ask me to write it/them down. Something sounds just about right. Foss is (water)fall, Sjon– view.
We stated that hiking 650 m is like drinking a bottle of vodka for two which is nothing. It turned out that it was not the trail up. It was another waterfall hidden in the mountain. Breathtaking. If you wanted to go inside that cave, you had to walk on the water. Well, not literally, we walked on the stones in the water.
At the bottom of the waterfall there was a huge stone which you could climb and take pictures. There were only few people (that information is important).
From one waterfall to another, we approach the palne wreck site.
The story is simple but horrifying. In 1973, a United States Navy Douglas Super DC-3 airplane was forced to land on black sand beach in the south of Iceland after experiencing some severe icing. Luckily all crewmembers survived the crash, but the airplane’s fuselage was abandoned. They left the plane there so now it is a photography dream location.
To reach the wreck you have to walk 2 and half miles (40 minutes). It is windy. Super windy walk. You see nothing around you but one lonely hill. When we were walking we thought we were not getting any closer. Methinks, it seemed like it was getting further and further. Finally we reached that plane. Well, it is just a wreck, nothing special. Howerever the black beach nearby was so rewarding and staggering. On our way back to the car I run the last 2 km. If anybody is asking, I jog only in Iceland.
Later we visit a beach with basalt fingers. Lots of people there, so admiring nature was not so enjoyable. Some clever guy tried to climb the spheric ceiling of the den. He was so surprised when he failed after one step. Gravity works even in Iceland. Apparently not everybody knows that.
Fosshotel in Hofn (to be exact: Fosshótel Vatnajökull, Hornafjördur, 781 Lindarbakki, Islandia) – a very nice hotel with cosmic prices. In the bar and restaurants we met some Polish boys and girls and one Romanian gal. A bartender said – yes, the northern lights are every night. Our dream was about to happen. Well, we saw 3 stripes on the night sky. But they were gray, not green. Damn!
In the morning we visited last James Bond’s movie plan. Someone in Hollywood had a dream. He desired to see a car chase on the lagoon. They put a dam between Atlantic Ocean and lagoon. The lagoon froze and 007 could chase or be chased. They shot Games of Thrones there in 2011. But i am not a fan so do not know specifics.
We took an amphibia cruise (5 500 ISK = 55 $). The lagoon is surrounded with the seocnd biggest glacier in Europe. The lagoon is young – only 87 years old. So the glacier melts down quite fast. Our amphibia drove from from the land to the water. Now we could admire the icebergs at close range. In the meantime, our guide took out from the water a 1 000 years old piece of ice. He tapped, he knocked, he hammered and we could taste the purest water in the whole world.
Behind the bridge there was the diamond beach. The guide recommended to see that beach. Icebergs were entering the Atlantic Ocean. You could touch, lick, hug, climb the icebergs. We also witnessed the tide. Man learns all his life.
On our way to Reykjavik we decided to see one more waterfall. Charming hike as we saw little houses covered by grass.
Next was a canyon – 2 km long, 100 meters deep.
My thought – we will devastate and destroy our planet. People do not respect no trespassing or no walking behind that point signs. It is a real pity and sad.
Reykjavik? It is a capital city you can explore within 2 or 3 hours. We could have booked something outside Reykjavik as we had the car. But we stayed 2 nights in the city centre. You cannot turn back time. We used AirBnB service for renting the apartment. – 3 bedrooms, spacious living room, dining room, kitchen, 1 bathroom. 330 $ per night.
– sofa – stained. Pardon my french – the sofa was fucking disgusting
– sofa cover – dusty, my friend had a cough attack
– tv, internet – did not work. Thank god we were from Europe so we had internet for free (2,6 GB for free to be exact)
– the apartment was crooked – few people had bony labyrinth issues. The flat had unsafe structure
– bathroom – nightmare. Broken toilet seat was fixed with parcel tape. The shower was no better. We checked the reviews (which were very good to our surprise) and found out that more than a month ago some Robert (guest) did all the fixes
– hot water – smells like hydrogen sulfide or sulfur. Brushing teeth was very … interesting
– location – loud music ‘til 3 a.m. and people talking loud ‘til 5 a.m.
I used AirBnB 3 times:
– Savannah, Georgia, USA
– Lviv, Ukraine
– Reykjavik, Iceland
Huge disappointments. Unfortunately.
During the stay in the capital city we explored The Golden Circle:
4 hours hike into volcano. Only 400 $ per person. The guide said the weather was awful so we could not see much. The hike would be just a waste a time and money. Hence we gave up.
The park lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the boundary between the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasian.
The crack between plates is just a crack. We took a fast tour as there were lots of people. You could see Icelandic Prime Minister’s summer house.
– geysir Strokkur
A word geysir is from Iclandic language. They eject just lovely (however that sounds). It is a must see place. It ejects every 10 minutes. The others just were boiling. The water temperature – 80-100 Celcius degrees. Highly recommended place!
– Gullfoss waterfall
massive and powerful waterfall. Our friend is going to see Niagara so he will compare. The force, the energy, the power of nature – awesome!
In Reykjavik we bought 3-hours long whale watching cruise (10 900 ISK = 109 $).
99% chances you will some whales and dolphines. A day before they saw fin whale. On our cruise day we had strong wind and rain. Rough Sea – so we went to Keflavik by bus. Well, we have vouchers we can use within next 2 years. If we come back to Iceland, we will have that cruise for free.
Blue Lagoon did not work out neither. Due to weather. We got off the car, crawled up to the laguage store room and gave up. No one with common sense will not bathe in the puddles. On our way to the Blue Lagoon the hydrogen sulfide or sulfur aroma amused our nosdrills. Rotten egg aroma.
I am so mesmerized by this island. I recommend the trip there. Different state of mind, different world. It is expensive for me, but hey, you only live once. I am going to save money for the next 5 years.
Prices (remember 1 000 ISK = 10 $):
– fish dish – 4 100 ISK/41 $
– beer in the pub – 1 200 ISK. Gull beer is a piss. Boli, Einstock white ale and pale ale were ok
– coffee – 500 ISK
– soup – up to 2 000 ISK
– skyr with muesli – 900 ISK
– egg scramble with bacon and lettuce – 1 700 ISK
– one scoon with waffle – 500 ISK
– 3 hours and 38 minute parking in Reykjavik (P1 zone) – 1 000 ISK
– breakfast in Sandhold Bakari, Laugavegur street
Bright and spacious bakery serving breakfast. Variety of breads. A very pleasant aroma. Saddly, the food was so-so. Huge advantage of this place – opens at 6.30 a.m.
– dinner in Old Iceland Restaurant
Amazing place. Everything was delicious:
– meat soup (sheep) – 1 890 ISK
– shellfish soup – 1 890 ISK
– fish of the day – 3 990 ISK
– homemade rhubarb cake – 1 690 ISK
– beer – einstok 0,4 l – 1 350 ISK
– coffee – 500 ISK
– coke – 450 ISK
Food is just food. Some people like this, some people like that. It is a matter of taste. Here, everything was so yummy. The place has high google rate. The waiter is an enthusiast and creates a friendly atmosphere. You can see he likes his job. Smiling all the time, pure delight.
We also went to the other restaurant. One of the best in town. Everything was delicious as well.
– Atlantic perch – 2 850 ISK
– 3 different appetizers (whale, shark, other fish) – from 1 500 to 3 600 ISK
– meat dish – 3 720 ISK
We also recommend this place – The Islandic Bar, Islenski Barinn, Ingolfsstruti 1a 101, Reykjavik.
What I liked the most about culinary Reykjavik is that every coffee costs the same – espresso, americano, latte, you name it. The same. Coffe is from 450 to 600 ISK.
On the airport Wizzair airlines got us so mad. Our flight was already delayed as it flew from Warsaw later. We started to check what was going on with the flight from Warsaw to Iceland. And we got so scared. The plane stopped in Sweden. We did not know if it was an emergency stop or wrangle on the board. Thank you google – we learned that Wizzair stops in Sweden for fueling every now and then. Relief!
I have to give the Wizzair pilots the credit – they land smoothly. Lufthansa or Frontier makes you pray to god.
I took a tour at the airport. Tones of people to the cheap car rental companies. Hertz was empty. I wrote cheap as I vetoed Hertz once quoting high price. It appeared that cheap car rentals do not show all costs when you book on line. Hertz shows the final price.
Another interesting thing at the airport – a huge table showing pros of Iceland. Yes, I cannot agree more, the best time to visit Iceland is between January 1st and December 31st. Definitely!
You have Empire State of Mind or New York State of Mind, I have to add Icelandic State of Mind.
Trivia: Only once at the Warsaw airport and on Keflavik they checked my ID (we can travel using either passport or Polish ID). Suprising easiness.
Before the trip I checked What NOT to do in Iceland: Tourist traps and stuff to avoid. Now I can response to those tips.
do not do things just because everyone else is doing it
True. After some time of almost private sighseeing we were so tired of people. All those magical places lost its … magic
do not assume that everything you shall do in Iceland will be expensive
Ha! It is expensive. But come on, you have only one life. Live it. I wanted to buy a t-shirt in gift shop in some touristy place. 33 USD. In Reykjavik it was even more – 45 USD
do not tip
We did not have cash at all. They do not tip but i saw some people who had left some money on the table. Besides, almost in every bar and pub they have tip jars. Huge ones
do not buy bottled water
The tap water in Iceland is as clean as water can get. By buying water bottles at the supermarket, you are basically buying bottled tap water. You are never charged for a glass of water at restaurants. Once we had to pour out the water we took from our Reykjavik apartment (remember the smell?) and took some water from the loo
do not expect that you can see everything during your stay
We did not. It is just impossible
do not get speeding tickets!
There are no highways in Iceland and the speed limit never exceeds 90 km/h (~55 mph). Speed cameras are widespread across the country, both in the city and in the rural parts of Iceland. Driving much faster than 90 is just plain dangerous. Well, maybe it is not dangerous. We drove mostly on the state road number 1. They could increase the speed limit up to 100 km/h, imho. One of our drivers was so bored and impatient with slow driving. He changed his attitude when i read ticket tariff. There are lots of small, narrow bridges. You have to either slow down or stop and give way.
do not forget your sleeping mask
We did not need it. I survived midnight sun. Tallin, Estonia 2008. Strange experience. The body goes nuts.
do not buy super-expensive memorabilia
We did not. Gift shops are everywhere. We were resistant.
the Blue Lagoon
Zillion of people and so expensive. The Mývatn Nature Baths, located in North Iceland, are very similar to the Blue Lagoon although they are not nearly as famous. We went there. So as rain and strong wind. So we did not enter.
do not do grocery shopping in 10/11
The price for groceries is extremely high at 10/11, probably twice as high as in Bónus, Krónan or other budget-friendly supermarkets. We shopped there as it was the only store and only store open. We bought food, we ate, we survived.
And I have to mention sheeps, black sheeps and lambs. They cross the road whenever and wherever they feel like it. You have to be careful.