Great Canadian Adventurers

Barr, Shayla – Iceland on a Budget

April 22, 2017 | Lois Farley

We had the BEST time.  I would have to say that out of all the countries I’ve travelled to, Iceland by far has my favourite scenery.  There is amazing scenery everywhere of course, but Iceland’s unique, diverse, ever changing beauty is the top of my list!

– the flight there was fine, no issues at all, very cool flying over Greenland!
– our flight’s luggage went to the wrong baggage carousel unfortunately so we waited for 45 minutes until one of the flight attendants went and checked into it and she told us that they were on a different one so we were later than planned getting it.  Great bathrooms at the airport by the way!!- shuttle to the city was great, no issues
– shuttle from the main bus depot to the accommodation was a story!  The driver couldn’t find the other people’s guest house so we drove around for over half an hour trying to find it (thankfully he repeated the guest house name over and over) so he then dropped us off at our accommodations on Braedraborgarstigur….just after he pulled away we realized he’d left me the wrong suitcase so I chased after him but he was gone.  After a bit of a panic, I called a cab and they quickly came to get us and we were racing off at 4am to find the Flying Viking Guesthouse so that I could get my bag back and give this guy his suitcase.  There was no way to get into the guest house of course and it was all dark so I had to stand in the street and yell this man’s name (just after 4am!!) until he came to the door and we happily exchanged bags.  The guy had called the airport and they were sending a shuttle to get my bag to take it back to the airport so thankfully we got there about 1 minute before the shuttle got there….he pulled up just as we got our proper luggage. It made for a funny story after the initial heart attack!
– tuk tuk tour was lots of fun and we had an excellent driver/guide.
– we enjoyed our time in Reykjavik, it’s a lovely city and our accommodations we in a perfect location, all the people we met were friendly, we felt very safe and comfortable while enjoying all the sights
– the Whale Watching portion of the day with the Blue Lagoon stuff wasn’t as good as we hoped….it was still fun but we didn’t see any whales, just some porpoises.  I would definitely do the whale watching tour up north if/when I go back.
– the miscommunication or whatever about the Blue Lagoon admission unfortunately put quite a damper on that part of the day.  Luckily the guy working was very nice and let me buy a ticket in as they were officially full and he had turned away people waiting in line ahead of us.I’m still quite unhappy about the way this tour was worded and that it wasn’t clearer that admission wasn’t included but there is nothing I can do about it now so moving on…
– the Golden Circle Late Afternoon Tour was lots of fun in spite of the pouring rain!  We were in awe of the beautiful Gullfoss!  Just so gorgeous.  We were only at Geysir long enough to see it shoot up once because it was just miserable weather but it was still cool to see, it was a fun day!- Getting the car was quick and easy and the car was a cute little Yaris that worked well for us.  We had a heck of a time getting out of Reykjavik after seeing the Perlan as the GPS had us going all over in circles but we finally got it figured out lol
– the weather turned hot and sunny about 15 minutes outside of Reykjavik and stayed like that for the rest of the trip for the most part!!!!  We were so lucky, the weather was amazing.
– we LOVED the west coast and the Snaefellsnes Penninsula.  Not many tourists and just so beautiful!
– favorite things were the Vatneshellir Cave tour (so fun!!) and Djupalonssandur black sand beach (which is in my top 3 or 5 places in Iceland)!
– we took a little side road somewhere along the highway there that evening and came across this cool little hike that ended up at some ruins and a gorgeous spot on the water.
– LOVED the guesthouse at Arnarstapi!  They gave us a room with it’s own bathroom!  We said we think we were to have shared facilities and the lady said it was fine, we could keep that room, so that was lovely :)!
– we found the itinerary to be very helpful since there is just SO much to see and do.  We of course couldn’t cover everything but it gave us a good base plan.
– the day from Arnarstapi to Akureuri was a long day of driving, I’d say that was not Jeana’s favourite day.  We got to see some stuff but not as much as we’d liked to have but I think we were in the car almost 8 hours so it was lots of just stopping and quickly checking the view and hopping in the car again.  We got caught up in road construction and then got  a bunch of stone chips in the windshield (thankfully I got the extra insurance!!) and then had a tire that kept losing pressure so it was lots of gas station visits to get air.  Unfortunately we didn’t get to check out any of the museums and exhibitions etc that were in the itinerary, we just didn’t have time.  We did stop for a bit in Stykkisholmur which seems like a nice little place!
– LOVED the guest house in Akureyri!  Very homelike and cozy and they had a cool breakfast idea….the only bad thing was the number of bathrooms…there was always a line up.
– We really like Akureyri and wish we could’ve spent more time there….I think if I get to go back, I would plan more time up north to go whale watching and exploring more, really nice little city….and a fantastic tire shop where the guy fixed our tire free of charge!!!
– our horse back riding tour was AMAZING!  Definitely a highlight of the tour.  We had a perfect day, hot and sunny and just gorgeous scenery.  Awesome tour guides….a wonderful afternoon….Jeana grinned from ear to ear before, during and after the tour 🙂
– because of the riding tour, we had to do the Lake Myvatn area and Detifoss etc all the next day on our way to Egisstadir so it was a busy day but one of our favorites!  The lagoon there was fantastic and Jeana actually commented at one time that she felt like she’d been on 5 different planets that day due to the quickly and vastly changing scenery.  It’s unbelievably stunning up there!!!  I would recommend everyone visit that area!
– the guest house in Egilsstadir was great too!  Very small room but we had a sink in it so that was great!  Very comfortable there and the hosts were so nice!  I was dealing with a cold so they were so nice and gave me extra pillows so I could prop up when I slept and they gave me some tea to help colds and some cold meds.  Super nice and friendly.
– touring the fjords was so nice too…..we were mainly checking out the scenery and the horses and came across some cool craft shops and random coffee shops out in the country.
– the accommodations in Hofn were amazing!  So nice!  They were very surprised though that we were staying 2 nights… was a great place but there wasn’t much to do in that area so we had a lot of driving to go to Jokulsarlon and then back to Hofn and then back to Skaftafell National Park the following day.  If doing it again, I’d probably stay just one night in Hofn although the accommodations were so great…such a lovely place!
– the day we did the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon tour was our best and favorite day!  We LOVED the entire day, it was amazing.  It’s the most spectacular place and I get excited just remembering how much we loved it there.  Another perfect day weatherwise and it was just outstanding!  Words can’t describe how cool that place is.  So doing that and a hike in Skaftafell National Park on that day was so awesome.  We were really glad we opted for the zodiac tour, I think we got so much more out of it!
– again the drive after that day back to Hofn and then back to Skaftafell the next day was lots of driving
– the glacier walk tour was really great!  Not as adventurous as we’d thought but we still really liked it and it was so cool to be walking on a glacier!  I think the age range of the people on the tour dictated how adventurous the guide could be but we still really enjoyed it!  And again, perfect weather!  I was in a hoodie and was actually quite warm, the weather was so good!
-after that was a mad rush of touring since we were finished the tour at 1:00 I think and then we had to see all of the sights of the south coast before getting to our room at Hveragerdi so it was a speed touring day.  The south coast is gorgeous with so much to see so if/when I go back, I’ll definitely allow more time there.  Vik looked like a nice little place and we enjoyed checking out the beaches and of course the waterfalls!  We loved the  Fjadrargljufur canyon and of course Seljalandsfoss!!
– our room in Hveragerdi was also great and it had the best bread I’ve ever tasted for breakfast!  Super amazing how it’s baked geothermally in the ground!
– we did part of a hike at Hveraderdi and it was super cool to see all the steam coming from the ground and to feel the almost boiling hot water in the streams!
– then back to Reykjavik for some last minute shopping and sightseeing and then to Keflavik .
– we returned the car the night before we left as we thought it’d be faster….too bad no refund for turning it in early but that’s ok.  Keflavik guesthouse very bare bones but was comfortable and roomy and had enough bathrooms and the staff was friendly.
– the flight home was good even though we did not want to go home lol

So we LOVED our trip.  Iceland is now recommended to everyone I come in contact with that likes nature and exploring.  We had such a great time and really didn’t find that there were hoards of tourists unlike Europe.  Very easy to get around and the self driving tour allowed us to see so much of the beautiful country and just made us even more interested in returning and spending more time there.  All the guest houses were great!  I don’t think there is one that I could say didn’t work out….I would recommend staying at all of them!

Our tours were so good!!!!!  Well minus not seeing any whales and the Blue Lagoon stuff but we enjoyed the tours and was happy to have bought them!  The only thing I’d do differently (besides more carefully reading the info) would be to do the whale watching up north.  Here are a few pics……We have 3500 pics between the 2 of us so there are lots!!

GCTC note:  Shayla, we’re so happy you loved Iceland as much as we do!  I know you had some back-tracking to do with your driving route but, unfortunately (or fortunately?) Iceland doesn’t have many countryside hotels in certain areas.  So, once they get booked up we have to start booking accommodations a bit further afield.  That’s one reason you were in Hofn two nights, as there simply isn’t nearly enough accommodation in the Skaftafell area.  Glad that it didn’t put too much of a damper on your travels.  It is too bad that the Blue Lagoon tour you found online and asked us to book for you doesn’t include the admission.  I do agree that the name of the tour is somewhat misleading.  We don’t think very many people want to go to the Blue Lagoon and not actually go in! For that reason, this is not a tour we usually recommend to our clients and we only book it “on request”. The lower price point does lure people in, but in future we’ll ensure that our clients know exactly why it’s less expensive!  Thanks so much for this great, constructive feedback.  It helps us make our client’s trips even better in the future!