Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Destinations > Europe > Nordic Region
Reload this Page >

Help planning a trip to Iceland!

Help planning a trip to Iceland!

Old Aug 6, 18, 2:54 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: ORD, RDU
Programs: UA, AA, Marriott
Posts: 235
Exclamation Help planning a trip to Iceland!

Hey all, love FT! You guys have helped me build countless trips and excursions! I need your help once again.

Wife and I are going on a first "alone" trip since the baby was born and we will be going in end of November, landing in KEF on Monday and leaving late Friday. We are staying downtown and will likely be renting a car (unless you recommend against it). Hotel/Air/Car is already booked. There are numerous things we want to do and see, but not sure the best way to do it. I read that renting a car is much more beneficial than paying companies to drive you to the golden circle and the blue lagoon, is that true?

We want to do: Blue Lagoon (drive there), Golden Circle (drive it our selves), Norther Lights (likely just do the boat cruise), Laugarvatn Fontana (or any other hot spring you guys recommend), Grundarfjörður, Vatnajokull Natl Park.

Any thing you would skip on the list of things we want to do? Anything to add? Anything thats a must-see in Reykjavik?

Also, as far as renting a car, do we need a 4x4 or can we get away without one?

Thanks for all your help!

Last edited by TravelDoorsOut; Aug 6, 18 at 4:08 pm
TravelDoorsOut is offline  
Old Aug 6, 18, 3:37 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 972
You won't see the Northern Lights at this time of year... too much daylight!

You need to book your accommodation NOW ... this is high season and a lot of Reykjavik is fully booked!

Trip Advisor's Iceland forum is a good place to go to ask questions and seek information especially on what to see. In particular, make sure that you have COMPLETE insurance protection for your car hire ... there is a problem with fine volcanic sand at present from a glacial outburst flood, and in general a weather warning has been issued for south and southwest Iceland today.

Be aware that if you are hiring a car, you should consider allowing time to get over your flight from Chicago ... as jet lag causes a significant number of accidents after an overnight flight. It might be worth sacrificing the flexibility of having your own car for the safety of being driven ... the bus drivers are well used to local conditions and you can learn a great deal about Iceland from your guide that you might miss if you were travelling on your own.

Start with TA's Iceland forum and be aware that your flight will be the 'bargain' element of your trip. Iceland is very expensive and you may well join the others suffering 'sticker shock'. That said, it's a fabulous country.
TravelDoorsOut likes this.
Alsacienne is offline  
Old Aug 6, 18, 4:07 pm
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: ORD, RDU
Programs: UA, AA, Marriott
Posts: 235
Originally Posted by Alsacienne View Post
You won't see the Northern Lights at this time of year... too much daylight!

You need to book your accommodation NOW ... this is high season and a lot of Reykjavik is fully booked!

Trip Advisor's Iceland forum is a good place to go to ask questions and seek information especially on what to see. In particular, make sure that you have COMPLETE insurance protection for your car hire ... there is a problem with fine volcanic sand at present from a glacial outburst flood, and in general a weather warning has been issued for south and southwest Iceland today.

Be aware that if you are hiring a car, you should consider allowing time to get over your flight from Chicago ... as jet lag causes a significant number of accidents after an overnight flight. It might be worth sacrificing the flexibility of having your own car for the safety of being driven ... the bus drivers are well used to local conditions and you can learn a great deal about Iceland from your guide that you might miss if you were travelling on your own.

Start with TA's Iceland forum and be aware that your flight will be the 'bargain' element of your trip. Iceland is very expensive and you may well join the others suffering 'sticker shock'. That said, it's a fabulous country.
Sorry, forgot to mention we are going in November, air/hotel/car is already booked. Even though car can be canceled.
TravelDoorsOut is offline  
Old Aug 6, 18, 4:27 pm
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2017
Posts: 166
Originally Posted by Alsacienne View Post
You won't see the Northern Lights at this time of year... too much daylight!
And even if the travel takes place later in the year when nights get longer and darker, you will still need some luck with auroras as you need clear skies to see those.
Originally Posted by Alsacienne View Post
You need to book your accommodation NOW ... this is high season and a lot of Reykjavik is fully booked!
Also if one wants to see for example Vatnajökull National Park, it might be advisable to look for accomodation outside Reykjavik at least for one night as for example drive from Reykjavik to Jökulsárlón glacial lake on edges of Vatnajökull National Park takes closer to 5 hours one way, so as a daytrip you would spend a good chunk of the day on the road. And even for accomodation outside the capital, it is crucial to make reservations as early as possible since Iceland is such popular destination nowadays.
Hezu is offline  
Old Aug 6, 18, 8:25 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Oct 2017
Posts: 901
We have a trip planned to Iceland about the same time. Coming from the subtropics neither of us are willing, or confident enough, to drive in the winter weather, and so many places we want to see are a long drive from Reykjavik where we'll be based, so we're taking several small-group tours, most likely to Golden Circle, South Coast (Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon), Snaefellsnes Peninsula. We would rather let an experienced winter-weather driver(s) be at the wheel of those 12-14-hour trips, a lot of which will be in the dark. We'll be doing a few Northern Lights tours (as no guarantees with the NL that we'll see them first go), again small group ones, then we can rely on someone else to do the monitoring and knowing where to go (again winter-weather driving in the dark!).

In Reykjavik, we looking at a visit to Perlan (hope the planetarium will be open by then), a chocolate factory tour (it says "endless samples" on the website - we'll see! ), a whale watching tour, and also the free walking tour. Can't say any of them are "must-see"s though. These things we'll be doing during the 'recovery' time from the longer tours we've allowed ourselves as we're older and need to rest our bones. I think this might be an idea (recovery time) if you are the ones doing the driving, especially after the longer drives.
TravelDoorsOut likes this.
DragonSoul is offline  
Old Aug 6, 18, 9:29 pm
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: ORD, RDU
Programs: UA, AA, Marriott
Posts: 235
Originally Posted by DragonSoul View Post
We have a trip planned to Iceland about the same time. Coming from the subtropics neither of us are willing, or confident enough, to drive in the winter weather, and so many places we want to see are a long drive from Reykjavik where we'll be based, so we're taking several small-group tours, most likely to Golden Circle, South Coast (Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon), Snaefellsnes Peninsula. We would rather let an experienced winter-weather driver(s) be at the wheel of those 12-14-hour trips, a lot of which will be in the dark. We'll be doing a few Northern Lights tours (as no guarantees with the NL that we'll see them first go), again small group ones, then we can rely on someone else to do the monitoring and knowing where to go (again winter-weather driving in the dark!).

In Reykjavik, we looking at a visit to Perlan (hope the planetarium will be open by then), a chocolate factory tour (it says "endless samples" on the website - we'll see! ), a whale watching tour, and also the free walking tour. Can't say any of them are "must-see"s though. These things we'll be doing during the 'recovery' time from the longer tours we've allowed ourselves as we're older and need to rest our bones. I think this might be an idea (recovery time) if you are the ones doing the driving, especially after the longer drives.
how much time do you think is needed for golden circle and south coast?
TravelDoorsOut is offline  
Old Aug 6, 18, 9:57 pm
  #7  
 
Join Date: Oct 2017
Posts: 901
We're found tours that cover the Golden Circle in about 9 hours, so possibly drivable in a day for you. For the South Coast, the tours are around 12 to 14 hours long (there are some shorter ones, around 10 hours). So if you were driving, I think you'd be looking at doing an overnight stay along the way if you want to see most things.

Obviously for these tours we're going to take there will be quite limited daylight hours, so we know we're not going to see everything 'cos you know... 'dark'. It's worth bearing that in mind. If there are things along the route you must see, you will have to think about overnights.
DragonSoul is offline  
Old Aug 7, 18, 12:39 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 972
Having re-read the original post (my bad!) and seeing that the OP wants to travel in November, I'd strongly advise against hiring a car and self-driving. Several local tour operators offer 3 day/2 night tours and this would probably be the best option including accommodation and meals. Again, TA's Iceland Forum can help steer you towards these companies. I'd suggest a whole day would be necessary to enjoy the Golden Circle. As regards the 'South Coast' it depends how far you are planning to travel. If it's to Jokulsarlon, you'll be looking at a minimum of 14 hours round trip from Reykjavik because there are lots of lovely waterfalls and Skaftafell National Park to explore en route. That's where I suggest a specialist tour company would maximise your visit. Also a nice day could be exploring the Reykjanes peninsular (around the airport) with plenty of volcanic activity and the Bridge between the continents ... possibly even a half day tour if time is tight.
JDiver likes this.
Alsacienne is offline  
Old Aug 7, 18, 1:51 am
  #9  
 
Join Date: Oct 2017
Posts: 901
Originally Posted by Alsacienne View Post
Having re-read the original post (my bad!) and seeing that the OP wants to travel in November, I'd strongly advise against hiring a car and self-driving. Several local tour operators offer 3 day/2 night tours and this would probably be the best option including accommodation and meals. Again, TA's Iceland Forum can help steer you towards these companies. I'd suggest a whole day would be necessary to enjoy the Golden Circle. As regards the 'South Coast' it depends how far you are planning to travel. If it's to Jokulsarlon, you'll be looking at a minimum of 14 hours round trip from Reykjavik because there are lots of lovely waterfalls and Skaftafell National Park to explore en route. That's where I suggest a specialist tour company would maximise your visit. Also a nice day could be exploring the Reykjanes peninsular (around the airport) with plenty of volcanic activity and the Bridge between the continents ... possibly even a half day tour if time is tight.
Just to add, the Reykjanes peninsula tour we're looking at is about 7 hours long. Back by mid-afternoon.
DragonSoul is offline  
Old Aug 7, 18, 5:18 am
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: ORD, RDU
Programs: UA, AA, Marriott
Posts: 235
Originally Posted by Alsacienne View Post
Having re-read the original post (my bad!) and seeing that the OP wants to travel in November, I'd strongly advise against hiring a car and self-driving. Several local tour operators offer 3 day/2 night tours and this would probably be the best option including accommodation and meals. Again, TA's Iceland Forum can help steer you towards these companies. I'd suggest a whole day would be necessary to enjoy the Golden Circle. As regards the 'South Coast' it depends how far you are planning to travel. If it's to Jokulsarlon, you'll be looking at a minimum of 14 hours round trip from Reykjavik because there are lots of lovely waterfalls and Skaftafell National Park to explore en route. That's where I suggest a specialist tour company would maximise your visit. Also a nice day could be exploring the Reykjanes peninsular (around the airport) with plenty of volcanic activity and the Bridge between the continents ... possibly even a half day tour if time is tight.
Does it make any difference if I am from Chicago and I am used to snow and ice? We rented a 4x4 with total insurance coverage, does that change anything? (we can still cancel it)
TravelDoorsOut is offline  
Old Aug 7, 18, 8:35 am
  #11  
Moderator: American AAdvantage, TAP, Mexico, Technical Support and Feedback, and The Suggestion Box
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: NorCal - SMF area
Programs: AA LT Plat; HH LT Diamond, Maître-plongeur des Muccis
Posts: 62,540
Originally Posted by TravelDoorsOut View Post
Does it make any difference if I am from Chicago and I am used to snow and ice? We rented a 4x4 with total insurance coverage, does that change anything? (we can still cancel it)
Of course it does, if you’re knowledgeable of northern winter driving conditions and slightly adventurous. I say “go for it,”. Iceland is a beautiful country, ultra crowded in high (Summer) season and very expensive. November should offer lots of attractions. Be sure to book lodging out of Reykjavik, because some places might be closed - but do stay out of the city at least once or twice - it will save fuel and nerves.

For Reykjavik daylight hours in November, see here. E.b. 15 Nov, 6:31 of daylight - 9:56 am - 4:27 pm.
JDiver is offline  
Old Aug 7, 18, 3:33 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Box Three Five Oh, Boston Mass, Oh two one three four
Programs: Loyal Order of Water Buffalos
Posts: 2,989
I would recommend strongly against renting a car. I drive in bad winter conditions where I live and tried to drive in one Iceland winter storm and came really close to being blown off of the road. This was between Reykjavik and the Golden Circle.

We've been to Iceland many times and always take a couple tours as we feel we learn much more with a guide. Golden Circle is a great place to take a guided tour as there is very much history in the sites, especially at Thingvellir. An overnight or 3 day South Coast tour will likely be in a minibus and is the safest way to get to see those sites as well.
Out of my Element is offline  
Old Aug 8, 18, 4:09 pm
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 972
Does it make any difference if I am from Chicago and I am used to snow and ice?
It's not the snow and ice that's the main problem but the wind. Also the dangers from other motorists who are not used to local conditions. I would strongly advise you not to hire a car but to take tours. Roads are often unfenced with significant drops (including the Ring Road (route 1), and you may find that you cannot guarantee your route if the weather changes at short notice ... finding nearby accommodation and cancelling your intended booking can be a major problem plus not getting back to the airport on time to get your flight.
Alsacienne is offline  
Old Sep 4, 18, 3:16 am
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: ORD, RDU
Programs: UA, AA, Marriott
Posts: 235
What do you guys think of getting a car for 1-2 days to check out blue lagoon and the peninsula near by? I really like the idea of doing my own thing with a car, plus the car princes is same as round trip transfer to/from airport.
TravelDoorsOut is offline  
Old Sep 4, 18, 4:34 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 972
The regular Flybus connection from KEF to Reykjavik stops at the BL. I enjoyed a great half day tour of the Reykjanes Peninsular from Reykjavik ... and then stopped at the BL in the afternoon. Note that the BL is a timed ticket attraction and slots sell out fast. Also there seem to be many unhappy car hire customers from both the majors and local car rental agencies on the Trip Advisor forum, so you may find that your flexibility and 'open road' wishes cost you dearly in 'dings' and stress in waiting times to collect and return the car. Also ... the time of year means that even if you are used to driving in the worst that Chicago can offer you, you may still find Iceland a 'gear too high'! Plus you can get quite a small group tour, and learn lots from your driver/guide which really helps make the visit stand out.

Personally speaking I'd go guided tour all the way ... and if you book say two, try to get a discount, but that's just my personal opinion.
Alsacienne is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search Engine: