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Discussion: Quickie Guide

in: Pink Socks; Pink Socks > 2016-05-09

May 9, 2016 10:06 AM # 
Pink Socks:

South: In 2010, we stayed near Hofn and a rural hotel near Eyjafjallajokull. This time we just stayed at a nice rural guesthouse near Vik and ate dinner in town. Vik is a nice little town, we liked it better than Hofn.

East: We stayed two nights in Seydisfjordur in 2010 and three nights in a cabin in Eskifjordur this year. Seydisfjordur is really nice, and it's pretty quiet when the ferry (from Europe) isn't in port. We also took the amazing drive up and over to Neskaupstadur, which is also a winner. If you're coming in the winter, be careful about the roads, as Seydis and Neskaup require a mountain pass to access (only one way in). However, in 2017, they are opening a brand new tunnel to Neskaup (which will close the high altitude tunnel). There were a few other fjord towns that we didn't spend any time in, but you can't go wrong with any of those three.
May 9, 2016 10:30 AM # 
Pink Socks:
North/Myvatn: There's a lot to see up north (big waterfalls, natural geothermal stuff, geothermal power plants, whale watching, birds), so you'll want to spend a few days. In 2010, we stayed in Akureyri, which is the 2nd largest town in the country (20,000). This time we stayed is Husavik, which was way better. (Akureyri is too big to be quaint, too small to be really interesting). There are also places/hotels to stay at Myvatn, but there's no charm. Husavik is the best place for basecamp for a few days (it's probably our favorite town), but we haven't been here in the middle of tourist season, where it's near impossible to get a table in one if the harborside restaurants.

If you stay here for a few days, we have some secret insider info to share!
May 10, 2016 6:35 PM # 
Pink Socks:
North/Trollaskagi: We skipped this peninsula in 2010, I included two nights in Siglufjordur. On the way there, we drove through Olafsfjordur, which was drop dead gorgeous. Snow on the mountains, sunny day, wow.

When we arrived in Siglufjordur, we initially got a little depressed: it's not as pretty with all of the ugly (but understandably required) avalanche dams and baffles on the mountain above the town. When we checked into the guesthouse, there was literally nobody else there (empty bar, empty dining room, etc). During our run around town, we found that there was only one decent restaurant open (the others open in June).

We soon learned that this was a ski town. There's a mostly year-round ski hill here, but in May, it wasn't open every day, so we couldn't go. This area is also big to heli-skiing, but we weren't interested in that. The one restaurant that was open was pretty busy with groups of young-ish, athletic-ish, ski-bum-ish folks, which was quite a different vibe than we had in other towns.

One afternoon, we went to Olafsfjordur, which wasn't fruitful. The weather was bad, and literally all of the places to eat were closed.

Siglo redeemed itself a little bit on the second day. The owner of the restaurant suggested that we contact the local microbrewery for a tour (which we did), and also to go to the herring museum (which was one of the best museums I'd ever been to). It also snowed 6" during out last night, so that was fun.

This is a lot of words of basically saying: Siglufjordur and Olafsfjordur are worthwhile places to stay. Olafsfjordur has lakeside cabins that look amazing, but Siglo has a better vibe (museum, restaurants, brewery), despite the ski-town feel. BUT, I think these are better places to visit June-September when more things are open, or in the deep winter. Going in late winter felt like we couldn't connect.
May 10, 2016 6:41 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Westfjords: There aren't very many towns out there and they are hard to get to, which is why we stayed at the same country inn both times. Because of the road conditions on the day we left, we had to go out the way we came in, so we had to skip driving through Isafjordur and Patreksfjordur. We had dinner at a gas station in Isafjordur in 2010... it didn't seem too charming then.

On the drive to Westfjords, we stopped at seaside Holmavik for lunch at a gas station, and we found that town to be pretty nice. The buildings are interspersed a bunch of glaciated rocky lumps. Nifty! It's not really out in the thick of the fjords, though.

In coming to the Westfjords, we wanted to "get out of town" here, so that's probably why we don't have any good town recommendations here.
May 11, 2016 2:26 AM # 
Thanks for posting these note. I'm not sure when, but I'm sure Mary and I will visit Iceland again. I've been interested in some of the places you wrote about.

I really want to love Reykjavik, but after spending 14 days in quaint little towns, it's just not very enchanting

Mary and I like Reykjavik. But on both of our trips, we felt like we spent a day longer than we should have.

The things I like about Reykjavik:

Lots of orienteering nearby. On our first visit, there wasn't an active club, but we got out on some old maps. One near the city and one in the city.

Good contemporary art. The Hafnarhus museum has had some good exhibits when we've visited. We also saw some interesting street-performance-art one evening.

Icelandic Fish and Chips and that place that sells the world's best lobster soup.

We had dinner at a gas station

Our first trip was in September, just after a lot of tourist stuff had closed. I remember eating dinner at a gas station
May 11, 2016 10:17 PM # 
Pink Socks:
I've been interested in some of the places you wrote about.

I think I'll write up something more detailed with photos on Facebook at some point. I don't know why I started writing about towns on AP. We also spent two nights in Stykkisholmur, which was also amazing.

Mary and I like Reykjavik. But on both of our trips, we felt like we spent a day longer than we should have.

Agreed. We stayed our first 3 nights there in 2010, and we felt like it was too much. We basically decompressed on Day 1, did the Golden Circle on Day 2, and went orienteering on Day 3, and then left.

This time, we spent out last two nights there, but really only one day, which we spent wandering around downtown. We saw the new performing arts center, which is really interesting on the inside! We were also there on a Sunday, so a lot of things were closed, so we spent too much time in souvenir shops and feeling mopey that our trip was about to end.

I understand that Reykjavik has a lot of culture and things to see, but we've learned that our personal appeal to Iceland really doesn't reside in Reykjavik, it resides everywhere else. In other words, we don't regret spending only one day in Reykjavik (we never considered skipping it entirely, because I wanted an free day before we flew home in case we got delayed by the weather).

We joked with the hosts of the country inn where we stayed on both trips that we'd be back in 2021. I'm not sure what that trip will look like. We've been in September, and now in April/May. If we come in the summer, I think the trip, in order to avoid the massive crowds, we'd try to explore the interior, which we haven't touched yet. Or we come back in the spring or fall again and do something similar to the 2016 trip.
May 13, 2016 3:11 PM # 
I almost went to Iceland solo last summer and was told that it wouldn't be a great trip. Any thoughts?
May 13, 2016 3:45 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Told by whom? I guess it depends on what you want in a trip.

There's definitely a lot to do, especially in the summer. In addition to hiking around and seeing sights, there's glacier climbing, snowmobiling, superjeep rides, lava caves, rafting, helicopter trips, whale watching, horse riding, and so on and so on.

There's a lot of viking history and there are a lot of little museums and quaint old fishing towns everywhere.

The terrain is varied and quite interesting to wander around. The combination of volcanic and glacial forces provide a lot of weird stuff to look at. There are some orienteering maps around Reykjavik, or you can get 1:50000 hiking maps with 20m contours of the whole country.

Food is pretty good, especially fish. There's a growing microbrew scene.

In Reykjavik, the music and bar scene is supposedly good. The new performing arts center is pretty nice, and there are other museums there, but also the most tourists and souvenir shops (that seem to all be selling the same exact things).

If you want to bike around, I hope you like wind. We saw some bikers out there and it looked absolutely miserable; I'm surprised we didn't see them get blown over, to be honest.
May 13, 2016 4:01 PM # 
Sorry, should have clarified, going to Reykjavik solo versus in a group.

What I look for in a trip? Well last summer was the chance to see a no-hitter of course.
May 13, 2016 4:58 PM # 
Probably won't be able to see a no-hitter in Reykjavik, but if you're lucky you could probably play a game for the Trolls:
May 13, 2016 7:05 PM # 
Pink Socks:
going to Reykjavik solo versus in a group

Honestly, I don't think I'm the best person to ask. I think Reykjavik is our least favorite part of Iceland. That's not to sat that we dislike Reykjavik, it's just that we like everything else a lot more.

It's pretty small as far as cities go (metro area 200,000), so if I could only choose between northern Euro cities, I might choose Olso or Copenhagen or something. They are expecting 1.6 million tourists in Iceland this year, and pretty much all of them spend time in Reykjavik, so it's geared more towards tourism than most cities.

You could sign up for a lot of day trips from Reykjavik, which would be a fun way to go solo, since you'd meet others. A lot of tourists do the stopover thing with Icelandair, and you don't need a car. Just take the bus from the airport to your hotel, then have the tour agencies pick you up. (I remember doing similar things in Australia when I was there for a semester in college).

If you want to see the whole country but don't have the time, I'd recommend hitting up the Snaefellsnes peninsula, which is just a two-hour drive or ride from Reykjavik. It's got fjords, mountains, a snowcap glacier, old volcanos, bird cliffs, crazy lava fields, historical stuff, charming towns with outstanding restaurants. It's basically a mini version of the whole country, and it's just a stone's throw from the capital.

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