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WHERE TO STAY IN ICELAND AND RENTING A CAR?


gullcruiser
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Hello, I will be traveling to Iceland the end of April and could use suggestions on where to stay.  I know that I want to go to the Blue Lagoon and probably be fairly close to the airport.  I also know that I don't want a shared bathroom!! I usually find a tour but am wondering if renting a car is a better option. I am just starting to work on this and any suggestions would be helpful.  I will  be there only for 3 days and want to get the most in.

Thanks in advance!

Maris

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7 hours ago, gullcruiser said:

I will be traveling to Iceland the end of April and could use suggestions on where to stay. 

For how many days?  Arrival into KEF? Anything else you want to see?

I'm just back from Iceland and do have some advise, my reply will depend on your answers.

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For 3 days there is no need to stay near the airport unless you plan to only visit the Blue Lagoon and the Reykjanes Peninsula, which is the landmass the airport and BL are on.  That area is gorgeous, but everything else in Iceland like the Golden Circle and all the waterfalls, are east of Reykjavik.  And Reykjavik is where the restaurants, shops, and pubs are.

 

There are some lower cost lodgings on the Reykjanes Peninsula, mostly in Grindavik and in Reykjanesbær.  More such options in Reykjavik.

 

Late April is still winter in Iceland (it is right on the Arctic Circle, much further north than you!), so be sure to check forecasts and road conditions daily before you set out.  We got caught in a March winter storm and even stopped, we were being moved by the combo of strong winds and icy roads with no control with a big 4WD vehicle.  Some days in Iceland in winter all you can do is stay inside.

 

The Blue Lagoon is great, but it is expensive (book early for slightly better pricing and to ensure entry) and it is 80-90% tourists.  There are MANY other swimming options in Iceland.  Every town and village has a (low cost) community pool and hot tub setup.  I think I read that Iceland has more public pools per capita than anywhere else.

 

Figure out what you want to see and do in Iceland. In 3 days you can see SO much, so don't limit yourself.  One concern is if you are flying direct to Iceland from the US you don't want to go beyond the city on day 1, due to jetlag.

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Agree with Nitemare, April is still winter and self driving requires vigilance checking road  conditions.  You should also be familiar with driving in high winds and ice, and how to handle a car if you hit black ice.  The roads are elevated, narrow, and have no guard rails.   If you really want  to self drive, look at lodging for at least one night out of the city.

 

I would consider looking at a 2-3 day tour that includes lodging.  That will get you out into the countryside and let experienced locals drive while you can gawk at the scenery and/or snooze a bit from jet lag.  Look at south coast tours, or ones that include the Golden Circle or Snaefellsnes.  

 

If you stay in Reykjavik, anything in the 101 code is well situated for exploring the city.  The Blue Lagoon is nice, but not mandatory.  It is  near the airport and is often done on the way to/from your flights.  Their website has info on the shuttle there - go thru a dummy booking to see your options as it doesn't show up until you have tickets in your cart.  If you do want to go, definitely book tickets early, as the prices rise and availability falls.

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I agree that staying near the airport is probably not the best choice. Even if you choose to stay outside of the city center, staying out towards the airport adds an extra 30-45 minutes of driving to anything you want to do (besides the Blue Lagoon). Additionally, since there aren't a lot of places to stay and many people overnight before early flights, the accommodation prices in the area out towards the airport can be higher than elsewhere. If you really don't want to stay in Reykjavik, you can find guesthouses and farm stays outside the city. I've also stayed in Mosfellsbær before, which is actually a bit closer to the popular Golden Circle attractions.

 

Although it's touristy, I actually quite enjoyed the Blue Lagoon and think it's a fun (albeit somewhat expensive) activity if you know what you're getting into. Don't expect a local experience, and be aware that it's not a natural phenomenon (a lot of people aren't aware that it's basically just the run-off from the nearby geothermal power plant). However, if you want a relaxing spa-like activity, it's a fun way to spend a few hours. It was our last stop on a 10-day trip around Iceland, and we enjoyed it even though we'd already been to the Mývatn Nature Baths (similar geothermal run-off pools, but with a bit more of a local atmosphere) and the natural hot spring pool at Hveravellir. The Blue Lagoon was still impressive given its size and infrastructure, and I was particularly happy we booked an in-water massage (performed from below while you're lying on a semi-submerged floating mat). Not the greatest massage of my life (especially given the noisy surroundings) but certainly among the most unique!

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Thanks for all of the suggestions and I certainly will  take into consideration the driving conditions.  I am from Northern Minnesota and am pretty much use to whiteouts, black ice and ridiculous cold.  However, that said  am I making a mistake in trying to see the country at the end of April? This was going to be a side trip on my way to Denmark, which I know, it isn't the warmest then either!!!!

 

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We loved our March visit, but then again, we're going later this month for our 5th time, so we always love it.  But for "free-est" touring opportunities, mid-May to mid-September are safest.

 

I wouldn't cancel this trip, but I would plan to stay in more populated areas and do consider lj's suggestion of taking tours, or be prepared to just stay in if a late storm is upon you

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It's not deep cold and snow, it's the wind, associated with the fact that Iceland hovers around freezing, so lots of freeze/thaw cycles  leaving ice on the road.  The gulf stream hits Iceland then turns east.  The roads there have electronic wind monitors that locals know to watch to decide if they should proceed.  Car doors can get ripped off.  Cars can blown right off the road and down steep embankments.  A local posted on TripAdvisor about a section of ROAD that got blown off recently, as in the tarmac was stripped off.  When you add that to the ice and narrow roads, it can get precarious.  Certainly not constantly, but there  are many microclimates, so it can easily be nice on one section of your drive, but bad weather an hour or two down the road.  We were there in March and  had whiteouts, gale force winds, and beautiful sunny warm skies in the span of  4  hours.

 

Many people visit Iceland, have great weather, and talk about how easy it is to drive there.  Some experienced drivers get caught in bad weather and say "never again."  I've read where perhaps the only climates/driving experience that are similar are northern Canada, the Scottish highlands, and Siberia.  Just passing info along.  I grew up in Upper Michigan, so have a healthy respect for bad winter weather, but moved to Texas in high school and have done all my driving in the south.  No way would I be prepared to drive in Iceland.

 

 

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I booked a self driving tour of Iceland a few years ago.  The company took care of hotel booking (you can request en suite), rental car (and transportation to and from the car rental place), they can book excursions for you as well.  They provide a list suggested attractions all along your route, a cell phone, a GPS device, and a WiFi hotspot.  It was the prefect combination of DYI and go at our own pace with having a bit of direction from a local.....

 

https://iceland.nordicvisitor.com/

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Great idea.  Come June-September for a self drive trip.

 

With your long johns, bring a hat, gloves, scarf, a warm jacket," and  a waterproof outer layer if  you want to get close to the waterfalls or will be spending any amount of time outside.  It rains frequently and sideways.  We went the last week in May, and our "summer vacation" family picture has us bundled up like the middle of winter. LOL  

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We had rain pants with us, because we had a few day hikes planned, but we quickly realized how useful they were for visiting waterfalls! I’d throw them on whenever we stopped to visit one, and it was so nice not having to worry about wind direction and spray!

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