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Iceland/Reykjavik MUST DOs?


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Hi all,

 

We'll be on a cruise this summer that is planning to have an overnight in Reykjavik (so from about noon day1 to about 4pm on day2).  I'm SO excited to be going to Iceland, but can't seem to decide on what to plan to do there (I think it's because we really don't have enough time, and I should have just planned a land tour, but oh well!).  I contacted a local tour company and they recommended a 10-hour South Coast tour on day 1 and then a 7-hour Golden Circle tour on day 2.  All sounds awesome and beautiful and I have heard great things about both of these areas, but I keep stopping myself from booking because I'm wondering if these are the best things to do with our limited time.  It seems a shame to be there and not see the Blue Lagoon, which I have heard about (is it really great?  or just a tourist trap?).  Or not to really see Reykjavik at all, though I can get over that as I'm from a city and the beautiful countryside seems more interesting probably.  


Wondering if anyone who has been there and maybe been to all of these places can weigh in on how best to spend our time on our first trip to Iceland (and possibly only?).  A couple of extra factors to consider:

 

1) we will also have a port day in Akureyri, where we've been recommended to do a Lake Myvatn tour -- so that could be potentially 3 days in a row of "scenery" tours.  Is it too much?  Repetitive? 

2) We will have two 9(almost 10)-year-olds with us on the trip.  They are good travelers, but we do like to try to vary our experiences for them as well as for us.  Will these three days in a row be likely to draw complaints of "Another waterfall???" -- or are they all so special and different that it's really worth seeing them all?

 

Thanks in advance for any advice!

 

Jenn

 

 

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Personally, I wouldn't feel too bad about missing Reykjavík itself. The first time I visited, we left town right away, and on the way back we spent just a few hours seeing Hallgrimskirkja, grabbing a hot dog, and wandering around the city center before heading out to the Blue Lagoon for the afternoon. So the second time we were in Iceland, we made a point to spend a full day in the city. We visited the Phallological Museum for a laugh and then headed over to Perlan. Neither was particularly noteworthy, and we struggled to find much to do in the afternoon! 🤷‍♀️ It was a bit late to plan much else beyond the city center, so we actually hung out in a pub and caught up on email.

 

If you're worried about missing out on the Blue Lagoon and having too much sightseeing in a row, you can consider visiting the Mývatn Nature Baths while you're in Akureyri. It's exactly the same concept as the Blue Lagoon (silica-rich blue water created by the run-off from a nearby geothermal power plant), but much less touristy. It's also quite close to the Hverir volcanic area and boiling mud pits. I'm not sure what your Lake Mývatn tour includes, but if you're concerned about too many waterfalls, I don't think missing Goðafoss at Akyreyri is a huge disappointment if you'll be visiting Gullfoss a few days later.

 

What is included in the 10-hour south coast tour?

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We did trips with FAB Tours and can recommend them. Golden Circle tour from Reykyavik  and Lake Myvatn round tour from Akureyri.  Your kids will gave a great time out in the open rather than walking round the city. There are so many different things to see, Gulfoss waterfall, geyser which erupts every few minutes, Myvatn nature baths and landscapes which could be on the moon with steam coming out of the ground! It's an amazing place for all ages. FAB tours have small mini buses and make lots of stops so you are not stuck in the bus for long periods and toilet breaks when required. Enjoy!

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Reykjavik is a great city, but there are lots of great cities in the world.  Iceland is unique.

 

We love the Blue Lagoon, but it is a tourist attraction.  Not a "trap", because I feel a "tourist trap" is a place that hooks visitors in and doesn't deliver, but the BL delivers.  It is expensive.  It isn't natural.  It is full of tourists.  If it's a place you've always wanted to visit you should visit.  We went there on our first two trips to Iceland, spending a night at the hotel there on our second visit, before they basically doubled the lodging costs (because they can due to demand).

 

1 day South Coast, 1 day Golden Circle, and a tour to the Myvatn area sounds perfect to me.  Like kaisustu suggests, You could even replace the Blue Lagoon with a trip to the Myvatn Nature Spa, which is the only other spa in Iceland similar to the Blue Lagoon, but it is smaller, much less crowded, and much less expensive.  That avoids 3 consecutive long drive days, but if you do decide to do the touring you won't be disappointed, the landscapes up north are different than what you will have seen on the prior days.

 

If you can work out minibus tours instead of Big Bus tours you will find it is well worth the small extra cost.  Being more nimble and having more access to your guide is something we think is worth the 10-20% higher price, and not having to wait for 40 other folks to get back to the bus from the bathroom, lunch, and each stop, gives you more touring time and less waiting time.

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Absolutely do the south coast.  You could consider Into the Volcano for day 2, that would probably really appeal to the kids, though it is not cheap.  You could find a highlands tour perhaps, that will be a very different sort of scenery. I've been to Iceland twice and still haven't been to the Golden Circle.  It's the "go to" tourist tour but everything I've read says it's not as majestic as the south coast or north.  There are geysers, though, which the kids may like. The BL is nice, but might be pretty boring for the kids after a short while.   It's a spa, not a recreational pool, and loud frolicking would be looked down upon.  For the cost, it might not be worth it.  I keep hearing good things about the Flyover Iceland show.  Reykjavik itself is nice, but I would absolutely skip it and see the countryside instead.

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I wouldn't consider the scenery on the Golden Circle to be "majestic" but I also wouldn't consider that a problem, since it's more about the individual sights than the landscapes. I still thought Gullfoss was impressive, in spite of being a bit waterfalled out by the end of our 10-day drive around Iceland. I had a lot of fun watching the Strokkur geysir, since it erupts so often, and I could spend some time looking more closely at how it behaves. And while the history of Þingvellir might not be terribly exciting for the kids, it's kind of cool to see the effects of the tectonic plate separation and see the actual growing gap between the continents.

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We are on a cruise with 4 ports in iceland. Is there enough time at myvatn spa on a tour first of Lake Myvatn out of Akureyri.We are leaning towards blue lagoon because we can get there on our own and leave when we want (using destination blue lagoon bus. ) We would have some time in Reykjavik that day also. The area outside Reykjavik also sounds very nice. Really not sure if we should lose a day for blue lagoon and miss a tour out of Reykjavik. Any opinions?

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I've been twice on cruise stops to Reykjavik. First time in 2014 did the Blue Lagoon and loved it. Yes, a bit touristy but then again, I'm a tourist. I do believe they've expanded quite a bit and also raised the pricing but still worth a visit in my humble opinion 😉

 

On our last cruise stop (same as you, overnight from 1pm until 3pm following day) June 2019, we did an wonderful tour to see a Lava Tunnel. It was simply spectacular and something your kids would enjoy. Travel to and from the port can be included when you book on the website (and yes, it really looks as cool as the photos!):

 

http://thelavatunnel.is/

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We did the Inside the Volcano tour this past September.  It is a long (30-35 minute each way) walk from the meeting place to the volcano, then you get to climb the volcano itself.  There is a good path and the climb has steps and isn't treacherous in any way, but it is steep.  The descent inside and the interior is spectacular.

 

It is expensive and it does sell out.  They will cancel tours if the weather is too wet, but not for wind, and we walked in some serious wind.

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3 hours ago, Nitemare said:

They will cancel tours if the weather is too wet

Not from our experience! It was pouring down rain for the entire hike. I was wearing head-to-toe GoreTex* (shell jacket, hiking shoes, and rain pants that keep me dry stepping into knee-deep water on wet landings) and it had all wetted out before we got there! We were soaked. At least it’s was dry inside the volcano!

 

As an amateur geologist and Jules Verne fan, I loved it in spite of the rain! But there were definitely some on our tour (especially those wearing less waterproof gear) who wished they’d skipped it!

 

Aside from the rain, I think the time and price are worth it if you’re interested in volcanoes. If not, and you’re on a budget, I’d look at some of the other options, since there are so many different activities available (glacier walks, horse riding, etc).


*all of which had been reproofed before the trip.

Edited by kaisatsu
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2 hours ago, kaisatsu said:

Not from our experience! It was pouring down rain for the entire hike. I was wearing head-to-toe GoreTex* (shell jacket, hiking shoes, and rain pants that keep me dry stepping into knee-deep water on wet landings) and it had all wetted out before we got there! We were soaked. At least it’s was dry inside the volcano!

 

As an amateur geologist and Jules Verne fan, I loved it in spite of the rain! But there were definitely some on our tour (especially those wearing less waterproof gear) who wished they’d skipped it!

 

Aside from the rain, I think the time and price are worth it if you’re interested in volcanoes. If not, and you’re on a budget, I’d look at some of the other options, since there are so many different activities available (glacier walks, horse riding, etc).


*all of which had been reproofed before the trip.

Ugh, that sounds dreadful.  We did a Þórsmörk Superjeep tour (in pouring rain) a few days after our Volcano tour and one of the other couples told us they had been planning to do the Volcano that day but it had been canceled due to that rain.  Maybe they meant that they themselves had canceled the plans but that's not how we understood it at the time.

 

We loved the Volcano, even with the hiking, even though we did it for the worst reason possible:  Mrs 'mare wanted us to have an activity on arrival day nor far from our lodging in Grindavik.  I wanted to nap, so I figured if I picked the most expensive tour possible she might decide that we should take it easier after our overnight flight.  Fortunately I was wrong as it was a great excursion!

 

Attached picture is from the start of the walk back to the lodge and parking lot

 

P1090421.JPG

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Just a tip.  If you are going to the geysers and have asthma or other breathing problems, you may want to wear a mask or put a scarf over your nose and mouth.  While you may not feel irritation that day, you might on the next day.  If you can smell the air, you probably need some protection.  

 

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Been to Iceland twice: once in 2005 for a week on our own with a rental car, and several years ago for 4 days on a transatlantic cruise. Iceland is gorgeous, but has certainly become a lot more crowded with tourists since our first trip. With kids, and a lot of time in Reykjavik,  maybe consider the first day taking a full day high-wheel jeep tour into Porsmork, part of the rugged interior of Iceland. That's what we did in 2005 and it was amazing. In addition to guided hiking up Mt. Valahnukar, and a cave in Stallholtsgjer we got to walk behind a waterfall (Seljalandsfoss). Some of those tours even offer an opportunity to walk on a glacier. Your kids would love it.  On the second day, take a half-day Golden Circle tour.  Skip Blue Lagoon (mobbed) and opt for the Nature Baths/Lake Myvatin tour out of Akureyri. Much less touristy.

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Hi, we rented a car for our overnight in Reykjavik,  nice to be on our own time... & with kids, it's nice not to be locked into a tour buses schedule.   When we saw wild Icelandic ponies, we stopped...  when we needed a restroom break, we stopped...   we did Golden Circle on Day 1 & Blue Lagoon on day two.   Didn't even see Reykjavik except as we drove out....  personally, I wouldn't spring for kids to go to Blue Lagoon,  for us, it was relaxing & romantic because it was just the two of us,  we bought the package with extra masks & drinks.   

 

Akureyri, we used Saga,  they have mini buses that hold about 10 to 12 people, & it was nice not to have to plan or think that one day (we almost always DiY)  we went to Lake Myvatn, the geo thermic areas, it was amazing.    We were there Mid May & the midges at the lake had just started.... I understand in summer they are insane, so keep that in mind

.

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We lived in Iceland for 3 yrs eons ago, when I was stationed there with the US Navy.   We actually lived for a time in the fishing village of Keflavik, pop 5000 and then the 5th largest city in the country.   We have traveled back there twice (last time 5 yrs ago) but never on a cruise and will be flying there again self guided this summer after a Viking Homelands cruise ending in Bergen.   Given your limited time in country and being with kids, let me suggest the following:

 

When in Reykjavik -  the Golden Circle is a must.   Waterfalls, geysirs and history (the site where the oldest democracy in the world began)  - all in one day.   Rather than the south coast (more scenery), I might choose the Blue Lagoon, while touristy as stated above, should be enjoyed by the kids.  That's a half day trip.    If you have time later in the city, let me recommend the Natural History Museum - lots of Viking stuff (another kid fav).   My spouse loves  Reykjavik shopping and their avant garde fashions and galleries.   The main shopping street (Laugavegur)  is maybe 1/2 mile long and chock-a-block with small stores.   Thinking out of the box, if the kids are up to it., there are great horseback tours based just outside of Reykjavik on the sturdy Icelandic horse (sort of a Shetland pony on steroids), suitable for both kids and adults. 

 

In Akuyeryi, I would recommend instead of Myvatn, a whale watch out of Husavik (similar travel distance) and likely offered as a cruise excursion.   Husavik is a cute small fishing village with whales likely just offshore.  Depending on the season, it might also be a nesting area for seabirds.   It also has a great whaling museum.  The road to Husavik (and Myvatn) passes right by Godafoss (waterfall of the gods) and will be a likely tour bus stop,

 

Whatever you do, be prepared for temps in the 50's, long days (maybe a few hours of twilight/dark) May-July, and the chance of rain.   The whale watch boats (or zodiacs) will provide parkas and/or protective gear, so the lower temps on the water should not be a problem.   Enjoy this wonderful country. 

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We were in Iceland in May last year, with an overnight in Reykjavik.  We did a Golden Circle tour in a small mini bus for $92 US per person.  The driver/guide was wonderful and we learned so much on the tour.  She was flexible about itinerary and very well versed in history.  At one point she asked if any of us would like to visit a farm - that was great as we got to see Icelandic horses close up as well as sheep that had just given birth or were about to.  The horses are stunning!  The second day we had booked  horse riding at a small stable and that was awesome!  Icelandic horses have a unique gait that we were able to experience and are so friendly and calm.  The price of that was 11,900 ISK (sorry, can't remember the conversion).  Well worth it.  We were dropped off after the ride at a hot dog stand in town that they recommended, one that did not have horsemeat in the hotdogs!

 

Another vote for Saga Travel in Akureyri, again a minibus with an amazing driver/guide.  The 2 ports are very different and each is stunning in their own right.  The cost for 2 of us was $311 and worth every penny.  The waterfalls everywhere are incredible and very different, we never felt like 'oh no, not another waterfall'.

 

We had done a stopover in Iceland previously and rented a car at the airport, thinking we could just drive ourselves around.  We stopped off at Blue Lagoon just to see it without actually paying the big bucks to go in and that was enough for us.  Iceland is so much more than Blue Lagoon!

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We were lucky enough to have 2 overnights - one in Reykjavik and one in Akureyri.

I think that the South Coast from R. is amazing, not to be missed. Personally, we gave the BL a miss..

The 2nd day in R. we've done the Golden Coast.

In Akureyri we had a tour which I didn't enjoy so much -- The Arctic coast, I thought it was a bit repetitive and boring in comparison to the South Coast tour.

The 2nd day in A. we took the Lake Myvatn tour - again, enjoyed it very much.

2 tours were done with SAGA and 2 with FAB. I preferred the SAGA tours....

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27 minutes ago, dani negreanu said:

We were lucky enough to have 2 overnights - one in Reykjavik and one in Akureyri.

I think that the South Coast from R. is amazing, not to be missed. Personally, we gave the BL a miss..

The 2nd day in R. we've done the Golden Coast.

In Akureyri we had a tour which I didn't enjoy so much -- The Arctic coast, I thought it was a bit repetitive and boring in comparison to the South Coast tour.

The 2nd day in A. we took the Lake Myvatn tour - again, enjoyed it very much.

2 tours were done with SAGA and 2 with FAB. I preferred the SAGA tours....

noticed your second day Lake myvatn tour. Will we regret not seeing the golden coast and just doing Lake Myvatn From Akureyri. We are considering BL in Reykjavik, walking a few trails around BL and just wandering Reykjavik remainder of our time.

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53 minutes ago, Luv2cruz1000 said:

noticed your second day Lake myvatn tour. Will we regret not seeing the golden coast and just doing Lake Myvatn From Akureyri. We are considering BL in Reykjavik, walking a few trails around BL and just wandering Reykjavik remainder of our time.

 

Sorry, I meant Golden Circle. As I’ve mentioned, the BL wasn’t high on our “to do”... I’m vary of this type of “touristy” things. No match for us versus Golden Circle.

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17 hours ago, mahi mahi said:

We were in Iceland in May last year, with an overnight in Reykjavik.  We did a Golden Circle tour in a small mini bus for $92 US per person.  The driver/guide was wonderful and we learned so much on the tour.  She was flexible about itinerary and very well versed in history.  At one point she asked if any of us would like to visit a farm - that was great as we got to see Icelandic horses close up as well as sheep that had just given birth or were about to.  The horses are stunning!  The second day we had booked  horse riding at a small stable and that was awesome!  Icelandic horses have a unique gait that we were able to experience and are so friendly and calm.  The price of that was 11,900 ISK (sorry, can't remember the conversion).  Well worth it.  We were dropped off after the ride at a hot dog stand in town that they recommended, one that did not have horsemeat in the hotdogs!

 

 

Just a quick correction, Icelandic hotdogs are generally Lamb, beef, and pork. I haven't seen one with horsemeat in it and I have eaten more than several.

 

They do eat horse in Iceland, as they do in many countries, but it is listed as such

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I agree on the delicious Icelandic hot dogs - called Pylsur, usually made of lamb and enjoyed on a bun with a sweet mustard.   During the whaling season - July?  you may also see some whale meat dogs.   They still hunt whales today, I believe, with the whaling station at Hvalfjordur, about 50 km north of Reykjavik on the Akuyeryi road (don't go through the new tunnel under the fjord, but drive around the fjord to see the station at the head of the fjord).   Hvalfjordur is also where the Murmansk convoys assembled during WW II before braving the U Boat and Nazi bomber gauntlet to bring  lend lease equipment to Russia.   A feature on the menu at high end restaurants during my last trip there (5 yrs ago) was Minke Whale steak.  Iceland has to import substantially  all its beef as the climate and terrain preclude grazing beef cattle in the country (they do  have milk cows).   As Nitemare notes, the hotdogs won't have horsemeat in them, but the burgers (and meatballs) might.   When we lived there, all we could get at the local groceries were lamb, fish, poultry and horsemeat.  I'm sure that has changed since, but likely the imported beef is too expensive for the locals.  

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I have it on good authority from my son who spent time on a farm in Iceland that there could be horsemeat in some hotdogs - he was told by the farmer that if you eat hotdogs at service stations you have likely eaten horsemeat!  Yes, I am aware that they are mostly made with lamb.  We made sure to ask the staff at the stable to direct us to a hotdog stand that did not feature horse on it's menu:-)

 

Enjoy Iceland - it is truly unique!

 

 

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Hi,

We are in Reykjavik in March and have been looking at a tour organised by the WhatsOn Tourist Centre. Has anyone had any experience of booking through them? do you need to pay all the cost upfront or just a deposit ? any other info/advice greatfully received. Thanks.

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