It seems this is the year to go to Iceland for the Northern Lights... IcelandAir has been putting out some great deals, the dollar is strong against the Icelandic Kroner, and the northern lights are in an active cycle. We jumped on the bandwagon and went this November, and since a few other people I know are planning the same I thought I'd share my trip to help others plan and make the best of their stay on this beautiful island.
One of the biggest questions I had was what to pack.... I'm from Colorado so I am used to some cold winter temps but NOT used to the bone chilling humidity and wind that comes from such a wet island. The kind that freezes through your jeans and makes your toes and fingers go numb. So packing list item #1 is Thermals. Item #2 is a good pair of hiking boots. The key is getting something that is waterproof and has good tread. There is a lot of ice and wet and so those fuzzy fashion Ugg boots will just not work well.
Item #3 is a waterproof/windproof jacket and Item #4 is a good pair of gloves and hat. Of course if you forget the hat and gloves you can pick up a lovely hand knit icelandic wool set from just about every single store in Reykjavik..... Oh and last but not least, pack your sunglasses. It's not always sunny there but the sun is low in the winter so when it is sunny, it is right smack in your eyes.
|My dress code for November in Iceland|
So now you've packed your bag, what to do when you get there?
We were there for only four days but we still packed a lot into the trip.
First off, I'd recommend you have a ride to your hotel from the Keflavik airport booked before you arrive.
I booked our transfer on FlyBus+ and paid the extra little cost to go right to our hotel. Well worth it! Flybus - Reykjavik Excursions
Grayline is another bus transfer provider that seemed to be a good option and had shorter lines.
Here's my little tip though... know the name of your hotel and know how to pronounce it properly. Iceland is full of very organized people and their transportation system is fantastic but not if you don't know your own hotel (yes I sadly saw some Americans who couldn't communicate this simple piece of information to their bus drivers)
When we arrived at our hotel (Hotel Klettur which I would highly recommend as a good budget friendly hotel) it was only 8 am so we couldn't check in... Not to worry they had a room to store our bags and off we went to explore the town. My very few thoughts on Reykjavik
1. There are two main shopping streets, Laugavegur which runs sort of east/west, and Skolavordustigur, which runs from the Hallgrimskrkja (the really big church) and intersects Laugavegur. Everything you ever wanted to buy from Iceland are on these streets.
2. Old Reykjavik, the Old Harbour and the Tjornin Lake are also a must visit; especially watching the swans in the Tjornin, or if it is frozen over there is ice skating.
3. We got the city card which if you like to visit museums I would recommend as almost all the museums are free with the card, plus free bus transportation. Our favorite museum was the National Museum, but also make sure to stop and visit Hallgrimka and Harpa concert hall if you are into architecture.
4. The Icelandic language is pretty hard to pronounce, and everyone speaks english but try and learn at least how to say good morning - Góðan daginn. (
|Laugavegur at night, or should I say at 4 pm|
The one interesting thing to note about Icelandic dining is that you don't request the check at restaurants. When you are done eating you just go up to the register and pay. I think it is a security thing and it makes A LOT of sense. This was the case even at nice restaurants. And there's no tipping or tax added on to cost in the menu, it is all inclusive. And definitely bring your chip card, as that is the only way to pay there.
Our Favorite dining spots were
1. Breakfast: Grai Kotturinn (I think it is the Grey Cat in english) A really good place to get a proper eggs, bacon potato breakfast. It's on Hverfisgata St and takes a little finding but is worth it after a long overnight flight
2. Lunch: Honestly we didn't have many great lunches in Reykjavik. All the sandwiches were too mayonaisse-y for our tastes. Our favorite lunch was a nice meat soup and some fresh bread we had during the golden circle tour so I would recommend meat soup if you can find it
3. Dinner: Our favorite dinner hands down was Hofnin Restaurant at the Old Harbour. Very reasonable for excellent seafood. If you can get online and make a reservation they will seat you at the table by the window which was quite lovely.
The lamb, the seafood and the beer are the real treats in Iceland. All are excellent! They are also very proud of their skyr (yogurt)
Last but not least, our excursions.
Most of them were pre-booked with our IcelandAir trip and they were all very enjoyable.
1. Northern Lights boat trip by Special Tours - They have very warm suits to put on and they boat you out past the city lights where you can watch the northern lights, provided it is a clear night. If you want to get a photo of the lights, be sure to bring the right kind of camera... we did not have one so had to rely on the photos that the tour group put up on Facebook
|Photo from Special Tours Northern Lights trip|
2. Blue Lagoon - We went on this as part of a package deal from Reykjavik excursion. The Lagoon is almost an hour drive from Reykjavik but was really well worth it.
|The Blue Lagoon|
And well I guess that's about all you can fit in a long weekend. We really enjoyed the people and the beauty of Iceland and hope to get back there soon for a nice summer adventure.