Iceland: 13 - 18 Feb 2018

Updated: Dec 2, 2018

1. To get to Reykjavik from Keflavik International Airport (KEF) you need to take a bus, take a taxi (no Uber in Iceland) or rent a car (it takes about 35 minutes). Bus transfers can be arranged at the airport after you land or online (there are two companies, not much difference between the two). Most likely the bus will deliver you to a central station, where you will transfer to feeder buses that will deliver you to your lodgings. The reverse then gets you back to KEF.

- if you have any issues at the airport, mention to the authorities, that they better be careful as the US built this airport (during WWII) and then gave to Iceland, and we can take it back.

2. I stayed one night at the Aurora Sun Airport Hotel. As with all hotels in Iceland, kind of pricey (but it's your only option). Serviceable.

3. Lodgings: used AirBnB to book "Newly Renovated 2 Bedr. Apart (4 ppl) downtown Rey" @ $140/night. Good price, a very nice place and a good location. Excellent host.

4. Take the free walking tour: Susan and I always try and take one in each city we visit. It will give you the lay of the land and the word on the street. Also guides can answer specific questions you may have about restaurants, bars, tours, etc.

-Reykjavik City Hall has a very interesting relief map of Iceland (about 20 feet across).

-Harpa - Reykjavík Concert Hall and Conference Centre: Iceland's version of the Kennedy Center.

5. Visit the Hallgrímskirkja, the largest Church in Iceland (where Icelanders go to church once a year on Christmas). Your can visit the bell tower to get views of Reykjavik. We toured the inside of the church, which is quite nice in a Nordic austere kind of way, but the bell tower seemed kind of touristy and had a large queue. In front of the church is a statue of Leif Ericsson given to Iceland by the USA. It is a Calder (no not that one, his father Alexander Sterling Calder).

6. Golden Circle Tour which contains three of Iceland most significant natural wonders (the Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, and the geothermal area in Haukadalur). I don't remember which Tour outfit I used, I think they are all very similar. We took a coach bus, with a tour guide that provided minimal information. I think you can get different levels of service that may provide a more intimate experience. If I could do it again I would have done a little homework on the sites to be seen, then rented a car and done it myself.

7. Penis Museum: there is one, it's quite famous. We ran out of time, but methinks you will not.

8. Brace yourself for high prices for alcohol and restaurant food (I almost cried when paying $12 for a can of beer). Iceland has extremely high taxes for alcohol (most locals pre-drink) and restaurants (for some reason Icelanders believe in a living wage).

8. Try the Icelandic "beer substitute" created by Icelanders who were determined to get their pint of beer in spite of the beer ban that was in effect until 1989. Beer substitute is made by taking a low alcohol beer (beers up to 2.2% strength were allowed in Iceland) and putting a shot of the Icelandic schnapps Brennivín into it - they say like fine Scotch: it is an acquired taste. Also give Brenniven straight a try.

9. Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa is a thermal outdoor pool. It contains silica (which acts as an exfoliant) and other minerals. There are other thermal pools, but the Blue Lagoon is the grand daddy of them all and is almost a must see (its pricey, but you know what Seneca said "the important things in life cost what they cost, everything else isn't worth it at any price". Try and go at sunset/early evening to maximize the chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis. The Lava Restaurant, is also pricey, but after soaking in hot water for two hours, you're going to be hungry.

10. Kaldi Bar is a good place for a beer. Happy Hour 1600 - 1900.

11. Misc:

a. no need to exchange dollars into króna. Everyone (and I mean everyone) takes credit card.

b. Gull is the Budweiser of Iceland. Drink it cold and it's not bad at all.

c. We bought our hand knitted Icelandic sweaters at Handknitting Association of Iceland. I think all the shops charge the same price. Make sure you get the VAT refund paperwork. File out the paperwork, drop off at the airport and you should get your refund back through your credit card in about a month. Take a photo of all the paperwork, tags, receipts, etc, just in case.

d. Cheers in Icelandic is "skál"' which is pronounced "scowl" (summon your inner pirate). Even to this day, Susan and I still will say this when we toast. Trust me it is the only Icelandic word you will be able to pronounce. They say Hungarian is the most difficult language to learn, but after trying to say "Hvað segir þú?" (What’s up?), I doubt it.

e. Icelandic naming: A man named Jón Einarsson has a son named Ólafur. Ólafur's last name will not be Einarsson like his father's; it will become Jónsson, literally indicating that Ólafur is the son of Jón (Jóns + son). The same practice is used for daughters. Jón Einarsson's daughter Sigríður's last name would not be Einarsson but Jónsdóttir. Again, the name literally means "Jón's daughter" (Jóns + dóttir). First names must be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee.


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