My husband and I negotiated for months and finally carved out 7 days for an adventure just for the 2 of us. Work and family obligations, holidays and daily routines in a life we enjoy make travel seem like an effort lately but we know, once on the road – we have a great time in the world. After spending hours trying to pick a destination, we settled on 2 places we’d both never been – Iceland and Amsterdam.
However, not 20 minutes from home — we met our first obstacle.
At the check-in counter Bill and I were informed they didn’t have our reservation — in fact — we hadn’t bought the tickets. WHAAAT?
He looked at me and nervously laughed – really? Admittedly, reservations were my domain. Hey, what about the itinerary they emailed me the day I booked the flight? Was there a next step – You bet!
At that moment – we had our first lovely Icelandic experience. The kindest manager from Icelandic Air rebooked us with a smile and honored our price (ok it’s not peak season – but still!).
Despite our ridiculous Seinfeld-like check-in, our flight was easy as it’s less than 5 hours. We took their afternoon flight and arrived at 11:30 pm Iceland time – a civilized way to travel into a 4-hour time zone difference.
Reykjavik Weather in September:
We packed for all types of weather as our weather app hadn’t shown us anything but rain. Obsessively checking the weather in Reykjavik didn’t make the rainy forecast disappear. Despite the bleak 47 degrees and 90 percent rain prediction for the entire 3-day stay, the weather in Reykjavik turns out to be basically un-forecastable. We had no downpours, plenty of sun and a full mix of other stuff.
What to Pack For Iceland in September:
Whining doesn’t work in Iceland – layering does.
If you think you know what to expect during a day’s outing you’re wrong. With a fully loaded light backpack you can be ready for anything. Here’s a typical mid-September day: 9 am rain and 42 degree weather; by 10 am it’s cloudy and the wind has picked up and the damp coldness rattles your bones. A scarf, gloves and wool hat are added to your just-in-case raincoat. Wait 30 minutes and the sun shines and you start to peel down your layers –and then the rain – some more wind – then sun. Seriously it’s not even noon yet! You get the picture.
For evening — what we wear at home works in Iceland too — nothing too fancy or fussy. Just pack your favorite jeans and sweaters and a special dressy outfit, which you may never wear.
Iceland’s very name invokes a shiver and its volcanic, glacial land in the northern Atlantic defines it. Iceland is bubbling, exploding, erupting and pristine. Geothermal steam from the ground warms it and electrifies it.
The September sky is illuminated with northern lights (if there are no clouds you can see it – we did not). The ground is spouting steam from its geysers and lava from it’s volcanoes – fish are jumping from its streams and ocean and music pours out of the teaming café life. The people of Iceland are kind, warm and stoic. They are hard working busy people who live in a land commanding an acceptance philosophy as its weather is harsh, cold and dark for a long period. They are proud and respectful of their land and tell you they have what they need right here – food, natural resources and each other.
Transport is not cheap in Iceland so best to have a plan. Taxis are a fortune. It cost us $180 to cab-it from the airport to our downtown hotel. We should have taken the fabulous Reykjavik Excursion bus for about $40. You don’t need a car in the city but for any excursions you’ve got 3 good options: Car rentals are about $300 a day all-in and certainly cheaper than a private driver which can run $600 for the day or the tour buses which are clean and efficient and your most economic option.
Day One Reykjavik and The Blue Lagoon:
We spent our first morning wandering the streets of the city with our guidebook and loved meandering around charming neighborhoods. Shops are fun if you like athletic wear – there’s plenty of great outdoor gear and clothing stores.
The afternoon we hopped a bus to the Blue Lagoon (http://www.bluelagoon.com) and arrived 2 hours prior to our massages. (You need to pre-book treatments). The Blue Lagoon is perhaps the world’s largest hot tub. The place is pristine and feels like a private spa. Despite the 47 to 50’ish degree air temperature and on and off again rain – we swam for the full 2 hours. I smeared exfoliating mud on my face from the free mud pots – and, we floated around talking to other travelers from all over the world. A few breast strokes and we arrived at the treatment area and were met by 2 strong Icelandic masseuses in wet suits. They covered us in water soaked blankets, which they continuously re-soaked to keep us warm while we lay on our backs on floating yoga-mats under cold drizzly skies. Cold fresh air in our nostrils, drizzle on our faces, tucked into warm soaked blankets with great massages – fantastic! Meanwhile, an impromptu a capella group who were hanging at the pool-bar broke into song.
That night we ate the freshest cod and salmon that was surely same day, sea to table fare.
Day 2: The Golden Circle Tour
We hired a driver to take us around the Golden Circle. Way too pricey! Renting a car or taking the tour bus would have been way better. Our driver was a man of very few words – Icelandic, stoic and kind but definitely not chatty. The country is green and volcanic. The rolling land of dark volcanic material covered in beautiful green moss creates a soft-carpeted effect. Glaciers and mountains stand boldly in the background — too far for us to go to for the afternoon. There was virtually no traffic. The sites were approachable and refreshingly un-commercial. We walked pristine paths to waterfalls, watched a Geyser explode again and again for over and hour (It’s bigger than Old Faithful). At each stop we hiked on designated paths. It was an easy, full day, 7-hour trip (but you could do it in less).
And in the evening we wandered into a lovely restaurant where we ate flakey, fresh, just-caught Cod.
Day 3 The Western Peninsula:Snaefellsnes:
We rented a car and headed west for a 7-hour adventure – guidebook in hand of course. Snaefellsnes’ is a jaw dropping natural treat boasting waterfalls, glaciers, and the roaring blue sea sharing the land with the dark ominous volcanic mountains. We took a walk along the dramatic coast from Arnarstap to Hellnar (2.5 km) which was spectacular.
And guess what we had for dinner? More just-caught cod!
In 3 days we’d fallen in love with Iceland and are definitely gong back for more hiking and hanging out. Nevertheless, we were ready to go and take our virgin voyage to Amsterdam for the next 4 days.