So I went a wee bit out of my comfort zone and tried a vacation in a cold climate. If you are like me and love travel but with comfort and a metropolitan atmosphere Iceland might not be on the top of your list. Yet I kept hearing about how much of a good time it was and then there are the cheap flights. So why not? So here are some to-dos for the urban gal for an Iceland adventure.
To start I took Wow airlines to get there. It’s cheap but barebones. Pack your snacks and plenty of water and entertainment.
The ride from the airport to Reykjavik can be a long one and therefore expensive. Book a shuttle transport through FlyBus. Reykjavik Excursions and Grayline Tours both set up transport for Flybus so make sure if you do a roundtrip ticket that you go back with the right company (my mistake so I ended up paying twice for a return trip to the airport). A round trip transport is around $50.
One common theme you’ll find is that Iceland is expensive. I’m talking New York or Vegas prices. I still can’t quite understand why that’s the case and it didn’t appear as though the Iceland salaries were commiserate with the prices. With that in mind if you want to save some money but also want to be where the action is, as most cosmo/urban gals should, then picking an apartment might be a better, more economical option than a hotel.
I stayed in a one bedroom apartment in the Luna Hotel Apartments. It was a great location to restaurants, shopping and nightlife. I was able to walk everywhere outside of excursions which of course was a money saver.
Iceland is a pretty safe place for travel so even during late hours I felt fine walking back to my apartment (although I did have a roommate). The apartment itself was tiny but stylish and comfortable with all the necessities. We saved money by buying groceries and eating in for breakfast and lunch. We didn’t get any housekeeping services which I was fine. Everything was clean when we got there and there were drawers with multiple towels and toilet paper. The kitchen had dishes and utensils as well as cleaning supplies. It was perfect and I’d be open to doing something like that again in a safe city. There is something to safety in a hotel if one is traveling solo though. But in a town like Iceland it was perfect.
As stated above, eating out can be a costly event. An average breakfast can be about $20 bucks and lunch/dinner can range from $20-$50 for an average restaurant/diner. I have to admit since I have a sensitive pallet I wasn’t as adventurous as I could have been for meals but there were places I dinned that I liked.
Solon Bistro -I had a super yummy brunch there with French Toast and eggs. I also came for dinner and had wings and a salad both very satisfying. Prices were average fair.
Rossopomodoro- Good Italian restaurant. I split an Italian style pizza and had some calamari. Both were really good.
Kebabhusid – I had fish and chips here. It’s just a small restaurant with affordable prices for Iceland at $28 compared to the $35-40 I was seeing at other places. I really liked my meal.
I suppose there are many things that people come to Iceland for but outside excursions have to be the key reason. As an urban dweller I can’t say that I’m the most outdoorsy but there are some basic activities that are a must do while in Iceland.
The Blue Lagoon- This is the reason many people come. There is something so cool about going to a huge natural body of water in the middle of nowhere that’s heated like a hot tub. Go as early as possible to avoid the crowds. Take advantage of the included mask and if you want a full experience get a massage. The weather wasn’t that kind when I went but I still had a great time there. I could have stayed all day if it hadn’t rained.
Golden Circle plus trip- This was a really nice excursion via Grayline tours. It’s a ways out of the city in southern Iceland so it’ll be an 8 hour day excursion. On this trip you’ll see a park where Game of Thrones was filmed which was very amazing to see, waterfalls, geysirs, craters and we visited a farm and had the popular Icelandic yogurt-ish food called skyr and ice cream. Both were delish.
I also suggest taking a city tour either on foot or on a hop on hop off bus.
Southern Coast tour- I didn’t do this tour but I wish I had. On this tour you’ll see waterfalls up close, black sand beaches, volcanos…
Diamond beach– I also missed out on this and I wish I had gone. It’s not exactly a beach full of diamonds but rather a black sand beach with ice that have the appearance of large diamonds. Very much a photographers dreams.
Northern Lights- This is another famous reason to check out Iceland. It’s not always set that you’ll get a chance to see them, especially after March until their colder seasons because after that time the days get super long. When we arrived in late March it didn’t get dark until 9. There is a time where it’s mostly daylight there so you won’t get a chance to see the lights at all.
Kringlan Mall- Not too far from city center, if you get a bit tired of all the nature this is a good place to check out some shopping. The mall has mostly local Iceland chains which is a good because if you’re going to pay crazy Iceland prices you might as well get something unique.
Iceland also has a bunch of boutiques. Check out Laugavegur and nearby Skólavörðustígur for shopping.
To save a couple of coins on Saturday or Sunday stop by the Kolaportid Flea Market to get immersed in local Icelandic style and find a few cool things for lower prices.
Iceland has a ton of nightlife and bar hopping is super easy to do but again, with prices being so high you might want to pregame at your apartment first. Go to Vinbudin for spirits which is an Icelandic chain. You can also swing buy duty free on the way from the airport when arriving to grab drinks which is what we did (don’t judge!)
Most of the nightlife we visited was on Laugavegur street or right off of it. Some notables were:
Lebowski Bar– An homage to the movie The Big Lebowski they specialize in different types of white Russians which were very yummy. Stay for their Thursday night movie trivia night.
Dillon Whiskey Bar- If you are a whiskey lover this is the place. They have a decent happy hour.
Prikid- If you like house and hip hop this is the place to be. the music gets better the later it gets so be warned if you get there too early it might not be what you expect. The drinks at cheaper especially on weeknights.
Kofinn- We happened upon this on a Friday late night. They were playing “real” hip hop and reggae. Had a fun time but they don’t stay open super late.
Kaffibarinn, – This trendy little spot is super tiny but if you like dark and cool this is it. On Friday we heard house music which I loved. Great spot for hanging with friends but not so much for meeting new people.
In sum it turns out the outdoorsy vibe of Iceland can be a great spot for a Cosmo girl. Iceland is a flexible town to be enjoyed at any level whether you are camping or staying at the Hilton you can find your comfort there.