WARMING UP TO ICELANDby:Admin, August 22nd, 2010
Iceland is a different kettle of fish! First, Iceland is quite green and Greenland is covered in ice. Voted the cleanest nation on earth by Forbes Magazine, Iceland has the advantage of being cool in summer and mild in winter and sits midway between North America and the continent of Europe.
Iceland is quirky and full of surprises. Landing at Keflavik Airport, the airport feels normal enough if a little outdated (maybe from the ‘70s?). The shops, open when the flights arrive and depart, feature heavy wool sweaters in patterned browns, grays, black & cream attracting our attention if not our wallets. Bankrupt or not, prices are still high although the exchange with the Icelandic kroner can vary.
Leaving the airport the landscape feels other worldly – lunar – mystical -Middle Earth – seemingly uninhabited. Then suddenly there are bright blue pools and steam coming from the crusty earth. The surface of the land is greenish lava rock, very hard and jagged. There are distant snow covered peaks set against a brilliant blue sky. In some grassy fields, wild horses graze peacefully. The scenery includes 150 active volcanoes making Iceland one of the most restless places on earth. None of this seems to bother the Icelanders one little bit. They flock to the hot springs to warm up like we flock to our swimming pools to cool down.
How to get there:
Best fares and service are of course on Icelandair, a plucky little airline which has been used by budget travelers for decades. An efficient airport coach service will drop you at your hotel in about an hour so sit back and enjoy the scenery.
What to see:
The Blue Lagoon – excursions run right from the airport if you can’t wait or from downtown Reykjavik. Geo-thermal seawater, in water treatments, indoor massages, Blue Café, Lagoon Bar, exhilarating massage under the waterfall, geo thermal steam bath & sauna.
Icelandic Horses -(they are short but don’t call them ponies). They are small & gentle, intelligent with great stamina for the terrain. There are 80,000 to 100,000 horses in Iceland. Many excursions from Reykjavik for half day, full day or multi day rides. Another must!
ELF School- over 50% of Icelanders believe that elves and Hidden People exist. You can go to Elf School in Reykjavik and “see” for yourself, hear the tales of sightings and graduate with a diploma. Just Google Elf School, Iceland for more information.
Northern Lights- Best viewing late autumn & early spring Midnight Sun – long hours of daylight especially around the summer solstice, 21 June.
Birding – by late summer Iceland has 10 million puffins among the 350 species recorded, mostly seabirds, waders and wildfowl.
Dolphin & Whale Watching – April to October –no sighting guarantees and wear wind & rain-proof clothing.
Touring Around – Golden Circle Tour –one of the most popular tours takes you to see geysers, waterfalls and you will learn about Icelanders (they love to just drive around) earthquakes (there are very few tall houses in Iceland), volcanoes (150 active ones) lava floes and fissures. And Vikings!
Where to stay:
HOTELS – Hilton Reykjavik Nordica- location -complimentary shuttle to the downtown area. An easy walk to Laugardalur Sports Area, which has hot swimming pools. (I usually don’t like to stay in American chain hotels when overseas, but this is so elegant and comfortable, it fits the bill nicely). Modern design fireplace welcomes you to the lobby as does the intimate lounge bar. Award winning restaurant VOX – new Nordic cuisine offers a spectacular lunch buffet on weekdays, Sunday brunches and High Tea every afternoon. Comfortable ambiance.
Grand Hotel Reykjavik – slightly closer to downtown and not nearly as comfortable as the Hilton, the Grand does have excellent meeting facilities. Older part of the hotel houses the Brasserie Grand where meals are served. Light meals available in the lobby of the main hotel under an enormous stained glass window.
TIME – Iceland stays on Greenwich Mean Time all year round
Submitted by: Christine Pelham
With 30 years experience in the travel industry, Christine’s background includes work with the airlines and twenty years in retail travel, now specializing in musical group excursions. When not escorting groups, Christine creates painting, wine, and art tours, as well as soft adventures like rafting down the Grand Canyon, canoeing in Costa Rica, and bicycling in British Columbia.