I’m so excited to share my Icelandic adventures with you! We crammed a lot of action in just a few days so I’m going to break these posts out into each day then make an Ultimate Guide to Iceland for future reference! Buckle up and get your winter gear, its going to get cold up in this blog!
As in years past, my daily grind job has an annual meeting in Amsterdam in January. Since my flight to Amsterdam is paid for, we add on a trip somewhere across the Atlantic. This year, we decided to check out Iceland! Logistics of getting to Iceland are getting easier as this country is becoming a more popular tourist destination. What was once an almost bankrupt country has become one of the more expensive vacation destinations. There are more and more direct flights from the US to Iceland but since I was traveling to Amsterdam first, it was just easier to have Joe fly with me and then we get a shorter flight from Amsterdam to Iceland. Those tickets were relatively cheap at $150 per person.
Day 1 consists almost 100% on a plane. We left Houston Thursday afternoon and arrived in Amsterdam Friday morning. Since our flight to Amsterdam wasn’t connected to the Iceland flight we had to go through passport control and get our luggage from baggage claim then re-check in with Iceland Air. A little extra work but we had our next flight at 1pm to give us plenty of time to navigate all of this. The only bad thing about doing flights this way, we don’t get stamps for the counties we go to since we are traveling within the EU. Its such a bummer but #firstworldproblems ya know.
Since we had a few hours to kill we headed to the airport Starbucks for breakfast. Don’t judge me, but the European Starbucks have this awesome breakfast sandwich that they don’t have in the states. Its a ciabatta type bread with bacon, egg, and tomato chutney that is just delicious. At this point its a tradition to get the sandwich when we arrive and depart Amsterdam. After breakfast we went in search of the United Club. I get 2 passes a year and they were about to expire. Since we had some time this was a perfect opportunity to use them. Unfortunately the Star Alliance club that does take United guests was not accepting our passes! Why, I have no idea. It was strange, annoying and made me super cranky (because #jetlag). Instead of sitting in a nice quiet lounge with complimentary refreshments, we sat in this strange indoor park area and took a little nap. Well I took one then Joe took one, we didn’t want people stealing our luggage. Once it was time to board we headed to our gate and were off to Iceland.
Surprisingly it was warmer in Iceland than I expected, around 45 degrees when we landed. Not surprisingly it was pitch black. Our flight got slightly delayed and we got to Iceland later than expected, past sundown. No big deal though we didn’t have big plans for the day. Once we got off the plan in Keflavick (not Reykjavik…man did I initially mess that up) we headed to pick up our rental car.
** A quick note on rental cars in Iceland**
Do get a rental car for your time in Iceland. Things are very spread out and the rentals really weren’t that expensive the time of year we went. We had so much freedom to do whatever by having a car it was definitely worth the price paid. With that being said, you will want a larger car if you are going in winter. Iceland is the 3rd windiest country in the world and they aren’t messing around when they say that. Having a small car you will feel the pull and tug of the wind and it may cause an unsteady driver to get in an accident. Get the biggest car you feel comfortable driving and make sure to get an automatic. You don’t want to be driving a standard in winter conditions.
Also make sure you get insurance. Driving in snow, sleet and ice, accidents are bound to happen by no ones fault. You don’t want to get stuck with a giant repair bill while on vacation. You may also want to consider windshield and dent insurance if its offered pre-booking. The roads are paved and are in good repair but with the wind little pebbles fly up all the time that can easily chip the windshield. You may also pass salt trucks which can also cause damage to the car. Its not fun spending money on insurance but it will definitely save you in the case on an unintended incident.
**Back to the adventure**
We booked our rental car through Sixt and I did get insurance at the time of booking to save money. When we picked up the car I added unlimited mileage to the car because it wasn’t initially included and I knew we were going to go over the limit. It was like $25 more and totally worth it. What was frustrating was the rental car associate had a very heavy accent and was trying to sell me all these ad-on’s. Mind you I had been traveling for 24 hours at this point and wasn’t understanding things on the best of times. Be very careful at rental counters to signing for things you don’t totally understand and get into big fines or fees later on.
At least for Sixt, he was trying to take a $2,000 damage deposit, we had to pay $50 to only leave a $500 deposit. I seriously think this was a bait and switch to get more money from us, but again I didn’t understand his accent and was really confused. Joe had to step in and help, which I never have him do I was that frustrated. Once we finally got our car (we also paid to get a local GPS, worth its wait in gold people) it was about 6:30pm and we still had a 2 hour drive to get to our hotel. The entire days plans were totally shot. Its ok though, I built in time to re-visit things we missed so I wasn’t too upset. More tired and ready for bed than anything else.
Once we got on the road and on our way we knew we needed to stop and get some food. About 30 minutes in to our drive I see a Subway sign and we pull over. Look, I know its not fancy or local or whatever, but for as long as we had been traveling we just needed food. I also knew a lot of things close early so I didn’t want to risk not finding food at all! Luckily this Subway was also in a little strip center with a supermarket. After we ate the most expensive Subway know to mankind ($30 for a 6″ sub, a salad and 2 drinks) we headed over to the store to buy bottled water and some keto friendly snacks for Joe.
**ProTip**If you find a grocery store, get some snacks and waters there. It will always be less expensive then at tourist destinations.
Back on the road we headed to our hotel. I was amazed at how truly dark it was. I don’t know why but I was under the impression that it didn’t get as dark as it was. I mean it was PITCH black. If there weren’t lights you wouldn’t be able to see anything. We make it to the hotel which is in the middle of no where and check in. The first thing on my mind is, will we see the Northern Lights. Our front desk lady told us no, it had to be clear skies and that wasn’t going to happen tonight. I thought she was crazy because I could see like a billion stars outside, but who am I to question a local. Not too long after we got settled in our room it started snowing and snowing hard so maybe she did know what she was talking about 🙂
For our first night we stayed at the Borealis Hotel. What I loved about this hotel was the location. It was in the middle of nowhere, had a great clean eye-line and would be very dark at night. All idea conditions to see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately that didn’t happen this night but I still liked the hotel. The room wasn’t the nicest thing I had stayed in before but it was a cute cabin and the breakfast in the morning was delicious. This hotel hit all my wish list items:
- View of the northern lights
- Free breakfast
- In the middle of nowhere to guarantee no man-made light
- Not break the bank budget
Since seeing the northern lights was my #1 goal for this trip all my hotels have this as the #1 requirement. Looking at pictures and reading reviews I knew that if they came out I would be able to see them from the hotel. The other bullet points were good but the first one was a make or break! Like I mentioned, we didn’t see the lights on our first night but to be honest we were so tired I don’t think I could have stayed up to try and see them anyway. Thus ends the adventures of day 1, mostly all about getting to our first location but now, the next day, we move into the REAL adventures!!! Here is a sneak peak of what’s to come for Day 2.
CHIME IN!!! Have you been to Iceland? What do you look for in a hotel? How is your day today?