Last week, WIT Agent Wailana headed out to Iceland to find out firsthand exactly why this small country’s tourism has exploded in the past 5 years. In 2010 alone, half a million travelers arrived on Iceland’s shores. Willamette Intl Travel has sent several clients there on layovers and road adventures, and the island continues to call to families and single travelers alike.
Report by Wailana
I arrived at 6:45am from the nonstop over Seattle. The Reykjavik airport is quite small, and it was quite easy to pass through customs and passport control.
There’s a Saga Club Lounge accessible for Saga Class and Comfort Class travelers (Saga members can also take advantage of the British Airways business lounge in Seattle). It’s a perfect place to relax for a brief respite, with local artwork, fireplace and waterfalls filling the space.
At the arrivals terminal, rental car kiosks are abundant and it’s a painless procedure to go pick up your pre-paid car. You can also take the airport shuttle bus into city. It’s a bit of a 45 min drive from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik, but as soon as you arrive in downtown, it’s very easily navigated.
I definitely recommend spending the first day taking it easy as you recover from jet lag. After you’ve checked in to your downtown hotel, you can walk along the harbor, explore the petite streets, or pop into a nearby café for some local treats. The city has a great selection of restaurants, brunch joints, and cozy cafes—Icelanders love their coffee! Don’t forget to pop into a bakery for some fresh delights—I recommend trying the local wheat croissant!
The sky was overcast, but not too cold at about 60 degrees F. Reykjavik’s weather is notoriously unpredictable—there’s a local saying, if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes and it’ll change! The best time to go? June to August, summertime means mild climate and peak tourist season. Keep in mind, however, that prices tend to double if not triple during this time.
Highlights of Reykjavik:
– Hallgrimskirkja Chuch, influenced by the basalt formations all over the country. Climb to the top of the 73m bell tower for some great panoramas.
– Austurvollur Square and the parliament building
– Walk along the harbor at Saebraut street
– Stop at the indoor Kolaportid flea market (10am-5pm weekends) for some snacks
– Harpa Concert Hall, for a tour or world-class concert
– Try seafood at one of the wharf restaurants on Geirsgata, lobster soup
– For some cute boutiques try Hverfisgata street. Knitted wool is big in Iceland, so don’t forget to pick up some new mittens or cap!
– Check out the 1200 years of history at the National Museum (10am-5pm daily summer)
– If history’s your thing, check out the Culture House for a chance to see some medieval manuscripts (though at the time of writing, these were withdrawn for repair until further notice)
– Most beer in Iceland is nothing to write home about, but Islenski Barinn specializes in more than 30 beers from microbreweries all across Iceland.
– Dine out. As Iceland imports a lot of fruits and vegetables, food tends to be expensive. An entrée of lamb or puffin will easily be US$35-50. The plus side is that most main courses come with soup and/or salad, and in good portions.
– For some nice walking after your meal, head up to Öskjuhlíð, a pine-forested hill and local landmark. Sitting atop the hill is Perlan, originally built as to house hot water storage tanks. Now you can find a couple souvenir shops and the Saga Museum.
Only there for a day or two? Take advantage of one of the spectacular day trips.
Tune in this Friday for: The Golden Circle (Thingvellir, Geysir, Gullfoss)
Thinking about a trip to Iceland next summer 2014? Call 503-224-0180 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to chat with one our agents!