We spent 3 days and 2 nights in Reykjavik, Iceland on the way to London, from San Francisco. We were there in July. It was a worthwhile stopover to get a small "taste" of Iceland. Be warned, Iceland is very, very expensive. It’s on par with other Scandinavian countries.
From San Francisco, a direct flight to London on BA was going to cost us $1000US. A flight with Icelandair with a 3 day layover was only going to cost us $1200US, so we figured, why not. The only catch was that we had to go through Minneapolis, with a 7 hour layover. (We pulled out our trusty Let’s Go USA, and it turns out the only thing worth doing in Minneapolis is the Mall of America. Conveniently located a 10 minute bus ride from the airport, it was a great way to pass some time!)
Icelandair service was average – equivalent to an American carrier, but not at the same level as Air Canada (We’re biased, of course). Even business class wasn’t anything that special. We arrived in Iceland at 7am. We had tried to sleep but were mostly unsuccessful.
Getting AroundThe airport is located in Keflavik, about a 40 minute bus ride from Rekjavik. Make sure to ask for a return ticket to save a few kroner. They drop off at almost every hotel in downtown. Almost everyone we spoke to in Iceland spoke fluent English, by the way.
Getting around is extremely easy. There is an excellent bus system, and every tourist service (airport shuttle, guided tours) will all pick you up at your hotel, for free.
Hotel Esja – $75 per PERSON?
As part of our air ticket, we had made a reservation at Icelandair Esja hotel, which Ian thought was going to cost us $75 a night. What he didn’t know is that it was A) a 45 minute walk from downtown, and B) $75 per PERSON per night! This hotel was clean, but the rooms were fairly small. The hotel itself had a pretty drab exterior. Reception checked us in fairly quick.
Luckily, we were able to bail out on our reservation. Ian told them that their own web site had told us it would be $75 per night (he was wrong) and kicked up a fuss. They didn’t try to charge us – not even for the phone calls we made to the budget hotels trying to find somewhere else to go. We would primarily not recommend this hotel due to it’s inconvenient location. It’s a pretty long walk, unless you want to shell out a lot of money for a cab, or wait outside for a bus.
Salvation Army Guest House
Where do you go when you’re short on dough? Well, the Salvation Army of course! They ran a backpacker’s hotel in the thick of downtown so we headed there. We got a double bed with common shower for $70 US for two people! It was very nice, clean, and quiet. The owner was incredibly nice and helped us with everything we needed. The common showers were a little mucky – bring flip-flops. Some of the showers had little chairs in them to put your clothes on, others didn’t. They have a big luggage storage room for people checking in early.
We have never felt as safe traveling as we did in Iceland. Iceland has an almost non-existent crime rate. We saw no homeless people at all. Even at the swimming pool, locals didn’t think twice about letting their young children out of their sight. We guess there has to be some advantage in living in a place as cold as this!
Temperature and Surroundings
Cold. Very cold. Especially coming from California! Even in the middle of their summer, temperatures barely cracked 70F (20C) when we were there, and most of the time were in the 50’s (10C). Iceland is mostly barren (Canadians: think Sudbury) and rocky. It used to be 90% tree covered, but they had a little problem with deforestation. There is a big effort underway to restore the vegetation, but they’re definitely not there yet. The mountains and hills are beautiful, but it’s a pretty desolate place (or at least the parts we saw in the southwest).