*I was not compensated for the links in this article.
Back in October, I was sitting at my desk working, when an email from Travelzoo.com popped up, and I saw a great deal for a 4-day trip to Iceland through IcelandAir.com called, the Northern Lights Package.
It included airfare from cities where IcelandAir flies, hotel room (that included breakfast), a Northern Lights Boat (or bus) tour, a Blue Lagoon Comfort Experience Package, and transfer from the Blue Lagoon to the airport.
Iceland was not the first place on my international travel list, but it was definitely high up there, and seeing the Northern Lights is on my bucket list, so I decided to go for it. In case you weren’t aware, 2013/14 were “atmospherically” great years to see the lights.
I added a transfer via the Fly Bus from the airport to my hotel, which cost me an additional fee, but that’s really the common way to go from the airport, which is located about 45 minutes from Reykjavik. So my total for the package was $895.
I started my trip in Denver for a couple of days, but I’ll leave that out of the equation for this article. It turned out to be damn near free as I had points on Southwest to get me to Denver, and between my cousin, Michelle from The Shop My Closet Project, and my friend Luke, I only paid for one breakfast for Michelle and I. She even took care of all my bus and train fares, and gave me some awesome snacks and water.
I left Denver at 5pm on Friday. I was lucky enough to score an emergency exit row, so my flight was nice and uneventful.
We arrived around 6am Saturday morning to rain and wind. One thing I read ahead of time about Iceland was that the food and drinks there are incredibly expensive, and that if you want alcohol, you should stop by the duty free shop before you leave the airport. You literally can’t miss it. It’s HUGE and open very early, and you almost have to go through it on your way to baggage claim. I picked up a bottle of red wine for $13. Nothing makes you feel like more of an alcoholic than buying wine at 6am.
Getting to the Fly Bus is very easy. There just isn’t a whole lot going on at the airport, so it’s hard to miss. Although in general the people of Iceland are incredibly friendly (albeit somewhat stoic), I did find the bus drivers in general (and this pretty much seems universal throughout the world) to be a little grouchy.
According to Fly Bus, if you have a “Plus” ticket written on your voucher, you are taken straight to your hotel, but if you don’t, you transfer at the main bus depot. Get used to the bus depot, as you will be there a lot to transfer for excursions, and it times felt a little chaotic.
My ticket said “plus” right on the voucher, yet I was told I had to transfer, by the grouchy bus driver. It seemed easy enough, so I didn’t feel like pushing the issue, and I transferred to a smaller bus to take me to my hotel.
I had also read in reviews that most people were not able to check into their hotel right away. Makes sense being so early. I thought I would leave my bags and wander around Reykjavik, but looking around at that time of the morning, the city was DEAD.
My hotel was the Center Plaza Hotel. Center has a bunch of hotels in the area, so make sure you know which one you have for sure to let your bus driver know.
They told me if I wanted to, I could do an early check in for $34, which would include breakfast. Considering normally I wouldn’t be able to check in until 2pm, I thought it was TOTALLY worth it, since if I went to a cafe and got something to eat, it would cost me about half that anyway. It was a no-brainer since I was so tired!
My room was very simple with a single bed (awe sad). But it was very clean and spacious. I went down to breakfast and was surprised to see what a big room it was, and what a huge spread they had for food.
After breakfast I decided to just keep going with my day. I asked the front desk about city walking tours or excursions, and they told me about one called the Reykjavik Grand Excursion, which was a three-hour guided tour on a bus for around $48.
Travel Tip: The hotel front desk is your best way to organize your excursions. Between the airlines, the busses, and the tourist attractions, they are a well-oiled machine, where they all communicate with each other. It’s not like New York where there is a million things to do…this is a very small country in regards to tourism.
Aside from wanting to doze off a lot in the bus, and freezing my ever-loving ass off outside (it was in the 30′s but the wind was blowing around 50mph, common in Iceland), the tour was cool, and gave me a great sense of where everything was in the city, and also a great history lesson about the country.
We visited Hallgrímskirkja Church, The Pearl, The Harbor, Höfði (the place where the Cold War ended), and my personal favorite, Harpa. Harpa looks like a place that Frank Gehry could have designed. The inside was just too cool.
The rest of the day I spent walking around the downtown area and hunting for a scarf, which I could have kicked myself for not packing. I ended up having to spend around $30 (ugh) for a SECOND-HAND scarf at a thrift store!
That night I had some wine in my room, and bought myself a simple ham and cheese sandwich and some chocolate at the grocery store next to the hotel. Aprox: $8.50.
Travel Tip: I mentioned this before, but the cost of food and drink is no joke in Iceland. I brought packets of tuna, peanut butter, and granola bars with me so I didn’t have to have every meal out. The upside to Iceland is the tap water is some of the cleanest in the world, so bring an empty water bottle with you, and just keep filling up before you head out each day.
Stay tuned for part two.
To see all the pictures from the trip, click here.