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Lækur Hostel & Kaffi Laugalækur

Iceland travel advice

Haifoss.jpg

Our Iceland travel advice

These are our personal favourites and advice we give to friends, what to do and what not to do!

Summary

About

This page has our personal guide that we give friends visiting Iceland. We decided to include it here also for Lækur guests and hope it can be of use. These notes are not professionally edited or complete, we encourage you to explore more also :)

Our cafe is called or Kaffi Laugalækur (Kaffi Laekur), its address is Laugarnesvegur 74a, 105 Reykjavík. Its about 2 km from city centre. Our accommodation is called Lækur Hostel (beds in shared dorm) and Lækur Guesthouse (private rooms)

Safety

Please check safetravel.is regularly for travel conditions. Weather can change very quickly and be dangerous, even in the summer. This page also has info on how to drive in Iceland, it can be very tricky to drive in winter or on gravel roads

Maps

Iceland map. Some of the locations mentioned in this document are flagged on this map: Iceland travel advice map

Here is a nice hand drawn map of the old city centre Reykjavík center map

Regions

Reykjavík, Reykjanes, South, Westfjords, West, North & East

These are the different regions of Iceland, click on image to visit the official guide Inspired by Iceland

  • Reykjavík - the capital city

  • Reykjanes - peninsula which has the Keflavík international airport and many geothermal hotspots

  • South - the most popular area outside of Reykjavík with waterfalls, geysers, volcanos, natural parks, glaciers and more

  • Westfjords - the most isolated and arctic part of Iceland, we love this place

  • West - very accessible and scenic region with many activities

  • North - has some of the most beautiful places in Iceland

  • East - fantastic region but takes at least 8 hours to drive there or you can fly with domestic airline

Ring road #1 - direction of travel when going around Iceland

  • If possible i would decide direction depending on weather forecast close to departure. It is often the opposite weather in north and south so ideally you go first where weather is better.

  • Ring road is nice but takes a while to drive the 1500 km and usually means you dont have time to do some of the most interesting areas like Westfjords or Ásbyrgi or Snæfellsnes

South

Day trip South short

  1. Golden circle - most popular route of tourists

    1. Þingvellir (big lake)

      1. Must see tectonic plates Europe and America by the river Öxará

      2. Optional do diving in the lake

    2. Geysir

    3. Gullfoss waterfall

      1. Can skip this if short on time

    4. This popular excursion introduces you to some of the best-known natural phenomena in Iceland (geyser´s, Gullfoss waterfall and Þingvellir national park where one of worlds oldest operating parliaments). If you take bus, beware of which company you go with because some do long pit stops to try to encourage you to buy souvenirs. Best way is to rent a car and drive. If you only have time to see one of these then go to Þingvellir national park. In South of Iceland there are many places to stop on the way such as at Laugarvatn http://www.fontana.is or at http://kerid.is

  2. Flúðir town - Secret Lagoon

    1. Flúðir greenhouses and restaurants

  3. Optional Þjórsárdalur valley - Hjálparfoss waterfall and Stöng viking farm and waterfall Gjáin and waterfall Háifoss

  4. Optional Kerið volcanic crater lake

  5. Optional Laugavatn geothermal lake - spa and rye bread making by lake Laugavatn

  6. Optional Lava tunnel cave

  7. Optional Eyrarbakki or Þorlákshöfn fresh lobster restaurants by the beach on South coast

Day trip South longer

  1. Seljalandsfoss waterfall - top five most popular destination

  2. Reynisfjara black beach - top five most popular destination

  3. Fjaðrárgljúfur - beautiful canyon - top ten most popular destination

  4. Optional - Airplane wreckage - https://expertvagabond.com/airplane-crash-wreckage-iceland

  5. Optional - Ölvisholt micro brewery

  6. Optional - Hiking on Fimmvörðuháls for a spectactular one day of hike, can end in the amazing Þórsmörk natural park and camp over night. Just be aware the rivers in and out are only for big cars and are dangerous, you can try get a ride with bus company http://www.re.is/IcelandOnYourOwn/ScheduledBusTours/9ReykjavikThorsmork/. A bit further inland is the legendary Landmannalaugar with natural outdoor geothermal pools.

  7. Optional - Reykjadalur valley by Hveragerði town - hot river you can bath in out in nature - top ten most popular destination

Long drive/boat option

  1. Jökulsárlón. Longer drive to here but very nice to visit

    1. Glacier iceberg lagoon - see eg http://www.grapevine.is/default.aspx?show=paper&part=fullstory&id=1402 or http://www.grapevine.is/default.aspx?show=paper&part=fullstory&id=511. On the way you will see a few glaciers such as Myrdalsjokull and Vatnajokull (Europe largest). A bit further there is a national park Skaftafell where you can do some exotic hiking.  

  2. Vestmannaeyjar - Westman Islands - need to take a ferry to here

West

Day trip West Coast

  1. Sæfellsjökull glacier - with a tunnel to the center of the earth!

    1. Arnarstapi village

    2. Hellnar cafe on the beach and rock on beach with big hole in it

    3. A very beautiful glacier on a long and beautiful peninsula - about 1.5 hour drive. Go to small town of Arnarstapi.  

  2. Kirkjufell mountain - instagram heaven "the Mt Fuji of Europe" - keep an eye out for the White Tailed Eagles that live in this area

  3. Lýsuhólslaug - slime pool :) healthy natural water

  4. Optional - Rauðafeldsgjá - nice short walk into canyon close to Snæfellsjökull

  5. Optional - Hótel Búðir - yellow sand beach, cafe etc

  6. Optional - Steðji micro brewery (close to Barnafossar and swimming pool Hreppslaug)

  7. Optional - Barnafossar and Húsafell - waterfall that come out of lava

  8. Optional - Flatey - longer distance is ferry from town Stykkishólmur to island Flatey

  9. Optional - Glymur waterfall in Hvalfjörður (whale fjord)

  10. Optional - Glanni waterfall

  11. Optional - Erpsstaðir organic farm

  12. Optional - Neðri háls organic farm in Hvalfjörður (whale fjord)

North

Day trips North

  • Ásbyrgi and Mývatn are among best in Iceland. Ideally stay one night at each of them. Ásbyrgi is a bit of drive from main road but worth it if you have time

  • Mývatn is the best. See Dimmuborgir, Nature Baths, Bird Museum. I stayed at Hlíð campsite but Geiteyjarströnd also good option for a cottage. http://www.dimmuborgir.is/new/area.htm

  • Dettifoss. Dettifoss takes time to drive and walk to it but worth it

  • Goðafoss - very nice waterfall (foss means waterfall) and easy to see next to main road

  • Hofsós is a good stop for a nice infinity swimming pool

Siglufjörður on the Troll Peninsula (Tröllaskagi) is great if you got time. Can stop in Kaldi beer bath on the way to there

Roads less travelled - Westfjords, Highland and East + Greenland and Faroe Islands

  • Westfjords is an amazing part of the country, similar in landscape to Greenland. It has huge bird cliffs Látrabjarg and Hornbjarg. National park Hornstrandir. Waterfalls and much more.

    • If you have time, go to Westfjords, then contact Vesturferdir for boattrips to Hornstrandir - this is one of the most remote areas in Iceland and gives a true flavour of the arctic. See tour operator http://www.vesturferdir.is/index.php?lang=en

  • Highland - if you have a good car, 4x4 wheel drive, then you can drive through the highlands in the middle of summar. The landscape is like on the moon.

  • East you can do if you have more time, its really a stretch to do if you got a week or less.

  • Fly to Greenland or Faroe Islands for a day or more with Air Iceland http://www.airiceland.is/. Costs few hundred euros but well worth it if you have time.

Glacier trip with a guide / travel agent. Glacier ice cave or walk on the glacier, snowmobile etc

Natural pools

Reykjavík Main things to do

* Hallgrimskirkja church tower should be one of the first stops in the city centre. It gives a good overview of the city, take the elevator up to the tower. Walk down Skolavordustigur which is a street that stretches from Hallgrimskirkja to Laugavegur (the main street in the city centre). On this street you can buy lopapeysa (traditional wool jumper).

* Historical museum - National Museum of Iceland - www.natmus.is - Þjóðminjasafnið for history of Iceland.

* Art museums include

  • Kjarvalsstaðir - It offers a permanent exhibition of key works by one of Iceland’s most beloved landscape painters www.listasafnreykjavikur.is

  • Hafnarhus - New developments in art are explored through diverse exhibitions of Icelandic and international artists www.listasafnreykjavikur.is

  • National Gallery of Iceland - The NG is a national museum and the main emphasis of the collection is on 19th and 20th century Icelandic art. http://www.listasafn.is

  • Nýlistasafnið - modern art http://www.nylo.is/

* Harpa - the new concert hall house by the harbour. Have a coffee or go see some events. http://en.harpa.is/

* Pubs in Reykjavik centre. For example Boston on Laugavegur or Skúli Craftbar. Locals stay in home parties to start the evening, so pubs can be a bit empty until 23 or 1 am and then it goes on all night. Just walk around town and follow the flow, you will be sure to find some good bars.

* Adventure in the nature such as rafting, climbing, hiking, diving, caving trip etc - see our page trips

* Fish shack Sægreifinn - The Sea Baron a little fish shack by the small boat harbour in Reykjavik especially famous for its lobster soup and whale BBQ http://www.reykjavik.com/underpage.aspx?id=Eating&article=2006111140124

* You can go whale watching from Reykjavik harbour but can be a bit of a lottery whether you see a whale or not. However, they usually allow you to go again for free if you don’t see a whale on your trip.

* Sea angling where you can catch big cod, haddock, mackerel etc http://elding.is/tolbar/sea_angling/

* Book shops - Icelanders love to write and read. Buy for example one of the classic viking stories such as Njáls saga, Grettis saga, or modern Nobel winning novel of Sjálfstætt fólk (independent people) which captures the spirit of the Icelandic people. For nordic religion and philosophy try Völuspá, Snorra Edda.

Other things to do if you have time in Reykjavík

* Arbær Museum - Árbæjarsafn was established by the City of Reykjavík in 1957 as an open- air museum to preserve and show selected old houses. The aim was to give the public an idea of the architecture and the lifestyle of the past. You need to take a bus or drive from the centr

http://www.minjasafnreykjavikur.is/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-3022/

From City Centre take Bus nr. 19 from Hlemmur Bus stop. The bus stops at Strengur which is just a few moments walk from the Museum. (See map). Further buses that stop close to the museum are nr. 12 and nr. 22, which stop at Árbæjarsafn bus station. The Musuem is visable from that stop. Further buses from the City Centre can also be reached from Ártún bus stop. For more information about public transport see: bus.is

Visit the president for pancakes, send him an email to forseti@forseti.is and ask if he is available

Practical advice

Best time depends on what you want to do

  • Music - Iceland Airwaves in autumn, or for specific bands check their schedules. Secret Solstice festival is in mid June

  • Hiking - July and August are main months, but other months also possible, most remote areas only easily accessible in July August though

  • Night life - all year around (Friday and Saturdays). Also weekend camping festivals in summer

  • Northern lights (Aurora Borealis) - winter from August/September to December best months but is visible until March/April

  • Skiing is mainly from November to May

  • Cycling is from March to November

  • Fishing for salmon and trout and char is mainly from May to September

In summer sun shines almost 24 hours, in winter it is only visible 3 hours or so, in some villages with mountains they don’t see the sun at all in December.

Weather is less predictable in winter but average temperature do not go far below zero in winter. In summer average temperatures are 10, 15 or max 20 celcius.

During winter remember to check out Aurora Borealis (northern lights) on cool clear sky evenings - best views outside of city

Some outdoor activities you can do all year around, such as diving, snow mobile on glaciers, climbing etc but surroundings will change depending on month. 

Arrival

Take the flybus from the airport, it should include a dropoff directly to your accommodation and cost around 2000 ISK whereas a taxi costs around 10000 ISK or more. Other alternative is taking rental car from airport. Flybus may offer 'stop-over' visits to he Blue Lagoon.

Clothing

* You must bring swimwear!

* For clothing in summer just take with you something rainproof and then you should be ok. It will not get very cold in the daytime.

* In winter bring with you: Warm outdoor clothing, waterproof  jacket and pants and gloves are recommended. Good hiking shoes are recommended if you are going out of town but waterproof in the city is ok! Fleece or wool sweater and pants don´t hurt either.

* If you wear hiking gear when going out for drinks on Friday or Saturday in town you will stand a bit out as a tourist!

* If you plan to go hiking then hiking shoes are needed, waterproof breathable jacket and trousers, do not wear any cotton for hiking. Long johns to be on the safe side. Fleece or wool jumper. Always prepare for the unexpected! Ask locals for more advice on weather etc.

Driving

* Renting a car is a very good way to explore Iceland, but be very very very careful when driving. Graval roads are very tricky to navigate so go slow and whatever you do don´t hit the brakes in panic because then your car will slide off the road. The roads can have 'invisible' thin ice although air temperature is above zero. Maximum speed is normally 90 km/hour outside of Reykjavik. Reed car rental advise carefully. Don´t break suddenly on gravel or icy roads

For road and traffic conditions check http://www.vegagerdin.is/english 
 

Local food trail

* If you go to a grocery store and bakery, try some of these Icelandic specialities. Local vegetables mostly grown in greenhouses.

  • Flatkökur (flat rye bread)

  • Skyr - with our without added sugar (strained yogurt)

  • Pylsa - local very popular hot dog, best served by the tiny outlet of Bæjarins Bestu

  • Kleinur (similar to doughnuts)

  • Lummur (small pancakes)

  • Hangikjöt (smoked meat, goes well on top of flatkökur)

  • Lifrakæfa (lamb pate)

  • Harðfiskur (dried fish)

  • Síld (herring)

  • Graflax with the special mustard sauce, please make sure to buy from land farm or wild or closed ocean farm because open pens in sea harm the nature

  • Söl (sea weed)

  • Lýsi (fish liver oil), healthy supplement

  • Slátur (similar to haggis)

  • Sviðasulta (lamb jam) - if you are feeling adventurous

  • Brennivín (burned wine) - akvavit, the classic alcohol is government made

  • Munntóbak (sniff in noise or put in a ball under lip) - the government tobacco you can find at every local shop and gas stations

  • Snúður (rolled pastry) - classic offering that goes well with milk from the bakeries that are reasonably good for bread and pastries

See more  on http://www.grapevine.is/default.aspx?show=paper&part=fullstory&id=490&offset=0

www.reykjavik.com/underpage.aspx?id=Eating&cat=Icelandic

* Múlakaffi - if you want the most traditional food such as sheep heads and the rest, http://tourinfo.is/yellowpages.asp?cat_id=281&element_id=463

* Fjorukrain a Viking resturant if you dare to taste some traditional food such as shark. There waiters are dressed in viking clothes and sing old folksongs during  your dinner. www.fjorukrain.is/en/viking%5Frestaurant. This restaurant is in a fishing town suburb of Reykjavík so you need to take a bus - route 1 goes right next to the restaurant.

* For the best lobster in original settings on the beach, two hour drive on the south coast takes you to Fjöruborðið in the small town of Stokkseyri. http://www.fjorubordid.is/

http://www.grillmarkadurinn.is Mixed type of cuisine with local ingredients

http://www.dillrestaurant.is Fine dining Nordic cuisine. This restaurant was nominated the best Nordic restaurant recently (2013)