We spent the summer of 2016 touring Iceland. Now we're writing a guidebook to tell you exactly what you want to know:

How to take the whole family abroad and survive the process unscathed.


Tag

Iceland

Things to Do

Icelandic Horses: How to see them and where to ride them

Icelandic horses are unique, and their history is amazing.

Here’s a quick summary. In the year 982 (yes, nine eighty-two!) a law was passed in Iceland forbidding any horse from being imported into Iceland. A horse can leave the country, but it can never come back. And this law has been in place continuously for over 1,000 years.

These Icelandic horses have a unique characteristic. Most (all?) horses can walk, trot, and gallop. But Icelandic horses have two more gaits: The Tölt, and Flying Pace. Both of these gaits are considered to be extremely smooth for how fast they are. Read more

Preparation

Icelandic words and phrases to learn (or not!)

If you’re planning to go to Iceland, you really don’t need to know any Icelandic– Nearly all Icelanders speak fluent English. But a few phrases and words will help you figure out what’s going on. For example, below you’ll learn you that “safn” as a suffix means museum or collection. Take a look at the picture above. Now that you know safn, it’s easier to figure out that Grafíksafn would be something like a graphics museum.

You most likely won’t be having conversations in Icelandic. What worked for me when speaking to Icelanders was the “sandwich” approach, which isn’t actually a real thing. Say a greeting in Icelandic, say what you need to say in English, and then say goodbye in Icelandic. For example: Read more

Preparation

Clothing in Iceland: What to pack and what to wear

There was a point in our trip planning where we realized we had no idea what we needed to pack. We had plane tickets and lodging figured out. But what did we need to bring with us?

First, make sure you know what the average temperature is for the time of year you will be visiting Iceland. Here’s a graph, taken from our Hours of Daylight in Iceland post. You’ll notice that it isn’t as cold as you may fear, at least in Reykjavik—average highs are above freezing year-round:

temp
Source: http://www.holiday-weather.com/reykjavik/averages/ Read more

Live From Iceland!

Thursday, July 28 update: Icelandic Sagas– The Greatest Hits in 75 minutes

[Note: It looks like I forgot to post this! And I lost most of the pictures. Ignore all of that– it’s a good show!]

Icelandic Sagas– The Greatest Hits in 75 minutes is inappropriate for children. And my children really enjoyed it.

Here are the most important things to know:

  • The show is in Harpa. Everything in Harpa is free for kids 12 and under. Therefore, this show is free for kids 12 and under! More on this in a minute.
  • The stage is just a long “runway”, as you can see below. There are two rows of seats on each side. So you can have front row seats, if you want them. All seats are general admission.
  • Everyone needs a ticket, regardless of age. I think there were a few seats left for our show, but I can imagine the show might sell out.

Read more

Things to Do

South Coast Tours with Arcanum in Iceland- Glaciers, Snowmobiles, and ATVs!

The South Coast of Iceland is one of the most popular areas for tourist to visit when they venture out of Reykjavik. There’s a lot to see and do: waterfalls, glaciers, black sand beaches, and more.

Arcanum is a tour company that operates in south Iceland, and can take you beyond what you are able to see and do on your own. They offer 3 different tours; we were lucky enough to try all 3 with various subsets of kids. Any of these tours could be a highlight of your vacation. See below for our reviews … and lots of pictures!

20160522-imgp1048 Read more

Things to Do

Fakasel: The Icelandic Horse Park

UPDATED August 2017: Fakasel’s web site is now more or less blank. Sadly, please treat the information below as nostalgia only, since you won’t be able to visit! See our new post about other options for seeing and riding Icelandic horses.

UPDATED MAY 2017: Fakasel’s web site says there are temporarily closed, and it has said that for about a month. I don’t have any additional information, but it is strange for an attraction to be “temporarily” closed as we approach the busy summer tourist season. I’ll let you know if I found out what’s going on.

Perhaps I should work on a list of underappreciated things to see in Iceland. I’d put the Westman Islands on there. The petting zoo Slakki. Probably the local thermal pools. I’m not quite sure Fakasel makes the list, but the afternoon show might come close. The large tour bus companies seem to have discovered this place, but maybe not people touring on their own.

Fakasel is on Route 1, between Hveragerði and Selfoss. Those are some of the first towns you will come across heading east from Reykjavik; Fakasel is about 40 minutes from the center of Reykjavik. And right as you pull into the parking lot, you’ll know you’ve arrived.

20160519-imgp0624 Read more

Things to Do

Buggy tour with 4X4 Adventures Iceland

The Blue Lagoon seems to overshadow all of the other things you can do in Grindavik, or on the Reykjanes Peninsula. It feels like I’m on a bit of a crusade to get people to experience other things in Reykjanes: In particular, I’m a big fan of the Reykjanes Geopark (which really takes up most of the peninsula.)

One more adventurous tour we tried in Grindavik was a buggy tour with 4X4 Adventures Iceland. These tours allow you to explore the Reykjanes Geopark in a very different way. The word “buggy” might not convey the right tone here– think of an ATV, but one that can hold 4 people. Here is a picture of the ATVs, taken from the 4X4 Adventure’s web site:

Photo by Kevin Boutwell (www.kevinboutwell.com)

Read more

Things to Do

Road conditions in Iceland during different times of year

A common question people ask is, “What will the roads be like when I will be in Iceland?” This is a difficult question to answer. Let’s start with a few generalities, and then dive down into some specifics over the last year:

  • In the summer (say mid June through mid September), barring a recent storm, most roads should be in good shape. Many F roads may still be closed until July, but you should avoid F roads in Iceland unless you really know what you are doing.
  • In the winter (say December through March) you should expect at least some slippery spots throughout, even on Ring Road and other major roads. Ice and slush and blowing snow will be common, even if they are just in limited spots.
  • The rest of the time (so, mid September through November, and April through mid June) the answer varies with the year. You should be fine most of the time in May, though you can still have snow in May, especially in the mountains. Here’s a picture from May 29, 2016 on the mountain pass from Egilsstaðir to Seyðisfjörður in East Iceland:

snow-on-mountain-pass-iceland Read more

Things to Do

Using a GPS in Iceland

Icelanders have been having fun recently laughing at tourists who are misled by their GPS devices. One guy drove 5 hours up to Siglufjörður instead of 45 minutes to Reykjavik. (We are happy to hear that while he was there, he visited the excellent Herring Era MuseumWe really liked it too!)

Last month, a tourist was invited to a family BBQ when their GPS led them astray. And then there was the time … well, let’s just let I Heart Reykjavik tell it.

We relied on Google Maps almost exclusively for our journeys around Iceland. We have gotten slightly lost, but nowhere near enough to become famous. Here are some of our experiences and recommendations. Read more