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Trip Reports:
PBaruch: https://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=60568.0
Aurora, Storms, and Snowpants: An Icelandic Saga by Something Fishy, whYME, and ChAiM'l
@Yehuda
BrachaB
Ponash123

Airlines that fly to Iceland direct from NY:
1. Iceland Air
2. Delta
3. Wow Air
4. United (May 23 - Oct 4)

Hotels in the Reykjavik Area:
1. 101 Hotel (supposedly one of the best spas in Iceland)
2. Ion (set on a lava field and one of Iceland's newest luxury hotels)
3. Hotel Ranga
4. Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel (provides exclusive access to a private lagoon for hotel guests only)
5. Radisson BLU 1919 (Can use Club carlson points and in the middle of town) Will warm and store food for a nominal fee.

Camper/RV Rentals:
There are several places where you can rent a camper truck or motorhome, including here:  http://www.campericeland.is/

Campgrounds:
The campgrounds in Iceland are large and never feel crowded.  Many offer excellent facilities and amenities.  You can drive in at any time of the day or night and pay the nominal fee whenever the office opens.

Kosher Food:
Kosher food is pretty much non existent in Iceland.  Even many American brands do not have a hechsher.  Some foods that have been found with a hechsher are Cheerios Cereal, Nature Valley Granola Bars, and Powerade.  That being said, several DDF members have been able to bring in kosher food/meat without being checked or stopped.  Just walk through the "nothing to declare" line.

Language
Most of the populace speaks English and children are taught English starting in the sixth grade.  It is rare but you might find some older folks that do not speak English.

Communications:
The Iceland Air Saga shop sells starter Síminn branded sim cards for a nominal amount.  If you order in advance, they will even deliver the sim cards to you on your Icelandair flight (one of the cheapest options to get a starter sim card).  You can also find stores in the airport that sell sim cards.  Vodafone is the other major carrier in Iceland and also sells sim cards.  You can purchase the Saga Shop sim starter here:

http://www.sagashop.net/men/detail/?id=57860-0009

GPS - Navigation
Garmin Nordic Maps includes Iceland and can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000BS4Q3I?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_search_detailpage

Voltage
Iceland uses 220v.  Most cell phones, cameras and laptops come with a multi switching power supply (verify by looking at power supply) so you will only need to buy a cheap adapter such as this:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0058EG0KC?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s01

Currency/Credit Cards
Credit cards are almost universally accepted in Iceland.  As a result, you may find no need to exchange currency for the Icelandic Kroner (ISK).  If you use a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees, you should be set.  If you do decide to exchange currency, there are ATM machines in the airport right outside customs.

Activities:
1.  The Golden Circle Tour is very popular and takes you to Geysir (lame compared to Yellowstone), Gulfoss Waterfalls, and Thingvellir (where the continental drift between the North American and Eurasian Plates can be clearly seen in the cracks or faults which traverse the region.  You can dive in a lake and touch both plates). 

2.  Inside the volcano tour to Thrihnukagigur Volcano.  In this tour, you either hike ( a few kilometers) or take a helicopter charter from the Reykjavik airport to the volcano.  Once there, you are lowered by a construction type lift into the magma chamber.  The least expensive way to get a semi private tour of the magma chamber is with the helicopter, which takes you there in between the regularly scheduled tours.

3.  There are various Super Jeep Tours (vans and SUV's with tractor tires), including a tour to Langjokull Glacier, where you drive onto the glacier.  Private tours can be arranged.

4. Jokulsarlon - a large glacial lake in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajokull National Park.  Here, you can take a duck boat tour or a zodiac boat tour of the lake where you will see icebergs, seals, and various birds.  Across the road from Jokulsarlon is a black sand beach where you can see icebergs on the beach.

5. The Blue Lagoon - the public lagoon gets very crowded and if you go it is recommended to get there when they open.  If you can manage a stay at the Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel (currently 15 rooms but they are expanding to 30 rooms) you will get exclusive access to the private lagoon for hotel guests only.  Since there are only 15 rooms at present, the private lagoon rarely has more than a handful of people in it at any time. Most people do not make a full day out of the Blue Lagoon and instead go on your arrival into Iceland or upon departure before the airport. All the Bus lines have stops to and from the airport. 3-4 hours is ample time.

6. Waterfalls abound including Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss.

7. Dog sledding in Skallafell.

8. Icelandic Horses - Horse back riding is extremely popular in Iceland. Most residents actually own a horse. Iceland is the only place in the world where you will find the Icelandic horse. It has 5 Gaits oppose to the 3 that most other horses have. They are gentle animals and very comfortable to ride.
« Last edited by PBaruch on July 08, 2018, 11:56:07 AM »

Author Topic: Iceland Master Thread  (Read 77611 times)

Offline JS69

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Re: Iceland Master Thread
« Reply #180 on: June 24, 2015, 04:23:57 PM »
I went to Iceland last year and we didn't bother with the phone because just about every inch of the country has free WIFI. All tour buses, all cafes all hotels have some sort of WIFI....Just a FYI

Offline PBaruch

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Re: Iceland Master Thread
« Reply #181 on: June 24, 2015, 04:36:24 PM »
Did you make calls using google voice on your cell over wifi?
What do you do after your dreams come true?

Offline JS69

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Re: Iceland Master Thread
« Reply #182 on: June 25, 2015, 10:43:03 AM »
We face timed whenever we needed to connect with the family and kids....Email for work sufficed.

Offline Thingywingy

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Re: Iceland Master Thread
« Reply #183 on: June 29, 2015, 04:46:11 PM »
Anyone know what the best mileage options are from NYC? Dont mind stopping.
I am sometimes accused of overthinking things. I am still mulling over whether that accusation has merit.

Offline PBaruch

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Re: Iceland Master Thread
« Reply #184 on: July 16, 2015, 06:13:10 PM »
Here is a trip report from our recent trip to Iceland.  Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading.

Initially, I would like to express sincere gratitude to my good buddy (who shall remain anonymous for obvious reasons) for helping me book our free Icelandair flights.  (No PM's please).  Many thanks. Your help was greatly appreciated.

We arrived at KEF on Sunday night intending on spending the first night of our trip at the Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel.  We met up with Sofus, a part time taxi driver/student/plumber, who became our taxi driver for the rest of the trip.  As I later learned, having multiple jobs in Iceland isn't uncommon as many people work in tourism during the hectic summer months and do something else during the winter.

We decided to stay at the Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel on the first night of our arrival and then again for Shabbos, for reasons which will be discussed below.  Things didn't go exactly as planned.  We arrived at the Blue Lagoon on Monday morning at 2:30 a.m. (Iceland time) to an empty lobby.  After ringing the front desk bell a few times, a very wet attendant came running out.  He had clearly been soaking in the private hotel lagoon, a nice perk of the job.  After repeating my name a few times, I learned to my dismay that we didn't have a reservation.  Apparently the person who took our reservation didn't properly book it.  Further, since the hotel only has 15 rooms (they are presently expanding) they couldn't just give us another room because they were fully booked.  I later learned that the hotel had messed up another unfortunate fellow who booked a number of rooms for a conference only to show up and be told that the rooms were still under construction and wouldn't be ready until September.  Luckily, in our case, the front desk attendant was able to find us a room at another hotel nearby.  We loaded our bags back into the taxi and Sofus drove us to the brand new Geo Hotel.

At the Geo Hotel, the front desk attendant was a very pleasant Scotsman.  When asked how a Scotsman ended up in Iceland, I was told that he initially came for a visit and then got a local girl pregnant.  The rest is history.  He also spoke fluent Icelandic.  Apparently, he was forced to learn Icelandic when his boss stopped speaking to him in English.  I wonder if he speaks Icelandic with a Scottish accent. 

The next morning, Sofus picked us up at the hotel and drove us to pick up our camper truck, our home for the next four nights.  After a brief orientation, we were off.  The truck was a 2008 Ford F350 with a camper in the bed.
 
IMG-20150629-WA0000 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC08751 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Although the truck was old (by USA rental standards) and had 125k Kilometers, the camper was brand new.  It took a bit of getting used to drive this behemoth.  For instance, you would normally expect a vehicle to stop once you press on the brake.  Not with this truck.  I quickly learned that I had to start braking about a block before I needed to stop.  That being said, once I got used to the truck, it was relatively easy to drive as long as I didn't have to back up.

We then drove to the local Reykjavik airport for our helicopter charter to the "inside the volcano" tour of Thrihnukagigur Volcano.  In this tour, you either hike ( a few kilometers) or take a helicopter charter from the Reykjavik airport to the volcano, which we chose to do.  Once there, you are lowered by a construction type lift into the magma chamber.  As some of you may know, I have a thing for volcanoes and lava and once I learned about this experience, I just had to go to Iceland.  For this trip, we booked the helicopter excursion, which was the least expensive way to get a semi private tour of the volcano.  With the hiking tour, you are stuck with a group of 15 descending into the magma chamber. However, if you take the helicopter tour, they take you to the magma chamber in between the regularly scheduled hiking tours.  If you fill up the helicopter with your family/friends, you will pretty much have the magma chamber all to yourself for about a half hour.  This experience was well worth it and I even managed to convince a frum family we met up with on the plane to join us.  The only thing that I'm pissed off about is that the volcano people refused to let me take the baby into the magma chamber.  I thought it would make for an awesome family picture.  Feh.

Here are some photos from the volcano tour:

View from the helicopter of the opening in the volcano.

DSC_2378 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Kids getting ready to descend into the magma chamber.

DSC_2398 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Elevator descending into the magma chamber.

DSC_2400 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2401 by P Bryan, on Flickr

My daughter inside the magma chamber.  What did your kids do on their summer vacation?  ;D

DSC_2431 by P Bryan, on Flickr

After the volcano tour, we drove around Reykjavik hunting for kosher food and supplies.  After realizing that neither the hotel we had stayed at on Sunday night (or the Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel) had microwaves, we went to the Elko store (an Icelandic version of Bestbuy) and bought a 220v microwave (to heat up Mealmart box meals) and crock pot (for Shabbos).  We forgot to get a VAT form from the store to get a refund of the taxes (DW insisted on bringing back the microwave and crock pot) so if any of you decide to purchase something that you will take back with you, remember to ask the store for a VAT form.  Given that one of the major supermarkets in Reykjavik ("Bonus") has a large pig as its mascot, we didn't really expect to find much in the way of kosher food.  We only managed to find three things with a hechsher: (i) Popcorn chips; (ii) Nature Valley bars; and (iii) Powerade.  Even American brands such as Pringles didn't have a hechsher. 

We ended Monday by camping out at Thingvellir National Park in the parking lot by the visitor center.  There was a "pay" toilet (which isn't too uncommon in Iceland as we later learned) where it cost you 200 ISK (~$1.50) to use the loo. This is where the continental drift between the North American and Eurasian Plates can be clearly seen in the cracks or faults which traverse the region.  For those who are interested (and I know of one DDF member who has done this), you can dive into the lake and touch both plates at the same time.  We aren't divers (yet) and didn't have time for this activity anyways.

The next morning we took a charter super jeep tour to Langjokull Glacier.  The glacier is in the highlands and requires driving on unpaved roads.

The super jeep.

 DSC_2501 by P Bryan, on Flickr

IMG-20150630-WA0005 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2711 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2713 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Views along the way:

DSC_2494 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2557 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2500 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Luckily for us, our super jeep had huge tractor type tires and had no difficulty navigating the large mounds of snow still covering parts of the road.  The roads were impassible to everything else, including a bunch of land rovers we saw along the way. 

Can your jeep do this?

DSC_2531 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2532 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2533 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Since we were the only tour heading out to Langjokull Glacier that day, we had the entire route to ourselves.  The scenery was spectacular and it was an interesting experience driving on the glacier. 

On the glacier.

DSC_2573 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2598 by P Bryan, on Flickr

IMG-20150630-WA0015 by P Bryan, on Flickr

On the way down the glacier, we had a flat tire.  Our driver/guide Jonas quickly fixed whatever the problem was.  Not sure how many others can say they had a flat while driving on a glacier.

After our glacier tour, we went to the Laugardalur Swimming Pool, a top rated public pool in Reykjavik.  The water was clean and refreshing and they had hot tubs with different temperature ratings.  However, the changing room/shower area was a revelation.  Apparently, the people in Iceland have no problem showering naked in front of everyone else.  You do your best to avert your eyes but sometimes you just can't help it if something is dangling literally right in front of you.  After Laugardalur, we drove back to Thingvellir and stayed at a campground.  I made a bbq at about midnight.  The next day, we began the drive to the Golden Circle.

Here is a picture taken at the campground.

DSC_2735 by P Bryan, on Flickr

In our Golden Circle tour, we went to Geysir and Gulfoss.  We finished the day with the Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls (which are not part of Golden Circle tour).  Here are some pictures from our Golden Circle Tour and from Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss:

DSC_2758 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2836 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2841 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2906 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2914 by P Bryan, on Flickr

We made a bbq at Skogafoss and then at about midnight drove to Jokulsarlon, arriving at 4:00 a.m.  Jokulsarlon is a large glacial lake in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajokull National Park.  Along the way, we passed by awe inspiring scenery which words cannot describe, including  Eyjafjallajokull, the volcano that erupted in 2010 and grounded flights throughout Europe due to the ash cloud.  The drive itself was worth the trip to Jokulsarlon.   

DSC_2919 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2874 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2883 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Our view upon arrival at Jokulsarlon:

DSC_3064 by P Bryan, on Flickr

While everyone else was shluffing, I woke up at 7:00 a.m. feeling refreshed and decided to take a walk.  I saw arctic terns fishing and flying back to their nests with their catch.  My attempt to get closer to the nests was promptly responded to by multiple dive bomb attacks.  When everyone woke up, we did a duck boat tour where we saw 1000 year old icebergs (I really should have brought some whiskey) and seals.  A little later in the day DW and my older kids did a zodiac boat tour while I stayed behind with the baby.  (DW says if you have a choice to do the zodiac tour as they take the zodiacs right up to the icebergs).  We ended up spending the entire day at Jokulsarlon.  Here are some pictures taken at Jokulsarlon:

DSC_2946 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2958 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2964 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2985 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_2992 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_3046 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_3050 by P Bryan, on Flickr

After our boat tours, we drove across the road to a black sand beach where I had the opportunity to photograph ice washed up on the black sand.  That evening, we began our trek back to Reykjavik for Shabbos.  We drove for a while and stopped to stay the night at the Skaftafell Campground.  Hot showers cost 500ISK (~$3.75) for 5 minutes.  They also had a washing machine and dryer.  While I did the laundry, DW, my older daughter, and the baby (in a carriage) hiked to Svartifoss, a beautiful waterfall framed by hexagonal columns.  From this campground, they lead tours where you can walk on the glacier.

On Friday morning, we continued our drive back to Reykjavik and didn't really have much time for any touring.  Once again, we gazed at the awe inspiring landscape on the way back.  We returned the camper truck at about 4:00 p.m. and met our buddy Sofus who drove us to the Blue Lagoon Clinic.  Along the way I had to fill up the camper with gas.

Can someone please tell me which button to press for S&S gas rewards?

DSC_3123 by P Bryan, on Flickr

Luckily, this time the Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel had our reservation.  While driving, we called the hotel to ask that our Pomegranate meal that we intended to eat Friday night be taken out of the freezer (we left it at the hotel when we arrived Sunday night).  We weren't surprised to learn that they didn't take the meal out of the freezer.  I asked the front desk attendant if there was a way they could heat up the meal for us and was told they didn't have an oven but that there was a restaurant on site.  I then inquired if the restaurant would heat up our meal but was told in a rather stern tone that "we don't do that in Iceland."

Pictures of the private Blue Lagoon available only to guests of the Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel:

DSC_3145 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_3148 by P Bryan, on Flickr

IMG-20150705-WA0000 by P Bryan, on Flickr

IMG-20150705-WA0008 by P Bryan, on Flickr

This is the public Blue Lagoon:

IMG-20150705-WA0016 by P Bryan, on Flickr

DSC_3173 by P Bryan, on Flickr

IMG-20150705-WA0014 by P Bryan, on Flickr

They opened it up just for us.  Just kidding - we got there early when no-one else was there so I could take photographs.

After taking a dip in the Blue Lagoon, we put a Pomegranate chicken meal into the crock pot, which was our Friday night meal.  We then put a few Mealmart cholent meals along with potatoes and carrots into the crock pot, which was our Shabbos meal.  We also placed eggs into the crock pot which we ate for shalosh seudos.  After eating the Friday night meal, DW lit candles.  We davened, made kiddush, washed, benched and went to sleep.  Shabbos started at about 11:30 at night and ended after 1:30 a.m.  Since the Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel is located in the middle of a lava field, we couldn't go anywhere to walk around.  Then again, it was a good opportunity to catch up on a weeks worth of lack of sleep.

We made havdalah on Sunday morning and then went to take a soak in the public lagoon (which opened at 8:00 a.m.) and then back to the hotel for a soak in the private lagoon (which opens at 9:00 a.m.).  This was one of the main reasons we decided to stay in the Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel.  The hotel has a private lagoon for hotel guests only.  While the public lagoon gets very crowded, there are rarely more than a few people in the private lagoon at any given time.  Further, guests at the hotel get free access to the public lagoon.  Of course the baby went into the lagoon as well, although technically you have to be two years old to go into the lagoon.  (Some may already know I don't much care for rules).

After relaxing in the lagoon for a few hours, we packed out and met Sofus, who drove us back to the airport.  Before this trip DW didn't want to go to Iceland and now we are planning a winter trip to see the northern lights.  DW says she wants to go back because we didn't have time to go to the Viking Museum or the Settlement Exhibition in Reykjavik.  I'm also planning a two week camping trip to circle the entire island.  (DW says its not happening but we'll see about that).  Anyone interested in a kosher caravan tour of Iceland?  :)

After a week in Iceland, I felt like we barely scratched the surface and there is so much more to do and see.

PS:  In case any of you are wondering, BI is still number one.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2015, 06:38:38 PM by PBaruch »
What do you do after your dreams come true?

Offline Super Speed

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Re: Iceland Master Thread
« Reply #185 on: July 16, 2015, 06:46:11 PM »
Unbelievable read! Thanks!

Offline ChaimMoskowitz

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Re: Iceland Master Thread
« Reply #186 on: July 16, 2015, 07:44:04 PM »
Unbelievable is an understatement.
I just found a new supply of forks!

Offline whYME

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Re: Iceland Master Thread
« Reply #187 on: July 16, 2015, 08:25:50 PM »
Here is a trip report from our recent trip to Iceland.
Awesome.
I guess this is what normal people do/see when they go to Iceland :))

Offline whYME

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Re: Iceland Master Thread
« Reply #188 on: July 16, 2015, 08:29:03 PM »
just about every inch of the country has free WIFI.


Offline Jm1248

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Re: Iceland Master Thread
« Reply #189 on: July 16, 2015, 08:32:35 PM »
Wow amazing! I have to slowly convince dw that she doesn't really want to go somewhere warm for our next vacation :)
ETA: missed this on my first read, but count me in for the kosher caravan! ;)
« Last Edit: July 16, 2015, 08:40:02 PM by Jm1248 »

Offline PBaruch

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Re: Iceland Master Thread
« Reply #190 on: July 16, 2015, 08:53:29 PM »
About the wifi bit, we were off the grid for the entire time we had the camper truck.  I mistakenly didn't buy a wifi data package from the rental agency.  None of the campgrounds or other public areas we were at had free wifi. 
What do you do after your dreams come true?

Offline zow

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Re: Iceland Master Thread
« Reply #191 on: July 16, 2015, 11:09:16 PM »
Wow. I just read Yehoshuah's Europe, and now this...the bar is set VERY high! Yasherkoach and thank you for sharing it.  Really terrific.  I can't wait to go.

Offline morgs

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Re: Iceland Master Thread
« Reply #192 on: July 17, 2015, 05:41:53 AM »
This is an amazing tr with amazing pics-it is definitely deserving of its on thread!! Thanks!!

Offline @Yehuda

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Re: Iceland Master Thread
« Reply #193 on: July 17, 2015, 09:58:20 AM »
Crazy! Thanks for writing this up! I guess "Iceland is green and Greenland is ice" is not entirely true. lol

This really reminded me of SF's trip to Alaska. May we all get to these wonderful places one day!

Offline PBaruch

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Re: Iceland Master Thread
« Reply #194 on: July 17, 2015, 09:59:31 AM »
Crazy! Thanks for writing this up! I guess "Iceland is green and Greenland is ice" is not entirely true. lol

This really reminded me of SF's trip to Alaska. May we all get to these wonderful places one day!

We actually flew by Greenland on the way to Iceland.  I was able to see land and icebergs floating in the water.  Greenland is also on the list and Icelandair flies there.   :)
What do you do after your dreams come true?