Iceland in November - what do we need to know?

(38 Posts)
feetheart Mon 09-May-16 12:11:42

We have an extended autumn half term this year and want to go to Iceland for a week - DH and I, DD (13), DS (10 though will have his 11th birthday there smile)

Easyjet flights are currently cheap and I've started looking at AirBnB for accommodation but what hints, tips, advice and recommendations do wise MNetters have to help us plan our trip?
TIA

ApocalypseSlough Mon 09-May-16 13:37:35

I'd noticed flights with BA too and I'm also planning a trip late October. So I'll join you waiting for hints please!

AlbusPercival Mon 09-May-16 13:42:13

you know it will be dark most of the time?

IceMaiden73 Mon 09-May-16 14:13:17

Food and drink are ridiculously expensive

Will you have a car?

I would do the blue lagoon, a northern lights trip, definitely do the golden circle

nmg85 Mon 09-May-16 17:18:31

Food and drink can be reasonable if you do your research before you go. If you have a car you need to check the weather and road conditions on a regular basis and be prepared for winter driving. It will be light from about 10 - 4 so you will need to take this into account when planning your days.
If you are going for a week and do have a car I wouldn't stay in Reykjavik for the whole time, you can see most of the city in a day and you can do less driving by staying out of the city. To be honest at this time of year a week does seem a long time as some activities won't be available. What did you want to do while you were there? We have just returned from my 7th trip so happy to offer advice.

chemenger Mon 09-May-16 19:43:16

You will need really warm clothes, it is always windy and can be wet and cold even in summer.

NicknameUsed Mon 09-May-16 22:18:42

Watch Rick Stein's Long Weekend from two Friday's ago on iPlayer. It was really interesting and more about Iceland than cooking.

FairyBiker Mon 09-May-16 22:24:02

It will be really fucking cold. The wind will get into your brain. Your thighs will be cold if you don't have a good coat.

NicknameUsed Mon 09-May-16 22:44:26

Rick Stein whinged about the cold all through the programme.

feetheart Mon 09-May-16 23:05:40

Thanks so far.
No we won't have a car, it's too late in the season and neither of us have any experience driving in proper ice and snow.

The initial thinking behind the trip is DH's lifelong desire to see the Northern Lights, plus he has just had a BIG birthday, plus the 3-week half term (moving into a new school building) We know nothing is guaranteed re the lights but it sounds an amazing country.

nmg85 - I've seen your advice on other threads so thanks for responding and offering to advise a novice. The week thing is negotiable though we don't need much entertaining - DC have grown up camping!
As for what we want to do - we are open to suggestions. Lots of natural stuff - volcanoes, glaciers, weird landscapes, wildlife if there is any at that time year. Also I think a lot of the mythology stuff will be popular with fantasy loving DC smile
Hadn't thought about things not being open, have you any idea what might not be available?

RomComPhooey Mon 09-May-16 23:27:16

There's a geothermal power station at Hellisheiði with a visitor centre about half an hour outside Reykjavik by car - probably do-able by taxi. The cafe does good coffee & it's interesting listening to your coffee cups jiggling on the table with the vibrations from the massive turbine hall.

The outdoor public pools stay open all winter as they are heated by geothermal power & usually have slides for the kids. one was our favourite, but its ~15min from the centre of Reykjavik by car. Parents can sit in the 35c pool at the bottom of the slides to keep warm!

The contemporary art museum and national museum are good. The national art gallery is v tiny and the art underwhelming IMO, but the gsllery cafe did lovely soup the day we visited.

Top tip - lots of restaurants at tourist sites do free refills on the soups. Lamb soup is very filling & nourishing, so it would probably make do as your main meal if you are on a budget. The supermarkets are v expensive compared to the UK & it may work out cheaper staying in a hotel & filling your boots at the breakfast buffet. However, there are cheaper options & prices for fast food, coffee & cake in cafes etc are broadly similar to the UK.

nmg85 Tue 10-May-16 13:28:40

I would concentrate on the south coast at that time of year. As you are not hiring a car you will need to rely on tours to get out and about. I would recommend doing the Blue Lagoon (you can do this on way to / from airport), Northern Lights Tours, Golden Circle Tour, South Shore perhaps the Reykjanes Peninsula. Investigate if any operators offer overnight tours in Winter ( I know they offer in Summer) so you can get further out of the city and would be less driving in one day. Some of the activities won't be available such as glacial walking etc I think but I may be wrong.
You can go whale watching year round from Reykjavik but I am not sure on the success rate in Winter you could also go horse riding.
In Reykjavik the Volcano Exhibition is quite good, there is also a free walking tour of the city which might be something different.
I agree with the previous statement about meals etc, soup is often refillable and fast food is cheap. Places like Icelandic Fish & Chips in Reykjavik is reasonable, also look at some of the pizza places or Reykjavik fries, don't forget to try a Pylsur (hotdog) at the famous stand.
Take a visit to the Perlan and Hallgrims Church in Reykjavik for great views. Perhaps visit the geothermal beach about 40 min walk or short taxi / bus ride from Reykjavik.

Twitterqueen Tue 10-May-16 13:34:36

Hijacking your thread OP - I'm going next month. here
nmg85 any experience on riding? I want to go on a ride and I've just seen a 5-6 hour trek which looks fab.

OhYouBadBadKitten Tue 10-May-16 13:38:28

We've been riding in the north of Iceland. I did a nice sedate one, dd went on amazing one where she learned to tolt and they went off at high speed along a fjord to look for whales and rode through an abandoned village. Sounded bloody amazing for an experienced rider.

nmg85 Tue 10-May-16 13:54:44

I haven't been riding before but their are lots of reputable companies, you can do a Blue Lagoon trip and horse riding or golden circle with riding if you wanted to do a combination.

nmg85 Tue 10-May-16 13:55:46

This is a company I worked with when I booked holidays to Iceland but no personal experience. www.ishestar.is

RomComPhooey Tue 10-May-16 21:56:38

I've heard the tolting trot is quite uncomfortable/weird and takes some getting used to if you are used to standard rising trot.

GarlicBreadItsTheFuture Tue 10-May-16 22:12:43

It will be cold and dark.It does not get light until 10/11am and will be dark again by 3pm

Unless you want to rely on tours you will need to hire a car.It will have winter tyres, the roads are ploughed. Driving is not difficult.

Reykjavik is great and there is lots to see but if you want to see the landscape you will need to get out of the city. You could do a tour of golden circle by coach and a south coast and volcano tour by super jeep. There is an office in Reykjavik where you can book tours - should come up on google.

Helbelle75 Tue 10-May-16 22:21:58

We went in February and loved it. You need lots of layers, good boots and a warm winter coat, hat, gloves, scarf! Really very cold but ok if you're dressed for it. We booked tours to golden circle, blue lagoon, whale watching and northern lights, which were well worth it. We didn't see the northern lights the first night, so went again for free the following night. We didn't see any whales either, but it was wonderfully exhilerating being at sea in all weathers, particularly a snow storm. We had a full day free in Rejkjavik which was great, it's a beautiful city.
Food and drink is expensive. We managed ok by buying sandwiches for lunch and a nice meal in the evening.
I loved it there. It was so beautiful.

prettybird Wed 11-May-16 17:11:39

Iceland in November will be lovely. I've been there a few times both on business and for pleasure.

My first "pleasure" trip was a long weekend with dh in November 2008, just as the financial crisis was starting (the Kreppa as the Icelanders call it), so I ended up having to spend a bit of time doing business (keeping a deal I was in the middle of alive).

We went of on the Golden Circle Tour with Reykjavik Excursions. They adjust it slightly in the winter months to coordinate with the hours of daylight (I've since done the tour in summer): they visit an Icelandic wool/souvenir shop first before going to Thingvellir as the sun rises.

Make sure to wear grippy shoes on the tour as the paths around Gullfoss are sheet ice. But it's beautiful in winter, with ice waterfalls and all the plants shimmering in the frozen mist from the waterfall.

Geysir and Strokkur are also icy as you're walking around - but. Great experience.

We went to one of the newer geothermal power stations at the end of tour when it was dark again. In summer, we went to one of the older ones as the first stop.

I agree about having plenty of warm clothes as the wind can be biting.

The public hot baths are brilliant and great value. You can visit them in the evenings when it is dark and enjoy the weird experience of being outside in your swim suit in the dark and cold shock The one at Laugavegur is the biggest but there are plenty in Reykjavik.

Just be warned about the (single sex) changing rooms.....you are expected to shower fully naked before going in - complete with diagrams as to where you should soap! grin

Coffee shops are a real institution in Reykjavik - can remember the name of the one on the main street up to the cathedral but it's on a corner and slightly lower than street level.

You'll need to get the bus from the airport to Reykjavik but you can buy tickets at the airport.

Depending on your flight times, you can go to the Blue Lagoon on the way there or back - they'll look after your luggage. All the tour operators offer that option (see Reykjavik Excursions above).

Blue Lagoon as an extravagance compared to the public baths but still worth it. I booked a floating massage which was lovely, but dh made do with plastering the silica sand over his face - which did indeed make your skin feel lovely. Your hair will feel like straw afterwards though hmm--fine after a few washes--

Because they are effectively on Double Sumner Time, you don't feel as if it is as dark as long as it really is, as what daylight hours there are are in the afternoon.

feetheart Thu 12-May-16 14:06:05

Flights are booked so it's really happening grin
Easyjet really cheap for the times we wanted, only £336 for the 4 of us, cheaper than going to Belfast to see my parents most of the time shock
Now to decide on AirBnB accommodation which works out much better value than the Youth Hostels I've looked at!
Please keep all the lovely advice coming, it really is invaluable smile

nmg85 Thu 12-May-16 14:42:57

We flew easy jet last week and they were great, flight was max 2.45 both ways from Luton. Don't forget to buy some beer / wine at duty free on the way into Iceland as cheaper then buying out and about especially if you want to self cater a bit.
If you want to book just day tours on large coaches then these could be booked when you get there depending on weather forecasts, if you want a smaller group / private tours then I would recommend booking these in advance.
Because of the geothermal activity some if not all of the water will smell of sulphur so always worth explaining it to the kids before they wonder why the shower smells of egg. (some places are stronger then others).
Agree with the good boots and lots of layers, plus a good wind / waterproof jacket, the whole place is very casual even for dinner in restaurants in Reykjavik.
Yes the showering naked before bathing is an odd one to most of us but something that needs to be done, at the blue lagoon they have private shower areas if you wish but at most of the other swimming pools I have been to they don't.
Try and do your Northern Lights tour early in your trip as they offer a free trip if it is cancelled due to bad weather, the earlier you do the higher chance you have of possibly seeing them.

feetheart Thu 12-May-16 15:30:15

As Luton is close it was always going to be our airport of choice but at that price we'd have been mad not to go smile
nmg85 - if you ever need parking when going from Luton PM me.
DD (13) is going to have difficulty with the shower thing but forewarned is forearmed so thanks for that.
Warning them about possibly stinky water is also a good call though I'm tempted not to (bad mother smile)
Great advice about an early Northern Lights trip too.

nmg85 Thu 12-May-16 17:01:00

If you only decide to do the Blue Lagoon the shower thing is okay, so maybe something to consider if it will be an issue.
If you need any other specific advice let us know

prettybird Thu 12-May-16 19:30:10

I agree about the duty free - buy at Keflavik on the way in. There's a big Duty Free Shop there specifically for that purpose.

If you're going to be there for more than a few days then I really would recommend overcoming the embarrassment about the public showers. The Blue Lagoon is fantastic but really a one-off treat, whereas the public baths are an experience in themselves. They're also a great way of making use of the long period of darkness.

I agree with booking the Northern Lights tour early on, so that you have time to repeat it if necessary.

It's an unfulfilled ambition of mine sad - despite three trips in winter and one whole evening in Perlan, the revolving observatory style restaurant (good but very expensive), on a stunningly clear night on 22nd December sad

One of the times we went we were booked on the Northern Lights tour but it didn't go ahead due to poor weather conditions. Unfortunately, we had a business meeting the following night.

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