On a family member's bucket list - the Northern Lights. Iceland is a great place to see the Northern Lights and Icelandair has some really affordable package tours. I had a break in my school schedule so I invited myself to go along with two family members and a family friend.
Our package tour included a Northern Lights boat ride and a trip to the Blue Lagoon. We added a Northern Lights "hunt" by van and a trip to the Golden Circle. You have to be very lucky to see the Northern Lights and we were able to see them on our first night (they were not visible the other nights we were there).
My sister took these pictures. The camera captures much more color than you can actually see - the lights looked white to me. The stars were incredible too - an amazing night.
I almost sat out the Blue Lagoon - something about the combination of wearing a bathing suit, darkness, cold, and freezing rain made me want to stay inside but I am really glad I went in the water. It was warm once you got in and being able to drink a beer while "bathing" was a nice touch. Fortunately the rumors about communal showering and cleanliness inspections are not true. (No cameras so there is no visual record of my visit.)
The worst weather of the trip was on the day of our Golden Circle tour. There are three main stops on the tour -
Thingvellir National Park - two of us took a short hike up to a small waterfall.
Geysir -- all of us got to see Geysir erupt (sort of)
It was a fun day despite the weather and we were probably better off taking a tour than staying in town and being confined to our hotel rooms.
Other activities included lots of shopping (very few purchases because of the prices) and a visit to the Reykjavik Art Museum where we saw a very entertaining exhibit by Yoko Ono. My sister and I also went to see Bjork's virtual reality exhibition at the Harpa Concert Hall, a really amazing building. Our final stop was the Icelandic Phallological Museum. Google it if you want more information.
- Only a six hour non-stop flight from Chicago.
- Affordable if you don't eat anything other than the free breakfast at your hotel. We heard the food was expensive but it is really expensive. It is hard to have lunch for under $25 per person and the large two topping, vegetarian pizza we had for our Thanksgiving dinner was $34. The best bargain - $8.80 for two beers during happy hour at our hotel bar. The food is really good and we had fantastic fish at the Fishmarket and at Sea Baron.
- The most organized place I have ever visited - there are lots of tourists everywhere but all of the major attractions are well-run and everything is very efficient.
- Very dark in the winter. We averaged about five and a half hours of daylight during the five days we were there - I don't know how I would be able to handle it if I spent the entire winter there.
- Not too cold and snowy, at least in Reykjavik, but we had a lot of wind, rain, and sleet almost everyday -- I would love to go back in the spring or summer and see more of the country.