Reykjavik, Iceland: How to Get There
We bought our tickets last-minute because of a deal that WOW was running. WOW is a relatively new airline that flies between the United States, Europe, and Iceland—you’ll know them by their bright purple planes and uniforms. Their tickets are cheaper than other airlines because everything is à la carte, from your seat and luggage to your food and drinks. Because of this, you can build the experience you want, whether that means saving as much as possible or flying in a more comfortable setting. I was concerned that the on-flight experience would be cut-rate because of the prices; however, I ended up being totally impressed with the company’s customer service and integrity.
Another bonus of booking through WOW is that you can simultaneously book all of your transportation and tours through Reykjavik Excursions. It’s not necessary to book ahead of time, but there’s no reason not to—whether you book these trips online, at the airport, or at a tourist center once you’re in the city, you’ll be paying the same prices. You’ll just need to be able to identify which drop-off or pick-up location is closest to where you’re staying (either your hotel or, in our case, the hotel closest to our Airbnb) and they’ll take you straight there. It’s pretty impressive.
Where to Stay
We stayed in an Airbnb for the first time on this trip, and I would recommend giving it a go in Iceland if you’re game. So much of Reykjavik was built very recently, so the apartments can truly be as nice as hotels, for the same or lower cost. We stayed in an impeccable, hyper-modern one-bedroom off of Laugavegur; another couple we met ended up in the home of a former member of Of Monsters & Men. Compare the prices between hotel rooms and Airbnb and you might be pleasantly surprised!
When to Go
Because we decided to visit last-minute, we didn’t put much thought into when the best time to visit Iceland might be. We were there from November 8-12, and the daylight hours were from about 9:30 to 4:30. In the summer, it’s light for a much larger portion of the day; and in late December, it’s only light for about 4 hours per day. I’m glad that we visited during a time when we had about 8 hours of daylight in which to explore; but since we were visiting outside of the normal tourist season, our plane tickets and excursions were cheaper than they would have been a few weeks earlier. This made early November a smart time to visit, but I will say that it’s now on my bucket list to return in the summer to experience a whole different side of Iceland.
The weather in November is a mixed bag. It can be the best time to see the northern lights; however, rain is also a strong possibility. The weather seems to behave in a cyclical manner, with 4 or 5 days of rain alternating with several clear days. The downside of this is that rainy and overcast weather may last for the duration of a short trip, as it did with ours. We got 2 overcast days with intermittent, relatively harmless rain; but on our last full day, gale-force winds and buckets of rain put a damper on our plans. It was about 40 degrees while we were there, which felt like standard December or January weather for us in Boston, so we bundled up and went about our days and nights without much discomfort.
What to Pack
Here’s what I would recommend for a 4- or 5-day trip in cold & rainy weather.
- 4-5 heavy sweaters for the daytime (you’ll be warm AND you’ll look Scandinavian!)
- 2-3 pairs of pants that dry quickly (jeans aren’t the best choice since they stay wet for a long time; I’d recommend pants with thinner, stretchier fabric, like leggings or jeggings)
- 3-5 sweater dresses & thick tights for dinner (I swear they were invented for Iceland—you can stay warm AND look fancy! Bring as few as you feel comfortable with—since you’re only wearing them to dinner, you can totally rewear them)
- 2 warm, versatile scarves (so you can wear them with every outfit)
- 1-2 pairs of waterproof or quick-drying sneakers
- A waterproof parka with a hood
- 1-2 pairs of waterproof gloves & a hat
- 1 pair of waterproof boots for very rainy days (my secret: I brought black faux leather rainboots that I wore in the rain and out to dinner!)
- 2 pairs of socks per day if you’ll be outside a lot
- Warm pajamas
Waterproof EVERYTHING is best for Iceland; but if you don’t have the time or money to invest in new stuff, be sure to bring 1-2 options for the pieces you’ll need every day. There’s nothing worse than having to wear a wet, freezing cold coat or shoes (trust me)!
Other things to bring:
- A waterproof backpack
- A credit card with a chip (Europe has had these for much longer than we have, so they’re the standard and will make your life infinitely easier. We didn’t bother converting any cash to króna, we were able to use our card everywhere we went)
- Band-aids in case of blisters (you’ll be doing a lot of walking, so you want to be comfortable)
- Melatonin or another sleep aid to help you adjust to the 4- to 5-hour time difference (depending on the season due to daylight savings)
- Your best, most rugged camera (I alternated between my DSLR and iPhone 7+ depending on how bad the rain was, and I’m so glad I had both with me! Also, trust me: You’ll want the option to take videos when you visit the waterfalls, geysers & hot springs)
- A reusable water bottle (you’ll hear this often, but in Iceland, bottled water is for clueless tourists—don’t buy it if you can avoid it!)
- A hair dryer (your hotel or Airbnb might have one, but make sure—you’ll need it to dry your clothes!)
- A sturdy umbrella with a warranty… and a back-up (Iceland ate my cheap umbrella for breakfast!)