Family of 2 visited Iceland in September 2017

“My 25 yr old daughter and I (I will be 60 in Sept) would like to spend 7-8 days exploring the West, South, and Golden Circle. I've been researching small group tours, and I have info on very good walking tour with iheartReykjavic, and Golden Circle Delicious day tour recommended through her website. Extreme Iceland has popular 2-day tours of the South and the West sites, but I am hesitating on booking because everything feels so go, go, go, and chopped up.
We are both experienced travelers and do not necessarily need to check every box on a list. The experience of landscape, culture and atmosphere are important to us. I also would like lodging, at a minimum, to be comfort accommodations, leaning toward "charming", simple, but high quality. I would not hesitate to self-drive on many tours, but I am concerned about road conditions and changeable weather. Would definitely like to include a few short hikes, say 5-7km and time for hot springs as we tour. We would consider sharpening our focus in one region for 3 or 4 days lodging and locale are exceptional and allow day trip around that region. Will greatly appreciate your feedback.
- Seana R.”

Halldor Bjarkason, a local specialist from Iceland, helped this traveler put together a customized itinerary.

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Trip planning highlights

118 messages exchanged
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Summary of the trip planning conversation

Below are some useful excerpts from the trip planning conversation
Thanks for getting in touch about your trip to Iceland with your daughter. Sounds like you have a great sense of what you would like to do, not rush it too much to really be able to experience Iceland. Great!

I will send you a 7-day plan that takes you away from the crowds towards the West Fjords. This is what I would do if I were you. It's beautiful and far fewer people go this way.

Seana R.:
I will take a good look now at all the details. Funny, but I was definitely leaning toward the West ( have been looking at the Hotel Glymur as a base). At a glance, I think I love this! ...and as it happens, the Glymur is in Bogargnes. 

I hope you are doing well and by the time you read this will also have enjoyed a good night's sleep in California! The itinerary that Joost proposed is inclusive of: 

- 7 day car rental (Skoda Octavia STW or equivalent with CDW insurance, unlimited kms, 24/7 emergency service and KEF airport pickup and dropoff) 
- 7 nights accommodation (twin room in good three-star hotel or equivalent with private bath facilities and breakfast, and an upgrade to Hotel Glymur on day 2) 
- One way sea ferry between the Westfjords and Snaefellsnes regions 
- Customised sightseeing itinerary for your entire trip, with complementary tips on anything of special interest f.e. hiking and cuisine, and a recommended driving route for the entire trip (we will give you Google Maps links) 
- Also note that northern lights can be seen in September (with luck) so we will also give you tips on how to look out for the northern lights on your own, and how to tell when the conditions are right for seeing this phenomenon.

Regarding the driving, please just be aware that there are some bad gravel roads in the southern Westfjords where you have to drive slower and more carefully - but the views more than compensate for this :) To mostly avoid the chance of having to drive on snowy roads, the earlier you visit in September the better. Any snowfall at this time is likely to melt off fast though and the ice on the roads is very unlikely early in the month.

As an alternative to self-drive, I can also put together a package for you with guided tours from the Reykjavik area on one hand, and from the Isafjordur area on the other. Just let me know if you think you prefer this - both options are great but it is imperative that you and your daughter are comfortable with the driving to do self-drive. Also if you have more precise dates that would be very helpful as not all tours are available on all dates. The self-drive trip is available on all dates as we customise it completely based on your timeframe.

Thanks very much and I look forward to your reply!

Seana R.:
While I really like the idea of focusing on the West region, if we do self-drive, I would only feel secure with the 4x4, and I would not want to drive any more than 2-3 hours on any given day. On such a brief tour, I do not want to spend most of the daylight hours in a car. Perhaps we would not go as far north, or we would plan to break up the journey on return. 

I would consider eliminating the Southern sites/route in my plan and adding those 2-3 days to exploring the West, but with the notion of 2 nights in Reykjavik (arrival and night prior to departure), 2 nights in Glymur as base, and 2-3 nights further north using another single accommodation for a base, if possible. Do you think that is feasible, or that we would not be able to see highlights of West with this sort of plan?

Here is what the itinerary could look like with guided small group tours (max 19 pax) – this would be the most economical option including Hotel Glymur: 
Day 1 – Arrival at KEF airport. Airport hotel transfer. Stay one night in Reykjavik. 
Day 2* – Two day tour of the South Coast (to Jokulsarlon), with an overnight in the Southeast. 
Day 3* – Second day of two day SC tour, overnight in Reykjavik. 
Day 4 – Early evening taxi transfer to Hotel Glymur and stay two nights. 
Day 5 – Free relaxed day at Hotel Glymur, including a guided half day hike up to Glymur waterfall. 
Day 6 – Morning taxi transfer back to Reykjavik and join iHeart Reykjavik’s guided walking tour. Free afternoon and evening in Reykjavik on your own. Overnight in Reykjavik. 
Day 7 – Hotel airport transfer. Departure from KEF airport. 

Please let me know if you need more info to decide between self-drive and small group, and if you can give me more exact dates then I can send you an amended bookable itinerary accordingly. Thank you and I look forward to your reply!

Seana R.:
Well, I've been crunching numbers. I returned to the 7-day itinerary that Joost suggested. It really meets all of our goals for the trip. We are ready to book this trip as outlined, including the kayaking tour from Isafjordur. We will book flights to arrive in Reykjavik on Monday, September 11, departing Reykjavik on Monday, September 18. 
We will give further consideration to the Golden Circle tour and walking tour of Reykjavik before booking these tours.

We are very excited and look forward to seeing the detailed itinerary! Also, could you provide recommendations for packing? I think we are pretty well set with warm boots & rain pants, etc, but a checklist might be helpful.

As for packing - make sure to bring caps and gloves too in case, some people also like to have scarves. The weather changes fast in Iceland and if it is windy then it's usually a cold wind, and mid-September is no longer summer. So best to prepare for the worst and have enough warm and rainproof outer layers coupled with warmer inner layers, then you can only get positively surprised :)

Seana R.:
Overall, we had a wonderful trip, particularly because we spent most of our time in the west. The landscape is so beautiful, and the further north we traveled, the friendlier the people were.

All of our accommodations were very comfortable, the "standouts" being Einurshusid for atmosphere and the hospitality of Benni and Greta, Fosshotel Hellnar for the fantastic location and simple, chic decor, Icelandair Marina for the same. It was really great to begin our journey at the waterfront in Reykjavik. The walking tour with iHeart Reykjavik was just enough of an overview to get a sense of the old town and culture, and the waterfront paths and fish restaurants were superb...the seafood and service at Kopar were stellar. 

I would definitely recommend people get off the standard tourist loop, and understanding the travel times better, I think 2-3 days in a few locales such as Snaefellsnes, and Isafjordur would be advisable. There is so much to see, but also so much to do, and one does need time to give it the attention deserved.

Great to hear that you  enjoyed your trip to Iceland, particularly the Westfjords & Snaefellsnes. I completely agree that more travelers should venture further away from Reykjavik for a better and more authentic experience, but it always costs more to travel further so I guess the Westfjords, in particular, will always remain a bit of an offbeat gem - which is great!

Thanks again for booking your trip with us and all the best.
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