Winter Vacation in Iceland: Part 1

Mar 02, 2019 Avatar Hilton Smith Hilton Smith
A small but vigorous independent nation with a population of less than 350,000, Iceland deserves a visit from any serious traveler. Walking the streets of Reykjavik, you never see the muddling of cultural identities. No Starbucks, no McDonald’s, no Prada, no Burger King. What you see is a distinct identity, friendliness, and consciousness of the environment. My weeklong stay included travel seminars but also exploration up to the Arctic Circle, the Northern Lights, on and inside Langjokull glacier, and some of the best gourmet meals found anywhere.

My start from LAX was on the brand new United B787-10 Dreamliner with the actual new Polaris lie-flat seats and also equipped with the new United Premium Plus Premium Economy seats. My service in Polaris was very good to Newark. From there, I ended up on the Icelandair JFK to Reykjavik flight in the Saga Premium class. Saga Class is akin to domestic First Class with better food and in-seat entertainment. There are no lie-flat beds, which is fine, but consider this before you pay any up charge to sit here.

Wintertime is not as cold as you would expect, and the season resulted in fewer crowds. The Icelanders welcome visitors easily in the winter and almost all speak English. Our first hotel in Reykjavik, the Sand, is a small luxury hotel. The rooms, all with thermal heating hidden under the typical wooden floors, were small, as is the custom here. The service was wonderful, and the adjacent Sandholt Bakery windows gave us a clear view of bakers preparing that famous and irresistible Icelandic bread. The butter is not bad either. The geothermal springs provide heating, hot water, and power all over the island. The water is virtually pure right out of the tap. Massive greenhouses grow vegetables for specialty restaurants, such as one focused solely on tomatoes that does amazing dishes. The local cod, and other local seafood, is fantastic. Shellfish Restaurant in Reykjavik (offering more than shellfish) was spectacular. It is best to book ahead, particularly in summer, as the offerings are limited.

After seeing a distinct version of the Northern Lights, we headed to far north Akureyri which is only about 45 minutes away… but I will let you know more about that in a few days with my next blog post.
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