Icelandair has been offering direct roundtrip service from Denver to Reykjavik since 2012. Their package vacation deals offer the ease of planning an international vacation with the flexibility to do more or less depending on your preference, all for a very reasonable price.
In February of 2016 our family chose the “Warm Baths, Cool Lights” package. This package included roundtrip airfare, 3 nights hotel with buffet breakfast at the modern Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura, an evening bus tour to Fontana hot spring baths including an Icelandic buffet dinner, and a chance to see the Northern Lights.
The flight was a tolerable 7-hour afternoon direct flight from Denver that arrived in Iceland early the next morning. With 3.5 days, we had just enough time to do some geothermal soaking, see some wild and beautiful scenery, visit some historical sites, and eat delicious local food.
Here are some highlights from the “Warm Baths, Cool Lights” package:
Blue Lagoon. While the Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s number one attraction (read: tourist trap), it was pretty spectacular once you made it through the lines, figured out how to work the lockers, showered, and got IN to the water. The water is a cloudy sapphire blue, heated to about 100 degrees, and surrounded by mountains of black lava. The Blue Lagoon is pretty close to Keflavik International Airport so it might make sense to visit it on arrival or just before your departure. The attached restaurant had fresh, noteworthy menu items, but like all of Iceland’s food and beverage, was expensive.
Dowtown Reykjavik. We visited the often-photographed Hallgrimskirkja Church where you can take an elevator to the top for views of the city. We then walked into the downtown shopping district looking at Icelandic artwork and handmade crafts. The wind from the harbor was brutal so making frequent stops in shops and coffee shops was a welcome relief.
Fontana Hot Baths in Laugarvatn. We spent a few hours one night soaking in the different temperature pools, followed by some time in the steam rooms. Our night included a traditional Icelandic buffet style dinner. Our favorite item was the traditional Icelandic brown rye bread that is baked underground using geothermal heat. It’s doughy, moist, sweet, and delicious with Icelandic butter. Try the traditional fermented shark if you like things that taste like someone took those little red fish eggs your grandpa used on his fishhook, soaked them in ammonia, and then sprinkled on some sugar.
Northern Lights. While there is no guarantee you will see the elusive Northern Lights, February is one of the best months to catch a glimpse of them. We were fortunate enough to see them from the plane, and in all their splendor on our night tour. There are various Northern Lights apps to help you know the best nights to try and view the lights and many hotel front desks provide wake up calls when they are visible.
Golden Circle. We rented a car and spent about 6 hours, going at a moderate pace, visiting Thingvellir National Park (took a quick hike to see one of Iceland’s oldest churches, the rift between North America and Europe’s slowly moving continental plates, and Iceland’s largest lake), Gullfoss Waterfall (Iceland’s most famous waterfall), and the predictably erupting Geysir (after which all other geysers have been named).
These highlights gave us just a taste of this gorgeous country. We can’t wait to go back to see some of the other sights and parts of the country, and perhaps next time around we will visit, in Summer…
Kristin Kleimann is a Denver Realtor and lover of Colorado, Denver, homes, design, art, architecture, food, nature, nostalgia, and travel.
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