My husband, 10-year-old son and I visited Iceland for 4 marvelous days this October. The flight from JFK is very simple with limited customs and immigration hassle upon arrival. At 5 1/2 hours fly time the flight is a bit shorter (yes you heard right) than you might like as it really doesn’t offer enough time to get a good night’s sleep. Saying that, the time change is only 4 hours, so we adjusted after the first day. I recommend visiting Iceland between the months of April to October as during winter months there is limited day light. I might also recommend staying away from June to August if you can, as this is PEAK PEAK season and can get busy but also has the upside of extended daylight hours which allows for more time to see the sights. April, May, September and October might be the best months to travel. I have created for my clients a detailed day by day itinerary including hotel reservations at the newest and best located hotels and links to pre book tours (which do sell out) to ensure your trip is perfectly planned. Please reach out to me if you are interested in having me plan your adventure.The entire country has a population of only 330,000 people with about 40% of the population in Reykjavik and an expanse of scenery to be seen. Reykjavik is a beautiful and vibrant little city with lots of interesting restaurants, coffee shops, shopping and interesting architecture. Most of the new downtown hotels are walking distance from restaurants so no need for taxis. I strongly recommend renting a car and self-driving if you want to truly explore and see the country. It is very easy to get around, the roads are excellent, and everything is well signed and combined with google map’s getting around is simple. If you hate to drive you might investigate a private car and driver or tours that will pick up at your hotel however that will come at a premium cost. I would not recommend the larger bus tours.Our first day we landed around 6:00 am and picked up our car rental. From there we drove about 30 minutes to The Blue Lagoon, a massive thermal outdoor bath. It’s a great way to “ease” into your Iceland Adventure and arriving early to beat the rush worked out well especially since our hotel check in time was later in the day. We spent the remainder of day 1 exploring Reykjavik.Day 2 was up early for a drive called the “Golden Circle” which as implied is a driving tour that goes in a big circle and hits a half dozen prominent waterfalls/geysers/historical sites with a myriad of stops on the way with crazy scenery. On that point, be sure to take a decent camera as the photo ops are unlike anything you may see again in your lifetime. The total drive time is around 4 to 5 hours (all beautiful scenery) plus whatever time you spend at the various sites.Our day 3 and 4 was an exploration outside the city with overnights to Vik and Jokarlsalon with a glacier hike and stops at along the way of numerous beautiful natural sights.There is no shortage of things to see and do in Iceland and if you google “tours in Iceland" there are hundreds of options for walks, climbs, snowmobile, back country jeep tours, plane rides, lagoon tours by boat etc. and it can become overwhelming. I would recommend a glacier hike, the lava tubes, and a zodiac tour at the Jokulsarlon Glacier all educational and interesting. We also heard great things about snowmobiling on the glacier however it didn’t fit into our action packed schedule. Some of the more popular tours require a bit of pre planning as Iceland has become a popular destination and these tours do book out in advance.The only drawback of Iceland is the sticker shock for food and tours. Restaurant pricing can be upwards of 50% more than NYC pricing…although there is no tipping expected. Saying that, Iceland can be taken in with a 3 to 5 night stay, so your wallet only opens for about 8 or 10 meals. Most of the hotels include buffet breakfast in the room rate. On a separate note, the quality of the food in Iceland far exceeded my expectations this time around. This is my third visit to Iceland (15 and 30 years prior) and the quality and variety of food options has changed dramatically in a very positive way.When packing make sure to take good hiking boots, a pair of sturdy runners and layers of clothing including a top rain/wind layer. Rain gear is a must. The sun comes and goes, and you layer up and delayer as the day progresses. No Gucci loafers or Channel handbags in Reykjavik! You don’t need much but you do need the right stuff if you are getting out into the landscape.We loved Iceland. The people couldn’t be nicer, everyone speaks perfect English, and the scenery is off the charts breathtaking. This is a fantastic highly recommend family adventure. I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with a short excursion to this country.
In short, I would highly recommend the Hotel Arts (as the locals call it). The rooms are generous in size, very nicely appointed with large bathrooms and top end linens and bath products. If you are a family traveling I would certainly recommend this property due to the larger size one and two bedroom suites which you can reserve for a reasonable rate if booked in advance. The rooms have spectacular city and/or ocean views and while we had a majestic ocean view it would not be a hardship to overlook the city of Barcelona, particularly as you can view down the expansive boulevards. Personally, I thought that the city view was more interesting than the sea view and comes at a better price point.Breakfasts were indulging and are included if booked through Protravel and there is both indoor and outdoor sitting. The swimming pool is on the 2nd floor rooftop overlooking the beach and sea and proved a great mid -afternoon hangout in between our morning and late afternoon or evening tourist excursions (especially if you are traveling with children). The hotel has a good gym with cardio and free weights in addition to a well-regarded Spa.The Hotel Arts has everything you would expect from a top luxury hotel with excellent service. At all the common areas of the hotel there was an abundance of staff helping with check in, bags, taxis and directions. We never felt we had to chase down information as it was always in front of us.
San Sebastian, Spain a great destination for walking, dining, surfing and shopping.I recently spent 4 nights at the end of August in San Sebastian. The town is tucked in the North West Corner of Spain roughly and hour south of the French border. The terrain is semi mountainous yet set against the ocean so both the topography and architecture were unique from much of other destinations in Spain. We originally decided to visit this city to experience the amazing dining that they are known for however we were taken away by the beauty of the landscape, the old world feel for the town and the great beaches.Dining options are endless and there are a host of Michelin rated restaurants with both local and fusion cuisines. Needless to say, if you are a "foodie" you probably know about San Sebastian. This is a must visit destination for anyone driven by cuisine and particularly if you have an adventurous palate. (Pigs feet, boars ear, sardine prepped 20 different ways, spider crab pies….it’s all there). They also have Pizza, burgers, sushi, pasta and more mainstream dishes beautifully prepared if you are not so adventurous. One of the best experiences we had was doing a walking food tour where you stop in various restaurant/bars for a small tasting portion called De Pintxos paired with a glass of wine. There are a number of tours and guides that help tune you in to the best offerings at each place. It’s a fun and interesting way to dine and I suggest you do it early in your trip as you may just dine that way each and every night.We sort of heard about surfing in San Sebastian before we arrived but it is a bigger component of the local vibe than we thought. There are dozens of surf schools (very affordable) with waves for all levels of surfers. My 10 year old son took three days of 90 minute private surf lessons (70 Euro for the session) and was catching waves and getting up within a half hour of his first lesson. The school generously allowed him to sign out a board and wet suit for free when he was not working with their instructors. The beaches are expansive but unlike most other destinations in Spain don’t really offer lounge chair and umbrella rental. But don’t let that deter you from a day at the beach.All in all San Sebastian exceeded my expectations and I highly recommend as a “go to” destination when considering Spain.