Getting to Iceland
One of the clenching factors for traveling to Iceland was the low cost that was associated with getting there and staying there. We knew that we couldn't budget too much for this trip. We did a little searching, and found that Iceland Air has a direct flight from Minneapolis (Humphrey Terminal) to Reykjavik that was $800. The flight was 6 hours, and went overnight. We mainly slept, read, or watched personal screens on the plane (they were installed in the seats). As I mentioned earlier, there were some chatty folks on the plane that didn't seem to know when others wanted to sleep. I still got a little shut-eye.
Before we went, I also a little time researching where we would stay. In the past, I've used sites like Venere to find housing, with some success. I think it worked best on our trip to Italy a few years ago. There wasn't much listed in Iceland, so I had to strike out on my own. I found the web site of the Icelandic Tourist Board, which had some helpful information.
I also looked at Gay Iceland, which turned out to be the most helpful site of any that I looked at. It had nice, short articles about Reykjavik and Iceland. Some stuff was gay-specific, but it also had helpful tips. It listed a small handful of hotels and guest houses. I went through to compare prices and stumbled upon the House of the Spirits Guest House. It was a fairly simple web site (set up through Geocities, so I expect it to change soon). However, I found that their prices were the lowest of any of the other places I looked. I learned later that this is a fairly simple operation. It's a side business for a processor of Icelandic language and literature and a student of architecture. Because of that, they do not have any on-line booking capability.
I emailed the proprietor, Gunnar Þorsteinn Halldórsson, about availability. He emailed back very quickly to tell me that there was a two-bedroom apartment available. He also quoted me a price in Icelandic Krona, Euros, and US Dollars. He then told me that the krona price is set, but the Euros and US Dollars were in flux because of the exchange rate. He said that the dollar quote he gave me could be lower but would never be higher than what he quoted. I googled the exchange rate, and the exchange price was really about $600 less than what he quoted.
We also saved money because Gunnar was also a licenced tour guide who could take us on excursions. He only charged one flat rate for a trip, for anywhere from one to seven people. Since we had four, it was a good deal for us to go with him, as opposed to the bigger tour buses. I also like getting a more personalized tour than what a tour bus can give.
Eventually, we decided to get three tours with Gunnar. The first was a 2-3 hour tour around Reykjavik. The second was an 8-hour trip around the Golden Circle. The third was a 10-hour trip to the south coast. I'll describe these all in more detail in later postings.
Finding these good prices really sealed the deal for us.
To see more of the House of the Spirits Guest House:
The exterior of our guest house:
The back courtyard was nice too:
We had two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen (where we ate some of our meals to help bring the cost down), and a "sitting area":
That is our host, Gunnar, standing in the middle of my family.