A number of you have helped me plan a trip to Portugal and Barcelona.  I've decided to go on this trip next May when I'll have a few more days of vacation.

 

Checking out different airline websites, I came across Icelandair, which flies from my home airport, Seattle, to Keflavik (Iceland), then on to Barcelona.  The interesting thing is that you can lay over for up to 1 week in Iceland at no extra fee.  And their seat prices are good.

 

So I'm considering taking almost 3 weeks (which I'll have in my vacation bank by then), flying Seattle to Iceland, taking 3-4 days there, then continuing to Barcelona.  I'll spend a few days in Spain before heading to Portugal (by train?  by plane?  help).  I can visit Portugal for almost 2 weeks before heading back to Barcelona and then back to my home in Seattle.  Unfortunately Icelandair doesn't fly to Lisbon, just Barcelona and Madrid.

 

I have 3 questions which I hope you can help me with.

 

1) I like the idea of visiting Iceland.  I've never been there before but have heard it's really beautiful.  If the airfare doesn't cost anything extra, does it make sense for a single traveler to spend a half week here?  Is there enough interesting stuff to see?  How would I get around (I don't want to drive)

 

2) what's the best way to get from Barcelona to and from Portugal (Lisbon?).  Price is somewhat of an option, but my time matters too.

 

3) Should I consider starting in Barcelona and ending in Madrid?  This kind of appeals to me.  Would 2 days in each of these cities be enough to give me a feel for the place?

 

Thanks again for any advice you can give.

Last edited by TravelandNature
Original Post

A lot of questions! Let me try a few answers...

 

Absolutely I'd say stop in Iceland. Every place in the world is unique, but Iceland is more so, geographically, in climate, and in history. Half a week (or even a week) won't do more than scratch the surface, but you'll be able to visit incredible waterfalls, climb on glaciers, see evidence of recent volcanic activity, and realize that under it all is a huge pool of thermally heated water that provides over 70% of the nation's energy.

 

If that weren't unique enough, Iceland was almost complete isolated for over a thousand years, starting with a Scandinavian culture that then developed isolated from the rest; the differences are as fascinating as the similarities. In Rekyjavik, where most of the population lives, there are several great museums illustrating this history...including an excavated 1000-year-old long hall just under new downtown buildings. The isolation has also left Iceland with unique breeds of horses and sheep.

 

With a half week, you'd probably do well to take advantage of some of the bus tours offered by several operators; they pick you up at your hotel, and return you at the end of the trip. Don't know your age...but Reykjavik seems to be a town for the youngish party crowd, especially on weekends. Us older folk skipped that, but found quite a few good and interesting restaurants.

 

There are plenty of hotels in Reykjavik at different price ranges (including a new one just opened near the bus station that combines a luxury hotel with an almost hostel-like one in the same building). We were able to rent an apartment right on Laugavegur, a main shopping street, for less than most hotel rooms.

 

I'm kind of running on here, so write back if you want specific tours, or restaurants or apartment details!

Well, I said so much about Iceland, I decided to leave the rest for another post.

 

Getting from Barcelona (or Madrid) to Lisbon: the only practical way is to fly. Train takes too long for this one, and costs more! From Barcelona to Lisbon, flights on Vueling, Iberia, TAP, etc. run from $35 one-way to about $80 before you hit the high-priced ones. I just looked in May; Vueling and Iberia have $68 in the morning and $35 at 7:30 pm. Madrid-Lisbon, there's a $40 mid-day flight, but most other flights are much higher. 

 

If you're planning to go to Porto as well as Lisbon, the trains between them are good, and fares between Porto and Barcelona or Madrid are comparable to the Lisbon prices. One trick to make the Porto trip cheaper: Take a Lisbon regional train to Coimbra (the university town) and change there for a Porto regional train the rest of the way. You'll save about 40%, lose little if any time, and end your trip in Porto's downtown station, instead of the suburban one used by the high-speed trains.

 

Honestly, if I had only 4 days for Barcelona and Madrid, I'd spend them all in one or the other (Barcelona would be my choice,  but some would choose Madrid because of the Prado and Reina Sophia and Bornemisa-Thyssen museums). If you do decide to split, the way that will cost you the least of your time would be the high-speed AVE train, taken after a whole day visiting; on arrival, check in to your hotel and go to dinner (it's really true that many restaurants don't even open until 8 pm)

PHeymont has given you some excellent advice, Travel Luver.  By all means, spend some time in Iceland.  If you can fit it into your trip, 4 days would be my minimum stay here.

 

As Paul pointed out so well, Iceland is unique.  It is also very sparsely populated, with only 300,000 people on the island and two thirds of those living in Reykjavik.  And it is a newly form volcanic land with tons of glaciers, waterfalls, and geothermal events.  So by all means, see it.

 

When you land at Keflavik airport (it will be bright and early after your red eye flight), take the Flybus airport shuttle into the city.  Here's theirlink   On a tight budget, I'd look at spending some time in one of the city's many nice hostels.  You'll save some cash and get to meet young travelers from all over Europe.  I'd probably recommend 2 days in and around Reykjavik, as well as two day trip bus excursions, one to the Golden Circle and one to South Iceland.  Reykjavik excursions, the company that runs the Flybus, has several good quality tours.  Here's that link.  PHeymont may know of others as well.

 

Also we have several blog posts on this website that can give you more information about Iceland, including ones on Reykjavik, theGolden Circle and South Iceland.

 

I like Paul's suggestion of focusing your time in Spain on Barcelona as well.  Bon voyage!

Hey, I don't know if anyone mentioned it, but no matter how cold it is, they keep the outdoor pools open in Iceland with underground hot water. We went to the Blue Lagoon in February, and it was funny...usually people get OUT of a pool because they are getting cold, but there we stayed IN to keep warm!

Hot springs are to die for.   You always see pictures of the Blue Lagoon.  Are there other places to go for a warm swim in Iceland ?

Originally Posted by voyager:

Hot springs are to die for.   You always see pictures of the Blue Lagoon.  Are there other places to go for a warm swim in Iceland ?

There are lots of places to go for geothermal swims in Iceland, Voyager.  Almost every small city and town has a public geothermal pool.  The most famous is the Blue Lagoon, but it's also quite pricy, especially if you go for a family.

 

This website gives you some idea of all the pools you can access in Iceland. Here's that  link.

I never knew that there are public geothermal pools all over Iceland.   No one has mentioned this before.  This is terrific to know.  thanks

Well, thanks everyone.  You've been great and this has all been very helpful.

 

So yes, I will go to Iceland for 4 days.  I will base myself at a hostel in Reykjavik (all I can afford), and I'll do 2 day trip tours, still researching which ones but those recommended look great.  And I love hot springs, so I plan to soak the evenings away after enjoying the "youth scene" over there.   I need to check out a good Icelandic beer.  Any recommendations.

 

And I will visit Iceland at the of my trip, rather than at the beginning, to take advantage of that extra sunlight!

 

I'm pumped about this!!

You're most welcome, Travel Luver!

 

Give the VIKING beer a try -- it's pretty good.  And made with that great Icelandic water that has a unique taste (and pleasant at that).  Also be sure to try their Coca Cola, made with Icelandic water and sugar (not corn syrup as in North America) -- definitely a better product.

Speaking of good things to eat, stop in a local store for some skyr--that's Icelandic yogurt made from skimmed milk. Slightly tart and wholly delicious.

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