TRAVEL Q&A

Iceland: So Chill

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By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 4, 2005

Q. Friends and I are traveling to Iceland this month and are going to visit the Blue Lagoon, the Golden Circle and go horseback riding. Do you have any other semi-adventurous suggestions?

Mike Patterson, Alexandria

A. Whether it's due to the imposing geography or the Viking heritage, Icelanders play hard but land soft -- meaning, you can be active and outdoors without having to worry about breaking any bones. Plenty of Iceland's attractions have an edge to them, such as midnight golfing and geothermal swimming, which, according to the Icelandic Tourist Board, is the national sport. In addition, many of the activities are either in Reykjavik (for example, the city has nine geothermal pools) or within a one- or two-hour drive from the capital, so you can pack a lot into one day. And weather is never a deterrent: You can swim when it's snowing and snowmobile in fall.

Icelanders make the most of nature, with horseback riding, hiking, deep-sea fishing and swimming among the country's most popular distractions. All of the sports have different grades, though: Fearless paddlers can whitewater raft down the East River Canyon, which has Class III and IV rapids, or take it slow down the Blanda River (Class I and II). On land, you can catch some ocean spray at one of three blowholes near the village of Arnarstapi in North Iceland; trek Dyrfjoell Mountain and look for elves; or hike amid mud pools, lava castle sculptures, steam vents and craters around Lake Myvatn.

On a whale-watching tour from Husavik, it takes little effort to spot the minkes, humpbacks, blues and killer whales. Or hook your own salmon or trout in the East or West Ranga rivers; go before the seasons change and lake ice fishing takes over. Glacier tours or safaris travel by ATV, jeep, snowcat or snowmobile (for some, you're in the driver's seat)-- or buckle up the crampons and ice- climb the Vatnajokull, the largest ice chip in Europe. And even in autumn, you can go dog-sledding on a glacier or in the Highland area. And if you still have the energy, dance until dawn at any of the capital's ice-hot clubs.

For info on Reykjavik: Reykjavik Complete, http://www.visitreykjavik.is/ . For Iceland information and links to tours and activities: Icelandic Tourist Board/Scandinavian Tourist Board, 212-885-9700, http://www.goiceland.org/ .

Any suggestions on four or five good dance halls in Buenos Aires where I can see tango?

John De Fabbio, Silver Spring

Argentine tango was born in the slums and bordellos of Buenos Aires in the early 1800s, but it eventually climbed the ranks into high society. Today, tango is a national pastime enjoyed by all, and you can catch a show in venues ranging from dinner theaters to underground after-hours clubs.

Pablo Fontana, an Argentinean who teaches lessons in the D.C. area, recommends El Querandi, a restaurant with traditional and show tango; Santerno, "an area in the streets with lots of tango"; La Boca, which also has classes; and Senor Tango, a big-show spectacle. Post-show, many performers still itching to dance squeeze into La Estrella/La Viruta (it has two names, depending on the day), a late-night haunt. At some shows, audiences members are pulled onto the stage for a spin, or you can join fellow tangoers dancing in the street. For safety, don't dress like a tourist, warns Fontana, and take off the expensive jewelry. Jeans and a T-shirt will do fine.

For clubs and shows, pick up a copy of BA Tango ( http://www.todotango.com/ ), a magazine available at most hotels.

Postscript

Andi Arndt of Harrisonburg, Va., has some ideas on traveling to China with children (Travel Q&A, Aug. 21). The mother of two suggests "heritage homeland tours," which she promotes for Lotus Tours ( http://www.lotustours.net/ ), a Washington state travel agency that specializes in Asia and adoption travel. Arndt says the family tours, which were created for adoptive families returning to China with older children, offer itineraries with youngsters in mind. "Kids can learn to make dumplings, learn Chinese painting, ride a bike on an old city wall, fly kites in Tiananmen Square, that sort of thing," she writes in an e-mail. "There's also down time in the afternoons for napping so people don't get cranky."

For customized travel, Eileen Harris of Winchester recommends China Highlights (800-268-2918, http://www.chinahighlights.com/ ), based in Guilin, China. "They are not inexpensive; however, their services are well worth the extra money for a private driver and guide," she says in an e-mail, adding, "I do recommend Xi'an for a 12-year-old but for only one day. The terra-cotta soldiers are fascinating for all ages. Xi'an is an industrial city with little else to hold a vacationer's interest."

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com), fax (202-912-3609) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and home town.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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