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Where to Go, What to Do in Iceland

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

GETTING THERE: Icelandair flies nonstop to Keflavik airport from New York's JFK and Boston's Logan, with flights starting as low as $470, including taxes. Flight time is about five hours there, six hours back (800-223-5500, http://www.icelandair.us). Through Dec. 15, Icelandair also has a promotion for flight and two nights at a downtown Reykjavik hotel starting at $479 per person double. Take a train, bus or plane or drive to New York; to leave from Boston, AirTran has one-way flights from BWI starting at $69.50 (800-247-8726 or http://www.airtran.com). Flybus is the cheapest way to get from Keflavik to downtown Reykjavik (about $11 one way, $19 round trip; call 011-354-580-5400 or book on http://www.re.is/Flybus).

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WHERE TO STAY: Breakfast is free at the no-frills Metropolitan Hotel (Ranargotu 4a, 011-354-511-1155, http://www.metropolitan.is) in downtown Reykjavik. Nightly rates start at about $37, but I found a deal for three nights for $88 at http://www.skoosh.com, a hotel booking site. Guesthouse Sunna (Thorsgata 26, 011-354-511-5570, http://www.sunna.is) is across the street from Hallgrimskirkja and has a range of accommodations, from a single room with shared bath to two-bedroom apartments with kitchens, starting at about $41. A $2 bus or $10 cab ride from downtown, but near a swimming pool, zoo, botanical garden and sports complex, is Reykjavik City Hostel (Sundlaugarvegur 34, 011-354-553-8110, http://www.hostel.is/default.asp?cat_id=51), where a bed in a four- or six-person room costs about $17.50, a private double room is about $21 per person and breakfast costs about $6.50.

WHAT TO DO: Stop by the Tourist Information Centre (Adalstraeti 2, 011-354-590-1550, open weekdays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays till 4 p.m. and Sundays till 2 p.m.) to pick up brochures and maps, book excursions and buy a Reykjavik Welcome Card (24 hours is about $8.50, 48 hours is $12.15, 72 hours is $15.75), which admits you to city swimming pools and five museums and allows you to take bus and ferry rides.

Excursions in and outside Reykjavik are offered by a number of companies, the largest of which are Reykjavik Excursions (http://www.re.is) and Iceland Excursions (http://www.icelandexcursions.com). The Golden Circle Tour on Iceland Excursions is $89; the Relaxing Blue Lagoon trip with Reykjavik Excursions is about $32.

For an adrenaline-charged experience, dog-sledding, snowmobiling and glacier hiking are some of the adventure trips offered by Iceland's outfitters; try all of the above with HuskyTravel (http://www.husky-travel.is), which offers day-long and multi-day trips.

After midnight is when the runtur really starts. Experience this all-night party along Reykjavik's main drag (Austurstraeti/Bankastraeti/Laugavegur), stopping at posh Rex (Austurstraeti 9) and Cafe Oliver (Laugavegur 20), seeing a garage band at Bar 11 (Laugavegur 11) or bigger acts at NASA (Austurvollur) or just popping into any cafe or bar on the strip.

WHERE TO EAT: Exotic seafood and game meats shine at 3 Frakkar (Baldursgata 14, http://www.3frakkar.com), where the smoked puffin and whale sashimi appetizers are about $14 apiece, and $27 buys a whale or horse meat steak. Try the homemade pasta dishes at the lovely, subdued La Primavera (Austurstraeti 9, http://www.laprimavera.is); the tagliatelle with reindeer, herbs, dried figs and Parmesan ($26) was a knockout. Late-night noshers will appreciate Baejarins Beztu (Hafnarstraeti 17) for its hot dogs, which come with crunchy onions, mustard, ketchup and relish. I made several meals of bread, spreads and cold cuts from 10-11, a convenience store on Austurstraeti that's open 24-7 and has microwave ovens and a counter for dining at; gobbled a messy doner kebab at Kebab Husid (Laekjargata 2); and sampled hakarl (fermented shark) and pastries at Kolaportid Flea Market (Geirsgata, open weekends 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.).

MORE INFORMATION: Reykjavik Tourist Board (http://www.visitreykjavik.is) and Iceland Tourist Board (http://www.goiceland.org). Be sure to pick up a copy of the free monthly English-language newspaper, the Reykjavik Grapevine, for complete entertainment listings (http://www.grapevine.is).

-- C.T.


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