WHERE'S JOHNNY JET ?                                                       Iceland (part 2)

HOUSE KEEPING: Remember when you click on the pictures in "Where's Johnny Jet," they will open up in another window. Just click the "x"(close) in each picture to get back to the newsletter. This should alleviate complaints about closing Johnny Jet. Thanks again for your support, and remember: If you book trips on the web, please go through JohnnyJet.com. (It will save you money).




Greetings! Last week we left off after just arriving in Iceland for a 6-day tour of the country. It’s time now to continue that great adventure.

Because the sky never gets completely dark this time of year, and I like my nights to be pitch black, I have to sleep with an eye mask. I woke up on Day 2 disoriented, with no idea where I was. When I realized I was in Iceland, I smiled. Just the name "Iceland" sounds cool enough, but being there was 100 times better.

After breakfast, it was time to pack up and hit the road. I really didn’t want to check out of Hotel Nordica, because it was so plush. Nor did I want to leave Reykjavik, because I had been invited by some new friends I met in the hot tub the previous night to attend the Miss Iceland contest that evening.

But I couldn’t leave my group. It was just as well, though – well, that’s what I keep telling myself -- because I got to see what Iceland is all about. Still, it was tough leaving Reykjavik, which believe it or not is one of Europe’s best Friday and Saturday night party scenes. (The other nights are more mellow.)

We drove from Reykjavik to Flúðir along Route 1 (the Ringroad). It normally takes an hour, but we took our time, stopping to see the topography and scenic points. The landscape changed drastically as we drove over the mountain, going from areas with no signs of life -- only lava –- to lush green valleys along the Atlantic Ocean. In the valley we stopped at a store called The Garden of Eden. Hveragerdi is a little community in the middle of nowhere. The Garden of Eden is appropriately named, because there is a large greenhouse with every kind of plant and tree – even banana trees. The building was nice and warm (and humid), and for a second I thought I was in the South Pacific. The Garden of Eden sold everything from hand-knit wool sweaters to an enormous selection of post cards. The Garden of Eden, Austurmork 25, 810 Hveragerdi, Iceland; tel.: 354-483-4900;

HOTEL Flúðir
When we arrived at the 3-star hotel Flúðir in a quiet farming town, the wind was blowing and the air was freezing. The hotel is run by a couple named Margrét Runólfsdóttir (Magga) and Guðmundur Sigurhansson (Gummi). Their 32- room one-floor lodge boasts shiny new wood floors and ceiling beams, which makes the hotel feel nice and cozy. The small but clean rooms come with a comfortable bed, TV and telephone. The restaurant offers not only fantastic views of the countryside, but a top-rated chef, formerly of Reykjavik. He served us a fine breakfast and lunch. Room rates range from 10,200 ISK ($155 USD) to 16,200 ISK ($250 USD). Hotel Flúðir, Vesturbrún 1 845 Fludir; tel.: 354-486-6630.

After lunch Kristjan and Arnar, who work for the tour company Iceland Rovers, picked up in two Super Jeeps. Each fits seven passengers comfortably, and is capable of all kinds of off-road adventures. When they told us we would tour for nine hours, I thought that was way too long. But the time flew by, because there was so much to see and because Kristjan and Arnar were so cool and interesting. They not only knew the area really well, but the history too. Iceland Rovers offers many types of tours. They range from 5 to 12 hours, and cost from 15,500 ISK ($235USD) to 21,900 ($330). Iceland Rovers; tel.: 354- 567-1720.

Our first stop on the Golden Triangle Tour was one of Iceland's most famous waterfalls; Gullfoss. From a faraway lookout point Gullfoss is something, but those willing to walk down a path, battling the cold wind and spray to reach the 500-foot-high ridge are rewarded by feeling the impressive power behind these thundering falls. When our fingers went numb we jumped back in the Jeep, and drove 20 minutes to the Great Geysir. Believe it or not, this "Geysir" is the namesake of all geysers. "Geysir" is a Danish word, meaning means "gusher" or "spouter." Great Geysir used to shoot 80 yards in the air, but tourists or locals throwing rocks in its hole, so now the great geyser is dormant. However, a few yards away the geyser Strokkur goes off every seven minutes or so, awing visitors. A few hundred feet away is the Geysir café/souvenir shop, where tourists get warm while trying one of Iceland’s many candy or ice cream bars. (Sirius is the local chocolate.)

To give you a better feel for these attractions and our day I made a quick video that will take those with high speed about 1 minute to download. Those with dial up will take about 2 weeks.

After Geysir we took a long, desolate road for 30 minutes. We passed just a few cars, until we reached the River Oxara in Thingvellir. That’s where Althing (the Icelandic Parliament) gathered for the first time in 930 A.D. That makes Iceland’s parliament the oldest in the world. Legislators met there every late June or early July for two weeks, until 1798.

Nearby is a monster rock wall called Almannagja, a fissure of the Mid-Atlantic ridge. This is one of the places I mentioned last week, where the earth is pulling apart. A few feet from the wall, we were fortunate to witness a pagan wedding. Our native Icelandic guides said they had never seen one before. That’s how rare it is – not to mention illegal.

Dinner was in Stokkseyri, a quaint fishing village on Iceland's South Beach. Before walking into the restaurant Kristjan broke out a jar filled with bite-size pieces of hakarl (decomposed mouldy shark). This is one of Iceland’s most famous delicacy, and goes back centuries. Back then, food options were limited. Icelanders had no means of preserving food except salting, smoking, soaking in mysa (whey), or going with nature and allowing it to rot for six months -- long enough for the decomposition process to end. How nasty is that?

When they took the lid off the jar it had the foulest smell ever. I almost yacked just taking a whiff. Not surprisingly, most of our group did not like this treat (though one person had seconds). To wash it down our hosts brought out another local tradition: Icelandic Schnapps. It’s called brennivin, which translates to Black Death. That refers to the mid-14th century black plague, which killed between half and two-thirds of Iceland’s population. Maybe it’s named for the Black Plague because it’s 35% alcohol.

I didn’t like the hakarl, but I did love the seafood restaurant that served steamed lobster tails (crawfish) by the bucket, with potatoes. I’m not usually a seafood fan, but they looked and smelled so good – smothered in garlic and butter – that I had to at least taste them. They were so great (and didn’t leave a fishy taste) that I had seconds. I even finished my bowl of lobster bisque, and of course I polished off the incredibly rich snicker pie. Diners come here from Reykjavik; it’s well worth the easy 45-minute drive. Fjorubordid; tel.: 354-483-1550.

The next day we drove back to Reykjavik (in snow showers). We visited Perlan (The Pearl), a funky glass dome building that sits atop a hill overlooking Reykjavik and the domestic airport. Inside we took a tour of the Saga Museum by curator Ernst Backmann. (Most people get a guided tour on CD, included in the entrance fee). This place intimately recreates key moments in Icelandic history, and with its lifelike replicas blows Madame Tussaud’s away (some even move ever so slightly). Everything from the weapons and clothing to everyday objects was constructed using traditional methods, passed down through the ages. The molds, made by Ernst himself, are modeled on his relatives and friends. The mood is set by soft, spooky background music and dim lights. It would be a perfect place for a Halloween party, or to learn about the Vikings (or "Wikings, Icelanders pronounce it). Saga Museum; tel.: 354-511-1517.

Upstairs at the Perlan, a revolving restaurant is open only for dinner, or in the afternoon for special occasions. Stefan Sigurdsson, the master chef and general manager, made us prosciutto, salmon, and lamb. Everyone enjoyed the meal, as we slowly turned to see the spectacular views of Reykjavik. The Pearl; tel.: 354- 562-0200.

I almost didn’t go on this trip because I found out we would fly in a small plane to Akureyri, in northern Iceland. I was worried about the trip until I met Yvonne at check-in. Just kidding -- my fear went away when I saw the planes were not small after all. They were 50-seat Air Iceland Fokker 50s. We departed from Reykjavik airport (airport code: RKV), the domestic airport very close to the Pearl restaurant. Although it was quite windy, which always freaks me out, the 45-minute ride was smooth and enjoyable. I even made a video, so you could go along for the ride. Air Iceland; tel.: 354-570-3030.

Though Akureyri is the capitol of the north, it is a town of only 15,000. Still, that makes it Iceland’s second largest city. It sits on the Eyjafjordur fjord, the longest in Iceland (we saw a huge iceberg that floated over from Greenland in it). Akureyri was 10 degrees cooler then Reykjavik. The average temperature in July is 11.2ºC (52 F); in January it’s -1.3ºC (29F). We saw a lot of snow flurries, which everyone said was unusual; it was unseasonably cold. People come to north Iceland because it is arguably the most beautiful part of the entire country (I think so too). It’s also the jumping-off point for the Arctic Circle (the island of Grimsey is 24 miles away). This is also the best place to see the winter Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).

We stayed at the Country Hotel in Sveinbjarnargerdi. This place is out in the middle of nowhere (okay, it’s near the fjord and across from the city of Akureyri). The reception area has a nice farmhouse feel, but the rooms were not nice at all. The bathrooms stunk, and the twin beds rolled several inches whenever I turned on my side. The plusses are great, though: awesome views, wireless in the lobby, and a hot tub! Country Hotel Sveinbjarnargerdil; tel.: 354-862-4502.

For dinner we drove 20 minutes into downtown Akureyri. FRIDRIK V brasserie, one of Akureyri’s best restaurants, specializes in fresh Icelandic fish, greens and meat, cooked modern European style. The food was really good, and the service was excellent. I continued to expand my palate when we were first served goose soup in an espresso cup. I drank it only because the chef was so enthusiastic (and standing right behind me). But I’m glad I did, because it was delicious. I only wish he hadn’t told me what it was. Our main entrée was seafood and a tasty chicken dish. For dessert we had panna cotta, brown cheese and more Black Death. After shots of that we hit the town, until the wee hours. FRIDRIK V, Strandgata 7, IS-600 Akureyri; tel.: 354-461-5775.

Next week we finish our trip to Iceland. Of course, we’ve saved the best for last.

Happy Travels,

Johnny Jet

*Please tell us what you think of this week's newsletter!

Pictures From

The Trip


Miss Iceland Contest


Our Van



Scenic Points


My Room


Super Jeep Tour






Geyser Strokkur



Pagan Wedding



Black Death






Saga Museum


The Pearl Restaurant




Air Iceland


Viking Bar


Country Hotel

AIRLINE TICKETS: Orbitz Expedia TravelocitySideStep Hotwire Priceline Delta Air Lines
HOTELS (UP TO 70% OFF): Hotels.com1800USAHotel Lodging.comSideStep Priceline Hotwire
CAR RENTALS: Auto Europe Enterprise HertzSideStep Hotwire Priceline
CRUISES: Cruise Deals Cruise 411Cruise WizardCruise Direct
  • WTMY AM Radio - Tampa
  • Frommers

  • *If you heard about us somewhere else or have the link to the story please email Johnny Jet media and let us know where!
  • Welcome back from Iceland . . . wow, what a trip. Thoroughly enjoyed your write-up, and thanks for the education. I had no idea that the place was only 1.5% forest, that really surprised me. I recall hearing that Greenland is ice, and Iceland is green, but with so few trees, one has to wonder. Also, I found fascinating that Iceland is viewed as the most genetically pure country (have yet to read the scientific link, but I will). So, all in all, thanks. Steve - Maryland
  • Very timely article about your trip to Iceland. I started getting Icelandic Air e-mails recently as I have always been fascinated by the country, its people and culture. As I live in the bay area during the week, I didn't know flights now originate from SFO. It would be great fun to travel to Iceland and on to Europe. Thanks for taking me there with you. Geof O'Connor - Bay Area
  • I visited Iceland 4 years ago and just LOVED it. Reading this weeks column brought back so many nice memories for me. We would love to spend a New Year's Eve in Reykjavik, however, Iceland Air doesn't fly from NY (JFK) in the winter months and flying first to Boston, makes it tough for a long weekend (especially if there are weather related delays). I'm looking forward to next week's column with more of Iceland. I love all your columns and look forward to reading them weekly. Oh and yes, I have bought tickets from some of your links. Thanks again, Candice in NYC
  • Love watching Johnny when he's with Bob Sirott - he is so enthusiastic and shares so much information. Wish he had an office in Chicago - I'd love to work for him. All the best. Gloria V - Chicago, Illinois
  • I love reading about your travels and being a Travel Agent, I appreciate your reviews and tips on the place you visit. However you really need to expand your eating choices. It's bad enough that you don't eat fish, but no lamb, eggplant, mushrooms, veal, etc. You don't know what you're missing. I'm so jealous that you get to eat at all these wonderful places and you're not taking advantage of all the fabulous meals you're offered. Try a few things, you'll never know what you might end up liking (like the mushroom soup!) Susan Bonesso, Holtsville, NY. REPLY: I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU. I do try almost everything and I take lot's of pictures so I can show what it looks like since I can't describe it!
  • VERY COOL report about Iceland! Love the pictures of the beautiful Icelandic Babes. Scott - Anchorage, AK
  • For a moment I thought I was looking at Wyoming. Thanks again for a great description of your Icelandic trek. You always describe various aspects of your trip that makes great reading for everyone. Pete - Irvine, CA
  • I can’t believe you booked the last flight to SFO – I hate flying to SFO. Kristen M - Beverly Hills
  • I stand in awe of your reportage! Good, good job. Janos G. - San Francisco
  • I was just saying how I would look forward to getting to Iceland someday. Bob - Pittsburgh

  • *** Buy Your Johnny Jet T-Shirts/Hats

    *Please note that we reserve the right to post excerpts, perhaps edited, from your message on the Johnny Jet website and newsletter. We will not use your full name without your express permission. If you'd rather not have your message posted on the website or newsletter, just say so and it won't be.
468x60 Mexico
  • nhc.noaa.gov

  • Because June 1st was the official start of the Northern Hemisphere hurricane season (it runs through November 30), we make the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) Hurricane Center our Website of the Week. This year, the crack forecasters have predicted above-average tropical storm activity in the Caribbean. They predict12-15 tropical storms, with 7-9 becoming hurricanes (3 to 5 could become major hurricanes). Don't worry yet, though; the most active time is late August through October.

  • MediaKitty.com

  • Because many Johnny Jet readers are travel writers or work in the travel industry, we want to make sure you know about mediakitty.com. Their network is now the most active online community for qualified travel journalists and tourism professionals worldwide. It's free for qualified journalists, and offers a number of subscription options. Check it out!
Travel bargains abound in the Dominican Republic
Many travelers believe that indulgence comes with a high price tag. A relaxing beach vacation spent lounging on a chaise, pina colada in hand, gazing out at the turquoise Caribbean waters must be prohibitively expensive. Wrong. You can find all this at reasonable prices if you choose the Dominican Republic as your island destination. Click Here To Read Article

This Newsletter is sent by permission only. If you wish to subscribe, unsubscribe or change your subscription at any time, please login HERE. If you have any questions or suggestions please send message addressed to Johnny@JohnnyJet.com

Join Our Mailing List
Johnny Jet

Dan Woog