Harpa + other Iceland highlights

By June Evans Goldberg
This item appears on page 15 of the April 2017 issue.
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We made it to Iceland and back! The trip my husband, Ted, and I took was a 5-day package called “Hot Springs & Northern Lights,” which we booked with Icelandair (www.icelandair.us) for Nov. 13-17, 2016. It was a spur-of-the-moment inspiration after reading Randy Keck’s series on Iceland in the October through December 2016 issues.

For the two of us, the price, including three hotel nights and a nighttime tour, was $1,931 round trip out of New York. Round-trip airport/hotel transport cost another $78.

Due to technical problems, a visit to see the northern lights was canceled the night we were booked to go. We were reimbursed for the cost. We did see two splendid films on the northern lights downtown the next day in the Northern Lights Center — gorgeous, and the museum is worth a visit, but it’s not the same as seeing them in person.

The price of the trip varied with the hotel. We chose the Radisson Blu Saga (Hagatorg, 107 Reykjavik; www.radissonblu.com/en/sagahotel-reykjavik) and were very well satisfied. A buffet breakfast was included. They also had an excellent ground-floor restaurant for lunch and dinner.

We also dined at an excellent and friendly restaurant called Grillmarkaðurinn, or The Grillmarket (2a, Lækjargata, 101 Reykjavík; phone +354 571 7777, www.grill markadurinn.is/en), where we paid $126 for two. Food is expensive in Iceland, but the lamb and the fish at this place were special.

We had a great time in the Blue Lagoon, the warm-springs complex outside of Reykjavik. It’s an experience not to be missed. This was combined with the Golden Circle Half Day Tour to a national park, a waterfall and a geyser. Our guide was terrific.

The combined tour was called the “Reykjavik Super Saver,” which we’d signed up for on our own for $317 for both of us. 

Another tour we had signed up for was the “Small-Group Northern Lights Tour from Reykjavik by Super Jeep.” We didn’t find the lights, but we appreciated the valiant efforts of the driver-guide of the 10-passenger Jeep to find them. This tour cost $313 for two.

Both of these additional tours were booked through Viator (San Francisco, CA; 866/648-5873, www.viator.com).

We also squeezed in a private tour of Reykjavik’s charming downtown by taxi before we left.

Most memorable for us, however, was a visit to the Harpa concert hall (Austurbakki 2, Reykjavik; for tickets, phone +354 528 5050, en.harpa.is). We purchased our $17 tickets for the Harpa tour by calling the box office directly.

The architecture of the Harpa is stunning, and the inside is equally flawless. We had an excellent guide, an Icelandic opera singer named Elsa Waage. We were the only ones on the tour that day and she showed us through the entire building, explaining the advanced mechanisms that give both the large and small halls excellent acoustics.

Normally, no one on a tour is allowed to enter the main hall, a perfect gem that seats 1,600. I begged to see it and told her about having been a docent at Carnegie Hall for 27½ years and a classical ballet dancer with New York’s Metropolitan Opera House and other ballet companies. I persuaded her to let us take a quick peek, if it was empty.

We were lucky in that the auditions held during the day had finished, and she gave us a 30-minute explanation of the cutting-edge turntables and the walls that move plus things that don’t exist in older venues.

She then took us outside the hall, leaned against one of the exquisite, diamond-shaped inner windows and sang us a beautiful lullaby. She was extraordinary, and the impromptu concert was the highlight of our trip!

JUNE EVANS GOLDBERG

New York, NY

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

We made it to Iceland and back! The trip my husband, Ted, and I took was a 5-day package called “Hot Springs & Northern Lights,” which we booked with Icelandair (www.icelandair.us) for Nov. 13-17, 2016. It was a spur-of-the-moment inspiration after reading Randy Keck’s series on Iceland in the October through December 2016 issues.

For the two of us, the price, including three hotel nights and a nighttime tour, was $1,931 round trip out of New York. Round-trip airport/hotel transport cost another $78.

Due to technical problems, a visit to see the northern lights was canceled the night we were booked to go. We were reimbursed for the cost. We did see two splendid films on the northern lights downtown the next day in the Northern Lights Center — gorgeous, and the museum is worth a visit, but it’s not the same as seeing them in person.

The price of the trip varied with the hotel. We chose the Radisson Blu Saga (Hagatorg, 107 Reykjavik; www.radissonblu.com/en/sagahotel-reykjavik) and were very well satisfied. A buffet breakfast was included. They also had an excellent ground-floor restaurant for lunch and dinner.

We also dined at an excellent and friendly restaurant called Grillmarkaðurinn, or The Grillmarket (2a, Lækjargata, 101 Reykjavík; phone +354 571 7777, www.grill markadurinn.is/en), where we paid $126 for two. Food is expensive in Iceland, but the lamb and the fish at this place were special.

We had a great time in the Blue Lagoon, the warm-springs complex outside of Reykjavik. It’s an experience not to be missed. This was combined with the Golden Circle Half Day Tour to a national park, a waterfall and a geyser. Our guide was terrific.

The combined tour was called the “Reykjavik Super Saver,” which we’d signed up for on our own for $317 for both of us. 

Another tour we had signed up for was the “Small-Group Northern Lights Tour from Reykjavik by Super Jeep.” We didn’t find the lights, but we appreciated the valiant efforts of the driver-guide of the 10-passenger Jeep to find them. This tour cost $313 for two.

Both of these additional tours were booked through Viator (San Francisco, CA; 866/648-5873, www.viator.com).

We also squeezed in a private tour of Reykjavik’s charming downtown by taxi before we left.

Most memorable for us, however, was a visit to the Harpa concert hall (Austurbakki 2, Reykjavik; for tickets, phone +354 528 5050, en.harpa.is). We purchased our $17 tickets for the Harpa tour by calling the box office directly.

The architecture of the Harpa is stunning, and the inside is equally flawless. We had an excellent guide, an Icelandic opera singer named Elsa Waage. We were the only ones on the tour that day and she showed us through the entire building, explaining the advanced mechanisms that give both the large and small halls excellent acoustics.

Normally, no one on a tour is allowed to enter the main hall, a perfect gem that seats 1,600. I begged to see it and told her about having been a docent at Carnegie Hall for 27½ years and a classical ballet dancer with New York’s Metropolitan Opera House and other ballet companies. I persuaded her to let us take a quick peek, if it was empty.

We were lucky in that the auditions held during the day had finished, and she gave us a 30-minute explanation of the cutting-edge turntables and the walls that move plus things that don’t exist in older venues.

She then took us outside the hall, leaned against one of the exquisite, diamond-shaped inner windows and sang us a beautiful lullaby. She was extraordinary, and the impromptu concert was the highlight of our trip!

JUNE EVANS GOLDBERG

New York, NY