August 15, 2003 -- As fall fares unwind before us, it's always a good idea to keep an eye on Icelandair. As we reported in a column on August 8, they combine very low fares, excellent service, and an option to stop over in unique and beautiful Reykjavik.
Their latest sale lets Midwesterners hit the great capitals of Europe (and Reykjavik). If you buy at www.icelandair.com by August 19 and intend to fly between August 31 and September 15, flights from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris or London are $448 plus tax; flights to Oslo, Stockholm or Compenhagen are $498 plus tax. These are great rates for late-summer trips, although of course you can get lower prices if you wait until later in the fall -- especially if you're willing to fly after Nov. 1.
Icelandair's fares from their other US gateways are also quite low. Travel from Baltimore to Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris and London is $398 + tax. Baltimore to Oslo, Stockholm or Copenhagen is $448 + tax, and flights from Boston and New York to Oslo, Stockholm or Copenhagen are $498 + tax.
We found Icelandair's New York prices matched by British Airways on Orbitz (www.orbitz.com), their Boston-Stockholm fare matched by United, and their Minneapolis-London fare matched by US Airways, but many of their other fares (such as Boston-Copenhagen and Minneapolis-Amsterdam) were the lowest for dates we checked. As with all airfare sales, check Icelandair's sale fares against the big travel agents' fares before booking.
Why do we keep plugging Reykjavik? Our Hanging Out in Reykjavik guide (www.frommers.com/hangingout/reykjavik) gives some hints, but makes it sound like the entire city is for under-30s (which is the focus of our Hanging Out series.)
But Reykjavik is an amazing place for slightly older travelers, as well. A two- or three-day jaunt in Reykjavik allows time for the "golden circle" tour to geysers, waterfalls and the continental rift between Europe and America. It gives you time to dip into the Blue Lagoon's eerie, misty waters (and come out with a Scandinavian rosy glow). You can shop at the many goldsmiths along Reykjavik's main street, or see how the Icelanders relax at an outdoor public pool. A trip to Hafnarfjordur, in Reykjavik's suburbs, offers the possibility of riding on tiny Icelandic horses, partaking in a Viking feast, or hunting for elves in a town said to be rife with them.
The reliable tour company Reykjavik Excursions (www.re.is/tripsList.asp?cid=1) offers an excellent list of options.
As for places to stay, avoid the airline's hotel suggestions, which are mostly on the drab edge of town. Frommer's recommends the reasonably priced Hotel Liefur Eiriksson (www.frommers.com/hangingout/reykjavik/6005024687.html). Relatively charmless but reasonably priced, the Fosshotel Baron (www.fosshotel.is/fosshotel-english.htm) is also a decent option. But nothing in Iceland compares to the Hotel Borg (www.hotelborg.is), a fabulous art Deco gem where Bjork stays when she's in town (rooms start at $200.)