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Jacada Traveller Diary: Iceland Adventure

Ever wondered what to expect from one of our tours? Joe and Gail just returned from a trip to Iceland with Jacada Travel, followed by a side-trip to London. In their own words, this is their travel report.

Iceland
A black lava beach in Iceland. Image credit: Joe and Gail.

“First the background: we are in our early 60s, married for 40 years, self-employed and not the retiring type. We have always believed in living each moment life has to offer, be it joy or sorrow. In other words, life should be lived on purpose. In the past three years, we have visited Australia, gone on two river cruises (Rhine and Seine) and spent a week in Turks and Caicos. Generally speaking, we do not like crowds or being herded around. However, we must admit that travelling with a guide native to the region gives a much greater flavour for the history and culture. Altogether, these experiences prompted us to look for travel companies that specialised in tailored services.

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Joe and Gail in Iceland.

“Why Iceland? Northern lights. Why the UK? It is in the same time zone as Iceland, with only a 2.5 hours flight time – and London is a great city.

“We found Jacada Travel using Google. We read all the reviews, corresponded with them via e-mail, debated it and then decided to give them a go. Following is a summary of what we did and woven throughout is our review of Jacada and quality of the services we experienced.”

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Gullfoss. Image credit: Joe and Gail.

The Iceland leg

“The contact with George at Jacada began with e-mail and expanded to phone conversations as we got more comfortable with each other. The Jacada approach is more conversational than a canned likes/dislikes check list. Couple this with the fact that the people at Jacada have actually been to the locations they are offering, have actually gone on the excursions and stayed in the hotels and you get a trip planned around you, as opposed to getting plugged into an ‘off the shelf’ package. Truly the way to go.

“The online itinerary/payment portal is convenient and secure. Jacada was always ahead of the curve in detailing what would happen next. The printed travel documents were impressively packaged and complete in terms of contact info, hotel info and travel check lists.

The people at Jacada have actually been to the locations they are offering, have actually gone on the excursions and stayed in the hotels

Iceland
A super jeep. Image credit: Joe and Gail.

There were only three people in the jeep so there was conversation, exchange and debate

“We were met at the Reykjavik Airport by Einar, our super jeep tour guide. Over the next couple of days we toured Iceland’s Golden Circle. This included visits to waterfalls, glaciers, geysers and snowmobiling. Einar was very knowledgeable about Icelandic history, geology and culture. While informative and enjoyable, it was much more: there were only three people in the jeep so there was conversation, exchange and debate.

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A steaming geyser along the Golden Circle route. Image credit: Joe and Gail.

“We used Hotel Ranga as our base for the three days. There was a welcome card in the room from Jacada – nice touch. The location of Hotel Ranga was ideal for our excursions and northern lights viewing. The room was excellent and the food superb, as was the service.

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The view from Hotel Ranga. Image credit: Joe and Gail.

“Each night when Einar would leave us at the hotel, he would leave contact information and was in the lobby the next day ready to go. After we completed the super jeep portion of our tour we said our farewells to Einar and were handed off to Gunilla, our mountaineering guide.

“She drove us to a glacier where we geared up and hiked to an ice cave on the glacier. This was an absolute first for us in terms of gear, type of activity and level of challenge. This is where we came to understand the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills of our guides. Hard in terms of do they know what they are doing and where they are going. Soft in terms of judging their clients’ capabilities and knowing when and when not to push. All aimed at creating a safe and enjoyable experience. Well done!

This was an absolute first for us in terms of gear, type of activity and level of challenge. This is where we came to understand the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills of our guides…judging their clients’ capabilities and knowing when and when not to push

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Snowmobiles in the highlands. Image credit: Joe and Gail.

“During our drive the subject of the distinctive Icelandic sweaters came up. Gunilla told us of a village where they make the wool and grannies hand-knit the sweaters. Mine was extra unique because only a couple of the grannies do tall sweaters. Yes, the sweaters are a bit itchy and they shed, but they sure do look good and really keep you warm.

“We checked out of Hotel Ranga and moved to Hotel Alda in downtown Reykjavik. Gunilla took us on a tour of the city which included the harbor, concert hall and the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church. Lunch was at Café Loki across the street. The lamb soup is excellent. Yes, I tried the pickled shark. Not sure what to say, except that I was impressed that semi-edible food could also clear the sinuses – very efficient.

Iceland food
Lamb soup at Cafe Loki. Image credit: Joe and Gail.

“At check-in, we were given a cell phone with free data connection city-wide for calls and navigation. The room was very comfortable, had a nice view of the harbour and once again had a Jacada welcome card. The location of the Alda is great for just walking around downtown exploring.

“On one of our outings we discovered one of the famous Iceland hotdog stands. We had to try one – and we loved it!

“On our last day, Gunilla took us to the Blue Lagoon. Jacada selected the luxury package for us. This included exclusive changing room/showers, lounge and lagoon entry. All access was controlled by the electronic ID in the bracelet we were given at check-in – just waive your wrist and you are in. Our visit to Iceland wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the Blue Lagoon. It is a must – however, we strongly recommend the visit at the end of your Iceland adventure. It is on the way to the airport and you will be sooo relaxed on the plane home.

Yes, go for the northern lights, but keep your eyes open the whole time

Blue Lagoon, Iceland
The Blue Lagoon. Image credit: Joe and Gail.

“Notice that I haven’t mentioned the northern lights? Well we did see them and I could use every adjective I know to describe what we saw and still not do it justice. Fantastic. However, Iceland and its people are so much more. Yes, go for the northern lights, but keep your eyes open the whole time.”

London side-trip

Nash from Jacada somehow met us at the gate, fast-tracked us through customs and next thing we knew we were on our way to London in a very nice Jaguar. The rock star treatment!

“The London portion of our trip was self-arranged. We have been there many times and just wanted to wander around. We have used the tube from Heathrow to downtown in the past, but this time had Jacada arrange a car and driver.

“We were thinking we would be met at the baggage claim and head to the car. Oh no – Nash from Jacada somehow met us at the gate, fast-tracked us through customs and next thing we knew we were on our way to London in a very nice Jaguar. The rock star treatment!

In summary

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Icelandic coastal scenery. Image credit: Joe and Gail.

“To sum up, this trip was wonderful beginning to end. The sights we saw, the things we did, the people we met, the food we ate. Special thank you to Einar and Gunilla, our guides in Iceland. None of this would have been possible had it not been for George, Michele and the staff at Jacada Travel. They know what they are doing and they do it very well. You simply cannot go wrong in having Jacada design a custom travel experience for you. To anyone considering a trip to Iceland, I hope you do – you will not be disappointed.”

Inspired? Check out some example itineraries around Iceland or the United Kingdom to get an idea of what’s possible. Remember that we tailor-make every trip especially for you. Just let us know what you want to see and do – and we’ll make it happen. 

The Explorer Blog