0/5 stars, if possible.
TL;DR – Futuristic looking bus with 3rd world tour experience – squashed like sardines for 6 of 12 hours and I had to bend down in order to be able to look out the windows. Impression given that the company does not care about its passengers. Also, 1:19 guide to passenger ratio doesn’t get you the same small group experience that you would have with 6-10 passengers.
My wife and I booked a Snaefellsnes Peninsula and Kirkjufell Small Group tour with Arctic Adventures for our honeymoon, hoping for the same 5-star experience that everyone else seemed to have.
However, once we boarded the bus, things went south very quickly.
Arctic Adventures uses a futuristic looking bus with large dark tinted glass panels on the outside, and it looked to be an absolutely promising experience with them. There are 5 rows of 3 seats (in a 2-1 configuration) and the back row seats 4 people.
We were unfortunately one of the last few to be picked up, and we were relegated to the back of the bus. We got uncomfortable real quick. REAL quick. There were two main reasons for this – space and view.
SPACE – The seats were unbearably small, and it was extremely claustrophobic. And this is coming from a person who is 175cm tall and 67kg (I’m slim by any standards). Think the space you get in the cheapest budget airline you’ve taken, and then reduce the space some more. My knees were touching the chair in front of me all the time, and I had to overlap elbows with the other guy beside me just so that we could both be facing forward while seated. It was much too close for comfort. Even the aisle of the bus was so narrow that I could only manoeuvre through it if I tilted my body.
VIEW – The 4 back row seats were elevated, so much so that I couldn’t see out the window without bending over. When I booked a bus tour for 12 hours, I expected to be able to peer out the window to appreciate the scenery no matter where I’m located on the bus. However, what we got was seats that were so elevated to the extent that my eye level was above the highest part of the windows of the bus.
In other words, all I could see from my seat was grass – for 6 whole hours. You would have to slouch substantially in order to be able to see out the window, except that you couldn’t even slouch because your knees are already bumping into the chair in front of you. So, I had to bend over and turn my head 90 degrees to catch even a glimpse of what the guide was talking about. And even then, it was difficult because the bus was so packed that there was invariably always another passenger or his or her belongings blocking my sight. I wasn’t able to take any photographs from within the bus.
Look, Iceland is extremely scenic, no matter where you go. But when you spend 6 hours out of 12 hours of a tour staring at grass while the guide is talking about how amazing the scenery around and how lucky we are to have good weather and good visibility, it’s just incredibly frustrating. All this, while at the same time being squashed like sardines and having someone’s elbow in your ribs on a bumpy ride – this completely spoils the experience.
It was one of the day tours we were looking forward to the most before we came here, and it turned out to be the most disappointing tours we’ve taken – among all the tours that we’ve taken thus far. Our only take back from this tour was the back aches we got from the extremely uncomfortable seating.
This was my second time in Iceland, and I’ve been with several tour providers. I know there are some great ones out there, such as igtours or hidden Iceland, that would give you a much better small group tour experience at similar prices.
If any of you still intend to go ahead with Arctic Adventures after reading this, then good luck to you. With any luck, you might get a bus that is not completely filled; or you might be able to choose the front seats in the bus. Otherwise, this is no better than a point to point bus, and I don’t see a reason to pay a premium for a promised small group tour without that small group tour experience.
PS: Perhaps the only thin silver lining is that our guide gave a reasonably good commentary along the way.