Sara Thopson - Dec 7, 2009
How can you travel all the way to Iceland and still feel right at home? Reykjavik is a unique city—conveniently compact while feeling roomy and spacious with lots of social public spaces. Known for its nightlife year-round—whether glittering under the Northern Lights in winter or celebrating under the midnight sun in summer—this vibrant little capital will welcome you with open arms, and renting an apartment in the heart of the city will make sure you are close to the action while still feeling comfortably at home.Many of Reykjavik"s local residents are offering their downtown apartments to tourists, offering fresh linen and towels and use of a full kitchen stocked with pots and pans, plates and forks, sometimes even salt and pepper. From small studios for one guest to 3- or 4-bedroom houses with gardens and barbecue facilities, the scope of accommodation in apartments is much wider than what hotels offer. But just like hotels, all these privately owned apartments are bookable online, so that travelers can pay with a credit card from the security of their own home or office and show up in Reykjavik with a confirmed reservation and someone greeting them at the door with the keys.The Icelanders exhibit an islander hospitality usually found in more tropical destinations, and rather than just hand over the keys to guests, many apartment owners will offer to pick up guests from the airport or bus station or leave the fridge stocked with fresh milk and juice or grant full access to their computer, printer, internet phone or video game system. This makes a trip to Iceland both completely exotic and oddly comforting. So after a long day of whale watching or basking in a thermal pool or even battling the North Atlantic winds while shopping downtown, travelers can come back to the comforts of home and rest their tired feet in someone else"s comfortable sofa. Iceland"s recent financial crisis has made it very suddenly affordable for many tourists who may have been crossing it off the destination list for years. And it"s not just the tourists who are taking advantage of an unfortunate situation. Many of Reykjavik"s home owners are staying in their summer home or winter home or living with relatives or traveling abroad, then renting their city apartment to strangers. For many it"s easier than finding a long-term tenant. They just submit their apartment details and some photos to a website that posts the ad online and sometimes, even that same day, bookings start coming in. For travelers this means a unique alternative to hotels sometimes at a fraction of the cost. Private apartments start at 60 euros a night, which is almost the same price as a private room for two at the youth hostel. A family of six can stay for less than 40 euros per person. Iceland is gaining in popularity for travelers looking for something outside of the usual European vacation. It offers a relaxed adventure and a touch of the exotic, but with a wide offering of accommodation options—including private apartments—it also offers a welcoming local feel at a very good value.  By Jennifer Pemberton


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