The adventure playground of Iceland

Its been a while since my last post but I thought I’d write and re-live my memories of a recent trip to Reykjavik the capital of Iceland and the adventure playground of kings.

Firstly from the UK Iceland is only 2 hours away and there is no time difference so it’s easily accessible and not too expensive to get to either.  After you land at Keflavik airport you have a 45 min bus ride to Reykjavik – this gives you a taste of what Iceland is … a mixture of glaciers and Volcanoes.

At this stage the landscape is desolate and dry – don’t expect to see much greenery, just lava rocks covered in moss.  Looking around you feel like you could almost be on a different planet!

Then you enter civilisation and the city know as Reykjavik.  With less than 300,000 inhabitants, it’s not a particularly large city but its big enough.  The city center however is not that big and can be walked around in half a day with ease.  During my last visit I stayed at the Leiffur Eriksson in the city center, a perfectly adequate hotel in a fantastic location with the Hallgrimskirkja church immediately opposite which is the tallest building in Reykjavik so you know where your hotel is anywhere in the city.

For a small fee you can visit the observation deck in the church for a great 360 view of the city and harbour.

So you’ve arrived at your hotel and now you want to explore the city .. what can you expect?  There are a decent amount of shops but not as many as you would find in most other capital cities but there are ample coffee houses and restaurants If you get a chance grab a coffee in Cafe Babalu, its small but distinctly unique in its bohemian and serial killer way!

One of Reykjavik’s most famous restaurants in the Perlan.  strangely enough a pearl shaped restaurant sitting atop a hill overlooking the city – even if you don’t fancy eating it’s still worth a visit for the views.  It is also only minutes from Reykjavik’s geothermal beach where you will find golden sand and be able to swim in the sea.

Fish is the delicacy of Iceland but you can just as easy get hamburger and chips.  One thing you may notice walking around – there are no McDonald’s!!!! that’s right, I did not see one McDonald’s in the whole city.  This leads me to the second thing you may notice when perusing the shops … its expensive in Iceland!  I’m guessing due to the cost it is not feasible to open many fast food joints – I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing – yes the food can be pricey but all the food I ate was fantastic.  I experienced the best steak and caramelised onion baguette I’ve ever had during my stay.

Staying in the city for the moment, what is there to do when the sun goes down?  Reykjavik has a nightlife like every other capital city and it comes alive at the weekend with many clubs and bars rammed to capacity.  You will not be disappointed with the choice although the clubs do not start getting full until midnight.  As with the food, the alcohol is also expensive … very expensive and you should expect to pay around £7-£8 a pint! (did you know beer was only legalised in Iceland in 1989).

So you’ve walked around the city, seen the sights, had a coffee and something to eat … now what???  Well this is why you come to Iceland.

Iceland has many tours and experiences that you will find hard to compare to with other major cities.  The most popular tour is the Golden Circle tour which takes you to the Geysir, the Gulfoss waterfall and the tectonic plates where Europe meets America.

The Geysir erupts every couple of minutes so you will not be disappointed.

The path leads you right down to the plateau so you get as close as you possibly can to this impressive waterfall.

Along with this tour I also went caving which was a great experience and snorkeling in Lake Silfra (this lake has some of the clearest and cleanest water in the world – so clean you can drink from it as the water comes directly from the nearby glacier).  The water is cold though – so cold you have to wear a dry suit but the view under the water is dramatic and as almost as far as the eye can see.

If this doesn’t float your boat how about whale watching or horse-riding on a black sandy beach?  Maybe you’d like to take a helicopter to the top of a volcano or land on a glacier – yes you can do all this and much, much more.

If you fancy staying up til 2am you can go hunting for the Northern Lights – I have been extremely fortuitous to have seen the lights and wow what an experience.  If you don’t manage to see them on your first trip, the tour operator usually allows you to go on every tour during the week (free of charge) until you see them.

So lets recap … you’ve seen Reykjavik and all it has to offer, you have been on a few tours, seen some volcanoes, paid £8 for a pint and maybe been lucky enough to see the sky light up with dancing colours – is this the end of your trip?  hell no, on your way back to the airport almost everyone stops by the Blue Lagoon.  This is a geothermal outdoor spa experience like no other.  Yes its most likely cold outside and maybe you think all the people in their speedo’s and bikini’s are slightly mad when you first walk in but honestly its one of the best experiences you’ll have on this trip.

For around £25 you can spend as much time as your flight back allows.  The water is naturally heated and is very warm so you really want it to be cold outside, there are jacuzzi’s and steam rooms, as well as a swim-up-to bar and always plenty of room for you to relax until your flight back home.

Would I recommend Iceland?  Absolutely.  It may not have much sun and the temperature may not appeal to all but you will experience things that you can probably only experience in Iceland.

One last note … although its cold in Iceland, don’t let that put you off,  it’s not as cold as you may think, the temperature rarely falls below -2 in the winter so a good coat, hat, scarf and gloves and your all set.  For the summer months you probably won’t even need that.

So until the next time öruggur og hamingjusamur ferðast (safe and happy travelling).

Latino777 – Its our time down here.

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Posted on January 8, 2012, in Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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