Nothing can prepare you for those first few hours in Iceland. It is as if you are stepping out onto another planet. Lava fields covered in moss span out across the horizon and the distinct lack of trees is quite apparent and unfamiliar. The cold breeze hits you, daydreaming moments are over and the intrigue starts.
As you head out further away from the airport you start seeing the mountains starting to slowly appear, little colourful dwellings with their cast iron roofs looking really sweetly Scandinavian and the distinct lack of people is quite eerily mysterious.
Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital is home to only 123,300 people. The lowest population density of any European country. It has little restaurants serving anything from soup in a bread bowl, hot dogs to seafood dishes and Icelandic versions of fried english breakfasts.
Clothing shops are full of thick knitted Scandinavian jumpers, sheepskin coats but also unusual fashion items, straight off the catwalk.
The main focal point is the stunning Hallgrimskirkja Church, it’s 74.5m high and is among the tallest structures in Iceland. The architect is said to have designed the church to resemble the rocks, mountains and glaciers of Iceland’s landscape.
You can pay a small fee to visit the top of the church, catching an elevator to the highest peak for a view out over the city and out towards the mountains. The view of Reykjavik from the top is so beautiful, the bold colours seen from height resemble a charming tiny toy town.
To the south of Reykjavik you can find the famous sculpture the ‘Sun Voyager’. The sculpture is a representation of a dream boat and an ode to the sun symbolising light and hope. This really is the perfect place for dreamers and romantics to stop a spend a while gazing out towards the mountains.
Reykjavik’s charm and friendly locals will win you over and keep a piece of your heart forever. Coming home to this city after a day out exploring the wilderness is the icing on the cake. Graffiti with a hippy-ish vibe can be found around most corners, designs featuring mainly animals or wildlife, created with bright colours and peace & love at the heart.
Day trips can be organised easily at the travel information centre – prices do not change for last minute bookings – they are used to this as the weather changes so dramatically and instantly, it is worth waiting until nearer the day of travel to book. The smaller minibus guided tours are around £50 a day (for 8/9 hour trips that pick you up and drop you off at the end of the day back to your accommodation). I loved doing these excursions on my first trip to Iceland, it is so interesting to listen to the local’s guide of the scenery, hearing them get so passionate about the folklore and history and of course question time is invaluable as well as the ability to stop the minibus if anything unexpected or exciting happens…
The larger coach groups will be cheaper and inviting at first glance, but from appearances they seemed like hard work. The coaches ended up waiting for people at every viewpoint – it seemed difficult to round everybody back up again. Whereas the minibus was spontaneous and so personal. I think it would win my vote every time!
I’ll talk more about renting a car and accommodation in another blog post – there seems to be so much to say! So for now, I will leave you with a few more photos of Reykjavik. Please come back for more blogs including Icelandic travel highlights out of the city!