Bjork (one of Iceland’s most famous exports) once aptly said ‘In Reykjavik, Iceland […] you are in the middle of nature surrounded by mountains and ocean. But you are still in a capital in Europe.’ And she was right! One of Reykjavik’s biggest assets is in its proximity to the wild, raw beauty of the rest of Iceland, whilst still having all the great amenities you would expect from a city. The country’s waterfalls are awe inspiring, the geysers epic, the lagoons sparkling and the evening skies mystical. However, man can not survive a holiday on the air and earth alone, so it is a good job that Reykjavik’s food scene is superb and its shopping divine. Simply hop in a hire car from easyCar to enjoy adventures in the Icelandic capital and beyond.
When it comes to wonderful water, Iceland has it by the bucket load. So, on arrival at the airport, don’t wait before diving straight in. Stop off on your drive to the capital at the Blue Lagoon. The warm, azure blue waters, relaxing massages and steamy saunas are just what the doctor ordered after a long flight. After you have settled in to your accommodation make the hour and a half drive from the city to Gullfloss, Iceland’s most famous waterfall. You are sure to be impressed for the roaring, tumbling icy streams of Gullfloss for they rival the magnificence of Niagara! Keen to see the falls up close? Be sure to bring a raincoat with you as you are likely to get wet! If you are touring around the Golden Circle, be sure not to miss out another of its watery wonders: Strokkur. Located in a hot spring area, Strokkur is the highest rising local geyser, climbing up to a whopping forty metres on a good day. The rest of the moon-like geothermal spot is filled with bubbling mud pools, smoking fumaroles and smaller jets.
The Northern Lights are on many people’s bucket lists and no blog of things to do in Reykjavik would be complete with mentioning them, but be warned they are elusive! If you see them though, boy are they impressive! The swirling green and purple strands of the aurora are best seen during the autumn until up until mid-spring. Head out into the night in your car to see them at their best, away from the light pollution of the city. The unpronounceable Eyjafjallajökull glacier is also a must for anyone visiting Reykjavik, for without some ice, what is trip to Iceland? You can marvel at the Gigjokull valley part of the glacier from afar or get up and personal with a tour of the ice-cold ridges and crevasses.
If you want to insult an Icelander one of the best ways to do it is to mention Icelandic ponies. The Icelandic horse might be small in stature, but are always referred to as horses! The original Icelandic horses were imported by the first Norse settlers. Isolated for many years, the Viking bred has remained pure and disease free with a hardy constitution. The Icelandic horse has two extra gaits beyond the normal walk, trot, canter and gallop that a normal horse can achieve. Witness these skills on a horse back tour, at a riding lesson or during a show at the horse theatre.
Food and Drink
If you want to see all of Iceland’s beauty spots, you would be down right foolish to head out on an empty belly. Start your day with monster breakfast at the Laundromat Cafe. Whilst your eating something from their extensive menu, look at the map covered walls, peruse their kaleidoscopic collection of books or even do your laundry! For a snack whilst on the go, you should really try one of the city’s famed hot dogs. Winner of best hot dog stand in Europe in 2006, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur has a worldwide reputation, with its celebrity clientele including Bill Clinton. For lunch on the way to see some of Iceland’s scenery you should really stop by the Friðheimar Tomato Greenhouses. Enjoy some tomato soup, or any other tomato based dish you fancy, in a forest of tomato and cucumber plants. Weary travellers returning at the end of a day should head through Kex Youth Hostel’s understated door to sample some traditional Icelandic food.
The main streets of Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur are a great spot for a bit of shopping. The shops tend to have a Nordic/Scandi chic feel with painted buildings and pretty floral planters in the summer. You can hop from shop to shop picking up stylish homeware, Icelandic knits, and hipster-style artwork. Down by the old harbour is Kolaportið Flea Market open on Saturday and Sunday, selling a wide array of bric-a-brac and odds and ends. Be sure to try some of the island’s delicacies of dried fish, fermented shark and liquorice.