I landed in Reykjavik at 6:30 am, suffering with jet lag. To my body, it was about 2:30 am. I wondered if the hotel would even let me in my room when I got there, or would I have to wait until the afternoon.
I had no idea how one gets to Reykjavik from the airport, but after grabbing my bag I noticed signs for buses to the city centre. I inquired at the desk and they would drop me at my hotel for around the equivalent of 15 dollars. The currency, the Krona, is about 108 to 1 give or take, so you have to get used to dealing with prices in the thousands. I had exchanged some dollars to Krona at the Toronto airport before I left.
The bus ride was much longer than I thought it would be – close to an hour. Why was the airport so far from the city? (Later, I found out that there was an airport in the city used for domestic flights, but that it wasn’t big enough for international and there had been a British Naval Air Base during the 2nd world war in Kevlavik, which they now use as the international airport). From the window, all I saw were vast volcanic rock flow fields and a few buildings, and the ocean. The lava flows must have been fairly recent since they were very black and sharp jumbled-up rocks. The tour guide later told us that Iceland is referred to as the land of black and green. All that grows on the rocks is lichen. No trees.
It was frigidly cold and with a very strong wind blowing. Clearly, I had not brought enough warm clothing for walking around. Checking into my hotel on the harbour front http://www.icelandairhotels.com/en/hotels/marina in a state of muzzy-headed sleepiness, I found out that I had actually, mistakenly, booked the room for the night before too, so getting into my room at that hour was not an issue. Crossing many time zones had me confused obviously. But it was a fortunate mistake.
After a little rest, I put on as many layers as I could and headed out to walk around. It wasn’t pleasant. The wind was howling and nearly knocked me off my feet. Once I got up away from the water front, it was better. I had a map from the hotel and the little downtown area wasn’t far. I didn’t see many people out – probably smarter than me and staying inside where it was warm. Nevertheless, I managed to find one of the much-touted hot-dog stands for a quick meal.
For some reason, hot dogs are a very popular food and are much tastier with unique toppings than other places. The locals love them – and they love ice-cream too. So much so, it is said they will line up in a blizzard to get their cones. How strange. The hot dog WAS very good with a kind of sweet brown mustard sauce, onions and pickles. The bun was toasted and slightly sweet. I had it with a cup of coffee to keep me awake.
I browsed a few shops and bought a thermal zip-up jacket to wear under my spring coat, then tired and cold, I went back to the hotel.
I napped a little until dinner time, then went down to the hotel restaurant. The hotel lobby looks “hostel-y” to me – plain, painted concrete floors and 70’s style furniture. The bar and restaurant are attractive though, with windows to the outside view of the marina. Everyone around me was speaking Icelandic, but I know that they all speak very good English too. This is what I had:
A wonderful and fresh array of seafood, mostly raw, with delicious crusty bread and wine. Salmon sashimi, grilled langoustines, tuna tartar, and scallops sashimi in a yummy lemon sauce.
The next day I was picked up at the hotel by a tour van at 10:30 am, after a breakfast buffet at the hotel that included, again, lots of delicious raw salmon. I love the stuff! The wind had died down thank goodness. The tour was through Viator and included a city tour and then going to the Blue Lagoon for a couple of hours. I really enjoyed the tour and learning more about Iceland and Reykjavik. The genetic background of the Icelandic people are Norwegian, Irish, and Celt. When the Norwegian Vikings (the first was Ingolfur Arnason) began settling Iceland in 874, they needed wives. They went to Ireland and England to capture them and bring them back. So the Norwegian blood was mixed with Celtic and Gaelic blood, and therefore a less serious and dour people. They are musical and artistic. It is said that the Norwegians wanted to keep Iceland a secret from other Scandinavians and so they called it Iceland and steered the others to Greenland.
The water and air is so clean! You can drink straight from any river or stream. Our tour guide told us that Icelandic people like to exercise outdoors and are very health conscious. I saw a lot of white/silver hair and ruddy, tanned faces with startlingly blue piercing eyes. A very attractive people.
Due to all of the active thermal water layer underground, most of the homes and buildings in Reykjavik are completely heated by hot water radiators and the cost of this is very low. An extensive system of freely available thermal water heat has been built and connects to every building. I think similar systems also exist all over the island.
Blue Lagoon Natural Thermal Hot Springs near Reykjavik
At the Blue Lagoon, there were many tourists but it is such a large, spacious place that I didn’t feel crowded. Their change rooms have electronic locking lockers that close and open with a touch of a bracelet they give you when entering. You are required to shower BEFORE you put on your bathing suit! So those who are shy about nakedness, be warned! The pool is really more of a natural lake with a pebbly bottom and the colour of the water is a milky blue. It felt wonderful. Around the lake there are places where you go to scoop up some silica mud from a container to smear on your face and body. Float around until it is dry then rinse off right in the lake. Wade up to a bar area for a fruit smoothie or beer or wine, and buy a green algae mask to spread on your face to restore moisture and minerals. Different, smaller, areas that you could wade around to were progressively hotter and hotter. The bright blue sky, cold air, and hot mineral water combination was breath-taking. If I got too hot, I would just sit up on the edge for a few minutes to cool off quickly. It was wonderful!
The next day I explored more of Reykjavik which resembles both a maritime village and a Nordic ski village with colourful wood buildings, shops and cafes.
On our tour we went up to a former thermal water storage building on a hill that is domed with a black roof – they called it the Black Pearl. There is a restaurant around the inside of the top of it and decks outside for great views of the city.
This is a sculpture along the walkway called Sun Voyageur, which gleams and sparkles in the clear, sunny light.
Along the waterfront there is a very long, wide walkway for biking, running and walking for miles. I saw many places to rent bicycles too.
There is a 1400 kilometre-long ring road around the entire island, with many small roads leading off into peninsulas and small villages. I definitely want to return to Iceland and rent a car with plenty of time to explore more of it. I am so glad I decided to take this stop-over.