The youngest country in Europe, known as the homeland of Bjork and the Huldufólk, is located on the Mid Atlantic ridge, being a bridge between the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plate. Europeans and Americans meet in the land of this isolated, full of secrets country. Endless lava fields, the largest European glacier, 200 volcanoes, some of them active, beautiful birds flying above the untrodden northern fjords as well as colorful wooden houses compose a stunning landscape.
The 2/3 of Iceland’s population lives in the capital. Despite its sterile land and the almost non-existent vegetation, it is an attractive, friendly, popular among the youth city, but also expensive.You fall in love immediately with the dark nights, the elemental candles that decorate bistros that you visit, the frozen lake Tjörnin, the ground floor houses (appropriate for the weather conditions), and the few citizens who passionately buy books, love knitting and large heated pools.
I was lucky to visit Reykjavik in different seasons. One time was in the heart of winter, when everything was covered with snow, but I also traveled there during the bright summer, when the heavy rain combined with the wind made it almost impossible to walk. Depending on the season you travel, you should be well prepared about the unpredictable weather conditions.
It is the island of adventure and the different. Whale watching, northern light sailing, ski adventures, hiking, horse riding, ATV adventure or just relaxing in the healing spa of the blue lagoon and dining on the restaurant lava are some of the activities you can enjoy.
Harpa is the starting point for exploring the city, a modern building that hosts the artistic view of the city together with an interesting souvenir shop from local artists.
Laugavegur street is a good choice for shopping and walking in bars and so are the nearby Austurstraeti, Laekjargata and Tryggyagata streets. The city has a vibrant nightlife, live music stages and unique shops, such as North 66 with its amazing collection of outdoor clothing designed for comfort in all kinds of weather.
Icelanders are crazy for coffee.In most of the streets ,you will find local coffee shops and cafes. Te &coffee (Laugavegur 27) www.teogkaffi.is ,a family owned chain of coffee houses, a must visit.
Kaffibarinn: If you like partying you will love it; if not then you can visit it for coffee in the morning to experience a different atmosphere.
Sandholt an artisan bakery with tasty cinnamon buns.Keep in mind that the queue can get quite long ,but it’s well worth it.
Hallgrimskirkja is a Lutheran parish church in Reykjavik
With a population of around 120.000 ,the capital Reykjavik is the largest city
The old harbour in Reykjavik
In the famous Saegreifinn–The fish Baron I tasted salmon kebab and delicious Lobster soup which must be restaurant’s specialty. If you want to taste Icelandic fish and chips, the restaurant of the same name located in the port will impress you. The prices are high, especially when it comes to alcohol. The cheapest solution, common among locals, is the Icelandic hot dog and you can try the most popular in a hot-dog stand close to Harpa Concert Center open since 1937, named Baejarins Beztu Pylsur which means the best hotdog in town.
Buy the traditional Icelandic Lopapeysa, a knitted wool sweater from the wool of Icelandic sheep with special design at the top and on the sleeves, is now a must have fashion item. Lopapeysas are light and pretty but warm and waterproof at the same time.
Located roughly 50km away from the capital city, is reached by traveling in a black and white path that consists of lava and snow, as I visited it for the first time in March, while it was heavily snowing, Blue Lagoon is the most remarkable attraction of the region with 3000 visitors per day during the peak period. The atmospheric steamy waters combined with the extremely low outside temperature create an impressive eerie landscape.
Blue Lagoon has been voted as the best healing spa worldwide and National Geographic has selected it as one of the 25 wonders of the world.
The golden circle
The golden circle is a day trip of about 7 hours to explore the three most popular natural attractions of the island. It includes Gullfoss waterfall, Geysir geothermal area and Thingvellir National Park. Personally, I believe that the Gullfoss waterfall was the most breathtaking, located in southwest Iceland and created by Hvita river, gives you the chance to get an up-close view if you go down, right next to the waterfall, enjoy the shimmering rainbows that form over it and listen to the amazing sound of water, as it falls down crashing on the rocks.
In this route you will get a whole picture of the island, as the red color of lava and the empty landscapes give place to green sceneries, glasshouses, horse farms, landscapes with very few trees and then volcanoes and waterfalls again, creating an unforgettable, once in a lifetime travel experience.
The island ,which is just 1.6 km2 in size ,host unspoiled nature with vast stretches of grassy plaints and rich birdlife ,as well as the John Lennon Peace tower ,an installation created by Yoko Ono.The words on the tower are written in 24 world languages. An additional panel reads”:I dedicate this light tower to John Lennon my love for you is forever”.Yoko Ono October 9th 2007 www.videy.com Just a short boat ride takes you to another world.
The Geysir Stokkur in Haukadalur erupts every 10 minutes.
In Icelandic, Gullfoss means “Golden Waterfall”
Gullfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland
One of the things that make Reykjavik special is its geothermal heating,which was fully deployed in the city in the years from 1940 to 1970.Before that ,houses in the capital were heated with coal or oil,whereas now they are heated with cheap hot water piped from the bowels of the earth.In many places ,pavements and even roads are heated,so that snow hardly settles on them.
Most districts have their own outdoor swimming pools,complete with hot pots ,using geothermal hot water.At an outdoor bathing beach at Nautholsvik ,even the sea is heated so that people can swim in it.
Visit one of the geothermal swimming pools and soak in a hot tub.
There are 18 swimming pools in the capital area and if you have the time, you should try them all. Swimming is great but don’t miss relaxing in the hot tubs -this is where the community gathers and socializes.
West side bathing heaven Vesturbaejarlaug has it all.A variety of Hot tubs, a steam bath ,a sauna ,friendly staff and last but not least -it has an unbeatable retro charm.
Seljavallalang is the oldest pool in Iceland, very famous spot for tourists, the water is completely natural.
Iceland’s international airport is located in Keflavik ,about 50km from the city .If you rent a car or take a cab ,it will take about 45 minutes to get to Reykjavik.A cheaper option is taking a bus to a from the airport.
Please go to www.vedur.is for the weather forcasts and www.road.is to find out about road conditions so that you can plan your trip accordingly.
The number in Iceland to call in case of an emergency is 112.
Vaktahouse.is A must stay
Vakta is a small villa in a small neighbourhood ,it is filled with icelandic design and history.
With a population of about 2,600, Ísafjörður is the largest settlement
Ísafjörður meaning ice fjord or fjord of ice
The West fjords are simply beautiful, with endless coastlines and gorgeous mountainous landscapes. Isafjordur the unofficial capital is a small town at the foot of picturesque mountains with shops and restaurants in its small downtown area and a bustling harbor.A short drive outside town ,you will find more sheep than people.
For lunch or dinner don’t miss a visit to Tjoruhusid ,a family run restaurant that serves delicious fresh fish in inventive ways. The rustic wood interior is cozy, and the menu consists of the catch of the day. The restaurant is located next to Heritage Museum and it’s a perfect way to end your day in Isafjordour.