In approximately 45 days, I will be on a plane to Reykjavik, Iceland and will do my best to share some live posts on this very short trip. Because I will be prepping and planning for the next few weeks, I thought a post on what I'm doing to get ready and some preliminary insights into Iceland might be of some interest.
First, some facts:
Iceland is a Nordic island located in the North Atlantic, with a population of 332,529
Capital and largest city: Reykjavík, home to over two-thirds of the population and the most northern of the world’s capitals.
Money: Kronur (kr)
NOTE: remember to check that pesky fluctuating exchange rate before I go and find out if cash or cards are easier and don’t forget to call my bank when out of the country.
Passport, but no Visa required.
Check local weather and check what travel season I am in: low and high season.
NOTE: keep an eye out for any daily or weekly passes for trains and busses so I can can hop off and on at my leisure and not worry about wasting money.
So I have some basics. I might do a little history research as it’s always kind of fun to see where the country has been and where they are going. Time to crack open that book on Norse Mythology as well. I plan to have a more substantial list of Travel Tips to share soon.
I am such a map guy. Yes, in this day and age you can use a GPS on your phone or watch; however, I like to go old school when planning my trips using sharpies and highlighters on a fold out map. I love my travel books so I stock up on those and mainly just use Google for some up-to-date information on places to eat, where to stay and attraction information. On my map, I find my home base (hotel, hostel, Airbnb), and expand outward from there. And no, I don’t fold out that map in the middle of the street looking like a lost tourist, that’s just painting a target on my back.
As I have stated before, I do make an itinerary but I keep it really fluid with plan B, C, D and WTF (what the fjord) and just go with it. Sometimes, no matter what I plan, I might end up having a day with a local who wants to show you the real country or city. Yes, some trust is involved and just good old fashion common sense. No I am not going down that dark alley, no I am not donating a black market kidney.
Enough about me and my secret obsession with maps and dark alleys. Let’s see what cool things I found out about my destination.
By international standards, it is reported that Reykjavík is really the size of a town and not a city the likes of London or Paris; however, it is full of amazing art, culinary adventures, and plenty of cafes and bars. There is plenty of Icelandic history in central Reykjavík, from its Settlement Exhibition built around a Viking longhouse to the enormous National Museum, loaded with precious artifacts. Rumor has it that Icelanders are a close-knit and community-minded people so interacting with the locals over a pint is a must. Remember, with just over 300,000 people, mostly in the capital, it really might just feel like a small town.
After a little research, I found my top things to do:
Explore Old Reykjavik
Old Reykjavík is the heart of the capital, with a series of attractions and intriguing historic buildings, and the focal point of many historic walking tours. At Hallgrimskirkja, Reykjavík’s immense white-concrete church that dominates the skyline, I need to remember to check out that 5275-pipe organ. At The Old Harbor, maybe I can check out some boat trips to watch whales or some puffins. Or should I not as puffins are also on the menu in Iceland?
Museums, Exhibitions and other Landmarks
Then we got the museums. The National Museum gives an excellent overview of Iceland’s history and culture. The “Game of Thrones” in me wants to check out The Settlement Era that features swords, drinking horns, silver hoards and a little bronze figure of Thor. Might also have to check out the priceless 13th-century Valþjófsstaðir church doors that show carvings of a knight, his faithful lion and dragons.
The Reykjavík Art Museum is split over three sites: downtown Hafnarhús focusing on contemporary art; Kjarvalsstaðir, in a park displaying rotating exhibits of modern art; and Ásmundarsafn, near Laugardalur with sculptures by Ásmundur Sveinsson.
Then there is this interesting Settlement Exhibition, based around a 10th-century Viking longhouse. It combines technology and archaeology to give a glimpse into early Icelandic life. Artifacts range from great awk bones to fish-oil lamps and an iron axe.
If I have the time, I might check out the Harpa concert hall, with its ever-changing facets glistening on the water's edge.
Between the airport and Reykjavik is The Blue Lagoon, located in a black-lava field, the popular spa is fed water from the futuristic Svartsengi geothermal plant; with its silver towers, roiling clouds of steam, and people covered in white mud, it might as well be an alien planet. I will be more than happy to be taken to their leader.
If I had all the time in the world, I would check out the rest of Iceland and it’s wondrous landscape like the Westfjords, where only about 10% of Iceland's visitors ever see with their amazing coastal fjords and mountains. In the far north, the Hornstrandir reserve is home to burial cairns, exotic bird life, arctic foxes and ocean vistas. Spectacular, luminous-blue icebergs drift through Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, right beside the Ring Road between Höfn and Skaftafell where I can admire ice sculptures, scout for seals or take a boat trip. I might see some icebergs crashing down in Breiðamerkurjökull where they can spend up to five years floating, melting, refreezing and occasionally toppling over.
Reykjavik and Iceland in a nutshell. I can tell I just touched the surface of the remote island and the few days I spend there is definitely not going to be enough, but I’m going to take it all in and be mindful of the sights and people and make sure I don’t rush the experience.
TO BE CONTINUED