The first time you visit a new place is always exciting. I wonder to myself what will the people be like, how is the weather, what do the houses look like, how is the food, is there good public transport, how to they get around, are they active, etc., etc. My first visit to Iceland was no exception. Arriving on a Saturday afternoon and having a few days to explore and wander the capital city was perfect. Although the first time I visited I thought I would be visiting, H, an Icelandic amigo I met many years ago while living in Madrid as he is native to Reykjavik. However, he now lives abroad so perhaps on my next visit ;)
So. First thing first, Iceland is an island located in the North Atlantic and is volcanically and geographically active with a population of under 400,000. The telephone book has citizens listed by first name not last. (While this trivial note might be irrelevant as telephone books are not used as frequently as they used to be - I share it because what a neat fact!) Cool, huh?! Iceland thrives on tourism so they are very friendly towards foreigners although I will say - it is expensive so do not be surprised!
If you are visiting Iceland soon or even just thinking about it, I hope my impressions and notes below give you a few ideas of how you could shape and spend your time visiting the Nordic island.
Northern Lights. I highly recommend this company. Siggi was our local guide and was the best! He picked us up close to nine pm and told us everything about the northern lights, the 'aurora borealis.' In case you are interested in the mechanics, a bit of a scientific description about the Northern Lights is as follows: they "are actually the result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth's atmosphere with charged particles released from the sun's atmosphere. Variations in colour are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding. The most common auroral color, a pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora." Thanks, Northern Lights Centre :)
We drove into nature for about an hour and were the only ones where we ultimately ended up watching the show. They were beautiful! What started as a green arch became individual ribbons dancing and moving to their own tune. Remember, the seasons for viewing the lights are in the fall and winter from September 1st to around mid April and even then, they are unpredictable and might not be seen. (https://www.icelandeverywhere.is/)
Blue Lagoon. I concede it might be the most touristy geothermal spa (okay, it might be the most visited attraction) in the entire country but if you are limited on time and want to give it a try, I recommend you do. All you need to bring is your swimsuit. Located about thirty to forty-five minutes outside of Reykjavik and nestled in a lava field the Blue Lagoon is a great place to spend a few hours soaking in the water and relaxing. A ticket includes a towel, drink, and a mask and an upgraded ticket includes the basics plus a robe and your choice of a second mask. The first mask we tried was of silica and the second was a mineral mask. I chose a carrot, apple, and ginger juice but you can, of course, choose an alcoholic beverage or a soda. You can also visit the sauna and steam room.
Our guide, Helga, is the coolest! A native to Iceland, she is an active and loud voice for sustainability and living a more sustainable lifestyle. She started the Plastic Free September initiative in Iceland, a national campaign that encourages not using or purchasing plastic products throughout the month while educating about realistic alternatives that can be substituted.
Naturally her work in sustainability flowed into a discussion about plant-based eating and the vegan diet. The other traveler in our small group, S, shared that she had been eating vegan for over a year and her health had drastically improved. COOL! It didn't take long for Helga or S to comment that Reykjavik is accommodating to vegan eaters and for Glo to be recommended to us.
Glo is a wonderful restaurant with locations in both Reykjavik and Copenhagen where you can choose from delicious wraps, bowls, and they have a selection of pizza, lasagna, and soup. This recommendation confirmed our observation that it was one of the best places in town for a delicious vegan-friendly meal.
In addition to Glo, Vinyl is a record shop, beer & coffee, vegan eats cafe in Reykjavik. You can try the soup of the day or the Suzanne vegan salat with quinoa, spinach, melon, apple, pistachios, pear, cranberries, lemon dressing, and hemp seeds. Anything you go with I am certain you will not be disappointed!
Downtown Reykjavik. Take a stroll through the ca=pital and you can pass the parliament, city hall, the opera house, and of course you are sure to stumble upon quaint stores and coffee shops. Hallgrímskirkja is also a site to see. You can enter freely and if you would like to go to the top, you can pay a small fee.
Perlan. Climbing the steps at Perlan leads you to a beautiful view of the city. In addition to the observation deck, there are exhibitions - currently Wonders of Iceland and Water in Icelandic Nature - and a planetarium. Really neat to see!
All in all, I recommend you to visit Reykjavik and check it out for yourself.
Below are a few photographs I snapped while strolling around :)