It’s windy, it’s expensive but my god it is beautiful!
There’s one thing that you will notice as soon as you reach the quaint town of Reykjavik, and if you’ve already been then you know what I’m about to mention – and that’s the beautiful Esja mountains! I know it’s cheesy to say that my breath was taken away but there’s a reason why that expression is used to describe a sight of awe. And that’s exactly what these mountains are! Across the sea front, where you’ll be swept off your feet in the January winds, is the most amazing scenery, and even more stunning when the setting sun paints them a gorgeous pale pink. It was always a privilege to pass them on our 40 minute morning walk from our hotel to Reykjavik town centre.
My boyfriend and I flew out to Iceland on January 1st 2014 – I was determined to start the new year with a kick and see the Northern Lights, which I was lucky enough to do! But, as many of us learn on the road, this may have not been the best season to go! After dropping our luggage off at our hotel (hotel cabin) – which I was less than impressed with as our ‘double room’ turned out to be two single beds push together….by us – we headed in to Reykjavik for some lunch. We took the scenic route across the sea front, taking in the beautiful mountains, posing by the famous Solfar (Sun Voyager) sculpture and headed in to a somewhat deserted town. It turns out that almost everywhere is closed on New Years day in Iceland, something that we’re not used to in the 24/7 work culture of the UK! After wandering around….and around…and around we nearly gave in to getting a Subway as our stomachs rumbled, but fortunately we managed to find a small Mexican restaurant in what appeared to be (as we found in the next few days) to be the main food court of the Reykjavik town centre. Another thing about visiting Iceland in January is that there is such little sunlight – as opposed to an Icelandic summer when there is 24 hour sunlight! – so we usually didn’t leave the hotel room until about noon and would always be walking home in the dark, but we always felt safe.
The town it self is really stunning, and the architecture is typical of Scandinavian with buildings looking like cute little cabins. Iceland also love their fur and wool – so if you’re an animal right activist you may just need to take a deep breath and accept that Iceland’s way of life is different to others – and that’s the whole point of travel, right? In fact my boyfriend nearly bought back a fox scarf (little paws and all) but I forbid him. I did want to buy a traditional Icelandic wool jumper but – like many things in Iceland – I couldn’t afford it and wool is just really itchy!
There is also an amazing lake in Reykjavik, and after New Years day had passed and Iceland seemed to wake up a bit, it was crawling with people. That’s right, the ice was so thick on the lake that the people of Reykjavik had their skates on and were skidding across the ice – it was like something out of a movie! My boyfriend and I did walk a bit on the lake but not too far from the side! Getting trapped under ice was not on my To-Do list that holiday but hey, walking on a frozen lake was definitely an experience!
Of course, there is one thing that cannot be missed, and that is the Hallgrímskirkja Church (And yes, I did copy and paste that off Wikipedia). If you google Reykjavik a picture of this awe inspiring church is bound to come up, but seeing it in real life is a whole different experience. I don’t know much about architecture, but I do appreciate good workman ship, and that’s exactly what this church is. Although it may not be the oldest church I’ve ever been in, being built from 1945 – 1986, it’s towering presence shows you that age is just a number. Inside we were greeted with a man playing a giant organ, but were also shocked with how plain the concrete structure inside was. Of course it was still stunning, but on my small-scale travels – especially in Europe – I have noticed how most Churches inside are filled to the brim with over-the-top art and intimidating bible figures, but this Church was bit more low-key, which in a way made me appreciate it more. There was also an electric stain glass window – which was something new!
If you fancy a day out of the town, then a walk (or bus) to The Pearl (which we nicknamed the ‘boob’) where there is a viewing deck – giving you the whole of Reykjavik in front of you eyes – is a must. There is a museum and cafe there as well but we just stuck to the cafe – as I had come down with a cold at this point – and then walked (and slipped) through a forest to find a deserted beach by Iceland’s domestic airport.
I really did enjoy Reykjavik, okay it may not have had the same energy as Soller in Mallorca, or the same Bustle as New York, but definitely has it’s own character. I feel like five days was the right amount of time to explore Iceland – if you don’t have a hire car, that is – and I did find it a shame that most people use Iceland as a flying visit holiday. We spoke to this one man on our Golden Circle tour who was in Iceland for only 2 nights and was doing the Blue Lagoon, Golden Circle and Northern Lights tour all in one day! When I returned home my Mum showed me of an advertisement in the news paper of ‘Northern Lights flights’ where you pay £199 to fly over Iceland, see the Aurora from a plane and then fly back to London. It is a shame that Iceland has become a sort of express holiday, I think it is a city that deserves the time and energy to be explored, it may not be as atmospheric, or culturally diverse as other places in the world, but it’s definitely a country I’m glad to have ticked off my list of must-visits. Plus, who can miss a self cleaning toilet! A definite highlight!