Iceland

Roadtrip in Iceland – #1: Reykjavik

Iceland, land of ice and fire: we had been dreaming about it for a long time and we finally made it! A 2000-kilometer-long roadtrip on the legendary “Route #1” or “Ring Road” all around the island! A trip full of beautiful surprises with breathtaking landscapes: hundreds of waterfalls, geysers, fjords, lakes, lava fields, volcanos, glaciers, icebergs, hot springs… But also two days of non stop rain, very thick fog, roads on the edge of vertiginous cliffs, ridiculously high prices, the worst throat infection of my life… Here is the tale of a trip rich in emotions!

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A 10-DAY ROADTRIP ALL AROUND ICELAND

Iceland’s spectacular landscapes attract each year a growing number of tourists. The island, which is peopled with only 330 000 inhabitants, was visited by one million travellers in 2015! As the infrastructures of the island are not quite adapted to this quantity of visitors, it is essential to book your accomodations in advance. So this time we had to organize our trip beforehand. We established what we wanted to see to book our hotels all around the island.

But once in Iceland, we faced changing and difficult weather conditions. Closed roads and storms obliged us to show flexibility and patience… We also realized that we would not be able to see everything we had planned.

After a few hours exploring the icelandic capital, we picked up our rented car and headed to the “Golden Circle”, a group of three sites located close to Reykjavik that are very representative of Iceland. Then we went south and discovered several beautiful waterfalls on the way. We also took a detour to the Vestmann Island – that we unfortunately saw in the rain. We discovered the gorgeous eastern fjords de l’est as well as the fascinating geothermic zone around the lovely Myvatn lake. We ended our adventure with the northern fjords, before going back to the capital.

DAY #1: STROLLING AROUND DOWNTOWN REYKJAVIK

ARRIVING IN REYKJAVIK

As we were landing in Reykjavik, we realized that the weather conditions were not going to be on our side. We were a few meters above the ground and we were still flying through – very thick – clouds. We couldn’t see anything! On this 16th of June, it was grey, it was raining and the temperature was 9°C: Welcome to Iceland! But we kept our spirits up, we knew that the weather conditions were not going to be the strong point of this destination. We quickly got out of the airport and hopped onto the shuttle to downtown Reykjavik.

We arrived 40 minutes later, after a ride through “lava fields”: we already loved the landscapes! We dropped our bags at our hotel and started exploring the Iceland’s capital. We discovered a tiny little center organized around a main street, colorful houses, cozy little coffee shops, restaurants, souvenir shops. Everything was clean and cute: we definitely felt in a nordic city.

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HOW TO GO TO ICELAND?

We chose the low cost company Wow Air and spent 235€ per person for a Paris > Reykjavik round trip.

The flight is about 3 hours. The plane was brand new and comfortable. There is a 2-hour difference between Paris and Reykjavik.

More info here.

FROM THE AIRPORT TO REYKJAVIK

The Flybus shuttle took us to Reykjavik in 45 min. The buses are just outside the exit and are frequent.

Flybus takes you to the bus station for 2200 ISK (16€) and Flybus + drops you off at your hotel for 2800 ISK (20€). Tickets can be bought in advance on the internet.

More info here.

STROLLING AROUND LAUGAVEGUR STREET

Laugavegur street is the main street filled with many restaurants, coffee shops, souvenir shops… You can’t miss it when visiting Reykjavik. Some parts of the street are pedestrian which makes it even more pleasant for a stroll. We particularly enjoyed its lovely colorful buildings and cozy coffee shops.
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The puffin is a bit the emblem of Iceland. They can be found in all souvenir shops – as well as on the menu of some restaurants…

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LUNCH AT THE SEA BARON

As we were preparing this trip, we often read that everything was ridiculously expensive in Iceland (which is true!). So we looked for tips to eat well at “reasonable” prices. We read several times that the Sea Baron was worth a visit and we did love it.

This nicely decorated restaurant belongs to a retired fisherman and is famous for it lobster soup – it is even said to be the best in the world! I usually don’t like seafood but I loved this soup!

In addition to the lobster soup which made this place famous, you will find a variety of fish / shrimp / whale kebabs… We randomly picked one and we loved it! I highly recommend this place!

INFO

The Sea Baron is located on the harbor, at #8 of Geirsgata street.

The lobster soup costs 1300 ISK (about 9,50€). It is served with bread and butter.

More info here.

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ENJOYING THE VIEW FROM THE TOP OF HALLGRIMSKIRKJA

When strolling about Reykjavik, the strange shape of Hallgrimskirkja church can’t be missed. It is one of the highlights of Iceland’s capital.

Upon arriving by the church, we immediately saw the statue of a certain Leif Erikson and we found out that this national figure was a Viking explorer who had established a colony on the American continent in the XIth century! Archeologists have confirmed the presence of a Viking colony in what is today Canada! Who said that Christopher Columbus was the first to discover America?

When we entered the church, we found it very “modern” and with a simple style – very different from the churches that we are used to seeing. It is even equipped with an elevator to go up to the top! From up there, we discovered a lovely view on the city, its colorful buildings and its position between the sea and the mountains.

INFO

The church is located on Hallgrímstorg 101. It is quite easy to locate it from the center thanks to its strange shape.

We spent 900 ISK (about 6,50€) per person to reach the top.

 More info here.

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TAKING A BREAK AT BABALU

Reykjavik is full of lovely little coffee shops. It was so grey and cold during this month of June that all we wanted was to stay inside (we can’t imagine what it must be like in winter…). Babalu is one of these cozy coffee shops with comfortable couches and a nice decoration. I tried the apple crumble and I loved it!

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INFO

Babalu coffee shop is located on 22a Skolavoroustigur street, the street that leads to the church.

I spent 1380 ISK (about 10€) for a very generous slice of apple crumble and a cup of tea. We learned that their carrot cake is also very renown.

More info in this coffee shop here.

ADMIRING THE SUN VOYAGER

This sculpture located by the sea represents a viking boat and is one of the most photographed monuments of Reykjavik. The scuplture was always surrounded with a group of tourists as we were passing by. We did love it as well!

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VISITING HARPA CONCERT HALL

Harpa is another highlight of Reykjavik. We loved walking around this concert hall and enjoyed its original design.

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INFO

The Harpa concert hall is located right by the sea front, on #2 Austurbakki. It is quite easy to see it when you are standing by the Sun Voyager sculpture.

The entrance to the main building is free but they also have guided tours in English. They also played a show that seemed funny: “how to be Islandic in 60 minutes” but we saw it too late.

More info here.

DINER AT SVARTA KAFFID

Meat soup is one of Iceland’s main specialities. These soups are usually very generous with large pieces of meat and vegetables. Their price are usually “reasonable”. We ate many soups during our trip! It was perfect for the cold weather! There the soup was served in a large bread loaf, the speciality of this place. We loved it! I recommend this restaurant.

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INFO

The soup restaurant Svarta Kaffid is very easy to find as it is located on the main shopping street, on 54 Laugavegi.

The meat soup cost us 1650 ISK (about 12€). The day we ate there, we had the choice between two dishes only: a meat or mushroom soup. The meat soup was really delicious and generous!

More info here.

OUR GUEST HOUSE

We stayed in a guest house that we booked via Airbnb and which is located in the center of Reykjavik. Our room was very cozy and we had access to a fully equipped kitchen.

Hostels and hotels are very expensive in Iceland. On average we spent 100€ per night and for this price we didn’t even have a private bathroom. This guest house however was a very good deal! I recommend it if you are staying in Reykjavik.

We also experienced something new: “self-check in”! During our stay, we never met the owner of the guest house! When we made our reservation, we received an email explaining the check in process. We received a code to open a little box located outside the building, and in the box was the key! So we were able to enter the apartement and went to room number 6 that we were to occupy… How modern!

INFO

Our guest house was located on Barónsstígur 5, very close to the main shopping street.

We paid 42€ for the room and had access to a shared kitchen and bathroom.

More info here.

GETTING USED TO MIDNIGHT SUN

We had to get used to something quite strange that we had never experienced before: in summer, there is daylight even at night! Iceland is so close to the Artic circle that nights are very short in summer and very long in winter. It is quite strange to see the sun at night! Fortunately, hotels are usually equipped with blackout blinds…

NEXT…

After a few hours exploring Reykjavik, we picked up our rented car and started exploring the beautiful island…

#1 Reykjavik

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