It was sad to leave London after an eventful week, but I was excited to make our way to Iceland for the adventure portion of our trip. I have had Iceland on my travel wish list for years and was finally getting my chance to visit the incredible Land of Fire and Ice.
We departed London on a noon flight from Gatwick airport. We ended up delayed by about 30 minutes and there was a grumpy episode triggered by dealing with a few rude passengers, but overall the trip went smoothly.
We landed in Reykjavik three hours later and caught the Flybus from Keflavik airport to our hotel, Eyja Guldsmeden (which I never really learned how to properly pronounce). The hotel was pretty nice and conveniently located near the city centre, and had a firmer bed that was a relief for Mr. Chuckles’ sore back.
Tasting the famous Icelandic hot dog
We were hungry so went for late lunch/early dinner at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a little stand in downtown Reykjavík that serves Icelandic hot dogs. This place is immensely popular — with a line in front throughout the day, and a claim to fame as a spot that former US President Bill Clinton stopped at during his visit to Iceland in 2004.
The Icelandic hot dog is a unique specialty, made from mostly lamb, and a bit of pork and beef. It is topped with raw white onions and crispy fried onions; ketchup; sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep; and remoulade, a sauce made with mayo, capers, mustard, and herbs. At 600 krónur ($4 USD), it’s the most economical meal you can find in expensive Iceland, and it was delicious!
I think it may rival the Chicago dog, but this is still a topic of debate between Mr. Chuckles and me. What do you all think?
Seeing Reykjavik’s city sights
After enjoying our hot dogs, we went on a short walk to see a few of Reykjavik’s landmarks. Our first stop was Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran parish church that towers over the Reykjavík skyline. Measuring 244 feet high, it is the tallest church in Iceland and among the tallest structures in the country. It was designed by state architect Guðjón Samúelsson in 1937, who is said to have composed it to resemble the trap rocks, mountains, and glaciers of Iceland’s landscape.
We ended up going back to the hotel after this, but we continued our exploration of Reykjavik later in the week, which I will share here.
Street art around Reykjavik city centre.
Harpa, a concert hall and conference centre with a distinctive glass facade. Its design was also inspired by the Icelandic landscape, specifically the basalt columns that can be found around the country. The concert hall opened in 2011 and was originally part of a planned redevelopment of the harbour area which was to include the headquarters of Landsbankinn Bank, dubbed the “The World Trade Center Reykjavik”. However, these plans came to a halt with the 2008 financial crisis and the construction site next to Harpa remains empty.
The Sculpture and Shore Walk, overlooking majestic views of the Kollafjörður fjord and mountains north of Reykjavik.
Along the route, we found The Sun Voyager steel sculpture designed by Icelandic artist Jón Gunnar Arnason to depict a dream vessel and ode to the sun.
Chasing the Northern Lights
On our first night in Reykjavik, we had booked a Northern Lights tour with Arctic Adventures. The Aurora forecast reported an aurora activity score of 4 (out of a scale from 0 to 9) which was considered good, and in fact was the highest score that our guide had seen this season so far. We were picked up at 9:30 pm and driven a couple hours outside of the city.
This is what we saw.
No lights at all! At first there was too much cloud cover, but even after the clouds cleared, there was insufficient aurora activity to see anything. I guess the stars — or rather the solar flares — were simply not aligned for us. We had gone into the tour with low expectations, but it was still disappointing to have missed our chance to see the lights. We could have rebooked the tour for a second attempt, but weren’t up for another late night out so this will be added back onto a bucket list for the future.
The next couple days would give us opportunity to see many more amazing sights in Iceland. Coming up, our tour of the Golden Circle.