Iceland has been on my travel list for a few years now, but it was always one of those desinations that seems impossible. I mean, ICELAND? As in that island we always notice on maps roughly halfway between Greenland and Norway?
But then I started researching airfare, and lots of travel websites and blogs started referencing Icelandair, with a twist. For reasonably priced transatlantic voyages with a layover in Iceland`s international airport, travelers could extent their layover in Iceland for up to a week without increasing their airline tickets prices! It seemed too good to be true!
Anyway, what drew me mostly to Iceland was two things: the natural beauty of Iceland`s landscape and the capitol city of Reykjavik. I was dying to go see the northernmost capitol city in the world, and it absolutely lived up to the hype!
We arrived in Iceland at about 6 AM Iceland time, which is 4 hours ahead of New York. It had been an overnight flight on which I slept not at all, but we wanted to beat the jet lag and push through our first day in Iceland.
After arriving at Keflavik International Airport, we took the Flybus to the main bus terminal in Reykjavik. The airport is approximately 45 minutes from the city center so we had some time to wake up and plan what we wanted to do. At the bus terminal we were able to store our luggage in lockers and set off on our way! Leaving the bus terminal, we could spot the Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran Church on top of a hill. This church is one of the main sights in Iceland so we trekked up to see it up close, which started our day off with some Icelandic architecture.
Hallgrimskirkja is the largest church in Iceland and is pretty modern, construction being finished in 1986. The architect designed it so as to look like the basalt lava flows that characterize much of Iceland`s countryside. The outside is beautiful and the inside rather spartan. Outside of the church is a state of Leif Erikson; who is credited as the first European to set foot in the Western Hemisphere, centuries before Christopher Columbus! Ironically, this statue of Leif Erikson was a gift from the United States in 1932 upon the 1000th anniversary of the Alpingi- Iceland`s national parliament and supposedly the oldest continuing parliament in the world!
After checking out the church, we headed down the hill to the city center and tourist office. The streets of Reykjavik lived up to their reputation as bright and colorful!
At the tourist office we learned that you had to sign up in advance for the free walking tours of the city, so we decided to strike out on our own to see the sights such as Harpa Concert Hall. The weather was a little nippy with some rain but we decided to take a walk along the water anyway and take in some gorgeous views. Our end goal was the Hofoi House, the former French consulate in Iceland that was the site of the Reykjavik Summit in 1986. The meeting between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev concluded without agreement on nuclear missiles but began the conversation.
We checked out the Kolaportio, a famous Icelandic flea market which was interesting to see but didnt really impress me. On our way to Lake Tjornin right in Reykjavik, we stumbled upon the modern Icelandic Parliament building (the original took place in the mountains and glaciers! ) and were surprised with the total lack of security or guards at all.
Our last spot in Reykjavik before heading back to our hotel was the old harbor. Beautiful views!
Reykjavik was a beautiful city and was fascinating to learn about. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!