Part 2 of our trip abroad this year – Iceland
A small city with a cosmopolitan feel. The country of Iceland has about 325,000 inhabitants, 60% of whom live in or near Reykjavik. The other 125,000 or so live in small towns spread out around the island. So this small city is very much the big city of this country. I found everything thing about Reykjavik completely charming. It’s very walkable – getting everywhere on foot was very easy. The people are friendly and most everyone speaks English, especailly the younger generations. They are very welcoming and accommodating to tourists as tourism has become one of the country’s biggest industries since the recession of 2008, which hit them very hard. They are more than happy to welcome visitors from around the world and have developed a really great infrastructure to make a trip here really enjoyable.
Highlights of Reykjavik
The largest church in Iceland and the sixth tallest architectural structure in Iceland, Hallgrímskirkja. At the top of the church there is a lookout area that provides amazing 360° views of Reykjavik.
Harpa is a concert hall and conference venue that opened in May 2011. There is supposed to be a hotel built beside it but it hasn’t been started yet. The 2008 recession caused huge problems for Iceland and this was one project that had to be scaled back for a few years. They still intend to build a hotel here eventually.
Street Art in Reykjavik
Lots of great street art arond town. These are just a few of the pieces that I spotted along the way.
Beautiful South – South Iceland Tour
I knew I wanted to go to the south of Iceland to see some of the beautiful waterfalls I had seen in pictures while doing my research. Ideally, I had wanted to go to Jökulsárlón glacial lake, but it was very far to go and come back in one day. I hope to go there when I get back to Iceland again. So we went to the Trip in Iceland office on Laugavegur to see what other options were available. We settled on The Beautiful South tour from Sterna Travel and we were so happy with their service. There were 8 people in total on our tour, including our excellent driver/guide Harpa. She took us to all the spots on the tour description and added a couple of other bonus stops as well. It was a long day but we could not have been happier with the tour and the gorgeous sights of South Iceland.
The Golden Circle Tour
The Golden Circle tour is the most popular tour to do in Iceland so I knew it was a must. We enjoyed our Beautiful South tour with Sterna Travel so much that we chose them again for our Golden Circle Tour two days later. We chose to do the afternoon tour which took us to the three main stops on the Golden Circle – Thingvellir National Park, Geysir and Gullfoss. This time our guide was Ingi who was also excellent and added a quick stop at Faxi falls on the way back to Reykjavik. I loved that the tour guides tried to add in little extras along the way and also told us about the history of the areas as we were driving to our destinations.
The Blue Lagoon
Another Iceland must-do, the beautiful Blue Lagoon. This is not a natural hot-spring as many people think. It is a man-made lagoon that is filled with the run-off water from the geothermal energy plant that sits behind it.
Before we went to Iceland I had read a lot of reviews of this place. Some people complain that it’s just an over-priced tourist trap. Well, it’s defintely a tourist trap, but what a nice place to be trapped! I can see that going here in the summer high season could be crowded but our time there in the off-season, starting around 11am was perfect. It was definitely getting more crowded as the afternoon went on. We had a flight to catch so we had to get out of there by around 2, so we were getting out as it was getting busier.
We loved this place and will definitely go again if (when) we go back to Iceland. It was warm and relaxing and I highly recommend it. My only regret was that we couldn’t stay longer.
Bye, Iceland. Hope to see you again sometime. 🙂
Also on this voyage: 5 days in the UK