48 hours in Reykjavik – Day Two

Refreshed and now on Icelandic time, we were ready to see what Iceland had in store for us during out our last 24 hours in Reykjavik.

Day 2
0730 hrs /
Discovery: out of the four of us travelling together, I was the only morning person. #doh. Up and at ’em, eating delicious Skyr yogurt for breakfast we’d purchased last night at the Icelandic equivalent of a 7-11.
0830 hrs / The reputed must-do “Golden Circle Tour” was duly coordinated. We chose IG Tours because they had an option of using a smaller mini-bus rather than a huge coach. I’ve never been much of a tour person, so this was a bit of a stretch for me but a quick and dirty way to get out into the countryside and have someone else do the driving. Waiting outside the hostel for the bus, the street was littered with plastic cups and other signs that a massive party had gone done while we slumbered! About four buses circled by us and checked our names – tours are a big deal here.  Finally our wee minibus pulled up and off we went.
HI Loft Hostel exterior
0845 – 1630 hrs / We spent the majority of the day rolling through the countryside on the Golden Circle Tour, hitting the major sites of Gullfoss (a rushing waterfall a la Niagara), Geysir (a series of steaming, spouting geysers) and Pingvellir (home to Icelandic parliament’s beginnings), with somewhat barren landscapes in between. I picked up more Skyr to snack on and a book (Independent People) by the Icelandic Nobel prizewinner for literature, Halldor Laxness.
Golden Circle Tour highlights
Side note: our tour guide pretty much confirmed that the Icelandic views of the “Hidden World” are a very real thing – trolls, elves, dwarves, ghosts, etc. – and if you choose not to cooperate with these ancient peoples, you’re going to run into trouble. He was dead serious. And then he took us on a side trip to visit some Icelandic ponies where he chittered to them in Icelandic.
Icelandic ponies
1700 hrs / Back in town, our driver dropped us at the harbour upon request.  Checking out the waterfront we saw the Harpa concert hall (funky facet architecture), whale tour excursions, bike rentals, and any number of things to do should we have a bit more time and money to work with.
Reykjavik harbourfront
1830 hrs / On the hunt for Reykjavik’s best lobster soup… found down at the Sea Baron (Sægreifinn).  Not much more than a hole in the wall, we squeezed onto the bench seating to slurp back the soup and large baskets of bread with Icelandic butter. Delicious!  Throw in scallops and a whale steak, and yum! Perfect supper.
1900 hrs / We retired to the hostel for patio drinks (wine, plus vodka mixed with the local orange pop, Appelsin), enjoying the weather. A local music group was filming a video on the surrounding rooftops.
Loft Hostel rooftop patio
2000 hrs / Thus began the bar-hopping…more Viking, more Gull. A shot of Brennivan (Iceland’s savory schnapps – which I don’t really need to ever have again).  Lots of walking, talking and laughing.  We made a few new Icelandic friends, some who’d never left the island.  We sang loudly along with the live music to Ring of Fire and – believe it or not – Islands in the Stream. A little Kenny, a little Dolly…
New friends
0230 hrs / The night (or morning) ended with the search for an all-night hotdog stand, as apparently the hot dogs here are like an unofficial national food (made mostly of lamb and served with a bunch of creative condiments) and the testing out of the free-standing coin operated single bathroom stall that looked like some sort of time capsule. I managed my only official “run” while visiting Iceland, a one-minute trot around the square, during these hi jinx.
All-night Iceland
Having jotted this all down, I realize our two days was a lot about hanging out and eating…!  Every person we met was super friendly (except the convenience store guy who spoke to me in Icelandic and when he realized I wasn’t local, was kinda cranky), and went out of their way to ask why we came to Iceland…

Would I go back?
Iceland makes a great stopover and is an ideal place to shake off jet lag.  If I was to return to Iceland, I’d enjoy a few days in the capital but then there’d be a tent and rental car involved so that I could drive the endless roads around the edge of this massive island, and see all the hidden wonders that make the pages of the travel brochures. Until next time…

48 hours in Reykjavik – Day One

Our Icelandic stopover goal was to hammer out our jet lag ASAP and see a few sights – enough to get a taste for this wild country of tight pants, big sweaters, elves and trolls, curious cuisine and slick tourism marketing – before heading onward to the UK.

Iceland’s sweeping landscape, hidden waterfalls and multi-day treks would have to wait for another visit = our 48 hours concentrated on the capital of Reykjavik and surrounding area.

Day 1
0640 hrs /
Landing at the Keflavik airport via Iceland Air at midnight our time the four of us girls vowed to stay awake until bedtime proper, Icelandic time, in order to re-set our clocks for the onward journey.

Air Iceland
0930 hrs / We picked up a shuttle to the Blue Lagoon which was a convenient little deal through Reykjavik Excursions: airport/lagoon/city transfer for ISK 3,600.  Upon arrival at the Blue Lagoon, we stowed our luggage at their designated checkpointgreat feature at about ISK 500 per bag, considering we all had a ridiculous amount of baggage for a casual trip and jumped right in to the mineral bath…along with a million other people, including an apparent frat party. Swim up bar, anyone??
Note: the mineral water totally dries out your hair and leaves a chalky feel to your swimsuit, despite rinsing.  After finding (and coveting) the hot spots (the lagoon is generally warm, but not hot), and smearing mineral mud all over our faces, we were cooked.
Blue Lagoon .
1215 hrs / With wrinkly fingers and toes, we hopped back onto the shuttle heading into the city, arriving at the HI Loft Hostel. Located right downtown, this was a stellar location for just about everything in Reykjavik city centre.  The hostel had four floors, a check-in/bar/common area, a kitchen, and a great rooftop patio.  We unpacked a bit, got ourselves organized in the hostel (a private room for the four of us) and then went out…if we stayed in there too long, we’d fall asleep!
HI Loft Hostel
1400 hrs / Cruising the streets we wandered past countless bars and restaurants, outdoorsy shops and tourist joints.  We saw the iconic Hallgrimskirkja, a massive stone church with a dominating view of the city from the bell tower. We shopped at the local convenience store for Icelandic treats and snacks.  This is where our daily potato chip diet began.
1725 hrs / Feeling peckish, we sought out sustenance that included some local options. Skipping the fermented shark and glazed puffin, we stuck to fish & chips, salmon and reindeer burgers at Islenski Barinn. Calorie counting is already out the window. It just tastes so good. All the rumours, however, about expensive food in Iceland are bang on. My modest serving of fish & chips was ISK 2,600, which is about $26 CAD.   Fun fact: did you know that Iceland has geothermal hot spots where you can bake bread in the earth, and boil eggs in the water?? Maybe we should’ve done that…better for the budget. Ha.
Reindeer burger
1910 hrs /  Almost wiped out, but needing to carry on through to at least 2100 hrs, we strolled through Reykjavik’s core, browsing shops and people watching. Tight pants, big sweaters, manly beards.  Trying to picture that look on my husband…doesn’t quite work but would be fun to try….
2200 hrs / Bedtime for me!  I climbed up my eight-foot bunk and passed out, despite it being bright as midday outside.
Tomorrowwe learn elves are a big deal, and whale tastes like the Alberta beef of the sea.