Can I go back to Iceland right away, please? More people are going to Iceland than ever before, and for good reason: it is the best. Our little gang of three went to Reykjavik for a long weekend in August and fit as much adventure into five-ish days as allowed by Icelandic law (probably).
Our agenda was ambitious, the two of us who were not me ran in the Reykjavik Marathon, conveniently scheduled the same day as Reykjavik Culture Night. After that jam-packed day, we had a couple of days for some hardcore exploring on the South Coast, including Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands). Adventures so glorious, they’re getting their own separate posts.
This was my second trip to Reykjavik, but my first exploring Iceland beyond the city and I’m smitten. The added bonus of sunny days and an Icelandic heat wave made this trip one of the most perfect long weekends of my life. Let’s get into the details:
Legit heatwave. For Iceland.
Jetlag eradication at the Blue Lagoon
To make a bold statement, this was the best idea ever. Our direct Icelandair flight from Halifax to Keflavík International arrived at 4:45 a.m., a time of day I previously thought was fictional. We couldn’t get into our flat until the afternoon, so, after a nice breakfast at the airport, we headed straight to the Blue Lagoon for relaxation and recovery just as the doors opened at 8:00am.
This is a Blue Lagoon package deal, and one I’d do again. It included an airport pickup and continuing transportation to Reykjavik afterward, plus a towel, mineral masks, and a drink. On arrival, we got electronic bracelets that did everything from open lockers to charge food and drink, which we did, because the bar at the Blue Lagoon also opens at 8:00am.
Again, not to put too fine a point on it, this was the best idea ever. Tourist traffic being what it is in Iceland these days, if you’re planning to do the same, book ahead.
The marathon is a large, loud event welcoming visitors from dozens of countries, including my little crew of Canadians. The atmosphere is festive, with hearty cheers for runners, regardless of origin or speed.
One of my friends who ran the race had this experience we started calling “Peak Iceland.” In her own words:
It’s Reykjavik, so I think I’m going to be cold, but, no, it’s a heatwave – 18 degrees – and I immediately regret my sweater choice. I tied it around my waist and off I go. It slipped, and I tried to catch it, but caught my finger on the pin holding on my race bib, tearing the nail off of my finger. So I was bleeding, and thought “I’ll just keep going until the first aid station.”
I get to the first aid station and there’s a police officer there, so I stop. “Do you have bandages?” I ask. “What’s wrong?” he said. “I’m bleeding. I just need a Band-Aid.” He says, “You don’t need a Band-Aid,” and he took my shirt and he took my finger and wiped my bleeding finger on the shirt. And then he said, “Keep running! You’re fine!”
This is Peak Iceland, because then he said, “Wait! Do you need water? I can give you water!”
Taking in the view from Perlan
After the runners recovered, we headed up to Perlan, one of the more unusual sites I’ve encountered. A combination of water towers, high-end restaurant, and 360-degree viewing platform, it must be seen to be enjoyed. If you are fortunate enough to encounter good, clear weather when you’re in Reykjavik, I highly recommend it. It’s also free, which was nice in a city of $5 coffees.
My favourite part was these detailed maps, located on each corner of the platform, like this one. It pointed directly to Mount Esja and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, normally a faint, distant sight, but easy to spot beyond Hallgrímskirkja (the pointy concrete church) on a clear day like the one we had.
I think Icelanders get a bad rep for being quiet or standoffish. Regardless of where I went during the trip, people were nice, helpful, and best of all, tried to help me learn Icelandic. Here’s an example that best sums up my “Iceland’s people are the best” position. Walking up to Perlan, we stopped to check the map for the most efficient route, and a young man walking by stopped, unprovoked, and suggested what he thought was the most efficient route, and then wished us an enjoyable stay. Seriously, the people are the best.
… And Culture Night
Reykjavik’s Culture Night is an annual celebration that features fun, art, and culture all over the city.
The streets are closed to vehicles and everyone eventually descends on the downtown area for live music and a spectacular fireworks show. Fun crowds, plus our discovery you can buy beer “to-go” from the bars, made this one spectacularly fun night.
So many pylsurs
I ate so many pylsurs, Icelandic hot dogs, I will never reveal the real number. I even managed to bring all kinds of pylsur toppings back to Canada. Making the most of my last day, I went to the Bónus discount grocery store by our flat and bought remoulade, a bag of crispy fried onions, and pylsusinep, a sweet, delicious Icelandic mustard. Will I go back to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur for an undisclosed number of pylsurs again? Absolutely.
More to come: Southern Iceland road trips
This is first of five posts about my recent trip. Next up, the absolute highlight, and a new entry on my list of favourite places in the world: the volcanic archipelago of Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands). We took a rocky ferry, met a superstar puffin, a surprise puffling, saw stunning scenery, and even got bitten by an enthusiastic Icelandic horse.
After that, I’ll cover waterfalls and sideways rain from Vik westward, followed by posts about buying beer in Iceland (a worthy feat, even if it’s a budget buster), and how to pack for visiting a country where the weather forecasts are largely imaginary and change often. Stay tuned!
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