#LTtravels: Reykjavik, Iceland
When the New Year’s Eve wedding invitation arrived, I wasn’t expecting to see a snowflake on the front. Palm trees and sunshine would be guaranteed, right? … But then the bride and groom are creative innovative types so I shouldn’t have been surprised that I would be heading north – far north – to Reykjavik. While this isn’t a city guide (many of our activities were planned) I will provide some tips to help you make the most of a frozen getaway.
Getting there: the marketing whizzes have done a brilliant job at making Iceland accessible. Fly Iceland Air on the way to Europe and stopover for up to a week free. It’s an easy direct five hour flight from Toronto. I loved how lights resembling the elusive Northern Lights danced above the overhead baggage compartments in flight.
Must-see stop: go to the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s famous outdoor thermal water pool on the way to, or from, the airport. (It’s only 20 minutes from Kefvalik Airport but an hour from town.) After a cramped boring flight, luxuriating in the 37C water eased my tight muscles and a few scoops of mud felt great on my sleepy face. The flight landed at 6:30am so I stopped for a smoothie and coffee at Joe’s Juice and waited for the first bus, at 8:30, to the Lagoon.
Book online: the cheapest standard package is the best deal – and add bus transportation to Reykjavik as well. If you don’t book in advance of leaving home, you may not get in. Several disappointed tourists were turned away. It was the tourist highlight of my trip so book early!! Cabs are prohibitive (more than $200 one way) while one way to the city on the bus is approx $35.
Travel tip: Local currency is the krona but I didn’t buy a single coin. Every transaction went on my credit card – so convenient and saves on exchange fees.
Shop: Iceland is known for its wool Nordic knits and furs. I snapped up a handwoven wool blanket for approx $100.
Getting around: I booked a couple of bus excursions as I didn’t want to drive in Game of Thrones country during the middle of winter. The excursions were nothing special but a better option than being in one of the rental cars that ended up slipping into a ditch. I shivered in the dark for a couple of hours hoping to see the Northern Lights / but no luck. The Golden Circle tour was worth it for the massive Gullfoss Waterfall alone.
Stay: while I booked a hotel (Kea Storm) most of the other wedding guests opted for Airbnb accommodations. The Storm was clean, modern and expensive while the BnBs were about half the price and in more convenient locations right in town.
Eat: Most of my meals were part of the wedding plans so I can’t help out much with first-hand restaurant recommendations. This is the place to visit if you love fish – or puffin or fermented whale blubber. I stuck to fish, lamb and flatbread sandwiches. Icelanders love to drink so there are bars on every corner.
Visit Harpa an architectural marvel that is home to the new opera house. I saw a clever show called How to be Icelandic in 60 Minutes that was a fun introduction to the local culture.
Inside the magnificent Harpa Opera House.
The Coast Guard station next to Harpa Opera House.
And if everywhere looks grey and cold – it was! There was about four hours of daylight.