Iceland was a challenge to make happen, but upon arrival and settling in, it turned out to be just as picture perfect as imagined.
With flight mishaps - like booking the initial trip over an important wedding - re-booking fees that would break the bank by the soon to be bankrupt, WOW Air, forcing us to purchase tickets last minute through a third party booking company - to finding an hour before departure that they never booked my ticket. It was a stressful takeoff, to say the least.
A friend of mine reached out to me about three weeks prior and inspired this trip to Iceland. He is an avid drone photographer who has traveled to most national parks located in the United States. Hesitant, because I'm oddly only comfortable traveling alone. I figured it would be pretty cool to share the experience.
The Must Know About Iceland
The population of Iceland is just shy of around 350k people. I found it's a rather up and coming country, the city of Reykjavík seems to be growing exponentially, and it seemed as though a lot of the younger generation living in Iceland, has moved there from other countries to live there for a decent amount of time. It is undeniably a hot spot for tourists lately. The city itself is easy to navigate by foot, so there is some key spots around town to make sure to keep an eye out for.
Everything is mainly located in the Old West Side of the city. In this part, you have the port, where you will find the Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Center. You can walk inside for free and wander around. Take the time to appreciate the beautiful architecture of the building, and the breathtaking views you will find looking out of the blue glass windows, and visit the gift shops.
Inside The Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Center
In the mid section of town you will find the Cathedral of Christ the King (Hallgrimskirkja). You can walk inside freely to take a look at the architecture of the church. You will find a gentleman playing the organ at most times of the day. The church allows you to purchase a ticket (around 700 Kronas) to take an elevator to the top, to catch some pretty beautiful views of the city and the surrounding mountains.
Enjoy some of the many gift shops around the town, as well as Iceland's only Flea Market (Kolaportið), Open Saturdays & Sundays.
If you have a free day and you're exhausted from spending money, I'd say take some time to walk around the city and take a look at some of the beautiful murals you will find on some of the buildings scattered around. You will find more street art than you think walking around the colorful city of Reykjavík.
While walking around be sure to stop at Brauð & Co. a very colorful bakery with some of the best pastries I've had in my travels.
Reykjavík City Loft HI Hostel was my bunk of choice. Although compared to other countries, there were not too many hostels in Iceland. There were about 6-8 hostels on the Hostelworld App. Only three of them holding tempting reviews. Reykjavík City HI Hostel was great. You could run down the list and check off all of the basic necessities for a comfortable place to stay.
Loft HI Hostel
- Kind & Knowledgeable Staff
- Bar with Nightly Activities
- Breakfast Available in AM
- Great location; right on the main strip
- Up-to-date Amenities
- Entrance to Hostel Locks at Midnight
Iceland food is definitely nothing to call home about. Everything they serve, cuisine-wise, comes off of the island. Typically the types of food you will find is a hefty amount of seafood and lamb.
There is an excellent little local, walk-in cafe that serves Icelandic comfort food, called "Icelandic Street Food". This is a reasonably priced restaurant, where you order at the front counter and you can choose from three meals:
- Fisherman's Favorite
- Lamb Stew
- Fish Stew
With exotic cuisine such as whale and puffin, Grillmarkaðurinn has a wide variety of tastefully prepared meals to offer. They have a multiple course tasting fare available to a minimum of two people or more.
Reservations are strongly recommended for this restaurant. However, if you get there early enough, a seat at the bar is comfy and gives you a great view of the chefs in the kitchen, doing what they do best.
If you'e looking for an interesting restaurant experience this is the place to be. Priced at 10,000 - 15,000 kronas ($100-150) per person. That's appetizer, entree and glass of wine.
If you want to up you cuisine class a little bit, one restaurant I was referred to in my travels was Grillmarkaðurinn. A high-end restaurant in Reykjavík, hidden behind an Italian restaurant called Caruso.
Refills on stew and bread are UNLIMITED! As expensive as everything is in this country, this is one find that actually pays for itself. Feel free to eat as much as you want. The stew is pretty tasty!
Iceland is more than just Reykjavík. With that said, most of the beautiful sprawling terrain is located outside of the main city. You can walk most of the city, there is public transportation, if needed, but most sites, such as those mentioned above, are in walking distance. Parking in the town in a bit tough, being the streets are pretty tight.
A car is beneficial for site-seeing outside of the city. We ended up renting a car to take to most all of the destinations we hit on our trip.
The first night was spent in Reykjavík. We ventured out of the town to see some sights for the day, including Pingvellir Park and the Geysirs.
Driving was an excellent idea. That was, until we payed a generous 275 Krona per liter for gas - equal to about $9 a gallon! The truck we rented took diesel fuel, and cost a whopping $80 for a half a tank. Yes... that's a HALF.
Do you need a large truck like we had, no absolutely not. Iceland's roads were okay to travel on in April, so a smaller compact car, wouldn't have been a problem. Our problem was, the only automatic cars they had left were these gas guzzling monsters.
You must be SUPER careful with driving as well. Around the city they have speed cameras that photograph your license plate and send you a ticket.
Iceland offers plenty of day excursions you can take by bus, that will save you cost on gas, although the price of the day trips could be comparable.
Nightlife in Reykjavík is far from boring. On Friday and Saturday Reykjavík is the city that never sleeps. On the main road in the city center, where my hostel was located, every bar is in walking distance. Next door to my hostel was B5, one of Iceland's many nightclubs. A few other popular spots for high energy in the city centre are Paloma, Austur, and Pablo Discobar (yes a play on words).
Drinks are a bit pricy in Iceland, but it goes with everything else on that island. When i visited, I didn't attend many nightclubs, but I've posted a few of my favorite bars below.
The Drunk Rabbit Irish Pub - A small elbow room only bar, with traditional Irish drinks, a few different levels and rooms to have a beer and get together.
American Bar - American Bar, is what it says it is. A typical american bar with live music at night. They have a wheel to spin behind the bar. You pay to spin. You get the chance to win shots, rounds of drinks, ETC. Makes for a fun environment.
KiKi Queer Bar - This bar gets sort of wild, but fun all at the same time. Located upstairs in a very small dark room, you'll find one bar, a small stage, and a few tables. This gay bar welcomes everyone! From karaoke to nightly comedy skits, you're guaranteed to have a good time here!
Kaldi Bar/Cafe - A Gin Bar! Gin is not my go to choice, but this bar serves strictly gin, and they serve it in a way you will like it. From their extensive gin choice and the various ways they create their drinks, you will be able to find a cocktail that appeals to you. The relaxed dim environment creates a cozy, intimate setting that allows.