Arrive at Reykjavik airport and you’ll think you’ve landed on a distant planet. This small-scale city is circled by raw nature of epic proportions, where Vikings once roamed and volcanoes bubble. Clean streets are jumbled with colourful clapperboard and corrugated houses that could belong in a fairy-tale. But don’t be fooled. A calm daytime demeanour gives way to lively nights, as trendy bars and creative restaurants draw the capital’s (and visiting) in-crowd.
Things to do
Time it right and you can sail out from Reykjavik harbour to see whales in their natural habitat. If it’s out of season – or too cold to be out at sea – stick to the city’s Whales of Iceland exhibition. The bold and brave can take a lift down to the depths of Thrihnukagigur Volcano to discover its multi-coloured majesty. You can also views the Aurora Borealis from the city with a clear night, a hill free of light pollution and a little luck.
You don’t have to travel far from Reykjavik to encounter Iceland’s awe-inspiring scenery. Many use the city as a launch pad for Golden Circle tours. Hire a car or, in winter, book a ‘super jeep’ with guide to see the thundering Gullfloss and explosive Geysir. When the weather is on side, drive off the beaten track to find lesser-known waterfalls – some that you can even walk behind.
ART & CULTURE
There’s creativity around every corner in Reykjavik, from cutting-edge exhibitions to out-in-the-open street art. Make time for Reykjavik Art Museum and National Gallery. Stop by some of the tiny galleries housing local, contemporary art. Or get a taste for Icelandic history at The Saga Museum and Settlement Exhibition. In keeping with the city’s creative credentials, its landmark church and tower is a modern masterpiece. You can see it from most parts of Reykjavik, but it’s worth stepping inside.
You haven’t sampled Reykjavik until you’ve tried an ‘all in’ hot dog. Taking street food to a new level (and said to beat New York’s) these day-and-night snacks are topped with crispy onions and sweet mayonnaise.
Top tip from SLH