europe,  iceland,  travel

Travel: Reykjavik and the surrounds

Full set of photos

After a rather challenging 2016, one of my resolutions in the new year was to make myself happy, and  that meant getting back to traveling again. A sale on Icelandair flights was the catalyst I needed for me to rather impulsively decide to take a trip to a wild new place. Iceland had always been in the back of my mind as a place that would be fun to see but never somewhere I thought I’d get to for awhile.

The evening 5-hour flight was relaxed, with blankets, a nice touch screen display and even a “northern lights” display on the cabin ceiling before takeoff (spoiler alert: these were the only northern lights I’d see). Flights from North America tend to get in around 6 am, and so I hopped on a bus and headed to the Blue Lagoon, the famed geothermal hot spring between the airport and Reykjavik. It was a well-oiled machine, complete with fancy plastic electronic wristbands that opens your locker and make purchases while in the lagoon. Sinking into the 38 C (100 F) lagoon after scurrying from the main building in the rain was definitely sublime. The sun had not yet risen, so I bobbed around in the milky waters in the cool darkness. Part of admission includes a series of silica and algae mud masks, which you apply yourself, and a drink. So I rather bemusedly drank prosecco at 10 am and enjoyed the rain on my face and the hopefully rejuvenating water. The combination of my 3-hour night’s sleep and morning wine made me fairly sleepy. That and I was thoroughly prunified, so I hopped on the bus to continue on to Reykjavik.

Blue Lagoon
Blue Lagoon

I got off in the city centre and headed uphill to Arcturus Guesthouse. A small but charming room with a shared bathroom (which had to be the largest bathroom I’d ever seen). I fell asleep almost immediately and didn’t wake up for several hours. I eventually got my butt in gear and headed out to explore the town a bit. I made my way down to Baejarins Beztu Pylsur for a famed Icelandic hot dog, with raw and fried onions, mustard and remoulade. Delicious! This stand is particularly famous apparently for not only its hot dogs but its patrons, including Bill Clinton (though he only wanted mustard—missing out).


I strolled down the rain-soaked Laugavegar, one of the main shopping streets in town, peeking into cute  shops. The brightly-coloured buildings and unadorned aesthetic (except for murals and graffiti) reminded me  of other Nordic destinations, like Copenhagen and Stockholm, but with a small-town feel, which isn’t surprisingly considering the population of Reykjavik is smaller than the suburb I grew up in (less than two hundred thousand). I eventually stopped into Bravó, a laid-back bar with a very Bohemian feel, for a glass of wine and WiFi. I’d bought a SIM card on the flight over and was still trying to get it working (later Googling led me to figure it out).

I eventually wandered down to Kex Hostel for dinner. Kex apparently is the hip hostel in town for young  back-packers but also happens to have a tasty restaurant, Saemundur. It definitely had a hipster vibe to it, with its copper bar, exposed brick and do-it-yourself feel. I nursed my white wine (alcohol, much like everything else, is prohibitively expensive in Iceland) and thoroughly enjoyed my fried ling, pickled lemons and almonds, before making the walk back to my guesthouse for the night.

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