BUDGET ICELAND ROAD TRIP DAY 1 : REYKJAVIK
So following on from my initial Iceland budget guide post , here starts my actual Iceland road-trip!
Iceland really IS in an incredible country, believe the hype – by far one of my most favourite places I have ever travelled.
We started out with a very early flight from London Luton, arriving in Reykjavik mid-morning. This was actually ideal because despite being tired it meant we had almost a full day at our disposal before our holiday started properly, so today was mainly about getting our bearings in Reykjavik, stocking up ready for the next day and getting hella drunk in the evening (as seems to be becoming my holiday first-night tradition).
Reykjavik Keflavik airport
As you land in Reykjavik you will probably notice the landscape is unlike anything you have ever really seen before – you enter over barren flatlands of dull green and brown almost entirely devoid of trees and houses. This is far from being the most scenic part of Iceland (if anything you enter over some of the most uninspiring landscape to be seen by Iceland standards), but it still gives you a taste of what is still to come, and be seen over the next few days – definitely worth trying to grab a window-seat.
As you depart the plane you will most likely be hit by a strong smell of sulphur – get used to it, being a huge geothermal rock sulphur is everywhere in Iceland, you won’t even smell it come 2 days down the line.
The next thing you will probably notice is how nice Reykjavik airport is compared to other airports you may have visited – I’m not trying to claim the place is palatial, but a large amount of sculpture, clean layout and friendly staff make getting through passports a much nicer experience than Stanstead for example.
Airport admin out of the way, we grabbed our hire car and set out to explore Reykjavik. As seems to be the way with most airports, Reykjavik Keflavik airport isn’t actually located IN Reykjavik, but around 45 minutes – 1 hours drive outside. Luckily its a pretty easy route – you turn right out of the airport and pretty much just keep on going.
Airport out of the way, we finally hit Reykjavik itself. Reykjavik is TINY, well at least by capital city standards it is. The most Northern capital in Europe, Reykjavik would probably only be handed town status in the UK.
If I’m being entirely honest, by day I didn’t really fall in love with Reykjavik as a city. Despite being framed by dramatic mountains and its very own stretch of the sea, I found it as a destination extremely functional. The general architecture isn’t particularly amazing (especially compared to other Scandi cities such as Bergen and Stockholm) again coming across as functional – think concrete boxes rather than fabulous.
Most places of interest in Reykjavik are located on the main streets right in the centre. Reykjavik is famous for its coffee shops and galleries of which there are plenty (alongside lots of tourist shops selling the likes of fur hats and mugs) but hey, I didn’t come to Iceland to drink coffee!
The main place of interest in Reykjavik is definitely the magnificent modernist church Hallgrimskirkja –
This huge hulking mound of stylised concrete is visually stunning, and really makes an impression considering its rather bland surrounding buildings. A statue of Viking Leifur Eiriksson (the first Viking to discover America I believe) stands proudly outside.
Being a bit of a geek for huge imposing buildings, I love this brooding grey rocket-shaped mass, and the symmetrical concrete pillars leading up to the churches main body are something of an OCD sufferers wet dream –
Inside everything gets a lot calmer, with the interior being surprisingly tranquil compared to the buildings prickly exterior, this is until you turn around and see the enormous organ based above the main entrance. Somewhere between a samurai sword collection and a transformer, it looks more like a weapon than a musical instrument – I loved it!
You can go to the top of Hallgrimskirkja’s 75m tower, buying a ticket from the gift shop (although nobody seemed to be enforcing this). You get a great view of the City and the surrounding mountains and sea (also see picture at the top of this post) –
The other main tourist draw of the city during daylight ours is the extremely unique Icelandic Phallological Museum.
Essentially (I believe) the worlds only museum dedicated entirely to male genitalia, its a fun little mooch around, but don’t expect too much. The museum isn’t really much bigger than one room, and to be honest it made me learn that human’s aside, most preserved animal penises kiiiiiinda look the same –
So Reykjavik is cute, but don’t expect too much. Its certainly not really comparable to most other capital cities worldwide, however compared to what was to come during our Iceland adventure, it certainly retrospectively felt like an enormous metropolis.
As I mentioned in my previous post we used this day to go to (what became) our favourite Icelandic supermarket BONUS to stock up on food for the days to come. There is one right in the City Centre, as well as pretty much where ever there is a significant human population, and the produce was good quality, and comparable price-wise to Tesco supermarket in the UK.
We then left the city centre to find our home for the next few days that we found through accommodation website airbnb. I cannot sing the praises of airbnb enough. I’m yet to find a city that it doesn’t cover, and aside from a smelly Parisian apartment a couple of years back I’m yet to have a bad experience, its really changed how I travel (ie. a lot more often and a lot cheaper).
We rented a 2 bedroom apartment in the Reykjavik old-town suburb which is about a 15 minute walk from the centre (5 minutes by car), which also happened to be right on the sea front. For the first night – and not realising what was still to come – this was highly exciting for us, we probably swore it was the most beautiful view we had ever seen several times (only to disregard that statement entirely once the day after happened). Here’s me looking like a dork by our little stretch of coast line –
We then ate some dinner I cooked up and proceeded to get VERY drunk and overexcited on account of arriving in Iceland. Reykjavik was nice, but it was absolutely nothing compared to what was to come on day 2….