Introduction to Iceland

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July 7th 2018
Published: July 7th 2018
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Although our Air Canada arrival into Iceland was a few hours late, due mainly to severe thunderstorms in Toronto, our Premium Economy seats and service made for a comfortable trip. We flew along with our friend Adrienne on our Aeroplan points for a 2-week Intervac home exchange stay in Reykjavik, the capitol city of Iceland.

As all the booze is apparently quite expensive in Iceland, we took advantage of our Toronto flight delay and dropped by the Duty Free shop at Pearson airport to pick up some of our favourite items. If you don’t have a similar opportunity, I’m told that the Duty Free shop in the Iceland Keflavic airport also has more affordable prices, so some shopping on arrival is on many itineraries.

We had pre-purchased airport to Reykjavik transportation online from Flybus Airport Transfer . A one-way ticket is 2,950 isk while a return ticket saves you a little money at 5,500 isk. The bus waits for every arrival so you don’t have to book a particular time and they will deliver you either to their bus terminal downtown or transfer you to most of the hotels and guest houses around Reykjavik.

We arrived to cool weather, around 10c, and cloudy skies with some rain and the 2-week weather outlook was for most days the same as this. The 45 minute drive in takes you through some fairly desolate looking lava fields of black rocks with little vegetation except for lots of blue Lupens.

Luckily our exchange hosts were still in town so picked us up at the bus terminal. Before heading to our exchange home, we had a couple of hours free to wander around downtown Reykjavik. The homes, ocean shoreline and the weather was very reminiscent of Newfoundland. We warmed up with some great cappuccinos at one of our host’s favourite coffee shops, Kaffitár . Icelanders apparently LOVE their coffee so the city is full of all types of coffee shops. After hearing so many stories of everything being so expensive here, we were pleasantly surprised to pay only 630 isk, about $6.00 USD, for very good capaccinos.

Our home for the next two weeks is a beautiful 3-bedroom water-front house on the Fossvogur inlet just on the south edge of Reykjavik; an easy 4 km walk into the downtown area. We stayed in for our first evening, TOTALLY exhausted from the lengthy trip and jet lag. So some grill cheese sandwiches and apples, wine, and a bit of chocolate cake left by our host, was our dinner. After warming up in their sauna we crawled into bed, with blinds drawn and eyeshades on. Although the sun does drop just barely below the horizon for about 4 hours, it pretty much stays daylight 24 hours at this time of year.

After a good night sleep and a quick breakfast we headed out for a short walk to the nearby Bonus grocery store. We were very pleased to learn that recent blogs we had read were correct, that basic groceries were for the most part, very similar to Canadian grocery store prices. Restaurant meals here tend to be very expensive but if you’re lucky enough to stay somewhere with cooking facilities, you can eat almost as inexpensively as at home.

Although our hosts have loaned us their Toyota Rav IV, we decided to walk the 5km or so into downtown Reykjavik, starting the day at Hallgrimskirkja . This church is visible from almost everywhere in the city and one of Reykjavik’s most iconic buildings. Entry to the tower is 1,000 isk each to go up 8 floors in an elevator then one short flight of stairs. The view across the city in every direction is fantastic and well worth the price. The startlingly loud church bells are directly overhead and chime the quarter hour and ring on the hour.

After waiting out some rain while we enjoyed the views, we continued our walk towards the waterfront to see the new concert hall. Harpa is Iceland’s 7 year old concert hall is the largest in the country. The glass, honeycomb construction is impressive and offers some incredible photo opportunities.

We spent some time wandering the tourist streets, checking out some restaurant menus; Surf and Turf here means Whale and Horse! And NO, we do NOT plan on trying this But check out my photo of this menu item. The waterfront is also full of numerous businesses offering deep sea fishing, whale watching and puffin tours. We stopped in at the Stofan Kaffihus for coffee and cappuccinos. Also recommend this place, very cozy, comfortable, with very good coffee.

We walked back to Harpa concert hall to catch the free shuttle bus to Perlan , a rather unusual building on a hillside within a park, the Oskjuhlid recreational area, in Reykjavik. It is a dome built on top of four water reserve tanks for the city and is, apparently, a spectacular viewing spot for northern lights as well as panoramic views of the city. Most of the building was closed today for renovations so we chose to not pay the 1,900 isk they charged just to see the view. Normally they offer an incredible show where you can see, hear and feel the power of earthquakes and volcanos.

We walked home through the park and along the Fossvogur inlet. The girls put together a fantastic dinner of Wild Atlantic Salmon, potatoes and salad for a total cost of about $20 CAD, plus a few glasses of our cheap Canadian Peller Estates wine. After supper while I blogged, the girls planned our next day adventures for our first day travelling the ring road around Iceland. For now, its one more glass of wine, sauna, then on with the eyemask for a few hours sleep.

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Additional photos below
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Solfarid (The Sun Voyager)Solfarid (The Sun Voyager)
Solfarid (The Sun Voyager)

Sculpture by Jon Gunnar Arnason on the harbour in the image of a viking ship.
Bike rentals at PerlanBike rentals at Perlan
Bike rentals at Perlan

Reykjavik has a great system of walking and bike paths

11th July 2018

The concert hall looks beautiful!! I’m not seeing a lot of people/crowds in your photos.... is this just how you captured the scene or have you not run into a lot of other tourists? I don’t think I’d be brave enough to try the horse and whale either. Have fun ❤️
11th July 2018

Hi Liz. Although there were a number of tourists everywhere, there are not as many as we expected so I usually found it fairly easy to wait a few minutes for a clear shot. Sometimes its nice to have people in the shot for perspective, but I usually prefer not.

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