As I mentioned in the previous post, I have some trips planned for this year and the next one is schedule to happen in a couple of weeks in… Iceland! I will be there not only to visit the country, but also to visit a couple of friends.
Iceland seems to be a unique country in Europe. It is located on a small island close to Greenland, quite far away from the rest of Europe, and it has a very small number of inhabitants, an estimated value of 325 000 people in the whole country. Wikipedia lists only 9 cities (maybe towns?) with more than 5 000 inhabitants, being Reykjavík the biggest city in the country.
The people over there speak Icelandic, which it is the language most closer to the Old Norse of all the Nordic languages. And just like most of the Nordic countries, they also have their own “crown” as currency: the Icelandic Króna (ISK).
When you look up for pictures and information about the country, the first thing you will find is pictures of vast, green and rocky landscapes. The country seems to have a natural beauty that it’s hard to find in the rest of Europe, it appears to be a great place to spend a really peaceful week, away from the usual urban areas.
I’m going to be there, specifically in Reykjavík, for about 5 days. Thanks to a friend of mine (thank you Baldur!), I won’t have to worry about finding accomodation, which is a big plus since Iceland sounds to be a bit expensive, so I can worry about using money in other exciting things.
Like most of the places in Europe, Iceland is not easy to reach from Porto. It’s impossible to find direct flights from Portugal and the only portuguese air comany that handles flights to Iceland is TAP and the prices that they practice aren’t even that appealing. The cheapest I could find was around 800 euros, with London as an intermediate airport, and the times weren’t good. So I decided instead to get an independent flight from Porto to Gatwick with TAP and then to look for a flight from Gatwick to Reykjavik from an Icelandic airline.
There are two main Icelandic airline companies that travel within Europe: Icelandair and WOW air. Icelandair is the “standard” carrier airline, in which you can get both economic and premium flights, and WOW air is the low cost carrier, which offers the best prices.
I chose to go with WOW air, since they had the times that would suit me better and the prices that they pratice aren’t that bad: I paid around 180 euros for the departure/return flights, which included hand luggage up to 5 Kg, and I had the option to pay an extra of 60 euros in order to be able to carry luggage up to 20 Kg. The total price was cheaper than any economic flight from Icelandair, I’m curious to see how is the experience with this low-cost airline.
After landing in the airport, the next challenge is getting to the city. If you look up on Google Maps, you can see that the airport is quite far from the city. Luckily, there is a service called Flybus, which provides bus transportation to Reykjavík for every flight arriving to the airport, even the delayed ones.
When it comes to weather it seems that Reykjavík has many faces. In April it looks like I will expect a maximum temperature of 7ºC and a minimum of -1ºC with lot of unexpected rain. But it appears that the weather is a bit unpredictable.
Some things to do and visit in Reykjavík
When I looked up for some pictures of the city I was surprised to see how colorful the city is. It seems to be quite beautiful and nice to visit. It also appears to be very small, so walking around shouldn’t be a problem in case we want to explore the city. Some of the places that I expect to visit are:
It’s a small lake in central Reykjavík, it seems to be where people go to relax during the day.
It’s the biggest church in Iceland. It has a really unique style and it’s one of the major touristic attraction.
Perlan seems to be a very interesting building visually speaking. It appears to provide a good view to the city and some places to eat.
This is an open air museum in which you can learn about the history of the city. It seems that the staff dresses with old Icelandic clothing and take you through the city’s history.
- Resturants/bars/anything that serves some local dishes
Icelandic cuisine seems to be a bit obscure, it’s hard to find good information about their gastronomy. Maybe they all inherited some old viking recipe which they are protecting it from the rest of the world. I’m very curious to see what kind of food they eat.
A really popular product around Iceland seems to be Skyr, which is like some kind of yogourt. The Icelandic hotdogs, Pylsur, also appear quite to be quite famous. And I heard that they actually eat the cute little puffins that are so iconic in Iceland. I’m hoping that it’s just a ruse to throw away foreign people into their secret gastronomy.
Some things to visit outside of Reykjavík
The country looks like that it has much more to offer than just Reykjavík. Although the population appears to be concentrated in this small urban area, there are many other interesting things to visit throughout the country.
The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa, one of the most popular in Iceland. They also provide saunas, massages and food. But it seems a bit too expensive and the general consensus throughout the internet forums it’s that it seems like a tourist trap and it’s not really worth the money they charge. It isn’t a priority to me but I intend to keep it in mind. At least I would like to visit other thermal spas.
The Golden Circle is a touristic excursion provided by Reykjavik Excursions which takes people to see the most popular Icelandic sights. The excursion includes visits to the Strokkur geyser, which they claim that it can shoot a column of water up to 30 meters, to the Gullfoss waterfall, to the Thingvellir National Park and some others.
Another waterfall but this one seems to be quite beautiful. I hope we can get a car and try to check it out.
This is a large glacial lake and it seems to be one of the main attractions in Iceland. People seem go there also because the beaches with black sand that are around that area.
The Thórsmörk valley (named after the Norse god Thor) seems to be a suitable place for a possible hiking experience.
People in Iceland seem to take safety quite seriously.
The Icelandic Road Administration provides a service in which people can check information about the roads throughout the country (how good are they to drive by, temperature and wind) and they also provide access to webcams located in the roads for visual information.
They also some special smartphone apps in case you get lost in the country and need to ask for help, like this one.
It seems that Iceland has a lot to offer, much more than I mentioned in this blog post. I don’t expect to see everything during the 5 days but I expect to be able to relax and have a good time with the people I will meet, while visiting and seeing some of the best stuff that Iceland has to offer.
I plan to do a follow-up of this post once I return from the country, with pictures and feedback about my experience.