Iceland- What to Do Around Reykjavik

Ah Reykjavik!

It’s a beautiful city on the coast of Iceland. There are only about 200,000 people living in the greater Reykjavik area. The city is safe (in fact it felt safer than Lansing!), it’s clean, and extremely manageable in terms of navigation. And coming from me, a girl whose own parents call her directionally challenged, I never felt lost.

For my day in the city, I went where the wind took me. Of course, I had ideas of what I wanted to see/do, but I wanted to feel relaxed and on my own time. It was a fantastic way to spend the day, and I suggest you do the same thing!

I woke up, had breakfast and headed out into the city along the Sea Walkway.

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The Sun Voyager.

Of course, I had to visit Hallgrimskirkja church, an icon. Iceland is a Lutheran nation, and this parish is the largest church in Iceland & one of the biggest structures in Iceland.

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The statue of Leif Erikson in front of Hallgrimskirkja.

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You can go inside the church for free! *Note- If it’s a Sunday (like it was when I visited), the church will be closed for a few hours for service. It will open again around noon.

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Inside the parish.

While walking inside is free, if you want to go to the top of the church tower, you will need to pay about $10 USD for a ticket. You purchase this in the gift shop at the front of the church. There is a line, as only 6 people can ride up in the elevator at a time. But patience is a virtue and the view really is worth the wait.

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The colors of Reykjavik.

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As a walked around, I stumbled upon Iceland’s Independence Day Celebration! There was a lovely ceremony in front of the House of Parliament, and then a parade. What fun!

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I enjoyed the colors of the city and the Independence day fun, but I worked up quite an appetite. Iceland is famous for their hotdogs, and I was determined to try one. I was really nervous, and frankly waited until I was ravenous. This is the ‘Famous’ hotdog stand, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. It’s located in front of the Radison Blue in downtown Reykjavik. I ordered ‘one with everything’ for about $5 USD, and of course took an obligatory photo.

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The verdict… I really liked it! Was it because I was starving? Or was it because it was delicious? All I know is I ate it and enjoyed it in that moment. Tummy full, I was ready to dive into their museums.

I visited four, all of which I recommend:

  • The National Museum of Iceland– I spent two hours here and enjoyed every minute. You learn all about the history & settlement of Iceland from 800 AD to present day. This is a must when in Reykjavik! If you go on June 17, it’s free because of their Independence Day.

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  • The Settlement Exhibition– This Exhibition is built around the ruins of a viking longhouse. The hall was inhabited from 930- 1000. This museum is very interactive! There is motion activated sensors that play little movies on what life was like in the longhouse. I had a blast, and I think kids would enjoy too (if you’re traveling with family). This museum is about $16 USD.
  • The Reykjavik City Museum– When you purchase your ticket to the Settlement Exhibition, you get a free ticket to the Reykjavik City Museum which is about three buildings down. This is a small museum in the oldest building in Reykjavik.
  • The Icelandic Phallological Museum– If you know anything about Reykjavik, you had to know this was coming. The infamous penis museum. Wow, this was a lot. There was many different types of penis’ everywhere (including a human penis), as well as penis artwork, sculptures, and a phallic shaped buildings. I won’t spoil it too much for you, but don’t think to long and hard about visiting *eyebrow wiggle.* Entrance fee is about $15 USD.

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Exhausted, I enjoyed my walk back to my Airbnb along the Sea Walk.

Fun Fact- The photos below were taken at 9 p.m. Iceland in the summer has almost 24 hour daylight! It is extremely disorienting and actually does mess with your body clock. Be prepared for it, and bring an eye mask for sleeping.

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Reykjavik at 9 p.m.

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Beautiful Eventing in Reykjavik. 

The final verdict, Reykjavik is the perfect city for the solo traveler! Safe, fun, and historical. Enjoy your time there and soak in the culture.

 


 Icelandic Horse Back Riding

The next morning I was picked up by Ishestar Riding Center, just outside of Reykjavik for my horse back riding tour. If you didn’t know, Icelandic horses are a unique and adorable breed. Take a look for yourself:

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I liked to imagine this is what the Vikings saw. 

While I am not an experienced rider at all, I still had fun. The guides were sassy a few times, which was not appreciated. This is 100% touristy, but if you are an inexperienced rider, and want to get up close to these animals this is a nice way to do so. *Bonus points: the guides did offer to take your pictures on the horses, which I really liked!

  • You can book this tour here.
  • Or here is another tour: it’s a bit more expensive, but the reviews are good and it’s for all experience levels!

The Blue Lagoon

On my last day in Iceland, I stopped at the Blue Lagoon before flying back home. Now, I knew this was going to be 200% touristy, but all the pictures and recommendations say you should go.

Blue Lagoon

Here are the facts:

  • It’s expensive. For the basic package it’s about $65 USD.
  • It’s not a natural hot spring. It’s man-made.
  • It’s extremely busy.
  • You can bring your luggage, but if it’s a big suitcase you have a check outside the lagoon and it’s about $7 USD/bag. I only travelled with my backpack & weekender tote, so I didn’t need to check my bags.

When you get there, you check in with the front desk (there is a queue). They give you a towel, a smart wristband (which you can use to buy things in the lagoon, and to lock your lockers). These wrist bands are your life, so DON’T lose them or they will charge you. Also, they are really finicky and want to fall off (hmmm…) so take this blogger’s advice and keep it really tight.

Once through check in, men & women are directed into their locker rooms. You can leave your shoes at the door, but you have to be barefoot or have shower shoes on in the locker room. No outside shoes allowed. I took mine in my locker so as not to chance them getting stolen. Just like any other hot spring you need to shower naked and wash your hair throughly before entering the lagoon. They do provide soap, and conditioner (which they recommend leaving in your hair when you enter the lagoon).

*SIDE STORY: Ladies & Gentlemen. I have read horror stories about the hair damage the Blue Lagoon causes. I DID NOT dip my hair in the Blue Lagoon or Secret Lagoon, so I never had an issue. While you have to wash your hair before you get in, please leave it at that!*

After washing you head outside to blue waters of the lagoon.

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It is very photogenic, I am not going to lie. However, this was my least favorite thing I did in Iceland. I expected the water to be just as warm as the Secret Lagoon, but it wasn’t. There were some areas that were actually a little cold!

Also for you sensitive skin folks out there, this probably is not for you. At the Secret Lagoon, I had no reactions whatsoever. In fact, my skin felt soft and rejuvenated after that soak. At the Blue Lagoon, after about 40 minutes in the water I started to feel itchy & have some red blotches appear around my chest. Of course this freaked me out, and I immediately went back upstairs and showered for a good 30 minutes. Because I had all my travel luggage with me I used my own lufa, soap, and shampoo/conditioner so as not to further any reaction I may be having.

After my shower, my skin felt much better, but I wish I would have known that some have reactions to the silica in the water.

So would I recommend this? No. No I would not. You can and should skip this if you ever head to Iceland.


Iceland in Review

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As I was flying home, I reflected on how amazing this journey has been. Iceland is one of the best trips I have taken. As my first solo experience, I could not have wished for better. I highly recommend to start with Iceland if you want to try solo travel. The city is easy to navigate, the day tours are a fun way to see the country and to make new friends.

Do yourself a favor, and if you are even thinking about it a little bit, just book it! What do you have to lose?

Cheers Wanderers & on to the next destination,

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Iceland- A Solo Journey

If you didn’t know, I am a wanderlust soul.

Travel is what excites me and fills me with purpose and joy. I have such a strong desire to see the world, to experience it, and to learn about it.

Though I have been to 20 countries, I have never truly travelled solo. Until last week, when I embarked on my first real solo adventure to Iceland. Though I was based in Reykjavik I took trips to different parts of the island. But more about that later…

I flew to Iceland on Wow Airlines. If you don’t know about Wow, look into it! My round trip, non stop flight from Detroit to Reykjavik was only $400!

WOW *eyebrow wiggle.*

The flight was overall fine, and only six hours. I’ve traveled on some bad budget airlines, but I would fly on this one again. It was very bare bones,  you had to purchase any refreshments but since the flight was at 1 a.m. frankly all I wanted was to do was sleep.

Time FLEW by *eyebrow wiggle* and I got in to Reykjavik in mid morning. The airport is busy, but once through customs there is a clear path to the buses & taxis. I did not purchase my bus ticket prior and had no difficulty purchasing one at the counter. It only cost about 15 USD and was quite easy to use. They dropped us off at a bus station, where we switched buses according to the area we were going. After the exchange I was dropped off at City Hall where I headed to the meeting point for the City Walk Free Walking Tour.

This I absolutely recommend. You need to book in advance, but please note you can only book about a week in advance of your trip. Here is the link to their website/booking.

Our guide’s name was Sara, a true Icelander and local history teacher. She showed us around the city for about two hours. This was a great way to start the trip. This helps you acclimate to the city, so you have some idea of where you are and where you are going. Sara talked to us about politics, history, and gave us great tips for food, where to buy groceries, museums, etc.

We started at the main square Austurvöllur, in front of the House of Parliament (Alþingi) and ended at the Harpa Music Hall.

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The Pond by City Hall

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Harpa Music Hall

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The weather is very changeable, so be prepared for rain, cold, wind, and sun all in one day! Layers, layers, layers, a light weight waterproof/windproof jacket and a good hat doesn’t hurt. One moment the sun came out, and the next it poured. It didn’t stop Sara or anyone from having a good time. She did find places for us to warm up/dry off for a bit, which of course was appreciated.

At the end of the tour, she e-mailed us all a link with information about Iceland and Reykjavik.  Now, in Iceland tipping is not required. HOWEVER, in this instance, this tour is donation based so you can feel free to give as much as you like. There is even a portal on their website for you to pay with credit card if you do not have cash. I tipped Sara, and headed out into the city.

My first stop was the Icelandic grocery store Bonus. I stayed in an Airbnb for the week, and was intent on saving money by making my own food. I highly recommend this! Iceland’s prices are manageable, but what really is expensive is eating out. I saved a lot of money by buying groceries and preparing most of my food at my Airbnb. I bought all the basics like:

  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Peppers
  • Bread
  • Jam
  • Peanut Butter
  • Chips
  • Frozen Meal
  • Bananas

Speaking of Airbnb’s, if you are going to be based in Reykjavik like I was, I recommend you rent a little apartment. There are lots of places you can find here, and look how cute the view is from mine!

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After a long day of travel, I made myself some food and plopped into bed. My tour the next morning left at 7:00 a.m. for the south side of the island, and it was a day I would never forget.

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