Reykjavik, Iceland

Oh Iceland… despite an unpleasant send off by getting patted down from airport security for being a person of interest, I still heart you as one of my favorite countries to visit. More on that later if you are interested.

I am starting off in the city of Reykjavik where its amazing food and friendly people are a nice anchor to start your exploration of this magical land.  The time I visited was during the month of April when Winter had started to creep back into its den, so the cold wasn’t so biting.  Temperatures hovered around the 40s.  With just five full days to wander, I spent two days in Reykjavik, one day going to the Blue Lagoon, and two days on a road trip exploring the “Golden Circle”.

Besides just strolling around the city and seeing the various art sculptures scattered throughout, sightseeing points of interests in Reykjavik include some the following:

Solfar (Sun Voyager)     Of course one can’t ever visit a foreign city without an obligatory shot of one of its most photographed locations  and this would be one of them.  Solfar was designed by sculptor Jon Gunnar Arnason.  This 29.5 ft × 22.9 ft × 59 ft stainless steel structure, shaped like a ship, sits on a circle of granite slabs facing the sea and mountain views.  The Sun Voyager was designed by the artist to represent a symbol of light and hope, though most visitors have misenterpreted it to represents those viking ships exploring faraway lands.

Hallgrímskirkja     This Lutheran church is the largest religious edifice and 6th tallest architectural structure in Iceland.  It was named after Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Petursson.  The construction took 40 years to complete and was designed by Gudjón Samuelsson to mimic the basalt lava flow of Iceland’s landscapes.  This structure is visible from all viewpoints throughout the city.  Inside, it houses a large organ with 5,000 pipes that’s 49 feet tall and weighs 25 tons.  Attached to the church is an observation tower that visitors can ride up a lift to see, for a small fee.  Once at the top you can obtain various views of Reykjavik and the surrounding mountains from the deck.

Harpa     The concert hall and conference center of Reykjavik and home to Iceland Symphony Orchestra and Icelandic Opera.  Its façade comprised of prism colored geometric shaped glass panels over a steel framework, and was designed by artist Olafur Eliasson.

Besides these locales the most notable aspect of Reykjavik would have to be the amazing fine dining selections.  This was probably what I spent the majority of my vacation funds on, hehe.  The selection of fresh fish dishes with their lovely presentations and unusual garnishing were made to delight one’s eyes and tastebuds.  Arctic char was a common ingredient amongst all the restaurants and I had my first taste of smoked puffin, European shag, and minke whale. [Follow down below to the photos of dishes for more information].

Now onto how I ended up on the suspicious list of the Icelandic airport security.  When I visited, back in April 2013, there were two groups of departures/arrivals times.  I had met up with someone who was coming from the opposite direction of me.  He had a flight time that was early in the morning.  Mine was to be later in the evening.  Since I didn’t want to be the only one left hanging around in the city, I decided I would just kill my time at the restaurants and shops at Keflavik after seeing him off.  Having not slept much the night before, once my friend departed, I went to lay down on some benches and took a needed nap.  Two hours later, imagine my confusion when I woke up to an almost deserted airport.  With the exception of a few employee coming every now and then, there was not a single other passenger around.  Brushing it aside I decided to head into the main shopping area to grab something to eat, only to find that not only were there no passengers, no shops or restaurants were open! I then realized that unlike the always buzzing terminals of JFK, Kevflavik’s only open once there are flights arriving/departing, which was early that morning and later in the evening, for me.  So I spent the nex several hours wandering around the airport, sitting one moment at the main lobby, knitting on a bench corner of a walkway the next, just being generally antsy to pass the time.  Finally about two hours before my flight’s time, everything opened once again to my rejoice.  I had no idea that during this whole time the security cameras had been keeping a close watch on all my movements.  Because once I got to the security checkpoint, I was approached by a woman who told me I had been specially selected for an examination.  She then escorted me to an enclosed cubible off to the side where there were 4 more persons sitting around waiting for us.  Some of them looking at me with amusements on there face as they spoke amongst themselves.  After the usual procedures of patting down and bag contents searched and examined, I was cleared of suspicions and allowed to board my flight.  I wasn’t sure if I should have felt mortified or died laughing.

It must have been such a sight that a petite Asian me, carrying my hapy yellow backpack, could be a possible terrorist threat.  Funnier that this was not my first time!  I was trying to contain myself from bursting into laughter the whole time I was standing there getting searched.  Who knows, they might have deemed me mental instead haha.

As usual, please follow after the photo jump for restaurants and sightseeing information and links.

Happpy wandering!

xx Lan

Camera used: Canon S95      Date taken: April 2013

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Solfar

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Harpa

Harpa

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Hallgrímskirkja

Hallgrímskirkja

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NOTABLE EATS

First let me preface by letting you know that everywhere in Iceland, when you order soups or coffees, free refills are a given.  You’re welcome 😉

Butter for your bread served on a stone and sprinkled in lava salt.

Butter for table bread is served on a stone and sprinkled with lava salt.

Sjávargrillið

Sjávargrillið

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: 1.Grilled leg of lamb & fried lamb shoulder  2.Creme brulee with sorbet and sorrel leaves garnish. 3.Grilled & deepfried langoustine with catfish.  4.Smoked European Shag, Puffin, & marinated Minke whale.  

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT:  1.Grilled minke whale  2.Artic char ceviche  3.Langoustine roll with mandarin oranges  4.Sashimi plate.

Fiskfélagið

Fiskfélagið

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT:  1.Cured Leg of lamb & lamb confit, glazed shallot & noisette powder, lamb juice with berries & kale combo   2.Soft Artic Char sashimi with roe, horseradish snow & smoked skyr paste, radish with skyr merengue & herb granit   3.Fried Monkfish & scallops, artichoke purée & pickled green oil with cheesed chicken stock, layered with sunchoke chips   4.Cod and arctic char fish of the day special.

Cafe Loki

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur Hot dogs made with lamb. Get it with all toppings...ketchup, sweet mustard, remoulade, crisp fried onions and raw onions. It's heaven.

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur

Hot dogs made with lamb. Get it with all toppings…ketchup, sweet mustard, remoulade, crisp fried onions and raw onions. It’s a burst of flavors in your mouth.

 

Hallgrimskirkja  :  Website

Harpa Center  :  Website

Solfar  Location is by the bay, end of the Frakkastigur Street and east of the Harpa center on Saebraut.

RESTAURANTS MENTIONED ABOVE

Sjavargrillid  :  Website
TripAdvisor reviews : Site link

Fiskmarkaðurinn  :  Website
TripAdvisor reviews : Site link

Fiskfélagið  :  Website
TripAdvisor reviews : Site link

Cafe Loki  :  Website
TripAdvisor reviews : Site link

Baejarins Beztu hot dogs
TripAdvisor reviews : Site link


TripAdvisor Hotel Listing Reviews
Site link
I stayed in one of Apartment K’s listings which was an affordable price for its location, cleanliness, and nice shower set up.  But you can read up on the reviews to make your decision since everyone has different preferences.

Transportation from Airport:
As for transportation when you exit Keflavik there is a booth by the exit that sell bus tickets.  I would get the roundtrip so you’ll have it for when you leave to the airport.  It’s called Flybus.  You can visit its website for fare and schedule information.
Flybus : Site link