Reykjavik

In recent times, the city of Reykjavik has become one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations. Tourists are being drawn to the Icelandic capital because of the stunning natural beauty available, and the vast number of different activities that can be enjoyed. This was exactly the reason I made my first trip to Iceland.

Reykjavik is known as the world’s northern-most capital city. Located just outside the arctic circle, annual visitors now regularly outnumber the total number of permanent residents; not only of the city itself, but of the whole country! Each year around 2.22 million tourists flock to the Scandinavian country, dwarfing the countries rather humble inhabitants six-fold (Iceland’s population stands at around 364,000).

The city itself is steeped in history. Dating back to the Viking era, Reykjavik is thought to be the location of the first permanent settlement in Iceland in AD 874. For many years it remained relatively low key and it wasn’t until the 19th Century when it saw its first urban development taking place.

Step forward to the modern era and Reykjavik is a small, but thriving, city. That’s not to say it’s not had it’s own well documented problems over the years.


The Sun Voyager boat statue is synonymous with the city of Reykjavik


In 2008 we had the infamous Icelandic financial crisis that saw the default of all three of the nation’s privately owned commercial banks. Then, travellers will remember, the ash cloud that grounded many flights across large swathes of Europe back in 2010 when – the easily pronounceable – Eyjafjallajökull erupted. Fortunately for Iceland, and indeed the rest of the world, things on these levels have calmed down. For now anyway.

The city itself holds a special place in my heart. I have a real love for Scandinavia and the people, ever since I first stepped foot in Oslo (Norway) back in the early 2000s. There is something about these Scandinavian cities that I find so appealing. Perhaps its the fresh, clean air? Or maybe it’s the stunning scenery? Maybe it’s the amazing number of activities you can do there? I’d say it’s a combination of all that and more!

For a first time visitor to the city there are a few things you should know. Firstly, Iceland is a very expensive country – like a lot of Scandinavia. There are high levels of tax on things such as imported alcohol. So a pint of beer, for example, can end up costing about £10. At the time of writing, £1 could get you around 170 Icelandic Krona meaning a £10 pint could set you back around 1,700 Krona.

The next thing to think about is the weather. Both times I’ve been to Iceland it was cold. That’s because I have only travelled there in the spring time (and will be basing this blog on travel at that time of year). Average highs for March and April range from around 4°c to 6°c with lows in the minus figures. Even if you travel in July / August you can expect temperatures to be fairly mild by European standards at around 14°c or 15°c.

During the spring season, you can get a wide variety of extreme weather conditions in short spaces of time. Expect heavy rain, biting winds and snow flurries to be followed by beautiful sunshine; all in the space of a couple of hours. When the weather is with you though, you’ll get crisp, bright blue skies with superb visibility. Honestly, there is nothing quite like it.

Top tip here is to pack for the worst case scenario if you can and then remove layers if the conditions allow it. Better to have too many layers than not enough, right? Make sure you have suitable gloves, scarf and hats and wear numerous layers for warmth rather than just a thick jumper and coat. Also, bring waterproofs. They do make the difference and make the experience more pleasurable.


Google Maps view of the centre of Reykjavik

While in Iceland, you’ll also find that (if you are like me) the language is almost impenetrable to the outside tongue. I just couldn’t get my head around it at all. Fortunately, and this doesn’t make me feel good as a traveller to say so, 99.9% of the people I met spoke perfect English.

However, it’s always good to try and make a bit of an effort while you are abroad so if you fancy giving Icelandic a go, some very basic words to try are halló (hello), bless (goodbye), skál (cheers), vinsamlegast (please) and takk (thanks). Let me know in the comments below how you have got on with Icelandic and if there are any other basic key words travellers should know.


Getting there

Getting to Iceland, these days its pretty easy. Most London airports have routes to the Icelandic capital with some flights acting as stopovers for trips to Canada and the USA.

One of the most common ways to get to Iceland is through their national flight operator, Icelandair. This great quality budget airline gets you easily from many of the main London airports – including Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton – to Keflavik Airport some 50km outside of the capital. Flights are also available through EasyJet, WizzAir and British Airways. Now the flight itself. My last trip to Iceland was in an April time so the price I paid was for a return trip during that period of the year. I paid £265.13 per person from London Heathrow. The flight takes around two and a half to three hours depending on wind direction and is usually a very pleasant experience. Take note of the Northern Light style lights on show around the plane when the rest of the lights are dimmed.

Keflavik is the main airport for the country and the one all international flights arrive into. It’s a small airport despite the ever-increasing quantity of international flights arriving and departing from its runways (around 8m passengers use the airport each year) with a few shopping facilities for those departing Iceland. While you’re there make sure you check out the Blue Lagoon store (more about the actual Blue later on) for some last minute skin care products.

It’s also worth noting that on your arrival in Iceland you’ll come through a duty-free area as you do in many airports. However, if you are staying in an AirBnB or other private accommodation then it may be worth buying any alcohol you plan to consume from here as it is much cheaper to do so than when you are in Reykjavik itself.

As mentioned, when you arrive at Keflavik, you’ll find yourself some 50km outside of the city centre, meaning you’ll need transport (unless you are hiring a car). For this I used Reykjavik Excursions who – for a round-trip from the airport to my hotel – charged 9,000 Krona per person (around £45). The transfer is by coach – along with other passengers so there will be stops at other hotels, unless you’re lucky enough to be the first drop off. The bus is easy to spot when you leave the airport as it has the company’s logo on the side as well as ‘Flybus’ in big bold letters. The journey is easy and takes around an hour so sit back and enjoy the views of the barren volcanic landscape for the first time.


Where to stay

I’m not 100% sure how it happens – perhaps it’s all the various deals that appear online – but it seems that a lot of first time / budget travellers who head to Iceland end up staying, as I did, in Hotel Cabin. And quite frankly, this two-star hotel is perfectly good.

A stay at Hotel Cabin can be enjoyed at a very reasonable price. A three night stay, in April, for two people in a standard twin room will cost travellers about £200. This price also includes breakfast which is a buffet style affair. Let’s be totally honest, this is a budget hotel. Rooms are very clean, with comfy beds and well structured. However, they are pretty small. Yet, if you are like me, you don’t want to spend all your time in Iceland in a hotel room so I just used this as a base to sleep and then spend my days doing fun activities.

If you get a room with a window (not all of them have this) you have a chance of getting some stunning views out across the water at the mountains in the distance. Another thing to note here is that the hotel is a bit of a walk from the city centre. It’s not too far – around 3km away – but if the weather is poor then it can make this walk less enjoyable.


A standard room at Hotel Cabin is comfy but small
The view from a room with a window can be good if you get the right conditions

The hotel is located on a street called Borgartun (opposite a petrol station and a Subway). From here I enjoyed the walk down the main Saebraut road which runs parallel with the water. Make sure you stop by the famous ship sculpture for a photo opportunity!

From my experience of Hotel Cabin it’s a great option for those on a limited budget who want to explore Iceland. However, if you are able to spend a little bit more on your accommodation then I’d say look no further than the superb Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina. Located right next to the old harbour in Reykjavik on Myrargata, this stylish hotel really is a hidden gem.

During my stay, for four nights, I paid £754.62 – around £189 a night. However, checking prices at the time of writing for a three night stay, travellers can expect to pay around 61,500 Krona total or around £340 (£113 per night) for a King Guest Room. These prices included a vast buffet breakfast that really puts you in a great place at the start of the day.

Now what’s special about this hotel? Well I’d describe it as quirky. I’m still yet to stay in another hotel anywhere in the world that has a wooden statue in the men’s toilets posing as if it is using the urinals. It does make you take a second look when you step inside it for the first time!


Ships are in dry-dock just outside your hotel room windows

Rooms at Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina like this provide a great place to stay in Iceland
Try not to be too alarmed when you come across this guy in the men’s toilets at the hotel


The staff are extremely helpful. It’s true that nothing is too much trouble for them and they do go out of their way to help out.

Once you’ve checked into the hotel you’ll also see that the rooms are superb. They are spacious and a bit different from the norm. The bathroom I had was behind frosted glass walls which makes for an interesting experience – especially if you are sharing with a friend! Also try and get a harbour view room as then you’ll get a view out at the ships in the dry-docks and across the water.

Two things not to miss here are the restaurant (more about that later on in the blog) and the bar; called Slippbarinn. The bar here makes some of the best cocktails I’ve ever consumed! This place made me fall in love with Old Fashioned cocktails and I’m not a whiskey drinker at all! Make sure you stop by at least once (even if you are not staying in the hotel) to try the drinks. Added bonus here is that they often run a happy hour so you get two drinks for the price of one – which is great considering how expensive alcohol is in Iceland.


Getting around

As I’ve mentioned, the city itself is pretty small. That is a good thing as once you are there, you are able to walk to many of the centrally-located attractions. As a reminder, though, if you are staying in a hotel on the outskirts – such as Hotel Cabin – then the walk can be a little less appealing if the weather is poor.

During my stays in Reykjavik I’ve always enjoyed taking a roam through the city’s streets. They are quiet, clean and safe and the roads are some of the emptiest you’ll experience in a capital city.


The city’s streets are very quiet and easy to navigate by foot

If you plan to go further afield from Reykjavik during your stay in Iceland, and don’t necessarily want to be part of a larger tour, then hiring a car is an advisable way to travel around. A few things to remember. Icelanders drive on the right side of the road, but this wasn’t always the case. Up until 1968, they drove on the left – like the UK and Ireland – but a law change saw them switch sides.

Driving in Iceland is a joy. Not only are the roads easy to navigate and parking plentiful, but the scenery you’ll see is stunning. There is very little I think back to more fondly from my travels there than taking the car out for a drive and stopping by the side of the road to take in the views. All that and, usually, nobody else there. Just you and nature.

The roads are, on the whole, very quiet even in the city centre. I found when I drove in Reykjavik I had plenty of time at junctions to make sure I was doing the correct things and to make sure I was heading in the right direction. The roads empty out further still when you get out of the city and head out into the countryside – probably along the main ring road Route 1.

There are plenty of car hire options in Iceland and you can pick up a car from the airport upon arrival. I didn’t do this as I only needed a car for a day so picked it up (and dropped it off) at a city location. I hired my car through Hertz from their Flugvallarvegur 5 car hire shop in downtown Reykjavik.

It also felt like a pretty good deal. For £38.08 for the day (paid by credit card before I left the UK), I hired a small economy car. This, for example, is a car like a Toyota Yaris or Kia. For that price I got all the usual insurance and road tax with the exception of fuel and excess costs should I get into an accident. Fortunately I never had to find out more about that particular aspect of my booking.


You can pull over and explore lots of places in Iceland if you take a hire car outside of the city centre
The roads are very quiet; especially when you have left the city centre

When picking up your car, you’ll need to remember a few things. Firstly, your driving licence. You are going nowhere without it. Secondly, another form of ID. The obvious one here is your passport. Next, the credit card you paid with and finally, the voucher from the car hire company for your booking. Do not forget any of these items!

Once you have your car remember that it is the law to drive at all times of the day and night with your headlines on! Daytime running lights do not cover this so always remember to switch them on when you head out.

Next thing to note is that while the roads may be empty, depending on what time of year it is, they could be snowy and icy. Drive carefully and do not exceed the speed limits clearly signposted. Also, as I found out, the weather is extremely changeable. One minute you are driving in beautiful sunshine, the next it’s a blizzard. Make sure you do provide clear space between yourself and the car in front just in case you have to stop suddenly. When I drove in Iceland I was leaving the capital and driving through the winding mountain roads on the south coast and was met by such a blizzard. The only way I knew where the road was in front of me was to follow the large lorries’ tail lights that lit up the path ahead.

Finally, as you’ll be told when you take the car, do not try and go off road. If you, like me, have a budget small car then they are not built to try and drive on anything other than the asphalt. Just off most roads there is usually dark grit and sand that can be easy to get stuck in. I parked to the side of one road at one point to take a picture and my wheels ended up spinning in the dirt for a while before I came loose. And that was only one side of my car!

Keep these tips in mind when in Iceland and I’m sure you’ll love driving around this country as much as I have done.


Top sites

While you stay in Reykjavik, a great deal of the actual things to do in Iceland are outside of the main city centre. However, it only seems right to start with something inside the city. The Settlement Museum – located on Adalstraeti – costs 1,740 Krona for adults to enter (about £10) and looks at the settlement of people in Iceland and at what findings can tell scholars about what work and life were like for the original settlers to the country.

This small, and fascinating, museum is centred around the remains of a Viking hall dating back to 871AD having been excavated in 2001. A visit to the exhibition – named Reykjavik 871+2 – is a must for both history buffs and other visitors alike, and will take between one and two hours depending on your level of interest.


Inside the Settlement Museum you’ll be able to learn about the first inhabitants of Iceland

When I visited the museum, I went in with relatively low expectations. That’s nothing against the museum itself. I was just cautious on how much useful and interesting information they could have on show in such a small place. I’m pleased to say I was very wrong.

Around the remains of the Great Hall – one of the oldest man-made structures found, to date, in Iceland – there is a wealth of other smaller finds on show and a great deal of information to absorb. This museum can really whet the appetite for an Icelandic adventure.

The next suggestion is one to book if you have not got a car to do it yourself. During my first stay in Iceland I wanted to cram in as many of the countries main southern attractions as I could. So booked myself onto the Grayline Golden Circle Tour for just 54 Euros each; or around £48 (booked online in advance of my trip).


This excellent tour takes in a number of the key sites over the course of about seven hours. Meeting at the Reykjavik bus station, you take a round-trip that stops off at Pingvellir (or Thingvellir) National Park where you’ll see the North American tectonic plate meeting the European tectonic plate, the impressive Gullfoss waterfall and the famous Geysir Hot Springs. At this last stop you’ll see bubbling cauldrons of super-heated mud, steaming pools and Strokkur; a geysir that erupts every six to 10 minutes. Be aware though, there is a strong smell of sulphur in the air so you’ll have to get used to the smell of rotten eggs quite quickly!


Geysir’s bubble all around you at the hot springs
Watching Strokkur erupt every six to 10 minutes is must while you are at Geysir
The waters are extremley hot as they run along the ground so be careful where you put your fingers
Gullfoss in all its glory
The land between two continents in pingvallir National Park
The vastness and beauty of pingvillir was stunning to experience

For me this was a superb tour. At each stop there was plenty of time to explore and have a look at everything on offer. Geysir can be quite busy so there are often a lot of people crowded around Stokkur to get a photo, or video, of it going off, but just be patient and you’ll get a chance also.

Another thing that I wanted to see when travelling to Iceland was the Northern Lights. Most people will want to do the same also. Again if you have a car of your own then you can go out of the city (best to move away from as much artificial light as you can), but for those without, then the Grayline Northern Light Tour is a great option to have.

The Northern Lights are a special sight. Shimmering majestically in the sky, they really are a bucket list item to tick off.

A few warnings, however. We’ve all seen the magnificent pictures of the Lights in the sky; lighting it up with all different colours. Chances are though that unless you are either very lucky, or have a very expensive camera, then that’s not what you’ll see. During my trip out our coach stopped at the side of the road; having been in radio convoy with other coaches for where the Lights were visible. Once out in the cold (it was approaching 10pm on a spring night) the sky had a dull white light just about visible in it.

Whilst I was delighted to see this, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. There is a way to make the most of this though and you can do this even with your phone camera. Set the camera up and hold as still as possible. If you have a tripod then all the better. Then set it for a setting that has a very slow shutter speed allowing as much light in as possible. From this I found that my pictures – while not perfect – did show off the Northern Lights in a much more impressive and visible green colour.


Small movements with your camera at a low shutter speed will distort the light as can be seen here on the left side of the picture
The Northern Lights often look better through a camera lense than they do with the naked eye

Second thing to remember is that unlike a tour to a waterfall – that a tour company can guarantee will be there – the Northern Lights don’t work to a set schedule. Weather will play a big part in if you see them or not. The good thing about this tour is that if you do go out with them (or even if they cancel beforehand) you can just book onto the following nights tour for free. That way you stand the best chance of seeing something.

In terms of money, this tour again was booked in advance and cost 38 Euros per person (around £34.50) and will pick you up from most hotels in Reykjavik.

While walking around and seeing all these incredible things is a great way to spend your time in Reykjavik, it’s also nice to get some down time and relax. And to do that there is no better place to go than to the Blue Lagoon.

Situated near Keflavik Airport, you’ll need either a car to drive here or to go as part of a bus tour. I recommend a car, as that allows you to spend as long as you want there without having to worry about bus timetables. It’s about a 50 minute drive from the centre of the city to the Blue Lagoon – but it’s a pretty simple route and well signposted the closer you get.

There are two packages you can purchase. These are Comfort package (around 10,690 krona / about £60) or the Premium package (around 13,690 / about £76). The Comfort package gets you entry to the Blue Lagoon, a silica mud mask, the use of a towel and the first drink of your choice. The Premium Package gets you all of this plus a second mask of your choice, slippers, a bathrobe a table reservation at the Lava Restaurant and a glass of sparkling wine at the restaurant.


You’ll be surrounded by steam coming from the waters during a stay in the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon does get busy with fellow bathers so arrive nice and early to make the most of it
The entrance way leading up to the Blue Lagoon
The waters here a crystal blue and feel great on your skin

Inside the Blue Lagoon it has a luxurious spa day feel to it. Many people are walking around in bathrobes and towels and there is a sense of peace and tranquility about it.

Changing areas are divided into male and female, and you’re asked to wash thoroughly before entering the waters. Once changed into your swimwear, you can exit the changing area and meet your group before catching your first glimpses of the Blue Lagoon itself.

This geothermal hot spring is large which is convenient given that it attracts a lot of people to it every day. Even if the weather is poor and it is cold, a few minutes in the water when you lower yourself up to your neck will have you warmed up nicely.

There are a few things you should definitely make the time for here. First is a stop in the saunas and steam rooms for a quick session. They are some of the best I’ve every been in. Next wade over in the water to one of the mud mask areas and grab a load of mud and put it on your face. It may feel rather disgusting at first but your skin will feel the benefits of it later I assure you.

Finally, go to the swim-up bar. When you arrive you’ll be given a wristband each and this is how you record how many drinks you order. There is a financial limit on the bands to stop people going over the top, but do make sure you get at least one set of drinks here. I’d advise you to try the Blue Lagoon cocktails as these are delicious.

With your drinks in hand, find somewhere to submerge yourself and sit back and enjoy the surroundings.

When you’ve dried off from the Blue Lagoon, hop in the car and head down the south coast of Iceland for about two hours to one of the world’s most photographed waterfalls; Seljalandsfoss. This stunning waterfall may not be the tallest in the world – just 60m high – but it makes up for that with its beauty.

The waterfall is part of the Seljalands River that has its origins in the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajokull. The water that pours over its edges are that of melted glacier water and will be some of the purest water around. What makes this waterfall special is that not only can you see it from the front, but you can also walk right up behind the waterfall into a cave area. Be prepared to get very wet doing this however, if the wind is blowing the spray from the fall at you.


A trip along the south coast to Seljalandsfoss is highly recommended

Visitors to Seljalandsfoss can pull up in the small car park for free and view this site. There is no entrance fee. There is a small tuck-shop style truck just to the side though and you can buy a warming hot drink here and a slice of cake to enjoy while walking around the area.

Back in the centre of Reykjavik now you’ll probably have seen the imposing figure of Hallgrimskirkja at one of the city’s highest points. This Christian church is one of the largest structures in Iceland at a height of 74.5m.

Founded in 1945, the church is a stylish affair with clear Scandinavian influences in its design. But it’s the prospect of ascending its bell tower that was the draw for me.

For 1,000 Krona (about £6) you can go to the top of the tower by elevator. You don’t need to book in advance as you can simply turn up to the church and pay to go up the tower on arrival which allows you to pick a time when the weather is good. Be aware though, that this is still a functioning church and the tower can be shut if they do have other activities going on.


The statue of Leifur Eiriksson – a norse explorer – outside Hallgrimskirkja
Hallgrimskirkja is the tallest building in Reykjavik and the second tallest in Iceland
The views from Hallgrimskirkja showcase just how beautiful the city is

Once you reach the top of the bell tower, you are given some of the best views of Reykjavik available. This low-lying city does not have many places to get aerial views from but this is a must for those wanting to see the Icelandic capital from a different perspective.

That’s viewing Iceland from above, but it’s also possible to see it from below. Well below water level that is. Iceland is home to a number of great scuba diving sites and as a keen diver I was eager to don my dry suit and go under in these rather cold waters. The dive that excited me the most was one between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates at Silfra in pingvellir. For this I dived with the superb Dive.IS.

Picked up early from my hotel in Reykjavik, Dive.IS drove our group of divers to the site and gave us the detailed briefing. We were to get ready and take our equipment to the stairway entrance to the water where we would go under once everyone was in.

Once submerged, I found myself in the clearest, most pure water, I’ve ever been in. The water here comes directly through the rocks and has therefore been exposed to all sorts of natural minerals. We were even advised to remove our regulators at one time in the dive and take a gulp of the water to taste just how pure it was.

The tour at Silfra takes you through four main parts. Diving between the continents (where you can be photographed holding a different continent in each hand), before moving onto the Silfra Hall where you may spot a duck or two overhead as the visibility is usually perfect.

Moving on, near the opening of Thingvakkavatn Lake you’ll enter an area known as the Silfra Cathedral. This is the deepest point of the dive at around 18m. If there are divers ahead of you here you’ll be able to see the ‘chandelier effects’ of their rising bubbles. Lastly you finish in the shallow area of Silfra Lagoon. Once you leave the water, you will have to walk back about 250m along the pathway to the meeting point where a much needed hot chocolate and cookies await you.


Entering the water at Silfra you’ll dive between two tectonic plates
Holding both the continents in my hands while diving in Silfra was an amazing experience
The water is so clear and pure that the reflections on the surface are almost mirror-like
The pathway you’ll follow winds around the fissure made by the two tectonic plates
Towards the end of the dive the water gets very shallow
The visability under the water at Silfra is the best I’ve ever experienced
The bubbles you make from your regulator will catch the light creating beautiful patterns in the water

Couple of things to note for this dive. You’ll need to have done a dry suit speciality course before you’ll be able to dive here. Or at least show you have done 10 dry suit dives in the past two years. Second thing is that the water is extremely cold. That’s fine for the most part of you as you’ll be enclosed in the dry suit which will, if anything, make you really hot and sweaty. However, for the few exposed bits of skin (such as your face) you’ll going to feel the chill. It’s worth it though.

Final thing to note is the price. As with most dives worldwide, it can be a bit costly. For two dives and full equipment at Silfra I paid 34,990 Krona which is about £192.

My personal experience of this was that it is one of my favourite dives I’ve ever done. Despite the lack of wildlife under the water (it’s not the sea so not much really lives in it), the clarity of the water and just diving down between the tectonic plates was as memorable an experience as I ever participated in.

My final recommendation is to go off-roading. Not in your hire car though. For this I booked a tour out of Reykjavik with Arctic Adventures.

There are a number of options Arctic Adventures provides – including caving and ice cave tours, whale watching and snowmobile tours –  but I’ll talk you through the trip I took that I thoroughly recommend; the Caving and ATVs in Iceland tour.

I’d never driven an ATV before so was excited to give it a go. Getting picked up from the hotel, I was driven to the ATV centre in the city where our tour group were fitted with overalls and helmets and given a safety briefing. Soon enough though, we were out on the roads on an ATV.


You’ll probably get a little wet and muddy going off road on the ATV
ATVs parked up at one of the stops along the tour
Beautiful rock formations are everywhere during the lava cave trip

This hour long drive takes you from the streets, onto the hills and through rivers. It’s an exhilarating drive that allows you to pick up speed and navigate the rocky terrain while taking in the impressive sights.

Once the ATV drive has been done you’ll be dropped back into Reykjavik to meet the second part of the tour that will take in Hafrafjall mountain and allow you underground in the Raufarholshellir lava tube. This second part does require you to be a bit flexible as you’ll have to crawl into the narrow entrance of the tube. Inside you’ll see all manner of stalagmites and stalactites that have formed over the centuries. Be careful on the floor as their is likely to be ice that could cause you to fall over (as I did to my shame).


Where to avoid

With so much to see and do in Iceland it’s important to make the most of your time there. Use it to explore some of the countries real wonders and leave a few of the not so great things to the side. To that end I’ve identified two such locations that I’ve visited during my travels to Reykjavik that I won’t be in any rush to return to.

The first of these is the Whales of Iceland Museum. On paper this seemed like a good option. The museum is located in the north of Reykjavik, quite near the centre of the city. For those who tried (and maybe failed) to spot a whale or two in the wild on a boat trip, this museum would give you the chance to see some in their, less than, natural environment.

Now I have nothing personally against the museum, however, I will explain the reasons I think you can skip this attraction.


The whale models are impressive in size but offer little else
A model of a humpback whale does little to excite

Firstly the cost. At 2,900 Krona per adult (around £16 each) the museum felt rather expensive. Take into consideration all the natural history museums you can enter worldwide either free of charge or for a fraction of the price, it just doesn’t add up.

Second point is that after you’ve paid entry you notice that the museum is literally all located within one large room. You could probably work this out anyway as from the outside you can see that you are in an industrial area of the city and this place seems to be a rented warehouse.

Finally, the exhibits themselves. The museum is home to a number of life-sized models of whales. But that’s all they are; models. Their are a few real whale items inside, but on the whole you are paying to look at a selection of large plastic models.

On the plus side, the museum is child friendly and a youngster may enjoy it more than a group of adults. Also during our visit to the museum, the gentleman on the front desk was extremely friendly and paid a real interest in us and in English football. This may have been down to the fact that we were the only people in the museum for the entire time I visited (which was about an hour at most).

Basically, there are a million and one better things to do with your time in Iceland; so give this one a miss.

Something that’s not in those million and one things better to do is The Icelandic Phallological Museum or the penis museum. This museum is just odd; although it should be fair to say you know what you are going into when you arrive.

Ahead of our visit we’d heard people joke about this museum and had looked it up. Sure enough there is a penis museum located in central Reykjavik on a street called Laugavegur.

The museum describes itself as probably the only museum in the world to contain a collection of phallic specimens belonging to all the various types of mammals found in a single country. A claim that I’m sure few are going to dispute. Various types of whales, dolphins, foxes, rats, rabbits and even a couple of human penises are on show here for anyone curious enough to enter.


The main ‘attraction’ at the museum is the whale penis

During our visit we actually met the museum founder and owner – a gentleman named Sigurdur Hjartason. Having worked as a teacher for almost 40 years, he initially gained an interest in the subject matter when he received a pizzle or bull’s penis back in 1974. Mr Hjartason then opened his museum in the capital in August 1997 with some 62 specimens.

A short spell, away from Reykjavik followed for the museum between 2004 and 2011 when he moved to Husavik; the whale watching capital of Europe before moving back to the city under the stewardship of his son Hjortur Gisli Sigurdsson.

To be honest, this is a museum for those with a more curious nature. Costing 1,700 per adult (about £10) to enter, this is somewhere to go if you have a spare hour and a strong stomach.

The exhibits are eye opening due to their sheer volume. The whale penis alone is something else!

Put simply, his gimmicky museum relies on the curious to enter. Most won’t ever return. Maybe one to avoid if you’re holidaying with the kids.


Great places to eat

For any visitor to Iceland, a good meal straight from the sea should be high on the to-do list. And for a traveller on a tight budget looking for some great seafood then a trip to Icelandic Fish & Chips is an absolute must.

Located on the corner of Tryggvagata near the sea front. This trendy restaurant does a great take on traditional fish and chips using some of the more prominent catches from the Greenland Sea. The fish you’ll eat are very fresh and while they do come in batter it’s not the type of batter that takes over the taste. The fish on the plate is the real winner here.

Also make sure you order a portion of the rosemary potatoes. They are perhaps even better than the fish. I’d have been happy enough just ordering lots of portions of those as they smell and taste superb.

The menu is also – by Icelandic standards – fairly affordable and a good meal for two should cost you around 6,000 Krona (or about £35). Be aware, however, that if you do add alcohol to this then the final bill could go up considerably.

The second pick takes you back to the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina and dinner in Slippbarinn. The bar here, as mentioned, does amazing drinks but the small restaurant to the side of it is absolutley superb.

During our stay here we had dinner at Slippbarinn on one of the days and it was fantastic. A wide variety of Icelandic cuisine was one offer and I think they change the menu quite regularly to ensure it is always fresh and interesting.

A fish soup was the starter I had and this was possibly the best seafood soup I have ever had anywhere in the world. Each mouthful was flavourful and there were plenty of real seafood in the bowl to be enjoyed.

Following this, I opted for a beef tenderloin to follow which was cooked to perfection. This was accompanied by a selection of roasted vegetables and a sprinkling of thyme.

Leave room for a dessert also. While the dessert menu isn’t extensive, there should be an option on it to suit most tastes.

Be aware, that a full three course meal here – including drinks – for two people can set you back around 20,000 Krona (or £110) so make sure you take that into consideration before sitting down to enjoy the food.


Useful links

Icelandair

Keflavik Airport Duty-Free

Reykjavik Excursions

Hotel Cabin

Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina

Slippbarinn

Hertz

Settlement Museum

Grayline Golden Circle Tour

Grayline Northern Light Tour

Blue Lagoon

Seljalandsfoss

Hallgrimskirkja

Dive.IS

Arctic Adventures

Whales of Iceland Museum

The Icelandic Phallological Museum

Icelandic Fish & Chips

Published by Steve Kennedy

42 countries visited and counting....

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6 Comments

    1. Thank you. Yeah it was pretty cold under the water where the water touched your skin. The dry suit helps everywhere else though. However, you really don’t notice the cold too much when you have so much stunning scenery to look at

      Liked by 1 person

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