In researching flights for our trip, I found that IcelandAir has more reasonably priced flights than many other airlines, and they have a feature they call #MyStopover, which basically means you can make your layover in Iceland last a few days, rather than missing out on a whole extra country during your layover. We landed in Iceland around 6:30 AM and left around 4 PM the next day, which gave us one full day in Reykjavik, and a morning in Keflavik, where the airport is located.
On our day in Reykjavik, we walked and walked, seeing as much as we could by foot. Our first stop was Hallgrímskirkja, a church made to look like a viking ship, complete with a Leif Eriksson out front. We walked all around it, and each angle is quite stunning. Inside the cathedral, there is a huge organ, which hangs out into the room. We also went to the top of the bell tower, which had lovely views of the city, and all the multi-colored rooftops.
We walked along the coast, seeing a large ship in dry dock being repaired, a large yacht with smaller boats going in and out of it (think James Bond), and we saw a huge glass building that ended up being the Harpa Concert Hall. The pieces of glass are arranged in an almost honeycomb pattern, and a few pieces here and there are different colors. Seeing the sun shine through onto the floor was just beautiful! And the ceiling was made of mirror in a similar pattern - it was fun trying to find our reflections! If/when we come back, I think we'll try to see a concert here!
We also walked past the Government House, where the prime minister’s office it. We also walked to Höfði, which is the house where Gorbachev and Reagan met in 1986. There is a statue of Gorbachev out front, too.
For a brief break from the chilly sea breeze, and to get off our feet, we wandered into the Volcano House, where they’ve got rocks, geodes and ash you can actually touch, and two short documentaries about how volcanic eruptions have impacted their island. It was a bit overpriced, but it was a place to sit in the dark and relax 😜
Eventually we got to City Hall, which is home to a huge topographical map of Iceland. Right next to City hall is a pond and a park with lots of birds. We wandered a bit there, sat and watched a fountain get fixed, and watched some rowdy ducks and swans.
We were absolutely exhausted by the end of this day, but we felt very good about how much we saw in one day!
Our morning in Keflavik was very quiet. I don’t think the town gets started as early as we did (around 10 am)! We walked along the coast there, and made it to the marina where we stopped for Nathaniel to take pictures. The marina is right next to a hiking trail, which we decided to explore. The trail goes along a cliff overlooking the water, and the views were very pretty.
After our hike, we saw another path near the beginning of the trail. This one had huge painted footprints on it, and it led to a little hut/cave in the cliff. This was home to a Giantess, who is asleep in the cave. She is a character from a popular children’s book in Iceland. Totally random, but a fun surprise that we just stumbled into.
They’ve also got a boat called “Baldur” on display not too far down the coast. This was the first fishing boat in Iceland with the bridge on the front. The more you know.
Getting to see these two cities showed us that we can very effectively see a lot of things in a short amount of time, but if/when we come back, we think we'll spend a bit more time in Iceland. Perhaps we'll rent a 4-wheel-drive car and explore the terrain of the island, and also save our pennies to go to the Blue Lagoon. It's a hot spring warmed by the lava. You have to book way in advance ($$$) to get a time you actually want to go, and if you don't have a car, it can be a bit pricey to get there. Side note: all energy on the island is green, geothermal energy!
We went to Iceland with basically no idea what to do, but ended up having a blast just exploring on foot. We used that philosophy for the rest of our trip, and I’d highly recommend it for anyone looking for some random adventure.