Let me start by saying that Iceland is an absolutely amazing place. Reykjavik, the first introduction to Iceland for most of us, is not, however, the highlight. During our 10 days, we saw some of the most dramatic, breathtakingly magnificent natural sights as we toured the country. Iceland’s majesty is found in its great outdoors.
After arriving on a 7am flight, we headed straight for the city center. We decided to forego the seemingly obligatory tourist stop at the Blue Lagoon knowing that we were going to have more authentic natural bath experiences during our trip. From my perspective, one day was sufficient to see Reykjavik’s highlights.
Hofdi House is where the summit between President Ronald Reagan and Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev took place in 1986. While the house is not open to the public, we were able to explore it and the surrounding grounds from the outside. My husband, who left Odessa (a city in Ukraine, formerly part of USSR, now independent) thought this was particularly fascinating.
There are two reasons to visit the Perlan Museum. First, it’s a great introduction to the natural history of Iceland. Volcanoes, geothermal activity, earthquakes, water(falls)—you will see all of these as you explore Iceland. Not being a geology expert, I always benefit from a refresher course to help put what I am seeing in context. The other reason to go to the Perlan Museum is to take in the panoramic views of Reykjavik from the Observation Deck.
As the tallest church in Iceland and the tallest building in Reykjavik, Hallgrimskirkja is a striking landmark. We were told that the inspiration for the architecture was the Svartifoss waterfall. Later in our trip, we visited Svartifoss and the resemblance was striking. For me, the inside of the church was not as impressive as the outside. You can explore inside and outside the church for free but there is a fee to go to the top of the church tower.
Presidential Manor Bessastadir
I loved the drive out to Presidential Manor. We passed Icelandic horses grazing on vibrant green grass on wide-open fields. As we approached, we saw the Presidential Manor ahead. Honestly, it looks like a very nice farmhouse—which is exactly what it was until 1941. Probably the most remarkable thing about the Presidential Manor is that we were able to walk right up to it without a gate or any visible security. Coming from the United States and having seen the White House, I found this absolutely mind-boggling.
The Reykjavik concert hall has a façade inspired by the basalt found in Iceland, with different colored geometric shaped glass panels covering the building’s steel framework. The inside is just as beautiful as the outside. We were lucky enough to be treated to an impromptu concert. A visiting choir group took advantage of the awesome acoustics the entire building has as they rehearsed in one of the large open spaces.
Less than ten minutes from downtown Reykjavik is Grótta Island on the Seltjarnes peninsula. If you are interested in birds, this is the place to come. Along the walk there are multiple signs with pictures and descriptions of the many birds that are commonly seen here. Following the nature path across a rocky beach, we came to a small lighthouse. A word of warning—watch the tide. By the time we were coming back from the lighthouse, the tide was coming in and had covered more than half the beach.
Reykjavik has an abundance of great hotels, restaurants and night life, making it a great base for exploring the amazing sites that are within a short drive. My next post will be about our fabulous day trip from Reykjavik to Inside The Volcano.
Dreaming about your own trip to Iceland? I’d love to help you plan it. Book your 30 minute over the phone complimentary immersive vacation consultation with me using my online scheduler to find a time that’s convenient for you.