Iceland's Ring Road: Days 1 & 2 in Reykjavik

The first thing I noticed about Iceland was probably the weather. Living in Kansas City, we’re used to pretty brutal summers full of humidity, rain, and unforgiving sun. Imagine how refreshing Iceland’s crisp 55-degree summer air felt when we stepped out of the airport!

We landed at about midnight, right after the sun set. After collecting our luggage we headed to the airport’s café to purchase a new SIM card for our Google phone. (We never travel internationally without it!) We were picked up from the airport by someone with Blue Car Rental and driven to their offices to get our car. The roughly 1 hour drive from the airport to Reykjavik was very dark with only a few streetlights. I could just barely make out the landscape on the edges of the road and they were like no place I'd ever seen. Where were we?

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DAY 1

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In the morning (which came on at about 4 AM with the sunrise) we found out that our hotel was right by the National Museum of Iceland so we decided to walk there for breakfast in their café and to tour the museum. I’m really glad we did this right off the bat since it was a great introduction to the culture and history of Iceland, which we knew nothing about.

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The museum has everything from soil core samples (to show different eruptions across the centuries) to Viking artifacts to Christian relics to a real traditional Icelandic home! Pretty cool. I had no idea that Iceland is such a relatively new civilization - it was first settled in the 1100s.

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After the museum we decided to drive into downtown Reykjavik to explore. In hindsight, we absolutely could’ve walked there because downtown Reykjavik is tiny, but it’s probably a good thing we drove since we had to add oil to our rental car. Thank goodness for Vince and his resourcefulness!

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Our first stop in downtown Reykjavik was Hallgrímskirkja. I'll be honest, I expected it to be... bigger. The pictures I saw online before coming to Iceland made the church seem so massively imposing, which was not the case. Still worth seeing - especially the organ inside!

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Next we walked down the hill that this church sits atop to explore and take in the area. It was surprisingly crowded for a place with a population of 120,000. Come to find out, the city's gay pride parade had just finished! This explained a lot about a toddler's silver sequin outfit we saw at the museum that morning. (And yes, it was adorable.)

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To warm up and grab a snack, we stopped at Bakarí Sandholt. I treated myself to a cappuccino and a small assortment of macaroons and Vince had a croissant with his coffee. Delish. This is the first place we'd eaten out with wait staff in Iceland and it's where we discovered the custom of paying at the cash register.

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Our next stop was the Harpa Concert Hall. What is it about concert halls across the globe and unique architecture? I guess they just ooze creativity. Harpa was no exception - it felt like a perfect fit nestled on Reykjavik's coast with its scaly windowpanes reflecting the cloudy sky.

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Vince had read about a comedy show called "How to Become Icelandic in 60 Minutes" that plays frequently at Harpa. Since we had already seen more sites that day than we'd expected, we decided to splurge on the show and trade in our passports for Icelandic ones. (Just kidding, kind of.) The show covered topics such as speaking Icelandic, politics, walking like a local, and cuisine. Not bad! It wasn't the funniest thing i've ever seen, but it certainly taught us about Icelandic sense of humor if nothing else.

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After the show we walked around the Old Harbor and had dinner at a kebab restaurant called Kebabhúsið. Ever since I studied abroad in northern Spain and experienced my first doner kebab, I can't get enough of them anytime we travel to Europe! They're so much better there.

After dinner we walked around a bit more trying to stay up and acclimate ourselves to the time change. Eventually we made our way to Solfar (The Sun Voyager). By this point it was about 10 PM. This was the perfect time to stumble upon this sculpture! It's one of the top images representing Iceland so it's often really crowded with people trying to get a photo. When we were there, only one other couple was walking around and they were too wrapped up in their blossoming romance to take notice of the sculpture. Solfar was all ours!

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DAY 2

Our second (and last) day in Reykjavik consisted of only a few activities since the majority of our day would be spent SCUBA diving!!! (I still can't believe we did that...)

In the morning, I went for a run around the city. (Yes, I'm that person.)

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It turned out to be a great way to see more of the city that we didn't see the day before. I even managed to get lost a bit on my way back and explore more of the residential neighborhood around our hotel. Thankfully I remembered that the hotel has a large blue area on its roof so I just kept running in the direction where I thought the hotel was until I eventually saw it above the apartment rooftops.

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My first move was to run to the Harpa and back. I made it there, but then I remembered this weird grass dome that was sitting on one of the piers in Old Harbor that we'd seen last night. We hadn't walked there since it was too far out of the way from where we were, so I decided to run there! I'm so glad I did.

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I looked it up later and it's called the Þúfa and it's an art installation along this great path you can run or walk along. I saw a lot of people out strolling and enjoying the sun.

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A narrow spiral of flagstones takes you up the Þúfa all the way to the top.

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And what a view!!!

(Disregard my sweaty face and sun-squinty eyes.)

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Above is the city of Reykjavik. The large cube-like thing in the middle is the Harpa.

So so glad I had the chance to see this neat little hill on my morning outing!

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After I got back and all cleaned up we walked to the city's main water tower, the Perlan, which was about a 2-mile scenic hike from our hotel.

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The dome on top of Perlan!

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It has great views of the city since it sits on top of a hill and has a large dome on the top that you can walk around. There's a fancier restaurant inside the Perlan and a less fancy cafeteria. We opted to have lunch at the cafeteria and shop for a few souvenirs.

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Our final activity for the day was SCUBA diving! I won't go into too much detail in this post since I have a separate one on its way, but here's a little teaser for you:

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IN SUMMARY...

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Day 1

Sites:

National Museum of Iceland

Hallgrímskirkja

Downtown Reykjavik

Harpa (including a comedy show!)

Old Harbor

Solfar (Sun Voyager)

Bites:

National Museum Cafe (breakfast)

Bakarí Sandholt (coffee, snacks)

Ice cream (snack)

Kebabhúsið (dinner)

Night:

Radisson Blu Saga Hotel Reyjkavik

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Day 2

Sites:

Morning run! (ran to Þúfa and back)

Hike to the top of the Perlan

Þingvellir National Park for SCUBA diving!

Bites:

Cafeteria at the Perlan

1011 convenience store near our hotel (late dinner!)

Night:

Radisson Blu Saga Hotel Reyjkavik

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