Iceland as described by Geoff Smith The airport where international flights typically land is Keflavik (pronounced "KEP-la-vik"). As I recall, Keflavik is about a 40-minute drive from downtown Reykjavik. Landing and takeoff from Keflavik can be a bit bumpy. This is becuase Keflavik is very similar to St. John's airport... it is very exposed to the North Atlantic and there are weird wind patterns. No worries though, I had heard that the pilots for Icelandair had an outstanding reputation because they have so much experience dealing with these conditions.
The road to Reykjavik is interesting to anyone visiting for the first time because the landscape is so black (volcanic rock), mostly treeless and from time to time you can see steam squeezing out of the landscape from a distance.
Between Reykjavik and Keflavik (closer to Keflavik) is the Blue Lagoon. Hot springs that tourists visit and wade into. If you have a choice to do only one thing in Icleand, this would be it. I say this as one who would ceratinly have not been ordinarily interested in something like this. In fact, when people here in Nfld.
suggested that I go to the Blue Lagoon, I almost laughed it off. But in the end, I think I went there 6 or 7 different times in my 4 months there. Somehow,
effluent form a nearby power plant mixes with the salts in the area to create the hot springs - I never did get the full story on that. Although "effluent" sounds
dubious, have no fear. The Blue Lagoon is amazing. Bring a swimsuit, but you will not need to swim, the water is only deep enough for wading. It is warm, comfortable, and you feel like a million dollars after you get out of there.
There are several glaciers in the area, on which many people hike. None are very close to Reykjavik. One of the nearest ones to Rekjavik is about maybe 1.5 to 2 hours (?) away by car. It is called Snaefellsjokull. I did not go to any glaciers in Iceland. I enjoyed Reykjavik so much that I hardly ever left the place.
Wherever you hike, take a walking stick even if it is a rather crude design. The hills can be rough on the knees, especially on the way down. It is also useful
because there are small but very mean-spirited birds all over the place in Southern Iceland. They are black and white, and have an ability to flap their wings very slowly without ever actaully moving anywhere, it is as if they are floating on air. They are however very mean and have no hesitation to dive bomb anybody. If you hold the walking stick in the air (I used to use an umbrella), they would target the stick instead.
One of the interesting places in Reykjavik is an open air museum called Abaejarsafn. It is a reflection of live in Reyjavik throughout history. To get a good
panoramic view of Reykjavik, there are a couple of places to go. One is Perlan, which is a attraction built atop a number of water towers - when I was there, it was the most distintive-looking building in Reykjavik. The other good view is from Hallgrimskirkja, the main church (most Icelanders are Lutheran) in Reykjavik. It is a very interesting building architecturally, it is modeled on cliff faces, but if you use your imagination it almost looks like a lava flow! (Volcanoes are very prominent in Iceland - it also has plenty of earthquakes. It is one of the more geologically active places on the planet).
Another intersting place is Hofdi House. I do not know if any tours take place of that building and I am not even sure what it is used for these days, I only took a
photo of it myself. But it does have historical importance. Reagan and Gorbachev held meetings at Hofdi House in the mid-80's during their summit in
The people of Iceland generally speak English well, and are well-educated. They are also fiercely independent. Iceland is not part of the EU. They do not wish to sacrifice any part of their independence. The whole idea of Newfoundland electing to join Canada instead of being its own independent country
completely eludes Icelanders. They have a pride in their country and culture on a level even stronger - my opinion - than Newfoundlanders have toward their
province. If I ever had a conversation where I spoke well of some aspect of Icelandic culture, or the people of Iceland, it was a convesation that always went well. Although Icelanders are not as outwardly social as, say Scottish, Irish, or Newfoundlanders, they were very friendly people. People were very very nice to me in my time there, and this is what I remember from my time there than anything else. I cannot believe that it is now 9 years later and I have not yet returned. I really thought that I would have been back once or twice by now.
Beer is expensive. A pint ran me about $12 in 2002. The most prolific local brand in Iceland back then was "Viking" - I did not really enjoy drinking Viking
very much. I actually bought Canadian beer - from Quidi Vidi brewery - while I was there. Not sure if QV has any current presence there.
As for food, I ate fish most days, typically haddock. It was always good, pretty fresh. It seemed like Icelanders enjoy a barbeque. The best meal I had was
at a coworkers house one night. Barbecque lamb was the main course that evening, and even though I do not normally like lamb or veal, I did enjoy that meal immensely.
The other highly recommended item I would suggest is the Golden Circle. It is a bit of a drive outside of Reykjavik (probably take at least half a day to do the whole thing). Three of the key things in the Golden Circle are Gulfoss (the most amazing set of waterfalls that I have ever seen), Thingvellir (a tectonic split - the N. American plate and the European plate), and Geyser (an area where there are a number of geysers). The tectonic split is probably the least dramatic visually of these three, but if you research a bit about the history of how the different groups all met there many hundreds of years ago, it takes on a great significance. It is considered a birthplace of democracy (the Icelandic parliament is called the Althing, named after Thingvellir).
The weather is like St. John's. Always dress in layers. Bring an umbrella even if the weather seems fine (weather systems quickly blow in and out of
Reykjavik). I was not there in Sept.-Oct., but if I had to guess, I would expect that temperatures would be in the mid-to-high single digits at day and low signle digits at night. If you are fortunate, you may get to see the Aurora Borealis.
I used to drink a lot of coffee in Reykjavik. The place I frequented most often was Cafe Paris. It is not far from the Althing and the City Hall. Not sure if it is still there - something tells me that a whole lot has changed there over the years. Reykjavik is easy to walk. I would say that it is difficult to get completely lost, but that is probably because I walked the streets so often. It is not a very big city. I found it very safe - there were a few junkies her and there, but nothing like you would see in most European cities.
Like most cities in Europe, Reykjavik has a major street lined with shops. It is called Laugavegar. I lived only a half-block north of Laugavegar and had the
pleasure of walking it every mornign on my way to work.
The architecture in Reykjavik is not like many European cities. For some reason, when I first arrived there, the houses and buildings brought to mind a place like Stephenville or Gander (coincidentally, the US military had significant presence in this part of Iceland).
If you take a trip along the highway along the south coast, take a look at the geology. You can very clearly see the paths along which the glaciers plowed through the land. The cut of the glaciers is why there are so many waterfalls on the south coast.
There are dozens of things that I haven't covered. These are just the first things that come to mind. I would highly recommend the Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle, but since I did not do any of the activities involving glaciers or all-terrain vehicles, I cannot provide too much insight into those even though I am sure that they are very enjoyable as well. I am not sure that it would be everybody's cup of tea, but I really enjoyed Iceland, it was a place that really inspried me, and I will visit there again.