One of the biggest tourist booms in the last few years has happened in Iceland. No doubt thanks to the free stopover (via Icelandair) and the new discount airlines (like WOW air), almost everyone I talk to is planning, or has just gotten back from Iceland.
I first went to Iceland in 2014, thanks to a super cheap Groupon deal with Icelandair. Icelandair does have really good deals on their website, but the Groupon basically took that deal and made it irresistible. So after finding an unsuspecting co-worker to go with me, we were off on an adventure!
The only downside of the flights was that they were in and out of Seattle and Icelandair only flies directly from Vancouver in the summer. But luckily it’s just a short bus ride to Seatac Airport. Unlike most of my travels, the flights were direct; like most of my flights, our flight there was a red-eye and involved napping on the plane. Luckily we had a row to ourselves in both directions, so we managed okay.
Upon arrival at Keflavík Airport, we hopped on a Flybus in order to go to the city. It’s about an hour travel time, but the buses are pretty nice and have wifi, so you can let people know you arrived okay. We had to transfer to a smaller bus to take us to our hotel that was included, the Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura. This was the basic hotel included in the package and is a bit further out of town than some of the other options, but luckily we like to walk, so it was fine for us. Because we had bought the Flybus package, we were able to check in to our room early and take a bit of a nap.
After relaxing for a bit, we head in to town to enjoy a free walking tour of the city. Our guide, Kevin, was fantastic and had many stories and interesting facts about the city and the country. The tour is about 90 minutes and takes you through the old town area. It’s a great way to orient yourself for the rest of the trip.
The other thing we did was get the Reykjavik City Card. If your planning on exploring the city, I would definitely recommend this card. In addition to giving you free access to the buses and thermal pools, it also gives you discounts and free admission to museums and parks. The ones we took advantage of were all free with the card:
- Ferry to Videy Island
- National Museum of Iceland
- Maritime Museum
- The Settlement Exhibition
- Reykjavík Zoo and Family Park
One of our favourite perks was heading to the thermal pools every night. The biggest one even has a very colourful water slide.
Our first night, we were up fairly late, thanks to the time change, so we ended up walking out to the Grótta Island Lighthouse at around 9 pm, and it was surprisingly busy. We even chanced walking along the causeway to get out to the lighthouse itself, and luckily didn’t spend too long as the tide was coming back in.
The reason it was so busy was pretty obvious after we had been hanging around for a while. It’s far enough out of town, that the lights from the city are a bit dimmer, which makes the sky a bit darker, making it easier to see the Northern Lights. With our phones and point and shoot cameras, neither of us was able to get a good shot, but it was amazing to see them dancing across the sky.
The next day included the national museum and a trip out to Viðey Island. There’s not much open on the island in the winter, but it was a beautiful day to just walk around and see all the different monuments and art pieces. We were excited to go on the boat tour that night to see the Northern Lights from the sea. Unfortunately, the clouds rolled in and the tours were all cancelled for the next few days we were there. We were lucky to have seen them on the first night. We also spent a day visiting museums and a quick trip to city hall, where they have a large scale model of Iceland.
Although the flights and accommodation were pretty cheap, the rest of the items in Iceland are fairly expensive. Due to this, we didn’t eat out all that much and actually grabbed most of our food from the grocery store. But I did manage to find a few places to eat that weren’t that bad, including Núðluskálin, a noodle bar with a few vegan options, and C is for Cookie, a veggie/vegan cafe.
Our last morning saw us squeezing in a few last sights, including the Sun Voyager and Hallgrimskirkja (cathedral), before backing up and heading back to the airport on the Flybus.
There is a lot to see and do in the city of Reykjavik, so if you’re heading to Iceland, I would definitely recommend spending a few days there if possible 🙂