We got to visit Iceland!! Iceland has been on our bucket list for a while (years actually) and we’re so happy to be finally able to visit this beautiful country. It is very different from our Philippines experience (our last holiday). This post describes travelling to Iceland & an initial exploration of Reykjavik. (Click here for our practical Iceland summary)
Flying to Iceland
A precursor to our Iceland trip was Dalek “forcing” Yoda to pack her pretty coat and no rain jacket for her Iceland trip. At Bristol airport itself, we faced wet weather during the boarding process which made Yoda apprehensive about how the trip was going to fare (making Dalek worry about his safety :P)
It was our first time flying Wow Air from Bristol (a city with fabulous street art). The airport was hassle-free and the airline is pretty decent and quite cheap. We find the airline quite comparable to EasyJet and recommend trying it for flying to Iceland from Europe.
At first glance, Iceland looked like a beautiful snow field. The thin black roads were visibly contrast against the white snow. We were lucky to even catch some golden sunshine on the way down resulting in shots like the one below which we really like.
A miracle on ice + public transport logistics
We had planned to catch the once-an-hour public transport bus 55 to Reykjavik city centre and as our flight landed 30 minutes before the scheduled arrival time (1:20 PM), we had exactly 22 minutes to make our connection (or spend more money to catch the more frequent & almost official Reykjavik Excursions transfer). Miraculously, everything lined up for us to make our bus! The back doors of the plane opened for deboarding, immigration was quick for us and our brisk walking was fast enough that we caught the bus just as it started to move 🙂
Tip: The public transport company Straeto runs one bus an hour for 1760 ISK compared to the more frequent Reykjavik Excursion buses (2500 ISK). It takes just slightly longer BUT has stops inside the city centre where RE drops off at BSI and charges more for a hotel dropoff (3000 ISK).
Tip: There is sadly no official bus shelter for the Straeto bus at KEF. You need to walk through the walkway leading to the rental car bus and you’ll find the bus 55
Iceland first impressions
The drive to downtown Reykjavik was stunning! We had never seen any landscape like Iceland before! It is stark but beautiful and the buildings redefine the words “minimal” & “straight line”. The bus stop close to our AirBnb was in front of the lake Reykjavíkurtjörn (we can’t read Icelandic either). The lake was frozen giving off perfect reflections so we snapped out our camera while still carrying our luggage 😛
Being not used to the Reykjavik address system, we tried to unlock the wrong flat for a full 5 minutes before realizing our mistake. Restaurants in Reykjavik are pretty expensive, so we went off to do a grocery run from a local Bonus Supermarket immediately after check-in. We bought a ton of food (including sandwiches, smoked lamb and salmon, flatbread and of course, skyr) for 6000 ISK and it was totally worth it. We did see fermented shark and sulphur eggs in one of the aisles (debunking our belief that shark was just a tourist thing), but decided to skip buying those. Based on the recommendation of the only Icelandic person we know, we had smoked lamb & flatbread for dinner. It was tasty but a bit too salty for us.
Museum night @ Winter Lights Festival
Our trip luckily coincided with Reykjavik’s Winter Lights Festival. The day we landed was the Museum night with events dotted around the city. Due to this event, we visited parts of the city we wouldn’t have otherwise which was great. Also the public transport company was running free buses from the Art Museum hub. We walked to the Art Museum via the imposing Hallgrímskirkja (Hallgrims church). Took a few low light pictures of what looks like a Normal Distribution to us math nerds.
Hot Dog Party(??)
There were a couple of museums in the suburb of Kopavagur south of Reykjavik that had interesting events listed. One was called a Hot Dog party at the Kopavogur Art Museum but it was neither a party (normal cafe seating, not a big grill as imagined) nor did it serve a hot dog. Instead they served a sausage, salad, truffled potatoes, caramelized onions, fried onions & sourdough bread, an artistic reimagination of a hot dog we presume #deconstructedHotDog
The library next door was chock full of kids and their parents playing board games / taking part in a Harry Potter scavenger hunt. This was the place to be if you had young kids wishing to explore the museum night. Our fun bit was seeing the taxidermy exhibit on the ground floor, Yoda was surprised to see how big a walrus can be.
Art & coffee
The pick of all the museums was the Kjarvalsstaðir building of the Reykjavik Municipal Art Museum (also the free bus hub). It specializes on the work of Johannes S. Kjarval, one of Icelands, most famous artists. We had no idea about his work till we got to see it in person and it was brilliant! We recommend buying the ticket (1600 ISK for 3 museums) if you’re an art lover. The two exhibitions were very different but equally interesting.
The building is also home to some fantastic coffee. The UK is a barren desert when it comes to good coffee & the Cappuccino served in the art museum took away all signs of travel-induced fatigue. It was really delicious to boot, the first proper coffee we’ve had since Seattle.
We unfortunately had to wait 45 minutes for the bus to take us to the next set of museums instead of 10. Here is where Yoda’s coat got soaking wet and she wasn’t too pleased about it!
Whale of a time
The rest of the evening was mostly spent at the Whales of Iceland exhibition which had life-sized models of many types of whales. It was quite cool to see a whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling as well. As you can imagine, this is housed in a warehouse as the exhibits are massive.
A sweet end to the night
Heavy rain, fatigue & an early start the next day forced us to call it a night but not before eating a heavenly Salted Liquorice icecream from the fantastic ice cream parlour Valdis. Icelandic people have their icecream game on point, something we did not expect.
On the way back, we were surprised to see a Gujrati Thela from our home country of India (a food push-cart). Had to take a pic for IN pride purposes 🙂 We also spotted a googly-eyed Geysir, native to Iceland. 😛 And last but not the least, Winter Lights at night near the frozen lake.
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