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Reykjavik

Reykjavík the capital city is the hub of Iceland, spread out with sprawling suburbs most being located on the Seltjarnarnes peninsula in the southwest of Iceland.  The non-navigable Ellioaa River runs through the city and boasts the best salmon fishing in the country.

According to Viking legend the first permanent settlement in Iceland was around 870, the steam from the hot springs in the region inspires the name.  Loosely translated means ‘smoke cove’ the city is often referred to as The Bay of Smoke.  As cities go,Reykjavík is young, with rapid expansion late 1900’s it resembles American cities but nevertheless has a charm and grace with a big city attitude with small town values.


Icelandic climate is moderate, neither too hot in summer or too cold in winter.  Prone to wind, high gales are common in winter with little rain.  However you could experience four seasons in a single day.  Land of the midnight sun, temperatures rarely goes below -15C due to the warm moderating waters of the Gulf Stream.  Summer temperatures range between 10 – 18C.

Any time of the year is suitable for visiting Iceland; peak season is from June to August, even off-season the city is equally vibrant during winter as the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) dance in the night sky. 


By Air:  Keflavik International Airport is the largest airport, servicing international flights.  Reykjavík Airport is just south of the city centre and services domestic flights.

By Sea:  There are two ports in Reykjavík, the old harbour docks cruise ships and Sundahofn east of the city is the cargo port.  There is a ferry service between Iceland and Europe leaving from Denmark and docking on the east coast at Seydisfjordur.  This ferry is for passengers and vehicles, the drive to Reykjavík is about nine hours.

Getting Around  

Iceland does not have a rail system and beware of the condition of the highways.

By Car:  Self drive - You will need an international drivers license and proof of third-party insurance.  You may purchase a policy on arrival.  Filling stations in and around Reykjavík are open 07:30 – 20:00 some until 23:00, further out of the main centre the opening hours may be erratic, and look for Automats for self-service.

Car Hire:  These are found at the Airport or major towns.

By Air:  Domestic airlines provide services during winter, as motoring may be difficult.  Daily flights are scheduled in the summer to the most popular destinations.

By Bus: There is a comprehensive bus service throughout Iceland. The bus service is clean and reliable.  Make sure you have the correct fare, as the drivers do not give change.  Needing to transfer to another bus, you may ask for an exchange ticket (skiptimioi), which is valid for 75 minutes.   Main interchanges are Hlemmur and Laekjartorg in central Reykjavík.  Note the last buses leave around 23:00 and there is no bus service at night.

Tourist Card:  This allows you unlimited travel on the busses and includes free access to some museums and in some hostels free Internet.

By Taxi:  All taxis are metered, clean and comfortable.  There is a start fee and per kilometer.

By Bicycle:  There are many hire outlets in and around the city centre with a good network of cycle paths linking the city.


Parks & Open Areas:  Dotted around Reykjavík are a number of parks.  Tjornin is a small lake in the centre of the city surrounded by a glorious park with a music Pavillion and small bird sanctuary.  Popular with the locals in good weather to picnic or enjoy one of the cafes on the outskirts.

Buildings & Structures:  the best way to discover Reykjavík ’s eclectic architecture is to simply stroll around the streets.  Notable is Yoko Ono’s memorial to John Lennon is a projecting ‘tower of light’ called Imagine Peace Tower. 

City Hall is a fine example of late 20th century architecture. There is a café and exhibition hall and a large relief map of Iceland.  Other notable buildings include Hallgrimskirkja church tower and Perlan built on five water storage tanks with fantastic views of the city.

Museums:  There are many art and history museums in the city.  Visit the National Gallery of Iceland with a large collection of works from 19th and 20th century artists as well as famed art by Picasso and others.  Other art museums include Reykjavík Art Museums (Harnarhus and Kjarvalsstaoir) and Reykjavík Museum of PhotographyThe Culture House is a grand old building and home to a collection of medieval manuscripts, said to be the most significant in the world.

No trip to Reykjavík would be complete without a trip to one of the many Geothermal Swimming Pools.  This outdoor activity is integral to Icelandic culture – it has been said that these hot water swimming spots are the actual entertainment, rather than meeting in pubs or clubs.  Most facilities open early in the morning and close after 10pm on weekends.  The quality of the venue varies according to the age of the building.  Newer complexes offer indoor and outdoor pools, waterslides and steam baths. Another feature is the Nautholsvik Thermal Beach; this is swimming in the Atlantic Ocean with hot water being piped into the ocean.  A beach has been created with several hot pots and refreshment stations.


Reykjavík has the usual range of accommodation that a city offers, from budget backpackers to grand luxury hotels.  There are hotels and guesthouses that offer dormitory accommodation; this type of accommodation is growing in popularity.  There seems to be a wider selection of mid-range and luxury hotels each with its own unique history and background.

Wining & Dining

Eating out in Reykjavík can be expensive as there is no tipping in Iceland.  There are international fast food outlets and Hot-Dog stands everywhere for the budget conscious.  Fish Restaurants are highly recommended, and the pubs and bars also serve pasta, burgers and salads.  Reykjavík offers fine cuisine and alcohol is expensive. Cover charge in bars is rare unless it is a music facility.  Legal age for drinking is 20.

Reykjavík is party central and you can party till dawn … and dawn could take 6 months.


Third Saturday in August:  Culture Night (Menningarnott) this is the biggest event in the Reykjavík calendar.  The day starts with a marathon with cultural activities through out the day culminating with a spectacular fireworks display and music events.

17 June:  National Day On this public holiday Icelanders celebrate their independence and the day Iceland was declared a republic in 1944.  The city also hosts an international film and music festival over this period.

Early August: Gay Pride one of the biggest festivals, a parade of colourful and sometimes outrageous floats winds its way through the city culminating with a large outdoors concerts.

Second Week October: Iceland Airwaves this festival incorporates the entire city, bars, pubs, clubs and venues all participate and rock the city.  The objective is to showcase performers “bubbling under” the ‘almost famous’ and big names are kept to a minimum.

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