We took a long weekend in Reykjavík for Leona’s 30th birthday.
The flight was crazy early so got to the airport for 6am. Going through security we noticed that the flight was delayed for over two hours. Alas the only thing to do was get some breakfast then have some beer! We got some vouchers because of the delay and was told that the delay had been reduced to one hour, which wasn’t so bad. Tried to sleep on the flight but didn’t have much joy!
Having been warned that drink was crazy expensive in Iceland (and Reykjavík only having something like two off licences) we elected to buy some booze in duty free at arrivals (à la Oslo). Got some tasty beer (some pale ale and pilsner) and also some Eglis jólabjór which,I didn’t realise, was a Cola-esque malt beer – popular at Christmas time. One or two was okay, but more than that was sickeningly sweet.
We found our bus to Reykjavik – I couldn’t remember our stop (the Airbnb was near Hotel Leifur Eiriksson) then my I remembered it sounds a bit like Sven Goran Eriksson so i just said Eriksson – the bus driver gave me a green transfer ticket. After about an hour we arrived at a bus station in Reykjavik and we split into mini-buses which corresponded with our transfer ticket. To cut a long story short – we were on the wrong bus, taking us to a hotel at the far end of town. The driver was kind enough to drop us off at the right place.
Our drop off point was across the road from Hallgrímskirkja, which was about two minutes from our Airbnb. We had agreed to meet the host at a coffee shop, across the road, called Reykjavik Roasters. This was the first time I’d used Airbnb myself, therefore making it my first Airbnb awkward meeting. Thankfully Heba, the host, was quite friendly and recommended some places to eat, told us were convenience stores were etc. Also she was quite flexible with check out times!
It was lunchtime, so we ventured out to get food and explore a bit of Reykjavik before it got dark (a few hours later!). We hadn’t got far until we found a burger place called Chuck Norris Grill. The burger was nice and I had a tasty beer so all was good.
After lunch we walked down to Sun Voyager sculpture and had a look. Then walked on the footpath along the sea and got really cold! We retreated back to Laugavegur and found a cafe called Kaffi Brennslan to warm up in and get a coffee.
We decided to go to a shop for a few bits and pieces. I spotted another Malt beer, but it had a picture of Santa on it so decided to get it (turned out it was nicer than the Jolabjor). We had only eaten a few hours previously but felt it was a good idea to eat something before we went on the Northern Lights tour. We just got a frozen pizza to eat in the apartment.
Seeing we had an hour to kill before the Northern Lights tour so we went to Cafe Babalu for a warm beverage. We only wanted to go there because we heard about the Star Wars toilets. The place was dead on – though there was some English lad talking to his made and kept making eye contact with me which freaked me out!
We waited out side Hotel Leifur Eiriksson for our bus, a mini bus arrived and drove us to a car park outside Reykjavik where we got onto a bigger bus. Sadly this bigger bus was pretty much full but we found some free seats at the back. Worse still there were four wankers, from England, sitting in front of us. Within seconds I was annoyed I didn’t bring a) earphones and b) beer to get through the bus trip!
The bus trip was dark for the most part, so couldn’t really see look outside. Though we drove past a artificially lit green house.. that was really bright… and pretty cool. We also saw a grave yard were the headstones were lit up. The tour guide was trying her best to keep us amused in the dark bus by giving facts about the Northern Lights, telling Icelandic folk stories, singing Icelandic Christmas songs etc etc but the English one’s in front of us kept interrupting and being general bellends. Thankfully we got some rest bite when the bus stopped for a piss break at a restaurant/shop then we headed out to the site where we would try and see the lights.
We walked up to a viewing point (not realising it’s beside a giant crater!). There was not much aurora action going on for a while but the guide was trying to be optimistic. Then she pointed to the sky and said there was a wee bit. It wasn’t strong enough to see with the naked eye so I tried to take photos with a long exposure. However, like an idiot I forgot that I would need a tripod, or something similar. I tried to improvise by using fence posts/Leona’s head. The camera was able to pick up some colour in the sky but it wasn’t enough so the guide said that if we emailed the tour company we could get another tour free! We were served some hot chocolate and got on the bus back to Reykjavik.
I fell asleep on the bus but an hour or so into the trip back the tour guide woke us up saying she should see the aurora from the bus. The bus parked at a stop off the road. I was able to get a decent shot of the lights from the bus with on a few second exposure. Some of us got off the bus to take photos. Still without a tripod, I just tried to hold the camera really still but it was so cold I was shaking a lot! Still managed to get some shots.
As I was no longer asleep I had to enjoy the musings of the moron’s in the next row. To be fair, only three of them were dickheads, one managed to sleep through the whole tour!
We got back to Reykjavik in the wee hours and was glad to get to sleep!
We grabbed a quick breakfast, from a bakery Heba recommended, called Braud & Co. We got some pastries, pan au chocolat/croissants and the like, with some coffee and ate it in the flat.
Our pickup was at a different hotel, but was about the same distance away as the night before. Again, a minibus picked us up. This time we were taken to the bus station to get on the bigger bus to the Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon was great! I walked outside in my trunks and it was very, very cold. I quickly scuttled into the water and it was nice and warm! Leona then joined me and we bobbed over to the bar and I had a tasty cold beer, in the warm water. What’s not to like?
… maybe the facemasks? We bobbed over to the place with the facemask cream and obviously I got it in my eyes… more than once! We bobbed about in the water for about 90 minutes and enjoyed a few more beers. We even talked to some nice English people (who were going to Belfast on New Years Eve) and some nice Americans.
After all that bobbing about, we got changed, and went to the cafe where I had some more tasty beer and some sushi. We then checked out the gift shop and jumped on the bus back to Reykjavik. We stopped off at Kaffibrenn, again, to have a wee beverage before going back to the flat to drop our stuff and get ready for dinner!
We tried to find somewhere but most places were busy – we eventually stopped in a bar called Boston – they did wings, fired chicken and nachos etc therefore as good a place as any to eat. We stayed there for a few drinks. I quite liked the place.
We had breakfast in Reykjavik Roasters, which was across the street from our Airbnb, and had coffee and some pastries. It was a nice wee coffee shop. We were sat beside the turntable and was asked by staff to change the side of the record. I didn’t dare as my big stupid hands would probably have caused the needle to scratch the record.
Looking something more to eat, we went for a walk and ended up in Kaffi Brennan again where we split a waffle with bacon! Then we made our way back to Hotel Leifur Eiriksson for our bus pick up. We spun around town picking up other people but thankfully we didn’t have to swap buses. Our bus picked us up at 12 and it got dark at around 4, therefore this was the “express tour”.
After a bit of driving we got to Þingvellir – where you can see the gap between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Also it holds the site of the first Icelandic parliament. Sadly we only got to spend 25 minutes there (because of the express tour). Then we were back on the bus again!
We drove a bit more until we got to the Geyser – which was very impressive! We got a bit more time here so watched the geyser for a while. Then we headed down to the cafe/shop place and grabbed a hot chocolate for the road.
Our last stop was the Gullfoss waterfall. It was also quite impressive! Annoyingly there were morons disrespecting the small chain and climbing over for a photo – some idiot nearly dropped their camera over the cliff. We climbed a lot of steps to get another view of the falls. We then had a look in the gift shop before heading on.
It was dusk when we left the falls, and our last stop on the tour was Kerið. I didn’t realise until then, that was where we were on the Aurora Borealis tour. I also didn’t realise how close the crater was on the Friday night! It was quite dark at this point but I could just about make out the crater!
We headed back to Reykjavik and went for some food. We ended up in the Lebowski Bar for a really tasty burger and an obligatory White Russian (note: I think The Big Lebowski is a shite film, but I agree with The Dude’s White Russian policy!). We then headed on to a bar around the corner, called Bar Annanas, for one and then headed back to the flat to have a few of the airport beers. At around ten o’clock I got a hankering for some chips so ran across the road to the shop/fast food place but the chef did a no show that night. I was raging and had to make do with a chocolate bar!
For breakfast we went to a cafe at the bottom of the street called Durum – I had the Breakfast Special – it was tasty! We we going to go to the Saga museum so had to plan our route. We originally thinking of getting a bus but thought it was just as handy to walk, and would see a we bit more of Reykjavik before we went home. Thankfully the rain held off until we got there!
The Saga museum was interesting, giving a condensed history of Iceland but with waxworks! Once done with the tour you can try on viking gear and armour, even chain mail (which is heavier than I thought!). We walked into the place in/beside it for a coffee, not realising it was a proper restaurant. It seemed quite classy! We didn’t get food but it smelt amazing!
We, instead, went to eat in Dirty Burger & Ribs, where I had (quelle suprise) a burger and ribs. Good stuff! Afterwards we walked to Lake Tjornin to have a look then decided to go up the Hallgrimskirkja tower.
We queued to get a ticket. Got in the lift. Got to the top. It was then I realised that you probably could have just went up with out a ticket – not that it is the type of thing I do. You could see pretty much all of the city!
We had to return to the flat to tidy up the flat/put rubbish in the bin etc, then I went to Reykjavik Roasters to get a coffee for the road, where I was served by a guy who is originally from a town 10 miles from my house. Small world etc.
I’d have loved a few more days in Reykjavik as I feel there was more to be done!