‘The land of ice and fire’ – there couldn’t be a more apt description for this incredible country. Iceland is the second largest island in Europe and is situated in the North Atlantic close to the Arctic Circle. It is one of the most volcanically active countries in the world; Hekla, in the south of Iceland, has erupted no fewer than 16 times.
The country is like no other. Its landscape is diverse with black lava fields, red sulphur vents, green valleys, glassy glaciers, hot thermal springs, spectacular geysers, active volcanoes, stunning waterfalls and snow-capped mountains.
One of the most breathtaking areas is Snæfellsnes Peninsula, where Snæfellsjökull glacier serenely overlooks the savage, rocky coastline below. Plus there is the scenic splendour of Gullfoss, the double-tiered waterfall, the spouting hot springs of Geysir and the colourful Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) that appear from the end of August.
There are less than 300,000 inhabitants on the island with more than half living in the capital, Reykjavík. Set on a bay in an area of geothermal hot springs, this busy city combines old-fashioned wooden architecture with modern buildings. Although it may be relatively small it has forged a reputation for partying and its nightclubs are regularly filled with locals and tourists alike. But if you want to experience the true Iceland head to the countryside where you’ll discover small traditional communities unaffected by globalisation.
The currency in Iceland is the Icelandic Krona (Kr). You can exchange currency in all major banks. If you are taking traveller’s cheques you are advised to take US Dollar ones to avoid any additional exchange rate charges. Access to your money is easy with ATMs everywhere and all the major credit cards being widely accepted.


Reykjavik is the most northerly capital in the world. Situated on the southwest extreme of Iceland, it is a city surrounded by stunning and diverse scenery. Most people, when they first visit, are struck by the contrasting landscape of volcanoes and glaciers sitting side by side. Plus they are in awe of the lush greenery of the countryside.
Legend has it that the city was founded by a Viking called Ingólfur Arnarson, who named it Reykjavik (meaning ‘Smokey Bay’) because of the steam rising from the hot springs. Today, these numerous geothermal springs provide almost all the heating and water in the city, and the low level of fuel emissions gives the city clean air and crystal clear skies.
You could be forgiven for thinking that Reykjavik doesn’t look like a city when you first arrive. After all, unlike many other European capital cities, Reykjavik has many low-level wooden buildings often with corrugated roofs (very distinctive of Icelandic architecture). However as you explore further you will find modern architectural gems such as the 70 metre high spire of Hallgrimskirkja, the third millennia City Hall and the innovative “Pearl” which is one of the finest places to dine.
Its location has a lot to do with its popularity. Its position on Faxaflói Bay offers stunning panoramic views of the majestic Mount Esja, which rises up behind the bay and vistas across the Atlantic. It has a very wet climate and winters can be long and bleak, with just four hours of daylight on some days, but the chance to view the spectacular Northern Lights makes up for this. Summer, by contrast, brings the famed midnight sun often with 22 hours of day light.
As tourism has increased, Reykjavik has developed a reputation for a raucous nightlife scene and some enjoyable sightseeing in its old city centre. The main reason most travel to Reykjavik, however, is to take excursions out of the city to natural hot attractions like the Blue Lagoon and Geysir.

See & Do
Reykjavik is a city with a huge amount to offer its visitors. It is impossible to list everything here that you can do, but below is just a taster of some of the most popular activities to get you started:
  • Hallgrimskirkja
  • National Gallery of Iceland
  • Tjörin – the City Pond
  • The old town
  • Sóifar
  • The Pearl
  • Einar Jónsson Museum
  • Árbæjarsafn Open Air Museum
  • National Museum
  • Reykjavik Art Museum
  • Geothermal Swimming Pools (e.g. Laugardalslaug)
  • Botanical Gardens
  • Family Park & Zoo
  • Science World Museum
  • Ásmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Garden
  • Nauthólsvik Geothermal Beach
  • Northern Light
Reykjavik isn’t one of Europe’s premier shopping destinations, but it won’t disappoint either. Great souvenirs are woollens, local handicrafts, Blue Lagoon geothermal skin care products and traditional Icelandic foods such as smoked salmon or trout and Hardfiskur (dried haddock, cod or catfish).
The main shopping street is Laugavegur where you’ll find numerous boutiques selling Icelandic designer clothing and international goods. If you have the budget for it, Skólavörthustigur is the most expensive shopping district (so don’t expect any bargains) selling local crafts, woollens, jewellery and ceramics. Other popular areas are Austurstræti, Hafnarstræti and the historic centre, Vesturbær.
If you like your shopping on a big scale, Kringlan Shopping Mall offers 130 shops and is Reykjavik’s largest shopping centre. Also worth a mention is Smaralind Mall which has 70 shops, restaurants and entertainment venues.
For a complete change of scene pop along to Reykjavik’s largest flea market, Kolaportith Flea Market, held every Saturday and Sunday at Geirsgata (near the harbour).
Food & Drink
One thing you won’t be surprised to find in Reykjavik is delicious seafood. However there is an increasing number of international dining options such as Italian, Chinese, Mexican and Indian.
If you are on a budget there are plenty of fast food restaurants. Be warned, finer food establishments tend to be very pricey.
There is a cluster of restaurants on Laugevegur and the streets that lead from it which is a great place to start.
There are far too many restaurants to name them all, so here is just a selection to get you started:
  • Fjalakotturinn Restaurant
  • Einar Ben (Icelandic)
  • Lækjarbrekka (Icelandic)
  • Tjarnarbakkinn (Icelandic)
  • Vid Tjornina (Seafood)
  • Tveir Fiskar (Seafood)
  • The Lobster House (Seafood)
  • Sjavarkallarinn (Seafood Cellar)
  • Pasta Basta (Italian)
  • Caruso (Italian)
  • The Pearl (International)
  • Maru (Japanese)
Many of the cafés turn into bars in the evening often staying open until 5am. Look out for – Café Cutura, Café Paris, Café Victor and Kaffibarinn.
Despite its growing reputation as a city with a raucous nightlife, Reykjavik still has something to offer those who are looking for a more cultural pursuit for their evening’s entertainment.
The Icelandic Symphony Orchestra performs regularly at the University Concert Hall, the Icelandic Opera’s performances can be seen at the Opera House on Ingóifsstraeti plus there are the National Theatre and Reykjavik City Theatre.
But if you are there for the pulsing nightlife you’d better head for Laugavegur and its surrounding streets as this is the main hub of the city’s nightlife. Here are a few names to look out for:
  • Kaffibarrin
  • Astro
  • Rex
  • Kaffi Reykavik
  • Vegamont
  • NASA
  • Café Solon
  • Q Bar
  • Café Oliver
If you over-indulge you can always pay a visit to one of the thermal swimming pools (Laugardalur Thermal Pool and Grafarvogslaug Thermal Pool) to soak away your hangover.
There are also several events that occur throughout the year. Listed below are a few that you might enjoy should your trip coincide:
  • February – Thorrabolt
  • March – Beer Day
  • April – Trout season starts
  • May – Reykjavik Arts Festival
  • June – Salmon fishing season starts
  • June/August – Light Nights Festival, Sjomannadagur (“Seaman’s Say”), Independence Day
  • August – Verslunnarmannahelgi (Labour Day), Gay Pride, Reykjavik Marathon, Jazz Festival
  • September – Sheep & Horse Roundup
  • October – Iceland Airwaves Music Festival
During your stay in Reykjavik you will undoubtedly want to explore this amazing country further. There are numerous traditional villages in the countryside which give you a real feel for the traditional Icelandic way of life.
Your hotel will be able to provide you with details of locally arranged excursions but to whet your appetite, listed below are just a few of the possibilities:
  • Blue Lagoon – opaque blue thermal spring
  • The Golden Circle
  • Gullfoss Falls
  • Geysir
  • Thingvellir National Park
  • Glacier Trip
  • Whale Watching
  • Walking
  • Fishing
  • River Rafting
  • Visit the northerly island of Grimsey
Health & Safety
The tap water is safe to drink in Reykjavik and throughout the whole island. However you should note that the hot water is very hot immediately. It is superheated geo-thermally and can easily scald you should you jump in the shower and turn on the hot tap without any cold water.
Medical provision is extremely advanced and therefore very expensive so you are advised to ensure you have full medical insurance in place before travelling.
Iceland is without doubt, one of the safest places on the planet. Crime is practically zero but you should still exercise the usual precautions with your valuables.
Always ensure you have sufficient clothing with you and plenty of layers. The most common complaint for visitors is hyperthermia so you should ensure that you have plenty of warm clothing at all times. If you are going to travel outside of the capital stick to the marked paths or employ a guide. Iceland’s landscape and geological features are totally unique. Fissures in rocks can be outlets for super-heated steam or much deeper than you think. Plus earthquakes are quite common so you should familiarise yourself with the appropriate procedure should an earthquake happen.
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