Welcome to Iceland: A Stroll Through Reykjavík

For most visitors, Reykjavík is their first look at Iceland. And for our brand-new Rick Steves Iceland guidebook, I enjoyed getting acquainted with this pint-sized capital. This post kicks off my Iceland blog series — stay tuned for lots more. Special thanks to our co-author, Ian Watson, who taught Rick and me everything we know about Iceland.

Boarding my Icelandair flight in Oslo, I realize I’m about to fly east to west over the North Atlantic — a thousand miles across a frigid sea — to touch down in Iceland…just like those first Viking Age settlers, 11 centuries ago. My guidebook work with Rick Steves’ Europe has taken me to more than 40 countries — but Iceland is a first. And I’m stoked.

On the plane, I enjoy reviewing the excellent work of our co-author, Ian Watson. A longtime Reykjavík resident, Ian’s savvy insights embolden me to feel like an old pro before the plane comes to a full and complete stop. For the next three weeks, as I follow Ian’s work around Iceland, I’ll be hearing his voice in my head (soon to be followed by an army of Rick Steves guidebook readers).

Touching down on the petrified lava field at Keflavík Airport, I make my way to the baggage claim and find an ATM, pulling out about $300 worth of the colorful local krónur. As a rank novice in Iceland, I don’t yet believe everything I’ve heard about how every transaction here — no matter how small — uses plastic. Flash forward a few weeks, and I’ll be trying to unload these same krónur at every transaction. (On the bright side, blowing through $300 is a snap in Iceland.)

On the 45-minute drive into Reykjavík, our minibus driver regales his passengers with a steady monologue of Icelandic clichés. The gang’s all here: “While you’re in Iceland, you have to try the fermented shark!” “Icelanders believe in ‘hidden people.’ They even get clairvoyants to negotiate with the elves when building a new road!” “If you buy one thing in Iceland, make it a stuffed puffin. If you buy two things, you have to get an Icelandic sweater. It’s expensive — but warm!”

With each cliché, I imagine our co-author Ian— who relishes debunking questionable “tour-guide history” and tourist-bait gimmicks — rolling his eyes vigorously. But our driver’s enthusiasm is infectious. And I must admit, as a first-timer looking out the window at a lunar landscape of chunky lava rock blanketed with a gentle yellow-green moss…I’m more than willing to roll with it.

Soon we’re driving through the mid-rise suburban sprawl of Reykjavík, then along the shore of the little lake called The Pond, and finally we pull up at the address of my Airbnb. I let myself in with the key code I was sent, and find the apartment just as I expected: spartan but comfortable, with a large living room and fully equipped kitchen. My Reykjavík pad costs about as much as a single room with shared bath in a guesthouse — a bargain in this notoriously expensive land.

I unpack hurriedly and splash some water on my face. But when I turn on the hot water, it comes out scalding and stinky. The faint sulfur odor reminds me that in Reykjavík, hot water is piped in directly from boreholes deep in the volcanic countryside. Like other tourists, burning myself is a rite of passage that I’ll only do once. But, also like other tourists, I’ll never quite get used to the smell. After a shower, the bathroom smells like the aftermath of a chili cook-off.

I dig around in my bag and pull on every layer I can find. It’s early summer, and Oslo — where I woke up this morning — just endured its hottest May temperatures on record. Iceland is not so fortunate. Looking out my window, I see people wearing fashionable parkas with their fur-lined hoods pulled up tight.

Heading out to join them, I confirm my hopes that my apartment’s location is ideal: Just two blocks from the historic center of Reykjavík, but buffeted by enough big buildings to keep the nightlife hubbub at bay.

And then, it happens — that moment I look forward to anytime I visit a new place. Looking around at the colorful houses, feeling the frigid breeze blowing off the nearby harbor, hearing the cry of seagulls, and surrounded by fellow travelers with fur-fringed faces, it hits me: Hey! I’m in Iceland!

I walk past a row of eye-pleasing old houses. Looking closer, I notice they’re clad in corrugated metal painted in bright, cheery colors. Throughout Iceland, this siding is a popular choice: Durable enough to stand up to the howling wind and sideways rain, and convenient for a country with few trees or other natural building materials. Each windowpane comes with a smaller, inset sub-window, which is  almost always propped open. Reykjavík homes are heated with that same natural thermal water that just deep-fried my hands. It’s cold out here, but toasty warm in there. And heating costs are low enough that, when it gets stuffy, the easiest solution is simply to crack a window.

I turn up Aðalstræti — Reykjavík’s first street — for a peek at Iceland’s parliament, the Alþingi (pronounced “all-thingy”). Icelanders are justifiably proud to have what’s sometimes billed “the oldest parliament in the world” — which has survived, off and on, since the great clan gatherings of the Settlement Age (A.D. 930). Facing the Alþingi stands a statue of Jón Sigurðsson, who — a thousand years after those first settlers — advocated for full Icelandic independence from Denmark. (They finally got it, in 1943.)

Suddenly I recognize this square as the setting of news reports during the global economic crisis of 2008. When Iceland’s bubble of false affluence burst and their economy collapsed, Icelanders turned out on this square to protest. Ultimately the government appointed special prosecutor Ólafur Þór Hauksson, a small-town cop-turned-international folk hero. His team convicted and imprisoned some two dozen bankers, who were held accountable for their greedy actions. (Imagine that.)

That 2008 crisis marked the first of several recent attention-grabbing events in Iceland. In 2010, the volcano called Eyjafjallajökull erupted, sending a great plume of ash over Europe that briefly halted air travel. Some Icelanders believe that the “E15” eruption reminded travelers about the existence of this fascinating, volcanic island nation in the North Atlantic. And that — combined with the popular “stopover” deals on Icelandair — boosted Iceland’s brand as a tourist destination. Thanks to enthusiastic word of mouth and the power of Instagram, visits have grown exponentially over the last few years. And in 2016, for the first time, more Americans visited Iceland than the number of people who live in Iceland.

Circling back down to the main drag, Austurstræti, I notice a mass of construction cranes between here and the harbor. Reykjavík is taking advantage of its rebounding economy and tourist boom to undertake a “big dig” along its waterfront. Venturing toward the mess to explore, I stumble upon a parking lot with a hot dog stand, surrounded on three sides by ripped-up sidewalk and scaffolding.

Aha! It’s Reykjavík’s famous hot dog stand. When former president (and notorious junk-food connoisseur) Bill Clinton visited in 2004, he wound up having a hot dog right here, at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. Ever since, standing in line for a dog has become a must for many Reykjavík visitors. Not quite ready to spend 20 minutes waiting for a hot dog, I make a mental note to circle back later. (When I do, I discover that in Reykjavík, $6 buys you a pretty good, but in no way memorable, hot dog.)

Back on the main drag, I make my way across a busy street, then angle uphill. I soon find myself on Reykjavík’s main walking, shopping, dining, and nightlife street: Laugavegur.

Low-key and slathered with street art, Laugavegur is an inviting place to simply wander and browse. I do just that, making a slow lap past tacky “puffin shops,” microbrew pubs, inviting cafés, indie bookstores, heavenly bakeries, boutiques selling top-end Icelandic sweaters, thrift and vintage shops selling those same sweaters — gently used — for half-price, and lots of enticing restaurants.

As I walk, I appreciate the whimsical street art. Icelanders have learned that if you leave a wall blank, it’ll be tagged with ugly graffiti. So instead, they commission murals by talented street artists. These help beautify the cityscape and deter taggers. Peeking down side-streets and noticing lots of vivid murals, I already know that exploring the back streets will be a highlight of my visit.

Reaching the end of Laugavegur, I pull a U-turn and head back the way I came. A colorful little blob on the top of a parking sign grabs my eye. Upon closer inspection, I see it’s an action figure. Some mystery street artist — nicknamed “the Toyspreader” — sneaks around town gluing tiny toys to signs. Local authorities, correctly seeing this as a harmless citywide scavenger hunt, have decided to look the other way.

At the intersection with the steep, picturesque street called Skólavörðustígur, I look up to see Reykjavík’s hill-capping landmark church, Hallgrímskirkja. I feel drawn there now, but I’m sure I’ll have a chance to circle back later. Hallgrímskirkja’s spire is the needle around which the record of Reykjavík spins.

I’m famished. I could grab a quick, “cheap” $15 bite at a fast-food stand. But this is my first night in Iceland — why not splurge? It’s prime dining time, but I figure I’ll take my chances at a high-end restaurant called Grillmarkaðurinn (“Grill Market”).

Stepping inside, the whole place smells like charcoal and mesquite. It feels trendy, yet accessible. Periodically, a smoke-filled cloche is lifted theatrically off a dish, releasing another tantalizing puff of sweet smoke into the air.

I put on my best puppy-dog eyes and ask the host if they have any tables for one. “Do you have a reservation?” he asks in that stern way that usually means, “Ha!” But then, scanning the restaurant, he spots a lone place setting at the counter facing the kitchen. Just my luck. Sometimes being a solo traveler is a plus.

He seats me at a counter made from a split tree trunk, next to a Japanese hipster with a man bun poking out from under his furry hat. We exchange the courteous nod of two singletons who suddenly find themselves dining together, and I turn my attention to the menu.

Icelandic cuisine has a reputation for its oddball “hardship” foods — such as the notorious fermented shark, or the head of a lamb on a plate. But every single item on this menu sounds delicious. It’s the perfect melding of international know-how and distinctly Icelandic ingredients — lamb, puffin, minke whale, humar (langoustine), rhubarb, skyr, licorice.

I place my order and enjoy watching the chefs scurry around the kitchen. I pull out my camera to photograph the sous chef blowtorch-searing a hunk of minke whale on its own little hibachi. My neighbor is also snapping a photo. To break the ice, we compare cameras. And soon, we’re debriefing each other on our Iceland trips. Both of us are celebrating special occasions: I’m on my first night in Iceland, and he’s on his last, after three weeks of camping and skiing his way around the country. He came from Tokyo, by way of Helsinki…and he has a long way to travel home tomorrow.

My order — a rack of Iceland’s famously delicious lamb — arrives. it’s incredibly tender and flavorful, with dipping sauces made of yogurt and rhubarb jam.

As the lamb melts in my mouth, I ask my fellow traveler what his favorite place in Iceland was. “I don’t remember what it’s called, but it’s a very long name” he begins, quoting every traveler who’s ever been to Iceland. He draws his hands apart as he says it, to emphasize just how staggeringly long the name is. “But it was a wonderful little town on a fjord on the north coast. You drive north from a large town along a fjord. You go through a very long tunnel. Then more fjord. And then you drive through a shorter tunnel. And that’s where this town is.” He pulls out his laptop to show me photos. He’s skiing down a steep mountain with a little village in the distance, and the sun on the horizon…at 11:00 p.m. (Later I’ll figure out which town he was talking about — Siglufjörður. And it’s one of my favorites, too.)

We watch in silence as the chefs plate little creatures on chunks of rock and glassy lava. Soon my dessert comes: lemon meringue with salted licorice. I’ve learned that some people love licorice, and some people hate it. And those who love licorice, really love salted licorice. I adore it. I’m going to feel right at home in Iceland.

Bidding bon voyage to my dinner companion, I head back out into the chill of the evening. It’s 10 p.m., but it’s lighter outside than it was when I came into the restaurant. It dawns on me that I won’t see real darkness until I fly home in three weeks.

I waddle my way back up the main drag to my Airbnb. It’s been a marvelous first evening in Iceland, but I need to get some rest. I have a very busy few weeks ahead of me. All tucked in, catching the faint whiff of sulfur on my just-washed face, it’s hard to fall asleep. I love the adventure of being at the start of a journey in a new place. And for this traveler, Iceland is as new as they come.

This blog post is partly inspired by the “Welcome to Reykjavík” self-guided walk on page 68 of our Rick Steves Iceland guidebook (thanks again to co-author Ian Watson). Our book includes plenty of restaurant recommendations, including options more affordable than Grillmarkaðurinn (though if you’re splurging, I stand by that choice).

Stay tuned for the next installment of my Iceland blog series, including a trip to the famous Blue Lagoon, as well as several simpler, less expensive thermal bathing opportunities around the country.

23 Replies to “Welcome to Iceland: A Stroll Through Reykjavík”

  1. I feel bad. I’ve been through Iceland six times but only stayed one time. There are a few interesting things to see but I still can’t wrap my mind around making it a vacation destination? I’ll be going through Iceland again in June but don’t plan on staying.

    1. You really should, especially since June is around the time of the year where Iceland gets the lengthiest amounts of sunshine per day, so you can experience the Midnight Sun. Just spending 3-4 days there will be worthwhile. Iceland is a geological wonderland, with a really cool landscape, geysers, and community geothermal pools throughout Reykjavik that take advantage of all the freely heated water. They also have some of the best soups & lamb dishes I’ve ever had. And contrary to Cameron’s comment about the hot dogs being unmemorable, I found them to be excellent. In fact, numerous publications have referred to the stand he went to as offering the best hot dog in the world.


    2. You should! It’s a fascinating place – even if you only have two days. Take one or two of their bus tours. I’ve been once and hope to go back. I guess it all depends on what you call a ‘vacation destination’. Lounging in the sun? No! Learning about new and interesting places? Yes!

  2. ICELAND was great. Here is what I wrote about my trip.
    Most people’s response when we said we were going to Iceland was “why”? Thirty-six years ago, on our first trip to Europe(our wedding trip), we took Icelandair and stopped at Reykjavek for 45 minutes. On the return home, we again stopped at Reykjavek and were offered a special package to stay for the two days to see the land of fire and ice. We didn’t do so but have often thought it might be an interesting place to visit one day. Go to Iceland, I am so glad my husband and I did! We did a five day trip.

    We arrived at Reykjavek , the most northern capital city in the world, about 7:45 AM, and took the Reykjavek Excursions’ Flybus, from the airport to the hotel, about a 40 minutes ride. I marveled at the barren landscape, the snow covered mountains, the moss covered lava fields.

    We walked around city centre for a while and had a brunch later in the afternoon. Our hotel, the Hilton Nordica, was great!

    That first night, we took an excursion to see the Northern Lights(Aurora Borealis). For those of you that watch reruns of Seinfeld, it was a definite Seinfeld moment. The excursion, the bus ride from hell to see the Northern Lights, was a disaster from the start. We should have been wary when the original tour company cancelled due to inclement weather! You can’t see the northern lights, swirling green and red lights in the polar regions, with cloud cover. Yet, when the registration desk told us that another tour compan WAS going out that evening and that they had a great track record of finding the northern lights, we booked the tour! Think 4 hours traveling a distance of about 120 miles over back roads in search of the lights… in the rain. Despite the fact it was obvious we wouldn’t see the lights in such weather, the two guides wouldn’t give up and kept us “captive” as they continued bouncing us along the roads/and unpaved roads in their search so that they could say they tried. In a Seinfeld episode, Kramer kept passengers on his tour bus, as he tried to find a place that would take his muffin stumps! At first upset, (I was crying) from lack of sleep-we’d been up nearly 40 hours,my husband and I eventually started to laugh hysterically when I made the Seinfeld connection that we might never get back to the hotel!(along with about 75 other captives on the bus). We were on a bus from 8:30 until almost 1AM! Thankfully, we did have one bathroom break! The guide would say, “Look, over there…I think that’s a star” or “ That haze to your left is from the city lights of Reykjavek”. The tour started with the caveat that they couldn’t guarantee a sighting of the northern lights but they should never have taken us out on a cloudy evening! Oh, well.

    The next day, with jet lag and only 5 hours sleep, our next excursion began with our guide David(http://www.icelandhorizon.is/), a Brit who moved to Iceland in 1985. He was wonderful and I totally recommend a tour with him as he uses a mini van and takes a small group as opposed to a large bus tour. He also makes sure that he times arrivals to the different stops BEFORE the large tour buses get there to insure a quiet and uncrowded visit! He was constantly talking,sharing information on Iceland’s history and culture. Did you know that Iceland does not have an army, navy, or air force? It does have a Coast Guard. Did you know that Iceland doesn’t have any railways? Or that there is only one main road,the ring road which goes around the island? There are 36 letters in the Icelandic alphabet. There are no C and W. No letters are silent when reading a word. And, there are no regional languages. There is only one way to say each and every word. Takk is thank you, Bless is goodbye and Goda Nott is goodnight. The other Northern Light tour could take a lesson from David. Instead of constantly chatting with the driver, the guide could have used all those hours to talk with the tourists about his country!

    David told us that Iceland has up to 500 earthquakes a day, most less than three on the Richter Scale. He said that Iceland was due for a volcanic eruption, and I just hoped it wouldn’t be as we meandered around the volcanic areas. Called the Golden Circle Tour (about $85 per person),we traveled a 190 mile circular route with David, from around 9-4. We first stopped at the Hellisheidi Geothermal Power Plant and learned about how Iceland makes their energy. At the plant, the steam is separated from the water , the water is then also hot enough to supply secondary steam. The remaining water is then returned to the ground. Amazing process of renewable energy which supplies 99% of the countries energy needs! David called our attention to a field of growing marshmellows(really hay bales).We stopped at a volcanic crater called Kerio, a great example of a caldera crater. Because of the great acoustics at this site, there are many concerts and Pavarotti performed here. We saw a landscape of much moss covered lava fields, few trees, high cliffs and open spaces. David shared a joke about the forests of Iceland. “How does one find their way out of an Icelandic forest? Answer-You stand Up!” We traveled to the oldest geyser, called geyser(meaning “the gusher”)that’s where the word originated which doesn’t erupt very much any more. Next to it was Strokkur(meaning “on the struck”), which faithfully erupted ever few minutes. We then travelled on to the Gullfoss(means “golden fall”), the largest waterfall in Europe. The 105 ft. waterfall was very beautiful with a huge canyon. I also liked the fact that the restaurant buildings were made away from the falls so you can’t see anything other than the falls. An interesting story tells of a woman who is credited with saving the falls. Seems than in the early 1900s, people wanted to build a hydroelectric plant at the site. Sigriour Tomasdottir , who lived near the falls, threatened to jump into the falls if this happened. She is created with her efforts to save the falls. A monument of her was erected by the falls in 1978. Our last stop was at an area called Thingvellir National Park. It is here where you can see evidence of where the North American tectonic plate and Eurasian tectonic Plates meet and are spreading apart. It is also here at Thingvellir, where Iceland’s earliest democracy began. Iceland, the world’s oldest democracy, dates back to 930. Different chieftains would travel to the area of Thingvellir and set up shelters where people could come to discuss issues of concerns. This lasted for two weeks. Afterwards, the different chieftains would meet to share the concerns of their clans. Laws were established and announced by the lord-chief for those in attendance to hear and take back to their regions of Iceland. The area was a wonderful natural amphitheater! Games were also played among different clans during this two week get-together and people who had broken the laws were brought to the yearly gathering for their punishment.

    The next day, we rested by doing some sightseeing of the city centre and taking in a geothermal pool down the street from the Hilton Nordica. Laugardalur, the largest thermal swimming pool in Iceland, is Olympic sized. It also has four smaller hot pots(or gossip pots) which we used. The temperature outside was a windy 41 degrees, but the pools were about 99F. For just a few dollars, you gain entrance to the pool/locker rooms. Another few dollars paid for the rental of a towel. Not having experienced an Icelandic pool before, we had to have someone explain the procedure. All shoes must be removed prior to entering the locker room and all must first take a shower before going outside into the pool area and. In the locker room. I haven’t seen so many naked women since I was in high school gym class! There is definitely a totally different mentality toward the human body. In the locker room, women strolled around or sat and blow dried their hair in the buff as I scurried around in my towel to find (a none existent) shower with a curtain! We also took a bus to the Pearl, a huge dome building which also has a restaurant and Viking museum. From the observation deck, you have a wonderful view of the city, it’s colorful buildings, the surrounding snow-covered mountains and bay with all its fishing boats. We actually walked the way back to city centre and walked by the US Embassy, located near the city centre, at 21 Laufasvegur. We also passed by the largest church steeple in Iceland.

    The next day, we went with David’s associate, Ragner of Super Jeeps,(http://www.superjeep.is/) for an adventure to the South Shore and the town of Vik.(about $200 per person).It was interesting to learn about how people get their last names, a very old tradition.Within an Icelandic family, there will be many different surnames. That’s because Icelandic people name their children after their father’s first name plus the name son or daughter added at the end. So, if a boy named Ragner’s dad’s name is Eider. His last name would be Eidersson. If a girl in the same family was named Dugg. Her last name would be Eidersdottir. Because of this, it is easier to find a person in a telephone book by listing first names alphabetically. Additionally, Icelandic people always use first names,never Mr., Ms. Mrs. Even students call their teachers by their first names as do citizens toward the leader of their country. There is also a list of accepted names. All names must be Norse names. Some children have
    Norse names that when translated mean ugly, criminal, cup,mountain spring and dew!

    The weather was not cooperating with extreme winds and sand storms. We traveled to see one of Iceland’s black beaches, and one of Iceland’s oldest towns, Stokkseyri ,founded around 900 AD. We past by many greenhouses, powered by geo thermal energy, that enables the Icelandic people to have fresh vegetables and flowers year round. We visited a number of waterfalls including: Seljalandsfoss and Skogan Falls. We could see Mt, Hekla, a very active volcano and Snaefellsjokull, the glacier made famous by Jules Verne in his book, Journey to the Center of the Earth. We were heading toward Solheimajokull glacier. We didn’t get to the tongue of the glacier due to the dangerous winds. Instead, Ragner took us off road and I mean off road. After a brief ride down a gravel road, he veered off onto an earth path with tire ruts. He kept going up and up and eventually left this “road” to blaze a trail of his own over stones, and landscape that looked like we’d taken a wrong turn and ended up on the lunar surface. Thank goodness for his large size tires which he said cost about $800 a piece. Interestingly, NASA used the terrain of Iceland to train the Apollo astronauts and when Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon, he joked that he thought he was in Iceland! We traveled up about 5100 ft from the shore with hurricane like winds(about 50 mph). I could hardly stand upright when we summitted the mountain of Hamragaroaheioi and got out for photographs. Our guide, Ragner, said he’s never taken tourists up to the site before, a spectacular view of the Vestmannaeyjar Islands! In 1973, the only town on the Westman Islands of Heimaey, was pretty much destroyed by a volcanic eruption. All of its 5000 residents had been evacuated. The thick ash and lava covered many of the homes. Today, excavation is find the homes well preserved and residents are finding some of their possessions still intact. Because of this, Heimay is called the “Pompeii of the North”.On the way down, Ragner played Queen’s “We are the Champions”-kind of appropriate as we had survived the unusual but outstanding, side excursion!

    The last day of our visit to Iceland, we stopped at the famous Blue Lagoon for a dip (www.bluelagoon.is). Reykjavek Excursions runs a very popular tour to the lagoon and then on to the airport. (the bus ride includes admission to lagoon and trip to airport)They also keep your luggage for you so you don’t have to lug it around at the Blue Lagoon. If you don’t have a bathing suit, you can rent one as well as towels and robes. The thermal seawater pool , is located in a lava field called Evil Lava, created during an eruption in 1226. The hot pool is created from the run off of the nearly geothermal plant. White silica mud, collected and put into nearby pots, is thought to be therapeutic for the skin. People apply it to their faces, leaving it on for a few minutes before washing it off.

    In addition to many different types of fish and lamb dishes, Iceland has some unique foods on their menus. There is sheep head, puffin bird, rotten shark called “hakarl, grilled foal, and whale! I did like one of their traditional desserts called skyr. Skyr, is a yogurt type dish flavored (or unflavored) with different fruits. I recommend the Restaurant Reykjavek for their fish buffet located at Vesturgata 2. The restaurant also has a unique bar… an ice bar.You don coats and enter a bar lined with blocks of ice and with has a bar and bench made of ice as well. It was really cool….in several different ways. We also at a restaurant called Caruso’s in city centre and near the Hilton Nordica, was a great place and value, the Brasserie Askur.

    And, if you are visiting Reykjavek, depending on the time of year, take a glance into the night sky by the bay. You will see a large beam of light stretching up into the Heavens- that’s the Imagine Peace Tower. Created by Yoko Ono in memory of John Lennon, the light(from geo thermal energy) lights the night sky from October 9th(the birthday of John Lennon) and is extinguished on December 8th, (the date of his death)(imaginepeace.com/news/imagine-peace-tower)

    I hope that my travelogue about my trip to Iceland is of help to anyone that might like to visit the land of fire and Ice! Would I recommend such a trip…most definitely!


  3. We just got back from three day in Reykjavik. It was wonderful, dinner were indeed expensive, but when you are used to 10% sales tax and 18% tips it’s not so bad for such a great meal.

    1. Hi Deb. Yep, a lot of people have trouble with the whale and puffin consumption. I’ll address that in an upcoming post about Icelandic cuisine. Stay tuned!

      1. I look very forward to everything about the experience of our 10 day trip to Iceland next month except their cuisine. Although we will probably be fine, as a vegetarian I am a little concerned about finding options. Advice??

        1. We went for a couple of weeks last year with a vegetarian as part of our quartet. She was always able to find something she wanted to eat on the menu. Sometimes she and I split a main course. We still rave over a mushroom risotto in a hotel in the north.

      2. I’ve heard that whale is only still served because tourists expect it and eat it. The locals generally don’t eat it.

    2. You don’t HAVE to eat puffin or whale (or fermented shark). The fish (cod and Arctic char) are wonderful. Reykjavik Fish House specializes in fish and chips and it’s fantastic.

  4. We spent 5 days in Iceland last year. It is an amazingly beautiful country. Sights there that would challenge any in the world for beauty. Wonderful food & friendly people while being clean and safe. Yes it is expensive but then so is New York, Paris or Tokyo. My choice for wonderful Icelandic food was lamb. Put aside your feelings for eating whale or puffins and just enjoy your time there. It is well worth a stop.

    1. AMEN to that. I am in total agreement. I was there in 2016, all I could say was WOW for 2hrs while my friend drove down the coast. I had to slap myself from saying WOW, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. If people are going to travel to other countries they better get use to different was of doing things or eating different things or not go at all. Some countries eat dog some eat horse , some people in this country eat snake. Are they going to criticize them or enjoy what they have to offer. They shouldn’t impose their beliefs on the country they are visiting that is rude and that in the past was called the ugly American let’s not go there.

      1. Fully agree with Mary and Suzette. On the way to other Nordic countries, I passed five nights in Iceland 2013, finding very friendly and kind folks, with admirable spirits to thrive in such an isolated location, and beautiful natural and cultural attractions. There is so much to see in the world that I may not make it back but the convenience of Icelandair tempts me to return.

  5. Great read, looking forward to more installments, will be in Iceland in June. And yes I have the book!

  6. Visited Iceland 5 years ago and had a great trip. Stayed at a very affordable centrally located Airbnb, did the Golden Circle drive, luxuriated at the Blue Lagoon thermal springs, treated ourselves to the world famous mediocre hot dog stand and had a blast partying with the crew of a Danish Coast Guard vessel at an English pub just a few blocks from our rental apatment. Would love to return to hit Blue Lagoon again, do the Ring Road and do a better job of researching dinner options!

  7. Great read!
    2 of our friends are joining us for a 10 day drive around Iceland in September/October.
    We’re calling it the ‘Vikings and Hot Tubs Tour’.
    Also doing a small boat cruise in Norway after.
    To say we are excited is a massive understatement!

  8. I spent 10 days in Rey and ran in the Icelandic Marathon. We loved all of it. There were over 9 thousand runners from all over the world in Rey. It was a great community. The locals came out everywhere along the coarse beating on pots and pans, music, refreshments. It was awesome. The run gave us a chance to see the residential parts of town up close. The locals really celebrated in their yards and driveways and homes. I got to see the family side of Icelanders. We did several day trips to incredible outlying wonders and were blessed with Northern Lights on our last night. One other tid bit..We found Iceland to be vitually crime free. We saw 1 unarmed Policeman the entire time. Incredible since it was the biggest Icelandic holiday. Also, best beer on the planet fyi… I cant wait to go back.

  9. Iceland is most certainly worth a visit! We went on one of the Icelandair deals last year. Very beautiful. I know Rick does not recommend Blue Lagoon but we loved it. Took the tour right off the plane. Very unique experience in March being hit in the face with snow and sleet while in the super warm thermal water!
    Food and drink are super expensive but best fresh seafood!
    Very beautiful there, a land with many beautiful surprises! The trip to the glacier ice tunnel was exciting and interesting! Don’t miss it!

    1. Hey Pat. I agree that Iceland is wonderful. One clarification: It’s not that we “don’t recommend the Blue Lagoon”…just that it’s not for everyone, and those on a budget might think twice about the $100 price tag. But for many travelers (including me), the Blue Lagoon is a must! Stay tuned…I’ll be posting tomorrow with more details on the Blue Lagoon.

  10. We visited Iceland 3 years ago and loved it! The best hot dog I ate was in a small town, a kind of gas station/ convenience store. Some of the best food we ate were in such places, incredible homemade pies and whipped cream the colour of butter. And they don’t skimp on portions lol Yummy!
    Scenery is incredible and changing. It is worth spending a few days driving around.

  11. Thank you so much for all of your travel recommendations! My husband and I are in our early/mid 30s and used lots of your travel plans and audio tours for one of our trips to Greece (Athens, Mykonos, Santorini), Italy (Rome, Florence, Venice), and Paris. I am using your recommendations now for our upcoming trip to Olso, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Copenhagen, and Reykjavik. I am really looking forward to the trip now, thank you for everything, I really enjoy all the history and culture you add in to your guides!

  12. Lots of great information – thank you! My husband and I are thinking of visiting this year as there is a new nonstop flight from KC. The biggest question I have right now is whether to rent a car or just take day trips to some of the sights outside of Reykjavik? We would probably be there for about a week.

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