Tag Archives: sunrise

A Wintery Week in Iceland: Reykjavik

I knew I wanted to go to Iceland. And I knew I wanted to see the northern lights. Like really wanted to see the northern lights. So, Iceland in winter it would be. After doing some research I settled on the small group tour Northern Lights in Style. Booked through Nordic Saga, the tour was operated by the large Icelandic tour company Guðmundur Jónasson Travel. The 6 day, 5 night tour seemed to offer everything I was looking for – nice hotels; the opportunity to try great, local food; someone to drive me around the icy roads of Iceland; the opportunity to see the northern lights; and an itinerary packed with seemingly amazing things. I will talk more about the specifics of the tour itself in a later post, but for now, booking this tour is how I ended up in a cold and snowy Reykjavik on a Sunday morning in February.

Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland. In a country with a population of approximately 330,000, you can imagine that despite being the capital and the area in which the majority of Icelanders live, it is not a particularly large city. What it lacked in size, it more than made up for in color and character.

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As excited as I was about being in Iceland, after an overnight flight and a long day of travel, I needed all of the help I could get to stay awake.

Before the 8 hour flight from Seattle
Before the 8 hour flight from Seattle
After the 8 hour flight from Seattle. And the 45 minute Flybus transfer to the Reykjavik bus terminal. And taking a second bus to my hotel. And walking to breakfast. Travel is not glamorous.
After the 8 hour flight from Seattle. And the 45 minute Flybus transfer to the Reykjavik bus terminal. And taking a second bus to my hotel. And walking to breakfast. Travel is not always ever glamorous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After dropping off my bags at my hotel, I began to carefully tread the ice-covered sidewalks of the city. I marveled at the incredible sunrise as I made my way toward one of the city’s best bakeries. And toward coffee.

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DSC02769After savoring a croissant, skyr, and, yes, coffee at Bakari Sandholt, I spent the morning walking around the city.

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I could say that I had some super-specific plan to fit in as many of the city sites as possible into one day. Because I’m the type of person who usually has some super-specific plan. The reality however, is that I simply wanted to stay upright. Cold air and walking in combination with coffee seemed to do the trick for much of the day.

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Using this map, I found my way to the city pond. Mostly frozen over, the edge of the pond was warmed for the geese and ducks who call the pond home year round.

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When I was not simply enjoying the charming city of Reykjavik, I was probably shopping. I would not have much time in the city during this trip, so I made the most of my day Reykjavik even though many of the shops were closed because it was Sunday. I rambled along the shopping streets of Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur. At the top of Skólavörðustígur sits the iconic Hallgrímskirkja, which I would get to explore further the following day. Side note: I would seriously love to hear how you are pronouncing the names of places in your head as you read them. Me? It sounds something like La*mumble,mumble* and Sko-blah-blah-blah and Hallawhattheheck? But maybe that’s just me.

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I even found my way to the weekend flea market, Kolaportið.

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Despite my most concerted efforts, I eventually could not resist the allure of an afternoon nap in my cozy hotel bed.

So tired
I was so very tired by this point in the day

Thankfully, I was still able to sleep that evening and be ready to meet my tour group the next morning. The day began with a city tour, including stops at Hallgrímskirkja and Perlan.

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My transportation for the week.

The Hallgrímskirkja was designed to mimic the basalt columns that develop from cooling lava. The church is known for its unique design and the large pipe organ it contains.

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There is a small fee to take the elevator to the top of the tower. It is well worth it for the unbeatable view of the city.

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The design of the church is lovely in its simplicity.

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DSC02879I even got all fancy and recorded the organ music, which you can listen to by clicking here: IMG_9455.MOV

One of the final stops before leaving the city was Perlan, or The Pearl. The building sits on a hillside and is visible throughout much of the city. The landmark building contains one of the best restaurants in Reykjavik, where I unfortunately did not get to eat, as well as an observation deck with a 360 degree view of the city.

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A day and a half was not nearly enough time in Reykjavik, but I enjoyed every minute of the jet lagged and caffeine fueled time that I spent there. It was the perfect place to begin my exploration of Iceland before leaving the city behind in hopes of seeing the northern lights. Would I be successful in this endeavor? Stay tuned to find out!

 

A Wintery Week in Iceland: An Introduction

I have struggled with where to begin. I obviously have little difficulty writing at length about all kinds of things, travel being one of them, but something about this trip has left me at a loss for words. What I expected, what I hoped for, what happened –  I am struggling to express any of it.

But sometimes you just have to dive in. And hope that you can even begin to do justice to the experience.

Over the months that I planned the trip, I was frequently asked, “Why Iceland?” That’s a great question. Unfortunately my best answer was, “Ummm, because it seems awesome…”

From the moment I landed in the country on a dark, cold, Sunday morning, I knew my answer, while inadequate, was also replete with truth. Awesome it was, in the truest sense of the word. Almost immediately upon my arrival, as the sun began to slowly spread its color and warmth across the snowy landscape, I began to appreciate the magic of Iceland.

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Beauty there is not fleeting. It is temporary, of course, as is all beauty, but it does not pass quickly. Iceland is a place where the sunrise lasts for hours rather than minutes, where waves crash relentlessly and endlessly against the rocky coastline, where mountains and glaciers experience the seemingly minutest of changes. It is a beauty meant to be savored.

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At the same time, it is a land constantly in flux. A land that has been and continues to be shaped by water and wind and earthquakes and volcanoes. A powerful place that is continually changing. At any moment, the landscape could be violently and irrevocably altered by the forces of nature.

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So that’s where I choose to begin. With beauty and change. With magnificence and power. And the hope that as I share more about Iceland in the upcoming weeks, I can even begin to communicate what an incredible place it is.