After three days on the south coast of Iceland it was time to move on to Reykjavik, the islands capital city. 120,000 people live here, about 37% of the total population of Iceland. At a latitude of 64°08′ N, this makes it the world’s northernmost capital city.
We stayed at Rey Appartments just around the corner from Laugavegur the main street for shopping, bars and restaurants. Our first job was to find a launderette as our two previous stops did not have any laundry facilities. A short walk brought us to The Laundromat Cafe, a launderette downstairs and a bar/cafe upstairs. A beer whilst your laundry is doing seems very civilised.
Over the next three days we toured the city and had a day out around “The Golden Circle” a popular route in South Iceland, covering about 300 km looping from Reykjavík into central Iceland and back. The three primary stops on the route are the national park Þingvellir, the geothermally active valley of Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir and Strokkur, and the waterfall Gullfoss (meaning “golden falls”)
Our first stop was Þingvellir where the Alþingi (Althing in English), the Icelandic Parliament, was established in 930, and remained there until 1798. It is the oldest extant parliamentary institution in the world.
Next stop on the Golden Circle is Haukadalur where the geyser that all others were named after is located. Unfortunately Geysir has been inactive for quite some time although there are other geysers in the area. However its pretty tame compared to Yellowstone in the USA.
Next stop the magnificent Gullfoss waterfall, gullfoss means golden waterfall. The water coming down the river Hivita flows down into a wide curved three-step “staircase” and then abruptly plunges in two stages (11 m and 21 m) into a crevice 32 m (105 ft) deep. This is a very busy tourist destination with a large visitor centre and restaurant. The speciality is lamb soup, more like a stew such as the Welsh dish cawl, with free refills! Insider tip, have lunch before midday otherwise its compete bedlam.
Our next stop was Hveragerði, which somewhat grandly proclaims itself “The hot springs capital of the world”. What they do have is a small geothermic park where you can boil an egg in a stream and a cafe famous for its geothermal ovens.
And so back to Reykjavik. A couple of days exploring the sites, checking out the craft beer bars, sampling the restaurants and my birthday celebration thrown in for good measure.So what better place to start than church, as we were staying round the corner from Hallgrímskirkja, Iceland’s magnificent modern cathedral. State Architect Guðjón Samúelsson’s design of the church was commissioned in 1937. He is said to have designed it to resemble the basalt lava flows of Iceland’s landscape. It took 38 years to build the church. Construction work began in 1945 and ended in 1986.
After a church a wander round the city.
For most of the 20th century beer was either banned or limited to 2.25% ABV. Indeed this limit still applies in supermarkets. The restrictions were lifted on March 1st, 1989. The lifting of restrictions on beer is celebrated as Beer Day on March 1st.There are now some fine craft beers and bars in Iceland with Scandinavian and North American influences. Icelandic beer is even available in the UK now with Booths stocking Einstök Beers. My favorites on the holiday were Úlfur India Pale Ale nr. 3 and Gæðingur Pale Ale. We tried three different craft beer bars which are listed as numbers 1,2 and 3 in this site.
You may recall that way back when we were at Húsavík in part two that we went on an unsuccessful whale watching tour. Sian had been dropping not too subtle hints that we could, if there was time and any money left, try again in Reykjavik.
So where we lucky this time? Well the next and final instalment will be a round up of all the wildlife we saw on the trip so you will have to wait….OK then one quick photo of a humpback whale then.
As we had to return the hire car at 6.30 am for a seven o’clock check in we decided to stay at a B&B/Hotel near the airport. After checking out from our apartment in Reykjavik, on a rainy morning, we set off to explore the south west of the island.
Between Grindavik and Hafnir is a really interesting demonstration of plate tectonics. A bridge that spans the Eurasian and American plates with the low ground between them caused by the two plates moving apart from each other at about one inch a year.
Our final meal on the trip, at a diner in Keflavik was memorable for the biggest portion of fries I have ever seen. We shared one between us but still did not finish it.
Up early the following day for our flights back to Manchester with Easy Jet, and both ways were on time.
There is a final blog post to come with all the wildlife sightings in one place including dolphins, puffins and humpback whales.