Way up in the Northern Atlantic Ocean, lies the beautiful island of Iceland, a geothermic wonderland. Oceans, mountains, waterfalls, and hot springs create a diverse landscape in Iceland. In Reykjavík, the food and art scene highlight a colorful Viking town, rich in culture and history. Below are just a few of the highlights from my recent adventure in Iceland.
The “grey cat” cafe is a restaurant in Reykjavík. It’s a cozy little spot to get breakfast, and start off a day of exploring Iceland. They are famous for an American-style breakfast called “the truck,” and the bagels were also delicious! I had the smoked salmon bagel, which reminded me of my Pacific Northwest roots.
The very wide Hvítá River creates the Gullfoss, or “golden falls,” Waterfall. It is one of the biggest waterfalls I have ever had the opportunity to see, and it is breath-taking. There is a bit of a hike down to a better viewing point, but it is worth every step. If you are lucky, you may see a rainbow here, like I did. So magical!
Lebowski bar is a diner-style restaurant and bar, themed after the 1998 cult classic film, The Big Lebowski. Milkshakes, White Russians, and delicious specialty burgers line the menu, while photos of “the dude” line the walls. I recommend the jalapeño poppers to start! My favorite!
Kerið Crater is a volcanic crater that is about 3000 years old! Volcanic rock is usually black in color, but the rock in this region is red. The mineral-dense water that makes up the lake in Kerið Crater is a deep turquoise, which contrasts beautifully with the surrounding moss and red rock. The crater is privately owned, and there is a small entrance fee, but it’s worth the stop.
If you are anything like me, and you love spicy food, the traditional Icelandic cuisine probably isn’t going to satisfy your spice needs. That’s where El Santo comes in. With delicious Mexican cuisine, and a small variety of homemade hot sauces, this place is a great restaurant to mix things up again. The restaurant has a Lucha Libre theme, and trendy decor. Stop by El Santo for some spice!
Þingvellir is a National Park in Iceland where parliament sessions used to take place. The park is situated in the Rift Valley between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, and the landscape is absolutely beautiful. The area was easily accessed by the majority of early settlers in Iceland, and so it was chosen to be a designated area for parliamentary proceedings. These meetings first took place in 930 AD, and are considered to be the country’s founding.
Although the land here is beautiful, the history has some dark stains. As the Icelandic people converted to Christianity, those who practiced pagan rituals, or continued to worship Norse Gods were punished at Þingvellir, in addition to common criminals. The path through Þingvellir leads past the Drekkingarhylur, or “drowning pool,” where many women were executed by drowning for various crimes, regardless of severity. Men were generally beheaded, but don’t think they had it any easier; Usually the executioner was young and inexperienced, and it often took more than one try to get the job done. There is also the Gálgaklettur, or “gallows rock,” where hangings would take place, and the Brennugjá, or “stake gorge,” where those accused of witchcraft would be burned at the stake. However, it wasn’t all bad: It is said that the Vikings really knew how to throw a party, and that’s exactly what this area became when assemblies took place. Much of the Icelandic culture and heritage stems from this beautiful meeting place.
Hallgrímskirkja church is the tallest church in Iceland, and is visible from all around Reykjavík. At 244 feet tall, it is one of the tallest structures in the country. The chapel portion of the church is beautifully simple, and has a very grand pipe organ. However, the best part about the church is the observation tower, which offers 360 degree views of the colorful town of Reykjavík, and it’s surrounding landscape.
After a long day of hiking around the beautiful Icelandic countryside, what better way to warm up and unwind than with a relaxing dip in the blue lagoon? It may be a “tourist trap,” but it’s definitely worth the visit. Submerge yourself in the milky-blue, steaming water, and let the many minerals do wonders for your skin.
Iceland is a magical island, with extraordinarily beautiful landscapes. The geothermal activity brings so much life to an island that is already abundant with cool culture. Add Iceland to your list of places to visit, and prepare to be amazed.