- Be prepared for cold*.
- Be prepared for rain, sleet, snow and wind.
- Be prepared to be blown away (figuratively).
- Be prepared to be awed.
We visited Iceland in early May and that may have been a bit early in the season. We were told a few times that this place has a beautiful Summer but unfortunately nobody knows when that week will happen. During the time that we were there the daytime temperatures probably averaged in the high 20’s to low 30’s but with winds often gusting at 30 and 40 mph it really seemed colder.
You have to ignore the weather and let this country just overwhelm you. Reykjavík is a beautiful, clean and an easy city to walk around in. The centerpiece of the city is the Hallgrimskirkja (the Presbyterian Cathedral) standing almost 245 feet tall it towers over Reykjavik. The spire is open to the public with breathtaking vistas taking in the whole city.
The cities opera house, Harpa stands at the edge of the Reykjavik Harbor with Iceland‘s biggest concert hall suitable for a broad range of concerts and cultural events. The city is also home to the Imagine Peace Tower dedicated to John Lennon. It is a work of art conceived as a beacon to world peace by Yoko Ono. The work is designed in the form of a wishing well from which a powerful tower of light beams into the night sky.
Eating in Reykjavik can be an exotic experience considering the staple foods of this country (roasted puffin, sheep cheeks) but one item of note is their famous hot dogs. The most famous location is the Baejarins Beztu Pylsur stand located downtown just two blocks toward the water from the park in front of the government building. Most people order them all-the-way which includes a crunchy onion based relish, ketchup, a remoulade sauce and sweet mustard on a steamed bun. We just followed the trail of people walking up the street eating hot dogs and found them worth the walk. It is worth noting that most hot dog stands have no seating indoor or out and the only option is to order at the window and eat while walking away. We were also told you can order your hot dog Bill Clinton style which is with just mustard.
To get the real impact of this land you need to get out into the country where you can experience the real wonder of this unique place. Driving across Iceland you are immediately struck by the stark beauty of its landscapes. Snow covered tundra backed up against rugged snow-capped mountains.
One of the most popular trips is the Golden Circle tour with the three primary stops on the route being the Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, and the geothermal area in Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir and Strokkur. Though Geysir has been mostly dormant for a number of years, Strokkur continues to erupt every 5–10 minutes.
Þingvellir National Park is centered on an exposed rift where the North American tectonic plate is pulling away from the Eurasian plate. What is exposed is an opening between the higher plates with a walkway where you can stroll along Earths newest real estate.
While Iceland is one of the Earths most geo-thermally active places much is spread out over hundreds of square miles. Visiting Haukadalur was somewhat disappointing but that may have been because we had spent some time in Yellowstone just recently, Strokkur was erupting every five minutes while we were there but its energy was much lower than the famous Old Faithful. It didn’t help that the temperature was in the 20’s with a stiff wind blowing.
The highlight of the tour was the Gullfoss waterfall. This was an amazing multi-tiered waterfall dropping at a right angle into a deep gorge. The landscape exposed the typical Icelandic starkness mixed with energy of this amazing waterfall.