Things That I Have Learned In Reykjavik, Iceland

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Things That I Have Learned In Reykjavik, Iceland

“Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer” – Unknown

Reykjavík is the northernmost capital city in the world.

Reykjavík is regarded as the world’s most sustainable city. The city plans to be a carbon neutral city by 2040.

The steam rising from the area’s hot springs gave Reykjavik its name, which literally translates to “Cove of Smokes,” or more eloquently ” Smoky Bay.

Towering over the Reykjavik skyline is Hallgrimskirkja, a 240-foot tall Evangelical Lutheran church. The building which resembles volcanic basalt lava columns, opened in 1986. It is the tallest building in the city—as well as the second tallest in the entire country.

The National Museum of Iceland is the place to go when you want to learn about Icelandic life through the centuries. Everything related to this island nation from belief and religion, to seafaring, farming, culture, costume and the development of trade relationships from the beginning to the present day. The exhibits are beautifully displayed in the various sections with lots of info. Audio displays tell some fascinating stories and computers give access to a wealth of additional facts. A photography exhibition is always on show.

One of the most popular foods in Iceland is hot dogs. There’s no better hot dog stand in Iceland to get them than at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. The kiosk has been in the Reykjavik harbor since 1937, but President Bill Clinton and Anthony Bourdain’s visit solidified its constant long line of locals and tourists waiting for the lamb-based hot dog doused in ketchup, mustard, remoulade (mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish), and both raw and fried onion. ”The president you have now, I wouldn’t serve a hot dog.”, said the owner.

The Saga Museum which features seventeen exhibits traces Icelandic history from the Norwegian exodus to the Black Death. It is now located  in a historic home on the Reykjavik harbor.

The Icelandic Phallological Museum is a must visit for those who are curious about penises – from whales to hamsters. It is located on the main shopping street in Reykjavik. I didn’t have time but I would I have loved to see all the tourists taking selfies. 

From mid-April until late August, the Atlantic puffins summer in Iceland! You can take a Puffin tour from Reykjavik but I saw them near Husavik.

They are cute little birds and definitely worth putting the red suits on (for warmth and flotation devices)  and taking a beautiful three hour tour. 

On October 8, 2007, John Lennon’s birthday Yoko Ono revealed an outdoor beam of light called the Inagine Peace Tower on the city’s Viðey Island in honor of her late husband. “I hope the Imagine Peace Tower will give light to the strong wishes of World Peace from all corners of the planet. And give encouragement, inspiration and a sense of solidarity in a world now filled with fear and confusion. Let us come together to realize a peaceful world,” Ono said. Now it is  lit from October 9 to December 8, December 21 to December 31, February 18, and March 20 to 27.

In 2011, Reykjavik was the fifth city named a City of  Literature by UNESCO, thanks to its “invaluable heritage of ancient medieval literature” and “the central role literature plays within the modern urban landscape.”

Let’s be real. People don’t come to Iceland to shop. They come for the nature, the waterfalls, the glaciers, and all the fun stuff you can do around Iceland.. Reykjavik is one of the most expensive cities.in Europe. However, you can find  cool, locally designed outerwear in many stores for similar  prices to your country. Every time you wear it, you will remember your time in Iceland. 

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Geothermic Activity in Iceland Means Hot Pools

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“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” Nikola Tesla

Flying over Iceland, looked to me like I was  flying over the moon. Vast stretches of land are desolate and rocky due to some of the largest lava flows in history. It is as beautiful as it is bizarre.

We are traveling with geologist Scott Burns and he tells us that there is a lot more to a volcanic landscape than just a bleak lava flow. There is geothermic activity – something Iceland seems to have an unlimited supply of. They get all the heat and electricity they need from renewable sources like hydropower and geothermal power.

 We later make a tour of Hellisheioarvirkjun Power Plant, which is the largest geothermal power station in Iceland. There is an excellent Geothermal Energy exhibition at the power plant on how geothermal energy is harnessed there. https://www.geothermalexhibition.com

However when I hear ‘geothermal’, I don’t think ‘renewable energy’. Nope, the child in me screams ‘hot pools’ which is what I did as soon as I got to Iceland.

 The Blue Lagoon is one of the most visited sights in Iceland. While Iceland is a country brimming with natural hot springs (more later about that), the Blue Lagoon is not one of them.  The land is natural, as is the lava that shapes the pool, but the water is actually the result of runoff from the geothermal plant next door.The plant was built first, and it uses Iceland’s volcanic landscape to produce heat power. The runoff is filtered straight into the Blue Lagoon, which is what heats the water.That doesn’t mean it’s dangerous or toxic — far from it! It’s just not the natural phenomenon that many people believe it to be.

It is forty five minutes away from Reykjavik and closer to the airport so plan your visit accordingly. You have to shower naked for all hot springs in Iceland.  There are some private showers. They tell you to use  lots of leave in conditioner before  but if you put your hair in the water it will be destroyed for a week anyway. They have in water massages and scrubs with the natural minerals. Book the Blue Lagoon in advance because it fills up quickly. https://www.bluelagoon.com

I was looking for a non water massage after the long flight and I accidentally found myself at the Retreat Spa at the Blue Lagoon. It is expensive and unfortunately worth every penny. You experience the hot pools in a private luxurious way with a wonderful attentive staff, darkened rooms for scrubs and masks, fluffy bathrobes, private rooms for changing and showering and you can enter the public hot springs at any time. There were  people there like me who had found it accidentally and others who knew about it.  No photos are allowed. You can stay overnight or buy a day pass. If you have no budget, or can splurge, it is the way to go. https://www.bluelagoon.com/support/retreat-spa

Fly Safe,

JAZ

Waterfalls In Iceland

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Waterfalls In Iceland

“Nature is the art of god.” Dante Alighieri

There is no shortage of waterfalls  in Iceland.  They are literally everywhere and come in all shapes and sizes. The reasons for Iceland having so many great waterfalls, likely numbering in the thousands, are largely climate related. The country’s northern latitude means that it has lots of rain and snow, and it also has a number of glaciers. Combine these facts with the mountainous and volcanic landscape, and you have a country that is just epic for waterfalls. Here are a few that I’ve seen. 

Hraunfossar

This is a stunning series of small waterfalls flowing out of the lava. Together, they form an amazing outpouring, woven like delicate lace within the creases of the lava. It’s not big nor powerful but the effect of a group of mini waterfalls coming straight out of a lava field creates something unique.  It was formed by an eruption under the nearby glacier of Langjökull, the second largest ice-cap in Iceland.

 You will find another beautiful waterfall there called Barnafoss running through a narrow rocky gorge. The waterfalls are located in West Iceland, around 125 kilometers from Reykjavík.

Dettifoss

Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. It is also the largest in Europe in terms of volume.

The waterfall is so powerful that it makes the surrounding rocks vibrate, and the vibration can be felt by hand. It is 100 meters wide and has a drop of 45 meters into the canyon below.

Dettifoss is located in Vatnajökull National Park in Northeast Iceland, around 554 km from Reykjavík. It’s source is Iceland’s largest glacier Vatnajokull.

Godafoss

Like many things in Iceland, Goðafoss of course has a legend. As the story goes, in the year one thousand,  a local chieftain decided that Icelanders should adopt Christianity. He threw all of his statues of Pagan gods into the waterfall and the waterfall was appropriately named Goðafoss, which translates to the “waterfall of the gods”. It is more famous for its beauty than its power. The source is the Skjálfandafljót River (don’t ask me to pronounce this or many other Icelandic words) from a glacier. Godafoss is in the far north of Iceland.

Seljalandsfoss

Seljalandsfoss is one of the crown jewels of Iceland waterfalls and tourists flock to this waterfall located in the south of the country. It is part of the Seljalands River that has its origin in the volcano under the glacier Eyjafjallajökull  (still can’t pronounce this one and they say it a lot). What makes this waterfall unique is that you can walk behind it. It’s supposed to be a remarkable experience. I opted to stay dry that day. 

Gullfoss

This is one of the most popular attractions in Iceland and is accessible on the Golden Circle route.  This two tier waterfall cascades down 32 meters into a gorge in the Hvítá River and you can stand close enough to feel the cool water spray on your face. It was  formed by a series of enormous glacial floods around the end of the last ice age. Gullfoss is located around 115 kilometers from Reykjavík. In addition to being a beautiful waterfall, Gullfoss has a strong history. In the early 20th century, many foreign investors wanted to harness the waterfall to produce electricity. Investors were planning to build a hydroelectric power plant, which would have totally destroyed the waterfall. Sigríður Tómasdóttir (an investor’s daughter) was very strongly against the project. She threatened to throw herself into the waterfall in protest.The project didn’t materialize, thanks to Sigríður and her lawyer (who became the first president of Iceland), Gullfoss was protected for the people of Iceland to enjoy.

Fly safe,

JAZ