The city of Reykjavik was one of the main destinations of my trip to Iceland. Iceland, cold, humid, mostly uninhabited and as if that weren’t enough: what better place to plan your holiday on August?
No, I’m not crazy, although the premise would lead one to believe it: Reykjavik and Iceland have always been at the top of my list of places to visit, and now that I’ve only returned a few days ago from those lands that were once inhabited by the Vikings, I can say that there’s no better place to go for people like me who love nature and breathtaking landscapes.
Like all my trips to Iceland and its capital city Reykjavik, this was born, a bit by chance, during an aperitif last winter, when a friend between a chat and a laugh proposed to me to organize a tour between the capitals of Northern Europe. Needless to say, asking me if I am interested in a trip is like asking a child if he wants to eat chocolate! Without even letting him finish the sentence I had already answered with my usual “Let’s talk about it!
Yes, let’s talk about it, because every time I receive a proposal I can’t help but relaunch and take the opportunity to pull out of the drawer some destination from my “dream book” and exalt it to such an extent as to make the unlucky man give in. That was also the case that night and we left the club with a booked flight that would take us in August to Reykjavik and around Iceland, and no idea what we would do in the eight days between the outward and return flights.
I spent the next few months collecting information and making choices until, having completed the itinerary of things to do, the painful note of the bookings arrived. Our trip would take place “on the road” and take us on a full tour of the island. So we needed to book a car and after a quick look at the main rental sites we immediately realised that it would not be a very light holiday… especially for our wallets. How much does a trip to Iceland cost! Well, let’s say that low cost Iceland is not easily accessible! Anyway, going back to the car that would have led us to the discovery of Iceland, our choice fell on a small car (we were then assigned a Yaris) at the “modest amount” of 720 euros. The Icelandic roads are not very good, narrow and often unpaved, but the little one managed to keep up for more than two thousand kilometres, taking us everywhere and facing every unpaved road with dignity. Those that can be covered by normal cars are mostly along the coast, if you are planning to venture inland you will need an off-road vehicle whose price you can already imagine for yourself! On this website you will find all the necessary information about Icelandic roads.
Reykjavik what to see
Our flight leaves from Bologna and after a short stopover in Copenhagen we fly to Reykjavik Iceland where we land at lunchtime. Waiting for us outside the airport is our first Icelandic flood. We don’t let ourselves be discouraged, we pick up our mini-bolide and head towards the capital which is about an hour’s drive away. The ever thicker rain starts to affect our morale but as soon as we arrive in the city, it magically subsides and allows us to browse the streets of the centre without getting wet as chicks.
Although Reykjavik has more than 100,000 inhabitants (almost half the entire nation), Reykjavik appears more like a large country, there are not many large buildings and most of the houses do not exceed two floors and the exterior is covered with corrugated sheet metal, often painted in bright colours.
Hallgrímskirkja and Harpa: the two iconic buildings of Reykjavik
In Reykjavik’s (non-existent) “skyline”, two buildings stand out in the city’s two main attractions: the Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral and the Harpa Concert Hall. We decide to start from the first one and walk to it. The building is imposing and the facade soars high towards the grey sky above our heads. Although modern, the exterior of the church is definitely impressive, unlike the interior, in my opinion, too simple and cold. A few steps away from it, overlooking the gulf that bathes the city, is the concert hall called Harpa: this complex, never finished because of the very heavy crisis that hit the town, has a very particular architecture that deserves to be seen.
A dinner to remember
It is approaching dinner time and we head towards the main street of the centre, hungry we look for a restaurant that was recommended to me by a friend who lived here for some time: Svarta Kaffid. The restaurant is as simple as the menu it offers.
Once seated at one of the tables that crowd the small room we are asked to choose between the two soups of the day available. The soups (mine is very good with vegetables and lamb meat) are served inside a large empty loaf of bread. Besides being very characteristic, this place has the great merit of making you dine at an acceptable price (about 20€), which is no small thing in a country where, by now you will have understood, the cost of living in Iceland costs an eye of the head. I recommend it!
After a short stop in a nearby pub, where a young band entertains customers with 80’s rock music, it’s bedtime for us. The guest house we booked is small but nice, it has only one flaw that I leave it to you to guess (€€€) but the excitement at the thought of what we will see in the next few days wins over everything and we go to bed loaded and ready to face our adventure.
Golden Circle, the Golden Circle of Iceland
We wake up in the rain (at least the rain is free!) and after a quick breakfast we immediately set off for the first of the many natural wonders we are going to see: the Gullfoss or the Golden Falls. They are part of what is called the Golden Circle or Goden Circle or Golden Circle: an itinerary of about 300 km that, starting and returning to Reykjavik, allows us to admire four beautiful attractions: the Gullfoss, the volcanic lake of Kerið, the geothermal area of Haukadalur, containing the geysers Geysir and Strokkkur and the Þingvellir National Park.
Gullfoss, the Golden Falls
The rain has fortunately subsided, a fortune that will accompany us for the whole holiday will be to meet her only during the trips by car and then stop every time we have to go down to visit some attraction, and we head towards the waterfalls. Easily reachable from the car park through two short paths that offer both a bird’s eye view and a close-up view are considered by many to be among the most beautiful on the island. Perhaps for their grandeur or perhaps for the enormous canyon they give life to, they have certainly been among the most suggestive I have seen even if not my favourite.
The volcanic lake of Kerið
A short distance away and right along the road we meet the volcanic lake of Kerið. The steep and bare walls of this now inactive crater collect rainwater that remains trapped on the bottom forming this small lake of a bright blue thanks to the many dissolved minerals of which this land is rich. Waiting for us now on our way, one of those shows that in few other countries in the world you can see.
The geothermal area of Haukadalur
We arrive at the site and are immediately pervaded by the characteristic smell of rotten eggs present in all the geothermal areas, of which Haukadalur could not be without. Between steam chimneys and pools of boiling water, the real star of this locality is Strokkur, a powerful geyser that at one
regular frequency of 7-10 minutes shoots in the air a column of water that reaches a height of more than 25 meters and that regularly ends up drenching the less aware tourists who are in favour of wind.
Þingvellir National Park
The last stop of the Golden Circle is the Þingvellir National Park. The historical importance of this site stems from the fact that it hosted the formation of the first Icelandic parliament, in fact the first democratic parliament in the world, established by the Vikings more than 1,000 years ago! Moreover, the landscape offers an impressive view, the result of the clash of two tectonic plates, one of the few places in the world where you can distinguish two so clearly.
We leave the Golden Circle before reaching Reykjavik by turning north where the friendly owner of a farm in the middle of greenery not too far from Hvammstangi on the northwest coast of the island awaits us for the night. Before we reach her, however, we stop at two other waterfalls very close to each other that we meet by making a short diversion on the way. The first one we visit, Hraunfossar, is formed by many small rivulets that come out directly from under the rocks and flow into a large stream of wonderful colours. The second one, Barnafoss, is more imposing and flows foamy between the rocks.
After travelling along the west coast, our tour took us to the east coast to complete the complete tour of the island. Read also Trip to Iceland. Discovering the Icelandic fjordsViaggio in islanda. Alla scoperta dei fiordi islandesi