As a rule, we planned to visit the capitals of the countries we traveled to first. It is known, we fly in, explore the city, take the car and go.
Here it was the other way around, we left Reykjavík like the proverbial icing on the cake (or cherry, because the real cherry was the next day ;) ).
We were left with the last days in Iceland, these were already more commercial – we were in the places where tourists hit the crowds in the first place. Our highlight along the way was Reykjavík, and our final destination was Keflavik, where we had another overnight stay.
The forgotten road from Borgarnes to Reykjavík
We started our journey from Borgarnes, where we still stocked up on some food for the road first thing in the morning. The road to the capital is straight and short – just about 70 kilometers, so we wouldn’t be ourselves if we didn’t make it a little more interesting for ourselves and instead of taking the main road we ventured further into the fjords.
The road was not of the best quality (although wide enough for cars to pass), and the weather was also a bit bad. The luck of it was that a beautiful rainbow appeared to us :)
Because of the tunnel, which causes many people to drive directly to Reykjavík, they also bypass Iceland’s highest waterfall, Glymur (198 meters). That’s according to our Lonely Planet guidebook, although according to some sources (e.g. Wikipedia), the waterfall has lost that title to another waterfall formed by a glacier.
Nevertheless, one must admit that 200 meters must be impressive. It must, because even though we didn’t take the expressway, we didn’t get to see it.
>> See also: Iceland – all entries
The waterfall is not as easily accessible as other attractions in Iceland: you first reach it via a gravel road, taking the exit from Highway 47. The narrow road goes to the end, where there is a parking lot and a map with the route to the waterfall. Unfortunately, the route for several hours…. and maybe it wouldn’t have been an obstacle yet, but the weather was getting worse and the visibility was very poor. We recalled another waterfall that we were barely able to see(Hengifoss) and gave up the hike.
So, slightly inconsolable, we drove directly to Reykjavík. Although we also had beautiful views along the way. Fortunately, the closer we got to our destination, the weather got better and better.
Reykjavík – the capital of Iceland
Our first steps in Reykjavik were directed towards the symbol of the capital, Hallgrímskirkja. The 73-meter tall church is said to be visible from 20 kilometers away. It is a giant cement structure designed to resemble volcanic rocks, formed into the shape of columns.
In front of the building is a statue of Wikin Leifur Eiriksson, who is suspected of having reached America even before Columbus.
We stood in front of the building for a while and didn’t know what words to use to describe it :) Driving around Iceland, we saw several peculiar churches, but this one definitely stood out, mainly for its size, as several others were also concrete.
From a practical point of view, the building is a good reference point, so chances are you won’t get lost in the capital :)
Without wasting much time, we started down Skólavörðustígur Street towards the city center. After a short walk, a promenade began on the same street, closed to cars.
On one side we passed typical Icelandic huts, and on the other side typical big city chains :)
It is a city like no other. Despite the fact that for a European capital, there are relatively few people living here (less than 120,000 people), you get the impression that there is so much going on in this city that you don’t know what to attend (sports events, concerts, festivals like the bacon festival that is just taking place ;) ). The streets are full of people (just as many tourists) until late, and you’ll find plenty of pubs, although the ones we looked into didn’t have much variety.
We continued toward the cathedral – Dómkirkjan. We were expecting again some kind of dejected building, and it is a modest 18th century building with a wooden interior. Although not the largest, it plays a significant role: this is where members of parliament come for services before deliberations.
Of course, right next door is Alþingishúsið, the seat of parliament, in the classical style.
We also arrived at the City Hall, which is located in modern buildings on Lake Tjörnin.
In general, the city is nice, well-kept, but it has a very different character from other European capitals. Here, we experience more modern art, a combination of tradition and modernity. It’s better to put down the guidebook and maps and just walk ahead. Look into the smaller streets, have a beer in one of the many pubs and just experience the city, instead of hopping from one attraction to another.
Icelanders are very helpful, you will always get along in English everywhere, so we recommend sitting down to chat with the locals and just enjoy the moment :)
Our moment was literally a moment, because we still had to get to the next place the same day. Late in the evening we arrived in Keflavik.
That wasn’t the end of the attractions for the day, as there was still the aurora borealis and its observation ahead, but about that in a moment….
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See also our practical summary of a trip to Iceland.