If you would like to read this two-part post in the correct order, click HERE for part one.
After our first epic day of exploring the southeast of Iceland, we had originally planned to go to the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa then drive north on our second (and last) day and explore the west coast. After our epic first day in Iceland, the slog of traveling and time differences caught up with us both, so we changed our plan of attack and decided that after our spa experience, we would venture out into the blustery streets of Reykjavik to see what we could find.
The experience at the Blue Lagoon spa was different. We got up early and drove forty-five minutes outside of Reykjavik to the Blue Lagoon. We had booked one of the first appointments when they opened in order to beat the crowds. The weather was very windy and drizzling rain, so I thought that would help keep more visitors away. The windy, wet conditions outside made it a treat to step into the geothermal water. I tried to keep the maximum amount of my body below the surface of the water, but since you have to shower before you enter the pool, my hair felt like it had frozen atop my head. The water was pleasant, although you had to move from hotspot to hotspot or suffer the colder water, and the size of the pool was huge, so sometimes the warm spots were few and far between. With the package we purchased we got a silica mask while in the water, as well as an alcoholic beverage at the swim up bar. As we got out of the pool, it was definitely getting busier. When it was time to get out, we made a mad dash to the showers through the cool and steady drizzle and wrapped ourselves up in towels.
I was glad to have had the opportunity to try the Blue Lagoon, but I do not think it is an experience I would go out of my way to relive.
We drove back to the hotel, the wind pushing the car all over the highway, and relaxed for a bit before we set out to explore Reykjavik. Our hotel was located right in the city center and about a block away from the harbor. We began our tour of Reykjavik at the beginning of everything Icelandic, conveniently found at the Natural Museum of Iceland.
The National Museum of Iceland tells the story of how Iceland was settled, from early Scandinavian explorers coming via small boats from Norway in the 9th century, and continues telling Iceland’s history all the way up to modern day. The museum has hundreds upon hundreds of items on display showing all the different times throughout Iceland’s past. Bodies, bones, blades, and boats are on display as you move from the past to the present. One of the more interesting displays was a replica of a rural dwelling. Simple and small, it must have been difficult to live in such conditions during the long, dark winters.
With your paid entry to the National Museum of Iceland you were also given a free ticket to The Culture House, another museum dedicated to art throughout the years in Iceland. We wandered around The Culture House later in the day, but after we left the National Museum, our sights were set on Hallgrímskirkja church (pronounced: hatl-krims-kirk-ya). The church, with its two hundred and forty-four foot tower, is by far the most distinctive landmark in the entire city and was easy to find without the use of any maps or GPS.
Doing a bit of research on Hallgrímskirkja church, I found out that the church began construction in 1945, but did not get completed until 1986. Hallgrímskirkja is a member of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Iceland. Inside the church is a twenty-five ton organ, which stands roughly fifty feet tall. The church gets its name from Hallgrímur Pétursson, Iceland’s most renowned religious poet, who lived during the 17th century. Positioned proudly in front of the church is Iceland’s most famous hero, Leifur Eiríksson (aka: Leif Eriksson) and first European to “discover” America. The statue, a gift from the United States, has been standing tall for longer than the church has been around (it was given as a gift in 1930).
After visiting the church and paying our respects to Mr. Eriksson, we followed our noses to the delicious smells coming from Braud & Co., a bakery just down the street.
We walked the streets, amazed by the amount of street art and murals on the buildings. We found some bookstores to visit, which happens a lot when you are married to an English teacher. We strolled past the Chuck Norris Grill and the Lebowski Bar, the later designed around the Coen brother’s 1998 film “The Big Lebowski,” starring Jeff Bridges as “The Dude.”
We just kept walking around Reykjavik until we had seen as much as we could see before our bodies craved rest and dinner. Emily found us a small place on the water called “The Sea Baron,” which had unbelievable lobster soup, fresh grilled scallops and a basket of crunchy, buttery bread to go along with the simple but delicious meal. We got to bed fairly early, as we needed to be up before five in the morning to head to the airport and catch our flight to Dublin, but our second day in Iceland was such an amazing experience.
I’m sure we did not even scratch the surface of what Reykjavik has to offer, so I would definitely go back to try and get to know the people a bit better. The few people we met and spoke to were not the friendliest, which I found a bit odd since they are really pushing tourism throughout the country, but maybe the locals do not like all the visitors. Maybe the country isn’t quite ready to play host to so many people. These are things I would like to find out over the course of my next visit, if and when that may be.
Until we find ourselves in Iceland again, I am going to leave you with some images below of the fantastic street art we found so appealing.