QuirkyAccom on Twitter
The largest directory of unusual places to stay on the planet
QuirkyAccom on Facebook
QuirkyAccom on Twitter
Accom Type

Reykjavik and tales of Iceland

langavegurI almost booked a stay in Iceland's mini capital, Reykjavik, 20 years ago as a city break - but I'm glad I didn't then. This country isn't cheap - apparently its the most expensive place in the world right now - and back then, on a very tight budget, I couldn't have done it justice. Plus to visit just the city itself is a waste - there is so much else to see and do there. Go with a few days free to explore and take some money with you....or get a Summer job and stay for a while - there are lots of options to do that. If you want to go out and party this may not be the place to do it....

...Not that the Icelandic people don't like to have a bit of fun and a few beers / shots - they do. It's just that they don't have to work out the exchange rate as we tourists do. And inevitably when you realise a beer in a bar is going to cost you a tenner, you don't stay out long.

Iceland has a really interesting history with alcohol. Lets not forget there are several months of the year when they barely see the light of day, and then there are extreme weather conditions, particularly in winter. What else is a person to do? There are a few shots to ward off the cold - Brennivín (80% proof), Reyka Vodka (the water used in it comes from a 4000 year old lava field), Fjallagrasa Moss (used medicinally), Opal (I can vouch for the fact this tastes like cough medicine), and Topas (made with licorice which is very popular in Iceland).

And then there is beer. It was banned til the 1980s would you believe. Once that was overturned there was one big party! When the legal low alcohol Pilsner was introduced the locals mixed vodka with it to give it some wellie - this is called Bjórlíki.

eyjafHaving said all that....every Icelandic person we met was civilised and friendly and helpful - and not drunk. This may be because they have been on the case there for the last 20 years with a programme of sport offered for free to keep teens occupied. There was a time when the Icelandic youth were the heaviest drinkers in Europe, but they have turned this around and put themselves at the top of the table for clean living youngsters. The radical programme to keep teenagers active has had impressive results. (We should do this too!)

Perhaps this helped Iceland beat England in the European Championships in 2016. That conversation tends to pop up in any chat you have there. Iceland has a population of around just 330,000 and has no professional football team....what more can I say.

For such a small country they have made some impact, not just on football - think Björk, Lazy Town and the plane-stopping eruption of Eyjafjalljokull. This impressive island has low crime, 85% energy from renewable resources, no MacDonalds, they are big on gender equality - and the majority of people believe in elves. Icelandic people live with extreme forces of nature - a volcano erupts here on average of every 4 years.

There are many small hamlets around the island with less than 100 people living in them but 95% of people choose to live in urban areas. Reykjavik has a population of around 119,000 people.

After this long winded intro, and many years wait, I finally made it to Reykavik in July this year. Its small grid of streets can be easily explored on foot - from the harbour with its fish restaurants to the historic old centre to the buzzing main street Laugavegur. There are art galleries and museums to explore - Volcano House, Saga Museum and Landnámssyningin (about the first Settlements), Whales of Iceland, plus a small punk museum in former public toilets - and apparently a penis museum somewhere too. I skipped that. As there are no forests in Iceland most buildings are made of concrete - it can look a bit bleak on a grey day. There are shops with traditional jumpers and lava bracelets and a lot of taxidermist work - and bars and cafes serving fish and chips or lamb stew, Skyr (delicious soft cheese yogurt type protein with low fat) and puffin heart (don't eat it!!!).


graffitireyBut most people who come here go further than the city itself. There is whale watching trips from the harbour, the Blue Lagoon (touristy and pricey thermal baths), the Golden Circle - Strokkur geysir, Gullfoss waterfall and Thingvellir National Park. Plus all manner of adventurous activities...glacier hiking, wildlife trips, biking, hiking, riding Icelandic horses, descending deep into a volcano....plus many winter experiences making it worth bearing the cold - like dogsledding, snowmobiling, skiing, ice caving and watching for the Northern Lights.

Travelling within reach of Reykavik means sharing experiences with lots of others, especially in Summer. There is expected to be around 2 million visitors in 2017. Much as it is still well worth sightseeing on a tour if necessary, you are better of hiring a car and doing it at your own pace if you can. In Summer you are not restricted by daylight hours as it doesn't get dark at all - so you can see the sites off peak. And once you get a few hours away from the city suddenly the crowds disappear and you get to see the beauty and solitude and big scenery of this amazing iceland in peace.

This leads me to my next blog (coming soon)....

kexStay Unusual while in Reykavik -

Kex Hostel - pic to the right

ION Luxury Adventure Hotel

The Viking Hotel

Hotel Reykjavik Centrum

Hotel Borg

CenterHotel Thingholt

The international airport is at Keflavik, 50 km SW of the capital. We arrived in late at night and chose a lovely unusual place to get our heads down rather than travelling into Reykjavik itself. It is a converted cow shed made of wood, various trinkets on the walls, plus a hot tub if you spend the evening there, and help-yourself breakfast in the morning.

Raven's Bed