The moon-like landscapes, two-tiered waterfalls, sprouting hot springs and a multitude of other natural phenomena draw millions of visitors to Iceland each year! Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, is a must-see on any trip to ‘the land of fire and ice’. The name Reykjavik means ‘bay of smokes’, referring to the steam from the natural hot springs scattered around the area. Fortunately, it doesn’t mean smog, as Reykjavik is one of the cleanest cities in the world.
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We've put together our top 5 must-see attractions in Reykjavik:
1. The Hallgrimskirkja Church
Reykjavik’s main landmark is an imposing church that immediately commands your attention. Within its concrete walls, you’ll find a massive pipe organ designed specifically to fill the space with echoing, precisely-pitched tones during church services. In front of the church stands the statue of Leif Erikson, the European explorer who discovered America 500 years before Columbus did. The statue was gifted to Iceland by the United States to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the establishment of Iceland’s Parliament in 930AD.
2. The Old Harbour
Colourful and lively, Reykjavik’s Old Harbour offers gorgeous views over the bay to the striking Mount Esja. Strolling by the docked yachts and fishing boats, you’ll pass the Viking Maritime Museum and Harpa, the city’s award-winning concert hall. The harbour is also the place to find fun-for-all marine activities, including whale watching and puffin tours.
3. Hot pots
The city offers several hot pots, or geothermal heated pools, designed for locals and visitors to soak, unwind and reduce stress. Laugardalslaug is the city’s largest pool and it comes with two water slides, numerous hot tubs, a steam bath and gym, and even a mini golf course. Another popular hot pot is Nautholsvik, a golden sand lagoon where the chilled water of the sea meets the heated water of the earth. In the summer, the water is warmest, and taking a relaxing soak there is most refreshing.
4. The Golden Circle
If you decide to rent a car, then you must drive a scenic route nicknamed the Golden Circle. Starting from Reykjavik, head northeast towards the Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss Waterfall – charge your smartphone, as you will want to take hundreds of photos at these two stunning natural attractions. Then, drive southwest to the historic town of Skálholt. Continue to the beautiful valley of Reykjadalur, where you can take a break to bathe in a hot river or go for a leisurely stroll before completing the loop back to Reykjavik. You can do the entire route in under four hours if you’re in a hurry, although you are likely to spend an entire day savouring the wonderful landscapes.
5. Catch the Northern Lights
Every year from September to April, the dark and largely cloudless sky across Iceland comes alive with a startling display of dancing, colourful lights – an experience like no other. Most visitors choose to see the Northern Lights by guided tours, and many tours depart from Reykjavik. Tour organisers usually check the weather forecast and decide in the evenings if their tours will take place. In the event that yours is cancelled due to weather, they will book you for another tour. If you prefer to drive yourself to see the lights, head to the wild Westfjords or northern Iceland, but be careful, as icy road conditions and high winds can make the drive difficult.
With Icelandair flying direct from Glasgow to Reykjavik, you can touch down in the city in just 2 hours and 20 minutes. Then, you’re free to shop innovative designs on the city’s trendiest shopping street, Laugavegur, sip artisanal coffee in minimalist cafés and enjoy a smorgasbord of options for culture and adventure both within Reykjavik or just slightly outside of it.