Reykjavik, Iceland Travel Advice: Dining, Nightlife, and Day Trips
Most people want the same things from a vacation. They want to relax, take in a few sites, eat some new food, and perhaps meet a few new friends. When we envision ourselves on vacation we tend to yearn to be in a warm place, on a beach, with a margarita in hand. That’s fine, go for it. But, sometimes, just sometimes, it is necessary to think outside the box and realize that a great trip can be had in the some of the most unique destinations, and no, they do not need be close to the equator. In fact, one such location can offer you everything you want in a vacation, and it just happens to be (or at least some of it) in the Arctic Circle.
Iceland, believe it or not, is not a far trek from the East Coast of the United States or Western Europe. In five hours or less, you can be walking the streets of Reykjavik enjoying the people, the food and drink, and their World class spas.
Iceland is a relatively small place (approximately 40,000 square miles) with a population no bigger than a medium sized city in the United States or Europe (about 300,000 people). Because it is isolated from the rest of Europe, it has developed in way that is unique, yet sophisticated. Originally settled by Celtic and Norse settlers it has developed into a country that has a unique blend of Scandinavian and Western European tastes. Think of it as France, with Viking flair. Its modern citizens, who are proud of their own unique language, are amongst the most educated on the planet. There will be many languages present in the streets, on the restaurant menus, and in the bars. The majority of the population is English speaking and they will have good laugh at your expense if you try to speak in their native tongue, Icelandic. They are, for the most part, healthy, happy, and interesting people to visit with.
In terms of climate and geology, well let’s put this simple: Iceland is one giant thermal pressure cooker. Surrounded by water and located directly on the Mid-Atlantic ridge, Iceland has its share of volcano’s, earthquakes, geysers, thermal baths, rivers, and waterfalls. Sounds a little scary, but all in all, the country will provide you with some of the most breathtaking scenery you may ever see.
Despite its name, Iceland isn’t nearly as cold as you might expect. Temperatures in Reykjavik rarely top 50 F, but they rarely dip below 25 F either. Sure there is a little snow from time to time, but in all seriousness, most, if not all, of New England has harsher weather than Reykjavik.
Would you try it?
Would you eat rotten shark?
Reykjavik Dining Options
When you arrive in Reykjavik, you will be surprised how small it is. The largest building in the city is a church. Most other structures are neat, tidy, small buildings built in a colorful, but clearly Scandinavian style. Once you get yourself acclimated (do yourself a favor and stay in the center of town), you must, let me repeat, you MUST sample some of the Icelandic food. When else will you ever have the opportunity to eat puffin, horse, whale, or rotten shark? I know, I know, sounds gross (it is), and immoral (probably is), but what's life without taking a few chance? What story would you rather have, “I could have eaten rotten shark”, or "I DID eat rotten shark”?
Whether you choose to indulge in the Icelandic traditions or not, you are likely to find any kind of cuisine you desire. On the casual side, you can walk down to a small fish shop on the harbor that makes a fish stew or chowder, or enjoy one of the famous Icelandic hot dogs with fried onions. If you are willing to splurge, you will not be disappointed. The people of Iceland take food very seriously and have a reputation for great restaurants and chefs.
But seriously, eat the shark; just be sure to wash it down with the equally bad Icelandic schnapps, Brennivin.
Reykjavik Nighlife: The Runtur
The standard opinion is that the nightlife in Reykjavik has been exagerated by the media over the past decade. Ya, that's what I thought too, until I got there. These people do not mess around. Perhaps it's due to the lack of light for part of the year? Perhaps they are just bored? But on weekend nights the city goes crazy. I am not just talking about the youth, I'm talking about all ages. They dress up, they go out late, and stay up to ungodly hours of the night/morning. Everyone seems to know each other (they probably do) and it is a great time. The dancing, eating, drinking, and conversing pours into the streets until the sun comes up (when it does).
The Runtur, or traditional pub crawl, is standard practice on a Friday or Saturday night. Have a drink here, have a drink there, have a drink everywhere. This is life in Reykjavik. I suggest you try it.
Reykjavik Side Trips
Because Reykjavik is so small, it is easy to take a day or two and explore more of the Icelandic country side. The following are some of the top excursions to take out of the city:
The Golden Circle Drive
The Blue Lagoon
Have a Great Time!
Iceland is not your typical vacation. But, if you pack your sense of adventure, you will not be disappointed. You may even find that it was more relaxing than that beach destination.
Happy Travels! Be sure to check out my other travel related articles below:
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