By indexer
2 years ago

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik is the capital of the island republic of Iceland which lies in the North Atlantic right on top of the North Atlantic Ridge which marks the point where the two sides of the ocean are gradually getting further apart. Iceland owes its existence to the Ridge and its attraction for visitors has much to do with the evidence of volcanic activity that can be seen in many places, including close to Reykjavik itself.

Most visitors to Iceland, whether by air or sea, will land at or near Reykjavik (the international airport is about 30 miles to the south-west), and most will be keen to witness the country’s natural wonders as soon as possible. However, a few days spent in the city, either at the beginning or the end of one’s trip, will not go unrewarded.

Reykjavik has the distinction of being the most northerly capital city, but it is also one of the smallest in the developed world, with a population of only 120,000 (200,000 in the greater Reykjavik area). Given that the total population of Iceland is around 320,000, the capital city is home to a large proportion of Icelanders.

The city can trace its origins back to 874 AD, when the first Viking settler landed at “Smoky Bay”, but it was not until the mid-18th century that Reykjavik began to develop as a city. Some buildings that date from this time can still be seen today in the Old City district between the sea and Tjörnin Lake (which is renowned for its wildlife).

The oldest building, dating from 1751, is the Fógettin; it was formerly a weaving shed but is now a restaurant. The Althingishús, or Parliament House, is a 19th century stone building that is on the site of the world’s oldest democratic assembly, originally founded in 930.

The most dramatic of Reykjavik’s modern buildings is the Hallgrímskirkja, or Hallgrims church, the spire of which reaches 73 metres in height and is shaped like a space rocket about to leave the ground. The views from the top are stunning, especially given that Reykjavik is not a high-rise city and the spire out-tops every other building by a considerable margin.

It is also worth taking time to wander round the streets of the city, especially in the older parts, to take in the architectural style of the houses and shops. Many buildings are painted in bright or pastel shades and you will note the large number that have metal walls, which has much to do with the fact that timber is a very scarce commodity in Iceland.

You do not have to travel far to appreciate Iceland’s active volcanic underpinnings. Within the city boundaries are the Laugardalur hot springs, the main feature of which is the open-air spa with its water heated to a pleasant temperature by geothermal energy. This underground heat source is used throughout the city for many purposes, including the provision of frost-free playing conditions at the nearby football stadium.

About 40 miles out of town to the south-west (in the general direction of Keflavik International Airport) is the Blue Lagoon, a resort which offers an authentic “volcanic” experience, with its steaming seawater pools, lava fields and silica muds. The attached clinic offers treatments for people with various skin and muscular complaints, the water having proved to be especially beneficial in treating psoriasis. Out of the pool, the district offers many routes for walkers who want to explore the lava scenery.

A short boat ride from Reykjavik takes you to Viðey Island, which is now uninhabited but was formerly the site of a monastery and then a community of fish processors. The scenery is of interest in itself, with its basalt coastline and views across the water to Reykjavik and the mountains that rise steeply behind. It is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with eider ducks being the most prominent species. Visitors can walk or cycle to all parts of the island, which is 1.6 square kilometres in size. One of the small number of buildings is one of the oldest in Iceland, the Viðeyjarstofa, built from concrete in 1755 by the Sherriff of Iceland. It is now a restaurant and museum.

A noted feature of Viðey is the “Imagine Peace” tower, designed by Yoko Ono as a memorial to her ex-Beatle husband John Lennon, who was murdered in 1980. A beacon is lit every year to shine across the water between October and December. There are other art works on the island, as well as a poignant anchor memorial to the crew of a ship that was lost with all hands on the coast of the island in 1906.

Reykjavik has a vibrant cultural life, including an annual Arts Festival in May which showcases Icelandic and international talent across all artistic fields. The ancient Viking festival of Thorrablot, celebrated in January/February, was revived in the 19th century and is still held today to enliven the dark months when the sun only rises for a few hours each day (Iceland lies very close to the Arctic Circle).

Whenever you visit Reykjavik you will be assured of a warm reception, especially as tourism is one of the country’s main sources of income. Because of Iceland’s remoteness and lack of many natural resources, including farmland, many foodstuffs have to be imported and this makes the country expensive for the visitor. However, most people who go to Iceland reckon that the money they pay is definitely worth it for the experience!

2 years
RasmaSandra Certainly a city I would be interested in visiting.
2 years
2 years
OlgaLifeLover 👌🏼👌🏼👌🏼
2 years