Many activities in Iceland can only be done via coach trip from Reykjavik; if you go to the places where they occur you won't always be able to do them; the only exceptions are the popular places and/or popular things like horse riding.
Go to Tourist Information; there are several official/unofficial ones in "downtown" Reykjavik.
The small town of Seydisfjordur in east Iceland has got to be one of the most beautiful in the country, it's reached by a spectacular drive over a mountain - the road is the highest in Iceland at 650m above sea level.
The real find here is a tiny cinema and cafe called Mini-Cine, which is run by an English guy from Brighton and his Icelandic wife. If you want a decent cup of tea and some fruit cake, then this is the place to come to!
The films are great as well. When I visited I caught a screening of an old Russian film, Man with a Movie Camera, which makes a refreshing change from the offerings at my local multiplex.
Tel. +354 8454883
The stretch at the bottom of the hill that runs towards the man-made lake is where it all happens in Reykjavik. A couple of doors down from Café Rosenberg you can check your email at an old fashioned cyber café, and five doors further down is a great fish bar, where you can eat as much as you want for 2,400 knr (about £20) – the best deal in town. We found it cheaper to have a large meal rather than snacking.
Apart from the pay phone opposite Cafe Rosenberg there are no street pay phones. Daytime public phones can be found in the banks and post office when you turn left out of the cafe.
The café is just down from the tourist information office, near the S1 bus service. While at the tourist information office get your self a tourist pass, which gives you loads of benefits like free bus rides and free access to musuems etc.
Café Rosenberg: Laekjargata 2, 101;
tel: +534 551 8008;
Walk up to the Perlan for great city views. Then, go down the back side of the hill, past steaming hot springs and down to the hot beach (actually the water outlet from Perlan), then follow the path along the shore and round the back of the domestic airport. It's peaceful, shows you some 'real' Reykjavik as it goes past houses and is a nice way to spend a morning.
A small record shop where you are encouraged to listen before you buy whilst sipping a free coffee. The shop is like an Icelandic version of Rough Trade.
It holds in-store performances which get so packed that people are squeezed up against the windows. Fill in a form to claim back tax.
Café Rosenberg is one of the few places in Iceland where you can get a good meal at a reasonable price (reasonable by Icelandic standards, anyway). It's a pub, restaurant and the centre for live music in down town Reykjavík. Every Friday and Saturday night there is live music and sometimes also during the week. All kinds of music, from local troubadours to world famous musicians. Very popular with tourists as well as locals, so you may meet people from all four corners of the world in one night. Check it out. You won’t be disappointed.
Café Rosenberg, Lækjargata 2, 101 Reykjavík
Perlan is a revolving restaurant, sitting above the city with views over the harbours and beyond. It is a short taxi ride from the city centre.
Although revolving restaurants are perhaps a bit naff, the views really are sublime (especially at sunset) and the food was great.
It was on the expensive side - £150 for two people – but everything is in Iceland.
There are many different tour operators offering coach journeys to visit one, more or all of the major geographical tourist attractions reached within a day's drive of Reykjavik - Gulfoss Falls, Geyser, the unpronounceable place where the European and American tectonic plates meet and so on.
Instead, hire a car from one of many agencies in the city, which will be promptly delivered to your hotel, and make your own tour instead. It's cheaper, and much more exciting, particularly if you head off early in the morning. Ten minutes from the city centre and it's hard to see any evidence of human life at all save the road, and you can appreciate the majesty of the landscape that much more.
Átak Car Rental
tel: 354 554 6040;
fax: 354 554 6081
The card offers unlimited bus, art gallery and swimming pool access for one, two, or three days. I know this doesn't sound spectacular, but consider this:
1) Cabs are horrifically expensive and the bus system, although somewhat antiquated, really works. Therefore you'll have more money to spend on the most expensive pints in the world.
2) These are no ordinary swimming pools. Thermal pools, four levels of hot spa pools (make sure you experience them in order, otherwise you feel as if your having a stroke), Olympic standard pools for true swimmers, there's even a waterslide or two, all naturally heated. And no chlorine red eye.
3) The art galleries are a great place to chill out, and dry out after being caught in one of Reyk's many storms.
- Strætó City Buses
- Reykjavík City Thermal Pools (7)
- Reykjavík Art Museums: Kjarvalsstaðir, Ásmundarsafn, Hafnarhús
- National Gallery of Iceland
- Hafnarfjörður Maritime & Folk Museum
- The Family Park and Reykjavík Zoo
- Árbæjarsafn, The Reykjavík City Museum
- The Sigurjón Ólafsson Art Mueseum
- The Culture House
- National and University Library
- ASÍ Art Museum
- The Living Art Museum
- The Nordic House
Available at various places throughout the city - see website for details: visitreykjavik.is/displayer.asp?cat_id=293
Get to Iceland without flying. Once a week a ferry goes from Lerwick (Shetland) to Seydisfjordur in eastern Iceland (May - Sept). There is the possibility to stop off in the Faroe Isles. Potentially rough crossing though, and it takes 30 hours.
tel: 01595 690 845
An apart-hotel down town, just a few steps from Laugavegur, the main shopping and clubbing street. The apartments are spacious, beautifully decorated and reasonably priced. On the forth floor, there is a big balcony with a hot jacuzzy where you can lie and enjoy the scenery of the bay, the mountains and the harbour, or just gaze up at the stars. Definitely worth the money!
If you're on a budget then don't worry about getting a 4x4 - you can still get well off the beaten track in a normal car. The Yaris we hired was fine for driving on the non-tarmac roads (though I'm glad it wasn't my suspension taking that abuse) - we followed some routes suggested by a guidebook and saw some amazing scenery that you'd miss if you only used coach tours. Be sensible though, take a mobile and check the spare tyre as I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to get a puncture, and we sometimes drove for hundreds of kms without seeing a single living thing!
Avis was cheapest when we went in late September, from the airport.
Another reader recommended hiring a car to see the main sights and I couldn't agree more. However, we did find that even in summer the quality of the road surfaces was very variable. The Icelanders tend to resurface their roads by throwing down a load of hardcore and then working the whole width of the road, which means you have to drive over the top! Our Toyota Corolla sustained quite severe damage from landing on its nose while following a bulldozer... So get a 4x4, even if you would normally never be seen dead near one, it gives you more options and peace of mind.
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