Reykjavík city guide

Every now and then, you just want to get away. Or run away after committing a hideous crime. Somewhere with very few people and a lot of open space. Somewhere no one will look for you. Iceland? More like Isolate-land! Ha-ha. Around 240 thousand people live in Reykjavík. Iceland’s entire population is around 360 thousand. It’s a harsh, desolate environment. “The Land of Ice and Fire” was shown in the last season of a certain History Channel series. I’m a huge fan of the series Vikings, at least the first few seasons. One of the final episodes was about a shipbuilder named Floki. He tripped balls on psychedelics (probably mushrooms) and decided to embark on a journey. Floki thought he was heading for Asgard, the realm of the gods, but he sailed towards Iceland. It’s the 9th century and he’s not stupid, but he’s not an academic either. The guy witnessed sights like geysers blowing from the ground, or the almost permanent daylight. I bet he thought he arrived at the right place. The show was loosely based on factual events, keyword being “loosely”. Hrafna-Flóki Vilgerðarson was the name of the historic character who named the land Iceland.

The great majority of first settlers were Nordic refugees. People fled religious persecution from when Norway converted to Christianity. Local people are closely tied to their pagan ancestry. The folklore is very much alive here. You’ll see roads going around certain rocks or mounds. That’s where the elves live and you don’t **** with the elves. Some people go as far as building tiny housing for these beings. You’ll see those in the wilderness, but also in large cities like Reykjavík. It’s all superstition and silly stuff, right? I’m not so sure. They’ve had incidents on Iceland of “elves” disturbing the construction of roads and other projects. It’s recent stuff; not your grandma’s bedtime stories. They tried to build a road over a “sacred site”. Machines broke down and people suffered inexplicable accidents. The site was moved a little bit and everything went fine. Not everyone on Iceland believes in elves, but no one wants to get murdered by an invisible tiny person.

Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral and statue of Leifur Eiríksson in Reykjavik to the backdrop of the Northern Lights

Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral is built in the neo-gothic style and resembles basalt columns with a cap like a volcano

The trolls are yet another example of fantastic beasts. Not the salty teenage basement-dwelling kind of trolls. The giant humanoids that live in the mountains are the real deal to my opinion. They turn into rock when exposed to sunlight. That would explain a lot of weird basalt rock formations in Iceland. Pay a visit to the Icelandic Elf School (Álfaskólinn) if you’d like to learn more. It’s an actual school with lectures and courses. You can even get a diploma. They also do aura reading and past-life exploration. It’s a form of hypnosis meant to take your ego way back into past lives. There’s a pagan temple being constructed in Reykjavík. The ancient polytheist religion called Ásatrú is gaining popularity in these parts. They worship the old Norse pantheon: Odin, Thor, and the rest of the merry family. They host different ceremonies like weddings, summer solstice celebrations and such.

Reykjavík isn’t a city of heathens; there is room for Christians as well. The fairly new Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral stands tall in the capital. It’s not beautiful, but it fits right in. I’d say it looks like an upside-down geyser blowing concrete. The view from the tower is the best. You can see the entire Reykjavík from up there. There’s even an elevator, so you don’t need to climb the stairs. What you’ll see from up top is a very unique city. Tourism in Reykjavík itself is in its infancy. In fact, they decided that it could be their strong point during the global financial crisis. Prices are ridiculously high; not just the attractions but also the costs of living. People struggle, complain but they’re generally happy. The real issue is that central Reykjavík is being turned into a hotel district. People don’t want their cute handicraft workshops and bars demolished. That’s relatable. There isn’t much to see in the city. There’s a National Museum, Whale Museum, and the Icelandic Phallological Museum (Penis Museum). You’ll find some great bars and the best fish and chips outside of UK. Thing is: Reykjavík is a great place to live in, just not the best pick for a city break. For the most part, it’s a base from which visitors explore the rest of the island.

People bathing in the Blue Lagoon pool in Hreyfing Heilsulind near Reykjavik

Blue Lagoon, a geothermal pool in Hreyfing Heilsulind not far from Reykjavik is one of Iceland's major tourist hubs and known all over the world

The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s essential to-do’s. It’s a geothermal spa 50km away from Reykjavík, a bit like an Onsen, the Japanese natural hot springs. It’s all about hot water, mud, massage, and drinks. They host parties and all sorts of events, so it gets crowded easily. Booking a spot in advance is a must, but it’s worth it. You can see the Blue Lagoon in the beginning of the sequel to the Hostel movie. Don’t go too wild there, as the credit racks up rather fast. They charge you when you leave and most people don’t realize how expensive it gets. Also, it seems like they’ll have some major competition in 2021 ( The Golden Circle is the second highlight of any trip to Iceland. There are dozens of companies based in Reykjavík that can sort you out. They organize horseback trips, camping trips, trips focused on the northern lights. The Golden Circle is a 300km long trail of natural wonders of Iceland. You’ll come across unforgettable volcanic fields, waterfalls, geysers, and valleys.

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